Grindstone Island is the fourth largest of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River and the second largest of the American islands in the St. Lawrence. The island lies near Lake Ontario and is part of the United States of America. In particular, the island is part of the Municipality of the Town of Clayton in Jefferson County, New York. The island consists of Potters Beach, a private vineyard owned by the Purcell family, summer gift shops, four active beef farms, historic but now abandoned farmlands, and private non-government conservation lands (TILT). The current number of year round households who call the island home is ten. The population climbs to 700 people during the summer months. New York State's last operating one-room school was on the island and closed in 1989.
39% of the island is currently owned by TILT, the Thousand Island Land Trust. TILT's 885 acres of private conservation lands are currently spread over different parts of the island. TILT currently owns Potter’s Beach (20 acres - the largest naturally occurring sand beach on the American side of the Thousand Islands), Potter’s Forest Preserve (200 acres), Mid River Farm Preserve (165 acres), Douglas Howard-Smith Preserve (130 acres), Rusho Farm Preserve (140 acres), Delaney Farm Preserve (80), Heineman Forest Preserve (100 acres) and Grindstone Nature Trail (50 acres). TILT acts as a steward of another 900 acres of wetlands, forest and grasslands on privately held property through conservation easements.
The first known settlement occurred in 1804. The island was once considered to be part of Canada but, since 1823, has been recognized as part of the United States. Shortly afterwards a dispute over some harvested trees created a brief disturbance called "The Grindstone Island War" in which American militia attempted to prevent the removal of the logs. In 1831 the entire island was purchased by Eliza Evertson, the widow of Nicholas Evertson and the grandmother of Edgar Saltus, for $15,000. The Evertson family owned the island for over 40 years.
In the early 1900s the island acquired enough of a population to have two school buildings built, a lower school house (which is now a private home) by the cross-island bridge and an upper school house, which is now the Grindstone Island Cultural Center which gives out a scholarship once a year. The island also has a Methodist church founded in 1899 (with services on Sundays) with a Community Center (Dodge Hall) across the street (with dances on Saturday nights in the summer) and a no longer functioning Creamery and Cheese Factory. The island also has one of the few natural beaches in the Thousand Island region open to the public, Potter's Beach.
Lumber and granite quarries were important in the early economy. The island is a self-sustaining environment that operates on an honor system; however, infrastructure such as electricity is provided by the town of Clayton, NY. There are no bridges onto Grindstone (save when the river freezes), or formal ferry services onto Grindstone Island. There is a community dock (the town dock in Aunt Jane's Bay) provided for visitors on Aunt Jane's Bay - some inlanders who live inland on the island park their vehicles along the road. There is a normal US postal service delivery route onto the island Monday through Saturday.
The island also recently received street signs marking the island's few official unpaved roads. The people who live on this island are known to locals as "Islanders".
Grindstone Island is the fourth largest of the islands in the Thousand Islands region, measuring about 7 miles long and 3 miles wide at its' widest point. The northern part of the island is near the international border between Canada and the United States of America (USA). The island is in the western part of the St. Lawrence river valley, and is located between Wellesley Island (New York, USA), and Wolfe Island (Ontario, Canada). In the middle of Grindstone Island is an long, narrow bay which divides the island almost in two. There is a small bridge over the bay.
The island is located about 1.27 miles from Clayton, New York.
Communities and locations on Grindstone Island
- Aunt Janes Bay — A bay on the south shore
- Canoe-Picnic Point State Park — A state park on the northeast tip of the island is currently accessible by canoe or other small craft boat only (No current road or walking trail access available).
- "The cheese factory" — A once-active factory from when dairy farmers were abundant on the island. It was shut down when the farmers ceased producing milk.
- Cummings Point — The tip of a short peninsula of the island on the southwest end
- Delaney Bay — A bay at the northeast part of the island.
- Dodge Hall — A community center on Northshore Road
- Flynn Bay — A bay on the southwest end of the island
- Grindstone — A hamlet on the north shore
- Grindstone United Methodist Church — A church founded in 1890
- Lower Town Landing — A hamlet on the south shore
- Rusho Bay — A bay on the south shore of the island
- Thurso — A small community reaching from Thurso Bay to the crossroads at the church
- Upper Town Landing — A hamlet on the south shore
- A Grindstone Development, Thousand Islands Life Magazine, May 12, 2010 http://www.thousandislandslife.com/BackIssues/Archive/tabid/393/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/475/A-Grindstone-Development.aspx
- "On Remote Island, The Dead Are Buried Far And Wide". NPR. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2012-10-21.