Settlement History and the Speedy

In 1787 a part of a large tract of land, the area that makes up Presqu'ile, was ceded to the British by the Mississaugas.  In 1800 the peninsula was designated as the site of 'Newcastle', the planned capital of a new district that would later become the counties of Northumberland and Durham.

A courthouse, the first of several projected public buildings, was to be inaugurated with the trial of an Ojibway man arrested for the murder of a fur trader.  In October 1804, a schooner from the town of York (Toronto), carrying the prisoner, witnesses and the government dignitaries who were to try him, sank off of High Bluff Island with the loss of all hands.

The loss of the schooner, Speedy, and her notable passengers was a serious blow to the young province.  Soon after that, the Governor of Upper Canada, decided that the site was inconvenient for a courthouse and jail, and the capital was erected at what later became the town of Cobourg.

Presqu'ile never developed as a commercial centre, although some of the land was cleared for farming.  By 1830 most of the early settlers had re-located to the near-by town of Gosport, which had better transportation connections to the mainland.  By 1869 only 19 families remained on the peninsula and most of those drifted away over the years.  By 1927 only the Atkins' farm remained and they were usually the only winter residents of the peninsula for many years.  In 1957 the Atkins' farm was purchased by the province to be added to the provincial park and the last farm at Presqu'ile was gone.

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