The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Claude Cole Buys Buffalo From The Shields’ Wild West Show
Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, NY), 13 Mar 1926

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Claude Cole Buys Buffalo From The Shields’ Wild West Show

Capt. Claude W. Cole, doughty lake master of Cape Vincent, whose tug C. W. Cole, last steamer to be launched at the Phelps shipyard in Chaumont, plied the eastern end of Lake Ontario, is about to essay a second attempt to establish a buffalo herd on the Main Ducks islands. To this end he has purchase at Lockport, the four year old buffalo bull, Jerry, sold some time ago at auction from the Shields’ Wild West show at the Niagara County fair grounds.

Jerry will past the remainder of the winter at Cape Vincent and with opening of navigation will be transferred to the new island home.

Reports from Lockport assert that Jerry has been very lonesome since leaving the Wild west, but his introduction to the Main Ducks is expected to relieve him of all mournful sentiments, for there he will find a trio of his kind, remnants of the first attempt to colonize the 1,200 acre tract with the American bison.

First Main Ducks Colony

Captain Cole’s first effort brought a bull and two cows to the Main Ducks, The bull, purchased from Canadian government authorities, created something of a sensation when unloaded from the train at Kingston. He was transhipped to the Ducks by a salvage company equipped with devices to handle so heavy a burden.

There the two cows joined him and for a time the mariner was beset by troubles other than those of wrestling with the angry waves of Ontario. One cow appeared to grow jealous and took upon herself the adjoining island of Glouchester, whence she swam from the Main Ducks, successfully resisting efforts to corral her or otherwise entice her back to the principal island. For months she enjoyed solitude on the 200 acre retreat, but when ice closed the channel separating the two lake-locked islands, she returned to her consorts.

The following season a bull calf was ushered into the family and the next year, in the spring of 1923, to be exact, two heifer calves were born. The mother bison were very select with their offspring, few visitors to the island being permitted even a glimpse of the little fellows, kept carefully concealed in the dense forests that covered hundreds of acres.

Bull Shot by Caretaker.

Having doubled the buffalo population of the ducks, Captain Cole had visions of a considerable herd until tragedy stalked into the preserve. The following winter one of the caretakers having charge of the island during the long months of isolation, shot the bull, claiming that the animal became ugly. Throughout his occupancy of the island the bull had appeared perfectly trackable, evincing curiosity when visitors appeared, but never attacking any one.

Then death come to the two cows, and again the island was reduced to the number of the original purchase. With the arrival of Jerry, Captain Cole hopes for better luck attending his second effort at buffalo breeding.

There is abundant feed for the animals on the island, as well as shelter, afforded by thick woods containing a goodly percentage of evergreens and a plentiful supply of water.

Besides the bison, there is a large herd of deer, estimated at perhaps a half hundred, on the Main Ducks. Last fall a purchase of fallow deer was added. These animals, Mr. Cole is advised, will not interbreed with the common deer, so that he expects to have two branches of the deer family.

Attempt to stock the island with Angora goats proved unsatisfactory. While the goats are well adapted to level ground and are not affected by the northern climate, the rough going of the beaches proved too severe for them. Captain Cole reported that the goats would get down on the level ground adjoining the lake, but seemed unable to negotiate the steep and in some places rocky banks back to the level of the island, perishing in the heavy seas that sweep the coast line. Last fall he removed the goats to Cape Vincent, abandoning his attempt.

Hobby of Mariner

The wild animal zoo which Captain Cole is creating on his lake farm is largely a fad with him. Principal occupation at the island is fishing, it being one of the largest fishing stations at this end of Lake Ontario

Fishermen maintain a colony there during the season, going in pairs, two men manning a launch and having a string of nets. Lake trout and whitefish are the principal catches. These are sold to Captain Cole, who in turn, ships them on his tug to Cape Vincent, disposing of the catches to the Booth Fisheries plant there, a large cold storage plant being maintained.

Although in Canadian waters, the Main Ducks are popular with a select number of Americans as a summer resort. Yearly visitors include several Syracuse people, among them Attorney and Mrs. Robertson.

The Ducks lie directly off the entrance to the St. Lawrence river, 22 miles from Cape Vincent, forming part of a chain of islands running from Stony Point, N. Y to Green Point, Canada. First off Stony Point is Stony Island and its satellite, Calf Island. Beyond are the Galloups little and big, and eight miles away Gloucester and the Main Ducks, the False Ducks, still farther, completing the stepping stones.

Being in the center of the lake, the island are subjected to the full force of the gales which sweep these waters. They have been the scene of many lake catastrophes earning the name among marine men of the "graveyard of Lake Ontario."

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13 Mar 1926
Richard Palmer Collection
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Claude Cole Buys Buffalo From The Shields’ Wild West Show