Help Me Catalog the Thousand Islands.
International Collaborative Effort Sought
Since appearance of the last issue of Thosand Islands Life, Ross says, "I have had helpful e-mails from the following people who supplied island names, or alternate names, and island lore, and in one case, helped by offering municipality names for many Canadian islands:
I thank them all, and invite others to contribute corrections and additions."
In the second half of 2006, I found a new way to drive myself crazy (though there are those who’d say I was already within walking distance): I set out to list the names of the Thousand Islands that fill the uppermost stretches (first 50 miles) of the St. Lawrence River separating the United States and Canada, the State of New York from the Province of Ontario.
It happened in Gananoque, Ontario, one of Canada’s entry points into the Thousand Islands. My parents brought me there as a child a half-century before. I returned to see if it lived up to my memories. When I couldn’t find a guidebook that named and listed the Islands, my path was set.
By Treaty, each of the islands, whose number is now frequently expressed as 1,864, (or 1,865, when the man-made island called Longue Vue is added), is either Canadian or American. No island is divided, so that stretch of the US-Canada boundary is a water boundary only.
By law, the American islands lie within the jurisdiction of the two New York counties, Jefferson and St. Lawrence, which flank the international boundary in that region. Again, by law, the American islands are all attached to the riparian (riverbank) towns and villages they are adjacent to in those two counties.
So the American Thousand Islands can be grouped by the town and village they belong to, like the Town of Cape Vincent, the Town of Clayton, the Village of Clayton, Town of Alexandria, Village of Alexandria Bay, etc.
Likewise, the Canadian Thousand Islands lie in two Ontario counties--Frontenac to the west and the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville--and their constituent municipalities, like the City of Kingston, the Township of Front of Yonge, etc.
That part, while arcane, is relatively easy.
The harder part comes with trying to decide what a Thousand Island is for counting purposes. The prominent ones like Wolfe and Howe in Canada, and Wellesley and Grindstone in the U.S., are not in dispute.
But after counting the eight hundred or so islands that are large enough to appear on the most-detailed American and Canadian topographic maps, one is left to ponder the thousand or so that are too small to appear--even on detailed maps.
Not that there aren’t anecdotal or “official” definitions of what a Thousand Islands island is. Most require that the island be above water at least some portion of every day. One that only pops out every other day--or less frequently--doesn’t qualify. Other rules require two trees--or at least a single tree--and sometimes a two-inch trunk diameter rule is also mentioned.
As I waded farther into this quagmire, I adopted a few informal rules of my own. I would compare all the published maps I could get my hands on. I’d accept as binding the contents of official maps published by the national governments of Canada and the U.S.--except where they differed. I’d offer the broadest choice possible of current, former and informal names.
And where I was the most ignorant--the really small islands--I’d follow in the footsteps of those who’d gone before me. You see, I’m not the only--nor even the first--crackpot to set himself this task.
Various Royal Navy officers were ordered to sort, catalog, and name the Islands soon after they were a battlefield in the War of 1812. Some interest returned at the end of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, as the rich and the sporting discovered the region’s charm for fishing and camping, and later as the backdrop for elaborate cottages and castles.
More recently, an effort by Parks Canada to create a national park absorbing lots of privately-owned land, led to an island-owners’ revolt, in the form of TIARA, the Thousand Islands’ Area Residents’ Association, founded in 1976 by Douglas and Anne (“Blu”) Macintosh.
TIARA published three detailed maps of the Canadian Thousand Islands in 1987, and I have borrowed shamelessly (but with attribution) from those works, and benefited greatly from help offered by the Macintoshes.
My other acknowledgements start and end with two men whose shared love of the Thousand Islands, and whose friendship, have put in place the best body of recently published works on the subject.
Paul Malo, professor emeritus of architecture at Syracuse University' has amassed and published much detailed history and lore of the Islands. His three books--Boldt Castle, Fools’ Paradise, and A Floating World--recreate the heyday of the Thousand Islands as a resort in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Each of those works also updates the story to today.
Ian Coristine’s breathtaking photographs take the Thousand Islands up from the maps and into the third dimension. A private pilot and artist, Coristine flies over the Islands at dawn and dusk, when the lighting is most dramatic, taking their picture in poignant and beautiful ways that combine representational with abstract. Ian has also published three works, well-captioned and indexed compilations of his favorite Thousand Islands photo-graphs.
I was lucky that--when I expressed my appreciation of both men’s works and wrote of my desire to enumerate the islands--they became encouraging cheerleaders and helpful advisors to my project. Truth be told, the chance to interact with these two of my heroes was all the motivation I needed to get this idea to a solid first draft.
To thank them for their ground-breaking work, and to make my index more useful, my finished book will list all page references to individual Thousand Islands for the six Malo and Coristine books in my island tables.
But, it must be stressed, I alone am responsible for the errors, omissions and inaccuracies in the work you are about to enter. And it is most definitely a work in progress. That’s where you come in. The sidebar welcomes your input as I try to revise, update, and improve this draft and ready it for publication in 2008. If you see glaring errors and omissions you can help me by calling them quickly to my attention.
I have tried to learn the Canadian system of local government organization, but may have gotten lost in the united counties versus the historical ones, or townships versus cities, so straightening me out may be in order.
Finally, if I have misplaced your favorite island, misnamed it, or failed to include its local nickname or relevant lore, please let me know by sending an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about reproduction of this material, please check out the sidebar.
Ross D. Pollack email@example.com
October 30, 2007