News Column

What was Boblo Island before the amusement park?

July 6, 2014

By Patricia Montemurri, Detroit Free Press



July 06--Boblo Island has a modern history dating to the 1600s when French explorers noted its white trees and later as a British outpost. The island no longer has an operating amusement park and is mostly owned by Windsor developer Dominic Amicone through his Bob-Lo Island development company. The Canadian national parks service owns the beach area and a south-end lighthouse, built by the British Army in 1836. The lighthouse hasn't since vandals destroyed its top in the 1950s.

Day trippers can access the island via ferry and spend a laid-back day visiting a beach, restaurant and some other low key attractions.

Here is some of the island's history.

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French Great Lakes explorers dubbed it "Bois Blanc" -- meaning "white wood' -- for its trees in the 1600s. The British stationed troops on the island in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh held tribal councils there during the War of 1812 between the British and the U.S.

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After the War of 1812, Boblo stayed in British hands. After American-leaning "patriots" aboard a boat had fired at British-held Fort Malden in Amherstburg in 1838, the British erected three blockhouses on Boblo. The blockhouses were wooden rectangular bunkhouses, with underground storage for food and gunpowder. Gun slits were built into the walls and into the floor upstairs, where 12 to 15 soldiers would bunk, so as to aim at any Yankee intruders. Those blockades have been restored and are part of the sigh-seeing allure of the island.

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Underground Railroad: The island was also a stop on the Underground Railroad for many slaves escaping America en route to Canada. An estimated 30,000 people crossed into southwest Ontario between 1834 and 1860, their journeys and lives chronicled at the North American Black Historical Museum in Amherstburg.

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(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)


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