The Drummond Islanders (part 2)
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
It's been a tough week, lost my dog, who passed away from old age, and hurt my back. But the weather is heating up and the ball season has started so things are looking up. I am learning what is working and not working on my blogs, so this is a brief overview of some things that I have researched about the Drummond Islanders. I hope you enjoy......
Little has been written about the time before the Drummond islanders made their voyage to Penetang.
A few facts the made this area important.....
Penetanguishene was a place that was probably known to many of the men. The Northwest Company had land there, and it is believed, a warehouse. If you were to travel to York, (now Toronto) from the Great Lakes you would probably be safest to go along what had been called Carrying Place Trail, but had been revamped and was now the Penetanguishene Road.
Penetanguishene Road and Yonge Street
The route from York to Penetang was one the British had eyed for years. The British military had limited resources on the Great Lakes, they wanted a route into Georgian Bay, this was accomplished in 1795 and finalized in 1798, with Yonge Street being built around 1795. (See When you Forgot what you Bought.)
Tigress and Scorpion, Along with the Nancy
The population of Penetanguishene may not have happened exactly the way it has now if not for some battles and military decisions of the War of 1812.
The Nancy, which lies in the Nottawasaga River in what is now Wasaga Beach, was discovered by American schooners in the river and they tried to destroy it. It was than decided by the British that they would abandon what was called Ten Schooner Town, retreat upriver to Fort Willow, Willow depot and regroup. In doing so, they had no option but to blow up the blockhouse and set fire to the Nancy.
The problem is that the Nancy was used to supply Mackinac, and no other ship were available. Realizing that the Americans would control the Great Lakes if Mackinac was not supplied, it was decided to load the supplies onto a batteaux. Then they rowed and sailed the batteaux to Mackinac, slipping by with the Tigress and the Scorpion on the way
Having supplied Mackinac, their mission was over. However the intrepid crew was anxious to exact revenge and accomplished this by taking the Tigress and the Scorpion. There is more to this story, but I will get to that later.
Speaking of Mackinac, this was also taken by some of the Drummond islander, in the first battle of the War of 1812.
As soon as war was declared, Sir Isaac Brock realized that they had to establish a western front. Discussions had been had between him and the Northwest Company and as the Northwest Company interests hinged on lands both west and south being explored and it's furs harvested, the Northwest Company went into the mercenary business, and established the Voyageur Corp, a lightning strike force, for the time, that was dispatched from Montreal. They arrived, and collecting and training their compatriots left under cover of darkness to take Mackinac. Upon arrival, the American officers dd not even realize they were at war and the Northwest Company, British soldiers of the Newfoundland Regiment and the native allies who had been amassed in the years leading up to the war, captured the base without a fight.
And this was not the only area where the Drummond islanders were represented.
In Quebec, at least one Drummond Islander was seen on the battlefield of Chateauguay. One such story is where a young man enlisted and fought, later travelling across this vast country twice before establishing a sawmill not far from Penetang. His wife was from the west and their marriage was not a happy one for her father. So they returned, having a son on the way, and made amends.
Many of the men had been fishing, and a quite a few turned to that to make a living in the early years of Penetang. Since many of the families owned Batteaux for the voyage from Drummond island, this was a natural for them. Whole families also participated in the fishing industry, fish was salted and smoked and put in large barrels, a new branch of the fur companies that would evolve on the Great Lakes.
But the women were just as interesting. Mrs Mitchell, wife of Dr Mitchell ran the business interests of the family. So much so that when the war ended she stayed so that business could continue. Many of the women took on tasks beyond that which we now recognize. The men were often off plying their trade and so this left the women to take on additional rolls. This included the teaching of cultural traditions that made these people metis.
Additionally in the early years of Penetanguishene, there were many interesting artist and storytellers among the town. Mrs Jamieson, who sketched and wrote about early life on Georgian Bay traveled through town and employed Drummond islanders to take her on many adventures in the hinterland, and Mrs. Halen, who sketched many different things in the area.
As a family, the Drummond islanders had been making sugar for awhile. The sugar they were making was from maple trees and was an important staple and commerce. The whole family would participate and some even put off coming to Penetanguishene because they were in the sugar bush.
So many interesting stories, I will fill in many of the details as we continue on our journey.