Cornwall History

Cornwall is Ontario’s easternmost city, located on the Saint Lawrence River on the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor of Highway 401 and also on CN Rail’s mainline Quebec City-Windsor corridor, which is served by VIA Rail intercity passenger trains. It is just a hundred km south of Ottawa and west of Montreal, but 440 kilometres east of Toronto, Ontario’s capital and largest city. Its largest industries include manufacturing, logistics distribution, and call centres.

It is surrounded by several small communities like Long Sault and Ingleside to the west, Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne to the south, St. Andrew’s and Avonmore to the north, and Glen Walter, Martintown, Williamstown, and Lancaster to the east.

The French first founded a settlement which they called Pointe Maligne, and were joined by 516 United Empire Loyalists in 1784, primarily British soldiers (under Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Johnson) from New York and their families, who called the settlement New Johnstown. The British government helped them settle there in reward for their loyalty and compensation for their losses in the United States. Supplies for the community were shipped upstream from Montreal.

It was later renamed for the Duke of Cornwall, by proclamation of Prince George. In 1834 the town became one of the first incorporated municipalities in the British colony of Upper Canada The construction of the Cornwall Canal (bypassing rapids on the St Lawrence River) between 1834 and 1842 accelerated the community’s development, which attracted railway connections in the 1850s.

Just west of Cornwall, along the St. Lawrence River, were several smaller communities, now known as “the Lost Villages”, that were permanently flooded by the massive 1958 Moses-Saunders Power Dam which was part of the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway to streamline shipping between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes industrial heartland of North America. The top of the dam formed the highway border crossing between Canada & the USA.

One of the town’s famous residents was David Thompson, the Welsh-Canadian explorer who mapped the Far West and was called the greatest land geographer in history. He travelled 90,000 kilometres and mapped 4.9 million square kilometres for the Northwest Company. He travelled extensively form Lake Superior to the Rocky Mountains, down to the mouth of the Columbia River. Many of his traveling companions were from the area

Cornwall is connected to the United States at Roosevelttown, near Massena, New York, via the Three Nations Crossing (Canada, Mohawk, and U.S.A.) which traverses the St. Lawrence River.

Cornwall was had a thriving cotton processing industry (closed in 1992) and paper mill (closed in 2006), and has a major CIL plant (open since 1935) and now has a diversified mix of manufacturing, automotive, high tech, food processing, distribution centres and call centres. The city is home to the largest SCM (Walmart) distribution centre in Canada, a massive 1,500,000-square-foot (140,000 m2) facility employing nearly 1000 people, and a large Shoppers Drug Mart distribution facility.

The City of Cornwall is on the St. Lawrence Seaway just east of the Eisenhower and Snell Locks. Cornwall is served by the Cornwall Regional Airport located 10 km east of the City, with a 3500 foot runway.

Cornwall, Ontario Area Map