On this day in 1965 Newfoundland Premier Joseph R. Smallwood proclaimed June 17th Portugal Day in the province. It was at the Confederation Building when the Portuguese Fisheries Organization presented a statue of the 15th century explorer Gaspar Corte-Real to Newfoundland. At the ceremony, Joey spoke about the bond between two peoples, two nations.
“Newfoundlanders have a deep affection and a great deal of respect for the people and country of Portugal. We intend every year to have Portugal Day. It will always be a simple ceremony.
And we hope that it will be attended always by Portuguese people and they will join with Newfoundlanders here at this monument, this statue that was given to Newfoundland by Portugal. For a few minutes once every year we will remind ourselves of the long and honourable friendship that has existed between our two maritime countries, our two fishing countries.
And remind ourselves too that whatever other industries there may come to Portugal and to Newfoundland, the fisheries continue, they go on, they continue to be important to both of us.”
National interests – multiplied
But by 1965 Newfoundland was part of Canada, something Joey had fought hard for. So it was no longer Newfoundland and Portugal talking; it was Canada and Portugal. When Portugal joined the EU in 1986, it was Canada and the whole of Europe. Diverse industries and interests, with Portugal and the Grand Bank fishery just one small part.
In 1986 Canada banned Portuguese vessels from entering Canadian ports after a dispute over illegal fishing. No more coming into St. John’s to refuel and resupply. Or play soccer on the waterfront, shop on Water Street, go to bars and restaurants. Play music. Visit friends and family.
Newfoundlanders and Portuguese
Tony Charana, a retired trawler captain from Buarcos: “For Portuguese to arrive in St. John’s is like arriving home.”
For him, that’s especially true. His wife was born and raised in St. John’s.
Irene Fleming Charana: “When I was small and went shopping with my mother downtown – the fishing clothes on and the long boots and everything like that, I was afraid of them. But I remember my mother saying she felt sorry for them because they were so far away from home. Little did she know that I’d end up marrying one!
Tony: “Now – I have my family. But I go to St. John’s like a tourist.”
Their friend Valdemar Aviero, another retired captain, felt it was a betrayal of history as well as friendship:
“At least thirty years before Columbus and John Cabot, João Corte-Real was there and named the land Land of Codfish. Terra do Bacalhau. 1463.”
Terra do Bacalhau
Vasco Garcia, a University of the Azores professor and former member of the EU Parliament:
“That instinct of being an ocean-goer five centuries ago with the feeling of possessing the sea: this is so hard for someone who has imprinted this, when they look to the fishing grounds of Newfoundland. For cod is called in Portugal the faithful friend, fiel amigo. It’s in the gastronomy. One cannot have Christmas in Portugal without bacalhau cozido – boiled cod – and bacalhau com batata – cod with potatoes. So cutting the Portuguese from these kind of roots is very painful. Not even from an economic point of view, but also from the heart – chromosomic, historical. It’s almost as if you are cutting the roots of the tree.
A young inshore fisherman in Buarcos, José, wishing he could fish on the Grand Banks:
“It’s my life. Because it’s in my blood. My family is working on the ocean all the time, you know.”
There’s long been an ex-pat Portuguese community in Newfoundland. But it’s also like there is – or was – a big Newfoundland outport in Portugal. Those are the people Joey Smallwood was talking about, I think. Them, and the Newfoundlanders who looked forward every year to the arrival of the Portuguese ships. Like Art Stoyles:
“I used to go down with me accordion waiting for them to come in. So they docked and they’d be off. They had their music, mandolins and whatever. One day, this buddy come up over the hill, ya know, with a great big accordion. I heard the music and said, where in the hell is that comin’ from! That’s beautiful. This guy had a big accordion – five rows of buttons. He was on the Gil Eannes, this guy. He was a captain, right. And boy, he had some outfit there. It had more bass on it than the poles on Water Street! Anyway, we played. He played a few tunes and I taped them off. After, I learned that Portuguese song.”
The huge cod stock that gave the name Land of Codfish to the island of Newfoundland has been overfished to near extinction. Still, salt cod remains “the roots of the tree” for both Portuguese and Newfoundlanders. And the relationship between the two peoples goes on too. So here is Art’s “Portuguese Waltzes” on this, Newfoundland’s 54th Portugal Day. Let’s celebrate this “long and honourable friendship”.
Vignettes of the West, by Don Morris (Apr. 11, 1992)
I was pleasantly surprised by the response to the two-part series on the story of the career, achievements and brief life history of Mattie Mitchell, the Micmac Indian, which appeared in The Western Star March 7 and 14. I got two phone calls from Corner Brook on the day the first column appeared; one from my good friend, Dr. Noel Murphy, who kindly gave me what information he had on Mr. Mitchell and family; the other from a granddaughter of the famed guide and prospector who expanded on Dr. Murphy’s data.
This particular caller said her grandfather had lots of descendants all over Newfoundland and elsewhere and on the very day the first column appeared many of them in the Corner Brook area, the caller informed me, were telephoning each other reporting that the Star “had an article on Mattie.”
Two other phone calls came during the days that followed, including one from John Mitchell who is a grandson of Mattie and whose father, also named John, was the person who travelled from Corner Brook to Curling to fetch a Roman Catholic priest to be at Mattie’s side at the time of death. This was one of Mattie’s last requests.
And letters came in also, including one from the United States. But probably the most informative of the phone calls and letters was a written communique from Ms. Irene Doucette… However, before dealing with Ms. Doucette’s letter, it is appropriate to state briefly here something about the man of whom I wrote.
Noted prospector and guide
Matthew Mitchell was undoubtedly the most noted of Newfoundland’s Micmac people. He was born either at Hall’s Bay or Norris Point about 1851. He was the son of a Micmac Chief whose ancestors came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700s from Cape Breton. He became widely known in the early part of this century as the prospector who, in 1905, discovered the rich ore bodies at Buchans River in the interior which was the beginning of the thriving town of Buchans.
While that made Mattie famous, (although not rich), his celebrity grew in 1908 when he was chosen by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to act as guide in the most unusual wildlife venture in the island’s history. The company, builders of the Grand Falls pulp and paper mill, had ordered from the Grenfell Mission at St. Anthony 50 of the 300-reindeer herd which the mission had purchased in Scandinavia as a supplement to caribou as a big-game animal for the northern population.
Men from the AND Company went to St. Anthony, accompanied by Mattie, to escort the animals 400 miles southward to Millertown. It was intended to make this unique “reindeer drive” over the sea ice. However, vicious winds and heavy seas made this impossible and the only alternative was to herd the reindeer down The Great Northern Peninsula. This was accomplished in the very difficult month of March when the land was constantly swept by blizzards and the weather was most times below zero. However, the trek was completed without the loss of a single animal. Mitchell then went on about his usual business as a popular, eagerly-sought guide and prospector whose clients included some wealthy and influential American, Englishmen and Canadians.
Irene Doucette’s letter
Now to Ms. Doucette’s letter which, because of the apparent popularity of the Mitchell articles, I shall quote in full:
“Dear Mr. Morris: I just had to write to you and let you know how surprised I was when I read The Western Star today (March 7) about the amazing career of Mattie Mitchell. The reason for my surprise was that Mattie Mitchell was my grandfather and to me he was a Newfoundland legend and more should have been written about him. But thanks to you it is now coming to light.
“I didn’t know my grandfather. He died in 1922 before I was born. He was 72. But I have heard so many wonderful stories from my father, John Mitchell (evidently Ms. Doucette is the sister of the John Mitchell who telephoned me) and my mother, Agnes Mitchell, with whom he resided, that I just had to write and give you the additional information you requested.
Mattie Mitchell and Mary Ann Webb
“Mattie was married to a woman named Mary Webb. She was from Flat Bay, St. George’s Bay. She died when she was about 60. It was then that my grandfather went to live with my mother and father here in Corner Brook. My father told me that Mattie was a great fur trapper. He would cure all his own fur skins. He was a very big man, six foot four and he wore size 14 shoes. I guess back then they were called moccasins. I have in my possession a walking cane that he made and to me that is a priceless object. I also have a picture of Mattie, also priceless.
“My mother told me that Mattie was a very gentle man. She told me she never heard the man say a bad word; he was a very religious man and had a Micmac Bible which he carried with him at all times.
“My grandfather had six children: three boys and three girls. My father, John, was the youngest. The other boys were Matthew and Laurence. The girls were Margaret Rumbolt, Bridget Sheppard and Lucy Duhart, and, of course, there are numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. My mother and father raised eleven of us. My father worked at the paper mill in Corner Brook for 40 years and he was very proud of his father. When my grandfather discovered Buchans’ mine he worked for the AND Co. and from what I understand he was given $2.50 (for the find). I also read somewhere that he was given a sack of flour for the discovery. I hope that the story about Mattie Mitchell hits the St. John’s papers as I have two sons and a daughter living out there. Thanks again for that long overdue story about my grandfather.”
More letters and calls
The other letters I received are similar to the one from Ms. Doucette, and all the writers are descendants of Mattie Mitchell. The one from the States came from John Alexander Atkins, a great grandson of Mattie. Apparently, the MItchell columns were sent to him by his mother, Helena Atkins of 29 Crescent Way, Corner Brook… This young correspondent said he worked as a logger and during his life had travelled to many places. He said he always wondered why he was so adventurous. May I suggest, John Alexander, the trait runs in the family…
Included in the phone calls I received was one from the west coast from a man who said he was a grandson of Mattie Mitchell. Although he gave me his name I shall not use it because he had some rather curious things to say which were not in keeping with all the other information I received on Mattie Mitchell. This particular caller said that Mattie Mitchell was of Beothuk extraction; was not at all friendly with the Micmac Indians; in fact detested them; and that he was not of the Catholic faith. I repeat, what this reader had to say goes against everything all other calls and letter writers have to say.
In any event, I wish to thank most sincerely all those who contacted me about the celebrated Mattie Mitchell. I agree with one writer who said that a monument should be erected to him and a definitive book written about his amazing career.
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.
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.
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.