Garden Island Rafting and Shipbuilding Enterprises

Dileno Dexter Calvin (1798-1884), a timber merchant from Clayton, New York, relocated his business on Garden Island (26.3 ha at the east end of Lake Ontario) in 1836. By 1880 he owned the island; today it remains the exclusive property of his descendants.
Dileno Dexter Calvin (1798-1884), a timber merchant from Clayton, New York, relocated his business on Garden Island (26.3 ha at the east end of Lake Ontario) in 1836. By 1880 he owned the island; today it remains the exclusive property of his descendants.


Garden Island Rafting and Shipbuilding Enterprises

Dileno Dexter Calvin (1798-1884), a timber merchant from Clayton, New York, relocated his business on Garden Island (26.3 ha at the east end of Lake Ontario) in 1836. By 1880 he owned the island; today it remains the exclusive property of his descendants. The core of Calvin's business was rafting timber, primarily pine and oak, which was collected by ship throughout the entire Great Lakes basin, and delivering it to Québec City, where it was transshipped to Britain. From Garden Island, Calvin, who quickly became a Tory and a monarchist, was able to operate within the British trading system.

Calvin's firm employed as many as 700 men to operate the rafting enterprise and build ships. In 1865, among other years, Calvin's was the largest timber operation in Québec City. His timber RAFTS could be nearly a km long and include 165 000 cubic feet of timber: they were among the largest man-made structures in the 19th century. Calvin built ships in the winters to keep his work force together. The policy was to build a ship a year. At least one, Garden Island, a barque, was built for ocean commerce. Rafting and shipbuilding ended with the onset of WWI. Garden Island, complete with many 19th-century frame buildings, survives as an evocative relic from the timbering days for some 20 families of cottagers.