Written by Susan W. Smith
posted on September 15, 2008 16:17
A compliment, for sure by Susan W. Smith
One day a few weeks ago, I met Ian Coristine and Mike Franklin to discuss the Thousand Islands Life the Magazine. Ian and Mike asked if I would contribute to the TILife. I realized this request is a true compliment. Paul Malo is someone I admired as an historian, a champion of architecture and a true promoter of our islands. I had only met Paul a couple of times – and only when there were many other people around – all anxious to meet him as well, so I cannot say, as could Ian and Mike, that we were friends. I knew that Paul Malo had done so much for the Thousand Islands, so when Paul died last month, all of us who enjoy this website felt we had lost something very special.
Susan (Susie) W. Smith Editor
When Ian and Mike left me that day, I rode out to our island in our boat with lots on my mind. How could I help keep Paul’s memory alive and how could I add to the many stories and insights he provided? Let me begin by way of an introduction. My name is Susan Weston Smith (Susie) and I love the history of the Thousand Islands. My fascination began when our family cruised amongst the islands on vacations from Montreal, (Quebec, CA). I wanted to know who named the islands, who first lived on them, why does the International Boundary zig and zag its way around islands? I asked the boys at the gas dock or the local hotel owners, but nobody seemed to have the answers. I began a winter of research and soon I had a filing cabinet full of notes! I interviewed people in earnest and gained the reputation as “here is that woman asking questions again.” However, my questions paid off, because one day I interviewed a history professor from a small college in Montreal and her daughter just happened to work for Parks Canada and Parks Canada just happened to need a researcher who could compile a history of recreation in the Thousand Islands. I wrote one of six monographs the Park published in 1975 about the Islands.
My quest for more information did not stop there, and in 1989 I was asked if I would write a popular history of the Islands for a local publisher. I was thrilled and realized that gathering research was great fun – writing it down was not! But with the help of a good editor named Betty, and a typist named Elizabeth, I had a manuscript ready for the Boston Mills Press that was published in 1993 as The First Summer People: Thousand Islands 1650-1910.
As soon as the book was published, I spoke at local service clubs and historical associations. I soon discovered that the part of the evening I liked the most was when someone said, “Did you know…?” As a result I have compiled a number of new stories about the region. I would like to share these stories with a greater audience, and so with your indulgence, I will begin. I hope you will join me in being convinced that the Thousand Islands region is really the centre of the world and definitely More than a Salad Dressing! Now where to begin… In the coming weeks we will find connections to Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, a small chapel in the United Kingdom, a writer of 36 history of science books… sorry the list is very long.
Susan W. Smith
Susan Weston Smith is the author of The First Summer People, Thousand Islands 1650-1910, Boston Mills Press 1993), and is a volunteer with the Thousand Islands Land Trust (known as TILT) in Clayton, NY and with the Arthur Child Heritage Museum (Gananoque, ON). Shortly before she retired from her career as a professional fundraiser, she worked at Queen’s University in Kingston and the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. Susan and her husband, Marceli Wein, spend the winter in Ottawa and move back to Sagastaweka Island (Admiralty Group) as soon as the ice goes out of the St. Lawrence River, and they leave at the beginning of November.
If you wish to contact Susan, she can be reached by e-mail at: SusanSmith@ThousandIslandsLife.com