Journey back in time

After the American War of Independence ended in 1783, many who remained loyal to the British crown fled to Canada, settling in Nova Scotia, Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and what is now southeastern Ontario. The northern shores of the St. Lawrence River, within sight of the United States, in particular attracted many United Empire Loyalist settlers.

Throughout the early 19th century, the population of what then became Upper Canada expanded rapidly with settlement from the British Isles. (Present-day Quebec was then known as Lower Canada). Many settled in small villages, some prospering with the rural technology of the time — water-powered mills, and other such machinery. Attractive communities were built with logs, sawed planks, stone and brick. And many of these buildings survived well into the 20th century.

Fast forward to the 1950s, when the St. Lawrence Seaway was constructed and opened, allowing larger ships to pass from the ocean to the Great Lakes. One of the challenges in the Seaway’s construction was at set of rapids at Long Sault. To allow ships to pass, an artificial lake called Lake St. Lawrence was created, and the water levels were raised in 1958, submerging six villages and three hamlets. These became known as the Lost Villages. A number of historic buildings from these villages were relocated to a site near Morrisburg, which opened in 1961 as Upper Canada Village.

Since then, other historic buildings have been relocated there, so that now there are more than 40 buildings from the area. And for nearly 50 years, Upper Canada Village has operated as a heritage park, depicting life in a small Upper Canada community of 1866, the year before Canadian Confederation. The grist mill operates producing flour, that the baker still makes into bread using traditional methods. The sawmill produces lumber. A cheese factory produces cheddar cheese, making only a few minor concessions to satisfy modern food inspectors, such as using a steel-lined vat and tools. And a blacksmith still shoes horses and crafts implements using mid-19th century technology.

I first visited Upper Canada Village as a teenager in 1969, and have been back once or twice over the years. I returned recently on a gorgeous sunny September day, armed with a camera and several lenses. The enactors were pretty good about allowing themselves to be photographed as they carried out traditional crafts from nearly 150 years ago.

Reflection through the rails, Upper Canada Village

Reflection through the rails, Upper Canada Village

Spinning yarn, Upper Canada Village

Spinning yarn, Upper Canada Village

Making cheddar cheese, Upper Canada Village

Making cheddar cheese, Upper Canada Village

Stroll by the river, Upper Canada Village

Stroll by the river, Upper Canada Village

In the general store, Upper Canada Village

In the general store, Upper Canada Village

Blacksmith's shop, Upper Canada Village (4)

Blacksmith’s shop, Upper Canada Village

See other photos of Upper Canada Village as a slideshow in my Flickr set.

About Richard McGuire
Richard McGuire is a part-time photographer and photography enthusiast based on Ottawa, Canada.

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