THE THOUSAND ISLAND BRIDGE


The Thousand Island Bridge across the St Lawrence River is the northernmost portion of I81. This aerial view of the bridge, courtesy of the Thousand Island Bridge Authority, was taken from near Collins Landing. The American span of the bridge occupies the foreground. In the background, one can see the Canadian span of this international bridge, along with the tower on Hill Island.

A bridge to Wellesley Island across the St Lawrence River had been a dream for residents both of the island and the adjacent mainland for nearly a hundred years when this bridge became a reality in the late 1930s. Yet every such improvement must be at the risk of loss of other values. The bridge rose at Collins Landing, now merely a name but at one time a little community on the shore of the St Lawrence River, named for the same Collins family whose mill built of native limestone gave the hamlet of Stone Mills in the Town of Orleans its name.

Joseph and Mary Collins lived in or near Stone Mills until some time between 1831 and 1834 when they moved to what is now Collins Landing on the St Lawrence River. It was all virgin forest, which they bought from one of the absentee landowners who owned a large tract of land. It had been surveyed by Joseph's father, John B. Collins, one of the original proprietors of Stone Mills. They lived in a log house until about 1880, when a frame house was built where Joseph Jr and his family lived.

During the lifetime of Joseph and Mary, Collins landing became quite a community. More houses were built, especially along the river. There were two sawmills, at least one cheese factory, and a post office named The Narrows. A ferry ran between Collins Landing and Wells Island, the largest of the American islands in the Thousand Islands region. Of course, the ferry had to be powered by hand with oars. When the ships on the river used wood for fuel, there was a refuelling station there, as the water was very deep at one point. Big metal rings fastened in the rock for the boats to tie to were still visible for some time after the bridge was built. They were later taken out as a hazard to the public.

When the post office was in operation, one of the early postmasters was George Collins, a brother of Joseph Sr. Joseph Jr brought the mail on horseback through the woods from La Fargeville. Mary Collins was baptized in the St Lawrence River. Joseph Collins died in 1878 and Mary in 1889. Both are buried in the Stone Mills Cemetery. A memorial plaque honors them in the Northern New York Agricultural Museum at Stone Mills. Most of this material is from Josephine (Collins) Fredenburg's pamphlet on the Collins family.


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