There is a healthy trend here of people moving back home to Amherst Island.
Many have come back home to raise their families. Twelve young adults of our sons’ and daughter’s generation who’d left for education and a broader scope of life, have chosen to return to Amherst Island. In a total population about 450, that’s significant.
Julie said “It was a HUGE decision for us to move back home”.
“The community, peaceful life, small school, and being around family were top priorities for us, convincing us to do it!”
Some who have come back home have parents and grandparents who help support the early child-rearing years. Their kids are safer here from the kinds of dangers that can lurk in urban areas. They create jobs for themselves; commute; or join the family farm. They know that our small school has a high caliber of education, and that the multi-grade classes and small numbers are of tremendous benefit to most. The sense of community, though less that it once was, is still very powerful. Committees ensure fund-raising for activities and food programs. This year’s school play served a potluck meal feeding almost 1/5 of the Island population. After the feast, every child had a role in the school play.
Our grandsons work in the Wool Shed during shearing, and help educate other kids who visit our foster lambs.
An older group of those who come back home are people whose previous generation moved away to make a living, to get broader experiences, or just to get off the farm. These adults have grown up in urban worlds. Some of them have made a pretty good living. But then, a rootlessness occurs; a feeling of being unsettled.
In our small population there are 6 who have come back in the past couple of years, to where the ancestors are buried; to where their family names are instantly recognizable. Their immediate challenge is to figure out just how many individuals they meet are somehow cousins and to sort out the tangles of the family tree.
One fine example is the couple who purchased our failing corner store.
It was once a proud hotel called the Royal, later the Dominion, built sometime before 1821, then registered in 1860 as a commercial establishment.
Dave McGinn visited Amherst Island as a kid occasionally – his great-great grandfather moved here; his grandfather ran the general store; his dad was born here as was Dave’s eldest brother; and his uncle had a dairy then beef farm – but he grew up out west, making a living in the oil fields of Alberta. Fortunately he learned a great number of practical skills. He retired, explored alternatives, discovering the advertised sale of the Amherst Island General Store in the almost derelict building, and came home with his wife. They have fit in immediately.
“I’ve had so many powerful feelings that this is where I’m meant to be – a deeply felt sense of belonging.”
Johnnie McGinn walked in one day, figured out their link (through two half-brothers), then described where Dave’s grandfather would have stood and what he’d have done in the store. As Dave’s careful demolition and reconstruction proceeded, he discovered a big knot in the 2” thick planks with big indentations in the wood on either side, splayed out the way all the McGinn men stand. Goosebumps. Dave was quite literally standing in his grandfather’s footprints.
Amherst Island is a more vibrant community, thanks to the people who have come home.