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Tar Island

Written by on May 15, 2017 in Island Life Magazine

A new flag is flying over Totem Point, the historic Tar Island retreat near Rockport known for its three totem poles. The Texas flag is raised high above the island along with the Canadian flag because its newest owners hail from the Lone Star state. 

Totem Point: The Silver family of Texas makes this Tar Island retreat in the 1000 Islands a summer retreat. Photo by Kim Lunman.

The Silver family of Forney Texas, near Dallas, purchased Totem Point in May 2013 and it has quickly become their home away from home. The family owned a cottage property on Wallace Island near Ivy Lea but Steve Silver said he became interested in Totem Point when it came up for sale several years ago.

For one thing, the sprawling summer residence and a boathouse with more bedrooms can accommodate his growing clan. Steve and his wife Debbie have six children with six spouses and eight grandchildren, making the Silvers one Texas-sized family. Their baby grandson, Deklan Lawrence Strong, was named after the St. Lawrence River. The family has been enjoying island life on this historic property known for its trio of totem poles that also includes a neighbouring island called Thunderbird.

“This is a beautiful spot for my family,” said Steve, who grew up in northern New York with relatives in the 1000 Islands. His aunt and uncle owned the El Patio Motel in Alexandria Bay. “I love it,” said Debbie, as her grandchildren played together on the lawn nearby on a sunny afternoon last summer.

However, while Steve would return to the 1000 Islands years later, the Texas businessman had never heard of Totem Point until he learned the historic property was for sale for the first time in over 50 years. The sport of wrestling took him away from the 1000 Islands when he went to the University of Alabama and later moved to Texas. Silver was named Man of the Year by USA Wrestling in 2007, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States. The coach and wrestling leader was inducted by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the Outstanding American Award. He served as Team Leader in the U.S. World Freestyle Teams in 2005, 2006 and 2007 competing in Hungary, China, and Azerbaijan, respectively. He was also Team Leader for the U.S. squad at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Most of his children have participated in the sport.

Steve is the founder and owner of the Steve Silver Company, a global furniture business headquartered in Forney, Texas. 

Totem Point belonged to previous owners, the late Robert and Mary Hewitt, of Montreal, for more than half a century. Mary Hewitt, who was predeceased by her husband, continued to enjoy Totem Point and her classic wooden boat, the Santa Maria, until she passed away at the age of 94 in 2011. 

River Baby: Deklan Lawrence, with mother Melanie Strong and father Brandon Strong at Tar Island several years ago. Deklan is named after the St. Lawrence River. Photo by Kim Lunman.

An Indian legend refers to the 1000 Islands as Manitouana or “The Garden of the Great Spirit.” Totem Point’s totem poles include one that dates back to 1905 and was owned by one of the retreat’s earlier owners, the Eaton family of New York City. It is believed to be carved by a First Nations tribe in the Pacific Northwest. The Hewitts added two more totem poles: A red and black one purchased at Harrison Hot Springs B.C. in 1956 and another one commissioned in 2007 by native artist Calvin Hunt of Fort Rupert B.C. 

The Silver clan tests out one of their ‘unsinkable’ Boston Whalers. Photo by Kim Lunman.


The Silvers want their children and grandchildren to become a new generation of islanders here on Totem Point. The family enjoys exploring the St. Lawrence River aboard a fleet of three Boston Whalers and fishing and swimming off Tar Island’s sandy shores. “There is no place I love in the world like the 1000 Islands,” said Debbie. “When I got here, I felt this place was for me and my family.”