Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Anchor-Fishing at Oshawa Brings Up Caledonia's Hooks: Schooner Days CLXXIV (174)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 9 Feb 1935
Full Text
Anchor-Fishing at Oshawa
Brings Up Caledonia's Hooks
Schooner Days CLXXIV (174)


SOME fish for herring through the ice and catch the flu, but Gordon D. Conant, K.C., Crown Attorney and Clerk of the Peace for Ontario County, fishes for anchors and catches the flukes.

One on each side, two rusted kedges, each weighing over three hundred weight, adorn the entrance to his garage, at his town house, Buena Vista, Simcoe street south in Oshawa. They were not there in 1934, and they only came there this week as the result of sporting efforts which may be described as herculean, and of low water in Lake Ontario establishing a record for all time.

Mr. Conant's interest in anchors is legitimate. His grandfather, Daniel Conant, born in 1818, and his great-grandfather, Thomas Conant, born 1775, were ship captains and owned and sailed schooners on Lake Ontario. Both were engaged in the timber trade, and much of the white pine which grew in the vicinity of Oshawa was cut by them, floated down to the lake in rafts, on the streams which were larger then than now, and then loaded aboard their schooners, anchored off the beach. It found ready sale in Oswego and Charlotte and other American ports. Thomas Conant, the great-grandfather, built a schooner on the lake shore a short distance east of the west entrance to the present Oshawa harbor. Gordon Conant has always been interested in sailing vessels as a hobby, and has owned and operated several himself as an amateur. He is a member of the Oshawa Yacht Club and of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and his eldest son, Douglas, was one of the crew of the eight-metre Quest in 1933 and of the eight-metre Norseman in 1934. His youngest son, Roger, is only 12, but can handle himself in a boat with credit, and his daughter, Genevieve, is as good as they make 'em in a sailing dinghy. Any yacht crewed by the Conant family is going to make a good showing.

So the County Crown Attorney is interested in anchors for more than their grip on things.

In his rambles around the family seat, Mr. Conant learned years ago that there was a wreck east of the first point east of Oshawa harbor, known as Bluff Point. He himself saw the Oliver Mowat ashore there in 1905. So did I. But the Oliver Mowat was got off after jettisoning two hundred tons of coal, although Port Hope men first made a gallant rescue of the crew, with a lifeboat brought up on a flat-car and carried on a wagon down the side road leading to Bluff Point. This wreck, which Mr. Conant remembered had been there a quarter of a century, however, when the Mowat went on and off again.

Oshawa was thrilled last summer by the salvage of a huge anchor near the new harbor by members of the Oshawa Yacht Club. Mr. Conant assisted in this work, and the trophy adorns the club. But he rubbed his eyes and began to think he was getting the anchor habit, when last December he saw another anchor among this ancient wreckage two miles to the eastward. And he was

sure of it when, investigating with the assistance of his son and a pair of hip boots, he saw still another anchor at the same spot.

As everybody knows, Lake Ontario is now lower than the lowest low-water measurements recorded. Where the ancient wreckage lies the water is now only three feet deep. The normal depth there would be six feet or more; in high-water years there would be eight or nine. The wreckage consists of upright timbers, probably ribs or frames, and a piece of keel, extending for ten or twelve yards distance. Huge boulders surround the wreck, many of them south and further out in the lake than the wreckage itself. When the old ship gave up the ghost, Bluff Point must have extended much further out in the lake than it does now. Mr. Conant is no venerable relic himself, but he can remember when the tip of the Point was 75 yards further south, and it is said that at one time there was a copse; or bit of bush on it, south of its present extremity. When the wreck; drove ashore she came well within the Point, and on the east side of it.

Wading around in hip boots, Mr. Conant and his son Douglas, discovered that the two anchors were still attached to the wreck by long entangled lengths of stud-link chain-cable, the links being five or six inches long and two and a half wide, reinforced with studs or round bars across the centre; a standard form of strong cable. One anchor, the smaller, had a 70-inch stock - crossbar to the land lubber - of round iron, straight across. This anchor was disengaged by upending the rusted shackle which attached the chain to the ring. But the other anchor, weighing about three and a half hundredweight, was caught under the wreck by its stock, and its stock was more complicated. It had a knob on one end and a crook on the other, as was the fashion in schooner-anchors after the old wooden stocks began to pass out. Later a knob was evolved for the crook as well, so that the stock could be folded alongside the shank, or upright member of the anchor, by knocking out the key. It was evident from the loose and tangled state of the cables that the vessel had not dragged ashore with her anchors out, fighting to keep her off the beach. In that case the cables would be stretched out straight, and the anchors would have been a cable length from the wreckage. From their position it was plain that the schooner had struck with her anchors still at the catheads, and they and the chains had fallen out of her and under her as she pounded to pieces.

The first step towards salvaging these half-century-lost mementoes of schooner days was to mark the spot with a pole, for after the first December freeze-up they were bedded under a three-foot mass of ice, and each burst of spray increased the coating. Mr. Conant and his sons and Col. Chappell of Oshawa went to work with a will and hewed away the ice and dislodged the first anchor. It was about all four men could lift. The second anchor, caught by its stock under the wreckage, presented greater difficulties, and could not be moved by man-power. By a strange irony it was finally dislodged with the assistance of a wrecking truck, a wire being led to the arms from the drum and hoisting tackle of the truck. Horsepower of 1935 proved too much for the habit of fifty-five years, and up came the anchor to the churning of a roaring motor in place of the chantying of a handspike chorus.

And so to the garage.

What ship owned these anchors, so long under water?

The only clew was some worn lettering near the crown, or junction of the shank and arms, of the second anchor. This is indistinct, but appears to spell "Montreal," At most it would indicate that the anchor was cast there. Many lake schooners traded to Montreal and bought anchors there.

Capt. Joseph Williams, spending a serene sunset of a stirring lake life at his farm on Simcoe Point, at the mouth of Duffin's Creek near Pickering, told the writer a few years ago of a wreck which seems to account for the recovered ironware. It appears that one spring about 1880 he was urged to ship in the schooner Caledonia, with Capt. Hugh Rooney, of Cobourg, but did not do so, and shipped in another vessel. When he came back from the first trip in her he found the Caledonia a total wreck on the shore near Buff Point at Oshawa, and was mighty glad he had not accepted Capt. Rooney's offer.

Mr. E. J. Guy, of Toronto, old Oshawa boy, from whose family at Guy's Point, on the opposite side of Oshawa takes its name, tells Schooner Days that the Caledonia struck the shore at Bluff Point in a blinding snowstorm, although the weather was not severe at the time. She ran out so far that it was not difficult for the crew to get ashore, and when the snow cleared off it was seen that she was not much damaged. She sat as evenly on the bottom as though she had been anchored. Efforts were made to lighten her and get tugs to pull her off, but before anything effective could be done a gale struck in from the southeast in the morning and by nightfall the Cat da had pounded to pieces.

The Caledonia was a comparatively small schooner, capable of carrying three hundred tons dead-weight, but when she was built she was counted one of the largest in the lake trade. She was the largest vessel yet built in Port Credit, where she was launched in 1842. Her builder was John Randall, who came to the lakes from Nova Scotia, and established a yard in Oakville, where Randall street commemorates him.

Records of the old Port Whitby Harbor Co. show her trading into that port in 1849, 1853 and 1855. Capt. L. Clarke was her master when she loaded staves shipped by G. M. Roche for McPherson and Crane, Kingston - where she may have bought her Montreal anchor. This was in 1853. She was in James Rowe and Co.'s ledger earlier, and in 1855 she brought 131 tons of railroad iron into Whitby for the new Grand Trunk Railway. She underwent repairs in 1852 and in 1856, when Capt. Robert Moody, Toronto, was her owner, and again in 1863, when her owner was B. Shaver, of Toronto. Her registered tonnage is variously given as 128 tons and 152 tons. It would be about half her carrying capacity. Her insurable value was $2,800 in 1856 and $3,000 in 1864, and that is about all that available records tell of her.

Mr. Conant points out that there was at one time a navigable channel into Farewell's Marsh, the first marsh east of Oshawa Harbor. The next marsh east is called Hall's.

"I have heard my father, Thomas Conant, who died in 1905, say that years ago there was a ship's channel into Farewell's Marsh, and that he himself had seen schooners using it. If this schooner was making for Farewell's Marsh she was about half a mile off her coast to the east."

There was no harbor at Oshawa when the Caledonia was wrecked, nor for fifty years afterward. But there was at that time a pier where vessels lay to load or discharge cargo in fair weather.




Photographs show the operations in connection with the recovery of the second, larger and heavier of the two anchors. No. 1 shows the anchor started from its resting place of 55 years. Included in the photograph (standing on the ice bank) is Lieutenant-Colonel Chappell, of Oshawa, and (standing in the water) Douglas Conant, of Oshawa. This anchor was caught under the wreck. The wire cable fastened to the anchor shown in the photograph leads from the drum and hoisting tackle of a wrecking truck. When this anchor found its resting place about 1880, automobiles and wrecking trucks were not even dreamed of.

Photograph No. 2 shows the anchor on the ice bank after it had been extricated. From left to right are Roger Conant, Mrs. G. D. Conant, Douglas Conant, Lieutenant-Colonel Chappell, of Oshawa, and G. D. Conant, K. C.

Photograph No. 3 also shows the anchor on the ice bank immediately after having been recovered. Photograph shows from left to right: Mrs. G. D. Conant, G. D. Conant, K. C., Roger Conant, a workman, Lieutenant-Colonel Chappell, of Oshawa, and Douglas Conant (standing in the water).

The sketches show pretty clearly the nature of two anchors and the steel-link chain.


Stock of First Anchor (a)

Stock of Second Anchor (b)

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
9 Feb 1935
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.8634963412809 Longitude: -78.7730090258789
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Anchor-Fishing at Oshawa Brings Up Caledonia's Hooks: Schooner Days CLXXIV (174)