Area 4 covers the village of Rockport and extends to the eastern end of the Old River Road at Brown's Bay, including Grenadier Island. The historical highlights for this area have been divided to cover Rockport, Grenadier Island, Mallorytown Landing, the Old River Road and Chimney Island.
The Seaman family was one of the first to settle in Rockport. Caleb Seaman petitioned for a land grant in 1790, He received title to the land two years later. The area had been surveyed, and the Seaman family was quick to harvest the bounty of the local forest. Smith Seaman, Caleb's son, built a house of "Rockport' granite in 1857 on the Old River Road. A blacksmith shop was also built nearby The original house is still owned by descendants of the Seaman family.
Rockport's early growth was a direct result of the timber trade and boat building industry. The British Whig of May 8, 1890, states that "George Andress is doing a very large business in boat building... He has already built some 20 rowboats and has orders for a number more ". From this humble beginning, Andress Boat Works became renowned for the river craft they produced. Ed Huck Marine is one of the original boat builders and engine manufacturers in Rockport. This is also a thriving marina business today The Rockport Navigation company, under the direction of the Carnegies, ran passenger steamers and freight up and down the river well into this century In 1954, the Rockport Boatline began operation under the ownership of George Fletcher and George Huck. Their first boat was called the Miss Brockville IV. Prior to the completion of the International Bridge in 1938, a ferry service ran between Alexandria Bay and Rockport. In the winter months, people often walked or took a sleigh across the frozen river.
At one time, Rockport had two general stores and a post office. Cornwall's boarding house is now a tavern, while the original store is now a restaurant. Further to the east, the Rockport general store has been made into a gift shop and restaurant.
In 1654, Pere Simon le Moyne, a Jesuit Priest, made the first recorded voyage of a European through the upper St. Lawrence. He was sent from Montreal to establish a mission at Oswego. On his way, he stopped at the village of "Toniata" where he observed natives fishing for eel. (The site of Toniata is believed to have been on Grenadier Island, and perhaps partially at the Narrows or on the mainland north of Tar Island).
Another early visitor to Grenadier Island was Captain Francois Pouchot of the French Navy. During the Seven Years War, Captain Pouchot wrote the following in his memoirs:
"At five leagues from Point au Baril is the Island of Toniata (Grenadier Island). The main channel of the river is between this island and the south shore. The north part of the river is filled with rushes, and in summer, it is famous for a thriving eel fishery.
M. de Frontenac gave this island to an Iroquois, and the latter sold it for four pots of Brandy to a Canadien, who would have in turn sold it back for a beaver skin. "
(Pouchot claims that the meaning of Toniata is "Beyond the Point").
Grenadier Island remained under the control of the Mississauga Indians until the early 1800's. At that point in history United Empire Loyalists arrived on the island. By 1818, fourteen farms had been ' established. Settlers preferred the island for farming because it was less rugged than the mainland. The geology of the island is quite different from that of the mainland, composed of sands and gravels that were carried by the meltwaters of receding glaciers. The land is flat with a good depth of soil. On the mainland, glaciers scoured what little soil there was from the rugged terrain, leaving poorly drained soils in the valleys.
Abel Root was one of the first to settle on the island and take advantage of the good land for farming, as well as the opportunities to fish and trap wild game. The Roots farmed Lot 1 on the west end of the island. They established an orchard early in their tenure. This is now the location of the Grenadier Island Golf Course.
By the 1860's, steamboat traffic on the river was so heavy that lighthouses were built at strategic locations. In 1865, a small government reserve was established on the head of Grenadier Island, and a lighthouse was built. Abel's son, Albert, became the first lighthouse keeper. In 1875, Albert Root was appointed a Guardian of the Islands held in trust for the Mississauga Indians. These islands would later form the nucleus of St. Lawrence Islands National Park. In 1904, Albert received the Imperial Service Medal for his long and faithful service to the Crown. He was replaced as lighthouse keeper by his son Delbert.
Since the early 1870's Grenadier Island has been known as a popular summer retreat for those seeking a relaxing summer holiday Regular steamer stops on the island brought families for holidays at Angler's Inn, owned by the Senecal family, or Poole's Boarding House. Heffernan's Eating House was quite popular in the 1960's.
Since 1904, Mallorytown Landing has been part of St. Lawrence Islands National Park. The land was originally granted to Corporal John Butler for his service with the Rhode Island Regiment during the American Revolutionary War. The area is named for Lemuel Mallory who purchased the land from Butler in 1808. A dock was constructed on the south-west side of the island. It served as a public dock, as well as a wharf for local steamships such as the "Mississquoi".
Clifford Sifton, then Minister of the Interior, wrote describing the proposed nine pavilions on the newly designated National Park islands:
"No. 6 pavilion will be upon the island just off the ground proposed to be given to the Government by the Mallorytown people. The name of the island is not given on the map but Captain Carnegie and yourself know where it is."
The facilities of the new park site included a wharf, pavilion, one stove, two outdoor toilets and two tables. A wide wooden boardwalk connected the small island to the mainland. A mass of cattails once stood where the beach is today The remainder of the property owned by Parks Canada was acquired in 1959, and today includes an education centre, hiking trails and park headquarters.
The Old River Road
The Old River Road is one of the oldest roads in the province, shown on a map dated 1810. It first saw use as a foot path, and by 1812 it was a surveyed road. We can put you in touch with other conservation agencies and professionals, on both sides of the border. Locally, our allies in conservation include: the Thousand Islands Land Trust (N.Y. ), Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, the Leeds County Stewardship Council, heritage societies, fishing and naturalists clubs, cottagers and residents associations, Parks Canada and the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.
One of the earliest settlers, William (Billa) LaRue, operated a sawmill and grist mill on the creek. LaRue constructed a lock to bring his logs upstream to his sawmill. During the War of 1812, he supplied the British with flour from his mill. His two story, log homestead, now clad in clapboard siding, still stands near the mouth of LaRue Creek.
In the survey conducted by Captain William Fitzwilliam Owen in 1816 this was called Bridge Island. The first person to build a house on the island did so in 1799. As soon as the river was navigable in the spring, he went to Kingston for limestone to build his chimney. During the War of 1812, a block house was built on the island. The chimney and accommodations were described by one soldier as "the worst I have ever witnessed. I stayed one night in the place and between the smoke and the cold it was intolerable". Although the blockhouse disappeared, the chimney remained for 100 years. In 1913, it was rebuilt by William Gilbert, a summer resident of Tar Island. The new chimney was "absolutely modern and efficient and guaranteed not to smoke".
The topography of this area is quite diverse. Glaciers left a variety of features throughout. On Grenadier Island, an esker was formed when glacial meltwaters deposited glaciofluvial material. The esker is the prominent ridge that runs down the middle of the island. On the mainland, glacial evidence includes polishing, grooving, undercutting, chatter marks, striations, plucking and some potholes near Poole's Resort.
The area offers a wide variety of habitats including marshy shorelines, wet forests, ponds, small streams, open water, old fields, forest edge, exposed ridges and upland forests to name a few. In turn, these habitats provide homes for such rare species as pitch pine, rue anemone, deerberry, Blandings turtle and the back rat snake. Salmon have been spotted returning to LaRue Creek, a sign of the improving health of the St. Lawrence River.