Tag Archives: Bay St. George

Sea-trouting at Main Gut

In July 1835, Archdeacon Edward Wix joined a night fishing party at the Main Gut, Stephenville Crossing, and described it in his diary. In his Vignettes of the West column, historian Don Morris told the story.don-morris-sea-trouting at main gut

A moonlit sea-trouting scene

All was not work for the English Church of England missionary, Archdeacon Edward Wix, when he toured settlements along the south and west coasts of Newfoundland in 1835. Certainly, he attended most conscientiously to his priestly duties of marrying, baptizing, interring and holding church services in the various little hamlets he visited. But he also took time out to see first hand how the people went about their routine industry.

On one occasion he accompanied salmon fishermen to their site of work and he indeed experienced a singular scene. Before describing this in his diary, he wrote under the date of Sunday, July 5, (1835) the following:

“Three full services at Sandy Point (St. George’s Bay) so well attended that I regret exceedingly there should be no missionary stationed among this very teachable quiet people. This harbor and the barrisways, with an occasional visit to the Bay of Islands, and the settlements at Codroy Rivers and Island, would constitute a pleasant and no idle charge; and a school, as I found on an enumeration with one of the inhabitants, might in Sandy Point alone, congregate 70 children if it could be opened tomorrow.”

Following that entry for the Lord’s Day of July 5, the archdeacon penned in his journal:

“Monday [July 6, 1835] –

Went this week to visit the salmon fisheries, which are upon the Main Gut. Three or two families reside there. One night, as some of the families and an Indian boy were going out just at the rise of high tide, five canoes in all, to spear trout and eels, I joined them in the excursion. It employed us till an hour or two after midnight.”

main gut google-mapsArchdeacon Wix described the scene as an “animating one”. He wrote that a brilliant moon hung over the hills, which were finely wooded to the very cliffs and sand at the edge of the water. He continued his account: “Bunches of birch bark were packed together, a dozen in each packet. These were stuck, one at a time, as required, into a stick which was cleft at the top to let in this rude flame, in which a light was applied. The stick with the ignited birch bark was then put upright at the bow of the canoe; there, also, the man stood up, most insecurely summer-eel-spear-ffallop.tripod.combalanced, as would seem, with his ‘nighor’, or eel-spear, a pole cleft at the bottom with a spike inserted. This, on his striking a fish of any size, would open and admit it till the spike perforated it, and then closing upon it, would press it and prevent its escape.”

Fish bewildered

The archdeacon continued his fascinating account: “The sandy or stony bottom of the river in the shallows, – for in deeper water this sport cannot be pursued, – was seen as clearly as in the day, and every fish in it. The fish seemed at least bewildered, if not attracted by the light; and the quickness of eye, and adroitness of the man who used the nighor, impelling as he did, the canoe with the thick end, and every now and then, reversing it to strike, was surprising. He struck successfully at eight out of 10 of each of the fish at which he aimed, and shook them off into the boat with a sudden turn of his arm, which left him at liberty to strike at two fish within a second or two.

Kept his balance

“He kept his balance, also, with great niceness, when he seemed to have poised himself so far over the side of the light canoe, that he must, it seemed to me, have gone overboard, or capsized our crank bark. the light of the flambeau in the other canoes, as they came round the projecting points of leafy green, and the shade, as we again lost view of them behind the tree or rocks in the distance, was most imposing.”

Archdeacon Wix went on to say that 400 trout were thus speared in the canoe in which he was an occupant. He added that some of these fish were of such a size, that they would have been taken, as they frequently were, in the salmon nets.

The archdeacon concluded his account of this unusual “excursion” by penning: “In the five canoes, above 1,000 (fish) were taken in a little less than two hours. I had the curiosity to weigh six of them, which together weighed 22 pounds, and had a barrel of this night’s catch salted that I might take them with me to St. John’s.”

Held more services

During the last days of July, Archdeacon Wix went about his duties, holding three full services at “The Barrisways” on Sunday the 19th.

The entry for his journal, Friday, July 24, said: “A new schooner belonging to my kind friends, Mr. Horatio Forrest and Joseph Pennall, for the launching of which I had been anxiously waiting, being now rigged and ready for sea, I took leave of the worthy inhabitants of St. George’s harbor – of whose kindness I shall ever entertain an affectionate recollection – in an evening service which was very crowded.”

He sailed from Sandy Point Saturday, July 25, at five in the morning, headed for Port aux Basques. No doubt his moonlit sea-trouting excursion was still fresh in his mind.

thetownofstephenvillecrossing.comWho was fishing at the Main Gut?

Archdeacon Wix does not name those with whom he went fishing. However, Kirk Butt in Early Settlers of Bay St. George Vol. 1 writes about who it likely was:

The 1838 List of Inhabitants showed four settler families living in the area that is now known as Stephenville Crossing… Jean Pillet and Jean-Marie Luca/Lucas were included on the 1838 List of Inhabitants and it was indicated that both men had been at the Main Gut for 15 years (since 1823)… François Benoit’s time of residence in the area was given as 50 years. This number was also rounded off. He had actually been there for just under 49 years. James Young Jr. (Jacques LeJeune Jr.) was correctly entered on the list as having been there for 8 years (since 1830)…

During this period, there are known to have been Mi’kmaq families from Seal Rocks [St. George’s] who lived in the vicinity of Stephenville Crossing during the summer months in order to participate in the salmon fishery… In addition to the settlement at Seal Rocks (Anse des Sauvages), his map [Lieut. Vauhello 1819] showed two families a few kilometres away at the mouth of St. George’s River (the east end of Stephenville Crossing)…

The two Mi’kmaq families at the Main Gut would only have been living out on the point during the summer as that area was exposed to somewhat fierce winds and storms in wintertime. They may have returned to Seal Rocks in the winter. By about 1830, however, there were MI’kmaq families from Seal Rocks in permanent residence at Stephenville Crossing. [2007:279-280]

Mr. Butt says that the family of Jean Marche also lived in the Main Gut but was omitted on Captain Polkinghorne’s 1838 List of Inhabitants (2007:218).

vauhello-bay-st-george-map-1819
Lieut. Vauhello Bay St. George 1819 survey, published 1822. Main Gut is gap at right. At its upper tip, he notes “two families of Indians who are involved in fishing salmon.” He also notes MI’kmaq settlement at Seal Rocks (lower middle). Provincial Archives Map Collection, St. John’s.

How to make an eel spear

Should you wish to make your own eel spear, Kerry Prosper of Nova Scotia shows you how on YouTube.

Louis John

Newfoundland archivist and historian Don Morris wrote about Louis John in his Vignettes of the West column in The Western Star. The photocopy I have of the article is difficult to read, so I’ve typed it out. Unfortunately the date of publication is not on it. It would be between 1974 and 1989, the years that Mr. Morris wrote for The Western Star.

don morris louis john western star
Click or tap image for larger view

The great caribou-skin canoe journey

By Don Morris

One of the greatest outdoorsmen and hunting and fishing guides who ever trod and explored the pristine Newfoundland wilderness was a Micmac named Louis John. Born in Conne River in 1868, he entered the guiding business at the age of 18 under the expert tutorage of his father, Peter John.

During his long career as woodsman par excellence, Louis gained the respect of all who loved the great outdoors. He acted as guide to sportsmen in all walks of life, including affluent St. John’s merchants, well-heeled visitors to our island and to ordinary local folk who wanted to know the best fishing and hunting grounds. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the vast and – to some – forbidding Newfoundland interior and its wildlife long before any train began snorting its way across the island. When he died in 1957 at the age of 89 he was already a Newfoundland legend.

Paddled hundred of miles

His stories of his experiences in the wilds captivated young and old alike. One such adventure was about a remarkable journey he and a partner, Micmac guide and trapper Noel Mattis (Matthews), made from St. George’s to Bay d’Espoir where they lived. They made the trip in a canoe of caribou skins and paddled many hundreds of miles of interior waterways without a single portage.

st-georges-to-bay-despoir-map.
Red line is a very rough indicator of their journey. My apologies to geographers. Click to enlarge.

Mr. John related that they left St. George’s and trekked along the Lapland River and over the mountains until they came to the base of the Anniopsquotch Mountains. Heading northeast, they came out at the head of Red Indian Lake by a place now called Lloyd’s River. They made camp there for a few days. They set their camp between what Mr. John described as “two old Red Indian houses.” He was obviously referring to the remains of Beothuk Indian abodes.

He said he couldn’t sleep well that night and was always waking up, explaining that “in those days, I guess, I was pretty scared of spirits and superstitions, because I thought those Red Indians were always after me.”

Killed caribou with rock

The men built a raft and poled their way down Red Indian Lake until they came where it emptied out into the Exploits River. One Sunday when they were out of meat Louis suggested to Noel, who apparently was older than Mr. John, that they shoot a caribou. The older man objected strongly that they hunt on the Sabbath Day and hid the rifle under the bed in camp.

Louis told his companion that they would have meat anyway. He picked up a heavy rock. One caribou looked over his shoulder at some others. Louis took aim and threw the rock with all his might. Recounted Louis in later years: “I hit him (the caribou) hard and he fell down. Quickly I leaped on him and cut his throat, dressed him and put him on my back and walked up to the camp.”

“The old man”, as Louis described his companion, was surprised that Louis had the animal as he had not heard a gunshot. Louis explained that the “gun” he used made no noise. He said that he threw the rock with such force that he had to dig it out of the caribou with his knife. The “old man” chuckled and remarked that they would not go hungry if there were rocks around.

The two men decided to build a canoe out of the hide in which to continue their overland journey. In later life, in describing this experience, Louis explained that the method of making the canoe was simple and used by many guides and trappers in the old days.

mikmaq-canoe-the-rooms-heritage.nf_.ca
ca 1983 Michael Joe and Martin Jeddore, caribou skin canoe, Newfoundland Museum, Traces

Louis and his companion cut a keel, tied a stem to the keel with roots. The caribou skin was laid out flat and the keel placed under it. Side timber and ribs were cut from crooked spruce and tied together. The ribs were placed under the hide, which was punctured on one side to hold the frames. They used spruce roots to tie the whole canoe together, and it worked very well, tight and buoyant.

Louis and his companion then paddled down river to Paul’s Brook and made camp. While there, they made a pine tree “dug-out” to carry them in country to the south and eventually home. With the dug-out Louis and his friend made their way up Noel Paul’s Brook and by hitting smaller tributaries eventually reaching Bay d’Espoir, covering a total of about 400 miles of water routes. Mr. John boasted as he recounted the adventure to his eager listeners in later years: “We never made one portage during the entire trip with the raft and boats.”

Louis John, when an elderly man, said that in one season he killed 50 caribou. He estimated that he had killed more than 1,000 in his lifetime and he packed every pound of meat out of the woods, leaving nothing to waste.

It would take a series of “Vignettes” to recount all the experiences of this remarkable man of the forest. For the material for this particular column I am indebted to William Peter Dugan of Gordon Terrace, Corner Brook, who is the great grandson of Louis John. Mr. Dugan is intensely interested in his genealogy and the history of the Micmac people in Newfoundland. It was said at the time of the death of Louis John: “The John Micmac ancestry is worn as a proud banner.”

Louis John 1868-1957

The Atlantic Guardian  published a long and interesting obituary of Louis John (pp 27-32). Above is the first page.  Also, his daughter Kathleen (Cassie) Humber talks about him in Calvin Coish’s Stories of the Mi’kmaq (pdf pp 9-26).

The caribou skin canoe pictured above was made by the late Michael Joe and Martin Jeddore, of Miawpukek. It was part of the Newfoundland Museum Mi’kmaq material culture project Traces. The construction method, as I remember, was just as Mr. John described. All photography for the project was done by Dave Quinton.

Genevieve Jane Duffenais

Dear readers, I need your help. I am looking for the parents of Genevieve Jane Duffenais or Duffney. She married George Hynes. They lived in the Gravels on the Port au Port Peninsula. They had several children, among them Elvina Julia Hynes (1870-1907). Elvina married William Thomas Gillam in 1899.

Genevieve Jane Duffenais chart

genevieve jane duffenais chart

Who were Genevieve’s parents? Were they Jean (or John) Frederick Dauphinee (1791-1851) and Mary Anne LeJeune/Young (1794-1871)?

Some genealogies I’ve seen show them as having a daughter Genevieve, with no husband or children listed.

Others list two daughters, Genevieve Jane (born 1833, married George Hynes), and Genevieve (born 1843, no husband).

Some show Genevieve Jane Duffenais/Duffney as wife of George Hynes, but do not give her parents’ names.

One online family tree has John Frederick and Mary Anne has having daughters Jane (born 1833 married George Hynes) and Genevieve (born 1843, no husband shown).

Another tree (#87 – michaeldauphinee.ca is gone) has John Frederick married twice. With first wife, Mary Anne Young, he had 4 children. He and second wife Rebecca Elizabeth Morash had 8 children, including Jane Duffenais (1833-1909, married George Haynes) and Genevieve (b 1843). But I saw that second wife only in that tree and I haven’t been able to learn anything more about Rebecca Elizabeth Morash.

In Sandy Point Anglican Baptism records, the Hynes children’s parents are listed as George & Jane.

Jane was often used as a short form of Genevieve, but it’s also a name in its own right. So you might have a Jane and a Genevieve in the same family. But it’s not likely that you’d give the same name to two children who both were alive.

Elizabeth Gillam Tabor from obit
Elizabeth L. A. Gillam Tabor

I found out that Elvina Hynes and Thomas Gillam had a daughter named Elizabeth Louisa Alexandria. She moved to New Brunswick and has descendants here. I thought it would be fun to trace the family back in Newfoundland. That was when I saw the problem with Genevieve. So if anyone can help, I thank you very much.

 

Colombe Brothers

frederick-colombus colombe -heritage.nf.ca
Frederick Colombe No. 912 1st Bn. Nfld Regiment

The Colombe brothers of Shallop Cove, Fred and Frank, died exactly two years apart. On October 9, 1915, Fred died of wounds received at Gallipoli. On October 9, 1917, Frank was killed in action “in France or Belgium”.

They were among the elder of Frank Sr. and Susan (Benoit) Colombe’s large family. Fred’s attestation papers say he was 21 when he enlisted in January 1915.  In March 1916, five months after Fred’s death, Frank enlisted. His attestation papers say he was 20. According to their mother, Fred was 20 when he died and Frank was 19.

On June 9, 1921, Francis Colombe Sr. died. Soon after, Mrs. Colombe sought financial help from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Her application for Separation Allowance is in the RNR archives.

Application for Separation Allowance

Here it is. Below each page, I’ve typed out some of the questions and answers. The ones that tell an astounding, and profoundly sad, story. It’s her words but not her handwriting. On the final page, look closely at the signature. You’ll see an X and “her mark”. That makes her words even more haunting somehow.

Click each image to enlarge it or go to The Rooms’ RNR Database to see PDFs of the entire files. (They are in list as Columbus.) This application is in Fred’s file.

rnr separation allowance application pg 1To The Paymaster,

Separation Allowance Branch, St. John’s, Nfld.

(1) Name of soldier, Rank, Reg’t or Unit, Reg’t No.
Fred Colomb, Pte,, 1st R Nfld, 912
Frank Colomb, Pte., 1st R Nfld, 2296

(2) Age of soldier. Married or single
20, 19 – single

(5) If your husband is not supporting you give the reason.
Dead

(9) Names of your other children. Address, Age, Occupation, Married or single
David Colomb (E Forester)[?], Shallop Cove, 23, Invalid, Single
Joseph “, Shallop Cove, 30, Invalid, Married
Louis “, Citadel Hill, Halifax, 19, Soldier, Single
Peter “, Shallop Cove, 25, Fisherman, Married
Mrs. Jos. White [Mary], Shallop Cove, 26, Housekeeper, Married
Mrs. Levi Young [Nancy], Shallop Cove, 22, ” ”
Delia Colomb, [?] St., Sydney, 16, Servant, Single
Mercy “, Shallop Cove, 14, Schoolgirl, Single
Statia “, Shallop Cove, 12, ” ”
Genevieve “, Shallop Cove, 10, ” ”
Cecelia “, Shallop Cove, 9 ” ”
Bell “, Shallop Cove, 7 ” ”

(10) State amount earned by (a) yourself (b) your husband.
Hard for me to say how much I earn as I [illegible]rnr separation allowance application pg 2

(12) State value of real property belonging to you and your husband.
About $300.00

(13) State value of personal property belonging to you and your husband.
About $30.00

(15) Actual amount contributed by soldier during the year prior to enlistment.
Whatever they earned they gave to me and my husband. They were young & worked with their father. They did not give any stated sum.

(18) State your son’s trade or occupation prior to enlistment.
They helped their father fishing and farming on a small scale.

(21) State amount of monthly support from son since enlistment.
Fred gave $12.00 per month. Frank gave 50¢ per day = $15 per month. Frank while in R. Navy (1 year) gave $9.00 per month.

(23) State from what date did you receive allotment?
Fred – June 1915. Frank – as RNR Jany. 1915, soldier – June? 1916

(26) If not receiving support from other children, state cause.
Some married, some not able to work, the rest too young. Louis has to support himself.

(27) With whom are you residing at present?
The single children are staying with me.rnr separation allowance application pg 3

(28) Have you made a previous claim for Separation Allowance. If not, why?
No. My husband said while he was able to work that he would not make a claim, nor allow me to make one.

(29) Are you already in receipt of any payment from any Patriotic Fund?
No

(30) Are you already in receipt of Separation Allowance from any source?
No

(31) Was the soldier at the time of his enlistment an employee of the Nfld. Government?
No

(33) Is he in receipt of a salary as such while serving in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment?
Both dead

Response to Mrs. Colombe

rnr major paymaster reply oct 1921Dear Madam:- With reference to your application for Separation Allowance… that same cannot be granted to you… during the period of service of your son, Fred, your husband was not incapacitated, and consequently you were not at that time, totally dependent on your said son. Yours truly… 

***********************

I googled the names that Natty White mentioned of Shallop Cove men who died in WWI. These files drew me right into their story.

Shallop Cove

natty white at shallop cove homeA 1980 interview with Nathaniel Adolph White, 1896-1987, of Shallop Cove, St. George’s. It was part of a genealogy and community history research project. I have only a tape transcript written by interviewer Joyce Blanchard. I have edited it slightly for length and clarity. Thanks to Arlene White for the photos of Mr. Natty White. (Click images for larger view.)

Also see Nathaniel White post.

People of Shallop Cove

The first man at Flat Bay Brook, the east side, was Charlie Perrier. Charlie Perrier was the son of Benjamin Perrier, the first settler there, Muddy Hole. Charlie Perrier had three – two brothers. One was Manuel Perrier, Flat Bay. The other was John Perrier, known as Jean Perrier. He was the beginning of all the Perriers in St. George’s, Steel Mountain Road.

Charlie Perrier had one son and three daughters. One of them was Fred Blanchard’s wife Gertie. The son was Wilfred Perrier, who’s dead. All the Perriers at the Brook is all his [Wilfred’s] sons. That’s all he [Charlie] had, one son. He [Wilfred] was married with Harriet Benoit, daughter of Tom Benoit, Muddy Hole.shallop-cove-mapcarta.com from flat bay to st. george's

LeJeune, Longuepee and Whites

The next one, that’s on this side of the Brook, was François LeJeune. That’s in the turn – the farm that Muskem had, that was François LeJeune’s farm but somehow I don’t think he was ever married. I haven’t heard of it anyhow, and he didn’t stay too long here. He took off for some other place.

Then there was another feller named Longuepee – that would be Long Shore in English. He had a camp by Longuepee Pond – just alongside the highway before you comes in to the gypsum mine. He’s another one that disappeared and I don’t know where he went. But that was the first settlers.

The next one was… This Joe White, as far as I know, he shifted down to where Francis White lived and there was two brothers. Jim White was another brother of Joe White. They established there by Jack Young’s on the shore side now where all the Colombes is living on that side. The road opposite Jack Young’s, that was all Jim White and Joe White’s property. Jim was east, the other fella was west. As far as I know, they were the only two of their class. There was a lot of other Whites but they weren’t related.

Now the next one that came was my grandfather. He had three sons: William, John, Kenneth, and he had two daughters. To my knowledge, one was married to Adolph Garnier – Elizabeth. The other [Adelaide] was married with my uncle William [Delaney], St. George’s. And he had a sister that married old Jim Blanchard at St. George’s. To my knowledge that’s all the family they had.

Next came the Colombes

Frederick Colombe was the next man that came. [Sons] poor Dave Colombe and old Narcisse was on that piece of land now where Budge is to.

The Colombes – there was Old Narcisse. He was never married. Frank and Narcisse – can’t remember the next one.

Q – What about Joe, was that their brother too? Oh, Joe Colombe, Joe Colombe was the son of Frank Young. Frank. That was the second family and old Narcisse had a sister too … As far as I know, Adeline, and that’s all the Colombes there was. And then the second family, and the third family was poor Frank.

He [Frank] had 21 children … and Mary. Poor Fred and Frankie were killed overseas. And then there was Peter Colombe and two or three that died young and Dave and Louis. That was all Frank Colombe’s crowd and half a dozen daughters. There was 21 altogether. That’s what you calls an old time family and it’s too bad that they didn’t get the baby bonus because they would have been a millionaire before they died. [See Colombe Brothers post for more.]nf-telegraph-fred-colombe-1915 rnr.therooms.caNf-Telegraph-1917-Frank-Colombe

from Margaree and Chéticamp to Shallop Cove

After that, that was all people from Margaree and Chéticamp. Old Pat White, he was a brother of Joe. And then old Nora [Honore?] Benoit, he was from Flat Bay. He established there where John Benoit…

The next one that established here, that’s in Shallop Cove, was Reuben Young, up by where you lives. He was from Fishell’s. Q – Was that Wallace Young’s grandfather? No, Wallace Young was the son of Reuben Young’s sister. They were Youngs too, Youngs from the Cape.

And next to that was Ned Brake. He was on the piece of land by the shore next to the Legion[?] Brook.

That was all the old people down to Pieroways. Old Bill Pieroway was another fellow who established here and I think – I’m not sure – he lived on Sandy Point.

Blanchards and Whites

Next to that was the Blanchards. Your father’s grandfather, no, your father’s great grandfather. William Blanchard was your father’s grandfather. That was the Blanchards there on this side of Blanchard’s Brook.

There was another bunch of Blanchards on the other side of the brook. Old Meda [Amadeus] Blanchard, that’s Hubert’s father. And old Peter Blanchard, that’s Meda Blanchard’s father. May Gabriel’s mother is the daughter of [Peter]. I think that’s the only two children they had.

Now the next one was old Sylvain Blanchard, Hubert Blanchard’s grandfather. And the next one was Uncle Joe, Joe White again, and Jim White, and next there where Percy Falle is to. No, that was Camille White, my Uncle Camille. And that was the older people in Shallop Cove.

Next came their family and their family and their family. You’re not interested in the younger ones. Yes? Because I can tell you George White’s family. There was Joe, Ralph and Arthur. Arthur was killed overseas in the First World War. Ralph and Joe died at home. Ralph died in St. John’s. There was three daughters. There was May and Jane and that’s all I remember of the girls.

William White and Elizabeth Delaney

In my family, my father had 14 children – 13 boys and one girl. 15 altogether. I’ll begin with Willy, was the oldest one. He died young. Then the next one was Willy again. He died in Stephenville – he was 75. He was married to Mary Ann Benoit, daughter of Luke Benoit, Stephenville.

Then there was Tom. He died in St. John’s. He was a veteran of World War I. He died at 91 and never married – he couldn’t find a woman.

Then there was Camille. He was married – that’s Willis White’s father.

And after that was Larry. He lived at St. George’s, married to Mary Benoit, daughter of Peter Benoit – Muddy Hole, Flat Bay.

Then there was Samuel. He was the one that was killed in the explosion of the ferry boat at St. George’s in 1908.

And after Samuel, there are 4 or 5 dead, that died young and some died as babies.

And after that there was Alfred and Hubert. They’re both dead. Alfred died at 75. He was a veteran of World War I. No, he never married. He was a sailor. He sailed for 59 years all over the world.

After Alfred and Hubert, I came. I was married to Stella Benoit, daughter of Frederick Benoit, Flat Bay. And we had 11 children. We were 13 years married and I won’t give you my history from there on because I couldn’t stand it.

And after that was [Clarence?]. He was the youngest one of the family. He was married to a girl from the Highlands. That’s about all the younger crowd.

The uncles and Old Pat White’s crowd

Uncle Camille was married to a girl from the Crossing, Artemis Benoit, and he had 7 children. Some of them was Alma, Martin, Mary, Lorraine, Patricia. Most of them – all the girls – are in the States. Most of them are dead except Mary who is in St. John’s.

And Uncle John only had two daughters. You remember Dide – that was one of his daughters. She was married to Frankie Bennett, Flat Bay – that man who lived down there, to that Clifford Bennett’s father, Frankie Bennett. I’ll tell you, all his relations are in Flat Bay, and that’s where he was reared up. He had two children – a Clifford and the one who’s married to Ambrose Boyles.

And Old Pat White’s crowd. There was Louis and Frankie, and you must of knew Frankie. Louis White, he owned the store. They had three, four, five – five daughters for sure. Mrs. John Delaney was one of them.

Ah, who was Pat White married to – Pat White was married to Mary Louise Garnier, daughter of Constant Garnier on the Point. Adolph was her brother and there was Arness [Ernest?] and there was Albert and there was Frank. That was all brothers from old Constant Garnier. He was a merchant on Sandy Point. And he used to have the liquor store too.

Sandy Point merchants

All the merchants on Sandy Point used to keep the liquor store as well as the other stuff. At that time there was no restrictions, no laws about having liquor and the liquor wasn’t $9 a bottle natty-white-90th-birthdayeither. I just got a bottle of brandy today – $8.85 a bottle of brandy I used to get for $4. At that time you could get a bottle of rum for a dollar and that was rum 60 overproof. You could make two bottles out of it and it would be stronger than what you get now. You could send $5 to St. John’s and they would send you a jar, a five gallon jar, and that was rum. You had to put as much water in the glass as rum.

Nathaniel White

Looking through old papers, I found a summary of a 1980 interview research assistant Joyce Blanchard conducted with Nathaniel White of Shallop Cove in Bay St. George. Mr. White, born in 1896, died in 1987. (See also Shallop Cove post.)

Mr. Nathaniel White

Today, I spoke with Mr. Nathaniel White at Shallop Cove. Mr. White is 84 years old and spent most of his life in Shallop Cove.
Mr. White told me that his great-grandfather was Marin LeBlanc from Lyon, France. He left France in 1823 aboard a French vessel. Mr. LeBlanc was 17 years old at the time. His vessel made rank at Magdalen Island and he was taken in by a family from the island. This family which took him in had four daughters and Mr. LeBlanc fell in love with the youngest daughter. He father found they were getting too close so he married them. There were no priests at the time.

Mr. LeBlanc and his wife had a son a year after they were married. This son, William Anthony White born in 1824, was Mr. Natty White’s grandfather.

Mr. LeBlanc later moved his family to Margaree. William Anthony White married Mary Ryan. (President Kennedy’s grandmother had the same name but they do not know if there was any relation.)

William Anthony White came across the Gulf and found there was lots of wildlife and fish so he decided to move over to Newfoundland. During the winter William Anthony White built a sloop and landed at Shallop Cove. He brought various seeds, etc. with him. He then built a house on the bank above the water at Shallop Cove.nathaniel white bay st george photo dorothy stewart

Mr. Natty White’s father married here and raised his family. Mr. Natty White’s father, William White, married Elizabeth Delaney from St. George’s. Elizabeth Delaney’s father was of Irish descent.

Making a living in Shallop Cove

Mr. White told me how the people made a living. He said that they fished and farmed. They would fish cod and herring until October. Then they would ship some of their catch to Halifax in exchange for supplies such as salt, flour, molasses, beef, pork, beans, tea, etc. Each family had about 15-20 sheep each. This provided them with mutton and wool. From the wool they made underwear as well as other things. Both men and women wore knitted underwear. Mr. White told me that they made coffee by burning bread. He said that it was really good.

Before Christmas they would kill 4 or 5 sheep and one of the older cows. They also had hens which provided them with eggs. In January two or three men would go in the country and bring back a load of caribou. There was no moose back then. There would always be a leader in these groups. The leader was somebody who knew the country. They would go for a week at a time. The meat they brought home they would bury in the snow. In March they would go back to the country and get more caribou which they sometimes sold for 5 cents a pound. This meat would be buried until the snow melted and then it would be salted.

In the winter they would also cut cooper stuff which is wood for making barrels. In March they would make the hoops and then in April the barrels were made. The entire barrel was made out of hand carved wood. These barrels were used for the herring and fish.

Beans for breakfast

Mr. White also told me that every morning they would have beans for breakfast. Every evening the pot of beans would be put on for the next day. On Sunday they would have fish and brewis for breakfast. For dinner and supper they would have either herring and potatoes or fresh meat. If this was not enough, they would finish up with bread and molasses.

In later years Mr. White’s old house (his father’s house) was turned into a school. He said he was 9 years old when he went to school. Later Mr. White’s father wanted the house as a work shed so Narcisse Colombe had the school in one part of his house and lived in the other end. Later the school in Shallop Cove was built, but he said that if anyone wanted a good education they would have to go to St. George’s school.

Flat Bay, Newfoundland

The Mi’kmaq community of Flat Bay in Bay St. George is on YouTube. Below is a 16 minute documentary about the west coast Newfoundland village (Feb. 2017).

You can also download the accompanying report on Traditional Land Use and Occupancy. In 86 pages, the authors give a good overview of Flat Bay’s history, traditions and kinship networks.

Flat Bay is an important historical and political centre of the Newfoundland MI’kmaq. Its people have been central in the fight for official recognition as a First Nation. But if you’re driving across Newfoundland, you’re likely to miss it. It’s well off the TransCanada Highway at the end of a road that goes nowhere else. This has been good for Flat Bay’s preservation of identity. From the conclusion of the report, here’s a bit of the reason why.

flat bay tluos cover photo
Flat Bay, photo from TLUOS cover page

Traditional Land Use and Occupancy Study

[The Mi’kmaq] settled in Flat Bay, due to its abundance of eel, access to the interior by the “river highways,” and provided isolation while allowing closeness to trading partners on Sandy Point.

…Originally a patchwork community was knit together due to their natural river boundaries. Hundreds of people bound together, through various means, surviving off the bounty of land and water, slowing closing the distance between them through the relationships that established the bloodlines we document in this study. For a time, the communities, Flat Bay West, East, and St. Teresa’s, were divided by the dialogue of outsiders. Divisions [were] drawn along… place name, family name, income and occupation, education, dialect…

As the community began to shrink for these reasons and others, the residents undertook policy, whether they did it consciously is still up for debate, of their community’s regeneration… Flat Bay was not unlike a thousand other small communities… of Newfoundland; the difference was someone else was writing our story. [pp 57-58]

google map flat bay
Google map of Flat Bay (click to enlarge)

Flat Bay History and Families

Flat Bay has been writing its own story, in terms of maintaining a strong Mi’kmaq community, for a long time. They literally write their own story in this study, in its authorship and use of interviews with residents. It begins with a concise history of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq and of the village. The authors then trace the history of industrial and subsistence economic activities, social and trade contact with nearby communities, and the effect of game laws. Education, language and the role of women are discussed in terms of tradition and change. The final section is an easy to follow history of the major Mi’kmaq families in the town: Benoit, King, Webb and Young.

It is an excellent study. Thanks to authors Calvin White, Hailey Burroughs, Mary Elsa (Dale) Young and Ivan White.

Mary Francis Webb

Mrs. Mary Webb was a midwife, one of the best known and most respected on Newfoundland’s west coast. She was also a healer using traditional Mi’kmaq medicines. She was a craftswoman. In addition, she farmed, raised animals, fished, hunted, trapped, and cut wood. She raised children and grandchildren.

midwife mary webb obit
Page 31, newspaper unknown. Click to enlarge.

Her first language was Mi’kmaq. In school, she learned English. From her Codroy Valley neighbours, she learned Scots Gaelic. As an adult living in Bay St. George, she learned French. These were the languages of early 20th century west coast Newfoundland. Her fluency meant she could speak with clients in their own language.

A “lay midwife”, Mary Webb had no formal training or accreditation. She started as an assistant and learned by experience. There were other midwives in Bay St. George: Susan Benoit and Emily Ann Paul in Flat Bay; Minnie Blanchard, Philomena Ryan and Philomena Sheppard in St. George’s; Rose Curnew in Stephenville Crossing. Formally trained midwives worked for the Grenfell Mission (see my Tempting Providence). Mrs. Webb was noteworthy for the great distances she travelled in her work. In all seasons at all hours, she went as far south as the Codroy Valley and north to Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands.

Midwife or doctor: social change

Until the mid-20th century, women in outport Newfoundland had their babies at home. The midwife arrived shortly before a woman’s due date and she or her assistant stayed for several days after the baby’s birth. A doctor was called if necessary. Emergencies happen, of course, so the midwife might be called early and she had to deal with complications if a doctor could not get there in time.

In the 1950s and ’60s, cottage hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices opened in rural areas. More vehicles and new roads made travel to larger centres easier. Hospital births became the norm. Health care became professionalized. mary webb in kitchen, from her grandson FrankInformally-taught midwives and healers were longer central to it. Mrs. Webb was among the last generation of lay midwives in Bay St. George.

She passed on her knowledge of traditional medicines to those interested in learning. And she embodied being Mi’kmaw. Her fluency with the language and traditional skills, her pride in her heritage, her self-respect. All these things were noted by those who knew her. For those who were part of the Mi’kmaq cultural and political revitalization in the 1970s, Mrs. Webb was a reminder of who they were and what they were fighting for.

She was born in 1881 in the Codroy Valley, daughter of Ben François and Mary Young. In 1903 she married John Webb of Flat Bay in Bay St. George. He died about 1930. She remained in Flat Bay, with Norman Young as her life companion. She died June 3, 1978.