Maritime History of the Great Lakes
First Lake Fleet -- "Nancy" Led List: Schooner Days MCCLXIV (1264)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 12 Mar 1956
Full Text
First Lake Fleet -- "Nancy" Led List
Schooner Days MCCLXIV (1264)

by C. H. J. Snider

The NANCY's Story - 3

THE SANDSUCKER Charles Dick has ploughed through the ice of Burlington Bay to open Hamilton navigation four days earlier than last year, and fitting-out time is really walking up our backs. Perhaps we may take a look at the first Canadian commercial fleet recorded for out lakes-15 little vessels, aggregate tonnage 754, all sail of course, six schooner and nine sloops.

At the end of the 18th century appeared a schedule of the British merchant marine of all the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan. The potential armament of each vessel was given under a caption "Number of guns they could carry if armed." This suggests consideration of their use in "His Majesty's Provincial Royal Navy on the lakes and rivers of Canada. Upper and Lower Canada," known as the Provincial Marine. The half-score of men-of-war which then constituted that service, were properly not included in this list following:


Schooner NANCY, Geo. Smith & Co., owners, six 4-pounders, 6 swivels, 67 tons.

Sloop SAGIMA, Aikin, Nelldum & Part-owners, four 4-prs., 6 swivels, 67 tons.

Sloop DETROIT, Aikin, Nelldum & Part-owners, four 4-prs., 6 swivels, 65 tons.

Sloop BEAVER, North West Co., owners, four 4-prs. 6 swivels, 45 tons.

Sloop INDUSTRY, North West Co., owners, four 4-prs., 4 swivels, 25 tons.

Sloop SPEEDWELL, Jas. Baby owner, Four 4-prs. 4 swivels, 24 tons.

Schooner SWAN, Jas. May owner, four 4-prs., 4 swivels, 30 tons.

Schooner WEAZEL, John Aikin [Askin] owner, four 4-prs., 4 swivels, 16 tons.

Sloop ARABASKA, North West Co., owners, four 4-prs., 6 swivels 40 tons.


Sloop OTTER, North West Co. owners, 75 tons


Schooner LADY DORCHESTER, eight 4-prs., 8 swivels 87 tons.

Schooner GOVERNOR SIMCOE, eight 4-prs., 8 swivels, 87 tons.

Schooner YORK, five 4-prs., 6 swivels, 66 tons.

Sloop building near Kingston, 40 tons

The POLLY, building in Bay of Quinte 20 tons.

The name of the NANCY about which so much has been written of late, leads all the rest. This is the furtrader which the Hon. John Richardson built at Detroit in 1789 for Forsyth Richardson and Co. of Montreal, George Smith and Co., appear to have been her owners 10 years later. Soon afterwards the North West Company, in which both the firms mentioned may have been included, were her owners. The Provincial Marine took her for the War of 1812. She was burned in the mouth of the Nottawasaga River in 1814.

Of these vessels, two are known to have been honorable war service, the Nancy and the Governor Simcoe. The Nancy had been armed from the first against violence in the fur trade for which she was built, but possibly not with both swivels and carriage guns. Her normal crew of nine all told could not work twelve guns and look after the nine sails she carried.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
12 Mar 1956
Language of Item
Richard Palmer
Creative Commons licence
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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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First Lake Fleet -- "Nancy" Led List: Schooner Days MCCLXIV (1264)