Our History

As the summer population of the 1000 Islands grew, so did interest in recreational activities beyond boating, fishing, and swimming. In 1927, a group of summer residents decided to acquire property at the head of Grenadier Island to build a golf course, and by the following year, the course, designed by Arthur Tillinghast, was constructed. Over the years, additional amenities like docks, clubhouses, Har-tru tennis courts, and a croquet pitch were added, with ongoing improvements and new facilities. The Club has a rich history of social events and tournaments, blending traditions with new ideas, and celebrated its 75th and 80th anniversaries with memorable gatherings.

The Indians called the 1000 Islands ‘Manatona’, for ‘Home of the Great Spirit.’ The islands were sparsely settled by various Iroquois tribes and were mostly used for hunting and fishing into the early years of the 19th century. Any agricultural activity was limited to growing corn, and that took place on only a few islands.

The first European visitors quickly realized the strategic value of the 1000 Islands as well as their beauty, but oddly enough, through the years, no military structures were placed on any of the islands. Various early records refer to Tonionta, site of an Indian village. It isn’t clear if the village was on an island or the mainland, but Grenadier is clearly identified by that name on some early maps, which show a long, narrow island as the first big island encountered as you head upriver. Archaeological evidence clearly shows the presence of Indian activity on Grenadier, but despite the claims of Verna Hays, an amateur Island historian who says there was a village on the island, no evidence of such has been found to date. Later accounts of the area refer to the same island as Grenadier, the name in general use by the 1780s, and which was on the first printed map of upper Canada in 1800. No official reason has yet been discovered for the name Grenadier, but the relation to the military unit has been mentioned. Perhaps because of the long, narrow island’s profile? Did an early expedition bury a deceased soldier there?

In 1818, the Royal Navy commissioned Capt. William Fitzwilliam Owen to conduct the first formal, detailed survey of the region. His task included naming the islands and other geographic features he charted. Owen took great license in selecting place names, frequently ignoring established names, which was the case with Grenadier, to which he gave the name of Bathurst. The 3rd Earl of Bathurst was the British Secretary of War at the time. The survey resulted in a host of names that survive today, including island groups like the Admiralty and Lake Fleet Groups. (The Admiralty Islands were named for officials in the British Admiralty Office, while the Lake Fleet Islands were anointed with ship names from the British Lake Ontario fleet.)

Thankfully, even though later maps and records refer to ‘Grenadier, or Bathurst Island,’ the name Grenadier was formalized in 1909 by the Geographic Board of Canada. Otherwise, we could be talking about the Bathurst Island Country Club!

Also in 1818, a detailed survey of the island itself was conducted, commissioned for the Indians who were claiming islands in the St. Lawrence. The survey showed 14 families in residence on farms connected by a road the length of the island. Officially, the island was supposed to be unoccupied because the title to all the islands was being disputed between the Crown, the United States, and several Indian tribes. Because of the dispute over ownership, the Crown for 20 years had been turning down petitions of prospective island settlers, so all the inhabitants revealed in the 1818 survey were squatters. Nonetheless, the state of the farms indicated that most had been in place for many years. Many of the first non-native settlers in the 1000 Islands were Loyalists who fled the colonies or the States during the American Revolution or the War of 1812, so it is safe to assume that to be the case of the Grenadier Island population. For example, the Root family emigrated from Vermont to Yonge (the township on the mainland, west of Grenadier) in the 1790s, and later records show that Abel Root owned several farms at the head of the island. In fact, the Root family was very prominent in the area. The Macoy Lodge of Masons was founded in Escott in 1870, and it soon had 50 members. A photograph taken at the time shows 7 Root family members in their Masonic regalia!

By 1874 cleared land on Grenadier amounted to almost 700 of the island’s 1000+ acres, compared to the 200 shown in the 1818 survey. The island had been nearly completely stripped of its first growth timber. Farming was the main business, with the dairy farms scowing their milk to the cheese factory in Rockport. There were 114 residents.

A lighthouse was built at the head of the island in 1856. Abel Root’s son, Albert, became the lighthouse keeper in 1860. In 1865 he bought the property from Clarissa Austin, the widow of the previous lighthouse keeper. The following year, Root sold about 10 acres to the Canadian government to create the ‘lighthouse reserve’, some of which was subsequently severed to form the National Park at the head of the island. That same year, the lighthouse keeper’s residence was built by the government. The foundation of ‘Government House’, as it was called, lies beside the 12th tee of the golf course. The barn presently used by the Club for storage was part of the lighthouse keeper’s farm.

Joseph and Catherine Senecal came to Grenadier Island in 1863 and purchased Lot 5, 204 acres of the best farmland on the island, located in the area of the present National Park – Central. An enterprising family, the Senecals in 10 years had developed their farm into a showplace, and in the 1870s, began taking in guests. This led to the construction in 1878 of the Senecal Hotel, adjacent to the farmhouse. The hotel, later called the Angler’s Inn, was consistently filled with guests during the 1880s, as the region became a major vacation destination. Many summer visitors to the Angler’s Inn fell in love with the area and subsequently bought property on or near Grenadier. (To finish the Angler’s Inn story: The Hotel gradually lost the competitive struggle with Alexandria Bay’s attractions, and closed in 1914. It was demolished in 1929. The property was purchased by the Crown in 1966 to become part of the National Park. All that remains is the windmill tower.)

The Duke and Gilbert families were regular guests of the Senecals. The Dukes, of Bradford, PA, bought their first property in the area from Albert Root in 1907. The Gilberts, of Cincinnati, OH, also purchased their holdings on Tar Island, around that time.

During the 1920s, as the area’s summer population burgeoned, interest grew in forming a golf club. On August 25, 1927, a small group of ‘summer people’ met at William Gilbert’s place on Tar to consider the formation of a club. Those present were A.C. Bickelhaupt, Paul Byrd, Henry H. Davies, Eugene DeLaMater, James A. Dunn, Harold A. Everett, Mr. Gilbert, David R. Lloyd, R.S. Major, L.O. Meckel, and Allan Westcott. They discussed the purchase of the Root farm, which they believed was large enough to accommodate a small golf course. Mr. Gilbert chaired the meeting, with Mr. Davies as secretary. Satisfied that they could move forward, the group authorized Messrs. Lloyd and Davies to proceed with the land acquisition.

The Root property was originally about 80 acres, but over the years, Albert Root had sold parcels to the Dukes, Everetts (Johnston/Morck) and others, plus to the Crown for the lighthouse reserve. He had also given a large parcel to his son Delbert in 1898. The estate of Albert Root sold its parcel for $1500, while that of Delbert Root was acquired for $2500. The latter transaction was complicated by Delbert having given C.A. Duke first refusal on the property. Mr. Duke wasn’t personally interested in the Club, but he contributed $1500 towards the land acquisition, for which he received Club stock of that value. The Club ended up with about 60 acres.

Things moved fast! At a meeting on September 2, 1927, held in Mr. Gilbert’s boathouse, Lloyd and Davies, Club treasurer and secretary, respectively, reported the successful acquisition of the Root properties. At the meeting, on a motion by Mr. Dunn, Davies was authorized to procure a charter for a private corporation, capitalized at $40,000 in stock, to be known as the Grenadier Island Country Club. The original charter was issued at Brockville by ‘letters patent’ on October 15, 1927. The charter established GICC as a private Canadian company, with 400 shares valued at $100 each. On July 5, 1928, GICC revised its charter to become a public corporation, with its capitalization increased to $150,000, with 1500 shares valued at $100 each.

On July 21, 1928, at a meeting in the newly-erected temporary clubhouse, which had been built through the generosity of Mrs. Nell Gilbert Redmond, the various levels of Club membership and fees were established:

Founder $1000
Charter or Family $250
Regular $100-150

Founder and Charter Memberships were considered family memberships, while Regular Memberships were limited to one person. The plan was to limit Founder memberships to 25, Charter memberships to 50, and regular memberships to 3 groups of 50, starting at $100 each, rising to $150, with that group capped at 150 members. Thus the original membership was projected to be 225! Where did they think they would put them? Members were issued stock upon payment of their respective initiation fees. Annual dues were set at $50. Founder members were declared exempt from annual dues or special assessments, as those memberships were considered to be funding the Club’s startup costs. The 16 Founder memberships that were taken out raised $17,500. Founder memberships were (and are) transferable; subsequent generations of the Founder member families could claim and hold Founder member status. This status, which is limited to one individual per Founder member family (except in the case of the Duke family, which may hold 3 Founder memberships), may also be transferred to another family member. Below are listed the Founder members, with the original member and the 2002 members where applicable.


Name Date Amount 2002 Member
C.A. Duke Sept. 1 1928 $1500 Charles J. (Jeff) Duke
J.A. Dunn Aug. 28, 1928 $1000
William Gilbert Aug. 16, 1928 $1000
C.E. Gilbert Aug. 16, 1928 $1000 Charles E. Gilbert, Jr.
W.T. Gilbert Aug. 16, 1928 $1000
E.C. Hinck Sept. 10, 1928 $1000 Ernest Hinck III
Carl Hertenstein Aug. 25, 1928 $1000
Mrs. O.P. Meckel Aug. 16, 1928 $1000
R.J. Redmond Aug. 16, 1928 $1000 Helen Redmond
E.J. Young, Jr. Sept. 8, 1928 $1000
R.S. Major Aug. 16, 1928 $1000
Bernhard A. Duis Aug. 12, 1929 $2000 Wendy Fisher
D.R. Lloyd Aug. 16, 1930 $1000
L.O. Meckel Aug, 16, 1928 $1000 Janet Thomas
H.P. Molloy April 1, 1940 $1000 Amy Molloy
Mrs. C.B. Robinson Aug. 24, 1941 $1000


The first shareholders’ meeting was held August 16, 1928, at which A.C. Bickelhaupt, H.H. Davies, J.A. Dunn, William Gilbert, and D.R. Lloyd were elected Directors. At this meeting, the Club accepted transfer from Davies and Lloyd the land they had held in trust for GICC. The first Founder memberships were also approved. Constitution and bylaw documents were subsequently developed which increased the Board of Directors to 9 members. Officers elected were J.A. Dunn, President, A.C. Bickelhaupt, Vice-president, H.H. Davies, Secretary, and D.R. Lloyd, Treasurer. The formal business of the Club was mostly transacted at annual shareholder and Board of Director meetings, then set for the first Monday in August.

Once the purchase of the Club property was consummated in 1927, William Gilbert’s first task was to scow over his tractor and team of horses, and plow a double furrow around the perimeter of the property. He then launched site preparation work in earnest. All combustible material was hauled to the center of the grounds and burned. Later a picnic was held to look over the property and make future plans. Arthur Tillinghast, who had designed the Thousand Islands Country Club golf course, was present and he later developed a layout for the golf course at GICC. In fact, he was so enthusiastic about the project, he waived his fees. Mr. Gilbert lent his tractor and horses as needed on the golf course construction, which went on during 1928. The exact date of the playing of the first round of golf on the new course is not known, but it is said to have happened late in the 1928 season. A brochure was published, probably late in 1928, in which photographs show the golf course and golfers. This was a solicitation for memberships, touting the fact that everything was paid for and the facilities were ready, with plans “…to build…an absolutely first-class club house, with reception rooms, dance floor, cuisine, locker rooms, bed rooms, and full hotel accommodations for members and their guests.” Pretty grandiose, from today’s perspective!

From its beginnings, the Club was one of the social centers of the 1000 Islands. Golf, of course, was a primary activity, but there were frequent picnics and later more structured dinners, dances and the like, including costume galas and Tom Thumb weddings. The women of the Club were quite active from the start, with their own organization, electing officers, collecting dues & holding social activities. Throughout all, the atmosphere has been friendly and open, without regard to wealth, nationality or political affiliation.

The Club’s facilities grew over time. In September, 1927, William Gilbert was authorized to build a dock, where the present ones are located. He put up a flagpole the following year. (Founder member Lou Meckel designed the burgee in use today – the white disc on a green field.) As noted previously, a temporary clubhouse was put up in 1928, and added to in 1931. In 1932, next to the 4th (then the 1st) tee, the present shop, with its stone fireplace and basement, was built to serve as the clubhouse. In 1935, a large dining room and verandah were added. In the early years, a horse and wagon were provided to transport people from the dock to the clubhouse. Later, a car was available. 1933 saw the installation of a Delco power plant for electricity. In the winter of 1948, the present clubhouse was constructed and the dining room and verandah were moved to their current locations. Eddie Andress of Rockport moved the dining room in 3 sections. That year, the present main dock was put in.

As membership grew, it became necessary in the 1960s to build a storage building for golf clubs. In 1988, the dining room was enlarged, allowing for seating for 200 in that space. The storage building for power carts, named in honor of long-time member and Club benefactor, Arthur Torrey, was erected in 1996, and in 1998 the Mary and Robert Hewitt tennis shelter was constructed. Mary and her late husband have made many valuable contributions to the Club.

The golf course underwent a few changes over the years. When the clubhouse was moved in 1948, the holes were renumbered to their present configuration. In 1988, it was decided to add 3 new tees, at the 1st, 4th, and 9th holes, thus creating, in effect, an 18-hole golf course, as there were already 2 tees on the other holes. A few years later, another tee was added to the 3rd fairway, making it a much longer and challenging 12th hole.

Water was always an issue on the golf course, which typically dried up by late July, leaving fairways said to be “like playing on shredded wheat, strewn on an airport runway”. Only the tees, greens, and 1st fairway were irrigated. In 1990, the Club made a commitment to water the rest of the golf course, with the project being completed over the next several seasons. The result is that golfers can now enjoy play on a completely irrigated course, with watering going on 14+ hours, 7 days a week.

Tennis courts, between the 2nd and 3rd fairways, by the present croquet pitch, were first built under the direction of Fred Yale in 1934-1935, but because of a lack of interest and upkeep costs, the courts were abandoned several years later. A revived interest in tennis, spearheaded by Kingsley Walton Greene, led to the construction of the present-day courts, uphill from the Torrey Cart House, in 1975. David Detwiler oversaw the project. Robert and Mary Hewitt donated the use of the heavy equipment used on the tennis court development. They also housed the operators of that machinery. The tennis shelter is named in recognition of their generosity for that and many other Club activities. An interest in croquet, led by Charles Snelling, resulted in the 1986 construction of the present-day croquet pitch.

The docks, the Club’s front door, have undergone changes to meet membership demand. William Gilbert built the first dock in 1927-28. Shortly thereafter, a second was added. In 1948 the present main dock was put in, with the present second coming a few years later. Despite this additional space, diners arriving for the Saturday night dinners had to raft their boats most of the time. The dining room addition and increases in membership numbers added to the dock space crunch. To begin to meet the demand, 50-foot floating dock sections were added to the lower dock in 2001 and 2002.

Early on, a maintenance staff was hired to keep the facilities in shape. In 1930, John Caiger began his 40+ years of service to the Club, assisted by Fred Hodge, who had also worked on building the golf course. With the retirements of John and Fred, the superintendent’s responsibilities were assumed by Grant Haskin in 1969. Grant retired in 1990 and was given a life membership for his 22 seasons of tireless effort. Kerry Johnston was hired in 1990 and became superintendent the following year. Kerry was dismissed in 1994. Jeff Lynch, who had been on the Club staff for several years, was named interim superintendent, with a permanent appointment to that post coming the following spring. Jeff continues his very good work as of this writing.

Since the retirement of Harry Simester as Treasurer in 1978, following 30 years in that job, the Club has hired teenagers as ‘coordinators’ during the summers. They collect fees, sell snacks, drinks and souvenirs, set up for meetings and social events, wash dishes, vacuum, water the golf course, sweep the tennis courts, and pitch in wherever needed. The hiring of quality help has been an ongoing challenge, having to rely on the individuals’ motivation and the supervision and training given.

From the beginning, the Club was the scene of a lot of activities centered around eating. The earliest affairs were picnics and barbecues, with each family bringing their own food. As kitchen facilities improved, the format in use today arose. Each week, several families volunteer to prepare and serve the Saturday evening dinners, which usually center on a theme. John and Maude Caiger presided over the kitchen until 1972, when Grant and Marilyn Haskin took over. Following the 1990 retirement of the Haskins, Dorothy Devries (John and Maude Caiger’s daughter), and Sue Welch (who with husband Mark, owns Caiger’s Country Inn) worked the dinners. In 1997, Joyce Cartwright was hired as the head cook, assisted each week by several youngsters. Joyce announced her retirement from the Club kitchen at the end of the 2002 season.

Dinner themes through the years have varied from regions or nationalities, like French, Greek, Hawaiian, and Italian, to special entrees like ham, pork, salmon and turkey. There have been costume events, clambakes, casino nights and dances. The longest continuing Club dinner is the Jiggs: corned beef and cabbage, served by the Board of Directors Labor Day Weekend. The Jiggs started in the late ‘20s as an all-male affair following a season-ending golf tournament. The women of the Club have had major parts in its success all along. The Ladies Club, Ladies Committee, and Women’s Group, as it has been variously known, was formed in the late ‘20s, collected regular membership dues, and had its own officers. Mrs. C.A. Duke was the first president. At first they gathered Wednesdays for tea, conversation, and sewing; later, bridge became popular, and today the women convene for dessert, then pursue their favorite activity: bridge, croquet, golf, or tennis. Since 1968, on Tuesday mornings the golf course has been reserved for the ladies. There is a good turnout of women golfers each week. They keep handicaps and conduct a championship tournament.

Activities for the youngsters have gone on since the beginning. For example, there were skits put on by young people in the early years, later, Bob Hewitt brought his horses over from Tar, and Harry Simester started a youth golf program. This program has been ably carried on by Alan Hite, Bill Grimsdale, Bill Gerber, and others. The junior golf championships have recently been named in memory and honor of Harry Simester. There is a flourishing youth tennis program, with camps and tournaments offered by Tad Clark. Youth croquet has had its ups and downs of late. Bill Grimsdale, the incoming croquet chair, has great hopes for reviving the program. Each recent summer, at least one youth dance has been held. The latest diversion, soccer on the front lawn in front of the clubhouse, draws 30-40 youngsters of all ages and both sexes, before and after dinner each week.

Several times each season, members gather for Fun Golf, where players are teamed up for a special game. These games can be anything from Captain and Crew to scrambles to Scotch doubles, to club limits. The events culminate with prizes, brunch, snacks, or cookouts, and they are always well-attended. Earlier, tennis round robin events were very popular, but interest has waned of late.

Originally the Club was formed as a private corporation; less than a year later, it became a public corporation. Members purchased shares of Club stock upon joining. Over the years, as members came and went, stock ownership came to hold little significance for membership, especially as more and more shares came to be held by non-members. In the early ‘90s, the Club leadership decided to reorganize into a not-for-profit corporation. All existing shares were recalled. Most, but not all, were turned in, and as of July 5, 1996, the metamorphosis was complete. The ‘Limited’ was dropped from the Club name, and new bylaws were approved.

The mid-‘90s also brought financial challenges to the Club. Equipment needs and operating expenses led to assessments of $300 in 1994 and $150 in 1995. Kerry Johnston brought a wrongful dismissal suit, which when finally settled in 1996, cost the Club a great deal. Like the American Civil War, this was a time of trial for the Club; there was much fighting, bickering, and factionalization, which resulted in leadership changes. Since then, prudent fiscal care, coupled with open leadership styles, has restored the Club atmosphere to its apolitical beginnings, for the most part.

The generosity of members has always been a hallmark of the Club. As said before, C.A. Duke underwrote some of the original land purchase, and Mrs. Redmond paid for the temporary clubhouse. Organized fundraisers have long traditions, as well. From 1947 to 1968, Julia Tallman hosted a charity event for the Club at her house on Tar Baby Island. For years following, the Club held a ‘Donation Night,’ where members were urged to give funds for Club purposes. Recently, the Women’s Committee has organized an annual luncheon at a member’s home. Most of the recent capital projects undertaken by the Club have been paid for by fundraising, thus avoiding assessments. For example, donations paid for much of the golf course irrigation, the new tennis courts, the Torrey cart house, and the floating docks. Many members donate the food they prepare and serve at the weekly dinners. Contributions defrayed over 90% of the expenditures for the Club’s gala 75th anniversary celebration in 2002.

Championship awards are given in men’s, women’s, and junior golf, adult mixed doubles and junior singles in tennis, and in junior croquet. The President’s trophy for men’s golf has been contested since 1939, as has been the Harriet Molloy plate for women’s golf. The newly-named Harry Simester junior golf championships have been awarded since 2000. Men’s golf has recognized ‘most improved’ since 2000, and beginning in 2001, men’s, women’s, and mixed winners have been awarded prizes following the Member/Member tournament. In tennis, since 1982, the Kingsley W. Greene Tennis Tournament has chosen the Club’s mixed doubles champions, and the Junior singles championship has been given out since 1999. Beginning in 1999, the Alex MacKenzie Memorial Junior Croquet Tournament has been held. In 1994, then-president Charles Snelling began the tradition of awarding the President’s Cup, given to a member who has been of outstanding service to the Club. Lists of recipients of all the cups, plates, prizes and awards are printed in the GICC annual Yearbook.

That the Grenadier Island Country Club is in vibrant, good health there can be no doubt, evidenced by the 140+ memberships and a waiting list to join. The Club draws its breath from its members, and its continued success depends solely on their generosity, both in terms of time and resources.

Kingsley William Greene
Club Historian, 2003