John G. Edgar provided me with details of Mary Park Brooks from his research. She was born about 1758 in the Burin area, according to 1838 List of Inhabitants of the Bay of Islands. Her birth family name is unknown. She first married Robert Park. Their children included Mary, James Charles, Richard, Thomas, Robert and John. There are possibly other children, including Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Beverley. Mary Park’s second husband was John Brooks, a widower, and they had no children together.
Descendants of Mary Park Brooks maintain she was of Mi’kmaq origin, and several records describe her descendants as being native. Recently an mtDNA test was conducted, with a family history verified by several local genealogists including Mr. Edgar. It shows that her maternal line matches that of Elizabeth (Joe) Blanchard, Elizabeth Saunders, and several known ancestral Mi’kmaq women. This indicates she is a close relative to these women, possibly a sister, aunt or other maternal relation.
Charlotte Jeddore Cox
Charlotte (Jeddore) Cox was born about 1825 in Conne River to Mi’kmaq parents. A young Frederick Cox was working in Bay d’Espoir in the logging industry and met Charlotte. Against her parents wishes, Charlotte moved away to the Burin area with Frederick and married him. She took the name of her neighbours, the Riggs, in Creston South, Burin to apparently hide from her family. She may have changed her first name also, to Charlotte.
It isn’t completely clear why her parents didn’t approve of her marriage to Frederick Cox. Some of their descendants say that some of her older brothers found her, in her new life, sometime in the late 1800s. However there are conflicting stories of what happened as a result of this skirmish.
Charlotte and Frederick had several children, and their descendants live on today along the Burin Peninsula and elsewhere. Charlotte’s mtDNA test has been completed. It shows that she shares the same maternal line as Elizabeth (Joe) Blanchard, Elizabeth Saunders and Mary Parks Brooks, all ancestral Mi’kmaq women.
Mary Josephine Brown Murphy
As stated in my first article on Fortune Bay, Mary Josephine was born 1854 and married John Murphy. Their children were known as Mi’kmaq. They grew up in wigwams or tilts around the Piper’s Hole area, before moving to St. Joseph’s and Parker’s Cove along the Burin Peninsula.
The results of a recent mtDNA test confirm Mary Josephine’s maternal line arises from northern Eurasia, which would be modern day Siberia and Scandinavia. This could point to the direct maternal line being Native American as Natives travelled from Siberia to North America. There are no matches to the mtDNA test. So until another full sequence mtDNA match from Newfoundland appears, it is not known who her relatives were due to an absence of records.
SAUNDERS FAMILY UPDATE
There may have been another Saunders sibling, child of John & Elizabeth Saunders. A few years ago, I found an adult baptism in the RC Church in Burin for a Mary Saunders in 1837. Her sponsors were people from Terrenceville (then Fortune Bay Bottom). Being that there was only one Saunders couple in the area at the time, this seemed peculiar.
I could not find what happened to Mary or who she was, however, until now. A great great granddaughter of a James and Mary Hare of Burgeo completed a DNA test. Her results matched several descendants of the Saunders family out of Fortune Bay, as cousins. Through further analysis, this was undoubtably a Saunders relation. The Hare family had come from Fortune Bay, Belleoram area specifically, prior to living in Burgeo. Mary, wife of James Hare, was born about 1821 and passed away on April 26 1908 in Burgeo. They had several children and have many descendants across Canada.
In 1925 Joseph Small completed his diary of Burgeo which detailed the families in the area. Joseph Small believed that Ann Saunders (daughter of John and Elizabeth) who married Esau Rhymes had come from Fortune Bay with the Hare family. This further displayed the probability that Mary Hare was a Saunders. It’s likely the two sisters, Ann and Mary, came to Burgeo together from Fortune Bay. An mtDNA test for a direct female descendant of Mary is being worked on to confirm this theory. So if anyone has any information on this Hare family, please comment below!
FUTURE mtDNA RESEARCH
An mtDNA test is currently in process for a direct female descendant of Ellen (Unknown) Hollett. She married William Hollett (b.1786) and lived on Woody Island, Placentia Bay. Ellen is suspected to have been of Mi’kmaq origin. However, as of yet there is no proof. Autosomal DNA has pointed towards a relation to the Saunders family. An mtDNA test will be interesting to see for more of this story. I have been told that a Hollett descendant has a two page lexicon of words from an unknown aboriginal group. It’s possibly a connection to the Beothuk tribe.
The Smith (of Argentia) and Salmon (of Long Harbour) families are next to be tested. Their Mi’kmaq origins are likely to be discovered.
ANCIENT MI’KMAQ VILLAGE IN PLACENTIA BAY
In 1680, a French report on the topography and hydrography of Placentia Bay and the South Coast of Newfoundland had noted a Mi’kmaq village near Placentia that was occupied by a group of about 240 Mi’kmaq… The report went on to identify another Mi’kmaq village of two hundred people that was situated on the south coast of Newfoundland, a little further west of Placentia.
Everts cites M. G. (Jerry) Wetzel’s 1995 LLM thesis for this 1680 reference to south coast Mi’kmaq villages. It may well be that the latter, west of Placentia, is Miawpukwek. The former, “near Placentia”, is not as readily identifiable but it could mean it’s in the Burin area or anywhere in Placentia Bay.
Could the Park, Saunders, Jeddore, Joe, and Brown ancestors have all originated out of this village? Mary Parks Brooks was only born 75-80 years after the date of this French report. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to connect her to this community. She was from the Burin area, after all. We also know that the Bernard, John and Barrington families as well as many others frequented the area of Pipers Hole and Upper Placentia Bay in the 1800s.
Also see 2nd part by Devon, Terrenceville Mi’kmaq (June 8/18), a story about Esther Mary (Myles) Mitchell
by Rev. Canon J. T. Richards, O.B.E, to The Newfoundland Historical Society
(The Newfoundland Quarterly, Sept. and Dec. 1953)
The march of the peoples of the world westward from the cradle of the human race was irresistible. For a while it was held up by the Atlantic Ocean… Although there are indications that Newfoundland was visited by daring adventurers – Basques and Jerseymen – as early as 1450, its real and undoubted discovery is attributed to John Cabot in 1497. West Country merchantmen found in its waters, alive with fish, a source of great profit, and naturally wished to reserve the Newfound Isle as a fishing post only… The French, too, were strong competitors for ownership… Those rights became recognized to such an extent, that the coast line from Cape Bonavista to Point Rich, was known as the French Shore. Afterwards the limits were changed and the French Shore included all the coast from Cape John to Cape Ray,- nearly half of Newfoundland… There was a tendency, however, to favour the French fishermen to the detriment of the struggling English settlers, and we can safely say that, except for the Red Indians and the few Esquimaux who crossed the Strait of Belle Isle, not a single settler was to be found on that long dreary coast from Cape John to Cape Ray for about two hundred and forty years after Cabot’s discovery…
The First Settlers
The history of a country is the history of its people. So we ask, who were the first English settlers on the French Shore? I am convinced that one named Robert Bartlett was the very first, and that Anchor Point in St. Barbe’s Bay, was the first place permanently settled. Thomas Genge, born at Anchor Point in 1827, died in 1914, gave me the story. As Bartlett was his father’s great-uncle, if we allow only twenty-five years for each of the three generations, we can be safe in assuming that he settled at Anchor Point, St. Barbe’s Bay, not later than 1850. As a matter of fact he placed the date at 1740. Here is Thomas Genge’s story.
Robert Bartlett, on board a fishing schooner on the north side of White Bay, went ashore with a companion to get wood. They rambled a distance from the shore and were captured by a company of Red Indians, who compelled them to carry their loads all day. At night they formed a ring around a camp-fire with Bartlett and his companion in the ring, and fell into a deep sleep. The two prisoners, who were not tied, crept out of the ring and escaped. They travelled as fast as they could until the sun arose, and, hearing the Indians in pursuit, they hid in the thick underwood all day. When night came they went on again. After a few days they came to the salt water in what proved to be St. Barbe’s Bay, and saw the spars of a schooner over the low land to the north west. On travelling out around the shore, they came to an ideal little harbour about one hundred yards deep and twenty yards wide, sheltered from the wind and sea by a long low point extending a half mile to the westward.
Here, snugly moored, was an American fishing vessel, the crew of which were making their fish. In the fall Bartlett’s companion sailed away in this ship, but Bartlett, himself, having obtained provisions from the American vessel, decided to stay all alone. By his companion, he sent a letter to a nephew of his in England… Next year the nephew, Robert Genge, arrived, and there they were, a pair of Englishmen, first settlers on that historic portion of Newfoundland known as the French Shore. How long they lived there alone is unknown, but it must have been several years… Bartlett, and his nephew, hunted along the shore as far west as St. John’s Bay, where Bartlett’s Harbour is named after him…
Bartlett sent to Yeovil in Somerset for another nephew, Abram Genge. He was young and enterprising and soon saw possibilities of the coast. Gradually English youngsters coming out to Labrador were attracted to the long low strand across the Strait, and employed by Abram Genge, who was now the leader of the little band…
Robert Bartlett, an old man with plenty of means, returned to England where he died. Robert Genge was a great furrier, and stayed on as head man on Anchor Point room, until he died of old age. Bartlett never married, nor did his nephews. In fact there was no woman on the coast for anyone to marry. At this point there appeared on the scene one family, by name, Watts, having two sons and two daughters. The father seems to have been employed by Abram Genge in a section of the coast near Boat Harbour, four miles west of Cape Norman, and gave his name to a river in the vicinity now called Watt’s River. About this time William Buckle with his son William came to Anchor Point, and Abram Genge sent them to St. Margaret’s Bay. The following winter the father died, and the son William went back to Labrador where Slade and Co. asked him if he would go on to Belle Isle to see if there were any furs there…
Buckle had not forgotten St. Margaret’s Bay where his father had died, and went back to Anchor Point to see his old friends and his employer Abram Genge. Here too, he met one of the two beautiful daughters of the Watts family,- the only marriageable girls on the coast, and married her. They were the ancestors of all the Buckles on the coast of Labrador…
About the time that Buckle married one of the Watts sisters, a Scotchman lieutenant on board the British warship patrolling the coast happened to land at Anchor Point, and saw the other sister… Embracing every opportunity of seeing her, he became so enamoured that he resolved upon the dangerous step of deserting his ship and settling on the coast. For many years, Duncan was a hunted man, and when the time came around for the warship to come back, he had to exercise the utmost vigilance to escape…
The marriage of Alexander Duncan and Mary Watts about 1795 or 1800 resulted in the birth of three sons and no less than fourteen children, who grew into beautiful girls. This seems to have been ordered by providence, for by now, more and more English and Scottish youngsters were trickling into the coast, and these girls, half Scotch and half English, became their wives.
Abram Genge, now an old man, sent to Yeovil, England, for a brother’s son, and William Genge came and settled at Anchor Point. A sister’s son, Absalom Robbins, also came out. He was a great favourite with the settlers, and was called Rabby. He never married. William Genge met a daughter of William Buckle, whose family came to Buckle’s Point in St. Margaret’s Bay every winter. They were married and became the ancestors of all the Genges in the Strait of Belle Isle. When Bishop Feild made his first episcopal voyage to Labrador in 1848, he visited Anchor Point, and was loud in his praise of Mrs. Genge…
She was the mother of Thomas Genge, who gave me the history of the first settlers on the French Shore. On this visit Bishop Feild consecrated at Anchor Point the first cemetery to be used in northern Newfoundland.
The first settler in St. John’s Bay was a giant of a Highland Scotchman named William Griffis. He was always called Big William. In the employ of the North West Company, he fell out with another big Scotchman. A challenge was given and nothing could induce those two men of kindred blood, away from home in the wilds of Labrador, to shake hands and forget their quarrel…
It was found that the knockout blow had been fatal, and Big William, really a kind-hearted man, was stricken with grief over what he had done. That night he disappeared, and was never seen in those parts afterwards. He made his way south, crossed the Strait of Belle Isle, and visited Anchor Point. From there he went to the bottom of St. John ‘s Bay and settled at Castor River, where he lived alone for many years…
Big William was succeeded in Castor River by an Englishman, Jesse Humber, two of whose sons, William and Andrew, were living there when I first visited it in 1905. The other son, called after the father, Jesse, went up the coast, and there are descendants of his at Boone Bay today.
William Dredge and George Coombs
William Dredge and George Coombs were the first settlers at Black-duck Cove on the west side of St. Barbe’s Bay. They married two sisters, daughters of Lieutenant Alexander Duncan, who deserted from his ship to marry Mary Watts. He had adopted his mother’s surname “Gould” on his desertion, so that all his descendants were called Gould.
All the Dredges at Black-duck Cove are descendants of William Dredge, and are of a very kindly disposition. George Coombs moved a little further west to St. Manuel’s Bay, where he was joined by a nephew from England, whose descendants were among the first settlers of Shoal Cove West, New Ferolle.
The first settler on Current Island was William Toop, followed shortly after by James Williams and his brother William. Then, John Gibbons, a sturdy Englishman, most sterling and capable qualities. As an illustration of their mettle, the eldest son, John, went to Hamilton, Ontario, about 1900. He could neither read nor write, but secured work as a common hand in the Hamilton Steel Works. In about ten years after entering the mill he had attained the highest post, and became the manager with a secretary to do his writing. He retained this position until his death. (To be continued)
The First Settlers On The French Shore – Part 2
The first settler on Forrester’s Point was Bill Williams, a desperate character, one of the brothers mentioned above. He married a full-blooded Esquimaux, and many are the stories told of the vicissitudes of this union. On one occasion Bill decided to get rid of his wife Hannah. He took her out in a boat, and was putting her overboard to drown her, when another boat came to the rescue. The occupants of the other boat, before intervening to save Hannah, called out, “What are you doing with your wife, Bill?” “Be gobs, Jack, I’m goin’ to get rid of her, boy. She’s got me druv crazy.” “But who’s goin’ to cook for you, and mend your socks, and wash your clothes?” “Be gobs, Jack, I did not think of that!” said Bill, and forthwith pulled her into the boat again. Both the old Williams had died before I went to the Straits in 1903. Old Hannah still survived, and was regarded by the next generation with a certain amount of awe. Uncanny powers of witchcraft were attributed to her, and the younger folk dared not incur her displeasure…
James Chambers was a splendid type of Scotsman. He married Jane Buckle, daughter of old William Buckle, and settled in Bear Cove, three miles west of Flower’s Cove. In summer he moved out to Seal Island, which was also called French Island, because it had been a favourite resort of the French fishermen. What is now called Flower’s Cove, was first called French Island Harbour…
George Gaulton, first settler in Savage Cove, married one of Duncan’s daughters. White and Coles, English youngsters, each married one of the same sisters, and were the first permanent settlers of Sandy Cove. Thomas Mitchelmore’s first wife was a Duncan. She died young, and he married a daughter of the first settler of French Island Harbour – Whalen – by whom he had five sons. He was the first settler of Green Island Cove. Philip Coates, first settler of Eddy’s Cove East, married Sarah Duncan – Aunt Sally Coates – and had many children and grandchildren. Joseph Woodward, English youngster, married a Whalen, and was the first permanent settler of Boat Harbour, six miles west of Cape Norman.
James Dempster came out from England as clerk on Bird’s room, Labrador. He came of a well-to-do family, and was engaged to an English girl who left him to marry another. He… came to Labrador in a Jersey vessel.., married an Esquimaux widow and had one son named John. He died comparatively young and was buried in Doury’s Cove near Hawke’s Harbour.
John Dempster came across the Strait of Belle Isle, and was the first settler at Flower’s Cove, one mile east of French Island Harbour, which became the port of call for the mail boat. Flower’s Cove now includes both harbours.
Other English settlers were George Caines, first settler at Shoal Cove East; Charles Godfrey, who settled at Bear Cove, and was the maternal grandfather of the merchant brothers Angus, Charles and Isaac Genge; John Pittman, first settler at Seal Cove, and great grandfather of the Pittmans now living at Blue Cove, Darby’s Tickle. Blue Cove was originally called “Blue Guts Cove,” but when Dr. W. W. Blackall first visited it, he advised that “Guts” be omitted from the name, and it has been called “Blue Cove” ever since.
After the Englishmen, a few settlers from the south of Newfoundland came along. The first of these was from Brigus, named Henry Whalen in the year 1850. He was the first settler in French Island Harbour – now Flower’s Cove.
Henry Whalen was a brother of the great seal killer, Captain William Whalen, who never missed the seals. Skipper Henry was a great codfish man, but could make no hand of seal fishing. On the sealing voyages he noticed the land on the Newfoundland side of the Strait of Belle Isle, and heard that its waters abounded in cod. So he made up his mind to leave Brigus and take his family in his vessel, and make a new home near the fishing grounds. He persuaded John Carnell of Catalina to follow him in his schooner…
Elizabeth Whalen, a little girl of twelve, accompanied her father and could read. Her father could neither read nor write. Before she died in 1928, at the age of ninety, she related to me as follows:
“…We crossed Pistolet Bay to Cape Norman… until we came to Savage Cove, and I was reading the Pilot Book. So I said to father ‘There is an island off Savage Cove’… After we anchored and went ashore, father said, ‘This seems like a fine harbour. I think we will settle here.’ Shortly after this old George Gaulton came around the harbour where we were. He was the first and only settler in Savage Cove at that time, and lived in the extreme south west corner. Father said to him, ‘I think we will settle down here, Mr. Gaulton.’ The old man got very angry, and said ‘No you won’t settle here. There is no room, no room.’ Savage Cove is a good mile around, and he was not in the real harbour at all. Then father walked to Flower’s Cove, and went on a mile further to French Island Harbour. When he got back, he said, ‘We will go to French Island Harbour.’ Although Mr. Gaulton would not give consent for us to settle in Savage Cove, he was very glad to avail of the services of a mid-wife – Mrs. Noseworthy – who formed one of my party. That night a twin of boys was born to Mrs. Gaulton.”
They were still living when I was there in 1904, and were called Billy and Dickey Gaulton. Neither of them ever married…
Betty Whalen’s narrative continued:
“We left Savage Cove, followed by Carnell, and entered French Island Harbour. We were in first, and father and Richard Percy and my small brother John, landed right where Whalen’s wharf is now. There was a skeleton of a whale there, and they stuck up a rib to mark their place.
“Carnell followed and stuck up another rib where his wharf is now. My mother could not come in the spring as she was about to be confined. During the summer Sarah was born. She was the youngest child of our family, and when she grew up married Matthew Coles. In the fall father went back to Brigus for mother and the baby. The Carnells left Flower’s Cove again and went further west. After a few years wandering about, they returned and settled down…”
Canon Richards lived in Flower’s Cove from 1904 to 1945. I chose only the parts of his speech that spoke of specific people. He talked at greater length about the geography and economy of the area. The complete article is in Memorial University’s digital files. In the September 1953 issue, it is pages 17-19, 44 and in December 1953, pages 15-16 and 23. You can read about Canon Richards in a 2013 Labradorian article about Irving Letto’s book Sealskin Boots and a Printing Press (Amazon link below).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Devon Griffin wrote the following about Fortune Bay and the family of Elizabeth Saunders. He sent it as a comment on Newfoundland Mi’kmaq Family History. But with so much information that people are seeking, I asked if I could post it on its own. He kindly agreed and provided photos.
Martha Murphy Hynes
Martha Murphy’s parents were Walter Murphy & Bridget Ryan of Oderin and Little Harbour West, Placentia Bay. She had several siblings. (Martha married Joseph Hynes, son of Elizabeth Saunders and Thomas Hynes. After Martha’s death, Joseph married Mary Smith, daughter of John Smith and Elizabeth Vaters of Davis Island.)
Martha died on Feb 28 1884 in English Harbour East, and she’s buried in St. Bernard’s (The only RC cemetery on that side of Fortune Bay at the time) and her headstone still exists there.
I’m currently working on the Murphy family as it seems there was some Mi’kmaq blood in the family, but we are unsure how. They had some affiliation with native people in the Swift Current area in the early- to mid-1800s. If you look at Martha’s brother John Murphy’s daughters, they are very Mi’kmaq in appearance.
Smiths and Hacketts
Elizabeth (also known as Betsy) Smith Hackett’s parents were William Smith & Elizabeth Whittle. She married William Hackett. He died on May 17 1884 in English Harbour East according to Gertrude Crosbie’s transcription of NL Newspapers. Betsy’s sister Martha Smith married William Hackett’s brother, Thomas Hackett.
There also is some speculation about an early connection between the Hacketts and the Saunders. A Joseph Hackett was in Fortune Bay in 1818 according to the Keith Matthews collection at the Maritime History Archive. Dorothy, I’m not sure if you have seen it before but there was a Joseph Hackett in Labrador in the 1820s recorded as a half-Indian. Interesting the name shows up in both places.
Elizabeth Saunders Family
Also, more information on the Saunders. Elizabeth (Saunders) Hynes was indeed of Mi’kmaq origin. Her parents were John and Elizabeth Saunders, and were noted in court records for 1810/1811 as having saved a young servant girl Margaret Doyle from her master Michael Gorman. He was abusing her at Terrenceville (then known as Fortune Bay Bottom). They took her into their home and protected her from him.
DNA connection with Elizabeth Joe
We recently conducted a mtDNA test, which is your direct maternal line (your mother’s mother’s mother etc.), on John Saunders’ wife Elizabeth. We do not have a maiden name for her yet. The test came back and she shares a direct maternal line with Elizabeth (Joe) Blanchard of the Bay of Islands [wife of William Blanchard].
As many know, Elizabeth Joe was Mi’kmaq and has been speculated to be Thomas Joe’s daughter or some relation to him. It’s also believed Mary Park Brooks was Elizabeth (Joe) Blanchard’s sister and was Mi’kmaq. We’re working on getting an mtDNA test for a descendant of hers to prove that.
The mtDNA test showed that Elizabeth Saunders and Elizabeth (Joe) Blanchard share a direct maternal line with a genetic distance of 0. That means it’s very recent (within the last 200-250 years), so the most likely scenarios are that they were sisters, aunt and niece or first cousins on the maternal side.
It’s pretty interesting to be able to connect two women who were known to be Mi’kmaq. If Mary Park Brooks mtDNA test comes back as sharing a direct maternal line also, it provides a little proof to their connection as I believe in the 1838/1839 list of inhabitants it says she was from Burin originally and is also where Elizabeth Saunders frequented.
John and Elizabeth Saunders, Terrenceville
John & Elizabeth Saunders had the following children: Elizabeth Saunders (m. Thomas Hynes), Richard (Dickie) Saunders (m. Joanna Clarke), Catherine Saunders (m. James Picco), Ann Saunders (m. Esau Rhymes), George Saunders (m. (1) Ann Unknown (2) Ann Baker), Jane Saunders (m. Timothy McCarthy), & Joseph Saunders (m. Mary Jane Myles). There could possibly be more, but that’s what has been confirmed over the years.
The area of Terrenceville in Fortune Bay was highly frequented by the Mi’kmaq up until the mid-1870s (the story of why they stopped travelling there is a whole few paragraphs of its own). The Saunders and their descendants ended up staying there and settling.
Lavhey family, Terrenceville
Another prominent Mi’kmaq woman who stayed in Terrenceville was Elizabeth, married to Lewis Lavhey. Apparently she was a Bernard originally. Their descendants, especially through their daughter Grace (m. Samuel Coombs), live on in the area.
Picco family and ships
The Piccos were also a very frequent Mi’kmaq family in the area and as you can see one of them (James Picco) married Catherine Saunders. They have been in the area of Fortune Bay for hundreds of years. Apparently the matriarch of that family died in 1844 (according to a family history story published in the 1960s) over a hundred years old and was a great great great grandmother. By that point, she lived in St. Joseph’s, Placentia Bay (then known as Gallow’s Harbour).
I have heard rumours and old family history that the Mi’kmaq Picco (often spelled Peaco or Pico) originally came from Nova Scotia. Dr. Leslie Harris, former president of MUN, stated in his book ‘Growing up with Verse’ that James Picco & Catherine Saunders’ son John Picco had Mi’kmaq blood, and that it was often talked about. The Piccos are a large family, but there haven’t been a lot of records concerning them. Seems James & Catherine lived in Fortune Bay at one point before moving to St. Joseph’s, and their son John was born there in 1841 according to his death record & Leslie Harris’ book.
There are lots of ships registered for the Piccos from Fortune Bay. Behind English Harbour East (home of Elizabeth Saunders Hynes) there is also a place called Piccos Woods. I have recorded a Phillip Picco, Joseph Picco etc. trading with Newman and Co. in the 1790s out of Little Bay & Harbour Breton. As it’s known, natives typically moved around a lot for different reasons. The Piccos were no different, going between Bay d’Espoir, Fortune Bay and Placentia Bay.
Louis John and family also frequented the Long Harbour, Fortune Bay and Terrenceville areas, Peter John (his son) was born in Belleoram around the 1810s and one of the John men was a telegraph operator in Terrenceville.
Lots of more information if anyone is interested. I could go on forever. Still lots to figure out but we’ve definitely made some progress over the past few years putting things together. Hopefully someday we’ll map out all the Mi’kmaq of Fortune and Placentia Bays. DNA is a welcome assistant to our research and we encourage everyone to get a DNA test to find your cousins!
See more of Devon’s writing at Fortune Bay mtDNA (June 1/18), an update on research on families discussed here, and Terrenceville Mi’kmaq (June 8/18), a story told long ago by Mrs. Esther Mary (Myles) Mitchell.
Early morning, April 21st 1983, St. John’s. Atlantic Place offices were just starting to wake up. Thirty-one Mi’kmaq men and women from Conne River went upstairs to the RAND offices. The Rural and Northern Development Department of the Newfoundland Government. They occupied the office.
For over a year, RAND had withheld funds from the Conne River Band Council in a dispute over its administration. Discussion and negotiation had not ended the deadlock. So it was time for direct action.
Conne River (now Miawpukek) was one of the “designated native communities” in the province. Thereby it received federal funding through a federal-provincial agreement. The others, Innu and Inuit communities in Labrador, had continued to receive their funds.
At the RAND offices, police arrived and arrested 23 of the protestors. They later got out on bail. And, the next day, the second phase of the protest began.
The hunger strike
Nine men went on a hunger strike. They and about a hundred others from Conne River camped out in a church community centre, along with St. John’s supporters of their cause.
The hunger strikers were determined to win, and winning meant getting the funding released. There was no Plan B.
After nine days, they won. The federal and provincial governments reached an agreement with the band council. RAND released the funds in full.
It was an intense week, and a good week. According to this photo, I was involved in the weighing-in of the hunger strikers. But the main thing I remember was chopping vegetables. We made huge pots of soup and stew every day.
I also remember Michael (Misel) Joe. He had not been chief long at that time. I had spent a bit of time with the previous chief, the late Billy Joe. So I knew Michael had big boots to fill. And he did, especially during those nine days.
The hunger strikers were: Misel Joe, Billy Joe, Andy Joe, Ches Joe, George Drew, Wilfred Drew, Rick Jeddore, Aubrey Joe, and Michael G. Benoit. Thanks for what you did.
Thanks too, Facebook friends, for sharing these photos posted on the Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi page.
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.
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.
To 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.
(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]
(12) State value of real property belonging to you and your husband.
(13) State value of personal property belonging to you and your husband.
(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.
(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?
(30) Are you already in receipt of Separation Allowance from any source?
(31) Was the soldier at the time of his enlistment an employee of the Nfld. Government?
(33) Is he in receipt of a salary as such while serving in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment?
Response to Mrs. Colombe
Dear 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.
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.
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.
“The King’s Government call for lumber men and all skilled workmen not eligible for the Regiment or the Royal Naval Reserve for service in the forests of the United Kingdom.”
In World Wars I and II, Britain needed foresters. Lots of timber available, especially in Scotland, and both military and civilian need for lumber. But not enough people left in the UK with the necessary skills and strength to cut and mill it. That’s where Newfoundland, Canada and other British dominions came in: to provide the skilled labour.
The Newfoundland Forestry Corps sent about 500 men overseas in 1917 to cut and mill wood. From 1939 to the end of WWII, the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit sent about 3,680 men. They worked in Scotland, England and France.
According to Neary and Baker (2010:9), “the largest single group of Newfoundlanders to go overseas during the Second World War did not go in uniform, but as members of the Newfoundland Forestry Unit.” In both wars, the forestry units were civilian.
The same rules for recruitment applied in the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) but it was part of the Canadian Armed Forces. The CFC was created in 1916 and disbanded in 1920. It resumed service in 1939 to 1945.
Forestry Soldiers and Civilians
The difference in civilian or military categorization didn’t matter at the time, but it did afterwards. In Newfoundland, men of the forestry units were not eligible for veterans’ benefits. The same was true for veterans of the Merchant Marine, a civilian unit responsible for keeping shipping channels safe for military and commercial vessels. Finally in 1962, the forestry units and Merchant Marine were recognized under the Civilian War Allowance Act. In 2000, their veterans received the same benefits as those of military branches.
In both wars, many men left the forestry corps to sign up for combat units. Either they reached legal enlistment age or got the required education level. As war dragged on, and more and more fighting men were needed, the physical requirements changed. Those men rejected earlier due to maybe not meeting the height or eyesight standards became eligible.
Lumbering was still needed, however, so men continued to be recruited to replace those who had left. And there were injuries and deaths. It may not have been combat, but woodswork is dangerous. While working, 335 NOFU men were injured severely enough to be sent back home and 34 were killed. That’s one tenth. In WWI, 14 names are on the honour roll for the NFC.
Below is a list of the Newfoundland Regiment soldiers killed at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916. There are many more; those killed in the lead-up to the battle, those who died of their wounds, casualties in other regiments that also went over the top. A list that included all those would be massive. Far shorter would be the list of those who survived.
801 men of the Newfoundland Regiment went into the battle. Figures vary, but about 255 were killed in action, 386 were wounded and 91 were missing. Only 68 were able to answer roll call the next day. About an 80% casualty rate.
The Allied assault on Beaumont Hamel was supposed to start June 29th. Weather and other factors delayed it to July 1st. An artillery barrage at 6:25 AM, and infantry assaults starting an hour later. The Newfoundland Regiment was the third wave, starting at 9:15. It was all over in half an hour.
It was the start of the Battle of the Somme: The Big Push, The July Drive, “the heaviest single-day combat losses in the history of the British Army” (Legion Magazine Sept 2011). The Battle of the Somme lasted four and a half months, advanced the Allies’ front line 10 kms. There were over 620,000 Allied casualties and 465,000 German.
When I looked for the names of those killed that day, I couldn’t find a list. So I began piecing one together from online sources listing all World War I casualties. The Newfoundland Book of Remembrance, RNR WWI Nominal Roll and WWI graves listings.
I did find specific Beaumont Hamel lists eventually – of the dead, wounded and survivors. Once I started googling individual names, I found more lists and profiles of soldiers. So I didn’t need to make my own. But I had noticed things that gave me pause, made these young men, their families and neighbours real to me. Addresses on the same street, next of kin names turning up more than once. I checked my genealogy database and online ones. And I added the scraps of information to my list.
Here’s what I have. And forget-me-nots that a Facebook friend happened to post just after I’d been reminded that it is the flower of remembrance for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. It is the lapel flower worn to remember Beaumont Hamel since the first anniversary 99 years ago.
Killed In Action at Beaumont Hamel
Pte. ABBOTT, George 1242 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Next of kin: Henry and Emily Abbott. Address: Battery Road, St. John’s
Pte. ABBOTT, Stanley 283 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Henry and Emily Abbott Address: Battery Road, St. John’s
George and Stanley were brothers. A neighbour or maybe cousin, Pte. Fred Abbott #3483, was killed in action Aug. 16, 1917 near Steenbeek. He too lived on Battery Road, son of Walter and Jane Abbott.
Pte. ANDERSON, Israel 1069 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Son of Joseph and Jessie [MacNeil] Anderson, Mouse Island. Buried Y Ravine Cemetery, Somme
Pte. ANDREWS, Joseph 1119 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 27
Next of kin: Mrs. Catherine Andrews. Address: St. John’s
Pte. ANTLE, Gilbert 1899 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Thomas and Mary Antle. Address: Botwood, Twillingate
Pte. ATWILL, James 1914 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 26
Son of Samuel and Charlotte Atwill. Resting place: Ancre (Sp. Mem. 37)
Cpt. AYRE, Bernard Pitts, Norfolk Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, d July 1st 1916
When the war began, Bernard was attending Cambridge University in England. He decided to join up there. Son of Robert Chesley Ayre and Lydia Gertrude Pitts of St. John’s. They had only one other child, Eric. See below for his name. (Brothers in Arms)
L/Cpl. AYRE, Edward Alphonsus 1009 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 19
Son of Edward and Selina Ayre of Isle Aux Morte. Buried Y Ravine
Known as Ted. Family name also spelled Hare. Edward Sr. was son of Samuel Hare and Juia Gillam. His mother was born Selina Wells. The family moved to Sydney, Cape Breton soon after the war.
RMS Megantic postcard to Maud McNiven, girlfriend and sister of fellow soldier Will McNiven: “Dearest, Just a few cards of the ship we are leaving by. We left Aldershot nine o’clock last night. I am going to try and get someone from the shore to post these for me, we are not allowed ashore. I did not get a letter from you before leaving. Believe me to be yours. xxxxxx Faithfully, Ted”
Cpt. AYRE, Eric S. RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 27
Brother of Capt. Bernard P. Ayre, above. They were grandsons of Charles Robert Ayre, founder of Ayre & Sons Ltd.
2nd Lt. AYRE, Gerald W. RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 25
Next of kin: Frederick William and Mary Julia [Pitts] Ayre. Address: St. John’s. Resting place: Memorial Park
1st cousin of Wilfred and brothers Bernard and Eric. His brother Charles was also in the war and survived.
2nd Lt. AYRE, Wilfrid D. 164 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Son of Charles P. and Diana [Stevenson] Ayre, St. John’s. Resting place: Knightsbridge
1st cousin of Gerald, Eric and Bernard. HIs brother Ronald was also in the war and survived.
L/Cpl. BARBOUR, Horatio 1419 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 26
Son of William and Amy H. Barbour of Port Rexton. Resting place: Beaumont Hamel 1
Pte. BARNES, Maxwell 1576 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Next of kin: Mrs. Sarah Ann Barnes. Resting place: Memorial Park
Pte. BARRETT, Leonard Josiah 372 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Mrs. Maud Barrett. Resting place: Memorial Park
Pte. BARTLETT, Joseph Patrick 629 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Next of kin: John Bartlett. Address: Maryvale, Brigus
Pte. BARTON, John 1485 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 29
Next of kin: William and Annie Barton. Address: The Goulds, Bay Bulls Road, St. John’s West
Pte. BENNETT, William 1229 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 31
Next of kin: William and Agnes Bennett. Address: St. John’s
Pte. BISHOP, Wilson 1597 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Son of John and Annie [Feaver] Bishop of 10 Second Avenue, Grand Falls. Resting place: Ancre
Full name Henry Wilson Bishop. His father’s parents were Edward Bishop and Elizabeth Piercey. His mother’s parents were Enos Feaver and Catherine Foote.
Pte. BOONE, Stewart Malcolm 1219 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Son of William Thomas and Sarah Jane Boone of South River, Clark’s Beach. Resting place: Ancre.
Pte. BOWMAN, Charles 938 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 26
Next of kin: Frigaz Bowman, St. John’s. Resting place: Memorial Park
Pte. BREEN, John Joseph 67 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Son of Mrs. Catherine Breen, Alexander St., St. John’s and the late Jacob Breen. Resting place: Memorial Park
Pte. BRENT, David 1794 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 23
Next of kin: Mr. and Mrs. John Brent. Address Botwood, Twillingate. Resting place: Memorial Park
Sgt. BROWN, Bertram 1382 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Amos and Selina Brown. Address: Grand Falls
Pte. BROWN, Edward John 545 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 28
Next of kin: Eli and Annie Brown. Address: Harbour Grace
Pte. BURGE, Allen 624 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Next of kin: George and Mary Jane Burge. Address: Bonavista
Pte. BURKE, Garrett 1023 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 25
Son of Silvester and Mary Ellen Burke of Tor’s Cove, Ferryland. Resting place: Knightsbridge
Pte. BURKE, Leo Michael 1170 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 18
Son of Martin and Annie Burke of St. John’s West. Resting place: Ancre
Sgt. BURRY, Sidney George 1044 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 31
Next of kin: Job and Matilda Burry. Address: Greenspond, Bonavista. Resting place: Memorial Park
Pte. BUTLER, Edward William 1567 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 25
Son of John and Phoebe Butler of Fogo. Buried: Y Ravine.
Pte. BUTLER, Harry 1897 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Son of Henry Stephen and Laura May Butler of “Hillcrest” LeMarchant Road, St. John’s. Buried: Y Ravine
Pte. BUTLER, Ignatius Joseph 1442 RNR, d July 1st 1916
Next of kin: Mary C. Butler. Address: St. George’s. Buried: Memorial Park “In June 1918 Iganatius’ mother filled in a form to request continuation of an allotment made her to following Iganatius’ death in 1916. Her husband had drowned at sea in 1900 leaving her to raise her family alone. For some time she was able to run a successful boarding house but by 1918 her health was failing. Two daughters still lived with her and one Bridie was an invalid. By the time the pension was awarded Mrs Butler had died and the pension went to Bridie.” (Lives of the First World War)
Today, Dr. George Park died at the age of 90. He was a retired professor of Anthropology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He was my thesis advisor and he and his late wife Alice were my “St. John’s parents”. Below is an excerpt from the introductory chapter of a manuscript that he was working on. It tells us something about his life and his way of thinking.
Kinga and the Knowledge Wars
My US schooling between the two World Wars was an excellent preparation for university, but left one pretty much in the nineteenth century. I was twenty and a Marine Corps fighter pilot waiting in the South Pacific for the planned invasion of Japan—when the war over there quite suddenly ended…
I didn’t discover the beauties of the social sciences until I was in graduate school. I’d gone back to university after trying journalism because it finally came to me that my colleagues in the profession had picked up almost nothing useful in ‘journalism’ classes about what a writer might do for the world – what the great journalists had done – only learned the ropes. After graduating in literature and philosophy I was finding out how little I understood of what my eyes were observing of the ‘real world’. Three years of graduate work covering all the social sciences led to one intensive year in anthropology. By then we (man & wife & two boys then) had to decide which way to go for earning our bread: ‘high journalism’ and ‘social scientist’ were my options. We decided I should teach for a year, and with one thing and another it turned into something more like a decade.
The Chicago School
Sociologists today know the university where I did my graduate work as home of ‘the Chicago school’, an early teaching which linked the social sciences to direct observation and thereby to a ‘high journalistic‘ style of qualitative sociology–something contrasting to ‘quantitative‘ studies which ‘measure’ social systems without necessarily becoming directly acquainted with them… Most sociology falls between the two contrasting poles. I started my teaching career as a sociologist but moved toward the ‘qualitative‘ pole as best I could. The first step was a two year field study in northern Norway (for the doctorate degree in anthropology. Later I was able to get a post-doctorate year at Cambridge (UK) in ‘British social anthropology’ and consequently the fieldwork in Tanzania.
In the meantime, pretty much behind my back, the social sciences were flourishing in the US. That break from tradition came rather later on the British side. Social anthropology had developed without much sociological foundation there, though London in its classes brought European ‘sociological philosophy’ (not much observational basis) to bear and to good effect.
The more doctrinaire notions at ‘Ox-bridge’ about social structure had helped their fieldworkers start with the politically important features of social organization but had prevented their going much beyond. They sniffed at the ‘American’ notion of an anthropology centered in ‘culture’ and the descriptive analysis of prevailing ‘sentiments’ or ‘psychological’ premises implicit in the style of a people’s communal life. British social anthropologists kept to the end their notion of a ‘system in equilibrium’ as the subject one should study in the field. UK’s only really popular star in the profession was copiously descriptive in style and drifted in the end to New England. This was Bronislaw Malinowski, Polish-born author of an always engaging shelf of books on the South Pacific’s Trobriand Islanders…
So it is to my British tutors I owe my own special interest in social structure, but to fellow North American academics I owe my interest in direct observation (out in the public arena, in the study of a profession or a functioning institution, a community) using facework as a scientific tool. I also owe to North Americans the long years of stress which have led me to an understanding of the useless ‘knowledge wars’ I want to address in this book. The problem, you will see, is the very purposefulness of the narrow mindedness social scientists are expected to show in the pursuit of wisdom in Academia americanensis.
The history of knowledge is older and more lush than the Garden of Academe, but the tales intimately intertwine from the start of the 20th century, when universities undertook the management of public moneys for the advancement of science. Until that point, a university was a center for educating a lumpen elite, the live storage of books, and the meeting of scholarly minds. The introduction of Science, with its increasing needs for equipment, new buildings, salaries for research, and en masse professional training left the poor classical scholar up a tree dreaming of a Saintly re-established Equilibrium. Still, those were stirring times. By the time I had done my apprenticeship, the signs of a shrinking world were burgeoning everywhere.
The great knowledge revolution had taken hold, and knowledge of any sort, ‘practical’ or not, had begun to seem worth pursuing. The first phase in the democratization of knowledge began slowly with commodification of books in the English language: paperbacks, pocket size. The French had them earlier but in fuller size: ergo no sudden revolution. The US version got publishers putting scarce ‘library books’ in cheap versions, ‘mass produced’ with catchy covers.
Reading a monograph on an African pedestrian culture community had meant, throughout my time teaching sociology before Cambridge and Africa, at least a week getting hold of the book and writing long notes and citations without marring the library’s copy. A short generation later, by the sixties, you could assign such a monograph for a class and expect the students to buy it. Today, I suppose, that first phase of democratizing ‘college-level’ books was segueing into a further phase of ‘instant availability’ by courtesy of digital devices.
Technology had been democratizing knowledge but, for magnifying the knowledge base of social anthropology, the time was short. Research grants were painfully hard to get, and our ‘science’ hardly matured before the ‘field’ for ethnographic observation had virtually disappeared. Yet it is a premise of these pages that the immersion studies actually accomplished – in the too-short window of time a world in turmoil allowed – are a priceless inheritance, unique in its implications for basic research on what we almost casually used to call the ‘human condition’.
Pebbles of Fieldwork
I won’t try making a monument of pebbles, but bits of insight will begin to yield knowledge when you have got them properly laid out. The result can’t be seamless, and it could never be final. The very final chapter in the story of mankind will still be full of new stuff lying unsorted. That is one philosophical point I want to make, and I want to make it by showing off and sorting the pebbles I brought back, as a much younger social anthropologist, from Africa.
I was lucky enough to have, with my feisty, long treasured Alice and our four children, two years in East Africa just as colonial governments were secretly coming to an end. My research dealt with the Kinga people still thriving then in the Livingstone mountains of southwestern Tanganyika, (now Tanzania)…
Fieldwork in the early 1960s came to be focused on reconstructing the precolonial experience of ‘pure Kinga’ communities. What I knew about them when I arrived in their District was only that Kinga were ‘conservative’ in the meaning of their British governors. They hadn’t sold out or lost their way, they had kept continuity with their past as an independent people. This good news and a climate suitable for children had attracted me, and over the next six months as I reconnoitred and my family got settled in a luxurious mud hut (three rooms, tin roof) there was more good news. Guesswork had found me precisely the kind of people I stood to learn most from.
Kinga Trilogy by Dr. George Park
His Kinga trilogy is available at Scribd to read online or download: