Nancy Island Historic Site was first opened to the public in 1928 and is recognized both nationally and provincially as an important heritage site. Despite this, very few Canadians are aware that a significant naval engagement occurred here during the War of 1812 and that the charred remains of the HMS Nancy represent one of the largest artifacts on display from this pivotal moment in Canadian history.
It is speculated that over the years, the sunken hull of the Nancy aided in the formation of an island in the Nottawasaga River. While searching the island on July 1, 1911, C.H.J. Snider a journalist with the Toronto Telegram and marine historian found the location of the hull. The remains were completely buried and it wasn’t until August 1924, when Dr. F.J. Conboy discovered an American 24-pounder cannon ball close by that interest was renewed in the Nancy.
In 1926 a committee of local and provincial government officials and marine enthusiasts formed “The Nancy Committee”. These individuals would direct the care and management of the HMS Nancy for the next three decades. The following are some highlights from the Nancy Committee’s initial work.
Collingwood Ontario July 15, 1926 – The Nancy Committee was formed re the raising of the Schooner Nancy at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River. Members included: Mayor Arthur, W.B. McCirrich, D. Williams, Joseph Spicher, Colonel Carmichael, D.H. Coleman, Joseph Drysdale, J.T. Simpson, J.E. Jamieson
Barrie Court House, November 26, 1926 – A request from Councillors Begg and Tom for a grant to the Nancy Committee to have the Nancy raised. The Committee recommended that a grant be made not to exceed $200.00, said grant for the purpose of interesting the Government in raising her and housing and putting in good condition. A request was also considered re the advisability of giving an assurance that the County will maintain and endeavor to keep in good condition the Nancy, provided the Provincial of the Dominion Government pay the expenses of raising, putting in good condition and housing the Nancy. The Committee recommended that Council of the County of Simcoe give that assurance, provided she is raised, put in good condition and housed at the Nottawasaga River where she now lies.
Barrie Ont. June 20, 1927– The Committee was advised that it was the opinion of Mr. Moore, Landscape Gardner for the government that a pleasant park could be made on Nancy Island. Moved by Joseph Spicher and seconded by David Williams: That this Nancy Committee would advise the Hon. Minister of Public Works that in their opinion the wreck of the Nancy should, upon being raised, be placed upon Nancy Island, above highwater mark.
Moved by C.H.J. Snider and seconded by W.A. Tom: That this Committee recommend to the Ontario Government that during the raising of the wreck of the Nancy, some responsible person be placed in charge of all the material taken from it and to see that nothing of historical value be lost through neglect or lack of recognition of its importance, and that the Secretary be instructed to forward a copy of this resolution to the Honourable Minister of Public works.
Moved by C.H.J Snider and seconded by J. Drysdale: That in view of the interest they have displayed in the discover and restoration of the Nancy, Colonel the Hon. W.H. Price and Dr. F.J. Conboy be asked to accept respectively the honourary chairmanship and the honourary vice-chairmanship of the Nancy Committee. Carried
More “Nancy Committee” details will be shared in future posts as we celebrate the 90th Anniversary of Nancy Island Historic Site.