BURGEO IN THE PAST
The original settlers built their homes near the shore. These settlers came here to live because it was near some good fishing grounds and it was convenient to live and work as near as possible to the sea. These fishermen built first on the three islands in Burgeo Harbour (and along the Harbour shoreline). Some families from Hermitage Bay lived on Hunts and Our Harbour Islands. More lived on Upper Burgeo Islands and on Western Sandbanks. The Harbour residents were living in what was called "Lower Burgeo" and the Upper Burgeo Island and Sandbanks areas were known as "Upper Burgeo". Several families were even living at King's Harbour and Bay de Lieu, a short distance below Burgeo.
The first method of transportation was by sailing schooner, fishing skiff or dory. There were no engines to move the boats and the wind and man power had to be depended upon. Fishermen rowed their punts (large fishing boats) as far as eight miles to an area off Burgeo called "Scotland Banks".
There were no bridges or roads in 1848. Planks spanned the mud holes. With the aid of Mr. Gore, from Somerset, England and government grants, good roads were built. Mr. Gore was also responsible for cutting the canal from Little Barachoix to the mouth of Grandy's Brook. Had this canal existed previously to 1859 a loss of three telegraph operators by drowning would have been prevented. (The three operators were buried inside an iron railing square located in the South West corner of the Church Cemetary and quite near the road). Later coastal boats were used to transport people and goods along the coast.
The methods of communication then were often very slow. Letters to be sent outside were carried by sailing ships to their destination. This often took months. Later telegraph lines were strung throughout Newfoundland, offices were built in main areas (Grandy's River, Burgeo and White Bear Bay), and operators were appointed to operate the "key" which sent and received messages on the landline. Mr. Edwin Mercer came to Burgeo, after serving World War I, as a operator. The telegraph company was called ANGLO. George Henderson, now deceased, travelled miles of country as a line repairman. A bridge, built below the first causeway, served as a connection between Grandy's Island and the mainland for the repairman and it was also used extensively by hunters and trappers.
Mail and parcels to small communities between Burgeo and Grey
River were transported weekly by a small schooner often referred to as the "Mail
Packet". This boat was manned by a skipper and engineer. The mail, etc. would be
taken to a certain home in each community and distributed to the callers as each
arrived to pick up his/her mail. The householder responsible for the mail was
paid a small sum by the government for duties rendered.
Most houses built then were two storey buildings. There were few with basements and most were built close to the ground in order to cut down on draft, etc. Since there were no furnaces, these homes were cold and drafty during the winter months. Fires of coal or wood were seldom kept burning all night. The houses usually had a porch, kitchen, pantry, parlour and some had a dining room downstairs. Upstairs there were usually three or four bedrooms. Families were larger than today thus more rooms were needed. Nearly every house was the owners pride and joy. It was kept up to the best of his ability. A fence and vegetable garden surrounded most of the houses. and they were farther apart than they are today because the population was much smaller. The homes were lighted with kerosene (coal oil) lamps which gave very little light and difficult to study by when compared to our lighting today. Every day the light would be prepared for the coming of night. The chimney was cleaned of the soot which often smudged it. The wick had to be trimmed for the light to glow evenly and the lamp was refilled with oil.
The main foods eaten in those days were often the same as today like bread, fruit, vegetables, eggs, cereal, etc. It was impossible to preserve food like meat or fish for the summer months due to the fact that there were no fridges in the homes. The meat and fish had to be salted or bottled. During the winter months vegetables grown during the summer were kept from freezing by storing them in cellars in outside areas built of logs and then well sodded. Every family grew their own vegetables. Birds, rabbits, chicken, mutton, veal, beef, and berry jam often helped to keep the family members well fed and happy. There always seemed to be some sort of fish available to anyone who needed it. Any type of food needed, but unable to be supplied by the family, had to be purchased at some local store. The sailing boats and later coastal boats brought supplies to each community visited. The store owners would sell the goods to the consumers.
From the earliest times up to 1835 when John B. Cox came, there were no merchants settled here, but trading vessels only sailing from Jersey Harbour and LaPoile. Mr. Cox first built at West Burgeo on the harbour side of the Sandbanks. After a few years he moved to Lower Burgeo and built premises at the site of Henry Clements "Old Room". The reason why the first shop was built at West Burgeo then was because there were more people living in that area at that time. When a new company Newman, Hunt & Co. moved here and began building a large house, shop and store at Mercers, Mr. Cox, being a shrewd man saw that he could do nothing with this firm as competitors, sold the property to them and moved to Prince Edward Island, and for many years carried on an extensive business there and became a Member of Parliament.
Warm clothing was very essential to the early settlers with sub-zero (F°) weather for long periods during the winter and the poorly heated homes, churches and schools. Men and boys usually wore thick knitted sweaters made from sheep's wool. They wore warm underwear and heavy windbreakers. There were no parkas then. They often had to wear headdress with ear flaps to keep the ears from freezing. During the summer less heavy clothing was worn. The summers then were warmer and light clothing was often worn. Women and girls wore long cloth coats, sometimes with fur collars during winters. Women wore long 'button up' leather boots. Almost everyone had two sets of clothing. The best clothes would be worn only on Sundays and on special occasions. The others, not so new, would be worn during the remaining six weekdays. Children from poor off families would often have to wear denim jeans or pants because then they were the least expensive to purchase.
Womens head dress was quite elaborate. The hats were quite a spectacle with wide brims, and decorated with plumage, bows or flowers. A lot of the clothes was made in the home. Sweaters, underwear, stockings, mittens and head coverings were knit from wool obtained from local sheep. Some of the clothes would be made from those worn previously by older members of the family or donated by neighbours. People who could afford it would buy from St. John's or Simpsons and Eatons. Anything purchased from Simpsons or Eatons previous to 1949 was claimed only after the purchaser had paid his duty tax to the custom official stationed here. Sometimes the excise duty was 40% and 50% of the cost of the order.
The first phones appeared during the late 1920's. Headphones were used to pick up the sound from it and batteries gave it its power. The first television appeared during the 1960's (Electricity 1961).
The coming of the road did make a drastic change to Burgeo. It's main change was to help alleviate the isolation of the town. Goods could now be transported to and from Burgeo. People needing medical help could obtain it much easier and sometimes more quickly. Paved roads meant the coming of more cars and trucks. The wheelbarrow, the mostly used means of transporting coal and other heavy commodities, rapidly disappeared.
From the time of the earliest settlers in 1800, there was no medical man on this shore until the coming of Dr. Morris from St. John's. He left previous to 1860. G. Quinton Hunt M.D. came in 1861. Other doctors followed and during the reign of Commission Government in Newfoundland it was decided to build cottage Hospitals in several outport areas. Luckily Burgeo was one of the chosen ones and the Hospital was officially opened around 1936. For many years the hospital had one doctor to serve the coast from near Rencontre West to LaPoile. The hospital boat "Lady Anderson" also visited Burgeo and other coastal communities on a regular basis. The boat carried a Doctor who held clinic aboard when the services were required. The boat was also called upon to do Chest X-rays and emergency services when patients needed transportation to hospitals.
I can find no information on the Postal services previous to 1920's. At that time the Post Office was located at the eastern end of Central Stores. Theresa Matthews, wife of Rupert Matthews deceased) who later moved to Boston,was the Post Mistress. Later a Post Office was built close to the road and opposite the Banfield property. (Previously John Cunningham's). The late Mr. T. Banfield was Postmaster there until his retirement.
The first Anglican school was built on the site of the Parish Hall. It was built during Rev. Martin Blackmore's stay here. He was Burgeo's first clergyman. The school was sharp roofed and had small diamond shaped panes in the windows. The windows were similar to those removed from the church during the renovation in 1967. The picture of the first school was hung in the old school (Teacher's Residence) for many years, but unfortunately no one can tell what happened to the picture. The first teacher was Mr. John Jordan who came from England as store-keeper on the Old Room (Clement's & Co.). He later became schoolteacher and lay reader here. He became Magistrate and was forced to give up his teaching career. He died in 1886, aged 94 years. What a work of love this man performed for the Church and community holding services, baptising infants, burying the dead in absences of minister, besides keeping school twice a day! Methods of instruction were simple and primitive, but he could teach reading, writing and plain arithmetic. He was the only teacher in the school at that time. In l25 and until 1940 there were three teachers in the Anglican school.
It wasn't until 1883 that a Methodist (United Church) teacher was appointed. A Mr.E.S. Bonnell was hired to teach a total of twenty-eight children. A Miss Annie Brett succeeded Mr. Bonnell in 1885. She taught thirty-two pupils. There is no account of the number of pupils who attended the first Church of England school. The United Church school was built on the present site of the Church Hall.
Rev. Martin Blackmore came to Burgeo in 1842. During his six years stay he had the first Church as well as school erected here. The church was built between the two present gates and nearer the main road. Rev. Blackmore must have been a very busy man having all the coast from Cape LaHune to Channel, ninety miles to cover and care for. His first baptism was Matilda Ann, daughter of John and Francis Anderson of Upper Burgeo, May 22, 1842. During Rev. Blackmore's incumbency the first church was also built at West Burgeo. It was on the west side of the island, a nice quiet spot. It seated eighty people. In the Eighties another church was built there to replace this one and consecrated by Bishop Jones in 1878. The church was blown down in a gale December 1879. The third church was built up there not on the island, but on the Western Sandbanks under the lee of a wooded hill. Later people of that area started to move away and the church was taken down. The furniture of this church was removed by ship to Ramea for the new church that was being erected there.
Rev. John Cunningham succeeded Rev. Blackmore. He spent forty-six years as pastor, missionary, teacher, builder, pioneer doctor and friend of the people from Grey River to Otter's Point. Due to the fact that the population was increasing in Lower Burgeo a larger church was necessary. When nearly ready for rough-boarding, it was blown down in a heavy gale on Thursday, Feb. 22, 1855 and re-erected on a reduced scale. It was built in cruciform shape with pointed towers at the Crossing. It was finished in 1856. The architect of the plans was Rev. William White Grey of Portugal Cove, NFLD. During Rev. Thomas Allsopp stay a larger church was needed to replace the smaller one.
At the end of 1896 this third church was begun, and inside of two years finished and paid for. It was consecrated by Bishop Jones Aug. 28, 1898. The building was in charge of Mr. Amice Pinel and everyone gave free labour. In Dec. 1909, during a gale which lasted several days, the beautiful church fell. It was not insured for such a disaster. The fourth church, part of the present one, was commenced April 1911. It was finished 1912 free of debt and consecrated in August by Bishop Jones. This church was reduced in height and renovated inside and outside in 1967.
The price of a quintel of dry fish (112 lbs) was $2.60 in in 1860, but in 1864 the price rose to $16.00.
|2.||Lobsters (1 lb. tins) were sold in London for 12 ¢.|
|3.||The seine was used during the 1800's to catch the greater part of the fish. Later, trawls came into use.|
|4.||The first schooner to take part in the export of dry fish from Burgeo to European markets was Riseover II.|
|5.||W.E.Cormack visited Burgeo during December 1822 Burgeo then had five or six families. Ramea had two.|
|A French Captain at that time explained the meanings of "Burgeo" and "Ramea". He explains "You see the long islands of Ramea. They are Les Rameaux, the branches, and over there you see the round islands of Burgeo. They are Les Bonrgeous; the buds.|
|7.||Upper Burgeo had two families in 1796. They were Andersons. When John Matthews came to Lower Burgeo in 1796 there was one family there. A Mr. Currie living on the site of Edward Carter's house. Mr. Matthews settled on Slades Island. (Small's Island). Mr. Currie later moved to Rose Blanche.|