Nancy Island Historic Site has been a historic site since 1928, and it is the most accessible site in Simcoe County and the Georgian Bay region during the War of 1812. It commemorates HMS Nancy’s combat against three American schooners on August 14, 1814, during the War of 1812. The charred wreck and artefacts of the HMS Nancy from this critical time in Canadian history are housed on the island. The courageous efforts of the Nancy and her crew have resulted in the current borders of Canada!
Visitors to the site can learn about the history of the Nancy and her crew from a heritage costumed staff member, take part in a hands-on historical demonstration, watch an award-winning video presentation about the crew’s heroic storey, and climb to the top of a Great Lakes 19th Century replica lighthouse for the best view of Wasaga Beach.
The Nancy Island Historic Site is about 2 kilometres from the mouth of the Nottawasaga River, which runs into GEORGIAN BAY, Ontario. The NANCY, a schooner built in Detroit for partners in the NORTH WEST COMPANY in 1789 and brought into imperial service during the WAR OF 1812, is commemorated at the HISTORIC SITE. The schooner burned to death at this place.
The Nancy was a supply ship that served the British government under the command of Master Alexander Mackintosh. The ship was commanded by Henry PROCTER and supported the British military effort in the capture of Detroit and the unsuccessful attack on Fort Meigs . The Nancy discovered the Americans in control of Lakes St Clair and Erie when returning to Fort Amherstburg from a supply mission to FORT MICHILIMACKINAC on Lake Huron in early October 1813.
After narrowly avoiding capture after crossing the ST CLAIR RIVER, the schooner spent the winter in Sault Ste Marie.The Nancy delivered provisions to Fort Michilimackinac from the mouth of the Nottawasaga River in 1814. When the Americans began scouring Lake Huron for British ships, her new commander, Lieutenant Miller Worsley, was given orders to hide the schooner upriver of the Nottawasaga River’s mouth and build a blockhouse as a defence. Three American ships located the refuge and began shelling it on August 14, 1814. The bombardment was so intense that Worsley decided to demolish the Nancy rather than risk it falling into enemy hands. A powder train was laid between the blockhouse and the vessel, and then the Nancy was set on fire (although the Americans reported that it was one of their shells that started the fire). Worsley and his troops were able to flee in the ensuing chaos. What was left of the ship sank to the river’s bottom. After then, an island sprang up around the submerged hull.
The Nancy’s narrative has been immortalised in song, folklore, and legend, and will always be remembered as a valiant stand against overwhelming odds. Lieutenant Worsley, the schooner’s commander, is responsible for a portion of the storey. After escaping with his men, he was able to capture the American schooners Scorpion and Tigress, two of the ships that sank the Nancy, and re-establish a British naval presence on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay in late 1814. On December 24, 1814, peace was declared.
Colonel Ernest Cruikshank, a War of 1812 historian, salvaged the nearly lost storey of the Nancy and published his findings in 1910. Charles H.J. Snider, a Toronto writer and historian, discovered the burnt hull in the middle of the Nottawasaga River in 1911. At least one 24-pounder round shot was discovered nearby by dentist Dr. Frederick J. Conboy, who discovered the schooner in 1927 after months of searching. The hull was unearthed and elevated and deposited a short distance from where it was discovered. The first Nancy museum opened in 1928. A model was finished in 1934, with Snider playing a key role in its creation.
The ship’s hull is presently on display in a climate-controlled chamber within the WASAGA BEACH complex. The complex, which was built in 1968, includes a museum, theatre, and lighthouse. The museum’s architecture was inspired by the straining of sails against the wind. Military items from the event are on show at the museum, as well as other exhibits. Wasaga Beach Provincial Park assumed responsibility for the site’s management in 1978.
The Nancy was listed as a national historic event by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1923, and a cairn was built to commemorate it in 1954. Nancy Island Historic Site is now the name of the location.
119 Mosley St, Wasaga Beach, ON L9Z 2X1
Whether you’re on vacation or looking at real estate listings, the history of Wasaga Beach is interesting. Nancy Island which sits in the Nottawasaga River, is actually a major Canadian historical landmark for the turning point in the war of 1812, there is a museum containing a hull of a ship that sank at that time. Wasaga Beach has gone from a forested area with Algonquin natives to part of a wartime supply route and a battle site, to an early logging area where the river was used to transport the logs to Collingwood, the first bridge, wooden, the Van Vlack bridge was built in 1872 followed by a steel bridge in 1909. The first hotel opened up in the late 1800s and at the turn of the century with more roads and rail systems more hotels opened, thus beginning the tourist destination Wasaga Beach. Another interesting historical fact is that in 1934 Wasaga Beach was the runway for the first successful flight from Canada to England, due to the long hard packed beach.
Wildly enough even though the area has such a long history, and was a destination for nearly a century Wasaga Beach only became a town in 1974. Since the early 2000s many changes have occurred, Wasaga Beach has turned from a cottage town and a beach day destination to a real year round community. After the 2006 Census Wasaga Beach was named the fastest growing town in Ontario and 7th fastest in Canada. The development of amenities has been fast & furious with a Real Canadian Superstore, Canadian Tire, Walmart and larger Shoppers Drug Mart & LCBO among others, the chain restaurants have also arrived along with fast food Swiss Chalet & Boston Pizza fill a long time void.
Living in Wasaga Beach is very different than even 30 years ago, the services, amenities and community are vastly different. The houses have also changed from cottages and a few year round homes to a majority of permanent residents calling it home.
If you are interested in learning about the Wasaga Beach Real estate market or what are homes worth in Wasaga Beach, please contact us.