How The Wreck Came to Light
Schooner days no. MXCI
by C. H. J. Snider
On March 30,1880, a party guided by an Indian named Pedonquot drove down the ice of the still frozen South Channel, and found what the Indian had reported in Parry Sound as the upside down bottom of a vessel. The winter's snow had melted from the keel. The ship's samson-post, which would rise three or four feet above the main deck forward, for the backing of the windlass had been driven out through the vessels's bottom. The upturned hull was in shallow water in a little bay behind Moose Point, four miles southeast of the Haystacks. This was all that was left of the Waubuno, unseen by white eyes ever since she had steamed out of Collingwood, on Nov. 22, 1879.
There was no sign whatever of upper works. All the topside of the steamer, from the guards upwards, and the guards themselves had vanished in kindling wood. All this had disappeared before the gutted hull, empty as a seatless rowboat, could drive upside down into the shallow bay.
Some of the hull was there yet. What are supposed to be the engines have been found on a shoal outside the Haystacks in 16 feet of water.
The mystery of the Waubuno was a household tale in the Georgian Bay country from this writers' childhood.
It is still a live topic though it all happened 73 years ago. Only last week W. M. Prentice of 41 Chaplin Crescent brought in some wood and ironwork from the long lost steamer. Mr. Prentice has hopes of assistance in recovering the engine and walking beam of the steamer. He would like to see them preserved as monuments of early transportation. He is a mechanical and electrical engineer, himself. The Waubuno pine where the saw had be through it is as sweet and bright as yesterdays split kindling wood. The oak is black with age, but so hard it can scarcely be cut. The remains are now not upside down, as found by the Indians, but rightside up, as turned over by the searchers in the following year.
Tragedy has left two new names on the chart of the island Waubuno Island and Wreck Island the latter being the smaller. It is also called Little Waubuno. The Waubuno's bottom lies between the two. How it got there is a local puzzle, for it is barred in by a reef which might stop an outboard even in this cycle of high water. The reef is not a sand bar, but is built by boulders.
Mrs. Fisher, a widow of the publisher of the North Star, and the relatives of other lost passengers, sued the owners of the Waubuno for heavy damages, but two juries in succession failed to agree upon the cause of the disaster, or the responsibility for it.
Preserved in the Midland Institute is a hand truck from the Waubuno, scarred with years of chafing on the rocky bottom where it was found. There is also the core of one of her hawsers, the outer covering having chafed away.
Much has been written of the tragedy by WR. Williams for Inland Seas and in the Owen Sound Sun times. Earlier it had ample coverage in the Georgian Bay papers, notably in original articles by Wm Ireland in the Parry Sound North Star. The late Dave Williams of Collingwood also treated of it in his Enterprise Bulletin, in the Huron Institute where once was a complete file of the Waubuno mystery.
The mystery will always defy the coroner, for there never was material for an autopsy. There was a full fledged marine inquiry at Collingwood and a twice-tried lawsuit, but everything was inconclusive because there was no little direct evidence, Not only were all the primary witnesses dead but the vessel herself was an empty broken up-bottom shell. So still the Waubuno tragedy preserves its mystery. It is as though the unfortunate Mrs. Doupe whose forewarning dream failed to halt the impending disaster had locked all further information in her anguished bosom, still now until Judgment Day.