How Nancy Island got its name


- a piece of history

Described as "a perfect masterpiece of workmanship and beauty", the Nancy was built as a private cargo vessel in 1789. However, during the War of 1812, she was pressed into service and played an important role as a British supply ship. Commanded by a British Naval Officer Lieutenant Worsley for a brief period in 1814, the ship was referred to as "H.M.S. Nancy".

In September 1813, the Battle of Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie allowed the traditional British supply route to the Upper Great Lakes to fall under American control and left the Nancy as the sole surviving British ship on the Upper Lakes. Unknown to the Americans, the British immediately chose the Nottawasaga River as their new supply route. This was a partially overland route from York (Toronto) north to the Holland River. From Lake Simcoe to Lake Huron the route was once used by Indians for generations. It was on the Nottawasaga River that the Nancy then received and transported supplies to the British garrison at Fort Mackinac, between Lakes Huron and Michigan.

American forces soon learned of this new British supply route and made plans to capture the Nancy. A 360 mile canoe trip was made from Fort Mackinac to the Nottawasaga River by a British scout, Lieutenant Livingston with a message warning Lieutenant Worsley to hide the Nancy up river away from the approaching Americans. However, on August 14, 1814, three American ships discovered the Nancy. Despite a courageous battle by Lieutenants Worsley and Livingston, 22 seamen, 23 Indians and 9 French Canadians voyageurs, against some 500 American men, the Nancy was set afire and sunk into the depths of the Nottawasaga River.

With her destruction the American forces hoped to starve the northern garrison at Fort Mackinac into surrender and gain control of the much desired Upper Great Lakes. However, Lieutenant Worsley, Nancy's crew and Fort Mackinac troops rallied to capture two of those same American ships, the Tigress and Scorpion. This allowed the British to regain control of this vital route, hastening the end of the war and the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.

The charred hull of the schooner Nancy formed an obstruction in the Nottawasaga River collecting sand and silt over 114 years, and aided in the formation of Nancy Island.

The hull of the Nancy was recovered from the island in 1928 and today is located inside the museum. Sails straining against the winds of the Great Lakes inspired the architecture of the museum and theatre. A replica of an early Upper Lakes lighthouse on Tower Island allows visitors an interesting view of this historic site and surrounding Wasaga Beach.

For further information write or telephone: Nancy Island Historic Site, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, Box 183, Wasaga Beach, Ontario. LOL 2PO (705) 429-2728, (Nancy Island), (705) 429-2516, (Park Office) Fax (705) 429-7983.

Many thanks to Marilyn Beecroft of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park for allowing me to reprint this piece of history.

"Graphic used courtesy of and copyright 1997-98 inGeneas Canadian Genealogical Research & Searchable Databases".