Maritime History of the Great Lakes
CALEDONIA'S Gear Goes Into Guns For Britain And $$$ For Telegram Fund: Schooner Days CCCXCV (495)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 10 May 1941
Full Text
CALEDONIA'S Gear Goes Into Guns For Britain And $$$ For Telegram Fund
Schooner Days CCCXCV (495)

by C. H. J. Snider


Ontario's Attorney-General beats his lawn decorations -- cables, anchors and ironwork from ancient wreck - into cannon to kill Huns and cash to help their victims


STUD-LINK chain cable, kedge anchor's and ship chandlery cast in Canada ninety-nine years ago, started yesterday on a 3,000-mile voyage to hurl the Hun from Britain's doorstep and heal the hurts of Glasgow, Belfast, London, and every other blitz-blasted British town.

They started from, of all places in the world, the lawn of Buena-Vista, Simcoe street, Oshawa. And they were piled on the truck for their journey's first stage by no lesser freight-handler than Hon. Gordon D. Conant, K.C., former Crown Attorney and Clerk of the Peace for Ontario County, and present Attorney-General of the Province of Ontario. Their first port of call was the assembly yard of the Lewis Trading Co. Their next the Steel Company of Canada. From there they will go in steel plate, shell cases, depth bombs, tanks, torpedoes, tommy guns, great guns, ships or shrapnel, a hundred or a million drops in the rain of iron on Hitler's hide.


Who knows? It may be a chunk of the Caledonia's anchor fluke that will bring the last black Dornier down, or spell the doom of the last yellow-nosed Messerschmidt, or send Hitler and Co. to the place for which heil is a typographical error. In the meantime, the price realized for the ton of hardware—for everything, even iron to stop Germany, has its price—has come to The Telegram's British War Victims' Fund, to buck up the dauntless British spirit, and rush aid to the men, women and children who have been under fire nightly for months that grow into years, in the front line of the war, while we sit safe at home.


Strange things happen to one interested in Schooner Days sufficiently to do a little spade work on them.

One day six years ago we were walking the beach forty miles east of Toronto, near Farewell's Marsh, which was a schooner harbor before Oshawa had even a pier. Here we found a power truck, most of the Oshawa Yacht Club, in and out of the water, including Col. Frank Chappell and the young Conants, Douglas and Roger, and the then Crown Attorney for Ontario County, Gordon D. Conant, K.C., himself, all heaving like a tug-of-war team on a couple of lines which ran out into Lake Ontario like the landing ends of submarine cables.

The power truck was winching one in on its drum, and the human horsepower was operating on a six-part purchase hooked on to the other. Around them and under their feet were coiled seemingly miles of rusted chain-cable, plain and stud-link, wet and weedy, and in the tangle, like a pair of fishhooks for catching sperm whales, were two bent and muddy anchors.


Tallying on to the tackle fall with the others, while the soon-to-be Attorney-General exhorted all and sundry to "Heave and bust 'er!" we glimpsed a black waterlogged mass of timber up-end like a whale getting ready to sound, and then fall over on its back.

After that the pulling was easier, for the sodden hulk, loosened from the bottom, was almost waterborne, and we snaked it in over shore-boulders and weed-grown beach stones until it was high if not dry, well above the shore line.

It was a trough-shaped structure, bristling with spikes and iron bolts, and more and more like the business end of a sea serpent as it came into close view. It was grass-grown and covered with warts, where the iron of its fastenings had preserved the immediately surrounding wood. It had leering "eyes," which were really the iron hawse-pipes of the wreck, and there were many curious holes where the undulation of millions of waves through many decades had used the metal fastenings as wood files, and enlarged the original borings to four and five times their diameter. There were other curious frettings, showing clearly the pattern of the stud-link cable, which had been wrapped and entangled around the wreck as it had rolled in its grave for half a century and more.


The wreck was that of a lightly built vessel. The ribs remaining were only four-by-fives, doubled, what was left of the keel and keelson was seven or eight inches square, flanked by sister keelsons five inches wide and eight inches deep, and bolted through the floor timbers with 1/2 or 3/4-inch iron bolts. The mortice for the heel of the foremast indicated that that spar was 14 inches in diameter. The planking was two-inch oak. All the dimensions were on the small size for a vessel to carry 300 tons of deadweight. The anchors were of appropriate size. They had not rusted much. The dimensions of the wood had doubtless been reduced by the fret and chafe and decay of fifty-five years; the planking may have been three-inch when it was first spiked on. But on the whole the wreck did not seem to be as heavily timbered as the pioneer schooner Nancy, heroine of 1812, unearthed at the mouth of the Nottawasaga River. She was of less tonnage. The Nancy was not more than eighty feet long. This vessel, judging from the position of her foremast, would be at least 90 feet long, and perhaps double the Nancy's tonnage.


"What's all this about?" we asked Gordon Conant, as the power truck caught its breath.

"It's the wreck -we found last fall," said he. "This is Bluff Point, and the point used to be a real bluff, with a grove of trees on the top of it, even in my time. Now it's worn down to the nub, you see, and the trees are all washed away, with a hundred yards or more of the soil. You can find the big boulders once bedded in the bluff out past where this wreck was in the water.

"When paddling alongshore in a canoe on a smooth day I saw an anchor below me, and then another, with lots of chain. We put a pole down to mark the spot, for the water was shallow, and in the winter the ice formed around it, three feet thick. Then we went to work with saws and axes and cut an opening, and hooked a line on to the first anchor, and got it up with the help of the power truck, and then the same with the next anchor. This left a lot of chain cable frozen on the bottom or wrapped around the wreck that it belonged to. So today we came back for it all, and in recovering the chains we stirred up the wreck itself, and you came along in time to heave all that is left of the ship out. Now that I've told you all this, will you tell me what the ship was and how she got here?"


This was where poking into Schooner Days proved helpful.

"Edward J. Guy, of Toronto, and Capt. Joseph Williams, who sailed seventy years ago, and now has cottages on Simcoe Point below Frenchman's Bay, told me this was the wreck of the Caledonia," was the answer. "Mr. Guy saw it as a boy, for he was born in Oshawa. Capt. Williams was asked to ship in her in the spring of 1880, but went in another vessel instead. When he came back he found the Caledonia a wreck here on Bluff Point. She was loaded with 300 tons of coal from Oswego, and in a thick snowstorm and little wind, when they could not see the land nor hear the surf, she struck one morning on the east side of the point. She ran out so far that the crew had no difficulty getting off her. She was sailed by Capt. Hugh Rooney, of Cobourg, and he sent for a tug and a lighter, to unload her and haul her off. But before they got to her the wind came in from the southeast and blew a gale, and the poor Caledonia pounded apart."

"Only one big piece of her is left said Mr. Conant, "and here's a chunk of the coal wedged between the timbers of it. You seem to have all the answers. Do you know when she was built, or where?"

"Port Credit, 1842, by Jacob Randall, if she's the Caledonia I'm told she is. Randall street in Oakville is named after him. There were four or five Caledonias. One was the Northwest Fur Co's. brig, that brought Brock's men to Detroit in 1812. This wouldn't be that one, for she became the American vessel General Wayne, and died on Lake Erie. Thee were two Caledonia's launched at Saugeen on Lake Huron in 1843 and 1861, our one'sa bones are in Racine, Wisconsin, and the other would be too small to be the vessel. There was another Caledonia built at Port Union but old-timers say that the one lost on Blue Point was the one Randall built. Now it's your turn to talk. What are you going to do with the wreck now that you've got it out?"

"Put it on my front lawn."


That is exactly what Mr. Conant did with it. The chain-cables, anchors, keelson, iron pump, stem, apron, keelson, floors, frames and adhering planking were loaded on to the truck and carried several miles to Buena Vista, long the Conant family residence above the headland overlooking Lake Ontario south of Oshawa town. Here the relics remained in state for six years. Mr. Conant was so proud of them he would no allow them to be painted or touched up in any way. To him they have been priceless mementos of his pioneer ancestor's times.

Thomas Conant, born 1775, was a ship captain and came to Canada with the Loyalists. He was Gordon Conant's great-grandfather. He built a schooner on the beach not far west of Bluff Point. His son, Daniel, born 1818, was also a snip captain, and loaded schooners at Oshawa in the early timber trade. It was Capt. Daniel's schooner Industry which rescued forty Patriots in hiding and ran them to safety at Oswego, in the rebellion of 1837, five years before the Caledonia was launched. Daniel himself was not a rebel, but sacrificed his vessel to save his neighbors from the gallows. The schooner, valued at $8,000, had to be abandoned off Oswego, and was carried up the lake in the ice-pack and destroyed.


So the relics of the good ship Caledonia found an appropriate resting place on the present Attorney-General and descendant of Thomas and Daniel Conant. On one of the anchors letters seeming to spell the word Montreal appeared. Apparently it had been moulded into the iron when it was cast or forged. There were also figures indicating the weight and the name Wood, possibly the foundry man.

"I hate to part with them," said Mr. Conant, as he personally lifted the last of the loot on to a truck headed for Toronto, "but I'd hate myself more to think that I was enjoying this hardware on my lawn, while men of my stock were being blown to bits for lack of guns and shells to mow the Huns down, or were wet, hungry and cold for lack of the succor The Telegram's British War Victims' Fund could bring them."

The bigger anchor weighed 720 lbs on the scales. The smaller was 575 lbs. There was 165 feet of studlink cable, weighing 345 lbs. and 112 feet of plain cable, weighing 255. With two hundredweight of bobstays, bolts, pump and hawse pipes the hardware from the Caledonia went over a ton—2,095 pounds to be exact.




The Honorable the Attorney-General of Ontario - and his dog - make up their minds to with priceless pioneer relics.

Half an hour later, though all dressed up for a party in Peterboro where he's to urge 100 per cent mobilization, the Attorney-General cannot forbear from helping the last "links of empire" on to the load.


CALEDONIA OF 1842, enshrined with her anchors and chain cables.


Prints of her anchor chains, graven into the Caledonia's keelson by fifty five years' tossing as a wreck on the bed of Lake Ontario.

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
10 May 1941
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.8675 Longitude: -78.825555
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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CALEDONIA'S Gear Goes Into Guns For Britain And $$$ For Telegram Fund: Schooner Days CCCXCV (495)