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GOLDEN MEMORIES – THE SPEEDY STORY
The mysterious sinking of The Speedy
Story by Percy L. Climo The Sunday Post Jun 9, 1990, page 12
Part I – The Townsite.
At some time during John Graves Simcoe’s travels along the north side of Lake Ontario, it is believed he designated that a townsite for some future district capital be laid out on the tip of Presqu’ile Point. Just why he chose that location is not known, but it was available for access by water transportation at a time there were no roads in the area.
In the year 1797, Alex. Aitken, Deputy Land Surveyor, was sent to this site, and laid out a plan for a small town near the end of the peninsula, on the east side. The plan contains 76 square building lots, spaces for a church, school, prison, hospital, market, and a person. There is also a space for a burying ground. The plan is partly still in use and some private properties are registered under this plan in the East Northumberland Registry Office at Colborne.
By the year 1804, a court house and some private dwellings had been erected on lots of this townsite.
Part II – The Rock
In the year 1804, only two schooners were owned and in operation on the north shore of Lake Ontario. One was the Speedy, a government vessel, skippered by Captain Thomas Paxton. The other was the Lady Mary, owned and operated by Captain Selleck, who also resided at Presqu’ile.
In May, the Lady Mary had delivered a cargo from Kingston at Niagara. On its return down the lake on a beautiful and warm May day, Lake Ontario produced one of those mirror-type moods, a dead calm without a breeze. The sailboat had arrived opposite Presqu’ile and was left stranded offshore. The Captain and the crew just had to wait for a breeze to move the ship.
The sailors were sitting around amusing themselves. To Selleck’s surprise, one of the crew, in looking overboard, discovered an object under the surface of the lake. He called the Captain and pointed out the object. Immediately the Captain ordered an investigation. A boat was lowered. The Captain, the mate, and a deck hand made a survey of the submarine monster. It turned out to be a large rock surrounded by deep water. They noted the exact position by lining up three tall trees on the land and in range with Milligan’s beach. The Captain reported the findings in his log book. Captain Paxton was informed of the find. Paxton, on another day, accompanied by several hands from both schooners, found the rock some four miles offshore. The Captain made careful measurements and found the huge mass to be about 40 feet across the top in any direction. He next took soundings. To the surprise of everyone, he found about 50 fathoms, or 300 feet, of water on every side, and straight down. Records were made for marine charts. The discovery was a most unusual formation in a very odd situation.
Part III – The Murder
Two brothers, A. Moody Farewell, and William Farewell were sons of a widow who had moved from Oswego to Niagara at the time of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe. In the year 1796, the family moved to York. Around 1800, the two boys took up land and settled at Oshawa Creek.
The Farewell boys went north to Lake Scugog to trade with the Indians for furs and to trap. They were accompanied by John Sharp, who looked after Scugog camp in their absence. On their return, they found the unfortunate John Sharp had been murdered by club blows to the head. The two brothers quickly returned to Oshawa and reported the murder to a neighbor, Eleazer Lockwood. Lockwood had observed Indians encamped on the shore a day or so earlier. Some of them were intoxicated and one of them went through the actions of how he had killed poor Sharp. This was watched by the settler from a distance. The Indians moved on to York.
On learning the story, Lockwood proceeded to York. He contacted the Indian Superintendent, a warrant was issued, a sergeant and a guard were procured, and the offending Indian was taken into custody, being given over to the authorities by his Chief. A trial was held. The defense counsel assigned to the Indian argued that since the murder had been committed in the Newcastle District, the case must be tried in the Town of Newcastle…(Presqu’ile).
Part IV – The Speedy
The court was adjourned. The schooner, Speedy, was commissioned to take the Court to Presqu’ile. The Upper Canada Gazette in its issue of Nov. 3rd, 1804, gives the most accurate account of the story.
Captain Paxton was ordered on Oct. 5, 1804, to sail from York to Presqu’ile. The members of the Court, Law Officers, witnesses, and the prisoner were thus to be conveyed to the Town of Newcastle at Presqu’ile. The boat left York on a Sunday evening, Oct. 7. More witnesses and Indians were taken on board at Oshawa, except the two brothers. They made their own way eastward.
Late in the day of Oct. 8, the wind changed to a gale, blowing out of the northeast, accompanied by driving rain. The boat was observed to be in difficulty from the shore. A huge bonfire was built on the tip of Presqu’ile as darkness came on. They hoped to assist the boat to gain the harbor. The boat was never seen again, and there were no survivors.
Following the storm of Oct. 8, a number of settlers of Presqu’ile set out to make a search at the submerged rock. Several small crafts took part in the search. No trace of the rock or The Speedy could be found. A second search was made. This time more boats and more men took part. A whole day was spent on the water, but no rock could be found. After that, no one ever reported seeing the sunken rock. Both it and The Speedy had disappeared.
Part V – Conjecture and Comment by “Golden Memories”
The sunken rock off Milligan’s beach was an odd and very unusual object indeed. The report gives 40 feet in every direction. Was it a cylindrical or rectangular column? This shaft of rock, some 300 feet high, would have a 7 ½ to-one proportion. Was it limestone? Hardly likely. Was it granite? It probably was granite. How did it get there standing upright in the lake? One possible answer – it was transported and deposited to its peculiar position by glacial action. If this is so, then it could have been there submerged for 10,000 years. For a tall column to remain in the position as found would require a high degree of stability. Gradually the elements worked on it. Perhaps an earthquake at some earlier time weakened its base.
By the year 1804, the rock may have been rendered into a position of critical balance. What happened? No one knows. It could be that Speedy crashed against the rock with hammer blows sufficient to upset the tall column. A mass of stone, weighing some 20,000 tons when submerged, would drop quickly to the bottom of the lake. In falling it would create a strong whirlpool sufficient to draw the small schooner down with it.
It is reported The Speedy has been found by deep water equipment. If the shaft of rock is also found, then our theory stands.