The Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust (TIWLT) is arguably the most important land trust in North America. It extends from the St. Lawrence River to the Rideau Canal, from Brockville to Kingston. The Watershed is situated at what is likely the most important migratory crossroads in all North America and is overflowing with communities of plants and animals like no other place. This is nature’s ‘crossroads of the continent’, an intersection of migration routes where five forest regions meet and intermingle. Swallowtail butterflies, moose and hundreds of other species continue to migrate through.
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Until the late 1700s, this area of Canada was far from a solitude of nature, and was actually one of the cultural hotspots of early civilization. This central region of the Frontenac Arch (today a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) was a meeting place of peoples that were the earliest settlers of North America. They used the many lakes, rivers and trails to travel and trade ideas, goods and resources from across the continent to the Caribbean.
Post 1700 , Europeans in search of furs and timber ‘discovered’ this region. As people settled further and farther inland on the continent, this property caught the attention of business-minded persons, who solidified ownership through land grants by the British government in what was called Upper Canada. A patent of ownership was granted here to Colonel Joseph Jessup in 1799 – but quite likely there were folks already here. For on this property was an untamed, seasonally roaring waterfall.
Waterfalls were the power grid of the early settlements. A solid flow of water literally turned the wheels of industry. Power for saw-mills and power for grinding grains for bread. Power to shape tools and build houses and farms. By the first census in 1805, a sawmill was already working here, and a grist mill soon followed. Highway 42 (out front of the house today) was the super-highway of its time – a plank road. Trees and wood were everywhere and sawn boards from this and other mills were laid on the ground as a smooth surface for the wheels of wagons and carriages.
The wooden barn at Glen Elbe farm was a stagecoach stop to change out the tired horses on the stagecoach company, running from Brockville to Westport. The house had a special room to serve stagecoach guests.