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History, wildlife and local flavours abound at St. Joseph Island (26 photos)

Learn a thing or two while embracing this year's fall colours on the Island

Fall colours are arriving, and touring the historic St. Joseph Island is a great way to take them all in.

Whether you just want to go for a drive, traverse the Island, photograph, walk, bike, bird, shop, jog or boat, St. Joseph Island offers a little something for all outdoor enthusiasts.

On any given day you are likely to see a plethora of wildlife. Drive carefully as they may be on the move.

Most people use the truncated name 'St. Joe Island' while referring to the island, whose history became apparent once the British established a military outpost known as Fort St. Joseph in 1796. 

The fort played an important role during the war of 1812, but was destroyed by fire a few years later at the hands of the Americans. The military left a short time later. This was likely the earliest known settlement of white man on the island.

There was an attempt to colonize the island in 1835 after the arrival of Major Rains, Archibald Hamilton Scott and Charles Thompson, which failed.

When the Homestead Act was introduced in 1877, there was a great influx of settlers to the Island as it granted them free land.

Today, the island still has many historical references to its military past as evidenced by its monuments and markers.

The St. Joseph Island Historical Society (SJIHS) was formed as part of their Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee. Now a separate group, they are a non-profit organization tasked with a mandate to research, record and preserve the history of St. Joseph Island.

Several years ago after some fundraising efforts, SJIHS erected signage at 30 individual points of interest around the Island. These historical markers give small snippets of history and stories of the locations on which they reside.

The original plan was to erect more of these markers, but funds, maintenance and manpower have been an issue for the SJIHS and their project. Progress has been slow. 

I have been very active as of late studying the area and struck out on three separate days to follow the marker map provided by the SJIHS to find them, view and photograph them and many other things that interested me or caught my eye.

Slowly, I am learning how to navigate the roads on the island and am finding many points of interest that are not yet on the marker map. 

Only days ago, SJIHS took the time to add GPS coordinates to their map in an effort to make the markers easier to locate. 

This is a benefit I did not have while I was out adventuring, but I know will come in handy in the future. Although I did not locate every sign, I didn't really intend to. I spent plenty of time enjoying other sights that were not included as part of that tour.

St. Joseph Island has two main villages – Richards Landing and Hilton Beach – with a few smaller townships dotted between. There are plenty of places to stop and refresh, purchase food or shop along the way. There have also been a few outdoor markets which have popped up sporadically, such as the one Sept. 19 at The Wild Strawberries Studio in Richards Landing. Remember the safe distancing practices and masking while shopping or indoors still apply. 

In the age of COVID-19, we have been encouraged to support local. Many people are choosing to stay closer to home and those with children, particularly those of school age, may even find a useful history lesson, perhaps on a weekend or as a field trip for a day.

While you are near home staying healthy and safe, consider taking the little tour around St. Joseph Island.

It just may be the fresh air, history lesson or the pick me up that you need.

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About the Author: Violet Aubertin

Violet Aubertin is a photograher and writer with an interest in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma's great outdoors
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