Archaeology – Amherst Island
Archaeology on Amherst Island is a treasure trove. From shipwrecks that risk being disturbed by industrial haulage by water or the creation of new docks or laying of cables to the potential risks of archeological disturbance on land, it is clear that while Algonquin Power is prepared to recognize the degree of archeological purity on Amherst Island, they have not fully considered the potential for their actions to wipe out these historical and culturally important records.
Today Kerr Bay continues to welcome sailors and those in need of shelter.
Visitors quickly recognize the Island is steeped in history, where the past is still visible and embraced. Its oral histories, genealogy and academic research per capita surpasses all other Ontario townships but then, its very size and distinctiveness attracts this inquiry.
The name Isle Tonti still lingers from the French period. Henri Tonti was LaSalle’s lieutenant and both searched for China. Settlement of the Bay of Quinte region and the Island dates to the Loyalist period, following the American Rebellion 1776-83. Sir John Johnson, the most influential Loyalist leader, was granted the entire Island in 1788. The legacy of his feudal ownership and administration dominated the community for nearly a century.
The early community was composed of numerous wealthy Loyalists, some late loyalists, and a proportion of French Canadian fishermen. These settlers of the Island frontier had been attracted by its accessability, water was virtually the only transportation in the Loyalist period. The shoreline of the Island was settled by the close of the 1820’s. An Irish wave of immigration to the Island followed, with the population peaking at 2,000 in 1842. The Island was a convenient stepping stone; almost urban in accessibility, and its Estate policy encouraged temporary residency. Most moved on to the frontiers of Ontario and the American Midwest. The Island became insular, independent and conservative when the monopoly of marine transportation was surpassed by mainland roads and railroads.
Visitors today appreciate that the Island community still reflects an earlier time. Many descendants of those 19th century Islanders are retracing their ancestor’s steps and rediscovering their Island heritage.
For more information on APAI’s response to Windlectric/Algonquin Power’s archeology assessments, please click the link below