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Local Marine Archeologist applying for a National Historic Site designation

March 10, 2015

Town Council

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In 2001, a major shipwreck find was discovered on the shore of Lake Huron in Southampton, Saugeen Shores in Bruce County.

It was later determined that it was the H.M.S. General Hunter, a British Royal Navy warship from the War of 1812 between the British (Canada) and the United States and that actually took part in the Capture of Detroit.

Renown Marine Archeologist, Ken Cassavoy, headed up two excavations, 2001 and 2004, of the site with experts from many fields volunteering to lend their services to the more than 200 community volunteers who took part in the uncovering of the ship.

Marine Archeologist Ken Cassavoy

Since the historical discovery, Cassavoy has continued to press for the preservation of the Hunter for the future.  The ship, that was re-buried in order to preserve it beneath cold wet sand on the Southampton Beach, is protected by a breakwater stone wall with interpretive signage that depicts the story of the General Hunter and that attracts many visitors through the summer tourist months.

On Monday, March 9th, Cassavoy came to Saugeen Shores Town Council to ask for support in having the shipwreck location designated a National Historical Site.  To view Cassavoy's deputation: Presentation

He pointed out that all the artifacts found during the excavation had been sent to the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa and then returned and that now are housed in the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre in Southampton.

According to Cassavoy, the Federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, is the government agency that oversees historic designations and the General Hunter is a likely candidate for designation. 

The Province of Ontario owns the land and is under a management agreement with the Municipality, therefore, the Town of Saugeen Shores must agree.  Saugeen First Nation Chief, Vern Roote, has said that he has indicated the Saugeen Ojibway Nation is in support of the designation.

The designation ensures that on-going site maintenance by owners and public will continue into the future.  "The town staff has been exceptional when it comes to the protection and maintenance of the site," said Cassavoy.

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He also stressed the importance of the site as a tourist destination and attraction.  It (designation) also validates the importance of the site as an educational and historical focus both of which, according to Cassavoy, have not been explored.

The General Hunter is already on one plaque in the Royal Navy Yard in Amherstburg but Cassavoy said that the entire process will take upwards of two years and that the application will require a resolution by Council in support.



"This is the type of signage that I would like to see at the General Hunter site," he added.

Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber said that the Municipal Heritage Committee is in entire agreement with the proposed designation.  "This is a wonderful idea," she said.

"I want to raise the profile of this ship as there were only two naval engagements in the War of 1812, and the General Hunter was involved in one of them," said Cassavoy.  "It was a British Royal navy vessel under Royal command."

The Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre plays a key role with the story of the H.M.S. General Hunter and, in fact, the Marine Heritage Society volunteers have designed and built a replica of the ship that is now in the Museum's marine gallery and the artifacts form the original ship are on display there.

Councilor Neil Menage said that he would like to see the ship as an 'anchor' for a future marine museum in Southampton.

Cassavoy also showed Council the book, 'Coffins of the Grave' that is now in available in local libraries and that contains a chapter dedicated to the H.M.S. General Hunter.

Council agreed that a resolution in support for the historical designation would be forthcoming.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015