by Stuart Lyall Manson
Special to Nation Valley News
Most people in Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry are familiar with the Lost Villages of Aultsville, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales and other small communities. They were established following the settlement of the region by the loyalists in 1784. The villages were relocated in the 1950s, prior to the flooding caused by the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. But have you ever heard of the Lost Village of Dostrois?
I encountered reference to this mysterious community when consulting historical maps to illustrate a forthcoming book. My research method included maps of New York State, as they can also depict Canadian communities. One such map, published by S.A. Mitchell in Philadelphia in 1841, boldly displays the name “Dostrois” in southern Osnabruck Township, Stormont County.
In all my years of cartographic research, I’ve never seen reference to a hamlet by that odd name, in that neck of the woods. Nor does the consultation of other historical sources – both primary and secondary – shed light on the matter. The map legend states that Dostrois was one of the map’s “Common towns, villages, etc.” It is situated on the main road that runs parallel to the St. Lawrence River, at the intersection with another road that extends northward to the South Nation River.
The specific spot appears to be approximately where the Village of Farran’s Point once stood. According to the informative Lost Villages Historical Society website, that community was named after Lieutenant Jacob Farrand, a loyalist officer of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York. Other research indicates he was the nephew Major James Gray, after whom Gray’s Creek in Cornwall is named. Farrand, who is buried in Trinity Anglican Cemetery in downtown Cornwall, was also the grand uncle of the famous local historian Jacob Farrand Pringle. Today, Farran’s Point would be under water, near Ingleside.
When consulting historical records, we often observe changes in place names. For example, an 1860 map of Canada West – the former name of the Province of Ontario – depicts the Village of Charlesville. Located in the south-west corner of Osnabruck Township, Charlesville later became Aultsville. Could Dostrois be the earlier name of Farran’s Point?
Early mapmakers often plagiarized one another, however. Thus when I shared the curious map with my savvy friends on social media, one suggested that Dostrois was a deliberate error, intended to catch future plagiarists. Supporting this fine theory is the fact that the subject of the map is New York State, not Canada. If you’re going to insert an intentional error to catch a dishonest cartographer, you might as well place it outside the main geographic focus of the map! Five years later, however, Mitchell also produced a map of Canada West in which he also depicts the Village of Dostrois. There goes that theory.
Another creative friend noted that, at Farran’s Point in the pre-Seaway era, there was an approximate three-foot drop in the level of the St. Lawrence River. Since the French word for water is “d’eau,” then perhaps Dostrois is a phonetic version of “d’eau trois,” in reference to that hydrographic phenomenon. If anything, she gets extra points for effort in constructing that theory!
Other social media friends noted that the word is a combination of the Spanish word for two (dos) and the French word for three (trois). To muddy the waters even further, Google Translate auto-detects Dostrois as a Russian word that means “completion.” Spanish and Russian names along the St. Lawrence River were all but absent in 1841. French ones, however, prevailed for many years after the various geographic features were christened with names by early French explorers and traders.
One such French-named island may be the origin of Dostrois. Isle de Trois Chenaux Ecarté, in the St. Lawrence River opposite Osnabruck Township, retained its French name for some time. It was so-named because it was situated directly upstream from where the mighty river branches into three widely-spread channels. Chenaux means channels, and ecarté means spread apart. It was later renamed Long Sault Island. (By the way, the three downstream channels on the river were formed by two islands: Mille Roches Island, a.k.a. Sheek Island, and Isle Chenail Ecarté, a.k.a. and Barnhart Island.)
It is possible that the Dostrois mapmaker, S.A. Mitchell, consulted another map depicting Isle de Trois Chenaux Ecarté. If that other map had part of the island’s long name placed on or near the mainland — In particular the “de Trois” portion — then perhaps Mitchell erroneously attributed those letters as the name of the nearby settlement.
Buttressing this theory is the fact that the Mitchell map contains other careless errors, such as the misspelling of “Mille Roches” as “Millenocks,” and the label for Osnabruck has a typographical error. It therefore appears that Dostrois is merely a mapmaker’s error, rather than being an obscure early moniker of one of the Lost Villages of the St. Lawrence.
Stuart Lyall Manson is a local independent historian who lives in Cornwall. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Sacred Ground: Loyalist Cemeteries of Eastern Ontario.” He would also like to acknowledge the research assistance, for this article, provided by his friend Laurie McDonald.