Bill Johnston's Pirate Days

Thousand Islands' most dreaded pirate was the notorious smuggler and War of 1812 privateer Bill Johnston. Dubbed the man the British most wanted to hang, fortunes were blown on the pursuit of Johnston as he was hunted by United States and Canadian authorities.

His most notorious project was the May 30, 1838, attack on the passenger steamer Sir Robert Peel (which was docked at Wellesley Island on the St. Lawrence River). Johnston ordered his men to loot the ship and burn it, which they did while chanting "Remember the Caroline." Johnston eventually surrendered to United States authorities.

So of course it stands to reason that almost 200 years later, we'd create a holiday in honor of this guy.

Hey, it worked for Christopher Columbus.

Bill Johnston's Pirate Days is a 10-day holiday held in Alexandria Bay which features two pirate invasions, two block parties, sword fights, puppet shows, public drunkenness and mayhem, magic shows, parades, and more.

The folks at Better Farm rose to the occasion, donning swords and hooks and pillaging Alexandria Bay. Our own Brian Purwin performed at Top of the Bay, Cavallario's Steak House, and The Dancing Dog; while others stopped in at the invasion, worked behind-the-scenes at local businesses (Corinne at Singer Castle, Chris at Riley's, Joel on Wellesley Island), and danced and boogied while the bay burned.

Quite an epic week! Don't throw that pirate gear away just yet—Bill Johnston's Pirate Days will be back next year around the same time. Keep up on scheduling at

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.