The History of the Lost Villages
For most of us, going back to our childhood hometowns, often to share memories with our children and future generations, is something we take for granted. The former citizens of the “Lost Villages” of the St. Lawrence River and their families, however, can never truly go home again.
Born in Cornwall, Ont., I, like many young people, never really took much interest in where I came from or what the history of the area meant in the context of our Canadian identity. To me it was just the place I lived. Only now, as history and genealogy have become popular, have I realized that my history is not only tied to the beautiful St. Lawrence River, but lies beneath it.
The Lost Villages, as they came to be known, were nine communities in the former townships of Cornwall and Osnabruck, which were dismantled and then flooded in July 1958—the “price of progress” as the St. Lawrence Seaway and Hydro Electric project was being implemented. These were, however, places of our earliest history.
At the founding of Upper Canada, the United Empire Loyalists made their exodus from conflict during the American Revolution to lands along the St. Lawrence to forge a new home for their descendants. Predating the arrival of the Loyalists, the area had been the traditional lands of the Mohawk people for centuries. Yet, despite their significance to our collective history as Canadians, these places now lie under dark waters.
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