Nancy Island Historic Site


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

History Overview
The following is an excerpt from the Nancy Island website.
“The story of the British Schooner, Nancy is one of this region’s little-known secrets”. The Nancy was a fur trading vessel during the War of 1812 and was on the Nottawasaga River August 14, 1814. On that day, Lt. Worsley, commander of the Nancy, did all he could to defend her from American attack. Badly outnumbered, the Nancy was destroyed in battle, though the crew escaped to fight another day. Today you can see the hull of the Nancy, built in 1789, on display on Nancy Island. Also at the site, you will find a replica of a 19th century Great Lakes lighthouse and an award winning video presentation which tells the crew’s heroic story.”

“The following is a description of our tour of Nancy Island”

Historic Nancy Island…

We were first introduced to Nancy Island, located within Wasaga Beach Provincial Park on the Nottawasaga River leading to Georgian Bay, (of course Georgian Bay leads into Lake Huron), when we invited to Wasaga Under Siege by organizer/Coordinator David Brunelle.

The Island is the resting place for the British Schooner HMS Nancy. Wasaga Beach was the scene of a dramatic battle during the War of 1812. The two-masted schooner sailed the Great Lakes for twenty-five years, mainly as a cargo vessel in the fur trade era. The final years, however, were spent in military service for the British navy during the War of 1812.

On August 14, 1814, three American warships attacked the HMS Nancy, which ended in the burning and sinking of the Nancy in the Nottawasaga River. Sediment in the River accumulated around the sunken hull to form the island. July 1, 1911 marks the date C.H.J. Snider found the location of the hull.

It wasn’t until August 1924 Dr. F.J. Conboy discovered an American 24-pounder round-shot cannon ball. The Federal and Provincial Governments assisted with the excavation of the Nancy remains in 1927. 114 years later on August 14, 1928 the first museum was officially opened to commemorate this episode in the War of 1812.

The HMS Nancy timbers now rest in a museum on the island named for her. Today, the Nancy Island Historic Site is dedicated to preserving and sharing Nancy’s legacy. This Historic Site transcends beauty, majestic scenery and a calm serene setting for visitors to enjoy. Nancy Island Historic Site keeps the story of the HMS Nancy alive today through many avenues.

Through educational and interpretive programs to school groups, children’s programs and tours and dramatic evening productions of re-enactments, Nancy Island is a great place to learn and enjoy! You will also be treated to a variety of other local historic adventures about logging, voyageurs and aviation history of the Wasaga Beach’s local history.

Through the great efforts of a group of dedicated volunteer network, The Friends of Nancy Island, a non-profit organization, sponsor a variety of events and activities designed to enhance your understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of your visit. Nancy Island is in the final stages of preparing to open their brand new visitors centre, admissions building. Some might wonder why this bright red colour was chosen for the building as the colour does not represent typical Ontario Provincial Parks.

We were told that the colour of this building was chosen to reflect the historical colours of the battles that took place. The Museum Displays Building is open and is an amazing place to spend some time. The displays are interactive for children and families alike.

With apprehension, we walked across a narrow wooden swinging bridge that leads to the Lighthouse located at the tip of the Island. You can take the time to stand over the waterway, look down between the wooden slates, listen to the trickle of the water and start to feel truly transformed in time.

This led me back to the beginning, when David Brunelle invited us to visit his re-enactment weekend, Wasaga Under Siege! The land battle is second to none, the water battle will leave you cheering (or booing), and the encampment will complete your day of going back in time.

Over 200 re-enactors set up “camp”. Here you travel through time, visiting wood turners, blacksmith, surgeons, see demonstration of life of this period. What surprised us the most was how many families took part in these re-enactments.

Nancy Island does focus on the youth of today with their programs … Wasaga Under Siege is just another wonderful way to spend some time with your entire family and friends while experiencing “living history” on Historic Nancy Island!

You can visit the Nancy Island Historis Site website for current event information. (Link:

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