One of the little known historic sites on the Canadian mainland is the area around Sheriff’s and Lindsay’s Points west of Gananoque. The French undoubtedly knew the area as Point La Morte as it is marked on early maps.
Sheriff’s Point, which now provides the road access to the lower Howe Island Ferry, was originally a huge sand bar that stretched out into the St. Lawrence River. It was an excellent landing site as well as having a sheltered bay. Several channels among the islands meet here making it a strategic place along the river.
Until recent times nearby Lindsay’s Point was marked by Lombardy poplars that were a common feature of places the French used as stopping points and were visible for a distance up and down the river.
The French chaplain Millet noted he was held at Point La Morte by the natives after his capture at Fort Frontenac. In light of the many arrowheads turned up by agricultural activities the area must have been used by the natives for centuries.
After the Loyalist survey the west half a lot eight, which included Sheriff’s Point, was patented by William Sheriff in 1796. The late Frank Eames, who did considerable research into local history, states that Sheriff was a lieutenant in the British army and served at Louisburg and Quebec.
Sheriff does not appear to have constructed any buildings on this lot and possibly used it as a source of funds as it was heavily mortgaged at the time of his death. He does appear on early local census but seems to have lived in Kingston as well. Two children are recorded as being baptized there in the 1790’s.
The east half of the lot was part of Joel Stone’s grant which included what is now known as Lindsay’s Point. As well as the poplars on the point there was a dwelling house and at least one outbuilding that had been there from the French period. It apparently had been farmed for some time and much of it was cleared.
When Stone arrived in Gananoque he was met by John Carey, a Frenchman, who ran an inn of sorts on what is now Cunningham Island (Beside the Gananoque Municipal Marina). Stone and Carey went into partnership but after their cabin burned they parted company and Carey went to Sheriff’s Point and lived with his sister Margaret wife of William Sheriff and her daughter. They likely lived in the dwelling on Lindsay’s Point. Margaret’s daughter from a previous marriage was Charlotte Pendergrass. She married first Job Stone and then David Jameson a servant of Joel Stone . She was the ancestor of Frank Eames wife.
During the War of 1812 Captain Forsyth and his troops landed at Sheriff’s Point on September 21, 1812 and followed the old road through the woods to Gananoque to carry out their attack. This attack is well documented. Parts of this old road are still visible today.
In the early 1830’s the Lindsay brothers, who were stonemasons in Kingston, bought Sheriff’s grant from his estate mainly for the sandbar. The sand, perfect for mortar, was transported by barges to Kingston. This activity continued into the 1890’s resulting in the much reduced point that exists today.
The Lindsay family built a barn and then discovered it was actually on Joel Stone’s property so they purchased that part as well. The old dwelling on the Point, referred to as an inn, was in much disrepair so after building a house they took it down. The material was used to construct a crude fortification on the Point during the Rebellions of 1837-38. (See-carter’s article).
Historical references describe the dissatisfied Americans, known as The Hunters Lodge, were planning an attack on Canada and had a cache of munitions hidden on the south side of Bostwick Island. Thomas Lindsay was hired by the government to dispose of this cache through a crack in the ice that formed every winter on the body of water known as Forty Acres. This cache was discovered by divers in the 1960’s.
The farmhouse, still lived in by the Lindsay family, was built as a one story stone cottage reminiscent of what one would find in Scotland. Over the years a rear addition and second story were added. It was known as being “the only house up the front road with a bathroom”. The original kitchen attached to the house by a passage was moved and became an icehouse.
Early in the 1900’s a new barn was constructed that stands today. It replaced several smaller buildings parts of which were used in the new construction. WXYZ Turner built boats in the upper part a large two story frame building, now gone, on the riverbank. Where the old road goes over the top of the hill there was a root cellar. Its foundations are still there. Also at the top of the hill was a family cemetery. However, the family members were moved in the 1890’s to Willowbank and Gananoque Cemeteries. At the time it was felt there were still other graves on the site from earlier times, but not identified.
The grove west of the farm buildings was used for many years for camping, and church picnics. A boat ran back and forth to Gananoque carrying passengers. There was a dance platform with lanterns fastened among the trees. During the Depression people came on Sundays to swim and do their laundry!
Today, there are several cottages on the end of Lindsay’s Point. The large cottage, known as “The Poplars” with the wrap-around verandah was built in the early 1900’s by the Kent family from the southern United States. For many years it was the summer home of author and Jewish evangelist Agnes Scott Kent of Chattanooga Tennessee.
Sherriff’s Point is now dotted with cottages many of them dating from the 1930’s. At the end of the point is a rocky island known as Red Horse Rock. Opposite it at the head of the Beaurivage Island once stood Red Horse Rock Light a beautiful lighthouse. The name originated from the red coloured horse of a carpenter who was going to one of the islands in the winter. The horse, sleigh and the carpenter’s tools went through the ice and were lost.
Obviously looking at a map you can see that Lindsay Point was a strategic place, but little known today but both parts of the Points have long played a part in the activities and history of the Upper St Lawrence region.
By Alan Lindsay
Alan Lindsay is a retired teacher who grew up in the Gananoque area. He can trace his roots to 1789. He claims to be an "amateur" historian and genealogist, but he is well known as a popular speaker, a long-time member of the Leeds and Thousand Islands Historical Society, and a writer. We are most thankful for his interest recording the lives of many early families of the Canadian Thousand Islands.