Skip to main content

Even among the long-standing houses of Prince Edward County, Shannon House is fabled: It may be the oldest 1n the county. It may have belonged to a French Count and fur trader. It possibly dates to the mid-1700s.

That's the historic lore, but the home's more recent past is almost as colourful.

Des Marcille spent his boyhood summers in the limestone house on Waupoos Island. Sometimes the family would arrive in the spring to find sheep from the neighbouring farm had found their way into the house during the winter.

Story continues below advertisement

"The sheep would climb up on the couches," Mr. Marcille recalled on a recent return to the island.

Sheep still figure prominently in the landscape around Shannon House.

Bob Fleguel is a farmer who purchased several hundred acres and a few grand old farmhouses from the Oblate order of missionaries two years ago. All told, Mr. Fleguel and his wife, Erin Roughan, own 560 acres of the 840-acre island.

The couple legally severed a parcel of 3.75 acres surrounding Shannon House and have listed the property with an asking price of $599,000.

The house's green lawns slope down to 620 feet of shoreline along Smiths Bay in Lake Ontario.

Behind the house, Mr. Fleguel's ewes graze over much of the island. The farmer figures he has about 1,600 ewes. Another 1,800 or so lambs swell the population in the spring.

Waupoos Island is located in the township of North Marysburgh, just across the water from the hamlet of Waupoos on Prince Edward County. It's a five-minute boat ride from Waupoos Marina to the island.

Story continues below advertisement

There, broker Gail Forcht of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. is selling a rare tranquillity.

"The island has a feeling that one cannot put into words," says Ms. Forcht. "It's like stepping out of a boat into a magical place where time has stood still."

Clients who have made the boat trip over have told her that the rolling hills and sheep-dotted landscape reminds them of England.

The main road around the island - an unpaved track known as the King's Highway - barely makes a dent in the lawn of Shannon House. At one time the road led to a house, but all that remains of that building is the foundation.

"It's essentially a legal road, but nobody uses it," says Mr. Fleguel. There's nowhere to go."

Bill Cowan is a local amateur historian who has made a hobby of studying the area's oldest landmarks. He can't say with certainty when Shannon House was built because a land surveyor from Kingston didn't make it over to the island when he set out the lots in Marysburgh in 1783.

Story continues below advertisement

The island was owned and occupied by the Mississauga Indians until 1856, Mr. Cowan says, and the European immigrant farmers were squatters.

Mr. Cowan has found ample information about a Joseph Monteney, who was a fur trader living on the island in the 1700s. The story goes that Mr. Monteney was originally from Normandy. He settled first in New York State, married Margaret Frank, and fathered five children.

Intriguingly, Mr. Cowan says, many historical references mention a Count Monteney. The gentleman could well have been a member of the French nobility who fled his native country during the years' of persecution before the French Revolution, the historian believes.

In any case, Joseph Monteney gravitated to the St. Lawrence as the fur trade expanded. He settled on Waupoos Island and traded with the Indians for their fur pelts. First he built a log cabin, and later a house made of limestone gathered from the surrounding fields.

"This guy built this beautiful house on land that wasn't his," says Mr. Cowan. "It's built like a fortification."

Whenever it was built, the house was certainly standing when an Irish immigrant named Alexander Shannon arrived on the island around 1818. Some reports say that Mr. Shannon found the house abandoned, says Mr. Cowan, while others suggest he purchased it from the Monteney family. Official records have the Shannon family as the first registered owners.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Cowan says that a local writer named Archie Lamont wrote in the early 1900s that the Shannon House was probably the oldest in the county.

The historically-designated house is set into a hill that gradually slopes down to Smiths Bay.

The structure is approximately 35 feet wide by 25 feet deep with walls that are almost three feet thick. It's two-and-a-half storeys at the front and one-and-a-half storeys at the back.

Inside, the seven-bedroom house has a large living room with stone walls, a beamed ceiling and large wood-burning fireplace. Upstairs, floors are made of wide pine planks.

While the house has been updated over the years, Ms. Forcht suggests a new owner may want to upgrade the windows. Some of the rooms have been finished with drywall.

Because of the home's heritage designation, the exterior must remain unchanged, she adds.

Mr. Marcille's mother, Lea Shannon Marcille, was born in the house. She was a pupil at the Waupoos Island School in 1899, and returned as a teacher in 1910. She taught there again in 1948 and returned yet again in 1966 to work as the last teacher before the island school was closed.

Mr. Marcille remembers helping on the farm while his mother was teaching. For many years, he says, the stone house was rented out to vacationers during the summer.

Today, the island remains just about the same, with Mr. Fleguel's sheep and a few cottagers in residence.

Local authorities won't allow any more houses because they don't want to maintain the road, says Ms. Forcht.

"What's here is here."

Mr. Fleguel says the island doesn't have much of a social scene. The seven or so families that spend summer weekends there mostly reside at the eastern end of the island.

"We all meet at the dock," he says of the government-owned main dock that acts as community hub.

Perhaps the most highly-anticipated source of entertainment for local residents is Mr. Fleguel's annual spring trek across the ice with all 1,600 ewes.

The farmer puts some pebbles in a bucket and rattles it around a bit. The sound makes the more experienced ewes think he's carrying a pail of vittles and they begin to follow him.

"Once you've got 10 of them coming, you've got all of them coming."

Mr. Fleguel leads the ewes from his farm in the county over to the island where they give birth to their lambs in the spring and stroll around in the summer. The walk only takes about an hour.

"A lot of people want to see that, but the fact is, it's over pretty quick."

When the grass runs out in late November, Mr. Fleguel takes the sheep back across the water by barge. That process takes all day, he says, because he can only fit about 200 animals on the barge at a time.

By the standards of Waupoos Island, Prince Edward County across the gap is bustling. Bus tours visit the wineries and tourists pick apples at the farms. Cheese producers, celebrity chefs and entrepreneurs are launching new ventures. Proposals to install energy-producing wind farms in some areas are polarizing opinion in the community.

Ms. Forcht says the island makes an ideal get-away. For many years the Oblate religious order farmed on the island and operated a summer camp for disadvantaged families.

She adds that Shannon House would provide a serene location for a family haven or a yoga retreat, among other things. The crystal-clear water and sandy bottom provide an ideal spot for swimming, she says, and the area is well-known for sailing.

"I just feel like grabbing a chair and a book - and I don't get to do that very often."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Cannabis pro newsletter