Much of the history of Fawn Island is vague and unsubstantiated.
Various people have contributed to the writing of the history and what
is factual and what are stories handed down is not really clear.
Fawn Island was granted by Queen Victoria to Captain Whitley who built a summer hotel with a dance pavilion on the north end of the Island. Excursion boats would stop for people to enjoy the hotel, dancing and picnics. After the hotel was abandoned, it is rumored a wild boar roamed the Island and people were afraid to go there.
The Island was later named Woodtick by Mr. Miller who owned the Island. When the Island was named Fawn Island and by whom, is unknown.
In 1925, William Gleeson and Joseph Neckel, from Detroit, bought the Island and had is surveyed and subdivided into 25- and 35-foot lots with streets and pathways. Mr. & Mrs. James Moore were engaged to look after the property and Joe Cline of Port Lampton was foreman.
In the 1930s, the Harmsworth Boat Races were scheduled to be held on a course between Sombra and Marine City. Mr. Gleenson and Mr. Neckel had bleachers built on the North end of the Island hoping to sell tickets for viewing the race. But when the race was changed to farther North and out of good viewing, their plan failed. With the depression, things were at a standstill.
In 1955, Mr. J.L Thompson, Mayor of Wallaceburg and a lumber dealer, recognized that this piece of land in the St. Clair River could become a summer resort type of community. So his dream began to happen. At that time, four buildings were on the Island: a cottage on the South end owned by Mr. & Mrs. Auberlin of Detroit (now Brayl Copp's), a cottage on the West side used by a caretaker (now Schwartz's), a small building on what is now McCaffery's property, and the house which George Robertson was renovating (now the Kenneth Muxlow's).
Mr. Thompson started buying properties until he owned about 95% of the Island. In 1956, he applied to the Lampton County Court and a received an order from Judge Shawnessy to alter and amend the plans of Mr. Gleeson and Mr. Neckel. Mr. Thompson's new plans would close the streets and allow for one mile of canals. The Judge's order also registered a very complete set of rules and restrictions covering the future growth and development of Fawn Island into a completely private and self-governed community.
Changing the streets to canals was a huge undertaking. Trees, stumps and undergrowth had to be removed before digging could begin. Earth was moved to the low and marshy areas of the Island. The first canal was named the "George Robertson Waterway" and took two years to dig and move the 100,000 tons of earth. The canal was officially opened at a ceremony in November 1957.
In 1956, Ontario Hydro laid an underwater power cable to the Island. Shortly after, Bell Canada laid the underground telephone cable. The second canal was dug and named the "Richard Gates Waterway." The earth removed for the canal was spread over the East Island. Additional earth moved when the canal was widened later also was spread on the East Island, making it an inhabitable place for homes. The three Islands were then connected by two bridges, which are in place today. A caretaker, Paul Fisher, was hired and he used his boat and barge to ferry people and transport materials to the Island.
While the canals were being dug, a water system was installed and a building to house the system and equipment was built on posts. Eventually, this building housed restrooms and a laundry and later, a small store which lasted about two years.
Homes began to be built and the Island prospered. The early residents were George and Mary Robertson, Dr. Richard and Mildred Gates, Gordon and Jean Muxlow, Jack and Lillian Thompson, Leonard and Dorothy Smith, Buss and Roberta Hodgson, Jean McLachlan and Anne Wylie, the Donald Lees and the George Clements. Many of these families had teenagers and they had the whole Island to explore.
The Fawn Island Association began to function with George Robertson and Jack Thompson being elected as the first Trustees. The Island agreement was amended in 1958 by the Association and has been continually amended. Mr. Thompson donated the property around the club house and a park on the West Island, originally known as Donald Lee Park, to the Association. Today, the park is named Hodgson Park.
In 1967, the Island received nationwide publicity when Tony Carrol, an entertainer, organized the drilling of gas wells on the Southeast end of the Island. It showed no signs of gas or oil and the equipment was eventually removed.
Mr. Thompson relinquished control of the Island in 1968 and the Fawn Island Owners Association began. Mrs. Lucy Brooks was elected the Island's first Governor. Under her guidance, office holder duties were established and in 1969, the Island was chartered. Mr. Thompson continued to be active with the Association. Although his family moved from the Island in 1975, he continued to serve on committees and gave unstintingly of his time for information and consultation until his death in 1985. In August 1987, a "J.L. Thompson Day" was held with the Thompson family in attendance. The memorial sign and the flagpole were dedicated at that time.
In the early 1970's, the building housing the water system was renovated. The pump room was lowered to ground level and the storeroom was opened into the main room with a fully equipped kitchen, a bar, tables and chairs. Keith and Lucy Brooks donated the foundation for the building and the shuffleboard courts. Jack Landino (the Islands second Governor), donated the siding. The building, which became known as the "Island Clubhouse," was expanded in 1979 to its present size.
The FIOA added a new ferry in 1989 under the direction of Ross Stokes, the President. The Island water treatment system was replaced by a direct connection to the mainland in 1997. Dave McDonald is credited with obtaining the numerous approvals from Federal and local government agencies, working with contractors and orchestrating the construction of the project.
The Island has had many caretakers since Mr. Thompson stated development of the property. They include Paul and Rose Fischer, Herb Thompson, Nels Griffith, Jerry and Connie Meloche, Bob and Jerry Gray and Scott Cook. All of them have provided good service for the FIOA.
The FIOA Governors and President have included: Luck Brooks, Jack Landino, Robert Nightingdale, Walter Brooks (son of Lucy), Jack Burgess, Mike Atkinson, Ron Richardson, Pard Martin, Larry Hyatt, Bill Mott, Ross Stokes, Ken Muxlow, Pat Hanafree, Father Pat Costello and Eric Lundquist.
Today, there are about 72 property owners and 52 homes. There are about the same number of Canadian and American owners.
Compiled by Roberta Hodgson, 1997. Updated by Sean Krabach, 2002.