By Susan W. Smith
Copyright ©1976 by Parks Canada. Reproduced by permission of St. Lawrence Islands National Park.
Table of Contents
The purpose of this project is to outline the recreational history of the Thousand Islands for both the Canadian and American sectors. It is a review of recreation from its origin to the present with emphasis on the social era of the islands, 1860-1910.
The Thousand Islands are universally considered to be a vacation paradise, and the area's recreational history can be both fascinating and informative.
The paper does not deal with the histories of mainland communities, yet it is almost impossible to separate the history of the islands from the development of the Ontario towns of Kingston, Brockville, and Gananoque, and the New York State towns of Clayton, Cape Vincent, and Alexandria Bay.
Recreation in the Thousand Islands [Top]
The history of recreation on this section of the St. Lawrence River tells an interesting story. Very few places in North America can compare with the almost unchanged beauty the islands and waterways have maintained for centuries. Also unique is the fact that although the international boundary separating the United States and Canada runs in an irregular line through the islands, this separation has made little difference to recreational development in the Canadian and American sectors. Long before this boundary was decided, the islands played an historical part in the settlement of this area of the river.
During the last half of the nineteenth century, this archipelago reached social prominence. Resorts were being developed in every part of the country, taking advantage of the seashore, mountains, islands and inland lakes (Hepburn, 1965). Railroads and steamboats brought rapid growth to these areas. Soon it became evident that wealthy people could travel a relatively short distance to experience leisure at its best. The Thousand Islands became one of the many popular resort areas of that time.
Recreation in the islands can be divided into three categories:
The recreational aspect that holds the most interest is the category of island ownership. The mere mention of the Thousand Islands usually brings talk of large homes and stone castles. Islanders, as they are known, have been returning to the Thousand Islands every summer for many years.
The resort history has been well-recorded and the reactions of the tourists of today are very much like those of long ago. One guide book, published in 1881, stated that the visitor to the Thousand Islands often came for one of three reasons: "1st) health and happiness, 2nd) enthusiasm and poetic feeling, as a substitute for dullness and dry prose, 3rd) love matches" (Anonymous, 1881). Both island ownership and tourism became popular during the social era of post Civil War days to the first decade of the 20th century.
Records have shown that very few Indian villages were established on the islands themselves, yet there is definite archeological evidence to substantiate the fact that both the Iroquois and Algonquin travelled to this hunting and fishing paradise during the summer months. Although the Indians fished and hunted for survival, it was these practices as a sport that helped tourist and recreational development throughout the region from the early 1860's to today.
Prior to any recreational development, the islands had remained a wilderness. Transportation was extremely difficult and those islands which were even a short distance from the mainland were considered remote. Indians were the chief residents of the islands (Gourlay, 1822), yet some primitive huts were inhabited by a few white men (Patton, 1853). Timber was a valuable product which could be easily harvested on the islands. Many young men who found it difficult to find working land on the mainland were happy to take up the life of a timberman or boatman.
During the War of 1812 and the Patriots War of 1838, the islands' labyrinth served as both a refuge and hiding place for soldiers.
Recreation was not considered in the same way as it is today. Times were hard, and the pioneer spirit was still very much in evidence. Some of the larger islands were given as land grants and settled as farm land, but most remained vacant for many years (RG 10, Vol. 2495).
Early Transportation [Top]
Explorers, missionairies and coureurs de bois were the first travellers in the Thousand Islands. The St. Lawrence River played a major role as a transportation highway during the development of North America. The canoe, batteau, and Durham Boat all played a part in this development. Yet, with the advent of steam transportation the whole country began to prosper. Where the voyage of the earlier boats had to deal with favourable weather and the strength of the oarsmen, the steamboat could carry many passengers, large quantities of freight, and travel in almost any weather from the time the ice went out in the spring to the last freeze-up in the fall.
The growth of the small towns on both sides of the river was also influenced by steam travel, as steamboats needed large quantities of cord wood and supplies. Also, transportation companies began to take notice of the docking facilities along the river, as previously passengers were let off and picked up at crude piers and rock cribs (Young, 1965). Brockville, Gananoque, Kingston, Alexandria Bay, Clayton, Cape Vincent and Prescott soon provided landings where fuel and passengers could be loaded safely in all weather conditions.
Among the popular first steamers to run in the upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario were the Frontenac, Queen Charlotte, Iroquois, Great Britain (Young, 1965), and the William IV (Hawke, 1974). The William was built at Gananoque by a joint stock company in 1831 (Leavitt, 1889). It provided service between Prescott and Burlington and caused great interest as it was a large paddle wheeler using four smoke stacks set in a square (Hawke, 1974).
It was the safe passage of the St. Lawrence River rapids and the enlarged Lachine Canal in 1848 that ensured passenger service success between Toronto and Montreal. Advertising was started and soon steamer travel was a thriving business. The novelty of this travel caused people from many miles inland to venture to the river just to see the steamboats in all their glory (Young, 1965). Steam travel not only provided easier transportation for the hundreds of immigrants who wished to settle in Upper Canada, but it also allowed early tourists to view the islands for the first time.
Journals and diaries were written, giving accurate descriptions of the land and sights the traveller viewed, and also the manners of the Indians and early inhabitants of the land.
One such traveller was Charles Dickens. In 1842, he made a steam voyage down the St. Lawrence from Kingston to Montreal. His description of the Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence showed he was impressed by the beauty of the islands and waterway.
"The beauty of this noble stream at almost any point but especially in the commencement of this journey, where it winds its way among the thousand islands, can hardly be imagined. The number and constant successions of these islands, all green and richly wooded; their fluctuating sizes, some so large that for half an hour together one among them will appear as the opposite bank of the river, and some so small, that they are mere dimples on its broad bosom; their infinite variety of shape; and the numberless combinations of beautiful forms which the trees growing on them present: all forms a picture frought with uncommon interest and pleasure" (Dickens, 1910).
Canadian Sector [Top]
During the first half of the 19th century the islands in the Canadian sector of the river began to see slight activity. Residents on the mainland were at liberty to cut timber or to establish residence on the islands. "In these early years there was little opportunity for advancement for people who did not own working land which they could cultivate to earn their living. Many of these unfortunate residents turned to the islands. They would either become squatters or trade for the land, as cash was not easy to obtain. Often card games, fire water and home brew were the selling price to the Indians, with these deeds' becoming a cause for more unrest as island land could be traded for clothing, a watch or gun!" (Davis, 1974).
During the 1850's, the government began to take steps to make navigation safer on the St. Lawrence (Leja, 1933). The residents of Gananoque erected a permanent mark for Jackstraw shoal (Hawke, 1974) and the governrnent built lighthouses to be maintained on many islands along the United States and Canadian channels (RG 10, Vol. 2260).
It was at this time that treaties were signed with the Indians pertaining to the ownership of the Canadian islands. The title to a large group of approximately 881 (RG 10, Vol. 2680) of the Thousand Islands was by "Surrender Number 77", dated June 19, 1856. "The principal members of the Mississauga tribe of the Alnwick, surrendered for sale for the benefit of the tribe, all and singular, those islands lying and situated in the Bay of Quinte, in Lake Ontario, Willis' Bay and in the River St. Lawrence called 'Thousand Islands' which have not heretofore been granted or patented by the crown" (Canada Indian Treaties and Surrenders, 1891). "The title given to the Indians is by letters patent from the Crown". Proceeds for the sale or lease of these islands were held in trust to be credited to the tribe, with interest from these funds to be regularly distributed" (RG 10, Vol. 2680).
This treaty was signed by John Sunday, John Simpson, Jacob Sunday, John Pigeon, Joseph Skunk, Thomas Frasure and James Indian (Canada Indian Treaties and Surrenders, 1891). "One of the provisions in the treaty gave the government the privilege to sell or dispose of any of this property to the best advantage for the Indians" (Leja, 1933).
American Sector [Top]
Interest in the American islands was first established in 1792, by Alexander Macomb, a wealthy fur trader from New York City (Kohl, 1855). Macomb, while visiting the small town of Kingston made ".... with a few companions a sporting and canoe voyage on the St. Lawrence River, and became acquainted with the great district which was the Thousand Islands and upstate New York" (Kohl, 1855). "He saw fine forests, useful trees, fertile fields and fine sites for future villages and towns. He entered into partnership with another man, and between them they raised capital of about 200,000 dollars with which they set about their speculations" (Kohl, 1855). When New York State put land acquired from the Indians along this section of the St. Lawrence River, up for purchase at public auction, Macomb was ready for the sale. He purchased all the American islands and all but two square miles in each township (Hough, 1854).
Macomb never realized great profit from his land purchase and his financial holdings began to fail. At that time, a family from France arrived in Jefferson County to begin a dynasty which was to prosper for many years. During the American Revolution, the family of James Donation Le Ray de Chaumont had helped provide goods and services to the struggling American forces. For their patronage, Le Ray was given the chance to buy a large land tract, covering most of Jefferson County (Clark, 1941) which was included in Macomb's grants. James Le Ray, as he was known, fostered industry and development over all his grants. He also provided names for many of the small towns, rivers and lakes in the county in honour of the members of his family (Haddock, 1896; Simpson files, 1975).
After the War of 1812, Colonel Elisha Camp, a citizen of Sacketts Harbour, received patent to these same American islands, "under the great seal of New York State" (Haddock, 1896). "The firm of Yates and McIntyre obtained the title from Camp, and in turn sold it in 1845 to Azariah Walton and his partner, Chesterfield Parsons, for the sum of $3,000. The title included the northwest half of Wellesley Island and all the islands in the American waters of the River St. Lawrence, from the foot of Round Island (near Clayton) to Morristown, approximately 35 miles" (Haddock, 1896). In 1853, Walton bought his partner's shares and shortly after took the young Andrew Cornwall as a partner. Certainly Cornwall and Walton, with their natural ability to make friends and their shrewd business sense, helped to bring the town of Alexandria Bay to a prominent position (Cook, 1935).
During the Walton Cornwall partnership, the Thousand Islands began to be recognized for their recreational appeal. In 1854, Seth Green, before becoming the Fish Commissioner of New York State, wished to purchase an island to use as a base for carrying out a study of the habits of the St. Lawrence River fish (Haddock, 1896). He approached Andrew Cornwall, who was the more active partner, to request his purchase. Green's request was considered unusual, but nevertheless he was given the choice of any island. The purchase price of $40.00 for what is now Manhatten Island, was settled and Seth Green became the first purchaser of an island in the Thousand Islands to be used for recreational purposes (Simpson files, 1975).
Canadian Island Development [Top]
Island ownership in the Canadian sector began in the 1870's. Tremont Park and Hay Island situated off Gananoque were becoming popular vacation sites. Guest houses were built all along the river and visitors came from both American and Canadian towns. After spending a holiday in the islands, many wished to purchase an island for themselves. As early as 1873, islands around Gananoque and Rockport began to be purchased from the Department of Indian Affairs to be used for summer retreats (Byers, 1974).
In March, 1874, an extensive survey of the Canadian islands was made by Charles Unwin. This survey included a map with the name or number of each Canadian island, and gave the acreage and an upset price (lowest selling price) for each island from the eastern end of Howe Island to the beginning of the Brock Group off Brockville (RG 10, Vol. 2495). Prior to this, the surveys which had been taken were mainly concerned with: (a) the geographical position of the islands (Porter-Barclay Boundary Commission, 1818); (b) the relationship the islands played with the distribution of Crown Land during the settlement of Upper Canada (Sherwood, 1783); (c) the military importance of the islands and channels during the War of 1812 (Capt. E.R.C. Owen, 1815). The first charts to record island names and navigational depths were published in 1818 by Capt. William Fitzwilliam Owen, for the British Admiralty (See Naming the Islands information in section on further research).
In 1873, Henry Lilley, and in 1876, James Keeler, made an evaluation of Grenadier Island which had been purchased or given as land grants to settlers who were to farm the land for many years (RG 10, Vol. 2495). Keeler made a revaluation of certain Unwin valued islands and in so doing decreased their value. Therefore, some of the largest and most valuable islands were sold for very little money (RG 10, Vol 2495). In 1884, another government survey was made. The surveyor visited the unsold islands and from these he selected islands the Department of Indian Affairs could offer for sale or lease at public auction in July of the following year. More importantly, he suggested islands which should be purchased by the government to be used for maintaining lighthouses and other government stations (RG 10, Vol. 2260).
The majority of islands took many years to be sold. By 1891, only 58 Canadian islands, equalling approximately 3700 acres, had been sold and patented. 833 islands, totalling 815 acres, remained unsold. As a rule, islands were sold to those applicants who could prove just evidence of occupation and improvements (RG 10, Vol. 2680).
In 1891, the Department of Indian Affairs employed Walter Beatty to make an extensive re-examination and evaluation of the islands. Beatty, along with James McCrea, Inspector of Indian Affairs, submitted a plan which included hundreds of islands and islets previously valued by Charles Unwin. 129 new islands were also recorded (RG 10, Vol. 2495). Beatty listed each island by name or number, giving acreage, upset price and a description. These descriptions would include such statements as "prettily wooded, rock, fine fishing grounds", etc. Island valuations were based on location, topography and aesthetic beauty, rather than acreage value for farmland as mainland values were based. Beatty's valuations were more realistic at that time. Unwin's 1874 valuation was $10.00 and Beatty's was $73.00 (RG 10, Vol. 2495). As an added incentive, two agents were hired to sell the islands John Ormiston, Esq., in Gananoque, and Joseph Cook, Esq., in Rockport. Each sale meant five percent commission to these agents (RG 10, Vol. 2495).
When the islands were first offered for public auction or sale, strict "terms of sale" were enforced. One of the stipulations was considered to be particularly harsh. "A house of not less than $3,000 to be erected within two years from the date of purchase on each island sold" (RG 10, Vol. 2295). This was reduced by an Order in Council, on June 1, 1891, to read $1,000. Even this reduction was considered unreasonable as the cost of building on the islands was high. Transportation was poor, so building materials and workers could only be transported in fair weather or on solid ice.
In 1894, the Canadian government made an effort to sell the islands by publishing the booklet entitled "1000 Islands for Sale". This booklet listed Beatty's description of each island, his valuations and the terms of sale. These terms of sale excluded any minimum improvement price.
Social Era [Top]
The popularity of the islands developed shortly after the Civil War. As transportation improved, sportsmen began to travel to Alexandria Bay where fishing was considered excellent (Anonymous Canadian Handbook and Tourist Guide, 1867). More and more travel was being experienced on the St. Lawrence as the tranquility of the islands and the excitement of the rapids further down the river served to bring much recognition to the area (Perham's Pictorial Voyage, 1854). Realizing their beauty, wealthy sportsmen and gentlemen from the leading cities in the United States inquired about purchasing islands for themselves. Cornwall and Walton had cleared parts of several islands of timber and began selling these with the stipulation that every second island remain vacant and those purchased were to have a cottage erected within three years of purchase (Haddock, 1896).
George M. Pullman, of the sleeping car fame, fostered interest in the American sector, thus beginning the social era. In 1872, he invited General Grant, then running for the office of President, to his island home (Haddock, 1896). As an early supporter of the islands, Pullman approached Cornwall with his scheme, (Cook, 1935). "What we want to do, Andrew", he said, "is to make much of the General's visit here and it will advertise the islands as no other thing we can do. To have the President of the United States as our guest is quite an honour" (Cook, 1935).
Great interest was aroused by this visit. The press travelled with the President and after seeing the opulence of this small island community, they wrote articles in the papers of the leading cities of the United States. Interest in these articles was to culminate with plans for hotels to accommodate the influx of people who had read about the beautiful Thousand Islands for the first time (Haddock, 1896).
Private steamers were beginning to be seen in numbers and commerce flourished in all the small towns of the south banks of the St. Lawrence. Large and beautiful hotels were built in the mainland communities, as well as on some of the islands. Each tourist guide book advertised resorts where the families could spend the "season" with all the refinements of home (Anonymous Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co., 1889). This entire section of the St. Lawrence River became famous. The scenery was considered picturesque and hunting and fishing provided sport for hundreds. Hotels hired boatmen who were ready to take fishing parties on excursions, and the social activities of the islands began to be publicized (Anonymous, Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co., 1889).
The railroads built sidings to Clayton and Cape Vincent and as many as twenty trains a day would come and go at the village stations. The Club train from Syracuse and the sleepers from New York City were familiar sights (Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co., 1889). The activities at the city wharf and depot were mammoth. Each passenger travelled with an entourage and many trunks, which had to be transferred from the trains to the steamships, waiting to take passengers to their respective island destinations. There were no trains leading to Alexandria Bay, however, and the exact reason for this has been lost. Some say the Cornwall Bros. Store held a monopoly with the steamship companies and realized the disadvantage of rail travel to their business (Simpson, 1975). Other reasons are more glamorous, with the fact that the Bay was the retreat of the very rich. Not wanting to have the area over-run with tourists, they kept the railroad only as close as Redwood, seven miles south (Wayne, 1952). Here visitors could hire carriages and in later years, take the electric trolley to Alexandria Bay (Simpson, 1975).
As the years passed, islands were purchased in both the American and Canadian sectors. Houses, cottages and, indeed, castles were built. A new recreation aspect developed during the 1860's the excursion boats, with their impressive crews. They were either a cause or effect of the "boom era". Viewing the islands, bays, and narrow channels was foremost on every tourist's mind (Babbage, 1896). The fishermen came from many parts of the United States and Canada, with their families. The wives and children, plus the many friends and guests, had to be entertained, and to this end the excursion boats were very effectual.
Two of the most popular steamers in the early days were the St. Lawrence and the Islander. Along with their daytime jaunts were the popular evening "search light" excursions. These were impressive as numerous islands were lit by coloured gas lights (Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Co., 1889). Also well recorded in the history of the islands was the New Island Wanderer. Under the direction of Captain Visger, it made a famous fifty mile "ramble" through the islands twice a day. Published in their brochure was a description of the excursion, describing the different islands, resumes of the owners of beautiful houses, and historical information pertaining to the Thousand Islands area (Visger, 1882).
Not only was the island waterway an attraction, but in a very few years houses had been built which were certainly the attraction that caused the most interest. Among the long list of island owners were Dr. J.G. Holland, editor of Scribner's magazine, who built Bonnie Castle, near Alexandria Bay, and Abraham Abraham and Nathan Straus, who contracted an Ogdensburg architectural firm to erect two mansions on Cherry Island. Straus was the head of Macy's Department store in New York City (Anonymous, Daily Journal 1899). Those homes that resembled castles (See Castle Islands information) were George M. Pullman's Castle Rest, and Calumet Castle, the home of Charles G. Emery, American Tobacco executive, plus Commodore Frederick Bourne's summer retreat on Dark Island. Bourne was head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The most stupendous was Boldt Castle on Heart Island, built by George Boldt in the late 1800's.
Money seemed to be as prevalent as islands themselves. Private steamers were seen at many wharfs and construction was ever present. Labour was easily found in the small communities all along the United States and Canadian shores. Launches were hired to transport the workers. Building supplies were transported over the ice in the winter by horse and carts and on flat barges in the summer (Budson, 1974). Construction of these homes was complicated. Wealthy island owners seemed to make no compensations for the island's topography or position in the river. Every steamer or launch needed a proper landing. Boathouses were constructed to house some of the island's staff. These buildings would often be four or five stories high so a boat with a smoke stack or a double decker could be housed.
The landscaping was also a subject which was interesting to the tourist. Island owners had stone walls built, gardens made, and trees and shrubs pruned so each property would look complete in every detail. At the home's completion often as many as thirty to forty people would be employed to work on a single island. The city servants would be brought in special trains with the family's luggage and summer help would be hired. Usually the family would remain on the island for the summer with "Father" travelling back to the city during the week for business. With the many guests each island entertained over the summer, as well as the staff, kitchens in these large houses often had to prepare for dinners for 75 to 100 people each evening. Buying provisions and supplies was a major problem. Cornwall Brothers Store in Alexandria Bay and other merchants in the Thousand Islands area had a thriving business during the summer months.
Although tour boat passengers were impressed by the beautiful large homes built on the islands, not all islands were owned by families who were extremely wealthy. Literally hundreds of "Thousand Island Cottages" were constructed. These cottages were usually two-storey, wooden structures with a small boathouse and wooden dock at the river's edge. Most islands had been timbered during the steam era and second growth grew around each cottage giving privacy and shade. Island life was very much as it is today with boating, fishing, and picnics as the favourite pastimes.
Hotels and Resorts [Top]
As soon as the Thousand Islands began to be recognized as a social centre for vacationers, hotels or resorts began to be built in the area. The Crossman House in Alexandria Bay was first built as a fishermen's tavern in 1848 by Charles Crossman and his wife, Esther. Its guest capacity increased from 10 guests in 1848 to 300 guests in 1873 (Anonymous, Scribner's Monthly, 1878). In 1923 the hotel and property were bought by William E. McDonall and Captain C.S. Thomson, who together owned and managed the hotel for many years (Pearson, 1948). Eventually the property became part of the Capt. Thomson's Motor Lodge and, in 1962, the Crossman Hotel was torn down (1000 Island Compass, 1966). All during its 122 years as a hostelry it was considered one of the oldest and best known resorts.
The Thousand Island House, also in Alexandria Bay, had an interesting history. The property is said to have been given to O.G. Staples in 1872, for the chief purpose of building a hotel to house the hundreds of tourists who would come to the area after President Grant's visit. In fact, in Haddock's 1896 publication he quotes that the hotel was well known. "Everyone knew of it, and whoever came the first summer it was opened told their neighbours of the grand delights of the region, and the next year other thousands were added, and so year by year, the throng swelled" (Haddock, 1896).
During these same years the Hubbard House and the Walton Inn in Clayton and the Hotel Carlton in Cape Vincent (Hunter, 1868) were also gaining in popularity.
The islands themselves were the sites of famous hotels. The Frontenac Hotel, situated on Round Island, was certainly one of the social centres of the Thousand Islands. The island itself originally was developed by men from Central and Northern New York, as a resort connected with the Baptist Church (Haddock, 1896). Many prominent people purchased lots, with the island eventually becoming non-secular. Originally known as Round Island House, the property was refinanced by Charles G. Ernery and other islanders in 1890 (Common, 1949). The hotel's brochure advertised that it was a place of "perfect freedom from malaria, black flies and mosquitoes". "It offered boating, fishing, tennis, bowling, billiards and ping-pong with darkroom facilities for the amateur photographer" (Frontenac Hotel brochure). One of the most interesting aspects of this hotel was its opulence. Excursion boats were prohibited from stopping at the dock, yet as a highlight of most "rambles" steamboats would pass by the wharf "so that all passengers might have a glimpse of a life of luxury." (Common, 1945). In 1911, the hotel burned to the ground. Their 45 star flag was saved and hangs in the 1000 Island Museum in Clayton as a tribute to this popular resort (Budson, 1974).
Other United States island hotels were the Grenell Tavern (which eventually became the Pullman Hotel), the Hub, the Murray Hill, the Cliff House and the hotels and resorts built on Wellesley Island. The Thousand Island Park hotel which burned in 1890 was replaced by the Columbian. This was "considered the finest hotel above the city of Montreal" (Common, 1919). It was built in the shape of a Greek cross to give the easiest escape as well as the outside view to every room. This also caught fire in 1912 when much of the Thousand Island Park was destroyed by fire (Common, 1949).
Hotel and resort development on the Canadian side of the river coincides with island popularity. By the 1890's many islands had been purchased in the Canadian sector. A reliable ferry service was transporting passengers from Clayton to Gananoque and Rockport enabling resort hotels and guest houses to rely on a successful season (Shipman, 1975).
The first hotels were built to accommodate fishermen. Clayton and Alexandria Bay guides realized that the fishermen preferred to spend the night close to the fishing grounds rather than travel the long distance to their home ports. One such hotel was the Grenadier Island Anglers Hotel, built in 1870 by Joseph Senecal. This popular resort also served as a post office for the island and as a ferry landing (Allen, 1971). Also on Grenadier Island was Poole's Guest House as well as Heffernan's. The latter is a unique restaurant which has served river people for many years. Its reputation for fine food and pleasant atmosphere served as advertising in place of large signs and publicity (Allen, 1871).
Two of the early hotels on the mainland during the 1800's were Poole's Resort, run by Robert Poole and Echo Lodge near Ivy Lea. The latter was in existence until the property was sold to the Ontario government for park purposes in the 1960's (St. Lawrence Parks Commission, 1975).
The Ivy Lea Inn in Ivy Lea was another early hotel. Built by Captain Visger of Alexandria Bay, it was popular not only for the accommodation but also because Captain Visger ran his excursion boat, The Castenet, from the Ivy Lea Inn's wharf. Today the Inn is still accommodating fishermen and tourists (Shipman, 1975).
The Glen House, which is now a well-known vacation complex, was originally opened to fishermen by its owner, Wallace Shipman, in 1897. During the early years, most guests were Americans from Rochester and Syracuse, New York. They would travel to Clayton by the New York Central Railroad and cross the river in the Glen House boat to stay for the summer. Like other hotels in the area, their guests would often purchase islands or mainland cottages after spending a couple of summers in the beautiful Thousand Islands (Shipman, 1975).
Among the island hotels on the Canadian side were the popular guest houses on Hay Island and Tremont Park Island, near Gananoque. Float Island (Downie) also had a large hotel capable of accommodating 100 guests. Originally built as a private boys' school, it was renovated in the early 1900's to a hotel (Shipman, 1975). Many photographs were taken from Float Island showing a view of the Navy Fleet from its high flat rocks (McCord Museum, Notman Collection).
Most of these hotels and resorts have disappeared. Although each town and village has hotels on their main streets, these are not the very large and lavish hotels of the social era. Visitors to the Thousand Islands today prefer modern motels and convenient housekeeping cottages.
Some of the most populated areas in the Thousand Islands over the years are the summer camps, which were first established in the 1870's. Most campgrounds were begun by religious organizations. Literally thousands of people came to these areas from all parts of both Canada and the United States to enjoy a family holiday under the direction of their religious leaders.
Thousand Island Park on the upper end of Wellesley Island was founded by the Methodist Church in 1875. Their religious buildings, cottages, boathouses, and docks were the scene of many years of activity (Leavitt, 1879).
Although originally these camps sold or rented tent lots, it did not take long before cottages took the place of tents and a thriving community was founded. One of the money raising schemes set up by the Association was the dock charge. A small head charge was levied against all tour boat passengers and the large steamboat companies were charged a yearly rate. The rule of no boats allowed to dock on Sundays was upheld for many years. The year 1975 marked the centennial celebrations of the village and many of the families of original campers visited the area (Jacox and Kleinhans, 1975).
Also on Wellesley Island was the Presbyterian Camp, called Westminster Park. The International Camp Ground, situated one mile below Morristown, New York, was a Methodist Camp with members coming from both Canada and the United States (Leavitt, 1879).
The first established park camp on the Canadian side was on a high bluff in Elizabethtown, called the St. Lawrence Central Camp Ground. The land was purchased in 1875 and developed by the Methodist Episcopal Church (Leavitt, 1879).
The American Canoe Association also held camp, beginning in the 1880's. In the early years the meets were held at Canoe Point on Grindstone Island. Members looked forward to the activities of the camp. Canoes would be loaded with camping supplies and upon arrival at the camp tent areas would be set out and in the evening large groups of campers would join together for bonfires and sing songs (Haxall, 1975). In 1901, the Association purchased Sugar Island in the Canadian Sector. They still own this island with some camp sites being visited each summer by families of original members.
Many years before the tourist came to this section of the St. Lawrence, fishermen came to the islands from many parts of the United States and Canada. During the early years, Alexandria Bay was the fishing centre as Clayton was more of a commercial town, with its shipbuilding and lumber rafting enterprises (Hunter, 1868).
In 1884, the Anglers' Association was formed. Until then, there were no limits to the number of fish one could catch. A few years "..... later a law was passed prohibiting the taking of fish with nets, and a limit to the number caught to the rod per day." (Johnston, 1937). The association was responsible for finding the nets and collecting them until a "goodly number were taken and piled in a heap in the road ... and with gallons of kerosene and tar poured over them, they were set on fire and burned." (Johnston, 1937). The game laws became more strict and heavy fines were imposed on the netters (Johnston, 1937).
Of the many traditions handed down by the St. Lawrence River fishermen, the fishing excursion parties were the most popular. Guides and excursion parties would rendezvous at an appointed hour. The skiffs would be attached to a small steamer launch which would be ready to take the passengers and the tow line out in the river to the favourite fishing shoals. Each guide would take one or two fishermen and would cast off in the area of their choice. At noon the small steamer would signal for lunch at an opportune island. Each skiff would row to the island where fresh fish would be added to the other delectable lunch items. The fishermen and guides would spend the hour exchanging fish stories! After the afternoon of fishing the steamer would make the rounds and pick up each skiff and return to the shore (Simpson, 1975).
Other traditions included the flying of a white flag on the return voyage if a muskellunge had been caught and landed. These giant fish were, and still are, the most popular sport fish. Literally hundreds of prize-winning fish have been caught and mounted over the years.
Originally the price for a guide and fishing excursion was $1.00 per day. In the early days, the guide also provided everything needed, including "Hand-made poles, rough lines, and fishing tackle which was made from a pewter spoon and course hook" (Haddock, 1896). Today fishing excursions are just as popular, yet, the cost is considerably more than $1.00 per day!
St. Lawrence Skiff [Top]
When "gentlemen" came to experience angling on this section of the St. Lawrence River, the acquisition of a reliable boat was most important. Boatmen depended upon a craft, which would be safe to handle in the different weather conditions, have speed and be relatively easy to row as the best fishing grounds were often some distance from the town docks. It was the St. Lawrence Skiff which met these requirements.
The first skiffs were not unlike the swift Indian canoes seen on many lakes and rivers, yet they were designed in a manner which made them unique. On the whole, they were 19 or 22 feet long "Double enders" constructed of a steam-bent frame (Ettingee, 1969). Xavier Colon of Clayton in 1860 is generally regarded as the chief originator of the skiff. Under the direction of Dr. A. Bain, the St. Lawrence Skiff Works was formed. Although this company built many of the original river skiffs, they were not mass produced in a strict way, therefore, each fishing guide and boat man could alter the finished design (Haxall, 1974).
They were built on both sides of the river. The Canadian skiffs ranged between 16 and 18 feet and seemed to enjoy the same popularity as their American counterparts.
Manning the oars on one of these remarkable small boats was an art in itself. Watching an experienced oarsman on calm waters or in rough seas was an entertainment of its own. Because of their unique construction, heights of speed and safety were maintained with relative ease. An 1889 advertisement for the skiff, expounded the safety factor by showing a drawing of a grown man balancing on the gunnal of a skiff (Bain, St. Lawrence Skiff Catalogue). As the popularity of the St. Lawrence skiff increased so their design improved. A mast and sails were added and Montrayville Atwood developed a folding centre board in 1882 (Ettinger, 1969). "This board was designed like a lady's fan. It was contained in a small metal box and when the centreboard lever was pulled, the board opened like the fan" (Haxall, 1974). Another design difference between the conventional sailing boat of today and the original skiffs was the fact that the St. Lawrence skiff had no rudder. The bow and stern of the boat itself acted as wind resistors, and the experienced sailor learned that by changing the weight of the crew and trimming the sails, a satisfactory course could be maintained (Ettinger, 1969). These new skiffs were quickly accepted by the professional boatman and the summer vacationer.
Over the years, almost every boathouse in the Thousand Islands contained a skiff. Some had finishes which resembled pianos, while others were work-boats and well-worn.
When the internal combustion engine was developed, it too was adapted to fit the skiffs. Unique motor skiffs were designed and built for river people (Haxall, 1974). As mass production and the boating industry gained recognition across Canada and the United States, fast power and sailing boats took the place of the skiff. The popularity of this unique boat, however, travelled throughout many parts of North America and Europe. Today, skiffs are being rebuilt and restored, thus adding a touch of history to the modern boating world.
In the Thousand Islands, like most vacation areas, sports rank high on the list of recreational activities. As stated before, fishing and hunting were the first sports in the area and these have remained extremely popular throughout the years. Other sporting events were begun during the social era in the islands. Some activities are still popular, such as canoeing and rowing, while others, such as polo matches and motor boat races, are no longer practiced in the area.
Most sport activities were held at sport and yacht clubs. The Thousand Island Club was founded during the late 1890's and it was there that a great deal of sporting events took place. At one time, polo matches were popular. The beautiful horses would be taken to the island on barges and the participants and onlookers would center activities around the waterfront and the club house. The lavish dress of members and guests as well as the club decorations caused great excitement amongst the townspeople and daytime tourists (Simpson, 1975).
The club itself, built on George C. Boldt's property on Wellesley Island, was known as the Millionaires' Club as most of its members fitted into that category. In its by-laws was the following statement: "The particular business object of the Club is the promotion and cultivation of social intercourse among its members, and for enjoyment and recreation on the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries, and for yachting, boating, and fishing on the same, and fcr the advancement of their mutual interests as summer residents of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River" (Thousand Island Club By Laws).
Opposite Alexandria Bay was Welcome Island, owned originally by Mr. Pope, who sold the island to the Thousand Island Yacht Club. Other clubs included the Frontenac Yacht Club and the Chippewa Bay Yacht Club. Each fostered sailing races and the newest and most popular sport - motor boat racing.
By 1902, the internal combustion engine had been developed and these engines were being built and adapted in each of the major centers of the river. Brockville's St. Lawrence Engine Company built many of the original two-cycle engines, their company converting automobile engines for marine use for many years (Ten Cate and MacNaughton, 1972). The Cranker family built some of the first engines in the Alexandria Bay area and their business prospered for many years. Fred Huck, an American who settled in Rockport, built a one-cycle engine called the Invictus. These, and his other engines, were installed in many Canadian crafts. Again one must remember that the border meant little to river residents, therefore, both American and Canadian boats and engines were developed for easier transportation (Huck, 1975; Simpson, 1975). The St. Lawrence Skiff was adapted to the new engines and soon could boast the rakish speed of 10 miles per hour. Thus motor boat development added new forms of recreation to the St. Lawrence River. "Watersport" days were by far the most popular events. These days had activities for all onlookers, from canoe and rowing races, tug-of-war matches, grease pole competitions, swimming races, sailing races, and the very exciting motor boat races (Thousand Island Sun). These races led to the Gold Cup series which was first raced in the area in 1905. The first race was held in 1904, on the Hudson River in New York City and was raced at the home club of the previous year's winner. Because of this, the cup remained in the Thousand Islands for nine of the first eleven years of racing. "The Chippewa Bay Yacht Club held it four years, the Thousand Island Yacht Club four years, and the Frontenac Yacht Club one year" (Anonymous, Thousand Island Sun, 1975).
Another motor boat racing series was the Thousand Island Challenge Cup. This was held every year on the St. Lawrence River. One of the popular racers was Gar Wood, who won the trophy in 1919 with his Miss Detroit, III, averaging 53 miles per hour. Both the Gold Cup and the Thousand Island Challenge Cup were extremely popular, bringing some of the most well-known motor boat racing designers, builders, and drivers to the area. Much of their history, and the history of racing and boating in the area, is displayed at the Shipyard Museum in Clayton.
The Arts [Top]
Because of the picturesque beauty of this archipelago, it is understandable that many artists, authors, poets, and photographers have recorded the area. This form of recreation was, and still is, popular in the islands. It would be impossible to list all the works published, but certainly a short list would be useful in recording certain unusual works.
One of the most popular art forms was the photographic business. Picture post cards, either black-and-white or hand-coloured, depicted every aspect of the area. Boat tours, hotels, inns, the large beautiful homes, the narrow rifts, and the islands themselves, made ideal material for the amateur and well-known photographer. William Notman of Montreal, A.C. McIntyre of Alexandria Bay and Alex Murray of Murray and Sons, Brockville, are just three social-era photographers whose works are still admired today.
Another popular aspect of art in the area was souvenirs. Along the streets of villages on both sides of the river were shops which sold souvenirs to tourists (Simpson, 1975). Hand-painted paddles and other wooden wares by Mr. Keech of Clayton were extremely popular (Simpson, 1975). Glass and china pieces were also part of this large tourist industry. Local Indians would travel from island to island in their canoes, selling their basket wares and bead work. Although they did not reside in the islands in the winter, they returned each summer until approximately fifteen years ago (Byers, 1974).
Castle Islands [Top]
Over the years literally dozens of homes have been built which could easily be considered castles. These have always caused great interest in the Thousand Islands. The money spent by their respective owners did much to foster not only the development of island popularity but also mainland economics. The following descriptions are of four such structures that have been given much publicity over the years.
George M. Pullman, who developed the famous sleeping car company, was one of the many whose financial empire was built by the railway industry. His "Castle Rest" on Pullman Island was built in 1873, and it was a showplace in the islands for many years.
When Pullman died he left the island to his daughter, wife of one-time Illinois State Governor, Frank O. Lowden. Pullman's will provided that Mrs. Lowden arrange to return to the island for two weeks every summer. After her death, when members of her family became disinterested in the island, the castle was razed. The destruction of the structure was for economic reasons, as the island and castle values had made taxes high and the cost of upkeep prohibitive.
Literally hundreds of stories have been written about Boldt Castle. Its history and description are perhaps the most famous aspect of the Thousand Islands to be widely publicized. The man who built this enormous complex was George C. Boldt, a 19th century hotel keeper. At the time of his island purchase, he was the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Construction began in 1896. The Castle was built with St. Lawrence granite from Boldt's quarries on nearby Oak Island. The island was to have eleven buildings in all, with accommodation for one hundred guests and their servants. All the conveniences and luxuries that one could think of were to be provided.
The work stoppage and abandonment of the castle still holds some mystery. It is supposed that the death of Mrs. Boldt made Boldt send a telegram saying, "STOP WORK". Records do show a small obituary notice was published in 1904 in the New York City papers and also in the Watertown Daily Times (Simpson, 1975). There have been other rumours during the years, yet none of these have been published as correct.
After spending nearly two years, and two million dollars, the workmen left the island. Thanks to a workman on the site, some blueprints of Heart Island were discovered lying near the construction. Today these are kept in the Syracuse University Archives (Syracuse University Library, 1975).
After many years of abandonment, Heart Island, as well as a half dozen other Boldt estate islands, were purchased in 1925 by E.J. Noble. Noble was chairman of the Board of the Life-Saver Co. and involved in other business and political concerns. He installed a caretaker and opened the island for public tours. Over the years, thousands of people have wandered over the island and castle. Today the island, now owned by the E.J. Noble Foundation, remains a tourist attraction. Tour boats use this island and the castle as a major part in their publicity of the Thousand Islands.
"Just a shooting and fishing shack!" This is the statement Commodore Frederick G. Bourne, President of the Singer Sewing Machine Co., told his family as he began construction of what is today the only inhabited castle remaining on the islands. The twenty eight room "Towers", on Dark Island, as it was known, was built in 1896 and contained many interesting features, including secret passages, both underground and behind wooden panels, in the house.
On the death of Mr. Bourne, the island was left to his daughter Mrs. Marjorie Bourne Thayer, who used the island every summer until her death in 1962. At that time the property was given to the LaSalle Military Academy of Oakdale, Long Island, New York, under the direction of the Brothers of Christian Schools. Because of the distance between the island and the school, the property was sold in 1965 to Dr. Harold G. Martin of the Harold G. Martin Evangelistic Association Inc. of Vaudreuil, Quebec.
The island is used today as a summer school and retreat. Non-denominational services are held on Sunday mornings during the summer, with a short tour being given to those attending. Dr. Martin has had the name Jordstat Island and Castle approved by the Canadian government, and it remains as an outstanding example of Social Era summer retreats.
Calumet Castle, built in 1893-94, was the summer home of American Tobacco Co. millionaire, Charles G. Emery. Emery bought Powder Horn Island, as well as other islands in the Hunters Group, and built two elaborate summer houses before building the castle. The three-storey castle was one of the finest houses on the St. Lawrence. It contained over thirty family rooms, a famous mahogany-panelled ballroom, and a complete cyclone cellar.
Many of the rooms in the castle were photographed and those photographs and other publicity of Emery's Islands and business enterprises helped to publicize the Thousand Islands.
After the death of Emery in 1915, Calumet Castle became the property of Emery's son F.W. Emery, and after him his son, C.G. Emery II, and his heirs. Although a trust fund had been left to maintain the island, it was hardly enough for the upkeep of the property. Over the years many attempts were made to sell the islands and finally, in 1950, the courts ruled in favour of breaking the will and allowed the property to be sold for the sum of $11,500 dollars.
The island was eventually bought to be used as a tourist attraction, but on a warm summer night in July of 1957 the castle caught fire and burned to the ground. Today the island is used as a boating marina. Its water tower stands as a landmark and Calumet Castle lies as rubble.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States caused great interest in the islands. Very few places could compare with the ideal circumstances the islands offered to the "rum-runners" of the day. Little valid information has been recorded, giving detailed descriptions of this sport, yet hundreds of stories have been handed down to make the usual fish stories seem less interesting.
One of the many Americans bought a Canadian Navy Fleet island and built a giant cement and iron vault to house Canadian liquor. Fast motor launches with knowledgable boatmen could make the trip across the river in and out of small channels on the darkest nights. The bottles were placed in gunny sacks for easy disposal in case of capture.
One island became known by United States officials because two very poor card players rented the cottage on this island. Officials could win easy money every night while the two poor players had lucky accomplices who would transport liquor across the river. Drinking inns were set up on Canadian islands where United States residents flocked in great numbers.
When prohibition ended, so did lucrative employment for several islanders and mainlanders. Today the only evidence of this exciting era are the bottles found by divers who visit the St. Lawrence River every summer.
Thousand Island Bridge [Top]
The official opening and dedication of the Thousand Island Bridge was on August 18, 1938. The opening celebrations caused enormous celebrations throughout the Thousand Islands. Not only because the leaders of both countries, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King, were on hand to cut the silk ribbon, but because the bridge was considered an answer to a transportation problem which had been in existence for many years. The bridge and islands, which were used as stepping stones, saved motorists hours of travelling time. Although a reliable ferry service was provided during the summer months, the bridge allowed travel across the river year-round in very little time.
Known as the Thousand Island Bridge, or Ivy Lea Bridge (by Ontario residents), there are in reality five bridges, connected by a highway system crossing Hill Island and Wellesley Island. It employs four types of bridge construction: suspension, steel arch, continuous struss, and stone arch (Edwards, 1938).
As early as 1880, proposals had been made for an island bridge. Other bridge plans had been suggested for Prescott and Ogdensburg, the Brockville Narrows, and Kingston and Cape Vincent. In 1926, W. Gilbert Freeman and J.H. Arthur tried to get private backing for a crossing near the present site, but in 1930 final approval was given by both governments to begin construction on a public crossing (Lingard, 1968).
Under the direction of the Thousand Island Bridge Committee and the Thousand Island Bridge Company of Ontario, the consulting engineering firms, Robinson and Steinman of New York and Monserat and Pratt of Montreal, began construction of the bridge on April 30, 1937. Because of the topography and geology of this particular section of the river, the bridge was easier to construct, resulting in costs that ran below budget (Edwards, 1938).
The completion of the bridge was a great boon to the region, yet it was the direct cause for the decline of the famous steamboat ferrys. One by one they disappeared, slowly replaced by privately-owned runabouts.
Under the leadership of Grant Mitchell of Alexandria Bay, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority fostered enormous interest in the bridge and surrounding area. They were instrumental in distributing much-needed publicity for the region after the social era had ended and the fantastic tourist trade had moved elsewhere.
Today the bridge is still viewed as an architectural triumph. It has become a permanent attraction, connecting the major cities on both sides of the river, as well as providing a lookout for tourists to view over 200 islands at one time.
The Thousand Islands Railroad [Top]
The only part of the Thousand Islands Railroad seen today is the large locomotive situated near the waterfront at Gananoque. Although one of the smallest sections of the C.N.R. systems, this 6.33 mile long line connected the small town with the main line rail between Montreal and Toronto (Merrilees, 1955).
Originally built as a timber line in the 1880's, it was bought by the Grand Trunk Railroad (now Canadian National) in 1911 (Merrilees, 1955). George W. Horner, writing for the Upper Canada Railroad Society in 1955, describes the small line as "the only line in the country on which you could buy a ticket to a cemetery. You could fish from the window of a coach as it stood in the station, and you could board the train right on the main street". The line had only four stops; the town wharf, the cemetery, Cheeseboro (where there was a cheese factory and the original junction with the main line) and Gananoque Junction. In 1965, the line ceased to operate, and on June 4, 1966, the locomotive No. 55 was donated to the town by the C.N.R. to be used as a museum piece for the Gananoque Historical Society (McClung, 1973).
Half Moon Bay [Top]
At the eastern end of Bostwick Island is Half Moon Bay. Vesper services have been held here every Sunday during July and August since 1887 when a "group of summer campers began to meet on Sunday evenings in the Bay for divine services" (Half Moon Bay brochure).
In 1901, David Wallace of Boston, Massachusetts, bought the surrounding property. Mr. Wallace had relatives living on Bostwick Island and would visit them every summer. When he died in 1904, he bequeathed the property and Bay to the Town of Gananoque to be held in trust as a place of worship (Byers, 1974). In 1937, a bronze plaque was mounted on a granite pulpit to commemorate the Golden Jubilee (Bronze Plaque, Half Moon Bay).
Over the years, many photographs have been taken recording the history of the Bay. Boats of all descriptions would travel from distant ports for the evening services. The Glorie II advertised Half Moon Bay ferry service at the price of 25 cents (Thousand Island Museum). Today's informal dress, fibre-glass cruisers, sailboats and motor boats take the place of canoes, St. Lawrence skiffs, high-button boots and picturesque hats and bonnets.
There are many related causes for the decline of popularity in the islands. The automobile served the first blow. No longer was it necessary to take the train to a resort to remain for the season. Now it was possible to visit many different communities in a short period of time. One could drive to the islands, perhaps hire a fishing guide for the day, or take the family on a tour boat, where they could see all the famous sights in a few hours (Budson, 1974).
World War I brought to an end the fabulous private steamboats which served to provide transportation for many vacationers. Gas and coal were difficult to obtain, and hundreds of launches and private boats were either placed in boathouses or else given to the government to use for various purposes (Simpson, 1975).
The Stock Market crash of 1929 also struck a blow to island popularity. Several of the fabulously wealthy visitors and residents saw their fortunes vanish . Many of the large and fantastic summer homes and hotels disappeared, either from demolition or destruction from fire.
The Thousand Island Bridge opened in 1939 and brought renewed interest to the area. The bridge-crossing saved hours of travelling time for those who wished to cross the river, and it also became a highlight of a holiday. Nevertheless, it caused the fast decline of the famous steamboat ferries.
World War II halted tourism for at least a decade. Travel and leisure time were curtailed enormously. The post-war days saw new resorts being built in hundreds of new areas across both countries, making the islands less popular with the daytime tourist. Island owners found difficulties also, as several of the islands were dependent on a large staff to keep the properties running smoothly. The post-war days saw fewer people applying for these positions.
During the 1950's many islands changed hands and slowly but steadily the Thousand Islands seemed to reach a happy recreational medium. The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 caused great excitement in the islands. This event saw thousands of people visit the river and it has been a popular attraction to tourism ever since. The Thousand Island Bridge Authority also helped to further recreation and the tourist trade in the area. They published and distributed "Thousand Island" information to leading newspapers over the years, thereby drawing attention to the islands which are so close to each of the major cities in the eastern section of the country: New York, Boston, Montreal and Toronto. The improved highway system between Montreal and Toronto also helped to develop the tourist trade in the Canadian section.
Today, the islands are not unpopular - far from it. Yet today, islanders see recreation in a different light. Amenities such as electricity, telephone, and proper sewage disposal have been brought to most islands. Cottage construction is varied. Easily maintained houses are constructed which blend into the scenery rather than dominate it as the early Victorian houses did. Several of the larger islands have been subdivided to provide building lots for "new islanders". The 1000 Island Association has helped to preserve the undeveloped aspect of the Canadian sector. Through their efforts legislation has been passed prohibiting poster advertising on the islands, the selling of shoal islands to unsuspecting buyers, pollution controls, and regulating the boating speeds maintained by the giant tour boats.
The daytime tourist continues to flock to the islands. The excursion or tour boats are still popular for a day's outing. Souvenir shops are everywhere, as well as modern motels and restaurants, providing services in all communities on both sides of the river. For each of the small towns along the river, the islands are a vast parkland. Boating is by far the most popular sport. Snowmobiles and ice boats take their place during the winter. Although currents and open water limit safe areas, the ice does form natural bridges in many areas.
Certainly the area of recreation to show the most progress is in the boating and camping fields. Marinas are found in each area to supply services to the yachtsmen and fishermen. Fishing guides can still be hired to provide expertise and the traditional "shore dinner". The village of Cape Vincent is the fishing centre in the American sector today. This area is not on a super-highway, therefore its historic charm has survived. Very few "honky-tonk" tourist attractions are found, but hotels, guest houses and marina accommodations are provided for the sportsmen. There are also fishing centres in the Canadian sector. The communities of Ivy Lea, Rockport, Gananoque, and Brockville have their well-known fishing guides, and fishing lodges are some of the most popular resorts.
Canoeing and rowing clubs are active in many communities. The Antique Boat Show held in Clayton is one of the most popular events of the summer. Houseboat rentals have become a thriving business over the last twenty years.
The park systems on both sides of the river are working every year to improve facilities to both the camping and boating family. It is interesting to note the Canadian government's interest being shown in this field, as St. Lawrence Islands National Park is certainly the most popular recreational attraction in both the American and Canadian sectors.
Perhaps the most important people in the Thousand Islands today are the conservationists and the naturalists. It is through their research and recommendations that the Thousand Islands will hopefully remain a recreational paradise.
The following section deals with two areas of research. Each section would make a valid historical study. Very little of the vast information available has been recorded and documented.
As stated before in this history, transportation plays an enormous role in the development not only in this area of the St. Lawrence River, but throughout the history of North America. Tracing this development in the islands would certainly be a valid study. Not only do the steamboats have a glorious past, but the development of motor launches and the internal combustion engine are subjects that hold much information.
The history of the Richilieu and Ontario Navigation Co. and The Folgers Line (Great White Squadron) are just two of the many companies who served the island waterway. Private steamers, such as the Sport, Irene, and the Wan Win Net, were built to be used by families in the islands, and their impact on the boating community was immense. These studies would be both interesting and comparatively easy as hundreds of photographs and historical articles are easily obtainable in the area.
The history of the names of the islands spans two centuries of time; beginning with the Upper Canadian settlement of the St. Lawrence area, through to the present day. Each island has a history of its own, with the nomenclature holding a prominent position in this history.
Over the years, relatively few island names have been changed. Often reasons for the nomenclature have long disappeared, therefore, a detailed study of this subject would be both interesting and informative.
Many of the Canadian islands received their names from the survey charts of Capt. William Fitzwilliam Owen in 1818, yet there are many discrepancies pertaining to the reasons behind Owen's names. It would be important, therefore, to record each Thousand Island name and give an accurate history of the nomenclature. The area is attracting more and more visitors every year and valid information should be made available to both the amateur and interested researcher.
Chronological Record [Top]
References Cited [Top]
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Anonymous, 1899. Summer Houses. The Daily Journal, Ogdensburg, New York. 23: Nov.
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