The Nancy was built in Detroit for the Montreal firm Forsyth, Richardson and Company and launched November 24, 1789. She had a beam of 22 feet and an overall hull length of 80 feet. Length of the loaded water line was 68 feet. These dimensions were provided in a letter written by John Richardson in which he described the Nancy as "a perfect masterpiece of workmanship and beauty". Mr. Richardson provided the following description of the materials used in the hull. "Her floor timbers, keel, keelson, stem and lower futtocks are oak. The transom, stern post, upper part of the stem, upper futtocks, top timbers, stern timbers, beams and knees are all red cedar". After her maiden voyage in 1790 he noted she was "spoken of here in such high strain of encomium as to beauty, stowage and sailing that she almost exceeds my expectations".
The Nancy was rigged as a two masted topsail schooner. She carried fore/aft sails on her lower fore and main masts and squares sails on the fore lower mast as well as top and topgallant sails on both masts. The Nancy also carried jib and flying jib sails.
Initially, the Nancy sailed between Fort Erie and Detroit with some trips to Michilimackinac on Lake Huron. The British hired her to transport dispatches to their military establishments in 1794 and again in 1801. In 1813 she was under contract to the British government to carry livestock, cannon, troops, furniture, lumber and food supplies for the British garrisons.
In August of 1814 the Nancy was loaded with salt port, flour and other supplies for Michilimackinac. Lieutenant Miller Worsley, R.N., then in command, got word that the United States Navy had sent three ships, Tigress, Niagara and Scorpion to Lake Huron to hunt for the Nancy and take her. Worsley sailed the Nancy up the Nottawasaga river to conceal her from the probing American Navy ships. Knowing the forces against him Worsley set charges in the Nancy that could be used to sink her rather than allow the American Navy to capture the ship. He removed the six pound cannon and two 24 pound carronades from the ship to a blockhouse on shore to create a defensive position.
The Nancy was well hidden and could not be seen from the lake. Things changed when crew from one of the American ships say the Nancy's masts while they were on shore collecting fire wood. The U.S. ships carried 24 guns and had 10 times the number of men Worsley had at his disposal. Worsley knew he could not win the battle. Before he could light the fuse to blow up his ship a direct hit on the Blockhouse ignited the fuse and set the Nancy ablaze. She burned to the waterline and sank in the river.
Avenging the Nancy
Worsley and his men escaped into the forest. Once the American ships left they boarded bateau and rowed the 575km to Michilimackinac. During this voyage they saw the Tigress and Scorpion. Three days later they rowed out to where the American ships had been seen. Under cover of darkness they boarded the Tigress and took her. Worsley lured the Scorpion into position three days later and took her as well.
Recovering the Nancy
Over time silt coming down the Nottawasaga formed an island around the remains of the Nancy. C.H.J Snider discovered the hull in 1911. It was recovered in 1927 and a museum created for it on Nancy Island. A diagram, drawn by Christopher Sabick, of the recovered remains is shown below.