The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
"Old King" Cole Getting Things In Shape at the Ducks for Winter
Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, NY), 10 Dec 1928

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"Old King" Cole Getting Things In Shape at the Ducks for Winter

Claude W. Cole will leave Cape Vincent this week for his island kingdom, the Main Ducks at the foot of Lake Ontario, taking a supply of provisions to Aleck Taylor and John Taylor, two of his employees, who will winter at the island. It will be four months before they again will be visited by Mr. Cole and during that period they will be cut off from the mainland.

Claude W. Cole, known often as "King" Cole, reigns supreme on his principality out in the water of Lake Ontario, 22 miles from Cape Vincent and in Canadian waters. Out there he has 1,135 acres of land, comprising two island, the Main Ducks and Yorkshire island, which he owns by a crown grant from the Canadian government, and on which he has a fine farm, with blooded stock, thoroughbred cattle and a fine stable of racing horses.

Passed Winters on Island

This winter Mr. Cole will stay at his farm at Cape Vincent. For the past few winters he has lived at the Cape Vincent farm, but for 11 years he spent the full year round at the Main ducks, and he declares the winters were no more sever than on the mainland. There is open water about the island there during the winter and only two winters of the 11 he spent there could he have gotten off.

Although he has his fine stock farm at the Main Ducks it is this great fishing business that has been his greatest work for years. Mr. Cole owns the fishing rights about the island and has a contract with the Booth Fisheries where by he permits its fishermen to come to the island, fish in the nearby waters and live in the cottages he has built fo them on the island. He carries their catch from the Main Ducks to Cape Vincent in his tugboat. Last season there were 22 fishermen and their families at the Main Ducks and great catches of whitefish and lake trout took place. One day the catch ran as high as four tons. The fishing season runs from March to the first of October.

Good Shot with Rifle.

Claude Cole is 57 years old; Thirty of these years have been spend at the Main Ducks. He was in town this week and told the story of his first visit to the Mind Ducks and how he happened to take up his career there. IT was all due to the fact that Claude Cole was a good shot with a rifle. Some 30 years ago A. W. Hepburn & Sons, a Canadian company, had a lease of the islands from the Canadian government, and had stock the islands with cattle.

The venture did not prove satisfactory, the cattle turned wild and the Hepburns decided to get rid of them. Some one informed the Hepburns that if they wanted the cattle cleared out there was one man who could do it, that was the crack shot, Claude Cole, of Milford, Ont., and forthwith Mr. Cole was hired to shoot the wild cattle on the isolated islands far out in the lake. Mr. Cole went to the islands in a sailing scow, with his trusty rifle, and soon cleared up the roving cattle. Then he decided that the islands were a good place to try his own fortune and so he stayed at the Main Ducks, turning his hand to farming.

Kingdom all His own.

In the old days the Hepburns had leased the land for $35 a year from the government. Mr. Cole spent five years at the islands and then started negotiations to purchase the land from the Canadian government. He was permitted to buy the islands, after he had taken up the lease of the Hepburns and paid for their buildings there. Mr Cole does not state what he paid for his island kingdom, but for the past 25 years he as reigned supreme over the land and waters on the Main Ducks and its vicinity.

He has his stable there, in the summer, of about 25 head of cattle and about the same number of thoroughbred horses–runners, pacers and trotters. These he enters in the racing circuits in this country and in Canada. He ships most of his stock to his Cape Vincent farm for the winter months, but there are head of hoses and a few cattle left on the island during the winter, as well as sheep, pigs, and chickens.

No Closed Deer Season

"King" Cole lives like a feudal baron. He has a handsome bungalow where with his wife and his son Cecil, and daughter- in- law he spends the spring, summer and fall, lording over his great estate. There are between 600 and 700 acres of timber on the island and in this great park some 60 head of deer roam. There is no lack of venison when desired by the Cole family, and there is no closed season on deer.

Just to show how good the game is Mr. Cole states, that this fall his brother Jesse Cole, came over from Milford, Ont., to hunt der, saw a doe in a runway and taking a shot discovered that he had killed two deer. Then Barney Kopel and Attorney Willard Pratt, of Utica, went up for a visit. One morning before breakfast they went out in a few hours shot three deer, one a doe with five inch horns. They then went to Yorkshire Island and pulled out four large lake trout. As a sportsman’s paradise they found the island kingdom a bountiful place.

Island Harbor Dredged

The Canadian government has taken considerable of an interest in the Main Ducks and has greatly improved the harbor there. Where there was formerly only about two feet of water in the harbor there has been carried on dredging work at a cost of about $16,000 which has made a harbor of a depth of between 10 and12 feet . Formerly only fishing boats could enter but now large boats can land at the Main Ducks.

When Mr. Cole makes his trip to the Main Ducks in the next few days he will take off the island Wesley Thomas, who presided over the great light on the Main Ducks which is the friendly warning to the great line of freighters passing up and down the lake. The light on the Main Ducks is the most powerful on Lake Ontario.

Buffalo Herd Troubled

Once Mr. Cole had a buffalo herd on the islands. They proved a trying experience. He originally had three buffalos and doubled the herd. The buffalos went on a rampage after a time, bothered the horses and cattle, and gored several horses badly. When on a rampage the buffalos would toss timbers and logs of great size about like toothpicks Mr. Cole got out his rifle of days gone by and proved again that he was as good a shot as ever. The buffalo herd was exterminated.

Aleck Taylor, who is the chief caretaker at the island, is a Scotchman, and he is one of the type of sturdy, trustworthy men in whom Mr. Cole has the greatest confidence. He says that under Aleck Taylor everything will be as spick and span when he returns next spring as when he leaves this winter.

Sanctuary for Crews

Mr. Cole has enjoyed his years at the Main Ducks. He has had some great experiences there with shipwrecks and his home had been the sanctuary for crew of wrecked vessels while more than once his boats have gone out to rescue men from storm whipped ships, buffeted down the lake by winter gales.

Few men have enjoyed such a career as has been his lot. Out in the middle of the lake on his little island kingdom he as ruled all these years. He is known far and wide among the residents along the St. Lawrence river and lakes on both sides of the border, and his fishing industry has grown to such large proportions that it is regarded as one of the biggest of its kind in Canadian inland waters. Hundreds of tons of whitefish and lake trout are taken out by the men who work under "King" Cole’s directions, and the sight of the great catch of fish off the Main Ducks is an interesting one.

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10 Dec 1928
Richard Palmer Collection
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"Old King" Cole Getting Things In Shape at the Ducks for Winter