Cornwall – historic neighbourhoods

1784 Loyalist Twps RevOur Roots
After the 8.5 year American Revolutionary War / the American War of Independence (from Great Britain) ended in September of 1783, eight consecutive Loyalist Townships were created along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and five others along the Bay of Quinte to house some 80,000 refugees who desired to remain loyal to the British Crown and as a defence strategy against the Americans who had been invading what remained of British North America, seeking to enlarge their country.

The Royal Townships
The St. Lawrence River and Bay of Quinte townships were “royal” in that they were named after British royalty from east to west according to date of birth. At their own request, the people were originally settled in communities according to ethnicity and religion. The area that would eventually be called Lancaster Township was known as the “sunken township” or “Lake Township” (after nearby Lake St. Francis) as it was originally thought to be too wet or low-lying to be of much use. The dense forest and swamps were unexplored except by the indigenous people. The expanded list of townships was solidified in 1788, the same year that the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

St. Lawrence River Townships:

Township Named after Predominantly
Lancaster Duke of Lancaster who became King George III (b. 1738) Royal Yorkers (1785)
Charlottenburg Queen Charlotte (b. 1744) Roman Catholic Highlanders in the Royal Yorkers
Cornwall Duke of Cornwall who became King George IV (b. 1762) Scottish Presbyterians in the Royal Yorkers
Osnabruck Bishop of Osnabruk, Prince Frederick (b. 1764) German Calvinists in the Royal Yorkers
Williamsburgh Prince William (b. 1765) German Lutherans in the Royal Yorkers
Matilda Princess Charlotte Matilda (b. 1766) Anglicans in the Royal Yorkers
Edwardsburg Prince Edward (b. 1767) Major Jessup’s Loyal Rangers
Augusta Princess Augusta (b. 1768) Major Jessup’s Loyal Rangers
Elizabethtown Princess Elizabeth (b. 1770) Major Jessup’s Loyal Rangers

Sir John Johnson sought and obtained a commission to organize and settle the Loyalist families on lands that he assigned to them. The fist settlement was carried out in April and May of 1784 on the front concessions of what became Glengarry and Stormont. Dundas settlement began in June.

Bay of Quinte Townships:

Township Named after Predominantly
Kingston The King: “King’s Town” Captain Michael Grass and his New York Loyalists
Ernestown Prince Ernest (b. 1771) Jessup’s Rangers
Fredericksburg Prince Augustus Frederick (b. 1773) Major James Rogers’ Co. of the King’s Rangers and the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Yorkers
Adolphustown Prince Adolphus (b. 1774) DeLancey’s Corps
Marysburg Princess Mary (b. 1776) German mercenaries and disbanded English and Irish troops
Sophiasburg Princess Sophia (b. 1777) Americans who arrived after the Revolution
Ameliasburg Princess Amelia (b. 1783) No specific Loyalist units

Other Loyalist settlements were at Sidney Township (no specific group) and in the Niagara Region, which was predominantly Butler’s Rangers.

Prior to 1784 there were only a few scattered settlements along the St. Lawrence River. The resettlement of these Loyalists to what is now Southern Ontario was crucial to the eventual founding of Ontario. Had they not been here in numbers in the 1790s with established government, laws and military might to defend the land, there is little doubt that the Canada we know would not exist; we’d be Americans. It’s been said that the American Revolution spawned two countries, not one. Millions of Canadians can trace their roots to a Loyalist ancestor.

The Township of Cornwall was proclaimed by Lord Dorchester on July 24, 1788 with the formation of the Lunenburgh District and was comprised of approximately one-third German, one-third Scotch and one-third English residence. Cornwall Township incorporated in 1850 and ceased to exist as of January 1, 1998.


Sir John Johnson

What’s in a Name?

New Johnstown was named after Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet of New York, a Loyalist leader during the American Revolution. New Johnstown (temporarily known as Royal Town #2) was founded June 6, 1784 as a one square mile United Empire Loyalist town in the Montreal District of the former British Province of Quebec (in 1791 Upper Canada). In 1776 Johnson had arrived with an advance party to survey and plan a series of townships. Contrary to local lore, no pre-existing permanent community was on the town site. The presence of treacherous rapids led to the First Nations people establishing some portage points along the shoreline outside of what was to become the Square Mile town. The European settlers also used those portage points, generally on their way to explore the Great Lakes, but there exists no record of any attempt at creating a trading post, military stronghold nor permanent settlement and occupation here prior to the arrival of the Loyalists. In 1789 the New Johnstown Post Office was established. The original Square Mile ran from the north side of Water Street to the south side of Ninth Street and from the east side of Cumberland Street to the west side of Marlborough Street. The Square Mile major streets are a tenth of a mile apart.


Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Cornwall – National Portrait Gallery, London as depicted by Sir Wm Beechey in 1818.

New Johnstown was re-named Cornwall in 1792 in honour of Prince Edward Augustus (1767-1820), Duke of Cornwall. Edward, the fourth son of King George III, was assigned to oversee the military in British Upper and Lower Canada from 1791-1800 and later became King George IV. Some purport that the name Cornwall was used as early as 1789. The first Town lot patent dates to 1803.

The north-south streets in the Mile Square are named after British royalty and aristocracy.

David MurrayOn June 16, 1792, the province of Upper Canada was divided into counties. Stormont County is named after David Murray, 7th Viscount Stormont, 1727-96. This portrait hangs in  the British Museum and is in the Public Domain.

Square Mile Street Name Named after
Cumberland Street William Augustus (1721-1765), Duke of Cumberland
Bedford Street Lord John Russell (1710-1777), 4th Duke of Bedford
York Street Frederick Augustus (1763-1827), Duke of York
Augustus Street Frederick Augustus (1763-1827), Duke of York
Pitt (Main) Street William Pitt (1759-1806), Prime Minister of England
Sydney (Sidney) Street Thomas Townsend (1733-1800), Lord Sydney
Amelia Street Princess Amelia (1711-1786), daughter of King George II
Adolphus Street Prince Adolphus Frederick (1774-1850), son of King George III
Gloucester (Glocester) Street William Henry (1743-1805), 1st Duke of Gloucester
Marlborough Street John Churchill (1650-1722), 1st Duke of Marlborough


Water Transportation
Early navigation of the St. Lawrence River was difficult due to the treacherous rapids at Long Sault and Cornwall. To bypass the rapids, on February 13, 1833 construction of the Cornwall Canal was officially authorized and the official sod-turning took place on August 5, 1834. Construction commenced shortly thereafter. Lack of funds and the economic depression on the heels of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion against the Family Compact resulted in a work stoppage from 1838 to 1841. The 11 mile original project was complete by November of 1842, consisting of six locks. By 1891 another five locks had been added. 1958 saw the opening of the new international Seaway Project which wiped out half of the canal and made the rest of it largely unnecessary.

1879 Cwl Map Handmade_web

Cornwall in 1879 – Square Mile in blue

Governance & Structure
Cornwall was incorporated as a Town with a governing Police Board in 1834. In 1847 the first Mayor & Town Council was elected.

From 1834-1957, as Cornwall grew, the community moved from two to three to four to a six ward system, which was ultimately abandonned in favour of having Councillors at-large.

Incremental Expansion
In 1873 a portion of Lot 7 in the 1st Concession of Cornwall Twp – the south part of the Gladstone subdivision (later called East Cornwall), that is south of Montreal Road between Marlborough Street and McConnell Avenue, was annexed in order to expand the industrial base, exempting from taxation Mack’s Express Roller Mill (built in 1861), Flack and Van Arsdale Pottery (built in 1864 and changed name in 1868) as well as the Canada Mill (built int 1870, the second factory in Canada to be electrified by Edison in 1883) and Dundas Cotton Mills (built in 1870 and renamed in 1903).

The Cornwall General Hospital opened its doors on December 29, 1897. The borders of the Town were extended to encompass the partial block occupied by the hospital.

Some 25 acres from the Glebe / Clergy Reserve, the area generally in the area of present day 9th to 11th Street (at the time described as 9th Street to the Fair Grounds and from Cumberland to Marlborough), as well as the Fair Grounds itself, was annexed in 1943. This was to ensure that the Federal Government’s proposal to construct wartime housing at the Fair Grounds would benefit Cornwall. Cornwall became a city in 1945.

Population on Annexation Cr Border WMThe City became incorporated, annexing another 30 square miles of the Township on January 1, 1957. This resulted in the City’s population more than doubling overnight. July 1, 1958 was Inundation Day for the new St. Lawrence Seaway which swallowed up several small communities, including three that were planned to be annexed by the new City of Cornwall 18 months prior: Maple Grove, Mille Roches and Moulinette. Part of the former Maple Grove still exists in the area of Robertson Creek in old Riverdale up to the hydro dam and generating station. The balance of Maple Grove and the other two “Lost Villages” are underwater today, but otherwise would fall under present day (2015) City boundaries had the planned flooding not taken place. Jumping the gun, Mayor Aaron Horovitz points to Cornwall’s new population figure following the annexation order February 22, 1956.

Map_Cornwall Mile Square Neighbourhoods and Lost Villages_web

“Then and Now” views of the more than 40 former Township suburbs and subdivisions appear in the following posts (as developed):

Original Square Mile Town

West of the Square Mile (close by):
Near West Neighbourhoods

Defunct Southwest Neighbourhood Handmade

West Canal: An 1879 map reveals that, for a time, Cumberland, Bedford and York Streets had been extended south of Water Street into the canal lands. Today the Eco Park, public boat launch and R.C.A.F. club are there.

Riverdale District – East:

Riverdale East

  • Dover Heights (Lot 15-16)
  • Palen (Lot 15)
  • Wm C. Robertson (Lot 15)
  • Munro C.E. (Lot 15)
  • Hartle (Lot 15)

Riverdale District – West:
Riverdale West

  • T.D. Whiteside (Lot 18)
  • Blackadder (Lot 18)
  • Surgenor (Lot 17-18)
  • Parisien (Lot 18)

North of the Square Mile (close by):

Glebe and District

  • Glebe
  • Glebe District
  • Larin Ovila (Lot 7)
  • C. Gallinger (Lot 8)
  • S.E. Fennell (Lot 10)
  • H. Gallinger (Lot 10)
  • McDonald (Lot 11)

Further East:

North East

  • Bisaillon (Lot 6)
  • A.D. Miron (Lot 6)
  • Larin Nelson (Lot 6)

West of the Glebe District:

Garden City and Hebert

Further North:

North End

East of the Square Mile (close by):

East Near

Further East:

East Far_WM

The Cornwall Community Museum archives house a number of resources, including historic City Directories, maps/charts, photographs, newspaper clippings and other documents which were referenced in the creation of these posts. These items are available to the public for conducting research during Museum hours.

Cornwall Industry

A Cornwall Community Museum Blog

Cornwall Canal and Shipping History

A Cornwall Community Museum Publication

Cornwall Community Museum

In The Wood House at the waterfront, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

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