Naval Marine Archive - The Canadian Collection
Library Catalogue Ships database Research Collections Bibliography About us Donate

The Journal of Captain Walter Butler,
on a Voyage along the North Shore of Lake Ontario,
from the 8th to the 16th of March, 1779.

Niagara, 8th March, 1779 - Three o'clock in the afternoon, set off for Canada in a batteau. The weather calm, the season very forward and more than common fine, no appearance of snow, ice, or frost. Rowed to the 12 Mile Pond, encamped; saw this evening a large flock of pigeon in trees and numbers of geese and ducks in the pond.

12 Mile Pond, 9th March - At six put off, the wind and swell high and ahead; but the hands being good oarsmen kept the lake till the 20 Mile Pond or river, when the wind increasing and no harbour nearer than the 40 Mile Creek, made for the Creek and was 'near striking on the bar, but the force of the waves on the stern and working briskly of the oars got into the river. An Indian cabin on the bank inhabited by Missassaugas. The 20 Mile Creek is a fine stream, though shallow at the entrance and narrow at the mouth, but very wide a little way up. The land in general level, though higher on the east side. Timber - oak, pine and a few chestnut trees. The place appears as the head of the lake, though it turns for forty miles westerly beyond this before the lake turns to the north-eastward. This creek heads near Point Obino, 18 miles above Fort Erie on Lake Erie, likewise the 12 and 16 mile creeks rise out of -the swamp near Lake Erie. Boats can go up this creek about 15 miles. Saw a number of blackbirds. 3 o'clock put off, the wind falling, and rowed till four, hoisted sail and continued till six, rowed till 7 o'clock, put in shore and encamped on a low, sandy beach, five miles from the creek in this bay forming the head of the lake, hauled the boat up the distance from the said creek to Niagara, 60 miles.

10th March - Put off at daylight, every appearance of a fair wind, rowed an hour, the wind came ahead, increased with a high swell, was obliged to put into the river at the head of the lake, shipped water twice before we made the river, the wind at east. From the west side of 20 Mile Creek the land lowers till you come 12 miles off this, where it forms a fine sandy beach with a few trees near the shore, which continues a mile beyond this where the shore turns and runs about north-east, whence it is a broken shore with a bank of seven or eight feet and no landing with boats for ten miles. In windy weather a boat may go up this river 10 or 13 miles, whence there is a carrying place of 13 miles into the river Tranche, which falls into the lake of St. Clair. After you enter the river about 400 yards it forms a lake or pond of four miles over and six long. Between it and the lake is a narrow neck of land of 400 yards wide, covered with a few trees and reedy grass; on this the Indians hut in the fishing season. This pond in the season has great numbers of all sorts of water fowl. Round this lake or pond a quantity of hay might be made. This morning about seven, the weather being clear and little or no wind, we saw the spray or mist of the Fall of Niagara, being from this about south-east. A canoe with Missassaugas came to us, gave me ducks, in return gave them powder and shot and bread, they being out of ammunition. 1 learned from them that Joseph Brant had left his boat here and took two canoes 11 days ago.

Head of the Lake, 11th March - Got up at daylight, wind still ahead and too hard to put out; amused ourselves shooting ducks and blackbirds. Set in raining at ten this morning. An hour before sunset a thunder gust with lightning and a heavy rain. Thick fog and calm, though still a high swell. Set off a little before sunset. Half an hour out fog cleared off with a hard north-west wind very squally, could not sail, rowed till eight o'clock, the wind and swell too high to go any further this night; put into the 12 Mile Creek with much difficulty. Got into the creek, obliged to drag the boat, water sufficient, but a fall in the mouth of the creek; ten o'clock at night before we could kindle a fire; the ground and wood wet; encamped on a bare point. The wind blew down our tent. Up this creek a sawmill might be erected,. having fine rapids and good timber for boards. This creek in the fall is filled with salmon, as all the other large runs of water are in the fall season. From Niagara to this the lake shallow near the shore, though good anchoring ground off in the lake.

12th March - Set off at seven o'clock this morning; the wind at N.W.; too much off shore to sail; rowed till 11 o'clock; put into the river called the Credit, 17 miles from the last station. The shore in general good for boats to land; the land low and a good beach, except the points, which are bluff. Two Missassaugas came to me and informed me a number of them lived up this river. Gave them bread and put off at 12; rowed to the bay above Toronto; hoisted sail: found the wind too high to go round the long point forming the basin or bay below Toronto. Continuing sailing down the bay to the camping place, unloaded the boat, hauled her over and loaded again in an hour and a half; rowed from this to the beginning of the high lands, encamped on the beach and secured the boat. Toronto was built on a level spot of ground nearly opposite a long narrow neck or point of land running seven or eight miles into the lake, forming a noble bay of eight or nine miles deep, two or three miles from the bottom of which, on the north side, ships can ride in safety. It's strange the French built the fort where they did and not where their shipping were wont to lay, which was a few miles below the fort down the bay. The bay of Toronto was filled with all sorts of wild fowl. Saw on the north side of the bay several wigwams and ,canoes turned up on shore. The land about Toronto appears very good for cultivation. From Toronto to the river du Credit it is 12 miles across the bay, but better than 20. along shore, which is the way boats must take except the weather is very calm or a light breeze in your favour. From Toronto to the beginning of the high lands is nine or ten miles down the basin, but nearly double round the point.

13th March - Got off at daylight; the wind from the land, could not sail, rowed till twelve; passed the high lands and a small bay. Put into Pinewood Creek. Here one Duffin resided formerly; since when a Frenchman has resided here. He went off a little before we came. Two houses a little up the creek, one entire, the other stripped. This creek is famous with the Indians for great quantities of fish. The distance from this to the other end of the highlands is about 20 miles, 15 of which are few or no places where a boat could be saved in case of a storm off the lake, the bank being very high and steep, being a mixture of clay and chalk nearly as hard as freestone; it forms a romantic, wild view, in many places appearing like towns in ruins, the relics of houses, remains of chimneys, etc. From the lake you would take it for a large town built of stone partly demolished. Put off at ten o'clock, rowed till three, the wind fair, sailed till four, rowed till six, no wind; put ashore in a deep bay where we found a fine creek, its water as clear as crystal. Encamped a little up the creek in this bay. 1 believe vessels might ride with safety from the N.E. or N.W. wind, but not from the S.E. or S.W. The distance from this [possibly Newcastle?] to the Pinewood Creek is about 30 miles, the lake all along forming small bays in which you have a good beach in which a boat may be secure in case of a storm.

14th March - Set off at daylight; rowed till twelve; the swell increasing with the wind ahead at east, put into a creek called by the Indians Pamituscoteyank (the fat fire) [Port Hope?]; the distance from our encampment 15 miles; at this creek and two others nearly of the same name the Indians in the fishing season reside [1]. All those three creeks head near a lake about 30 miles long, distant from this about 50 miles where the Missassaugas have two villages and where the Canadians in winter. send traders. Expresses in winter pass this lake on their way to Canada. Set off at one o'clock, the wind off shore, rowed till two; sailed till night, put into a deep bay; found a creek but could not get in, the stream running very rapid; rowed further in the bay and encamped on the beach; secured the boat. From the Fat Fire Creek to this about thirty miles, the shore and particularly the bays level, and good beaches for boats to land and the points bluff, the lake shoal near the shore.

15th March - Put off as soon as day appeared and rowed till ten; passed a long point which forms two deep bays, one on either side, of ten miles to the bottom. In the bay to the west falls one of the, creeks before mentioned, coming from near the small lake inhabited by t he Missassaugas. In those two bays vessels might lay secure from storms on the lake, in, the west bay sheltered from the S.E. and N.E winds, in the east from the W. and N.W. winds. The point runs direct into the lake for four miles, at least. You can't see the bottom of the east bay in passing across from the end of the point to the main. This bay has a fine river falling into it from the cast, which forms a basin and a narrow entrance into it, occasioned by a narrow neck or sandy beach between the lake and river. At 11 o'clock hoisted sail, the wind off shore; at 10 o'clock passed two islands, the one called St. Nicholas, the other never knew a name nor did I know there was one of St. Nicholas; St. Nicholas is about one half a mile in circumference, the other about half that size. St. Nicholas is about one mile from shore, the other much smaller and about two miles beyond it directly out into the lake, either of which would be a safe retreat for vessels in a storm, these islands are about 12 miles east of the before-mentioned point forming the two bays. When the wind is high the boats go within two miles of the bottom of these bays and drag the boats across a point of land about 200 yards wide. The distance from our encampment to the point about 12 miles, from the point to St. Nicholas Island about 10 miles. Continued sailing till night, put in shore and encamped on a low point where we found a fine creek and a good harbour in a pond for our boat. Since this morning a great number of wild fowl. From the island to this is about 25 miles; the shore much the same as yesterday, the points not so bluff.

March 16th - Put off our boat very early, much ice which had formed last night, the wind ahead and partly from the shore which partly drove the ice into the lake; rowed till 9 o'clock; came up to the Duck islands and saw the islands called the False Ducks about south from the real Ducks; the distance I take to be better than 12 miles between the real and the False Ducks as they appear from here. The vessels, if I remember well, made the distance more. Those islands afford a safe retreat for vessels in case of a storm. The islands are much alike, about a mile round and nearly circular distant from the main, four miles and from each other one. The weather calm, rowed across a very deep bay of 20 miles down and about ten directly over. This bay is much larger if taken from the point of a large island to the cast and the Ducks to the west part of the main, and the large island on the east side of the bay from the Ducks appears like a number of small islands and in many places a single tree is only seen. Many persons not acquainted with the passage have taken down the bay supposing it to be the entrance of the river, and in coming from the river have imagined the main to the west to be islands from its appearance, and go likewise down this bay. Traders go in two days to the before mentioned small lake inhabited by the Missassaugas. Continued rowing till the mouth of the Caderouqua[2] Bay, the wind coming fair sailed into Caderouqua harbour. The distance from our encampment to Caderouqua about 32 miles, the land in general very low and swampy back; the points rocky and shallow for some way out. There is so much of a sameness in the appearance of the land from the highlands to the river that a few miles off in the lake there is no knowing one place from the other. Nothing but the walls of the barracks and houses remain of the Fort. It appears never to have been a place of strength, neither do I think its situation will admit its being made so, the land very stony and ground back to command it. It has a fine safe harbour for shipping. The little island opposite the Fort improved in the French time is now covered with small trees.

I am told vessels cannot sail out of Caderouqua to the lake but with a north or north-west wind. An east and south wind are fair winds for ships once clear of the river to Niagara. The above are all the observations I made on the north shore of Ontario, which would have been more perfect but for the severity of the weather, which prevented me taking notice of many parts of the shore, neither did I think these remarks would have been seen or would have been more particular.

(Read 7th January, 1893 by Captain Ernest Cruikshank.)

[1] [Back] Long, in his travels, p78, and elsewhere, mentions this place by the name of Pimistiscotyan Landing. He apparently resided there for some time.

[2] [Back]] Variant spelling of Cataraqui, now known as Kingston, Ontario.



Naval Marine ArchiveThe Canadian Collection
205 Main Street, Picton, Ontario, K0K2T0, Canada
Telephone: 1 613 476 1177
E-mail: for comments, queries and suggestions.

Copyright © 2024
Naval Marine Archive
The Canadian Collection

Revised: 6 January 2015