Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Yonge St. Saw Oxen Drag Guns: Schooner Days MCCLXVIII (1268)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 21 Apr 1956
Full Text
Yonge St. Saw Oxen Drag Guns
Schooner Days MCCLXVIII (1268)

by C. H. J. Snider

The NANCY's Story - 7

WHEN the Battle of Lake Erie was lost on Sept. 10, 1813 the invader swept into Upper Canada from the west. Burlington Heights stopped him till the thin red line of British bayonets and thinner line of British bluejackets blocked his sea coasts, burned his Capitol, and thrust him out of Canada neck and crop. In the year that elapsed before this consummation of the War of 1812 Britain was cut off from all the Great West save for four vital outposts - Fort William and Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinac and Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi.

Supplies of men, munitions and provisions for these posts could not get west by water after the lost battle on Lake Erie. All had to be hauled across the neck of the present province of Ontario between Toronto and Georgian Bay.

At York, as Toronto was then called, the British commissary had a depot. From York county farms went the pork and flour on which the far-flung garrisons lived. From York, too, went the commissary stores of boots and caps, uniforms and greatcoats powder and ball, pistols, muskets and cannon, anchored, cables, canvas, cordage, biscuit, rum, salt horse and other luxuries and necessities for the armed forces.

The military road hacked for 40 miles through the bush between York and Holland Landing was already known as Yonge street. In 1814 it was a nightmare of tossing horns and horseheads, swinging axes, marching bluejackets and Glengarry Fencibles, creaking block-and tackle, flailing whips and goads and shouting drivers, as all this defense provision struggled through at a snail's pace.

These supplies reached Georgian Bay at the mouth of the Nottawasaga river, present Wasaga Beach, after months of strenuous toil. Thence they were forwarded by the schooner Nancy - the only vessel left to fly the British flag, except the Northwest Co's. little furtrader Mink at Sault Ste. Marie.

The Nancy had her own four-pounders, often mentioned, from 1789 onwards. As a transport in the War of 1812 she also carried ordinance of various calibres to the British garrison at Mackinac in her many voyages which sustained that post.

These cannon had been dragged up Yonge st. by sweating men and toiling oxen to Holland landing - then ferried or rafted across Lake Simcoe - then portaged by the Willow Trail to the Glengarry Landing on the Nottawasaga River - and floated down to the Nancy, waiting at its mouth. She loaded them along with pork and flour and clothing and garrison supplies probably from York Mills and the Humber Mills, bought by Noah Freer, the British commissary at Toronto, and started out from York for Mackinac.

A warning canoe turned her back, for an American fleet of five vessels was in wait for her. She was towed back up the river Nottawasaga, and Lieut. Miller Worsley, R.N., who had reinforced her trading crew of nine with his 24 British bluejackets, whipped the guns out of her and mounted them in a log fort or blockhouse which he had rushed up for her defense.

It was a pity to lose those guns to the Americans, when the blockhouse blew up, after so many months of labor spent in getting them there all the way from Woolwich arsenal. But the invaders did not get away with them.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
21 Apr 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.10011 Longitude: -79.48292
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.536666 Longitude: -80.008055
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.65011 Longitude: -79.3829
Richard Palmer
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by [more details]
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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Yonge St. Saw Oxen Drag Guns: Schooner Days MCCLXVIII (1268)