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His Majesty's Hired Transport Nancy

Christopher Robert Sabick
Thesis:  May 2004
Chair:  Crisman


    In 1997 a group of archaeologists from Texas A&M University's Nautical Archaeology Program traveled to Wasaga Beach, Ontario to document the hull remains of the eighteenth-century schooner Nancy. In 1927, the schooner was recovered from the banks of an island in the Nottawasaga River, near its confluence with Lake Huron. The hull is now on display in the Nancy Island Historic Site. Despite being available to the public for more than 75 years, the 1997 documentation was the first to thoroughly record the construction of the vessel. In addition to archaeological investigation, historical research was carried out to further our understanding of Nancy's commercial and naval career.

    The archaeological data reveal a schooner that was built by talented shipwrights using the fine timber harvested around the Great Lakes in the eighteenth-century. This study adds a considerable amount of new information to the otherwise scanty base of knowledge available on the construction of early Great Lakes sailing vessels.

    Historical research shows that Nancy and her crews were participants in many important events that shaped the Great Lakes Region. From her construction in Detroit in 1789, Nancy was employed in the fur trade. As tensions flared between Great Britain and the United States in 1812, Nancy was utilized as an armed transport for the British forces around the lakes. in August of 1814, the schooner was trapped in the Nottawasaga River by a strong American naval force. Nancy's commander set fire to the vessel to deny it to the enemy.

    This thesis examines the construction details and history of the schooner Nancy in detail. Preliminary chapters will provide the historical context for the vessel and describe Nancy's long journey that ended at the Nancy Island Historic Site. The second half of the thesis describes the construction of the schooner and compares it with other contemporary vessels. The study concludes that Nancy's hull represents an eighteeth-century construction tradition modified for use on the Great Lakes, and also demonstrates the vessel's dual roles as trader and military transport.

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