The Newfoundland Quarterly
VITAL STATISTICS OF BURGEO
BETWEEN 1860 and 1925
Edited by Rev. H. W. Cunningham
Such is the title given to one hundred and twenty closely written pages of foolscap left behind him after his passing by my brother-in-law, the late Mr. Joseph H. Small, J. P. , and for many years Stipendiary Magistrate of Burgeo.
They are divided by the author into four Chapters, with a closing short writing on “Fish and Prices at that Time”. Chapter I, would include early settlers, the first clergymen, government officials, doctors, mercantile establishments. Chapter II, labours of Mr. Blackmore, visits of Archdeacons Wix and Bridge, lists of clergy up-to-date, building of churches and schools. Chapter III, wrecks, marine and other disasters. Chapter IV, gives a history of families far too long for this present method of publication. It would need to be issued in book form: very valuable for present and past living Burgeo people and their descendants. During my annual rest month at Burgeo I had heard him speak of these writings, and now that he is gone, at my request I have received from Mr. J. H. Small, J. P., M. B. E., Director of Government Telegraph Services, the sheets of statistics and will copy those that can appear in THE NEWFOUNDLAND QUARTERLY. I shall bracket any additional matter that may strike me as illustrative or explanatory, supplying also a few numbered notes by way of editorial privilege whensoever I feel it necessary or helpful. There is a large amount of material packed in these pages by him who for nearly 70 years lived amongst the people of that part of Newfoundland, which struck me as well worth preserving in permanent form. I doubt if there is any other outharbour that can point to such a local history as is contained in the “vital statistics” of Burgeo - 1800-1925 - by our late Magistrate. The Supreme Court when on circuit often praised him for his records as well as for magisterial efficiency. His genealogical knowledge of the people was extraordinary. From Pass Island to Cape Ray he knew the history of every person. I like to think that it would please him to know that his “statistics” were being shown to the public; and I am pleased hat I can employ part of my leisure from active work in assisting to that end.
Hon. Canon All Saints Cathedral, Halifax,
Hantsport, N. S.
I had much conversation in the past with my life-long friend, James Matthews, who passed to his rest a few years ago, regarding the coming to Burgeo of his people. He was of the opinion from what he heard his father say on more than one occasion, that their first coming to Burgeo was in, or very close to 1800, and that they had moved from Cape La Hune. When Grand-father Matthews came with his family, they settled on Slade's Island, better known to more modern inhabitants as Small's Island. They found it well wooded, with plenty of timber large enough for building their house and ordinary boats, besides the large seagoing boat in which they would make their journeys to Jersey Harbour at settling time, spring and fall.
The family was large, four sons and six daughters, and they all had to work to build their house and stage, and my friend said that his father would often remark, “Talk about work, we did work in those days.” Later on in this record this great family with all others will be fully mentioned and their descendants who were living when the writer came in 1860. I will now mention that the grandmother of the family was a Bagg, daughter of the founder of Cape La Hune family which came originally from Burin or St. Lawrence. Another daughter of this family married Benjamin Keeping who was well known to the writer and founder of Burnt Islands. Another married John Pink whose body lies buried at Deer Island, at the mouth of White Bear Bay, another to Mr. Barter of La Hune, and well known to me, another to Mr. Charles Collie, head of the Burgeo and Otter's Point Colliers. When Mr. Matthews came to Burgeo there was only one family settled here before him, a Mr. Currie, and his house was where the John Guy homestead has stood since 1855. This Currie moved to Rose Blanche, one son married before 1860 and he was the progenitor of the family now living at Channel. I was personally acquainted with John, of Isles au Morte in the early seventies. He would tell stories of his great strength, how he lifted half a barrel of what was supposed to be peas but turned out to be a half a barrel of shot!
At the time of Mr. Matthews' coming, there were at West (or Upper) Burgeo two families of Andersons, or so it was understood, but I am of the opinion that there was but one and he came from Burin. Whether one or two they are the progenitors of the Andersons of Otter's Point, West Point (LaPoile) and West Burgeo; Joseph and John now living here are the representatives of this very old family, the first no doubt to settle in West Burgeo. These two families, and others, were long here before a clergyman was settled among them which was not until 1842. 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. I have never heard how long he practised but he had left previous to 1860. There was no doctor at Burgeo then, until the coming of G. Quilton Hunt in 1861, who practised until he was appointed Stipendiary Magistrate in 1886. Thomas J. Murphy son of provincial Engineer of Nova Scotia, a graduate of Belle Vue Medical College, N.Y., came to us in 1888. He remained one year and removed to practise in St. John's. (His after career was by way of New York City, Halifax, and the war 1914-18, where he was considered one of the cleverest surgeons. He died of T.B. after a long illness in Montreal 1936). Dr. Finlay MacDonald came in 1890 and practised for twenty-eight years, then retired to his home at Sherbrooke, N.S., where he only lived a little over a year, dying suddenly of heart failure. He was a kind-hearted man and a good neighbour. Dr. Kean succeeded him in 1919 and is with us at this date.
From the earliest times up to 1835, when John B. Cox came, there was no merchant settled here, but trading vessels only, sailing from Jersey Harbour and LaPoile. Mr. Cox built first at West Burgeo on the harbour side of the sand banks. After a few years he removed to Burgeo, and built premises owned by the great firm of DeGrunchy, Renouf, Clement & Co. from 1864 to 1885 about when a change was made, and the business then became that of Clement & Co.; but for some years now Henry Clement has been the sole owner.
Going back to Mr. Cox, who after continuing business a few years saw a great competitor come on the shore from Harbour Breton, Messrs. Newman, Hunt & Co., a very old firm in Fortune Bay; also had Rooms at St. Lawrence and other places. This firm must have come as early as 1840 or a little later. They started building at Mercers; put up a large house, shop and store. Mr. Cox, being a very shrewd man (our old friend William Billard used to say "He had such a miserable head"), saw that he could do nothing with this firm as competitors, sold his property to them and moved to Prince Edward Island, and for many years carried on an extensive business and became a member of Parliament. While doing business here he had a partner with him, one Francis Antoine, son of the agent of Nicoll & Co. of LaPoile. He went to P.E. Island and Mr. Cox, but not long after returned, report said, with lots of experience but no money. He married a Miss Bagg of LaHune, a cousin of the Burgeo Matthewses. Mr. Antoine went to St. Pierre and entered into business, backed by the experience of former ventures, with the Nicolls and Cox; was successful; became a Judge and was on the bench up to the time of his death, which was in the nineties. He was well known to the Matthews family here.
To take up my main story again, the Newmans built fine premises here, adding four large stores, shop and office, two cook rooms, a cooperage, all, or most of all still standing previous to 1925. The first agent was a Mr. Stevens who retired in the early fifties and went to England and was living in 1879. He was succeeded by Mr. Robert Dawe of Devenport, a very fine man, who remained till 1861, when he with his family returned to England in September. The next agent was Mr. James Watkins who remained till this firm closed up the business in 1862 and moved everything to Gaultois. I think it was the next year that the new Jersey firm of DeGruchy, Renouf Clement & Co. bought “the Old Room” as it has always been called, and I suppose always will be as long as business is carried on there. These two pages give a short account of Mr. Cox and his successors and why he built at West Burgeo - more people living there than here. The first settlers built on the Sandbanks; Anderson owing to the good land kept much cattle, and depended on this source of income as much as on the fishery, as they only prosecuted the summer fishery. I will give a short account of the families here in the thirties to the fifties so that the descendants, of which there are many along this shore and in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and in the United States, may know where their people lived when they came years ago from Burin district and from Hermitage Bay.
West Burgeo Families
West Burgeo families living on the Sandbanks and the Islands: John Anderson, Frederick Cox, Thomas Anderson, John B. Cox, Francis Antoine, Samuel Cox, Henry Strickland, James Matthews, John Matthews, Lambert Forward, William Anderson, Edward Anderson, Augustus Chevalier, Richard Skeard, Robert Rose, George Dicks, George Keeping, Jonathan Rose, Robert Harris, James Blumpied, Francis Read, Christopher Dicks, William Major, William Mead, William Anderson and Edward Anderson, Sr. These Andersons were, no doubt, the first settlers before Burgeo had an inhabitant.
The Sandbanks was the attractive spot of the Burgeos in summertime. It was a two-mile row from Burgeo to Potato Point, the landing spot on the Eastern Sandbanks. Then there was a walk across through grass, wild strawberries and gooseberries. Continuing on after resting at Mr. Ford's for a glass of milk you came to the Western Sandbanks and Fox Point, from whence flats would take us to the island, where the church was, and where the most people lived. When further rested, the big boys, who had rowed us, would climb the spruce trees which then grew there, and discover material for a "chaw of frankum".
To carry on the story I must go back and finish the business people as they appear on the scene.
Nicol & Co. of LaPoile and Jersey Harbour kept trading schooners up and down the shore, supplying their dealers up to September 10th. Then came what my old friend Skipper Lambert Forward used to call "The Day of Judgment". The dealers would go to LaPoile to settle up. There they would meet friends from different harbours, and have some "half-pints" together and talk over the voyage. Among this gathering were two of the Andersons of West Burgeo - one who killed the best voyage of fish, the other who caught the most fur. One would have a dried fish tail on his cap, the other a tail of some kind of fur on his. The above firm built in Burgeo somewhere in the forties, and a nice compact Room they had, when the writer came in 1860. Mr. George Samways is the present owner of the location and what is left of the premises, house, office and beach. The first agent was Mr. Picot, after him Mr. Fillenly, uncle of Mr. Philip F., still living. Next came the late Mr. Charles Middleton De Quette Ville, always known as Mr. Middleton, who lived sixty years in Burgeo, dying at Jersey about 1900. He was agent up to 1863, when the firm failed. They attempted to carry on, and did so for one year, but eventually closed up in 1864, selling everything that could be sold, both here, LaPoile and Jersey Harbour, where they had great premises, the finest in the country. DeGruchy, Renouf, Clement & Co., bought all the Rooms after a few years. Before buying the Room here it was purchased by LeGros, Dallan and LeGros, of Jersey firm, but did not carry on more than two years. Mr. Philip McCourt and his agent here, Miss Matthews, took it over from Clement & Co. in the eighties, and the business was carried on under the name of McCourt & Matthews. After his death it all fell into the hands of Miss Matthews, later on to Mr. Samways. Mr. Middleton went to the Old Room to assist Mr. Fillenly, who died in 1872, when Mr. M. was appointed agent, and stayed till 1876. He then went into business for himself, putting up premises on Furby's Point, which, not being successful, were sold to Mr. Thomas Moulton, who enlarged and did well, leaving at his death, in 1920, a fine estate.
To follow the business history of Burgeo: The next to come on the scene was Mr. John Furneaux, formerly a clerk of Newman & Co. After leaving this firm he went to St. John's and became engaged as a storekeeper for Harvey & Co., but, feeling sure of a business success in Burgeo, on account of his former employ, he obtained supplies from W. Thomas & Co., came here and put up a Room on Slade's (now Small's) Island. He became insolvent in 1859. He removed to Cape Breton in 1861. His wife was a Miss Winter of St. John's - a name well known in trade and politics. Mr. Furneaux later went into business at Baddeck, and came on this shore with cattle and lumber, and did good business. He returned to Channel in '68, and was appointed agent for the firm of Ridley & Co. This firm failing in 1870, he removed to Rose Blanche, and later was made Sub-Collector, which office he held until he became incapacitated, about 1893. His son Richard held the appointment up to 1923.
In I860 Bowley & Small took over the above premises and opened business. This firm had been trading from this shore since 1857, with the United States, for salt salmon and were pioneers in frozen herring business, loaded at Grand Bruit in December 1856 and the following three winters. Capt. Henry Smith of Salem Mass was the first to embark on this business at Rose Blanche, 1855, and finally opened business there and built at Harbour LeCou. The writer then points out that Bowley & Small brought into their trade a new class of goods, many article not kept by the Jersey and English firms, such as kerosene, cotton lines, manila rope, oil clothing, clocks - every house from Grand Bruit to Rencontre had a clock - cotton duck, double barreled guns, wooden pails, beans and other goods too numerous to mention. They also brought the first cooking stoves of which hundreds were sold up to 1865 when St. John's started manufacturing the elevated oven which turned the trade that way . Bowley & Small dissolved in 1864; but Captain Small, as he was always known, took over the business and carried on up to his death in 1890. Such are some of the people who came and departed, and as I think who am a descendant, did not leave people the worse for their coming.
Mr. Wilson of Saint John, N.B., built two stores at Hunts Island in 1858 or 1859. He was in the salt herring trade with market in the Southern States, but the Civil War killed that trade. His last loads were in 1863. He never came again. During the fifties I have been told as many as 12 schooners loaded bulk and barrelled herring in Burgeo in November and December, and at Burnt Island, Rose Blanche and other harbours, herring were plentiful from October to February. The failure of herring on this shore, commenced in 1860, vessels went to Fortune Bay. Since then they have been taken in Bay de Vieux chiefly for bait for the Western Shore fishery. A business began by Mr. Kenneth McLea & Sons of St. John's soon fell into the hands of Ridley of Rose Blanche.
The Co-operative Venture
In 1878 a co-operative store was started in Burgeo by Joseph Dicks, a keen-minded fisherman and one of the largest shareholders. My life-long friend, James Matthews, and he were both ruined by it. Other large shareholders were Stephen Vatcher, his brother Manuel, Edward Dicks, Charles Collier, the Spencers of Cul de Sac, and many others. The shares were ½ 5 - take as many as you wish! The total subscription was ½ l, 500, and Joseph Dicks was elected to travel to Boston to purchase the goods (see Note 1). They erected their stores, shop, flakes, wharf, on a rocky cliff, commonly known as the “Doughball”, on the west side of Burgeo Harbour. Mr. Dicks managed for three years, but was forced out, and James Matthews took charge, and carried on until they became insolvent. The premises were taken over by John Penny & Sons, who had started business in Burgeo some years before; their premises being on rocks in the centre of the harbour, Charles Penney, a brother and partner, managed for some years. Later, George H. Samways bought them out.
John Penny & Sons
The head of this large, prosperous and progressive business set up at Ramea in 1872. He was born at Somerset, England, and in 1844 was employed by Newman & Co., Gaultois, and soon afterwards married, which sort of partnership this firm disallowed. He started trading in Hermitage Bay and became successful, and after years of hard work, thrift and carefulness, found himself in good circumstances, in fact rich. In 1870 he sold out, "lock, stock and barrel", to Messrs. Bowring Bros. He had a very nice Room at Great Jervois, as I have heard on theauthority of his sons, who, having been brought up in their father's business, refused to stay in Halifax.
In 1871 Mr. George Penny returned to this country and traded in this district for a year or two, when he bought the old premises of Thomas Jeans at Ship Cove, Ramea, and opened business under the name and style of John Penny & Sons, which has continued to this date. His sons, George and John, both married, settled at Ramea, and brought up families. The business has grown to large proportions the last twenty-five years. The head of the firm died at Halifax in 1903 (see Note 2). Mr. George has been on the Peace Commission, also a Commissioner of the Supreme Court. His brother John died at Halifax in 1924. Prof. John Penny, of Harvard, is his eldest son - his youngest is Rev. Father Penny of Yarmouth.
My old friend Joseph Dicks, after leaving the Co-operative, carried on business for John Steer of St. John's, building in the Short Reach. The effort lasted but a few years, when the large properties were removed, some sold locally (see Note 3).
McCourt & Matthews - Matthews & Samways
Philip McCourt came on the shore as early as 1865, selling cloth, and made Burgeo his headquarters. In the early seventies he opened a shop on the premises of James Matthews, and engaged Miss Deborah Matthews to manage it. This continued for many years, and "Aunt Debby", as she was known to everyone, built up a large cash trade. To carry the increasing stock, Mr. McCourt bought the old Jersey Room, and made Miss Matthews a partner, and so it continued until Mr. McCourt's death, which happened at his home in St. John's in the late nineties. Miss Matthews then became the owner of that business, and took on as a partner George H. Samways, under the name and style of Matthews & Samways. After the death of the former, our friend Mr. Samways carried on alone.
About 1890 Mr. R. Moulton opened up at Philip Dick's to manufacture cod oil, but was not long before he was in the fish trade with business places at Firby's Harbour. Mr. Moulton was a very ambitious, far-sighted and shrewd person. He had a large business with bank fishery and opened business at other centres - Grand Bruit, Rose Blanche and Burnt Island. His commercial ventures grew to large proportions and he exported freely. He built two or three large vessels and bought a number of others. At one time he must have exported as much as 50, 000 qtls. fish. He gave much employment and he was a benefactor to Burgeo....
He was returned twice to the House of Assembly for the District of Burgeo. About 1912 his business was taken over by St. John's parties under the name of R. Moulton, Ltd., going into liquidation some eight years after. A firm in Oporto were large creditors. The business was known later as the Burgeo and LaPoile Export Co.
Thomas Moulton was first associated with Robert but afterwards as mentioned before took over Middleton's holdings on Firby's Point. This venture proved profitable. He took his sons George, Robert, Edgar and Lewis into the business. He died suddenly in 1920. The business is now Thos. Moulton's Sons. Edgar died in 1919, of wounds received the last part of the War.
William Webb & Sons
William Webb & Sons from Rencontre took over Arthur Spencer's holdings at Hunt's. He started business at the old Stephen Vatcher premises in the harbour, and has done a large and extensive business in the harbour and at Hunt's.
John Matthews was a clerk to the DeGruchy firm after leaving school, age 17. He was handicapped by the loss of a leg in 1858. His father died in 1855, but he was adopted by his grandfather, who brought him up and presented him with a leg in 1870, which he used all his life. He went to John Penny & Sons, Ramea. He opened business for himself in Firby's Harbour, on the Samway’s estate which fell to him and his wife, who was Miss Amelia Samways, when the two other heirs left Burgeo. His son Rupert joined his father and was considered a partner, but though a strong man apparently and very much of a genius, died four years after his father. His widow, after managing the business and the Post Office, removed to Boston and remarried. The business is still going on under the management of Mr. W. J. Matthews. It is a good business stand, and "Billy Joe" is a popular salesman and fellow townsman.
This, I believe, covers the names of firms and agents who carried on business and trade in Burgeo from the very first, covering a period of over 80 years. I hope it will prove interesting in its various details both personally as well as commercially and as a public record of business ventures. There are many former Burgeo people, now scattered abroad, who will be interested in seeing the well known names of those with whom they traded years ago.
Note 1 - There can be no doubt that Dicks was in great danger on that Boston trip. He gave me the whole story, most dramatically told, in my study, one cold, drifty afternoon. He was followed by a crook from Burgeo to Halifax by steamers. At the Albion Hotel Dicks shook him off by threatening to shoot him. "I can take the heads off partridges every time", were the words he used to back up his threat.
Note 2 - Mr. John Penny was a member of my Church in Halifax. He always sent an offering of holly for the decorations at Christmas. I ministered to him in his last days, and buried him in the St. John's Cemetery, Fairview.
Note 3 - It was a great pity that a man of Mr. Joseph Dick's stamp should, after all his ventures, have been obliged to leave Burgeo, with his wife and unmarried children, to take up life in a foreign country in his declining years. We felt that we had all sustained a deep loss through his departure.
The First Travelling Missionaries - The First Settled Clergyman and His Successors to 1925 - The Old Schoolmaster - Faithful Lay Readers - Churches Built and Destroyed - Some Vital Statistics - Supplemental Information
I said in my first chapter, when telling of the earliest settlers, that I considered the two Anderson families of Upper (West) Burgeo the original inhabitants of the district, comprised in what is usually called the Burgeo group. These two families, and some others who came later, were on the shore a long time previous to the coming of a clergyman to settle and live among his people, which was not till 1842, when the first minister came in the person of Rev. Martin Blackmore.
This place, as well as almost all the harbours along the coast, was visited by Archdeacon Wix in 1830, who published a journal of his visitation, of which a copy was sent by him to old Joseph James, usually called Joey; well known to the older generation for his quaint stories and sayings. Mr. James was then a young man, and was one of the four who rowed the Archdeacon from New Harbour to Cape La Hune. He used to tell some funny stories of things that happened in La Hune at the house of old Mr. Bagg. Mr. Blackmore continued in charge of this Mission for six years, and during that time erected the first church in Burgeo, and also close by, the first school. The church was situate near the main road and between the two gates which now lead up to the present church, which is on a slightly higher location than the old one. The school was just east of this, and some years ago the foundation posts of the porch were to be seen. I find from the Church records that Mr. Blackmore must have been the only clergyman on this shore, and visited all the inhabited harbours west and east as there are Baptisms and Marriages at these places, recorded in our first Register. A visitation was made by Archdeacon Thomas Bridge, M.A.,Rector of St. John's in 1815, who went as far west as Codroy and his work is recorded in the above Register. Members of these families are known to the writer, Gillams, Evans, Forseys, Baggs and George. The first baptism by Mr. Blackmore was Matilda Ann, daughter of John and Frances Anderson of Upper Burgeo, May 22nd, 1842. The first marriage was at Channel on June 24th, 1842, of Leonard Frampton and Susanna Harvey, and one of the witnesses was George Walters of whom many descendants are at Isles aux Morts. The first burial was Gabriel Billard (originally Billiard), a child of three days, belonging to Red Island four miles east of Burgeo, October 19th, 1842. Mr. Blackmore must have been a very busy man, having all the shore from La Hune to Channel, ninety miles, to cover and care for. He removed to Bay Roberts in the spring of 1848. During these six years the place increased in population principally from Hermitage Bay. The new comers settled mostly on Hunt's Island and Our Harbour, and inter-married considerably, as the records show. Among them we find the names of great fishermen, Harris, Green, Porter, Hatcher, Crewe, and one may still find those names predominating in that part of the Island.
I can only make but short mention of Mr. Blackmore, with his erecting the first church and school and public acts as told us by the Register. There is nothing else to tell about him. It must have been a hard six years, covering so long a coastline, and many places so far apart. He would find Bay Roberts a welcome change.
The mission was not long vacant. The successor of Mr. Blackmore was Rev. John Cunningham, who was destined to spend a period of forty-six years as pastor, missionary, teacher, builder, pioneer doctor and friend of the people from Little River to Otter's Point, till he was called to lay down his charge in March 1894; his wife outliving him some four years. Mr. Cunningham was born in London in 1823. With his bride of a week, he took passage on the brig “QUEEN” with Messrs. Gathercole and Rozier, arriving in St. John's after a stormy six weeks passage May 1847. He was ordained Deacon in St. Thomas’ Church September 19th of the same year, and after ministering one year at Brigus was taken to Burgeo by Bishop Feild on the steamer “HAWK” in July 1848.
As I said above, the population of Burgeo was fast increasing, and a larger church was necessary. When nearly ready for rough-boarding it was blown down in a heavy gale and re-erected on a reduced size. It was built in cruciform shape with pointed tower at the crossing. (The architect of the plans was Rev. William White Grey of Portugal Cove, a cadet of the family of Stanford and Warrington). It was finished in 1856. I was present at a service in it in 1859, the year before I came to reside. The church was well built, finished in hardwood throughout – seating capacity 400. Each family had a pew. Rev. H. W. Cunningham came from England in 1884, and assisted his father, both before and after his ordination, leaving us in 1891.
Rev. G. H. Feild was with us nearly two years. Then came Rev. F. Smart (now Canon Smart of Heart's Content), in whose incumbency Rev. J. Cunningham passed to his rest. It was during the incumbency of Rev. Thomas Allsopp that a movement was made to build a new church, as the old one was far too small, also it was showing signs of decay and very cold in winter. At the close of 1869 it was begun, and inside of two years finished and paid for, and consecrated by Bishop Jones July 1897. The cornerstone had been laid by Mrs. Cunningham, widow of Rev. John Cunningham, in October 1896. This church was brought here from Liverpool, N. S., framed, and all material to finish it dressed; hence we were not long in putting it up. The work was in charge of Mr. Amice Pinel, and everyone gave free labour. Mr. Alsopp was succeeded by Rev. Edwin J.R. Nichols, one of our best men, and who married Faith, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Cunningham. In December 1909, during a gale which lasted several days, our beautiful church fell. It was not insured for such a disaster.
It was a year before the present church was commenced, say April 1911. It was finished 1912 free of debt and consecrated in July by Bishop Jones. We put this one on a concrete foundation instead of on shores. We have a better church in every way, and, of course, more costly, but all gave freely with labour and cash. Rev. C. Stickling was in charge when the disaster befel us, and only remained two years. Rev. Edgar Fletcher came before we commenced to build and remained up to 1917. Rev. Eric Tarrant followed Mr. Fletcher and was here three years and succeeded by Rev. Victor Ward Cunningham, grandson of the Rev. John, his father being Mr. John Cunningham, forty years Customs Officer of Burgeo.
This closes the account of the churches built since the first in 1842, and of the rectors who have had charge of the Mission from Mr. Blackmore to the present rector, covering a period of eighty-three years, and what changes have taken place!
I cannot close this record of Church work without making some mention of the noble work done by two of our Lay Readers who have passed within the Veil.
Mr. John Jordan, who came to this country long, long ago, to Spurrier's, at Burin. Later he came here, when I cannot say, at this date there is no person living here who can give me any information. He served Newman & Co. as storekeeper on the Old Room, and some time in the forties he became the schoolmaster and lay reader here. Before 1860 he had moved to Channel, taught there for a few years but returned again and took charge of the school and acted as lay reader. This would be in 1863, and he continued these duties until the time of his appointment as Stipendiary Magistrate, which was in 1874. He was a very reverent and careful performer of Divine Service, which he took on Sunday afternoons when Mr. Cunningham would be at Upper Burgeo. The church would be as full as in the morning. He was a beautiful reader, both of the Bible and prayers, as well as of what we should call to-day an interesting sermon from a book. He kept his seat in the chancel up to his last days. He died in 1886. What a work of love this man performed for the Church and the community, holding services, baptizing infants, burying the dead in the absence of the minister, besides keeping school twice a day, all for the sum of sixty pounds per annum. Surely he well deserved a Government appointment.
My dear old friend, George Keppel White, was another of our lay readers and a most faithful churchman; none more so, for he performed many hundreds of services which were to him a labour of love. He died on a Sunday; assisting at service in the morning, and in the afternoon walking a long way in the face of a heavy wind, to suddenly expire as he was entering the house of the sick man he was to visit, January 1913. He was the eldest son of the Late R. D. of Fortune Bay, Rev. W. Keppel White. (Another son, William was drowned in Quidi Vidi while trying to save the life of a fellow student at the Theological College, January 1874.)
West Burgeo also had three churches, and mention must be made of them, if for no other reason than to let a younger generation appreciate what value was placed on attending church in the early days of the life of Burgeo. A place of any size had its little church, plainly built and furnished according to means; and in course of time it will need to be renewed, or if it blew down, as ours did, and as this one did, it must be re-erected, as was done here.
The first church was built at West Burgeo, when I cannot say, but I presume under the incumbency of Mr. Blackmore, It was on the west side of the island, where most of the people lived, just above the harbour, a nice quiet spot. It would seat about eighty people. Every Sunday from April to November the clergyman would go there, accompanied by a few from Burgeo. The writer went regularly from 1862 to 1866. I can see now in my mind's eye the different heads of families - Mr. Forward, Mr. Stickland, Mr. Bowdridge, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Chevalier - with their wives, their boys and girls, all joining in the service. I remember that (this was before the day of hymn books) there were only three psalms (metrical version) that they knew, but they were sung heartily. One old lady had a strong nasal voice, and if it was the thirty-first psalm she would put on full power so that we young people found it hard to restrain our feelings. In the eighties another church, to replace this one was built and consecrated by Bishop Jones in his first year, 1878. This church was blown down in December, 1879, during a violent gale.
The third church was erected, not on the island, but on the western sandbanks, under the lee of a wooded hill. But soon after, the inhabitants of West Burgeo took an emigrating spirit and moved over to Sydney and vicinity; many also of the older heads of families passed away; others removed to Burgeo. The furniture of this church was removed by ship to Ramea for the new church that was being erected there. This closes my history of the churches at the two Burgeos, when and how they were built. I expect this record will be new to many who may read it.
These first two chapters cover the history of the churches, clergymen, doctors, government officials, merchants and traders; and I trust I may be found correct by anyone living now, born here, and about my own age, whose memories may be as good as I think mine is. My next chapter will take up the wrecks and other marine disasters of Burgeo and parts adjacent, with losses of her ships at sea.
(But before giving that chapter on wrecks, the editor finds a short chapter on Fisheries, which he thinks may find an appropriate position next to the Church; for, as every Newfoundlander knows, good voyages mean the parson paid, the church's funds supported, and the sacred cause advanced.)
A short chapter on the fisheries and prices at that time will, no doubt, be interesting to many. Fish were caught only by hand line and cod seines, of which there were two, but later two more were added.
Fish making was well attended to at this time. To have poorly made fish was a disgrace or thought to be by many. Price of fish in 1860 was 13 shillings or $2.60; in 1861, 13 shillings and 6 pence or $2.70; in 1862, 14 shillings or $2.80, Bowley & Small would give 2 shillings more for large fish than small fish, this I remember was a thorn in the side of the Jersey Room, Nicolle & Co. This firm had no market for small fish in 1860 and 1861 but Halifax, being unacquainted with St. John’s, and the price there was only $2.80. In September 1862 fish was worth 17 Shillings in St. John’s, and the above firm, Messrs. Bowley & Small, took a cargo of eight hundred quintals there, and it was then that they bought the premises owned by the late Mr. Furneaux. The Portugese and Spanish markets must have been weak at these times, or otherwise they were making large profits. There was a good salmon catch all along the coast at these dates, and this American firm, above mentioned, who came to this country solely for this fish, had their hands full to take care of them from Grand Bruit to Rencontre; but we did, and gave good prices for them compared to what they had got years before - twelve dollars, and in 1864 sixteen dollars; and at this date large fish eighteen shillings to nineteen, small seventeen. Then also this firm did a large trade with the women, buying their tongues and sounds. We bought as many as 300 barrels a year, giving 8 shillings per cwt. which meant $700 for the place. For many years there has seemed to be no market for this kind of food, and we can say the same about salt salmon. April 12th would be the opening season for carrying herring bait to the French. There were three parties who had seines, and it was no trouble to fill them. Then fill any boat that would carry 75 barrels and rush them to St. Pierre, and so with any boats and schooners that could be procured. The price obtained was good, for loads our seine barred in 1862, 16 francs being paid for first loads, then 10 francs for subsequent loads. A new seine of ours barred 2000 barrels and sold 1200. This seine hauled herring till 1882.
Fishing with trawls was not general until late years, although quite a large number of people, West Burgeo, used them, picking the large fish and selling them for the American market when only partly dried, at $3 a cwt. from the pickle.
I think it was in 1863 that there was commenced the manufacture of cod liver oil. The writer remembers the price of the livers being as high as thirty cents a gallon, and good prices were obtained in St. John's for oil put up in white fir casks containing 45 gallons; yes, and I remember the slump when it came, and we had a large lot of it that sold in London for $1.44.
The fishery to open next was the packing of salmon and lobsters by DeGruchy, Renouf & Clement in 1864. They lost money on this trade, lobsters being sold in London at 12 cents a can.
In the eighties Cook commenced packing at LaPoile, Cronans at Burgeo and Burnt Islands. After them came W.K. Lewis of Boston, who packed for three years. First year 2,750 cases, second year 2,400, third year only 2,000. They needed 4,000 cases - so sold out to J. H. Small who continued the business until scarcity of lobsters, and the competition of small packers, which started in every harbour, compelled him to close down.
I think I have covered the fisheries from 1860 to very recent times, when I say for the last twenty years, we have had good prices, fair and low according to supply and demand which always govern prices. There have been some very good voyages and some poor ones.
Prices of Goods
It may also be interesting to say a word on the prices of goods for these years above mentioned. Flour, pork and molasses, in the sixties, were different each year, mostly high. From 1860 to 1864 flour was 40 shillings; in winter time 35 shillings. In summer it was often up to 45 shillings, and that often when we got short and had to buy at St. John's, which we did when we had a large quantity of small fish, and bought there more or less where the fish had to go - that market always being higher than Halifax. The large quantity of goods bought in the States during the Civil War seemed to be high, when flour there was $12 to $13, but gold was at a great premium; so when goods were figured down, they were as cheap as could be bought anywhere; and flour, pork and beef had to come from there. Canada could give flour, but not the pork and beef. Nor does she to-day. Speaking of the premium on gold in 1864, the writer sold five dollar gold pieces for $14.40 each, in other words gold was at a 290 premium. Gold being fairly plentiful on this shore, quite a number did well but others preferred to keep their hoard in the trunk and stocking.
Some supplemental notes on the foregoing by H.W. Cunningham, editor of these papers, of his brother-in-law, the late Joseph H. Small -
(1) Archdeacon Wix and his historical report. This copy of Wix's report on the 1830 voyage would be a treasure to-day, as copies of it are scarce. It was published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, founded 1701, and which paid the salaries of many of the early missionaries to the colonies.
(2) The first Bishop of the Church of England for Newfoundland was the former Archdeacon of Bermuda, Ven. Aubrey Spencer, who was consecrated in London in 1839. He was afterwards transferred to Jamaica. Bishop Feild came out in 1844. The third Bishop of Nova Scotia, Bishop John Inglis, had made visitations to Newfoundland previous to 1839. The aged mother of the late Canon Read, of Channel, told me of his coming to Lamaline when she was a girl. His age at death was ninety-seven.
(3) W.E. Cormack, on his journey east from Bay St. George, gives the number of settlers at some of the harbours that he passed: “Burgeo ten or twelve and in the vicinity five or six families.” This was in December, 1822, twenty years before Mr. Blackmore came. Ramea had only two resident families. The Ramea Islands were the eastern limit of the Treaty of 1818, which permitted Americans to dry fish anywhere on the coast from Cape Ray to Ramea, say 75 miles. He gives 250 souls for the whole coast along which he had come. But the trend of the settlers was westward from Fortune and Hermitage Bays. The fish were more plentiful further west, hence the Channel spring fishery. As Mr. Small says, the population increased fast in those early years. A French captain was asked what he thought was the meaning of the word Burgeo. “It is very easy”, he replied. “You see the long islands of Ramea. There are les Rameaux, the branches, and over there you see the round islands of Burgeo. They are les Bonrgeous, the buds”. I always found Ramea very attractive. Nice people everywhere, and always well received at Penny & Sons. Father Sears, dear old man, used to pay his flock there a yearly visit. The singing at Ramea services, led by Mr. John Payne, was a feature very attractive to me. I was caught there for a week in a roaring gale in 1889, and diphtheria raging mortally.
(4) I may quote perhaps from father's diary relative to the disaster to the new church: Thursday February 22, 1855: this was a day of great disappointment. All the rafters of the new church down and smashed to pieces. I sent for Mr. Dawe (Newman's agent), who came and promised to let me have all we wanted to repair the damages. Set to work to clear the wreck and begin again. The good Lord helps us to bring it to perfection to His own glory and the welfare of His people. Builders will appreciate what this disaster implied in the case of a large building. I may quote from what the late Canon Pilot said in his “In Memoriam” published by the Evening Telegram, 1894. “His schools were models. Besides being the good shepherd of his flock Mr. Cunningham at times had to teach his own school, and was an earnest promoter of education.” a magnificant voice and was a grand reader of the Scripture”. There were no roads or bridges in 1848. Planks spanned the mud holes. With the aid of his foreman, Mr. Gore, from Somerset, and government grants, good roads were built. His great work was cutting the canal from the Little Barrachoix to the mouth of Grandy's Brook. Had it existed previous to 1859, a loss of three telegraph operators by drowing would have been prevented.
(5) Mr. Small's description of Mr. Jordan is good. Methods of instruction were simple and primitive, but he could teach reading and writing and plain arithmetic. He used a high office seat, and the with-rod reposed on the foot rest. I recall that the bark was all worn off! He taught me my alphabet, and I buried him in 1866, aged 94. He was born at Peddle, in Dorset. He narrated to me the excitement on the fishing ground when the paddle-box VICTORIA came up the coast, 1854 (?) One fisherman shouted, when sparks flew from the funnel: “What do'e make of 'un, byes?” “It's the devil after we, and I says up killick and get ashore!”
(6) The visitor to Burgeo church cannot fail to notice the beautiful chancel and altar furnishings in different woods. These were the work of the late Mr. John Cunningham as a memorial to the life and labours of his father. It occupied him two years.
Concluding Chapter - Wrecks Along Shore, East and west - Vessels with Captains and Crews Lost Out of Burgeo - Wrecks of the “STAR” (She Rises and Shines Again) - Life Savers (Man and Dog) - Marine Occurrences. Supplementary Notes Mostly Founded on Diaries, Journals, etc.
I now propose to write what I remember about the wrecks and disasters which have befallen Burgeo and its people. I am unable to give the exact dates of all these sad occurrences. There are no records to fall back upon, such as are now to be found deposited in the Court House, of disasters of our own people or on our Western Shore, since I have been in office. I have previously said that I came on a visit to Burgeo first, in 1857, but I take my limits of date to be 1860-1925. There are, however, many marine disasters, some of which I shall shortly recount, which happened some years before my earliest date of residence.
The “JANE KING”
This ship was lost at Rencontre Island (the most prominent of the Burgeo group, named by the French Rencontre, but its popular name is “Round Counter”. It is high and rounded, and forms with Boar Island, Cuttailles, Venil’s and Bagg’s our outer protection from the sou’westers which come in from the Cabot Straits). (Note 1).
The wreck took place in 1850. All her crew_were saved. Her cargo consisted of rum, sugar, and hides, and she was bound for Quebec. The larger part of her cargo was saved, being bought by merchants. I have heard that a lot of it, presumably the liquid part, was to be had for a long time afterwards, and that fishermen had “a good time” while it lasted.
From England to Canada. Came in under sail, on fire from the coal she carried. She was piloted into King's Harbour, a nook in the mouth of Baie du Loup, about three miles east of Burgeo, by Mr. Furneaux. She burnt to the water’s edge, then sank. Besides coal, there were stores of various kinds. Nothing of the cargo below decks was saved. This was in 1853. There were passengers on board, a gentleman from Scotland named Simpson, and two ladies named Cowie, mother and daughter. While waiting to get away, Mr. Simpson and Agnes Cowie were married by Rev. John Cunningham. (Note 2).
This vessel was lost on Wreck Island, a few miles west of the Big Barrisway. Her cargo was tea, nuts and other groceries. The crew were saved. No particular have been handed down by the old settlers. This happened many years ago.
Was lost at Otter's Point, west of Connoire Bay. No traditions have been left, but the wreck was in or near 1830. A diver, Austen Martin, of Channel, about 1906, put in a blast, which sent up some of her sternpost. The writer has a piece, the wood is in good condition.
In 1825 a French vessel ran into Old Man's Bay (Baie du Vieux) on fire. Old Mr. Hayman, afterwards the patriarch of Fox Island, lived there, and he tells the story. A piece of her stern is in the Court House office. The stern of the vessel, taken up by George Baggs, was sawn up into board during the spring of 1825.
A large ship was lost at New Harbour, below Cape La Hune, in 1840. Bound to Canada. The crew were saved. This information was given me by my old friend Joey James, who lived there at the time, and afterwards moved to Burgeo.
In 1862, month of November, a large ship of St. John's named the Dumbarton was lost at the first brook, near Wreck Island. Total loss, but crew saved. At this date coal is still washed ashore and burns freely.
Two large ships, bound to Canada in ballast, were lost in the early sixties at Grand Bruit, twenty-five miles to westward; crew saved, also spars, sails, anchors, etc., of both vessels.
A NOTABLE WRECK
The great or notable wreck that took place on what was afterwards called the Wreck Rock, was notable indeed, on account of the attending circumstances, as well as from what happened afterwards. It happened many years ago, and there was great loss of life. But quite a number were saved through the efforts of Mr. George Harvey of Isles aux Morts, his daughter and their dog, the name of which was “Hairy Man,” a queer name for a dog. Mr. Harvey and daughter were going out to haul their nets, when they espied the unfortunate ship ashore, just south and west of Burnt Islands. They went to it, and by using their dog to take a line to the ship, many were saved and landed, and finally all were taken to his house, where, by the help of neighbours, they were fed until they could be taken away. But food was scarce, and there was no merchant nearer than Jersey Harbour or Harbour Breton. They were fed however by Mr. Harvey until they were safely transferred to some secure destination. I presume Newman & Co. interested themselves in behalf of this wonderful man and his great feat in saving the lives of these people, as the report of it fully vouched for, reached the Royal Humane Society of England, which issued their highest award for life saving, viz. their Gold Medal to Mr. Harvey. This brave man afterwards moved from his place at Isles aux Morts to Bay St. George, and has been dead many years. The writer was acquainted with two of his daughters, a Mrs. LeFresne and Mrs. Lillington. I am informed that the medal was in possession of a grandson who was living at Grand Bank some years ago. Mr. Newman, of London, of the aforementioned firm, was very desirous of obtaining this dog, and wrote Mr. Harvey to that effect, asking him to name his price. The reply was as follows -
“Mr. Newman, I understands you wants to buy the “Hairy Man”. His tail's cut short, ears close to his head. The price of my dog is a hundred of bread.”
In closing this account of the above wreck, truly notable, I will add that a great number of the bodies drove into Burnt Island harbour, and there they were all gathered from the water and buried by old Benjamin Keeping, the founder of the place, and the writer remembers him mentioning this fact in 1870. (Note 3).
The Schooner “QUITO”
On February 4th, 1868, the schooner “QUITO” belonging to Messrs. Nicolle & Co. of LaPoile started for LaPoile 30 miles distant, the weather was clear, the wind fair, Samuel Poole skipper. The firm's agent, Mr. Gruchy, was a passenger, as were also Rev. George Chamberlain and his wife, who had been paying a visit to Rev. John and Mrs. Cunningham at the Parsonage. Mr. Gruchy had been spending a short time at the Jersey Room, Burgeo, where Mr. Charles Middleton was in charge. By some mishap the schooner overran LaPoile Bay. The wind veered to N.W. and they ran back, no doubt for LaPoile; but a snow squall must have hidden Ireland, an island at the mouth of the bay, and the landfall they made was between Cing Cerf and Otter's Point, fifteen miles below LaPoile. The captain anchored his schooner under Cutteau Point, close to the shore. The tide was low, and Mr. Chamberlain (hoping presumably to attract attention from the people of Otter's Point to their critical condition) made a successful attempt to get on shore by jumping on a rock which was between the vessel and the nearest land. With the assistance of the agent Mrs. Chamberlain reached the rock, but after vain attempts to connect with her husband, a tidal wave swept both of them away to their death. The schooner rode it out and got safely to LaPoile. Had all remained on board there would have been no loss of life. The body of the unfortunate lady was never again seen, but that of Mr. Gruchy was picked up in the spring and buried at LaPoile. His widow and family returned to Jersey. No investigation was made. (Note 4).
Loss of The “ANNIE MAY” of Burgeo
In the spring of 1886 Captain Louis Colley of the schooner "ANNIE MAY" was lost at the ice on Codroy Island, near Cape Anguille. Her crew comprised the following men: Robert Billard and son Lambert, Morgan Buffett and son, Edward Forward, John and James Carroll, Thomas Billard. The particulars of the loss of this fine vessel and crew are as follows -
Driven out of the Gulf, with the ice packed close to the land, the vessel struck bottom west of Codroy, and was forced to the shore, up against a wall of ice, perfectly level, and at times easy to jump to from the rigging, which Robert Billard and son both did, and were the only two saved. Captain Colley thought his vessel would drive out to the Point and get deeper water, which she was doing, and expected to save her; but rough bottom was met after this, and the vessel was destroyed by the force of the gale, and moving ice banging her against the barricade, now too high and too dark to reach by jumping. The bodies of the Captain and his nephew, Edward Forward, were picked up later by the men of Codroy who buried the Captain there. Young Forward was brought to Burgeo for interment. Her loss meant the loss of a fine captain and six men.
The “GRACE HALL”
In the year 1887, month of August, there was lost from this port of Burgeo the schooner “GRACE HALL”, belonging to Clement & Co. This vessel was engaged in the bank fishery, and was commanded by Captain John Anderson, an old friend of the writer of these sad events, having been young men together. He fished and traded with me as far back as 1870. I have been able, through Mr.George R. Moulton, to procure from his late father's Diary a complete list of the crew. Besides the master, there were the following - James Wilcox, cook, an Englishman, and brother-in-law of the captain; James Porter, married; Philip Crew, Robert Crew, Thomas Stickland, George Mead, Meskech Mead, John Green, James Simms, Charles Clothier and William Anderson, all of Burgeo. A terrible gale blew, commencing S.E., veering to W.N.W., on the 26th, and it was on this day that she is supposed to have foundered.
A gale of September 13, 1900, it was that sank Skipper John Vatcher and all hands on the St. Pierre Bank. The schooner was owned by him, was only 25 tons, and carried the following crew: Hugh Dominey, Charles Hann, Harry Parsons, George V. Rose, Henry Dicks, Jos. Gunnery, and one Simms of Hunt's Island.
The loss of these two vessels, coupled with the wreck of the “ANNIE MAY”, was a tremendous blow to Burgeo. We could ill afford to lose so many fine men from so small a community as ours. Three skippers, none better, and some twenty-four men. Skipper John was a chip off the old block - fine, sturdy, agile; an all round man, citizen and neighbour. (This loss of Captain Vatcher, as narrated in brief by Mr. Small, was, we may say, but the climax of previous efforts made by the sea to capture him. His sea-faring life readily commences with an event which happened on Friday, August 18th, 1871, an event in which the whole diocese of Newfoundland was deeply concerned - the loss of the “STAR”.)
The “STAR”, belonging to Stephen and Manuel Vatcher and James Matthews, of Burgeo, was originally the Church ship of the Bishop of Newfoundland, which, while coming out of Little River (Gray River), with Bishop Kelly and Rev. J. Cunningham on board, on her first voyage on the South Coast, was wrecked. She was purchased by the above named, and became a freighter, afterwards a banker, with John Vatcher in command for fifteen years and turned in lots of money for her owners. On December 8th, 1890, the “STAR” was on her way to Quebec, when she was caught in a gale and driven out of the Gulf, under bare poles and leaking. Skipper John managed to run her near the bar at Port-au-Port and left her on the beach. The “STAR” never rose again - her splendid, daring skipper took a smaller vessel and the cruel sea captured him, as told above.
“DUCHESS OF CORNWALL”
This schooner was built by Robert Moulton at Burgeo. She was on the general trade of the country during the war and was commanded by Thomas Gunnery. After leaving St. John's in 1916 she was met by a German submarine, after being out only two days, and was torpedoed. The crew were carried off to Germany, where they were prisoners until the signing of the Armistice.
This schooner, one of the fleet of fish carriers of John T. Moulton's, commanded by Captain Albert Hann, sailed from Oporto for this port with a cargo of salt, in April, and in company with the Gordon Moulton. These vessels parted company one evening, weather fine and all well. The Gordon arrived in due time, having a good passage and no heavy weather. The Elsie never came to port, nor was anything ever heard which would lead to a conclusion as to what became of her. Her mate was Evans of St. Jacques, others were Ward Collier, Hatcher, Stickland, Harvey (Dick). Hann was a good, capable skipper, and knew how to handle a vessel. He left a widow, two sons and a daughter.
“LIZZIE M. STANLEY”
This schooner, commanded by John Collier, single, with following crew: Morgan Buffett, single, Joseph H. Ingraham and Thomas Buffett, lately married, Harold Knott and Simeon Billard, married, sailed from St. Pierre for Catalina on December 6, 1917, in ballast, and never reached her port. Last seen east of Cape Race by a Grand Bank schooner bound for St. John's, both vessels bound north. A gale came on that night, and it is thought that her ballast shifted, as nothing was heard of her. There were three widows left to mourn their loss, besides the parents of these fine young men. Her captain was young, but a capable master, a son of Captain John Collier, who died at sea on a voyage from South America in the Duchess of Cornwall in 1914. In this case the mate, Leonard Hare, brought the ship to port, and on October 3rd made sworn report before the writer, which was entered in the Court House files.
This schooner, one of the John T. Moulton fleet, Captain Leonard Hare, of Brigus, master, with a crew of five men, sailed from St. John's in company with the “GORDON MOULTON”, Captain Stephen Collier. On Saturday, February 13th, 1921 the “GORDON” arrived in port, and reported that both vessels were together off Placentia Bay on the 12th, and was quite surprised that she had not arrived. From that day up to the 19th there was no sign of the overdue ship. At mid-day the Rev. Geo. Robins, of Ramea, came over and reported a large vessel near the islands, full of water, head down, had been seen since the 13th, but the wind had been so high that no one could get out to the wreck till the 18th. From a description given of this vessel it was soon known that it was the “COUNTY OF RICHMOND” that had met disaster. Captain Hare was a most capable master, and was known to be very cautious, and, no doubt, after passing St. Pierre, steered a course that would take him clear of Ramea. The wind being south and leading, he no doubt gave a correct course. It was thought that the crew did not keep the course, hence the disaster. This, too, was a great loss for Burgeo. The captain was married and his little boy was accompanying his father. His crew were Charles Spencer, who left a widow and three children; Norman Hare, Wilson Spencer, James Hare, and a man from St. John's, unknown - all single men.
(Mr. Small then gives a list of vessels lost from Burgeo, but no lives lost - the “GLADYS M. STREET”, out of Catalina, but crew of that place; the “MELNORINE”, Captain Joseph Vatcher; the “ALICE MOULTON”, Captain Charles Dicks; the “RONALD MOULTON”, Captain James Guy.)
We may reckon also among disasters a very sad accident which took place in August, 1859, at a spot called “Little Gut”: for many years a most dangerous channel, west of Norman's Head, where shifting sands and breakers at certain stages of tide and wind made the passage out of Grandy's Brook estuary very treacherous. A whaleboat, belonging to the firm of Newman & Co., of the Old Room, went up Grandy's Brook with a trout-fishing party, and returning home to Burgeo was upset at that spot. Mr. Binmore, Mr. Hibbert and Mr. Critch were drowned. The last named was an operator at the Telegraph Station up Grandy's Brook. Mr. Binmore was the bookkeeper at the Room; Mr. Hibbert was a former clerk, but had married a Miss Phoebe Vatcher of Burgeo. The three bodies were recovered and interred in the old cemetry, and stones were erected to their memory. (As an interesting fact of statistical nature, we record that the only surviving child of the Hibbert marriage was Carrie Hibbert, who grew up and became one of the favourite ladies of the Church neighbourhood, highly esteemed by all. She married, in 1885, the popular schoolmaster of Burgeo, Mr. Frederic Somerton, afterwards the respected Magistrate of Catalina and Trinity.)
An Unusual Occurrence
A strange accident happened to my old friend John Bobbett, who for many years lived at Harrington Harbour, Labrador. At the time of this strange happening he lived on an island, still named after him, and had gone to Sydney and bought a small schooner. He determined to sail her to Burgeo by himself. The night passed without anything to cause uneasiness, except that it was foggy. He went below to boil his kettle for breakfast, not thinking he was near land, when the vessel struck stem on. He gave a look, saw the rocks, and before she cleared, jumped from the bowsprit on to the land. The schooner backed off stern first into the fog, leaving him stranded. He soon found that he was on the Musket Island, one of the smaller outer islands of the Burgeo group. He was taken off later in the day, but his vessel was never seen afterwards. It was thought that the blow was sufficient to cause her to fill and sink. This was truly a wreck, a total loss, the crew of one saved!
Wreck of the S.S. “JOHN KNOX”
As this most appalling marine disaster occurred previous to Mr. Small's limit of 1925, I was surprised that he did not refer to it. While not happening in proximity to Burgeo, it was within the District of Burgeo and LaPoile. The “JOHN KNOX” was lost in the S.W. passage of Channel Harbour, on the ledges to the W. of Channel Head, on the night of Sunday, May 1st, 1887. The captain and the crew perished. The name of the captain was John Henry Brolly, of Birkenhead; the engineer's name was Nemo. The ship was bound up the Gulf, and picking the horn on Channel Head, mistook it for Cape Ray. The course he was steering carried him and his ship to destruction. There was a heavy breeze and sea, and the doomed ship beat herself to pieces on the ledges. Every possible attempt was made to reach her by the men of Channel. They could not get to her as the reefs were between them and the foundering ship. Her cargo was partly iron which aided her destruction. She also carried Rob Roy whisky in one and a half pints, thousands of which floated in the vicinity. Twenty-seven bodies were washed ashore and buried in one grave by Rev. T. P. Quintin. Details of this disaster were kindly given me by Mr. A. Squarey, Magistrate of Bonavista, son of my old friend of many years, Mr. R. T. Squarey, S.M. , of Channel, who at the request of the captain's widow, erected a stone to his memory in the Channel cemetry. One of my Burgeo men, fishing off the scene of the wreck that spring, brought up a basket in which were two terra cotta, hand-painted water coolers, one of which he presented to me.
1. The French name of Rencontre would lead one to infer that it was a place selected for meetings of some kind. The name is common, as is also that of Colombier (pronounced Columby), the pigeon or dove roost. I think there is truth in the oft-repeated tradition that an Indian grave was accidentally discovered there long ago. Birch bark and bones were found in a cavity beneath the overlaying sod. In the summer of 1877 a fisherman of Hunt's Island dug up eight flint spear heads, some broad, some narrow. My father gave me one as a souvenir of my old home. I afterwards presented it to the Museum of St. Augustine's College, Canterbury.
EXTRACTS FROM DIARY OF REV. J. CUNNINGHAM
Thursday, September 15, 1853
2. To the church, where I married Mr. Simpson to Agnes Cowie, two parties cast away in the “DOUGLAS”, burnt at King's Harbour; also Walter Ford to Harriet Matthews. Dined at John Matthews' with the newly married couples.
Wrote and sent Mr. Simpson's marriage certificate. 17th – the “MARIA” carried passengers of the wreck to Sydney. The captain of the “DOUGLAS” presented my father with a collection of books salvaged from the wreck. He bought a set of surgical instruments, and two large revolving globes, which were objects of interest in the study for years after.
The certificate which was then presented to the married couple, thus providentially saved, must in later years have been laid aside and lost. For in 1886 a letter came from the Post Master General in St. John's, saying that a gentleman in Upper Canada was making inquiries and giving the circumstances, and that he would like to procure a copy of the marriage that took place, he having forgotten the minister's name or the place. I recall how pleased my father was on finding the entry in the old register, and also an entry in his diary about it. A copy was made and despatched. After some few weeks had elapsed, a long letter came from the groom of thirty-three years before, giving some details of his life and how well he had succeeded in his undertakings; but stating the sad fact that file lady, who had thrown in her lot with him, had died a year after the marriage, leaving a tender infant, but who was now his right hand in their large wholesale business. “When we landed in Sydney I had two sovereigns in my pocket.”
3. I have often heard the story of this notable wreck from the lips of people who lived near to the actual spot, including the dog and his remarkable exploit; also the “poetic” response to Mr. Newman's request. Archdeacon Wix, in his journal of his travels along the shore in 1835 (see the whole of this remarkable journsy summarised by Rev. F.M. Buffett in his “Story of the Church in Newfoundland,” page 25-28), writes as follows: “Tuesday, 5th May - Went up three miles to Seal's Cove, Dead Islands. There I held service and baptized two children; the elder children of the same family I baptized in 1830. Then, it will be remembered, that I had (as related in my report) the pleasure of presenting to the daughter of George Harvie, my present host, a gold medal, which His Majesty's Government had given him, for his own and his daughter's humane exertions in saving 180 passengers from the brig “DISPATCH” which was wrecked on this shore, on her passage from Londonderry to Quebec, in 1828. He had also received £100 from the Subscribers at Lloyd's.”
At Gale's Harbour, a few days after, he was told of the courage and humanity displayed by a French-Canadian, one Miessau, who, with the assistance of his dog, succeeded in saving part of a ship's crew who had been swamped in their boat near land. A drowning seaman seized the dog's tail and was pulled safe to land! May it be that the heroic canine of this story became attached to the “DISPATCH” wreck? As to the medal. I was told by a descendant of Mr. Harvie that the precious souvenir, which should have remained a family heirloom was sold privately in Halifax. One can hardly credit such a callous transaction. The Archdeacon expressed his sorrow that he was unable on that journey, either going West or on his return, to call and see the “respectable people of Burgeo.” He had called in 1830 and left a supply of good reading matter.
4. Mr. Small says of this sad affair, that an investigation should have been made. Those concerned are long ago gone to a higher tribunal.
5 The 45 ton two-topmast schooner “STAR” was built by the Zwickers at Mahone Bay,N.S., in 1869, for Bishop Kelly, to replace the “HAWK” of 54 tons, and which had served Bishop Field 25 years. She had made a voyage to Labrador and the Northern Bays, and this 1871 trip was her first sailing along the South Coast and “Western Shore”. My father's diary (which I did not possess when I wrote the wreck of the “STAR”, for the Diocesan Magazine) gives the following entries -
Wednesday, August 16 - S.W. Fine. Bishop arrived in “STAR”. Went out to meet him. Thursday, August 17 - Started for Ramea with the Bishop, thence to Little River. Confirmation. Left next morning, 18th, but alas! got ashore, and had to leave the beautiful “STAR” a wreck. It was through the bravery of young John Vatcher, who with his father and uncle were seining herring, and who jumped overboard and, at the risk of his life, made fast a line by which the sinking vessel was able to be warped inside the outer head. I wrote from the lips of Captain Vatcher, after his return from Port-au-Port, the full story of the “STAR'S” final voyage for the St. John's Telegram, but the files were burnt in 1892.
Publisher's Note: The foregoing article from The Newfoundland Quarterly reprinted with kind permission.