Category Archives: Newfoundland Mi’kmaq

Salmon Fishing

Newfoundland at the beginning of the 20th century 1902 Moses Harvey Harrys Brook wikicommons

Salmon fishing has a lure – for the fish and also for the person holding the rod. That lure brought several British naval officers to live in Bay St. George in the early 1900s. Near salmon brooks, of course.

This is a story about some of these men; a group of friends, and friends of friends. They spent time in Bay St. George and also England, Bermuda, South Africa and the Antarctic. They were World War veterans, explorers, sailors, farmers, and celebrities. Theirs were “the lives of a Canadian backwoodsman with that of a fashionable party-goer” as Wikipedia describes Major Frank Bickerton.

naval officers and the west coast 1950
Tap image for larger view

The article is likely from a west coast Newfoundland newspaper but it doesn’t say. Below is a transcription of it, and below that are some of the stories within the story that Google helped me find.

Naval Officers And The West Coast

Corner Brook, Nfld. May 1950

One of the outstanding aspects of the west coast is the influence on it of English Naval officers who visited or settled on it over a period of time that may have extended to a couple of hundred years.

barachois brook to black duck google map
Barachois Brook, bottom, Black Duck, top. Tap image.

We have them coming year after year on cruises just when the salmon are going up the brooks, then settling as Commander Carter did at Barachoix Brook, Captain Campbell at Black Duck, and Captain Neville at Dump Pool. Then they influenced officers from the other services to settle like Major Wise at Black Duck and Major Bickerton at Black Duck.

They all had one thing in common – love of the sport of salmon fishing – so we find them settling by the finest rivers and usually near the best pools, clearing virgin land with local labor and usually erecting the log cabins symbolic to the the Englishmen of Pioneer-land in North America. Some of these like Captain Campbell’s summer home at Black Duck were huge – that one measures sixty feet by forty.

cornelius carter

Commander Carter of Barachoix Brook, who settled there before World War I and maintained, besides a fine home, a cabin up near a good salmon pool, was a well-known and respected figure in Bay St. George. A Justice of the Peace, host to the leading people of the Bay, yet he was oftener seen in shorts than the resplendent sports jacket and flannels. Bare armed and bare-legged, tattooed in true sailor style, a magnificent figure of a man, he was a sight to see with a salmon rod or handling his sailing boat. Up to his death at the age of seventy-two, he was a good friend and neighbour.

Captain Campbell of Black Duck, Bermuda and London (for he kept up residence in the three places simultaneously, besides a yacht in Humber Arm and a limousine in England) was a famous and wealthy (to our standards) man who preferred the summers in Newfoundland to any other part of the world.

worst journey in the world Antarctic-1910-1913-Archibald-Constable-UK-pd-R-Priestley-Victor-Campbell-wikicommons
Antarctica ca 1912, R. Priestley left, V. Campbell right

Accompanying the Scott Expedition was one of the first adventures of this prince of men. He escaped Scott’s fate but carried effects of the exposure to his grave. World War I found him serving in some of the heavy naval battles in the North Sea and he won decorations there. His first cabin by Harry’s Brook was located on the eastern side of the river by the mouth of Trout Brook. He afterwards moved to the western side and had a beautiful home. The huge cabin had hardwood floors, its own lighting plant and the grounds were beautiful with the flowers and fruit trees that were the special care of Mrs. Campbell (who was formerly lady-in-waiting to Norway’s Queen). Captain Campbell moved in his latter years to Corner Brook where he died last year. He, like all these other settlers, left a legacy of gracious living in a country home that was desirable as the world could show.

frank bickerton 1911-1914 pd wikicommons

Major Bickerton, a former Royal Air Force officer in World War I, settled on an especially fertile piece of land about a mile upstream from Captain Campbell’s place. The interval land when cleared grew crops of timothy that ran three tons to the acre against the usual one ton acre in this country. The major, a giant of a man with a war-scarred face and body, finally returned to England for personal reasons and the place was sold to Bowaters in 1939. They ran a farm on it for some years when it changed hands again and it is now held by Mr. Ray Doucette, genial host of Dhoon Lodge.

Major Wise, a hard-working Irishman, cleared a farm and had a home down-stream from Captain Campbell’s. This place occupied him in summer and he spent his winters in Africa where he had a huge farm.

Captain Neville, who settled a farm and had built the usual log cabin at Dump Pool, was heir to one of the greatest fortunes in England but Newfoundland kept him in its fascination.

All these officers paid Newfoundland the compliment of choosing it as “The Island I would best like to live in” and left a heritage of gracious almost baronial living at modest expense. Where else but this island could they have almost virgin salmon streams to themselves, fertile land for practically nothing, faithful and friendly retainer-like workers for modest salaries? And where else they build manor houses from free material?

These gentlemen left their mark on this coast in the homes and homesteads. Their memory will be always green to those who were privileged to know them. If next time, you are fishing one these pools, you see the shadowy form of a sportsman with the smart cut of the navy and catch a whisper of crisp English accent, move on – he has prior claim.

barachois brook google street view

Stories behind the story

Commander Carter was Cornelius Edward Carter RN. Born in 1880 in Essex, England, he died in 1950 and is buried in St. George’s Anglican Cemetery. His wife’s name was Ida, born in 1891 in Lingan, Cape Breton. They had a daughter Marjorie born in 1913 (more about her in a later post). Their son Frederick was born in 1925. Frederick’s sons gave family land in Barachois Brook to the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2018 as a wildlife refuge. J. R Smallwood’s Encyclopedia of Newfoundland (1981:1:128) says the community of Barachois Brook was settled “first by the Carter and Joe families (the latter Micmac guides who moved to Conne River)… The List of Electors (1928) lists only the Carter and Joe family names.”

marit fabritious campbell
Marit Fabritious Campbell

Captain Campbell was Commander Victor Lindsay Arbuthnot Campbell. He was born in 1875 in Brighton, England and died in 1956 in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. His second wife, mentioned in this article, was Marit Elisabeth Fabritious. Born in 1890 near Vågå in south-eastern Norway, she returned there after Campbell’s death. She died in 1975. She had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Maud until 1914. Wife of Norway’s King Haakon VII, Maud was the youngest daughter of British King Edward VII.

Major Frank Bickerton was born in 1889 in Oxfordshire and died in Wales in 1954. He was part of Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911 to 1914. He was planning to go with Sir Ernest Shackleton on his Endurance expedition but joined the British Army instead when World War I broke out and went to the Western Front. After the war, he lived in Newfoundland but left in 1928. He farmed in South Africa and spent time in California and England. His friend Vita Sackville-West modelled a main character on him in her 1930 novel The Edwardians. In 1937 he married Lady Joan Chetwynd-Talbot, daughter of Viscount Ingestre, and sister of the 21st Earl of Shrewsbury. She was born in 1911 and died in 1974.

frank wild ca 1914 frank hurley pd wikicommons
John Robert Francis “Frank” Wild CBE FRGS ca 1914

I couldn’t find anything on Major Wise. But I did find a friend of Bickerton’s named Frank Wild. He too was a polar explorer and farmer in South Africa. Born in Yorkshire in 1873, he died in 1939 in South Africa. From 1901 to 1922, he was part of five Antarctica expeditions, with Scott, Shackleton and Mawson. He fought in WWI in the Royal Navy, and afterwards farmed in South Africa with Bickerton. I came across no references to Wild being in Newfoundland, but still I wonder if he is the Major Wise of the article.

Captain Ralph Neville was actually Commander Neville, having been promoted in 1922 near the end of his Royal Navy career. He was born in 1887 in Somerset, England, and died in 1936 in Corner Brook. He was the son of Admiral Sir George Neville and Fairlie Florence Lloyd-Jones. He was heir to Butleigh Court in Somerset owned by his uncle, Robert Neville-Grenville. He died shortly before his uncle did, so the estate passed to Ralph’s son, Richard Neville, born in 1922. I will tell Ralph’s story in another post (Officers and Gentlemen). It’s the stuff of movies.

Baronial living at modest expense

All these men lived the stuff of movies – with Bay St. George being a common thread. They hobnobbed with the rich and famous, and they enjoyed salmon fishing. The life of a colonial gentleman, to be sure.

You’ll see on the original of the article that someone – whoever had the clipping before me – marked a paragraph for emphasis. It is where the writer extols the luck of these men in finding “almost virgin salmon streams to themselves, fertile land for practically nothing, faithful and friendly retainer-like workers for modest salaries.” And “manor houses from free material”. Cringe-worthy or tongue in cheek? The author describes their houses as “the log cabins symbolic to the Englishmen of Pioneer-land in North America.” Then gives details of their grandeur. Juxtapose words like “baronial” with “modest salaries” and “free material” – maybe a little jab at the colonial mindset?

Sacred Bear Park

Forty-two years ago, the St. John’s Evening Telegram ran a story about a proposed Mi’kmaq park on the west coast of the island. The Sept. 26, 1979 article by Terry LeDrew about Sacred Bear Park is below.

Sacred Bear Park Ev Tel 1979
Sean (right) and Dick Gabriel read letters supporting a proposed heritage park for the Corner Brook area. Sean, chief of the Corner Brook Indian Band Council, and his brother, are actively studying the feasibility of creating a native Mic Mac Park, which would be named Sacred Bear Park.

Native park aim of Indian group

By Terry LeDrew, Telegram Correspondent

The Corner Brook Indian Association is investigating the feasibility of establishing a native park close to the west coast city.

In an interview with The Evening Telegram, band council chief Sean Gabriel said the proposal has received “excellent” support from both the provincial government and the private sector, and meetings are being held with various government-sponsored programs in an effort to receive funds for the feasibility study.

The park, which would be named Sacred Bear Park, would comprise a large, forested area close to Corner Brook and would contain an exact replica of a Mic Mac village as it existed before contact with European settlers, as well as depicting Mic Mac life on a day-to-day basis.

Gabriel says the proposed park would have a twofold significance; helping to increase awareness among local native people for their culture, while increasing employment among Mic Mac descendants in such a way as to promote pride in their community, as well as being an important contribution to tourism in the province.

No Vehicles

The park, he said, would be a walk-in affair, with no motor vehicles of any kind allowed. All other means of transportation to the park, which, if all goes ahead, will boast about 40 miles of wilderness trails at the village. These, he added, would include snowshoe and sled trails for the winter months, and horseback-riding trails and canoe routes for the summer and fall operation.

Although no site has been definitely decided upon for the native park, Gabriel says it would have to be a forested area, with mountains, a minimum of two lakes, and be close enough for the west coast city to benefit economically.

Gabriel, who notes the park is only in the planning stage at present, says he would eventually like to see an extensive area, offering cabins for overnight trailriders or hikers, ponds stocked with native, brown and rainbow trout and a crafts centre, offering authentic, high-quality crafts for sale throughout the province and the rest of Canada.

The west coast city, which has an Indian population of about 400, has close to its boundaries several known Indian burial and encampment sites, says the band leader, although these have not been excavated.

Long-term goals are to establish an archives building, in the proposed park, in which objects from these and other burial and campsites may be displayed.

As well as being a recreation area, the park would also provide support and assistance to schools and colleges as a base of operations from which to study and enjoy nature and would help ensure the preservation of a wilderness area.

More than 56 people would be employed year-round at the proposed park, said the band leader, helping to alleviate the rampantly high unemployment level in the city, and the park would promote the spending of local money as well as attracting tourist dollars into the west coast area, which would stimulate local business.

Sylvester Joe

Sylvester Joe is one of the best known men in the island of Newfoundland’s exploration history. He’s also one of the least known. A Mi’kmaq hunter and guide from Bay d’Espoir, Joe took William Epps Cormack across the island in 1822. By doing so, Cormack became the first non-indigenous person to cross the interior.

my-indian-cover-detail-sheila-oneillCormack, who called him Joseph Sylvester, told us most of what we know about him. Until now. Mi’sel Joe and Sheila O’Neill tell us more in their new YA book My Indian. It will be released April 30, 2021 by Breakwater Books.

Like Sylvester Joe, Chief Mi’sel Joe is from Miawpukek, or Conne River, on Newfoundland’s south coast. Sharing a community and culture, Chief Joe is well-placed to figure out who he really was. Although Cormack tells us a lot about his guide, he doesn’t say much about Joe’s personal history. Even his name, as given by Cormack, is unsure. Joe is a common surname among Newfoundland Mi’kmaq, whereas Sylvester is less common. (See Marshall and Macpherson 2018, and Sheila O’Neill’s  comment below.)

Narrative of a Journey

Guide and client spent July to November of 1822 together, getting ready for their trek and then doing it. They walked across the middle of the island west from Trinity Bay to St. George’s. Most often there was no one else with them. In his Narrative of a Journey across the Island of Newfoundland in 1822, Cormack tells us about the man he saw during this gruelling trip. He recorded Joe’s knowledge and observations in detail. His reactions to places and people too.

The two also must have talked about their lives, their families, where they were from. But that’s not recorded. Their life stories were not the point of Cormack’s account. It was the journey itself.
The pink line marks the route Joe and Cormack took. Map from Heritage NL.

“in the middle of that country”

Cormack’s objective was “to see the rocks, the deer, the beavers, and the Red Indians, and to tell King George what was going on in the middle of that country.” This, Cormack says, is how Joe described their mission to James John when they met the Innu hunter and his Mi’kmaq wife near Meelpaeg Lake.

Mt Sylvester Parks Canada
Mt. Sylvester, named by Cormack for his guide (Parks Canada)

Cormack does tell us about the flora and fauna, but also what he and Joe were doing and, sometimes, thinking. He gives details about every other person that they met. What they had with them, where they were going and what they were doing. And that, at least as much as the geographical knowledge, is the value of Cormack’s Narrative.

“from end to end of the land”

Historian J. D. Rogers wrote in 1911: “Cormack’s historical discovery – unexpected by him and unsuspected by historians – was that during a century or more, while Englishmen were gazing out seawards with their backs turned to the land, Micmacs with their backs turned toward the sea were hurrying to and fro from end to end of the land” (162).

My Indian by Mi'sel JoeWe know a lot about Cormack’s life, him being a writer and explorer and all. We know much less about Sylvester Joe, who made it possible for Cormack to do that exploring. The authors of My Indian tell the story from that other side. With knowledge of their shared history, and some educated guesswork, they give us Sylvester Joe’s backstory. The book’s beautiful cover is by Newfoundland Mi’kmaq artist Jerry Evans.

(Thank you to Sheila O’Neill for correcting and adding to what I had written here.)

Tap the book cover above to order My Indian on Amazon. Cormack’s Narrative, and much more, is in J. P. Howley’s 1915 The Beothuks or Red Indians. A link to it is below, as well as to All Gone Widdun, a 1999 historical novel by Annamarie Beckel about the Beothuk. Also see:

Glenwood Tannery

37 years ago this month, the Mi’kmaq band council in the central Newfoundland town of Glenwood began operating a smoke tannery. A Gander Beacon article about the official opening is transcribed below. It was published on Oct. 5, 1983 on pages 1 and 6. Neither the writer nor photographer are named. Tap images to enlarge.

Glenwood Tannery Gander Beacon 1983-pA1

Indian Band Council officially opens tannery

The Glenwood Indian Band Council held the official opening of their Traditional Smoke Tannery last week and is proud of the fact that it is the only one of its kind in the whole world.

cutting-rawhide-1983Among the special guests attending the ceremonies were Mrs. Hazel Newhook, MHA for Gander; Calvin White, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians; and Bob Stares, manager of Canadian Employment Immigration Commission (CEIC) at Gander.

Mrs. Newhook cut the rawhide strip which was used instead of the traditional ribbon to officially open the facilities. She was assisted by Larry Jeddore, chief of the Glenwood Indian Band Council, and Bob Stares, manager of CEIC. Despite the wet weather conditions at the time, everyone enjoyed the tour of the tannery, especially watching the employees dehair moose hide in preparation for tanning. The smoke house was in operation at the time and a display of handcrafted products were on display so the guests could see first-hand the type of items that will be possible from tanned moose and caribou hide.

smoke house 1983
“Smoke house in operation”

After a tour of the facilities guests were treated to a luncheon-style buffet, including cold roast moose meat, turkey, salads and desserts, which was prepared by the women of the Indian Band Council.

Hazel Newhook

Mrs. Newhook was the guest speaker at the luncheon and congratulated the Band Council on their success of such a unique venture also in securing government funding through CEIC for buildings, equipment and training purposes. She said the provincial government helped in a small way through the Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth by collecting moose and caribou hides from all across the province and making them available to the tannery free of cost. She also expressed a desire to obtain a couple of leather products that she is interested in, and says she looks forward to being able to purchase those in future from the tannery. In her closing remarks she explained that the key to the success of the industry would be in marketing the finished product and wished the Indian Band Council best wishes in their plans for expansion to include a craft shop.


Calvin White

calvin-white-1983Mr. Calvin White, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, added humor to the celebrations when his remarks included a joke which involved Chief Larry Jeddore. On a more sober note he congratulated the Band Council on their success thus far explaining this was a historic occasion but as such was not unique to the Micmac Indians of Newfoundland. He went on to explain that Buchans mines and the town itself was founded by a Micmac Indian, M. Mitchell. In elaborating on the contribution of the Micmac Indians to the province of Newfoundland, Mr. White said every able-bodied Micmac in the province offered themselves in service for their country during World War I, and those who were too old for service during the Second World War saw their sons follow suit. He also commented on the role the Micmacs played in the forest industry when conditions in the woods were so bad that the white men refused to work, he said, “burnt beans and sour bologna didn’t daunt the Micmac, because he loved the forest…, it was his home!”

dehairing-moose-hideMr. White also said that this new industry is crucial to the town of Glenwood right now, especially since Bowater has left the area in such a state. He said the Band Council will not leave the area to find work but will strive to promote this industry, and will make a contribution by staying here. However, says Mr. White, the viability of this operation is in jeopardy unless the provincial and federal governments support the Indian people as they do the Newfoundland fishermen. He says they need a chance to prove what they’ve undertaken here, and they need to be encouraged to strengthen their communications while playing a leading role in the economy of this province.inside-tannery

Roger John

Roger John, representing the Atlantic Regional Indian Arts and Crafts Association, spoke briefly at the luncheon wishing the Indian Band Council good luck for their future success. He says, “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here!” He explained that the next step would revolve around the retail end of the industry. He said this needs a serious look because “we’re taking the leading role by the fact that this has never been done before and we have no data base to draw information from. It will take six months to one year to work out a production system and already there are buyer offers from outside the province.” Saskatchewan has approached the council with an offer to buy 200,000 square feet of tanned leather, but, he says, revenue is necessary to make the whole thing a success and he hopes that funding agencies will recognize the potential of this project. He suggested that governments stand by the program for at least another year and help it develop the way it could.

guests-at-opening 1983

Bob Stares

Mr. Bob Stares, manager of CEIC in Gander, was the last speaker at the luncheon and he congratulated the Band Council on their efforts thus far and wished them every success in the future. He says he was glad to have shared in the venture and looks forward to watching them grow into a viable industry.Larry-Jeddore
Glenwood Tannery-Gander Beacon 1983-pA6

Gerry Penney 1951-2020

From Caul’s Funeral Home, St. John’s, in part

Passed away at home in St. John’s on May 14, 2020. Gerald Penney, Archaeologist and Heritage Consultant. Predeceased by parents Simon and Rita Penney, Port Union, and brothers Jim and Aidan. Leaving to mourn, his darling wife of 43 years Ellen; sons Steven (Kenzie); Simon (Amanda); and daughter Andrea (Blaze); his wonderful grandchildren Charles and Anna and her dog Cora and Andrea’s dog Ziggy, along with sisters Sheila, Donna and Carmel (Scott) and five nieces and nephews. Gerry expresses his appreciation to all his fine business and archaeology associates, squash club members, road running mates, friends at the Miawpukek Reserve, Conne River and other First Nations members throughout the Province, fellow members of the Hollywood History Club, all those interested in Newfoundland history and maps and most profoundly to his health providers.

From the Provincial Archeology Office of NL, in part:

[Gerry] was heavily involved with the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River and their search for their history on the Island. Part of the goal of his 1985 Master’s Thesis was to search for Mi’kmaq sites, and while he found several recent historic Mi’kmaq sites during this work, his lasting contribution from his thesis was the L’Anse à Flamme site. Gerry named the Little Passage complex based on his work at L’Anse à Flamme, which we know today as the precontact ancestors of the Beothuk based mostly on his work. On the heels of his thesis, he became the first archaeologist to excavate a Mi’kmaq site on the island, including Burnt Knapps, Temagen Gospen, and King George IV Lake. In the 1990s, he led a search for Mi’kmaq sites called the Katalisk survey that stretched from the Codroy River Valley to Bay St. George.

From Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi, in part:

Gerry was an Archaeologist and Heritage Consultant who assisted MFN and collaborated on many files over the past 30 years. His contributions to Miawpukek First Nation were powerful and his work ethic remarkable – energy, commitment, and integrity are all words that begin to capture our image of Gerry. He enjoyed visiting our community as much as we enjoyed having him.

Some of Gerry’s publications are:

1983 “The Micmac Cross of Bay de Nord,Newfoundland Quarterly 79(l):35-36.

1984 “Burnt Knaps: A Micmac Site in Newfoundland,” Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 8:1: 57‑69, Ottawa. (with Heather Nichol).

1985 The Prehistory of the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland. MA Thesis (Anthropology), MUN.

1990 Frank Speck and the Newfoundland Micmac: A Summary. Papers of the Algonquian Conference 21:295-302.

1991 “Five Micmac Photographs,Newfoundland Quarterly 86:3:12-16 (with Michael Wilkshire)

1993 On the Country: The Micmac of Newfoundland (Doug Jackson, ed. G Penney) St. John’s: Harry Cuff.

1997 “An Ocean Going Canoe from Conne River,” Newfoundand Quarterly 90:4:2-3.

2015 James P. Howley, ‘the birth of Newfoundland archaeology, and the end of history’. Keynote address, NL Archeology Society Symposium, MUN.

Gerry also had a historical book and map shop in St. John’s and online. There are treasures in it.

He will be missed greatly.

Caribou Drive

In his 1969 book Newfoundland, Harold Horwood recounts the story of a caribou drive in western Newfoundland in the late 1800s. He heard it in the Codroy Valley, from “an aged man named Placide White back in the 1950s.”Newfoundland_Caribou_Milwaukee_Public_Museum

Placide White: 19th Century Caribou Drive

Mr. White, a hunter and woodsman as well as a farmer, took part in the great caribou drive of the last century – the only attempt that I know of to round up caribou and treat them like Lapland reindeer. It began when a European company hired a crew of Newfoundlanders to go to the southern end of Grand Lake at the time of the autumnal caribou migration, to round up a herd of the animals for export. The plan was to drive them into a crude corral, as the Algonkian Indians used to do when they wished to slaughter a herd of white-tailed deer, then to tame them, as far as possible, and finally drive them to the coast. The camp was built on the central plateau just east of the Long Range Mountains within sight of the lake, and the caribou came past by thousands.

‘You should see them – oh! my dear man! stretching off, you know, over the barren ground, as far as you could see, covering a whole hill at a time, thousands of animals on the move. And we cut out small sections of them, you know, like cowboys cutting out cattle from a herd. We rode horses wherever the ground was open enough. We had built a great enclosure of logs with an opening like a funnel in one side, and we’d drive the caribou in.

detail of map showing caribou drive area, from Horwood Newfoundland
Detail of map in Horwood’s Newfoundland, showing Grand Lake near top (tap to enlarge)

Kill themselves from panic

‘It didn’t work too well, though. They used to kill themselves from panic – break their legs, even their necks. And we couldn’t get enough feed for them. But finally we got the survivors quieted down and drove them out, in small herds, to the coast. We lost some of them on the way, and we lost others trying to load them on a ship, but the ones that survived were stowed, at last, in the hold of a vessel, and taken to Europe to stock game parks, you know…’ [pp 20-21]

Poor caribou! It’s kind of the reverse of another misguided and ill-fated tampering with fauna: introducing reindeer to Newfoundland. I’ve never heard of this caribou drive for export. And I couldn’t find anything more about it by googling.

Little-Codroy-Valley Newfoundland_at_the_beginning_of_the_20th_century 1902_M-HarveyPlacide White was born “in the Codroy Valley almost a hundred years ago,” so likely in the 1860s. “He was a member of the widespread family named LeBlanc,” Horwood says.

Harold Horwood books

Cover of Newfoundland by Harold HorwoodThere’s more from Mr. White and others about the history and peoples of the west coast. The book includes Horwood’s travels across the island and Labrador. Some copies of his Newfoundland are available on Amazon (tap green link to see) and maybe in used bookshops. Horwood is not shy about sharing his opinions! It’s a good book, descriptive of place and history. And, at 50 years old, its ‘present’ is now itself history. Also see his 1986 Corner Brook: A social history, below.

Stephen Gallant

stephen gallant elizabeth-gaudet-stephenville-kevin-brake-youtube-aug-11-2007This St. John’s Evening Telegram article is about Stephen Gallant and his wife Elizabeth Gaudet of Stephenville, Bay St. George. From 1942, calculating from the month and day shown. That year also fits with the information in the article.

I found this better reproduction of the article’s photo of the Gallants on YouTube, posted by Kevin Brake. There’s lots of great old pictures of Stephenville, so enjoy looking back!

Stephenville’s Grand Old Man is Ninety-Five

Settlement is named after him
By S. E. N. Cox

Stephenville, April 30 – One of the grand old men of Newfoundland is Mr. Stephen Gallant, 95 years of age, who was the first one to be born in Stephenville, which is named for him. Mrs. Stephen Gallant, his second wife, is 85 years old.

He made a sea trip early in life, for he was taken to Cape Breton when he was only two months old, to be baptized.

Mr. Gallant has three sons and three daughters – the oldest son is 67 years of age. He has no idea of the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren he has.

He was married the first time when he was 22. His present wife does not speak English, only Cape Breton French. His father died at 68 years of age and his mother at 90.

After a lifetime spent as a farmer and a fisherman, Mr. Gallant does not wear glasses and still seems to be in good health. He lives in a well-kept house, which is clean and comfortable and where hospitality is warmly extended.

Mr. Gallant thinks airplanes are wonderful things, but has no desire to fly in one of them. He does not resent the intrusion of Americans or the American base.

stephen gallant 1942 Evening Telegram article

Stephen Gallant Family Tree

Like Mr. Gallant, I don’t know for sure how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren he had. A lot! Here is his family tree, from his children up through his parental lines, as best as I can make it. They go from Newfoundland back to what was Acadia, particularly Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.

Stephen Gallant ancestry chart dstewart
Click/tap for larger view of chart

His first wife was Flora Delaney. After she died, he married Elizabeth Gaudet. I found ancestry trees naming a seventh child from his second marriage. However, this article only mentions six children. I have included all seven – four daughters and three sons – but I don’t know if that’s accurate.

Amazon link Back of the Pond by Mercedes Benoit-PenneyIn her Back of the Pond, Mercedes Benoit-Penney tells the Acadian and Mi’kmaq history of Stephenville before the American base. Like Stephen Gallant, she is descended from Etienne Leblanc and Anne Marie Cormier. She also discusses the genetic condition known as Allerdice Syndrome found among their descendants. Tap image for link.

Jim John Tourism Ad

Jim John on the Gander River, a full page ad in MacLean’s magazine May 2, 1977 issue.

Jim John in MacLeans-2-May-1977-p43
Jim John, from Glenwood, in Newfoundland Tourism ad 1977 (tap for larger view)

From the Dept. of Tourism, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, it reads in part:

“The Original. Micmac Indian guide JIm John Jr., like his father before him, is a legend in his own time. He poles a Gander River boat, unique to this area of Newfoundland, in search of splendid salmon and the mighty moose.”

On MacLean’s website recently, I saw “free access to archives for a limited time”. A quick search and I found a Newfoundland tourism ad I’d wanted to see for many years.

Tony John had told me about the ad. But he didn’t have a copy, and neither did anyone else. But he remembered what it said, and the implications. And I remembered what he said. ‘The government calls Jim a ‘Micmac guide’. Then they tells us we’re not aboriginal.’

Irony in advertising

Tony was Jim John’s nephew. He also had been president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and chief of the Glenwood Mi’kmaq Band Council. So Tony well knew the irony of the ad in light of political reality.

Provincial governments argued against official recognition of Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland before and after the date of this ad. The province even commissioned a study to rebut the FNI and Conne River Band Council’s 1980 land claim statement to the federal government. Albert Jones’ Assessment and Analysis of the Micmac Land Claim in Newfoundland was released in 1982.

Despite provincial opposition, Conne River received status under the Indian Act in 1984 and became the Miawpukek reserve. A few years later, individuals closely related to living Miawpukek band members could apply for “off-reserve” status. Other families and communities, however, still had nothing until Qalipu, a landless Indian Act band, was created in 2008.

Johns of Glenwood

Jim John Sr. and his wife Helen Benoit were from Conne River. They settled in Glenwood in the early 1900s. Their children were Norah, Louis, Catherine, Gertrude, Gregory (Tony’s dad), Harry, Michael, Theresa, Philomena, Jim Jr., and Delphine.

I remember going on the Gander River with Jim and his cousins. He pointed out every landmark and every tricky bit of water. He knew them all. Jim knew the river like the back of his hand. All his siblings, especially Harry, did too.

Boats & Builders has more on Gander River boats. Dennis Bartels’ chapter in Native People, Native Land, written in the 1980s, gives a sense of the political times in Newfoundland (Amazon below). My Qalipu Band of the Mi’kmaq Nation looks back to those years.

Beothuk Great-Grandchild
Demasduit portrait by Lady Henrietta Hamilton 1819

Two hundred years ago today, John Peyton of Twillingate and his party abducted a Beothuk woman, Demasduit. Her husband Nobosbawsut was killed while trying to protect her. Shortly after, her child died. Demasduit’s captors called her Mary March. They took her to Twillingate, then St. John’s. Too late, they decided to take her back to her people. She died January 8, 1890 on board HMS Grasshopper.

In April 1823, Demasduit’s niece Shanawdithit was captured. Her mother and sister, who were abducted along with her, died of tuberculosis soon after. Shanawdithit lived another six years and taught her captors much about her people – their language and way of life. She died on June 6, 1829, believed to be the last of the Beothuk.

The taking of Demasduit, drawn by Shanawdithit 1829, notes by W E Cormack (tap to enlarge)

In 1966, nearly a century and a half after Demasduit was captured, Harry Cuff wrote about Annie Gabriel White of Stephenville. She said her great-grandfather was a Beothuk man named Gabriel. Annie and Richard White were the parents of the late chief Benedict White of Stephenville.

Great-Grandchild of a Beothuk, by Harry Cuff 1966

Harry Cuff NQ 1966 Beothuk Great-Grandchild
Tap to enlarge or see original at Newfoundland Quarterly 1966 65:2:25

For years, most of those who have written about the Beothucks have been repeating, with apparent acceptance, the story that there were only thirteen Beothucks living at the time of Shawnadithit’s capture in 1823. The basis of this story is the report that Shawnandithit told this to W. E. Cormack. But giving full credit to the nomadic Beothucks for having had a thorough knowledge of the island, even the slightly sceptical reader would be inclined to question the reliability of a census for a 42,000 square mile area, given by a twenty-five year old woman, a century and a half ago.

Fifteen years ago when I began teaching Newfoundland history in Grand Falls (deep in Beothuck territory), I encouraged my students’ speculations about the actual fate of the Beothuck race. Having sparked their interest with a tale passed along to me by a friend who had been in conversation with a west coast Micmac, whose grandfather reputedly had shot a Beothuck on Red Indian Lake about the year 1850, it was necessary to curb the desire of some of the more romantic souls to organize an expedition to cross the Exploits River and seek a remnant of the Beothuck race. A more familiar story which served to intensify our historical cynicism was that of a white man who had been captured by Beothucks, married a Beothuck girl and fathered her child but escaped and return to live in a white settlement. Might not this have happened in reverse, we wondered? Might not a Beothuck man have married a white (or Micmac) woman and settled in a white community to raise a family, some member of which might be alive today?

Last month I talked to a woman who states with pride that her great-grandfather was a full-blooded Red Indian, i.e., a Beothuck. Mrs. Richard White, a resident of Stephenville, told me her grandfather, Joe Gabriel, never tired of telling her that he was the son of a full-blooded Beothuck named Gabriel who came from the interior of the island to Grand River in the Codroy Valley, where he married a Micmac girl. Mrs. White, whose picture accompanies this article, traced her ancestry as shown below.

Gabriel (full-blooded Beothuck) —m— Full-blooded Micmac girl

Joe Gabriel—married—Miss Gillam

Fred Gabriel —married — Margaret Cormier

Anne Gabriel (Mrs. Richard White)


Is it possible that among the many descendants of Gabriel, there can be found some of the unique physical characteristics of the Beothucks?

During the interview I was told another fascinating story by Mrs. White’s husband—a story related to him about the year 1920 by Paul Benoit, then a man in his nineties, who had been told the story when a boy by John Young, an old Micmac trapper. Young, when in his prime, set out on a hunting trip one fall travelling by sea from Journois Brook to the mouth of the Humber, thence by canoe to Sandy Lake and overland to a place later called Mary March Brook. There he met some white hunters from Notre Dame Bay who were looking for Beothucks. Young joined them, and shortly thereafter they came upon a Beothuck couple. The male Beothuck fired several arrows at his pursuers, who finally had to shoot him in defence, and they then attempted to capture the woman. She shot two arrows at them, but in trying to escape, she broke her snowshoe strap, and she was captured with four arrows remaining in her “caribou pouch.” Despite her advanced state of pregnancy, the Beothuck woman was restrained only with difficulty, and had to be lashed to a sleigh, which event hastened the birth of her child. Related in the 1920’s before Dick White had heard the Mary March story, it bears a startling resemblance to the better-known story of John Peyton’s capture of Mary March in 1819.

Mr. and Mrs. White related these stories (which we have not attempted to verify) to the writer and Melvin Rowe, CBC News Director, during a social evening in Mr. Rowe’s home. We feel that a search for similar tales among the remnants of the Micmac race would yield rich dividends.

cover howley beothuk bookThe Beothucks or Red Indians by James P. Howley 1915 has many accounts of the capture of Demasduit and subsequent encounters with Beothuk. See especially pp 91-129.

According to Ben White, Joseph Gabriel’s parents were Andre “Teesh” Gabriel and Mary Ann Hall. His wife was Ester Mary Rachel Gillam.

Mr. Cuff, publisher and author, died in August 2013 at the age of 85.

  • See my Sylvester Joe for more on the journey that W. E. Cormack made across the island in 1822 with a Mi’kmaq guide.

Newfoundland Reindeer

So what happened to the Newfoundland reindeer? The ones Mattie Mitchell helped herd down the Northern Peninsula to Millertown, who Dr. Grenfell took such great pains to bring from Norway? Everything seemed to be going well for them, but then they disappeared.
Unidentified_man_with_reindeer_during_the_winter-c-1907-Mar-Hist-Arch-mun-digitalArthur Johnson tells the rest of the story in the Book of Newfoundland 3:419-422. Below is the conclusion of his article, from when they arrived in Millertown. Hugh Cole, of the title, worked for the AND Company.

Hugh Cole’s 400-mile Trek with Reindeer

Thanks to great devotion the herd was without mortality. One doe had joined the caribou, one had broken her leg at Millertown after arrival, and the stag bitten on March 13 was to recover completely: a remarkable record in reindeer driving and herding.

woman-with-reindeer-Nfld-kew-gardens-KPPCONT_085040The aftermaths are also exceptionally interesting. First is that the A.N.D. Company reindeer were never worked but merely kept on exhibition, and they were visited by everyone from miles around, including people from Grand Falls and even St. John’s, including Governor MacGregor and party who made a trip for the sole purpose. The site was three and one-half miles above Millertown. The does had twenty-five fawns in May, which added to the interest. The animals were highly intelligent and very friendly, and in the later months roamed almost at large.

No forage in Millertown

However, there was discovered to be still another blunder: it was found that there was no reindeer-food of any consequence in the whole area. Actually the reindeer were fed on hay and grass during all the time they were at Millertown. No survey for food had been made because of the presumption that, if the herd could find its own food at St. Anthony, it would do so anywhere in Newfoundland. Suitable moss or lichens must really exist in the area, or the local caribou herds could not have lived there. One suspects that there was little support for the idea of reindeer-herding by the woodsmen and that even in the upper echelons of the A.N.D. Company that initial enthusiasm and novelty wore thin. It was another case of a good thing gone wrong for want of a fair trial.

Reindeer re-gifted to Grenfell
Nils Turesen Turi, herder in Newfoundland 1907-10

Be that as it may, the reindeer were offered back to Grenfell as a gift. Since the fifty animals had now become seventy-three this was an excellent offer which was promptly accepted. So, late in the year, after the breeding season, the herd was put on the move again, this time to South West Brook, Halls Bay, near Springdale. Hugh Cole went in charge again. In addition a number of A.N.D. Company men went along, such as the noted L. R. Cooper. The reindeer and all the equipment belonging to them went at leisurely pace to South Brook, where they were loaded on local schooners for delivery to St. Anthony.

True to their roaming practice and tradition, however, three of the reindeer wandered off from the herd and missed the boat. They were recovered and they finished the journey in state by the next coastal boat out of Springdale, the Clyde. Grenfell remarked that the reindeer were far from being in prime condition after having been fed mostly on hay all summer.

The Lap herder family, the Sombies, may have gone briefly to Lewisporte (definitely not to St. Anthony). The next record we have of them is their creating quite a sensation in St. John’s for a week as they arrived by the train to catch the R.M.S. Siberian December 18, 1908, en route to Liverpool and Lapland. As we can imagine: “They attracted much attention from the small boys and girls owing to their peculiar dress and high peaked caps. A large crowd assembled and followed them from the station.

Newfoundland Reindeer rise and demise

Newfoundland Reindeer c-1907-IGA-Lantern-Slides-MHA-MUN-digital-collWhat happened to Grenfell’s herd? Briefly, the 300 became 481 that same year. They rose to 1,000 in 1911; 1,200 in 1912; 1,500 in 1913. Then came the War. The Laps went home, Grenfell went to France with the Harvard Surgical Unit. Then the widespread poaching of the reindeer stepped up and was engaged in, not only by the people of St. Anthony, but by most of the settlements in the north of the Northern Peninsula, and including fishermen going and coming from the Labrador fishery. These were rough and ready times fifty years ago, and the breed of empire frontiersmen traditionally lived by killing everything that moved in the water, on the land, and in the air. To them, reindeer fell into that category.

When Grenfell got back there were only 230 reindeer left. The dogs got some, and the fishermen the rest.

In disgust Grenfell packed the remainder off to the Canadian Government, who put the 125 survivors on Anticosti Island where they gradually died out. And so ended a noble experiment.

“The Last Sad Story of the Reindeer” by Sir W. Grenfell, Book of Newfoundland 3:423-26

But the Newfoundland reindeer didn’t go directly to Anticosti Island. The government first sent them to the Innu of Quebec’s North Shore. When that didn’t work out, they were sent to Anticosti Island and left to fend for themselves.

The Reindeer Years

From The Reindeer Years: Contribution of A. Erling Posild to the Continental Northwest 1926-1935 (pdf), Patricia Wendy Dathan 1988 MA Thesis, Geography, McGill University, pp ix-x:

Reindeer: Newfoundland (right), St Augustin (red dot), Anticosti Is. (lower left). Tap to enlarge

In 1917, the International Grenfell Association, short of funds and lacking encouragement from the Newfoundland Government to continue the operation, requested help from the Department of Indian Affairs. The surviving 126 deer were transferred to the north shore of the St. Lawrence near St. Augustin. The Indians who tended them had had no experience with herding and allowed a great deal of interference by people and dogs. In 1923, when wolves menaced the deer seriously and the problems of protecting and handling the animals mounted, the herd was moved to Anticosti Island and allowed to run wild. Although protected from further interference, they did not succeed, possibly due to lack of suitable forage, and by 1939, only 7 reindeer could be counted and were soon believed to be extinct.