Where History and Nature Come Together
SILVER ISLET, ONTARIO ~ February 24, 2020 (LSN) Silver Islet is a small off-grid cottage community one hour drive east of Thunder Bay (Highway 11/17 to 587) and is adjacent to The Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. With its numerous hiking/biking trails, fishing & paddling, the Park is located on the shores of Lake Superior and the Sibley Peninsula/Sleeping Giant escarpment. It is a place of great historic and cultural heritage.
Silver Islet is also a small rock outcrop about 1 km offshore surrounded by mighty Lake Superior and was the site of the Silver Islet mine.
The President of the lucrative 1800's silver mine, Alexander Hamilton Sibley and his wife Marie Louise, located their summer home at President's Point. The Point is a mini-peninsula of approximately 2 acres on a jut of land between the Sandy Beach and Camp Bay – with the Silver Islet mine site offshore and in constant view.
The Sleeping Giant a.k.a. Sibley Peninsula is named after the President of the Silver Islet Mining Company while the main campground and lake at the Park carries Marie Louise’s name. Alexander Hamilton Sibley was the son of Solomon Sibley, Detroit’s first mayor and the brother of Henry Hastings Sibley, Minnesota’s first governor.
Once the locale of soirees that welcomed investors and royalty from Europe and the USA, President’s Point is now a family cottage where you can enjoy the beauty, peace and quiet, sun, water, beach, sauna and explore the historic Silver Islet community and more than 100km of fantastic hiking trails of the Sleeping Giant.
Silver plays a major role in the aboriginal stories of the formation of the Sleeping Giant and was the first industry that opened the region for development. The mine was the richest vein of silver ore known and an engineering feat in its time, The Silver Islet Mining Company built out the small rock formation to 10x its natural size with extensive cribbing and rock while digging more than 1,000 ft down under the Lake on nine levels. Lake Superior only laughed at these puny manmade efforts as she crushed the fortifications 3 times before flooding the mine for a final time in 1884. The once a bustling mining community of 480 miners and their families–dwindled after the mine closed leaving behind the Store, a graveyard, miners’ buildings and homes.
For a period in the early 1900’s, Silver Islet would be a port of call for day visitors from the Lakehead and for Lake Superior cruises on their way to Isle Royale. Gradually the community morphed into an off-grid cottage community surrounded by Lake Superior and surrounding Surprise Lake. The mine holdings estate gifted lands to the Ontario government and it was established as a Provincial Park in 1944.
President’s Point was occupied by seasonal renters and campers including our family. The President’s Mansion – the 21 room home built for A.H. Sibley burned to the ground sometime in the 1930’s. All that remains from the mining days at President’s Point is the President’s billiard hall – known as “Trelawney”, now over 150 years old. The original pool table is housed at the Silver Islet Store.
My grandmother, Amy “Billie” Aldrich (nee Lumby) met my grandfather – Ralf - while out at Silver Islet. Billie was the daughter of the Editor of the Times Journal of Fort William and author of “Historic Fort William.” Ralf and his father visited after WWI to enjoy fishing in the region. Ralf relocated from the US Midwest to the Lakehead after that fateful meeting along “The Avenue”.
My first summer as a newborn, was spent renting a cottage on the Sandy Beach with my mother, my 2 older siblings, my aunt and her 3 children while the husbands would join us as their jobs would allow. My second summer was camping in a tent at President’s Point. Looking across the glass-still waters in the early morning sunshine…that was the moment when my father decided that we would one day have our summer home there.
We eventually purchased the property in 1978. As is common practice – our first construction was a sauna. My Dad, inspired by Scientific America, included a solar batch heater so our sauna showers featured hot and cold water!
There is nothing better than to return from a hike in the Park (Middlebrun Bay is my favourite), to take a sauna before dinner, followed by a campfire with friends and family and amazing stargazing away from the city lights.
And of course, the real remarkable beauty is found in the lake, the land and the sky and stars above. There is something magical about the night sky overhead and the seasonal addition of meteor showers and/or the northern lights. If you are lucky, you may have the occasion to witness all these light shows at once.