The Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust (TIWLT) is arguably one of the most important land trusts in North America. It extends from the St. Lawrence River on its southern edge, to the world-famous Rideau Canal and from Brockville to Kingston. The TIWLT watershed is situated at what is a hugely important migratory crossroads for North America that is overflowing with communities of plants and animals like few other places. This is nature’s ‘crossroads of the continent’, an intersection of migration routes where five forest regions meet and intermingle. Butterflies, birds, moose, deer and hundreds of other species continue to migrate through.
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We are the part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, a hundreds of miles granite topography stretching from the Adirondacks in the USA, through the world famous Thousand Islands to Canada’s Algonquin Park. (AtoA). South of the international border our independent but sister land trust called the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), ties in the USA side of our shared mission.
Until the late 1700s, this area of Canada was far from a solitude of nature, and was actually one of the cultural hotspots. This central region of the Frontenac Arch (today a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) was a meeting place of Indigenous peoples and European settlers, a north American trading zone. Lakes, rivers and trails and paths allowed goods and resources from across the continent and south to the Caribbean to be exchanged.
Post 1700 , Europeans in search of furs and timber built homes and businesses. A patent of ownership was granted here to Colonel Joseph Jessup in 1799 – but quite likely there were folks already here because 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 farmer’s grains. By the first census in 1805, a sawmill was already working here, and a grist mill soon followed. Highway 42 (out front of the Glen Elbe property today) was the super-highway of its time – a plank road. Wood was plentiful and important roads were topped with pine boards for the ease of horses and carriages.
The wooden barn at Glen Elbe farm was a stagecoach stop to change out the tired horse teams running from Brockville to Westport. The house had a porch and sitting room to serve stagecoach guests refreshments.