A 1760 SHIPWRECK ON THE CANARD RIVER (May 6/13)

In a column in 2007, I wrote about a shipwreck in the Canard River in 1760.  This may qualify as the first recorded shipwreck in Kings County I suggested, citing as my source a historical thesis on early Minas Basin settlements, written in 1933 by James Martell.

My mention of the shipwreck was sketchy.  All Martell said was the ship, a brigantine, was delivering provisions for the settlers of Horton and Cornwallis in December, 1760; and the ship capsized going down the Canard River after completing its mission.  Running out at low tide, the brigantine struck a sandbar, was trapped in the mud and eventually was demolished by the rising tides.

Martell didn’t give the name of the brigantine; and I heard nothing from readers when I appealed to them for help in identifying the ship.  However, I recently learned that the brig was called the Montague.  With the brig’s name and the year it was shipwrecked, I had no trouble finding the Montague in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s shipwreck data base.  The Montague was listed as being a total loss, sinking after being trapped in the mud.  The cause of the shipwreck: “Judgement error.”

While I believe this is the Montague that was lost on the Canard River, there’s a discrepancy in the listing that made it seem doubtful at first. The location of the shipwreck given in the data base is Hortonville which, when you look at a map, isn’t near the Canard River.  There appears as well to be a discrepancy in the time of year in 1760 that the shipwreck occurred.

However, thanks to history sleuth Doug Crowell I can tell you more about the Montague and that long ago shipwreck.  The Canard River shipwreck is mentioned briefly in a 1915 article in Americana by Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, the author of the history of Kings County.  In the article, called Rhode Island Settlers on the French Lands in Nova Scotia in 1760 and 1761, Eaton writes that a “vessel that is conspicuously mentioned as bringing food to the settlers was the brigantine Montague (under) Captain Rogers, whose crew consisted of a mate, a pilot, and eighteen men.”

Eaton said the Montague, “after unloading provision for the people of Horton and Cornwallis, in her passage through the river Canard ran upon a bank of mud and was ‘overset so deep’ that she became a total loss.”

As well as referring me to this article, Doug Crowell said the Montague is mentioned in James Doyle Davison’s book on Handley Chipman, published privately in 1988 by the author.  Davison writes that the “Province Brig Montague, captained by Jeremiah Rogers, was one of the ships carrying provision and settlers for the townships of Minas and Canard (the names changed later to Horton and Cornwallis).  Davison confirms the Montague’s fate, writing that it “ran aground upon a mud flat, on her passage down the River Canard and became a total loss.”

An interesting footnote is the discovery by Doug Crowell that before she was commissioned by Governor Charles Lawrence to transport settlers and their provisions, the Montague was a privateer under Captain Rogers.  The website Three Decks, which is devoted to warships in the age of sail, notes that the Montague, nationality Great Britain, was a vessel of 90 tons with a crew of 20 and armed with 10 British swivel guns

So, somewhere on the Canard River, possibly lower down towards the Minas Basin, lay the bones of a British privateer cum Planter transport ship.  “Possibly” is the key word here.  Those treacherous tides that sweep the muddy reaches of the Canard River may have swept away every stick of the Montague long ago.  It’s also possible enough of the wreck remains to someday be found and identified.  Those infamous tides of Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy are notorious for revealing shipwrecks, covering them again as quickly as they uncovered them.

Looking at the Canard River today, you wouldn’t think it was navigable at one time by brigantines.  But before the Wellington Dyke was put in place, much of the Canard River at high tide was what has been described as an inland lake.   At one time, the Minas Basin tides swept up the Canard River for nearly eight miles above Wellington Dyke and smaller ships could sail up it.

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