Dated 21 December, 1760, a document in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, advises the Lords of Trade in Great Britain of a shipwreck in the Canard River. “With concern,” writes Lieutenant Governor Jonathan Belcher, “I acquaint your Lordships of the loss of the Provincial Brigantine the Montague after unloading the provisions for the new settlers at Horton and Cornwallis in her passage down the Canard River, she ran upon a Bank of Mud and was overset so deep that the water covers her at high tides and tho all endeavours have been used, I am satisfied that she will not again be fit for service.”
In an earlier column I had written about the sinking of the Montague in the Canard River, noting Arthur W. H. Eaton’s reference to the shipwreck in his Kings County history and in a 1915 paper on Rhode Island settlers. Other historical writers have mentioned the shipwreck but Belcher’s dispatch is the only government record found so far confirming the fate of the Montague.
Another interesting document on the Montague has surfaced and it has spurred the Kings Historical Society into producing a video on the shipwreck. Discovered in the Public Archives by Historical Society president Doug Crowell, the document, a court paper, reveals unauthorised attempts to salvage pieces of the Montague. Apparently the Montague, as it sat on the mud flats along the Canard River channel near Porter’s Point, was too much of a temptation for Nathanial Curtis who along with John Dains cut away the Montague’s mast and carried away the ironwork.
Dated 7 December 1761, the court document reveals that a complaint was made to Justice of the Peace Amos Bill that “some evil minded person or persons had cut a mast and carried away the Irons belonging to said mast, which mast floated from his Majesty’s Brigg Montecue” (sic).
Bill found that Curtis “of Cornwallis, yeoman, did cut and carry or at least assist in cutting and carrying away said Iron, which is contrary to Law.” Dains name does not appear in this document and it is likely he was charged separately.
To guarantee the appearance of Curtis in court to face the charges, two prominent citizens of Cornwallis agreed to put up a surety bond. They were Dr. Samuel Willoughby and Samuel Starr “who both acknowledge themselves bound in the sum of ten pounds sterling,” reads the court document …. “in the recognizance thereof that the said Nathaniel Curtis shall appear before the next Quarter Sessions and shall not depart said Court without leave or license …”
The court case against Curtis and his apparently successful attempt to salvage what he could from the shipwrecked Montague undoubtedly will be a feature of the documentary on the Montague. This is being produced for the Kings Historical Society by Innovative’s Stephen Wilsack. Attempts to find the shipwreck, which may still lie buried in the mud along the Canard River channel, will be documented as well. The video will also look at the career of the Montague’s Captain, Jeremiah Rogers. Before she was commissioned to provide supplies for the Planters of Cornwallis and Horton, the Montague under Rogers was a privateer.
(Note: Readers who may have heard of folklore on the Montague or Capt. Rogers are invited to contact the Kings Historical Society.)