Cask & Barrel

The Schooner Picton

Mar
15

South Marysburgh

One of the strangest stories of shipwrecks in the vortex is the tale of the schooner “Picton” which, along with two others ships, the “Acadia” and the “Annie Minnes”, was carrying coal back to Canada.

The three ships were lying in harbour in Charlotte, across the lake in New York. There had been a storm the night before, but the day dawned fair.

Captain Jack Sidley of the Picton was known as a skilled and daring skipper and the Picton had the reputation of running “like a scalded cat”. Sidley had his young son, Vessey, on board with him and he was anxious to get home, so the Picton headed out of the harbour first with the Acadia about ten minutes behind her and the Annie Minnes a half an hour behind that. An hour out into the lake eye witnesses among the crew members of the Acadia and Annie Minnes reported being surprised when they saw the topsails of the Picton coming off. They thought that Sidley had decided to reef, but all of a sudden the Picton just went out of sight, “like she’d fallen into a bottomless pit.”

The two following ships dropped their sails down, looking for survivors, but all that floated by them were a few loose gratings and a sailor cap, with not a sign of the crew. The Annie Minnes and the Acadia searched for some time, but no bodies were ever found.

Months later, near Sackett’s Harbour, New York, a fisherman’s son saw a bottle bobbing in the water for three days running. Curious, he finally rowed out to pick it out of the water. Inside was a note, written in pencil that said:

“Have lashed Vessey to me with heaving line so we will be found together.” — Captain J. Sidley, The Picton

Nobody to this day has been able to explain how the Picton went down so fast, or what happened to the wreckage, or how Captain Sidley had time to write a note, or lash his son to him.

 


Source: Kellough, Janet. The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County. Picton, Ont.: Kellough Productions, 1994.

Camp Picton

Feb
01

Picton

The plateau overlooking the town of Picton was first used as an army camp in 1938, in preparation for World War II. Buildings and runways were constructed in 1940 by the Royal Canadian Air Force, but in early 1942 it was taken over completely by the Royal Air Force, who used the facility as No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School to train British airmen. An area was set aside at Pt. Petre as a bombing range, and the entire southern shore from Pt. Petre to Pt. Traverse was used as a bombing and gunnery range. At one point during the war, two County residents were arrested for attempting to remove scrap metal from Pt. Petre. Unexploded munitions remained a hazard for many years in this area, and as late as 1977, a grass fire set unexploded shells off, hampering fire-fighting efforts.

Control of the camp reverted to the RCAF in 1944. During the fifties, Camp Picton was a thriving base. 250 houses were constructed as Married Quarters and a 15 room school was constructed on base. The camp was taken over by the Ministry of Community and Social Services as a complex for the Mentally and Developmentally Handicapped after the Armed Forces closed the base.

Camp Picton, with many of the old hangars and barracks intact, is a favourite location site for film-makers wanting to capture the flavour of a World War II army base.

 


Source: Kellough, Janet. The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County. Picton, Ont.: Kellough Productions, 1994.

The Regent Theatre

Jan
25

Picton

Dominating Picton’s main street is the old Regent Theatre, which many people remember fondly from Friday night movie dates and Saturday afternoon matinees. But the Regent started life as a first-class vaudeville theatre, its stage built to the same specifications as the old Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto.

The Regent was built in 1922 by Greek emigrant George Cook, who had come to the area via the United States. For a number of years, it was a popular booking for touring reperatory companies, opera companies and local amateur theatrical groups. Many tourist would come to the County for the shows and stay for the weekend in the then elegant Royal Hotel.

Cook had also had considerable experience presenting and promoting moving pictures, and the Regent was equipped to show the latest reels. Prior to the building of the Regent, Cook was involved with the Bijou Opera House (the Town Hall), which stood where Picton Town Hall is still located. The Bijou had long been a popular venue for local productions and Cook utilized the hall for many movie presentations. Unfortunately, the hall was gutted by fire in 1923.

The Regent became an institution in the town. Many families from outlying areas would come into Picton on a Saturday night, take in the show at the Regent, then purchase groceries and do their shopping after the movie. (In those days, Picton stores stayed open until midnight.) Sadly, as operating costs became prohibitive in recent years, the theatre was seldom used and was in danger of falling into disuse completely, until a local group decided to try and purchase the building. The Regent Theatre Foundation eventually succeeded in raising a down payment for the building in the spring of 1994, but were faced with the costs of a substantial mortgage when an anonymous donor presented the Foundation with a donation of $300,000, on the proviso that the mortgage be retired.

Restoration of the Regent Theatre continues and the foundation hopes to re-establish its reputation as “the finest stage between Toronto and Montreal”.

 


Source: Kellough, Janet. The Legendary Guide to Prince Edward County. Picton, Ont.: Kellough Productions, 1994.