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GENEALOGY OF
THE ABANDONED SETTLEMENTS OF
BARROW HARBOUR,
LITTLE HARBOUR,
BROOM CLOSE
AND SAILOR'S ISLAND, BONAVISTA BAY.

by W. Roy Babstock
(Revised May, 2000)

 

 

On a modern map the Eastport Peninsula juts out into the center of Bonavista Bay like the head of a giant squid with several of its tentacles severed and floating away from it. Approaching it by boat, however, it presents itself as a group of steep-faced islands and headlands which, upon further exploration reveals numerous sheltered and hidden harbours and inlets. As English participants in the migratory or ship fishery of the 17th century gradually expanded northward from Conception and Trinity Bays, upon rounding Cape Bonavista they would have been attracted to this prominent peninsula. Which probably explains why places like Salvage and Barrow Harbour, with their magnificent harbours, were among the first in Bonavista Bay to be used by these fishermen.

As early as 1676 records indicate that there were English fishermen at Salvage, Barrow Harbour and Little Harbour. The name Salvage itself may indicate that there were people from other European nations here earlier but it was the English who would eventually leave their permanent stamp on the area. They came first as summer migrants, fishing from May to September and then returning back across the Atlantic to home. Soon there were planters who stayed year-round, but even these did not stay continuously and were not nearly so numerous as the yearly migrants. From the mid-seventeenth century bye-boat keepers came across the ocean as passengers, fished all summer with hired men, then sold their fish to traders, left their boats behind and returned home. Both these groups were considered a threat to the West Country merchants who operated the migratory fishery, but it was not until late in the eighteenth century that conditions occurred that would cause its demise and lead to extensive permanent settlement.

The now-abandoned communities of Barrow Harbour, Broom Close, Little Harbour and Sailor's Island existed until early in the twentieth century. Of the four, Barrow Harbour was the earliest and Sailor's Island the most recent to be settled. All four flourished and reached their peak in terms of population and prosperity in the latter half of the nineteenth century, but by the 1930s had ceased to exist as permanent settlements.

To many of the people of the Eastport Peninsula it was in these communities that our pioneering forefathers settled, survived and put down roots. It is these places that nourished and sustained many of our predecessors and enabled us to "go forth and multiply". What follows is a testament to who they were and how they made it.

Barrow Harbour

As the attached map indicates, geographically Barrow Harbour is an enclosed and sheltered harbour that includes several small coves where people lived. At various times population statistics for Barrow Harbour may have referred to Stockley's Cove (now called Tilley's Cove), Big Barrow Hr. Cove, Smokey Hole or Heffern's Cove, or some combination of all of them. In analyzing statistical information for Barrow Harbour it is sometimes difficult to determine which of these coves are included. Specific examples of this will be given below.

In 1676 Capt. Russell's Accompt of the English Inhabitants in Newfoundland lists John Bayly and Christopher Cooke operating as byeboatmen in Barrow Harbour, with a total of seven boats and thirty-five servants, though apparently with no women or children. So it was clearly a fishing station by then but not a permanent settlement, for just five years later (1681) Capt. Story's list for Barrow Harbour names Robert Trevers and William Danvers as fishing here, but no mention of Bayly or Cooke.

For the next one hundred years(1680-1780) there were few planters but many byeboatmen who sometimes stayed over the winter to trap furs. But these men seldom stayed longer than a season or two and recorded names do not reoccur continuously throughout this period, nor are they surnames that are currently found in central Bonavista Bay. It was not until the late 18th - early 19th centuries that permanent settlement began, encouraged by the decline of the "migratory fishery" and a parallel rise in the "resident-based fishery", due largely to prolonged war between England and France and the development of island-based merchants such as the Lester family of Trinity. As we will see though, much of this early "settlement" was far from permanent, for some families moved many times before finally finding a "permanent" home.

By the 1760s Lester's had established salt and fish storage facilities in Stockley's Cove within Barrow Harbour. In fact it was the main location in central Bonavista Bay for fishermen to drop off their fish and pick up a supply of salt. Lester's were also bringing in men to do ship repairs and maintenance, and they were trading in furs, seals and salmon as well as cod. The diary of Benjamin Lester (1762-1801) contains numerous references to Barrow Harbour such as "...The Rachel sailed from Barrow Harbour with 4079 Q of fish and 16 tearces of salmon..."(Oct. 16, 1768). It is also worth noting that during the Seven Years War (1756-63) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15) Barrow Harbour was considered an excellent place for hiding from or defending against French naval attack.

Indeed, local tradition has a sunken vessel near Heffern's Cove and divers in recent times have verified that cannons still rest there on the bottom. Some sources say that it is the wreck of the Spanish galleon Royal Pandora, sunk by the British frigate HMS Liberty in 1762.

Although Barrow Harbor could not be classified as a permanent settlement until nearly 1800, it certainly witnessed and was involved in almost 200 years of economic and military activities before 1800. But who were the people that first made this place their permanent home?

Written records tell us that a man named George STOCKLEY (born Bere Regis, Dorset in 1746) was established in Barrow Harbour by 1780 with his wife Ann and three daughters Mary, Elizabeth and Ann. He was an agent of Lester's and is probably the first permanent settler in Barrow Harbour. His fourth daughter Sarah (born in 1783) may be the first person of European descent born there. By 1805 , however, he had given over his fishing room to his son-in-law Joseph LANE (who had married his eldest daughter Mary) and had either moved elsewhere or died.

Joseph and Mary LANE stayed in Barrow Harbour, having at least three children who lived old enough to marry, namely:

Joseph(1790-1865) married Elizabeth ? (1799-1883),
John (1796-1876) married Elizabeth Dyke (1806-74), Margaret (1797-1865) married William Brown of Salvage,

but after marriage these children apparently all moved to Salvage. Since they were blessed with large families, Joseph Sr. is the patriarch of virtually all of the Lanes and many of the Browns around here today.

About 1806 the Lester's built a large new storehouse in Barrow Hr. (Stockley's Cove) and in that very year two marriages involving well-known present day surnames occurred at Trinity. Sarah Stockley of Barrow Harbour married Thomas BABSTOCK of Oborne, Dorset and Robert KING of Old Perlican married Ann French of Barrow Harbour. Hannah, the eldest child of Thomas and Sarah, was born in Barrow Harbour in 1807 but they then moved to nearby Broom Close where the remainder of their six children were born.

We are not sure how long Robert and Ann stayed in Barrow Harbour but their son Thomas, who married Mary MATCHIM, stayed and had ten children there from 1829 to 1851. Virtually all of the Kings of Sandy Cove today are descendants of Robert of Old Perlican. A Benjamin KING, son of Joseph King and Mary (Long), was born in Barrow Harbour in 1813. Joseph may have been a brother of Robert. So King and Babstock are the first surnames, besides Lane, to appear in Barrow Hr. that continue to exist in the area down to the present time.

In the first three decades of the 19th century there was only a gradual increase in population. The MATCHIM, and WELLS families moved in during this period, followed closely by POWELLs, HOLLOWAYs, HEFFERNs and CROCKERs. In addition to the KING children mentioned above, Thomas WELLS and Mary Curtis had eight offspring, and Joseph MATCHIM and Hannah (Robbins) had at least four. A family of Biddlecombes lived here briefly in the early 1830s but does not reoccur after 1835. There is some confusion as to whether the Hefferns lived in Barrow Hr. or Broom Close. (See below)

The most rapid natural increase (about 50 births) occurred in the 1840s and 1850s, with the population peaking at nearly 100 in 1860. About 35-40 children were born into 5 different HOLLOWAY families and 4 MATCHIM families during this span. William and John Holloway were married to sisters Mary and Jane Matchim, while their brother Henry was married to Mary Holloway, sister of Will and John. Children were also born to two families of POWELLs and at least one each of the HEFFERNs and CROCKERs The Crockers came from Bradley's Cove, Conception Bay.. Two sons of Thomas and Sarah Babstock, William and George, also spent time here. William and Ann( Price) had ten children - all born either in Broom Close or Barrow Hr. George and Amelia (Moss) also had ten children - some born on the south side of Bonavista Bay but the last three born in Barrow Hr. before he moved to Sailor's Island.

Several families of MOSSes lived briefly at Barrow Hr. Thomas and Ann (Hanlon) Moss had a son Barnabas born here (1842) but they moved first to Salvage, then to Sailors Island and finally settled on Flat Islands. Henry and Catherine (Gould) Moss had a son Robert born here in 1851, but by 1860 they were permanent liviers of Sailors Island. John and Mary (Lane) Moss had two sons Richard (1866) and William(1868) born in Barrow Hr. but by 1870 they had moved to Happy Adventure.

POPULATION CHART
Community 1836 1845 1857 1869 1884 1891 1901 1911 1921
Barrow Harbour 37 72 85 53 33 10 14 23(6) 20(0)
Broom Close 7 23 25 ? 12 45 55 3(20) ?
Sailors Island - - 16 52 ? 80 ? ? 31
Little Harbour - 8 ? 12 8 9 8 14 15

As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to determine which coves within Barrow Hr. are included in population figures. Heffern's Cove, at the mouth of Little Barrow Hr., faces south toward Barrow Hr. and was the fishing room of the Heffern families who lived on the narrow neck of land between Heffern's Cove and Broom Close Hr. The Hefferns always considered themselves to be residents of Broom Close, although in the census of 1911 they are listed as living in Barrow Hr. So on the Population Chart ( above) the correct figures for 1911 should be Broom Close - 20 and Barrow Hr. - 6, which would help explain the apparent drastic drop for Broom Close and the unusual increase for Barrow HR. from 1901 to 1911. Similar adjustments need to be made for 1921 and perhaps other years as well. It is therefore dangerous to make definite statements based solely on population statistics.

The nineteenth century was certainly a period of great transition, as is illustrated by the considerable movement of families like the Babstocks and Mosses, referred to above. In fact, after 1860 movement out of Barrow Hr. accelerated and places like Sandy Cove and Happy Adventure, farther in the bay, began to increase in population. The Matchims moved to Sandy Cove. In the 1911 census three brothers Joseph, Edward and Henry Matchim, all born in Barrow Hr., were living in Sandy Cove. The Kings also moved to Sandy Cove; the Powells and some of the Babstocks moved to Happy Adventure; and the Wells moved into Glovertown perhaps via the Gooseberry Islands. The Holloway families, which were so numerous in Barrow Hr. in the mid-nineteenth century, are likely the forerunners of many of the Holloways who currently live in Port Blandford and Glovertown. The family of Ruben and Sarah Dyke of Salvage lived briefly in Smokey Hole around the turn of the century and two children were born there, but son George who presently lives in Glovertown was born in Sandy Cove in 1908.

The six residents of Barrow Hr. listed in the 1911 census are the extended family of Alexander and Elizabeth(Wells) Crocker, including son Richard, daughter-in-law Susannah, and their children Sarah and Odo. It is believed that this family lived in what is now known as Tilley's Cove and that they were the last to live in Barrow Hr. They apparently relocated to Flat Islands, where Susannah had been born, because Odo Crocker of Flat Islands (b. Barrow Hr. in 1898) was a veteran of World War I. So apparently Barrow Hr. was abandoned by 1914, even though a few people lived there seasonally.

Sometime in the nineteenth century a cart road was constructed from Big Barrow Hr. Cove to Salvage, with a branch going out to Broom Close. This road was probably most used in winter, to better access the timber growing in the valleys, and also as an overland route between the communities when conditions were too bad to use the sea. Winters were likely harsher than they are today, and movement on the water was slow even if it was not frozen or jammed with Arctic ice. Possibly dog-teams were used to transport people, goods and mail as circumstances required.

Today the built-up remnants of these old cartroads can be seen as part of the Old Trails Project completed by the Eastport Peninsula Heritage Society in 1998. The trail has also been extended from Barrow Hr. westward to link into King's Trail, another old woods road running eastward from Sandy Cove Pond. So it is now possible to hike on this trail all the way from Crooked Tree Park in Sandy Cove to Salvage. If you just wish to go to Barrow Hr. or Broom Close, it is better to go in from Salvage. In fact, if you wish to go all the way, it is also probably better to start at Salvage, bring a lunch and plan to make it an all-day event, for it cannot be done in less than four hours even by a seasoned hiker. On a clear day the view of Bonavista Bay, all its islands and headlands from Cape Bonavista to Greenspond , is magnificent. The geology, the flora and fauna, the varied topography, and the view of where the old now-abandoned settlements were - make this a must-do event.

Little Harbour

This beautiful cove snuggled between Goodman's Island and Richard's Island could have been counted as part of Barrow Harbour because of its proximity, but was always considered on its own probably because its entrance is outside the Arch Tickle entrance to Barrow Harbour. As far as is known no one ever lived in the inlet known as Little Barrow Harbour (see map) because of steep slopes all around it, but Little Harbour was used as early as 1676 when William Buckley fished there with two boats and ten servants. The similarity of these two place names has added to the confusion regarding population statistics. HANCOCK is the only family name recorded as living in Little Harbour during the period of continuous settlement. James Hancock from the south side of Bonavista Bay was living there by 1845, and was still there in 1871 living with one of his sons James, Jr. and Joseph. At that time the population for the two families was twelve, including Maria (Pike) wife of James, Jr. and Mary Ann, wife of younger brother Joseph. From 1858 to 1889 fourteen children were born into these two families. By 1911 James, Jr. is no longer around but Joseph's sons - Henry James, Eli and Joseph, Jr. all had homes and families there; and youngest son John William(Jack) lived with Joseph and Mary Ann. These four brothers would be the last to live in Little Harbour. By the mid-twenties Henry James had moved to Flat Islands, Eli and Jack to Salvage and Joseph eventually to the USA. Isolation, poor fishing conditions and personal tragedies were probably contributing factors to their decision to leave this picturesque little community.

Today there is only faint evidence of anyone having lived in Little Harbour. Traces of cart roads, gardens and lilac trees can be found, as well as a little cemetery on the eastern end of Goodman's Island. There in a droke of evergreens are some 8-10 headstones, only two of which have inscriptions - a 17-year-old who died in 1906 and a one-month-old baby who died in 1915.

A daughter born to Joseph and Deborah in 1920 and another to John William and Ester Mary in 1922 are the last recorded births for this community. Little Harbour fails to appear in any census after 1925.

Broom Close

Broom Close is a peculiar name for a place. There are no other "Closes" in Newfoundland but in England a close is an enclosed place, a narrow alleyway or court. So it may have been thus named because it is a narrow indraft of the sea, enclosed by steep hills particularly on its north side. Why "Broom" is anybody's guess. Through the decades, it has been variously recorded as Broom Cove and Bloom Cove. More recently, a genealogy website on the internet refers to it as Broom Closet!

Broom Close is a long, narrow inlet with a cove and rocky beach just inside its entrance on the southern side. This cove is known locally as Hapgood's Cove, and a point jutting out about a kilometer to the westward is Babstock's Point. The Hapgoods, Babstocks and Hefferns are the three families most associated with this place.

As far as can be determined, Thomas and Sarah Babstock (referred to above) were the first permanent settlers of Broom Close, moving there in 1808 after their daughter Hannah was born in Barrow Hr. The second child Elizabeth was born in Broom Close in 1809, the earliest birth found for this settlement. Four more children were born to Thomas and Sarah from 1812 to 1818, and for awhile son William also lived in Broom Close, apparently at several different times. However, his youngest son Lemuel was the last Babstock to live there, moving to Happy Adventure about 1880.

In 1830 Samuel NAPIER was born to Joseph and Susannah, but Joseph died in 1834. This Samuel is found on Sailor's Island in 1857 but later moved to Rocky Cove and then to Sandy Cove. His daughter Eliza married Lemuel Babstock in 1884. (Early records spell this name Napper and Knapper.)

In 1831 John, sixth child of Jacob and Johanna HAPGOOD was born in Broom Close, but it is the offspring of John's older brother Richard (married Ann Quinton) who remained in Broom Close and were among the last to leave. William, Henry and their mother Elizabeth are listed as living there in the census of 1911.

The first HEFFERN birth is that of Isabella(1846), daughter of William and Susannah, although it is officially recorded as being in Barrow Hr. The last born of William and Susannah, Alexander(1859-1939), was the last person to die in Broom Close. After his death his widow Caroline and children Rachel and Percy were the last to leave, moving to Salvage in 1940. (In the church records this family name is sometimes spelled Heffernan and Hefferton.)

In 1859 Emily Jane WHITE, daughter of John and Charlotte was born in Broom Close, but just three years later she died along with two of her older brothers, aged 5 and 9. John is the son of Thomas White who married Ann, third daughter of George Stockley of Barrow Hr. It is uncertain when the Whites left Broom Close or where they went, but it is believed that some went to Salvage.

These five surnames are the only ones known to have remained in Broom Close for any length of time. A family of QUINTONs, who were related to the Hapgoods by marriage, were here in the 1850s, but shortly afterwards returned to Red Cliff. Robert BARNES, who married Thomas Babstock's youngest daughter Ann in 1842, lived here but left with the two surviving children after Ann and their eldest child died in the spring of 1848.

Like the tragic deaths in the White and Barnes families related above, every surname on the peninsula has its story of family members who met an untimely end trying to survive in a challenging and often unforgiving environment. One of the most poignant is that of the Heffern family of Broom Close. William James Heffern, eldest son of Alexander (mentioned above), moved his wife(Irene Squire) and eight children from Broom Close to Salvage in the late 1920s. In the spring of 1932, he and his two eldest sons (aged 18 and 16) visited his father in Broom Close, but on his return to Salvage a storm came up and the three men were lost. Only part of the boat, a cap and a powder horn were found. Twelve years later the only remaining son in the family was drowned on the way home from Labrador. So all the males of the family, father and three sons, lost their lives by drowning. The ocean, the great provider, often demands a cruel compensation.

Broom Close is not an inviting place. The entrance is reached from the sea between Southern and Broom Close Heads, both of which are towering bluffs usually casting off white surf from the almost constant swell that runs in past Little Denier Island from the center of Bonavista Bay. There are reefs on the north side of the entrance, visible rocks in the center of the harbour and a noticeable swell even inside the entrance. The north side is almost vertical cliffs. The only half-decent place to build houses is between Hapgood's Cove and Babstock's Point, and there is no obvious source of fresh water nearby. It is difficult to comprehend today how people in the 19th century had to row or sail out of this harbour daily to wrest a living from the sea.

It is not known if a church or school ever existed in Barrow Hr., Broom Close or Little Hr., although some say that the church or chapel that served these places was in Little Hr. The records show, however, that on July 13,1859 a son, Samuel Edward, was born in Barrow Hr. to Samuel and Elizabeth (Perham) Thurman, and we know that Samuel Thurman (1817-62) of Dorset, England, was a teacher in Salvage from the mid-1850s to his death in 1862. The fact that a child was born in Barrow Hr.(three others were born in Salvage) may indicate that the teacher spent part of his year teaching in Barrow Hr., which would mean that they would have had a school or, more likely, a school/chapel building for use as a school for at least part of the year when a teacher was available. This is confirmed by the fact that church services were held there by visiting clergy from King's Cove(before 1862) and later Salvage. It is noteworthy that Rev. Charles Rock West, the first Anglican priest assigned to the parish of Salvage , wrote in 1870 that .

"the inhabitants of Barrow Harbour having chiefly removed to Salvage Bay, regular services are not held there as formerly, but at Salvage Bay aforesaid."

So by the 1860s the headland communities of Salvage, Barrow Hr. and Broom Close were becoming overcrowded to the extent that the sons of established fishermen began to look elsewhere for places to live.

For some time they would have known that better wood supplies and farmland were to be found in places like Sandy Cove, Eastport and Happy Adventure (referred to as Salvage Bay in the quote above), and from then onward Barrow Hr. and Broom Close experienced a population decline.

Sailor's Island

At about the same time, however, a community sprang up which lasted some 70-80 years but for many was a temporary abode on the way to a more permanent location farther in the bay. As the map indicates, Sailor's Island is just west of Salvage, near Cow Head, and has a snug little harbour on its southern end. It was here that some people began to move in the 1850s when pressure increased on usable shore space at Salvage, Broom Close and Barrow Hr.

By 1860 four MOSS families - Thomas, John and two Henrys; Samuel NAPIER, Joseph LANE and George BABSTOCK had settled on the island. All the Mosses came from Salvage, although Thomas and one of the Henrys had been at Barrow Hr. not long before. Thomas Moss and wife Ann (Hanlon) , whose son George (born 1856) may have been the first born on Sailor's Island, did not stay there long and by 1862 had moved on to Flat Islands where their youngest Catherine was born. Catherine is the maternal grandmother of the Rev. Dr. Arthur S. Butt, who celebrated his 92nd birthday in Glovertown in January, 2000.

Sam Napier did not stay long on Sailor's Island either. By 1865 he was in Rocky Cove and later moved to Sandy Cove, where some of his descendants still live.

Joseph Lane and his wife Hannah (Elliott) moved from Salvage about 1858 with five children and from 1859 to 1872 had five more on Sailor's Island. Six of these children lived into their 70s and 80s and saw the exodus from the island in the 1920s. Joseph was the grandfather of Ethelred "Et" Lane (1893- 1959) who launched his house from Sailor's Island over the ice in 1926 and set it up where it stands today, the first house on your right entering Salvage. It is here that Annie (Brown) Lane, his daughter-in-law, still lives.

George Babstock and his wife Amelia (Moss) arrived on Sailor's Island from Barrow Hr. about 1858 with eight children ranging in age from three to twenty. Their oldest son John married Jane Burden in 1867 and they lived all their lives on the island, raising four children. The second child of George and Amelia was Anne (1839-1929) who became the second wife of James Lane (1818-1892). Anne helped raise eight children of her own, in addition to six born to James and his first wife, Ann Oldford, who died in 1861, probably as a result of childbirth. Three other sons of George Babstock - Thomas, Joseph and George, Jr. have numerous progeny in Eastport, St. John's, Happy Adventure and beyond.

Thomas Babstock married Sarah Burden of Salvage, but after two children were born on Sailor's Island they moved to Salvage Bay (Eastport) in 1876 where he was given a piece of land by William Moss, to whom he had been indentured from age nine to twenty-one. There an additional seven children were born. Joseph Babstock moved to St. John's about 1880 where he became a seaman, married twice and sired ten children. George (of George) moved to Happy Adventure, married Emmaline Powell, and they had nine children. Two observations can be made: they had large families, and Sailor's Island, for many, was a stepping stone to eventual settlement further in the bay, and beyond.

To get back to the Mosses, the two Henrys were not father and son but were probably cousins. Henry and Catherine (Gould) had seven children, the last three being born on Sailor's Island, while Henry and Sarah (Oldford) had four - the last three also born on Sailor's Island. The other original Moss family, John and Elizabeth (Brown), brought three children and had two more after settling there.

As far as can be determined, some of all these children stayed when they attained adulthood, but a great many of them moved on to other areas, particularly the females the majority of whom would have married men from other communities. The total population of the island did not rise much beyond eighty, but a school/chapel did exist and they usually had a teacher every year. Apparently the first teacher was Thomas Fish Parker, an Englishman who had taught at Cape Freels for over twenty years. He was the brother-in-law of George Babstock, who perhaps persuaded him to come and finish his career where his wife could be close to some of her family, particularly since the Parkers had no children of their own. This is pure speculation, but Mr. Parker did end his days here in 1881 at the age of eighty-six, and his headstone is still well preserved on the island.

Other surnames that appear in the records include Oldford, Ralph, Brown, Wickens and Normore. Two families of Ralphs moved to Squid Tickle (Burnside) about the turn of the century. Thomas Wickens, a millwright from England, married a daughter of James Lane and lived here briefly before moving on to operate saw mills at Culls Hr., Terra Nova and Happy Adventure. Baptism records indicate that early in the 20th century three children were born to Charles and Alice Normore. He was probably a teacher.

Delores (Moss) Matchim, who was born on Sailors Island in 1912 and remembers moving off in 1926, says that the last four families to move were those of William Moss (her uncle), Et and John Lane, and William Babstock. She also recalls that her family, Abraham and William Moss, had a sawmill on the west end of the harbour and she remembers the use of the pit saws. The last teacher was Eliza Ann Oldford, who at the time of writing was age 92 and living in Port au Port.

Today the only obvious evidence that this was once a thriving community is the remains of a cart road. If you follow it up from the harbour toward the center of the island you will pass the stone foundation of Joseph Lane's house and at the edge of the trees encounter a flat cross of small stones which marks the entrance to the cemetery. Among the trees you will find ten headstones, including that of Henry Moss - one of the original settlers who died in 1891. There are markers for five other Mosses, and one each of Brown, Lane and Babstock, as well as that of Thomas Fish Parker.

Epilogue

Long Island, on the other side of the peninsula roughly halfway between Barrow Hr. and Red Cliff, is another place that was temporary a 19th century community; though it is believed it was not settled for as long or by so many as Sailor's Island. McAlpine's Directory of 1898 has 10 families living there, consisting of Hobbs, Elliotts and Pennys. These are all surnames common to both the south side of Bonavista Bay and the Eastport Peninsula. No doubt this community played a part in linking these two parts of the bay, but this study has not examined the particulars of either the community or the people who lived there.

Another player in the history and development of this area is the lighthouse on Little Denier Island. This small lighthouse was built in 1888, forty-five years after the construction of the lighthouse at Cape Bonavista. Its original structure was a circular iron tower 24 feet high constructed on the summit of the island and painted in red and white vertical stripes. Its light was thus 298 feet above sea level. A wooden light keeper's dwelling was built less than 18 feet from the tower and also painted in red & white vertical stripes. The first keeper was Robert Oakley, believed to be a relative (possibly a son) of F. W. Oakley, keeper of the Greenspond light built in 1873.

The first light consisted of argand (argon?) lamps in a six-sided revolving white light, giving two flashes a minute and visible from 19 nautical miles. This was changed in 1920 to acetylene gas lights, remaining at two flashes per minute but reduced to a range of 5 nautical miles. The first keeper was succeeded in 1902 by Henry Squire, and it is believed he was replaced by Robert Dyke in the 1930s. About 1930 the light was changed so that it needed less frequent attention and the keeper was no longer required to live on the island. After the Dykes a family of Hunters kept the light by making occasional maintenance visits from Salvage to the island. About twenty years ago the light became fully automated and today only requires infrequent visits by the Coast Guard helicopter. We did not obtain any anecdotal information on the light, but it certainly must have played an important part in the lives of fishermen in the area after its construction. Undoubtedly many were relieved to see its beacon and be guided safely home, since its location marks the entranceway to Broom Close and Barrow Hr., and getting to Little Denier Island meant that you were almost home.

The communities described here were transitional communities - places where people lived temporarily until a better place could be found. Perhaps the people did not feel at the time that they would not be staying long, but circumstances were soon to dictate otherwise. In tracing the movement of individual families in the 19th century, it soon becomes evident that they were generally a transitory lot. Because none of the places described herein had much room for expanded settlement, and because many of these families had 6-10 children, any sons beyond the first hoping to make a living from the sea were likely forced to move outside of the cove that provided a livelihood to father and older brothers. Few families were in one place for as much as three generations, most stayed for two, and many did not even stay for a lifetime. People like Thomas Moss and George Babstock, who appeared to have a wanderlust, in some ways typified the 19th century Bonavista Bay man - an itinerant fisherman with a large family but having difficulty finding a permanent place to set down roots. By the second half of the 19th century Salvage Bay, Sandy Cove, Happy Adventure, Burnside and St. Chads became the answer to these itinerants prayers.

Besides Salvage, the oldest of all the places on the Eastport Peninsula, only the places that had room to expand and were eventually connected by roads survived. Broom Close, Barrow Hr., Little Hr., and Sailor's Island were perhaps predestined , because of their location, their lack of room to expand and their remoteness, to flower and flourish briefly - just as each individual life...

... is but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets
His hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.

These communities are gone now. There is very little evidence to show that they ever existed at all and very few alive today to remember when they did exist, so it is up to us to ensure that their voices will still be heard and that they will not pass totally into oblivion. Remember your roots.

 

 

Contributed by: Roy Babstock
Revised: July 2002 (Terry Piercey)

 

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