Cask & Barrel

Rumrunners

Apr
12

South Marysburgh

Main Duck Island, twelve miles from the shore of Prince Edward, was a convenient staging point for rumrunners smuggling liquor into the United States during Prohibition. In the early years, possession of alcoholic beverages for personal use was still legal in Ontario, and although the island was occasionally raided, there was little federal agents could do to prevent stockpiling of whiskey, which was subsequently taken to the American shore at a convenient time.

However, a bizarre situation developed when the Ontario Government bowed to pressure from Temperance organizers and prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol in the province. Manufacture of liquor for export purposes was still legal. Boatload after boatload of export whiskey left the Ontario distilleries, only to be smuggled back into the province and boot-legged to local consumers. This was far safer than slipping past American law enforcement officers, and fortunes were made in the County from the rum-running business. Many small operators sold a few cases of whiskey here and there to eke out the family income, and an unbelievable number of local residents were involved on an occasional basis. Unfortunately for the smugglers, Ontario eventually cracked down on rumrunning, and one by one the amateurs dropped out, leaving the hazardous profession in the hands of a daring few.

 


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

Buried Treasure

Apr
05

South Marysburgh

In 1760, two French ships ran into heavy seas near Main Duck Island and foundered. One of the ships attempted to sail into the harbour at Main Ducks, but the ship broke apart on the point. There were a few survivors, who salvaged some supplies and a chest of gold from their broken vessel. The gold was buried somewhere on the island. One by one, the marooned sailors died of cold and starvation and were buried, until there was but one left. This poor sailor’s skeleton was found many years later, far from the graves of his fellow crew members, and the point where the ship foundered has been known as Graveyard Point ever since. The chest of gold still waits on Main Duck Island.

 


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

Gold Off Pt. Traverse

Mar
29

South Marysburgh

On April 29, 1853 the passenger and cargo steamer “The Ocean Wave” burned and sank three miles off Pt. Traverse with the loss of twenty-eight lives.

The Ocean Wave was a cordwood burner and the fire is believed to have started from sparks from her funnel. She had apparently been engaged in a race up the lake with another boat. The fire was so intense that it drove the second mate from the wheel and destroyed all of the lifeboats. The engine could not be stopped and was still running when she sank. The Captain was rescued by a Pt. Traverse farmer who rowed the two miles out to the burning ship. Nearby vessels saw the fire and rushed to the scene, picking survivors out of the icy waters of the lake.

It is said that all of the company’s earnings for the year were aboard The Ocean Wave. The gold and silver was being carried to Montreal for deposit when she went down, and as far as anyone knows, still lies on the bottom of the lake.

 


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

The Wreck of the Bavaria

Mar
22

South Marysburgh

The Bavaria was a three-masted timber drogher under tow by a steam barge, when it ran into mountainous seas near Point Petre. The Bavaria’s tow line parted and the ship, unable to gain any steerage way, quickly drifted off. She wasn’t found until two days later on Great Galloo Island, southwest of Main Ducks. The ship was intact, ropes in place and sails stowed. The Captain’s papers and freight money were in his desk; there was a batch of bread in the galley oven, and a pet canary was found chirping cheerfully in its cage. The disappearance of the crew of the Bavaria remains a mystery to this day.

 


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

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.

The Marysburgh Vortex

Mar
08

South Marysburgh

So many ships have gone down in the stretch of water around Main Duck Island and Point Traverse the area has become known as “The Graveyard of Lake Ontario”. In these waters compass readings are unreliable, shoals and sandbars lie treacherously waiting, and fierce storms blow up with no warning. The number of tragedies that have occurred rivals the infamous “Bermuda Triangle”. Local lore refers to the area as “The Marysburgh Vortex” and any strange events are automatically attributed to its effect.

Also, Prince Edward County sailors will never paint their boats blue. The colour is considered very unlucky. The only boats that are blue belong to yachters and that’s because “they don’t know any better” according to the sailors.

 


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

The Germans of Marysburgh

Mar
01

North Marysburgh

After the American Revolution, there were many mercenary soldiers who had been hired by the British who had no wish to return to Europe. One such group of soldiers from Brunswick and Hanau were offered settlement in Marysburgh, or Fifth Town as it was then known. The group was left waiting at Kingston until the distant township was surveyed. It was late fall by the time they reached their land. Materials and supplies were promised, but at that time, Marysburgh was at the ends of the earth, and very little help actually arrived. The leader of the group, Baron von Reitzenstein, borrowed money to outfit the settlement when his complaints to British authorities went unanswered. When creditors pressed the Baron to repay this money, he was unable to settle his debts, and his 600 acre allotment was seized. Disillusioned, he returned to Quebec City where he died in 1794.

The settlement hung on. Eventually the farms prospered and the little German community grew. The first church in the County was the Lutheran Church which stood just north of Roses Cemetery, which was known for many years as “The Old Dutch Burying Ground”. (“Dutch” is a corruption of “Deutsh”). The church lasted for only a few years, as the congregation was too small to support a regular clergyman, but these early settlers have left their legacy in the form of the many German names that are still found on County mailboxes; names like Minaker, Dainard and Bongard. A plaque in front of the Rose House Museum in North Marysburgh commemorates Baron von Reitzenstein and his little band of soldiers turned settler.

 


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

Treasure at Glenora

Feb
22

North Marysburgh

At Glenora there is a cave some 50 feet from the top, which can only be reached by a narrow path along the face of the cliff. During the Seven Years War, a French admiral watched from the cave while the British and French fleets fought one of the last marine battles of the war. Fearing defeat, the admiral hid all his treasure in an adjoining room-sized cave and sealed the small entrance to it. No record can be found of the admiral ever returning to claim it, and his treasure still waits somewhere high up on the cliff.

 


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

Lake on the Mountain

Feb
15

North Marysburgh


Lake on the Mountain is one of the most famous, and most mysterious places in Prince Edward County. Lying 190 feet above the level of the Bay of Quinte, it has no visible source of water supply, but maintains a constant level and even has an overflow down over the cliff to the Bay below.

It was known as Okenoga, “Lake of the Gods” to the Hurons, and they offered gifts to the three sisters who lived in the bottomless lake. Another native legend says the lake had once been a smoking mountain, with a passage to the centre of the earth. Many early white settlers believed it was a volcano crater and would become alarmed whenever the waters of the lake became warmer than normal.

A local legend tells the story of the daughter of an Indian chief, who was very beautiful. Anxious to cement an alliance with a neighbouring tribe, the chief ordered his daughter to marry one of their warriors, Annosothka, who was very powerful. But the girl was in love with Gowanda, a brave from her own tribe. Gowanda was ambushed by a hostile tribe while on a hunting trip and was taken hostage. The Indian maiden waited and waited, but eventually gave up hope and agreed to marry Annosothka. The chief prepared a great feast and lit a huge ceremonial fire to celebrate the event. As the girl sat in front of the fire, a snake slithered towards her, prepared to strike. Suddenly, out of the woods, leapt a young brave who killed the snake with a knife, saving her life. It was Gowanda, who had escaped from his captors and found his way home, guided by the light of the ceremonial wedding fire. The girl then informed her father and her fiance of her love for Gowanda. Dejected, Annosothka accepted her decision. He then plunged into the icy waters of Lake on the Mountain, never to be seen again. On a still night, if one listens carefully, Annosothka’s call to his betrothed can still be heard.

Many people believe that the bottom of the lake has a subterranean passage to Lake Erie, which is at the same altitude, but scientists claim it is fed by an underground spring. Whatever the explanation, it is one of the most intriguing mysteries of the County.

 


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.