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A Souvenir of the Brigus Methodist Jubilee of the Opening of the Church 1875-1925

Charles Lench, Pastor (Supt of Circuit) 1925.

Chapter 1 - Genesis of Methodism in Brigus:




The beginning of the Methodist Church life in Brigus, began a few years before the dawn of the 19th Century. The Rev. William Thorsby made two visits to Brigus. That there was a Methodist Society there is evident by his records.

January 11th, 1796, "I met the Society at Brigus, and gave them tickets and joined some new Members and backsliders. We had a precious meeting." On April 4th, 1797 he again visited Brigus and he says, " I preached to a serious and well behaved audience, but at present they are Busily engaged preparing for the sealfishery."

This is proof that Brigus at this time was Methodist, and it is likely that the person who Accompanied him in his visits may have been John Percey, who may have then received his Inspiratioon to look after the flock.

While the history previous to 1804 is somewhat beclouded there are still later facts unknown To the general public, which ought to be passed on to the present generation.

One fact is historically authenticated, viz., that the present Methodist Church was duly opened And dedicated to the Worship of Almighty God on the 23rd of May, 1875 and that the Rev. Thomas Harris, Superintendent of the Circuit, the Revs.George S. Milligan, M.A., Pastor of Gower St.,St. John's, the Rev. James Dove and the Rev. Charles Ladner participated in the Services. This fact is recorded in the Pulpit Bible. The time is fitting to look into the history And give the people the benefit of our researches.

How Methodism Came to Brigus

Brigus Methodism had a pioneer, John Percey, one who took the initiative in laying the foundation Of the Methodist Church. That pioneer was acting as a shepherd of the flock, then residing between Turk's Gut and Clarke's Beach before the year 1803, and acted as preacher on the Sabbath and Teacher on week days. We know he had a sister, Mrs. Ann Munden, whose name has been handed Down to this day as "The Peace-Maker" of Brigus.

He subsequently sought and obtained official recognition of his work for he proceeded to London For that purpose about the year 1803. His flock was a mixture of Congregationals, Anglicans and Methodists. Religious leaders in that day were scarce. Rev. James Bulpitt held the fort at Carbonear In the name of Newfoundland Methodism in 1800. Between St. John's and Brigus there were none To baptize, marry or bury, and the Protestants of these villages by hundreds changed their religious Creed for the reasons of receiving pastoral oversight. And irrespective of the fact that the Home Government offered a pension of 100.0.0 pounds per annum to Anglican Ministers for seven years' Service in the Colony, a number of years afterwards there were only five Anglican clergymen in the Colony. Why didn't Brigus follow their adjacent neighbors? Brigus was saved for Protestantism by A citizen by the name of John Percey. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. John Percey carried the name of "Parson Percey". A Parson is one who looks after the spiritual Good of the Parish.

An Unaccountable Omission

And why doesn't the name of Parson Percey appear in the Minutes of Conference? There are a number Of reasons:

    1868. - The model deed of the Wesleyan body requires that its preachers should itinerate and also change their circuits every three years.

    2. - An itinerating preacher could not have filled the bill. They wanted a teacher and preacher combined.

    3. - The Methodist Church had agents of this kind. Mr. John Hoskins of Old Perlican, Mr. Downs of South Island and others in Canada. Their names did not appear in the Station Sheet. The Protestant Community of Brigus regarded themselves as Methodists, and so remained until a split occurred some Years later, but Mr. Percey's name is omitted from all the Newfoundland Methodist Histories. Wilson In his "Newfoundland and its Missions" has no reference to him. Rev. T.W.Smith has no record of Him or his work in his 2 volume work on "Methodism in Eastern British America".

    4. - Perhaps the best reason for the omission is that Wilson had left the country many years before, and compiled his history very largely from the Minutes of the Wesleyan Conference, which would not contain the names of men, who were not really itinerating preachers.

He Goes to London

About 1803 John Percey went to London, and received ordination from the hands of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke, Nestor of Methodist Missions, and tradition says he was the first Newfoundlander to receive ordination. It was certainly an honor to be ordained by one who had received ordination at the hands of Anglican Bishops And to be ordained a third time, and that by John Wesley. The late Claudius Watts of Harbour Grace, who Was educated in Brigus, and died some years ago at the age of 98, and who was well acquainted with Meth- Odist records and Newfoundland History, was known to say again and again that John Percey was ordained By Dr. Thomas Coke in London. Mr. Percey returned as an ordained preacher and continued his service From 1804 until 1820. He opened his Register, and kept his parish vital statistics accurately. This commenced February 16th, 1804, when the first entry was made. He performed the functions of his office until 1819.

Charles Cozens, Esq., went to London on business and prevailed upon a Calvinistic Methodist Minister to come To Brigus. The Calvinistic manipulation of the Bread of Life didn't suit the tastes of the people, and he left Within a year. The war next was a strong appeal to the Wesleyan Conference and in 1819, Brigus was placed On the List of Newfoundland Stations, and the preacher appointed was Thomas Hickson. Parson Percey must Have been growing old by this time, but he still kept the records or vital statistics until the year 1820, the last Entry being May 13th, 1820.

The Rev. Thomas Hickson kept no records, evidently leaving the matter to Parson Percey. For nearly a year There are no records.

The Rev. John Haigh, successor to Rev. Thomas Hickson, opened a set of Registers by a Baptism on June 16th, 1822. We can find no trace of Parson Percey's death, and it is evident that he died within thirteen months interval, and Mr Haigh, a stranger, perhaps, never had it bought to his notice. No one living can tell where they laid this Soldier of the Cross, what matter when Dr. Coke, who ordained him was buried in the Indian Ocean. They will both appear on the Resurrection Morn.

Parson Percy's Registers

The records of Parson Percey are gone, that is, the original copy. Thereby hangs a tale, for many years these Important records were in the custody of the late Capt. Azariah Munden. The late Judge Pinsent was writing A History of Newfoundland, which was never printed, but is still in manuscript. He borrowed Percey's Records. And died without, returning them. Great efforts have been made for their recovery without success. There is Another side to the story. The late Mr. George Gushue borrowed the Records before they were lent to the Learned Judge Pinsent, and made a verbatim copy or all with the dates contained therein. The writer has Secured a type-written copy, and they will be the property of the Circuit, and the history of the families of the Community will be complete from February 16th, 1804 to the present with only the gap of thirteen months. He opened his Register and kept the vital statistics with accuracy. In the year 1819, Charles Cozens, Esq, and The people of Brigus appealed to the Wesleyan Conference and received a Minister.

Some Relics of Parson Percey

The writer possesses one of Parson Percey's Books published in 1801. It is entitled "The Methodist Memorial" Being an impartial sketch of the lives and characters of the preachers, who have departed this life since the Commencement if the work of God among the people called Methodists, late in connection with the Rev. John Wesleyan, M.A., deceased. A relative owns his Bible and Hymn Book, walking stick, etc. There is a solid Silver bowl on the Communion Table presented by the young men of the congregation in 1815 during Parson Percey's ministry. Another fact discovered in his records is valuable. After recording a baptism on January 1st, 1808, he makes the following note, "The church was opened on this same day". The writer has found a Marriage Certificate, which settles the matter of Parson Percey's ordination. It is possessed by the descendants.

    " This is to certify that Thomas Spracklin was married to Mary Gushue in the presence of a large congregation this 12th day of January, One thousand Eight hundred anf Thirteen at Brigus, Newfoundland. Witness our hand John Sweetland, William Hanthill, by me John Percey, Ordained preacher of the Gospel.

Where did Parson Percey Preach?

It is very unlikely that Parson Percey preached in the houses of his parishioners. Tradition says he taught School and also held class meetings. The first fellowship meeting in a house now destroyed, but well known as The first residence, with a cimney, built in Brigus. It was four years after his ordination that he records the fact Of "The opening of the Church on the same day". How it was built and financed we know not. What it was in Appearance is known to the belated travellers on the shores of time, who worshipped in both the past and Present churches. It had a cottage roof, and had Wesleyan Chapel inscribed, in large letters over the main Entrance. The Church was enlarged and repaired from time to time until after a honorable career of 67 years, The congregation moved into the present sanctuary.

Celebrating the Jubilee

It has been decided to keep the 24th of May as the Jubilee Celebrations of the Second Church. The proper Day falls on a Saturday. The following day is Empire Day, commemorating the birthday of Queen Victoria The Good, but May 24th synchronizes with an event that has meant more for the building up of the Empire Than anything else that has happened for many centuries.

The conversion of John Wesley on the 24th of May, 1738 may be under-estimated, it can never be over- Estimated. The man who was hardly known in 1737 was known all over the kingdom in 1739, because Of his conversion in 1738.

We cannot do better than honor the founder of Methodism on his spiritual birthday. He was a spiritual Magnate who used a poker to stir up all the Churches of Christendom, and saved England from following In the wake of France, who adopted the teachings of Voltarie. Wesley saved the nation from going to ruin On the rocks of deism. We cannot afford to allow the Jubilee of the Second Methodist Church in Brigus to Pass without some suitable recognition, and appeal to the former inhabitants in various parts of the Colony to come and help us in the Celebrations on May 24th, 1925.

Chapter II - The Ministerial Succession

The Methodist Circuit as attached to the Station sheet of the British Wesleyan Conference began in 1819 by Appointment of Thomas Hickmson, in keeping with the safeguards of the itinerency. There is no mention of the Calvinistic Minister brought out to Brigus by Merchant, Charles Cozens. Mr. Cozens handed the Historical fact to Mrs. Stantaford, his daughter, who in turn passed it along to the present generation.

My readers, particulary those connected with Brigus, will be interested in this list of names by which many facts pertaining to their family history are indisputably settled. The saying "It was in Mr. So and So's time" settles the matter once for all.

1819 Rev. Thomas Hickson, one of the strong early pioneers and makers of Newfoundland Methodism, Was a successful Soul winner.

1822 Rev. John Haigh, another powerful preacher. He occupied some good Circuits after his return to England.

We judge these men by fragments gleaned here and there, only the best of them got to the front page of the Wesleyan Magazine. Their steel engraved portraits cost 50.0.0 pounds (sterling). Many who laboured in Brigus won that honour.

1823 Rev. Richard Knight, afterwards D.D. and co-delegate to the Eastern British American Conference Came in 1824. He had a giant's physical strength and was an intellectual preacher and strongly Evangelical.

1827 Rev. William Ellis. Men came and went for 70 years but William Ellis was the first to claim the Honour of dying here in Newfoundland. He was buried in Hr. Grace in 1837.

1828 Rev. John Boyd. Nothing is known of him, but if he was anything like George Boyd, we can pass on with veneration.

1831 Rev. John Haigh returned for one year in 1831. He found his wife in Freshwater, B.D.V.

1832 Rev. George Ellidge. He filled an honourable nitch in our Westminister Abby of Methodist Worthies. He and Dr. Toque walked from Bonavista and Elliston to hold the first missionary Meeting in English.

1833 Rev. John Pickavant. It was a means of grace to hear the veteran John Woods and others Stalwart laymen of St. John's tell of his excellent qualities. He was the first stationed Minister There. After 25 years service he returned to England.

1837 Rev. Ingham Sutcliffe. This is the man who blew out the candle at the Carbonear Missionary Meeting and blew it in again. Thereby hangs a tale.

1838 Rev. James Hennigar. An Apostolic Minister greatly respected and for many years reverently Called Father Hennigar.

1839 Rev. John McMurray.

1840 Rev. John Pickavant. He came back for a short term of one year and then returned to England.

1843 Rev. William Faulkner. This was another of the strong preaching of early Methodism.

1846 Rev. John S. Addy. Mr. Addy lived in the affection of his people.

1849 Rev. John Snowball. The writer obtaines from "Father Peach" a splendid description and Estimate of this faithful servant of God. One son was for years the Governor of the Provinces Of New Brunswick. On the Mother's side we have the young men of the Firm of John Rorke And Sons, Carbonear, and Rev J.W. Bartlett is a great grandson.

1852 Rev. W.E. Shenstone. He was a father to the community. His daughter was the Mother of John Leamon, Esq., of Dick's & Company. After a long service he elected to spend the closing years Of his life in Brigus.

1855 Rev. John S. Phinney. He only served one year but he worked his Circuits faithfully.

1856 Rev. Samuel W. Sprague. He was the first candidate in Newfoundland to offer for the Wesleyan

Ministry. He was the father of the Rev. D. Howard Sprague of Sackville University.

1857 Rev. Thomas Smith came to Brigus. He also gave a learned Professor to Sackville University In Dr. Smith and also gave a Medical Docor to Burin, P.B.

1861 Rev. Adam Nightingale. A faithful and well tried war-horse who spent some fifty years in the Colony. After a few years in St. John's he went to Bristol and finished his course in that old Wesleyan City. One of the three headquarters of John Wesley.

1862 Rev. Thomas Harris. He was twice president of Conference and 7 times Chairman of District. He buried his first wife in Brigus, he subsequently married Miss Caroline Munden of Brigus as His second wife. He finished his course in Montreal having nearly completed his 90th year.

1865 Rev. W.E.Shenstone returned for a second term, he served out the full limit.

1868 Rev. John Waterhouse. He was one of Newfoundland's greatest revivalists. The writer visited Him in 1904 at Manchester and they became fast friends and correspondents to the end. Mr. Waterhouse wrote his last letter to the writer on his death bed and it was read to the Western Bay people on the occasion of their Centenary Celebration in 1911.

1871 Rev. John S. Peach. His Ministry in Brigus was also very brief, he was better known as "Father Peach". He was very kind and sympathetic. He spent five years at Lower Island Cove. His name is still a household word on the north of Conception Bay.

1872 Rev. Thomas Harris. Mr. Harris during the second term, saw the present church built and dedicated also the churches at Clarke's Beach and Cupids, if not fully, nearly complete.

1875 Rev. Chas Ladner with Rev. J. B. Heal as colleague residing at Cupid's. Mr. Ladner remained Until 1878. Mr. Heal left in 1875.

1875 The Rev. George Boyd was then stationed at Cupids and the Circuit was divided. Mr. Ladner may Be classed with the popular Ministers of the Brigus Circuit.

1878 Rev. Joseph Pascoe. He was a type of man in his own groove. A man of many parts woe to the Highwaymen who would assail him on a lonely road on a dark night. Among other qualities, he Was a poet, and there are many samples of his literary ability in the Colony.

1881 Rev. Charles Ladner returned for a second term of one year. He went to Carbonear for one year And then transferred to British Columbia. He is spending the evening of life at Kamloops, B.C.

1882 Rev. John Goodison. Some have called him "Mr. Goodheart". He was highly loved.

1885 Rev. James Dove (afterwards DD) Dr Dove brought the well beaten oil to the Sanctuary.

1888 Rev. Henry Lewis followed. He had a large degree of Welsh fire. This was his last Newfoundland Circuit. He transferred to Manitoba and did excellent work there.

1891 Rev. John Pratt. He well earned the name "Boanerges". He courted no man's smile, he feared No man's frown. He was a short minister of one year.

1892 Rev. W.T.D. Dunn (now D.D.). His brilliant preaching greatly pleased the Brigus people. He Was here at the crash and suffered accordingly. He manned our best Circuits. He is now Residing in Grand Falls.

1895 Rev. James Wilson was a faithful Circuit worker. He is now our Hospital Chaplain.

1898 Rev. George Paine served the Circuit for the longest term of all his predecessors since 1819. He was a good Pastor and faithful Circuit worker and disciplinarian.

1903 Rev. Jabez Hill. He came as President of the Conference. His stay was brief as he was transferred To the Toronto Conference. He returned to Twillingate as a superannuate and is buried in Twillingate Cemetery beside the Revs. William Marshall and Geo. C. Frazer.

1904 Rev. James Nurse was greatly loved. He remained four years and was loath to leave a kind and Considerate flock.

1908 Rev. Samuel Snowden closed his Ministry in Brigus and then resided a year as superannuate, Subsequently returned to England and ended his earthly pilgrimage. Mrs. Snowden finished Her career tragically in Toronto,

1912 Rev. R. H. Maddock got the Church renovated.

1916 Rev. C. A. Whitemarsh, M.A., B.D., the scholarly and popular preacher and faithful Pastor Was compelled to retire on account of affliction. He is now recovered and has entered the Methodist Episcopal Church. His letter to the Guardian show that he is developing a fine Literary style. We wish him long life and success. The Rev. William Swann filled in the Year for Rev. Mr. W. Whitemarsh.

1917 Rev. Oliver Jackson, B.D., remained five years. He had a pleasant time and a successful Ministry. He worked hard for the rising generation. He is always a welcome visitor when He appears at the Summer School.

1923 Rev. Charles Lench. And so the succession runs.

Chapter III - The Two Churches

The Protestants of Brigus were kept together for about a quarter of a century by Parson Percey. Long Before his death the Church was too small for the Congregation. The Rev. Richard Knight took steps For the enlargement in 1824-1825 when extensive alterations and enlargements were made, and it was Still necessary to make further enlargements. When this was accomplished the report was made to the Headquarters in London.

Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society

" In this circuit the members in the Society are 40, being the same as last year. The work of God like the leaven is making gradual progress. During the past year our Church has undergone considerable enlargement. This was accomplished by two of our friends Charles Cozen, Esq and Mr. Nathaniel Munden who voluntarily came forward to guarantee the payment, and as soon as it was completed, the whole of the pews were sold and the expense of the erection cleared

A further enlargemen became necessary and it has been met by the building of a porch which is now finished. By these additions many more have been bought under the regular ministry of the word and the attendance of others is more regular and certain. Their deep attention promises much future good. The schools have been continued through the winter and are doing well."

Wesleyan Chapel

This quaint old piece of worship had square prews with doors. They were all right for those facing the pulpit but not for those with their backs to the Minister. The Parson was quite imposing with his black gown and his spotless white appendages. Some still maintain that they should have been retained. They regarded those pews are their private property. The pew was an important factor in their last Will and Testament.

A few facts from the will of Mr. Azariah Munden, who originally came from Dorsetshire, England, and who died in 1827 being then 88 years of age. (about seventy of which he lived in Brigus) are very interesting. To his wife he left half of his pew in the Wesleyan Chapel and to his two sons the other half in the said Chapel. A bequest of ten pounds for the Rev. Richard Knight for the Burial service. This latter bequest does not often occur but we presume Mr. Knight accepted it without any compunctions of conscience.

His eldest son William Munden, in his will left one hundred pounds towards the building of the Mission House, also the land.

The early days of the old Wesleyan Chapel were noted for the lively singing. They revelled in the old tunes and gloried in the stringed orchestra, the Cello, Violins and Flute, etc. The People came from miles around to hear the singing of the Brigus Choir. The one event of the weel was when the Choir came to practice for the Sunday Services. Niner Harris was School Master and Choir Master, William Stantaford played the violin, John Leamon the flute and so on. At long length the old order changed and the stringed band was knocked out of commission by the melodeon which paved the way for the giant or prince of instruments, the pipe organ, in the presence church, thanks to Mrs. Abraham Bartlett and Mrs. R.J.C. Leamon who collected the money to pay for the same.

The Second Church

When the old Church had run its course of over 65 years an incident occurred which led up to the building of the present spacious Sanctuary. It was on this wise, a youth of the congregation called on the Rev. Thomas Harris and sought the young man told the pastor that he thought the time has come when the Methodists should build a new place of worship. On the following Sabbath a meeting of the new pew holders was called. A body of Trustees was appointed for the proposed new church. The gentlemen elected have all passed away, but their names will awaken thoughts and sympathies of other days: - Captain N. Norman, George Clarke, George Gushue, William A. Greene, Thomas Spracklin, George Crosbie, Caleb Clarke, William Antle, Gabriel Woodmason, Joseph Roberts, Job Roberts, Moses Roberts, James Whelan and Fred Davis.

This was on the 12th of January 1874, Captain George Gushue was appointed Secretary. Tenders were requested. The Church was to be 100 feet overall and capable of seating upwards of 1,000 people. Four tenders were received. G.C. Jerrett, 1,030 pounds, William Wright 1, 375 pounds, W.A. Green 1,410 pounds, G. Woodmason 1, 200 pounds. Mr. Jerrett's tender was accepted and in 15 months one of the finest churches in Newfoundland at that date was ready for the Dedicatory function. The pews were made for exceptionally large familes and 118 in number.

Foundation Laying Ceremony

The foundation laying was an auspicious occasion. There are still a goodly number of survivors. Mrs William Bartlett, wife of Captain William Bartlett, J.P. was there. She has since married, bought up a fine family, seen her Golden Jubilee and received the congradulations of her relations and friends. She presided at the Organ at the open air service and foundation ceremony. The present Pastor's wife shared in that interesting service.

The Red Letter Day

The day for opening the New Church at length arrived. All the clerical participants in the ceremonies of that auspicious occasion were menof honor in the connexion.

Rev. George S. Milligan, M.A. was nearing the close of Gower Street Pastorate, was soon to enter the duties of his position as Superintendent of Methodist Education for the Colony. He was the first to be honored as President of Conference. He was subsequently elected three times to the same honor. President of Conference 1874, 1878, 1884, 1894. Died 1902 ages 73 years. Subsquent to his appointment to the chair he received the degree of L.L. D., other colleges concurring. Dr. Milligan preached at the Morning Service from 2 Chron. 5, 1-15 the Dedication of Solomon.s Temple.

In the afternoon the preacher was Rev. Charles Ladner. He based his remarks on Ps.84.10-11. "For a day in thy Courts is better than a thousand, etc." Mr. Ladner was the 8th President of the Conference. He transferred to British Columbia in 1883. He was very much beloved on all his Circuits. Now in his 87th year, send greetings to the Jubilee celebration.

Rev. James Dove (afterwards Dr. Dove) took the evening services. His text was "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for he hath prepared for them a City". Dr. Dove was President in 1879 and 1883. He brought the best he could command to the pulpit.

The Rev. Thomas Harris was Pastor. At the following Conference 1875 he was elected President and again in 1880. After a long and honored career he died in Montreal in the 90th year of his age. Mr. Harris did not preach on the opening day of the New Church.

The Organist was Mr. Murrish, an Englishman, who had charge of the Methodist Academy. He played at the last service in the Old Church and the first service in the New Sanctuary. The Jubilee will revive many memories for those remainign on the shores of time.

Chapter IV - The Origin of Brigus and Other Matters

Just when they began to colonize Brigus is uncertain. That there were plantations there soon after Guy's settlement in Cupids, there can be but little doubt, it is a very old settlement. It has had numerous spellings in ancient history, such as, Brigue, Brecjhouse, Brighouse and Brigus. As early as when William III was on the Throne in 1695 a party under Boisbriand, one of D'Lberville's Lietenants was sent to burn Brigus, Port de Grave and Island Cove. Brigus must have been a growing village at that time. The French burnt Holy-Rood, Harbour Main and other places. In Brigus the planters shrewly built their houses among the woods, and it is given as tradition, that when the enemy on this occasion were leaving the Harbour the barking of a dog brought them back to finish their work of burning seven houses erected at Frog Marsh. Brigus must have been a considerable village in 1765. The French were always a menace to our Fisherman, but the people plied their avocations and prospered. By 1775 the population by an influx, particularly from England, Ireland and Wales progesses considerbly. They cleared the land, built their boats, prosecuted the cod and seal fisheries and they held their own in the race of life. In the reign of Good Quuen Anne, 1705 the French Admiral again sent to burn the settlements of Conception Bay. Harbour Grace contained twenty-four houses, Carbonear twenty-two houses, the best built in the Island, and some Merchants in these localities owned property worth half a million dollars.

Economic Progress

Brigus was destined to be the most progessive and prosperous settlement in Conception Bay. She glided into the 19th Century with great ambitions for larger ships. The Shallops with their moveable deck boards were now going out of date.

Freshwater, B.D.V., led the way with the first decked schooner. It is said that Captain William Munden bought in 75,000 seals in his little 40 ton schooner the "Active" before she came to an untimely end on Baccalieu Island in 1822.

In 1819 he built in Brigus the "Four Brothers" of 104 tons which was the first one hundred ton schooner in Newfoundland to prosecute the sealfishery and which was talked about as much at that time as the "Great Eastern" was in our early days.

And so Brigus continued to prosper. It produced a type of hardy men that feared no hardships. That was the day of the sailing fleet and they well improved their opportunity. Sixty-six sailing vessels cleared from the Harbour of Brigus in the year 1847 and fully one half were Brigus Masters.

What made Brigus what she was in her palmy days can easily be understood. They knew how to seize their opportunities. We have only to look at their pictures handed down to us, to read of energy and determination. Some of these pictures, before the days of photographs, cost the subject 100 pounds. It was only a certain quality of people that sat for Oil Paintings.

When the steamers came in and crushed out the men who presecuted the Seal Fishery in the old fashioned way, they had nothing to put in its place. Here are some of the catches of the sailing vessel days:-

    1836.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 384,321
    1858 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..507,628
    1861 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..395,252

There is little variation in twenty years. In 1831 and 1832 when our population was 60,000, less than 25 percent of what it is to-day, the catches were 559,000 and 442,000 seals.

In 1840 when our population was 82,000 the catch was abnormally high, perhaps the highest in the history of the Colony, 631,185 seals.

In 1847 when our population was 98, 703 there wnet to the ice fields 10, 805 men of 9 per cent of the population. How many find employment at the sealfishery to-day?

Brigus was all alive in the early decades of the 19th Century and her property was the envy of Conception Bay until well into the sixties. The introduction of steam in a few years gave it a staggering blow and "Black Monday" well described the Crash. But for that event Brigus would have continued to make a good appearance for some time to come.

Brigus and the House of Assembly

For a long time after the Home Government had granted the Colony Responsible Government, Brigus had a man to the manner born. The first to lead the way was Charles Cozens, Esq, MHA, 1822. He came out from Blandford in Dorsetshire to the firm of G & J Kemp. He became at length the leading Citizen. He took a trip to the Labrador in 1825 with the Rev. Richard Knight, Mr. Knight's object being to find out the whereabouts and conditions of the Esquimaux and to examine the Moravian settlements. Many years ago I saw Mr. Cozen's magnificent Punch Bowl, covered with Masonic emblems and beautifully decorated and the name of the recipient. It was a real Brigus curio.

1855 - Robert Brown, MHA, went to the House of Assembly.

1859 and 1869 John Leamon, MHA, represented the District.

1873 - John Bartlett, MHA, the champion of the Grind Stones Policy. He said he would place a grindstone in every community of the District and he did it. All don't redeem their promises.

1868 Captain Nathan Rabbitts, MHA won the district honour.

1868 Captain Nathan Norman, MHA of the Battery was the successful candidate.

1868 John Nartlett, MHA was agin the sucessful competitor.

How many communities of the size of Brigus, could have put such a number of honourable men in the House of Assembly? They could manage a ship in the angry sea, and keep the House of Assembly from running on the rocks of political misadventures.

Some More Prominent Brigus People

Mr. George Crosbie hailed from Bonnie Scotland, and for some years acted the part of a good citizen, until he moved to St. John's and founded the Crosbie Hotel, afterwards destroyed by the fire in 1892, and rebuilt on Duckworth Street. After his death the business was conducted by his daughter, Mrs. S.K. Bell. Of the Proprietress of the Crosbie Hotel one cannot speak too highly. Her generosity and philanthropy are well known. The College Ladies Aid and all kindred organizations, have always had her warmest and most practical sympathy. Her loss to Brigus has been a gain to St. John's.

Sir John Crosbie is another member of the Crosbie family. He is a business man. His worth to the Colony has been duly recognized by the Knighthood conferred by His Majesty. He now occupies the honourable position of Minister of Finance.

Of the Rev. John W. Bartlett, who is shedding lustre on the Colony from afar, we cannot speak too kindly. He has filled leading pulpits to the present, and is much beloved by his ministerial brethren, and the people whom he has served. He is now stationed at Amherst, Nova Scotia. Would that other young men of Brigus has caught his vision and viewpoint.

Captain George Gushue, Sr., mentioned amoung the Trustees elected in 1874, was a Brigus celebrity, happy and cheerful at all times. He filled many secretarial offices in the town . It was his son George Gushue, Jr., since then an MHA for several terms and a Minister of the Crown, and in religious life Supt. Of Gower Street Chuch Sunday School, St. John's and c. that comes as a youth and interviewed he Brigus Minister regarding the building of the new Church.

Mrs. (Rev.) Edgar Taylor and other members of the family are well known. Jabez P. Thompson, Esq, Stipendiary Magistrate, was born in Harbour Grace. He removed in early life to Twillingate. He served several terms as MHA for Twillingate District. After nearly 30 years in Brigus he can certainly claim his citizenship. He has been Sunday School Superintendent for many years and by all classes, is without, exaggeration, a man greatly beloved.

Mr. John W. Hiscock, residing in St. John's for family and business reasons, regards himself as a citizen of Brigus still. By his business acumen and enterprise he means a great deal to his native place. He is also a good supporter of our Church. We are hoping he may return to live on his splendid property.

Everybody knows or has heard of our veteran sealing Viking, Captain William H. Bartlett, J.P. He takes great interest in his community and Church. His daughter has been church organist for a number of years and is in works and labors abundant. Of the past we may speak of many good men and true. Mr. William Green, sometimes teacher and lay reader. His son, William A. Green, a prominent contractor. Like his father he lived to a good old age. John and George Smith, honorable business men. The Pomeroys who descended from John Pomeroy who long years ago had his fishing room at Freshwater, B.D.V.

The Clarkes were well known. The leading fraternal organization greatly respected Mr. Caleb Clarke. His daughter has given her life to the old Alexander Street and the present Wesley Church.

The Arctic Heroes

Captain John Bartlett eldest son of Captain Abraham Bartlett was an Arctic Hero, forty years ago with the American Explorer Hayes and afterwards with Admiral Peary on his first trip. Captain Samuel Bartlett his younger brother took his place with Peary on several noted occasions. Captain Robert Bartlett, grandson of Captain Abraham Bartlett was in charge of the S.S. Roosevelt on the great occasion when Peary claimed the North Pole. Another son of Captain Abraham Bartlett was his youngest son, Captain Harry who was a most successful sealer but unfortunately met an untimely death on S.S. Falcon with all her crew.

Another Arctic Explorer was Captain William Norman of the Battery who rescued Admiral Greeley when they were all at death's door from starvation.

Captain Isaac Bartlett another relative of this famous family rescued Captian Tyson and crew after drifting on an iceberg for fifteen hundred miles. We have with us to-day Captain William Bartlett the Commodore of the sealing fleet in Newfoundland, at this time Captain Harold Bartlett, who has made several trips to Hudson Bay with great success is another worthy member of this old and most respected family that will never be forgotten while Brigus remains on the map. There are many families we would like to mention in this review and we reluctantly draw this chapter to a close.

Chapter V - Surveying The Old Plantations

Few places in Newfoundland have a history as interesting as Brigus. We have only to come in contact with the place and people, and spend a little time in studying their origin to find that many of the old stock were well connected with the Emglish upper class. What bought them to Brigus is a mystery. They came and brought names with them that set you thinking.

The 17th Century was turned to good account by the forbears of the present generation, say from about 1740, a little before and after. They settled down on the land and cleared it following the dual position of Fisher-farmer. Then came the Government enumerator and took a census and we get the backward glance and see what they have been doing the previous 120 years. The results of that interesting visit in 1807 to every plantation is with us to-day and we have a most interesting document that gives us the results of those investiagtions.

The Interesting Document

Here in this interesting inventory we learn the names of the people who inhabited Brigus one and a quarter centuries ago. Some obtained their holdings from their immediate relations, others found them lying void and cleared them, while some paid down cash for their possessions. Those who cleared them acted in harmony with the Act of William III and the boundaries are given most accurately in the document. We start from Frog Marsh, on the Southside.

William Phelan obtained possession by taking it in hand and bringing fertility out of rugged nature. John Walker and Sons purchased their holding for 26-0-0 pounds from Conway Heighington, a very old Bristol firm. John Woolcock cleared his own estate according to Act of William III. 200 yards from high water mark by 67 yards.

Thomas Rose, he also cut and cleared his own estate in 1802. James Hays came in 1798. He cut and cleared his fine holding which was 180 yards by 98 yards.

John and Isaac Clarke had owned their plantation for 38 years.

Charles Mercer owned 105 yards from East to West for eleven years.

James Goushoe owned 202 yards from East to West for twenty three years.

Ambrose Sparks obtained his right and title as the gift of his grandfather.

John Morgan got possession of his property through his father-in-law, presumably a wedding dowry.

John Sparks obtained his in the same way. One labors and others enter into their labors.

James Antle was the forerunner of a splendid race of men, at home or at the fishery, whether the Cod or Seal it didn't matter. He cut and cleared his own estate 164 yards by 196.

John Noel had quite a place for the past two years.

George and John Kemp got their estate through it being void at River Head. This was the dock for building vessels.

William Antle, Jr. purchased this place from William Newman.

Edward Percey's had been in the family since 1769.

Joseph Richard's land lay in close proximity to the Church of England and Methodist Churches. Purchased this from Thomas Gill.

William Percey know as the "Admiral", the son of Stephen, held possession of this estate which has been in the family for 120 years. He took possession in 1770. They have the oldest records in Brigus. He also owned a fishing room on the Island.

John and William Bartlett in 1780 purchased their estate from T. LeDrew for 26-0-0 pounds. You wouldn't buy much of a plantation to-day for $ 130.00. This was the homestead of the Bartlett family in Brigus.

William Antle, Sr claimed his estate in 1700. His ancestors had held it for 96 years.

Stephen Percey, son of Stephen, obtained his through his father's will. He hired it to Kemp & Co., the millionaires of Poole, for an annual amount rental of 6-0-0 pounds. A poor business that could not pay more than that rent. This was situated near the Tunnel.

William Roberts held an estate for 70 years. He had never met an Isaiah who admonished Hezekiah "to set his house in order". He had five sons and left his estate intestate, leaving the sons to settle it among themselves.

Walter Phealan bought his estate from Isaac and Thomas Roberts for 5-0-9 pds/pence. Queer they should add on 9 pence. Perhaps there is a tale to the nine-pence. The place was 171 yards by 72, not a bad bargain.

Dinah Roberts came into possession by deed of gift from her father, evidently no boys around. It had been in the family 80 years at the time of the survey.

John Rabbits, Sr. and his nephew, John Rabbits, Jr must have had joint possession according to the deed. Their Mother's deed of gift. This was near the bridge.

William Roberts, Sr. had possession from 1768. William Lane sold it to William Roberts for 10-0-0 pounds having possessed it for 37 years. It was a very large holding.

William Antle and Widow Antle. The inheritance came to Widow Antle as a deed of gift from her father-in-law. The emumerators must have been very inquisitive in 1781.

John Roberts, Dinah's son obtained his estate from his mother.

John Percy, Sr. owned his since 1790. It was 143 yards by 61 yards. Another plantation was added 87 by 20 yards.

William Whalan took it when lying void in 1804. He owned the Long House there when the Surveyor came.

Samuel Roberts in 1805 got to work on the waste land. His property was bounded by the Brook and by Grace Walker's garden.

Grace Walker in 1797 also obtained her plantation by its lying void. It was 100 yards by 47 yards and bounded by the woods on the Northside. What a revelation if she could return….

Thomas Quinlan took possession and cleared up his estate in 1796. It was 100 yards by 47 yards. Then he pitched in and cleared up another 98 by 100 yards. How those men did work! They wore themselves out, that their children might rust out.

William Percey and James and Thomas Roberts. A troop cometh (!) Were they three bachelors? Their ancestors had held their joint estate for 76 years. This makes them probably among the early settlers.

Grace Norman took possession in 1786 by deed of gift from her Mother-in-Law. How kind those Mother-in-Laws were in those days.

Ann Roberts 1772, her possession was but small, only 18 ½ by 14 ½ yards. The other was 66 yards by 102 yards. It was the gift of their Father who had partly cleared it.

Simon Spracklin - the Sparklins were an old family. In 1784 Simon's father and his ancestors had had possession for 68 years. Tradition in the family says the Spracklin's originally owned all the land from the Bridge to the Battery Brook.

William Keating's possession dates to 1774. He received it as a gift from his father in law. It looks as if Father in laws gave a working basis for all time.

Samuel Spracklin has lived in his estate since 1772. Sixty eight years possession. This was another kind gift of gracious Father in Law.

Robert Knight got his estate in 1800 by the gift of his Mother. His land was bounded by Plowman and Spracklin's land.

John Plowman, this was also the bequest of a kind Father in Law held since 1782.

Azariah Munden in 1770 paid part price of purchase in cash to Charles Wile of Hampton, near London, the sum of 25-0-0 pounds, rather high for those times, but it was conventiently situated. It ran 90 yards from South to North and 63 yards in the opposite direction. Part cleared agreeable to Act William III.

James and William Norman bring as to the end of this ancient and interesting document. These men were brothers from Jersey, and inherited this splendid property in 1774 by deed of gift from their Father. The Battery in the days of its glory presented a unique and magnificent appearance. Lord Strathoona was the guest there for some time. The property was 210 yards East and West, by 198 yards and bounded in the North by the woods.

The last two names in the document were destined to play an important part in the History of Brigus. The Mundens and the Normans were leaders of men.

There were 44 holdings, or, as they were designated, plantations. Some of my readers may think this is a dis-interesting article. Some who claim Brigus as their nature place won't find their names there at all. We have given you a bird's-eye-view of Brigus as it was in 1807. Your forebears came too late upon the scene. Let the present generation build upon the foundations of their sires and grand-sires. Brigus has the possibility of rising again. Anyhow, we believe that those in distant lands will sean with interest this little sketch of the families that resided between the Brigus Hills at the beginning of the 19th Century.

Chapter VI - Concerning the People

There was a influx of people after the year 1807. Their names do not appear in the Inventory, but should have received mention.

Charles Cozens, came out from England as a cooper to the firm of G & J Kemp, and he was destined to be a big Merchant and the leading man of the Community. It was he who first represented Port de Grave District in the House of Assembly in 1832. He held out for seven years. He was road convenor and started many other good examples to this day, which he christened in commenoration of the Governor's visit. The first John Leamon was a man of importance and took Mr. Cozens' place in the House of Assembly and filled that position with credit to himself and his constituency for 14 years.

The Gushues, are said to have come from Jersey, also the Plowmans. William Stantaford was first settled in St. John's where he was regarded as a Musical Celebrity in the Rev. John Jones' Congregational Church Choir. He played the violin.

Michael Way, started another family. He was the Sexton for many years, and he was celebrated for the successful way he could manipulate the snuffers in oinching off the wicks of the candles during the service in the old church. The last of the Stantafords in Brigus was the worthy old postmistress that passed out some years ago, but the family are still well known in Heart's Content and Carbonear areas.

There was a firm Robert Brown & Company. In later days he became Manager of the Commerical Banks. The last of the Cozens in Brigus died a little before our advent. He was a Harvard M.A. He rests in the Brigus Cemetery. He never married and left behind a considerable estate.

Brigus has an English-town, an Irish-town and there are probably a Jersey-town. At all events many of the early pioneers have come from Jersey. The Normans are said to have settled at the spot now known as the "Battery" because of its stricking resemblance to their old homestead in Jersey. By far the larger portion came from England.

John Rabbitts (first spelled Raebitts) was of Devonshire stock. There was a celebrity known as "Billy the Dandy", William Rabbitts, the man who was Captain of the Brig called the "Dandy". We have heard of a revolting toast he proposed at a party at which the Church of England Bishop was present. "Bloody Decks to her" needed qualifying. It was only another way of wishing the vessel a bumper trip at the Seal Fishery.

The Perceys were descended from some branch of Lord Percey's family. A far away record says that Thomas Percey was to carry to England each year so many quintals of stock fish for the use of Lord Percey. George Percey, brother of the Earl of Northumberland was next in command to John Smith of Pocohntas fame in Virginia in 1580 which certainly substatiates these early traditions, as all these adventures to America were intimately connected at that time.

The Mundens descended from British Naval heros. John Munden held some Government position at the Chelsea Ferry, previous to the building of this famous bridge in London. His son, Sir Richard Munden, Captain of H.M. Ship captured the Island of St. Helena from the Dutch in one of his exploits. It came in very conveniently for Napoleon! He never troubled Europe any more after going there. Admiral Sir John Munden was famous in the reign of Queen Anne. He came into prominence by liberating the Christian Slaves from the Emperor of Morocco. He died in 1719 and his oil painting which was originally in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court now hangs in Greenwich Art Gallery with relics and paintings of Nelson. A member of this family, an officer on one of the warships, visited his relatives in Brigus during his service in Newfoundland.

Days of Adversity

In the early years of the 19th Century Brigus was not ever prosperous. The Fall and Spring of 1816 and 1817 was known as the year of the Rals. A time of unparalleled destitution came upon the people. It was through no fault of their own. It was the reaction of Napoleonic wars. It was the miserly low prices obtainable for our Codfish in the European markets. Edward Kemp, agent of the great firm in Poole, resided in Brigus. In a report which I have seen he states " a large number of planters could not secure supplies and starvation stared them in the face". The "rejection dealers" as they were called, took the cause into their own hands. The Brigus planters were put on allowances. The more reasonable ones assisted in a keeping order. They were allowed ¼ cwt of the same to those with larger families. When the sealing schooners left for the ice the place was in a precarious condition. Stocks of potatoes were nearly exhausted. This was on February 25th, 1817. Edward Kemp, reported; "We have barely enough to maintain our crews until the 1st of May. The most of these ruffians are without any shadow of claim upon our House. The country is overrun with such dangerous characters. I have every reason to fear that the first arriva; in Brigus of provisions will be in a serious danger of capture by the lawless mob. Similar riots are reported at Carbonear and other parts of the Country". This appears in the Official report to the British Government in the year 1817. It is a very long report.

Better Days and More Prosperous Times

The piping times of prosperity may be reckoned from 1830-1880. During these years Brigus was regarded as one of the money centres of the country. It produced a great number of famous sealing skippers and captains. The population rse by 1877 to 1800 all of whom were employed in the staple industries of the Colony.

Rev. Philip Tocque, writes of things as they were then, "The Mundens, Normans, Perceys, Whelansm, Bartletts, Roberts and Wilcoxes reside here, who are some of the richest planters in Newfoundland." He further adds; "Brigus is well cultivated and for the extent of population has a large number of good residences.". Dr. Tocque speaks like one who could see decline setting in. "The last large mercantile firm belonging here. Robert Brown and Company, has removed to St. John's where he is now the respected Manager of the Commerical Banks," but a new manager was in charge fifteen years later when the crash occurred.

An Encouraging Rumor

As the town began to feel very keenly the introduction of steam at the sealfishery, a rumor became current that there were mines in the vicinity of Brigus. There was Copper discovered in Turk's Gut. Yes! They did actually go to work and they dug out of that Turk's Gut Mine, three tons of good Copper ore. Indeed! And why did they give up digging? There may be more ore awaiting the advent of the miner.

Then a more startling bit of news was circulated. It was a splendid rumour if it could be verified. It was said that there was a gold mine in the South side Hills. The evidence was plausable for was there not a wonderful abundance of quartz and don't they get gold out of quartz? The imaginary castles of the people were doomed to vanish as quickly as they were built.

Our Contemporaries

All the Protestants worshipped together until about 1816. When Parson Percey was declining in strength and unable to labour as he had done for the good of his parishioners, Mr. Cozens efforts to supply the need was not appreciated. The new arrival did not give satisfaction, those of the Church of England way of thinking elected to walk their own way. Their first Church was built at Salmon Cove (Clarke's Beach). The first Anglican clergyman was Rev. Mr. Martine, who is said resided in Brigus, but expected the flock to go with him for service at Salmon Cove. This was not wholly satisfactory to either place and the Brigus people decided about 1840 to erect their own church in Brigus.

In 1827 Bishop John Inglis of Nova Scotia visited Newfoundland and spent one night at Brigus. He records meeting the patriarch of the place, Mr. Munden, now in his 88th year, having spent 70 years in Newfoundland. They have had able Ministers such as Rev. Dr. Taylor, Rev Canon Bolt and hosts of others.

For some time the Reformed Episcopal Church had a following, but after a few years dwindled away. About 1885 the Salvation Army came to Newfoundland, very early they came to Brigus. After a few years they also withdrew from the town.

The three denominations have gone on their way of duty, each aiming at the highest spiritual and intellectual good of the community. The Methodists have always secured their Circuit suply without intermission. The Anglicans are at present visited from Salmon Cove. Their wants are well supplied.

The Roman Catholic Church was the last to be represented by a stationed clergyman; the three denominations are now established in the town.

1784, Dr. O'Donel was the first authorized Missionery to Newfoundland. It is said that he gave notice to the authorities of a plot against the British Crown. It was prevented, and for this act he was rewarded by the British Government with a pension of 75.0.0 pounds.

1818, the Northern District was formed, with headquarters at Harbour Grace.

1832, Brigus was divided from harbour Grace and became a separate charge under Dean MacKie. Dean Mackie displayed great tastes and soon had a most beautiful establishment. He called his farm "Ballynamona" after his birth place in Ireland. He was noted for his hospitality. He died among the people he loved in 1857.

I think Father O'Keefe came next. He was popular with all classes in Brigus. Monsignor Walsh was another of the popular clergymen in charge. Rev. Dr. Murphy is now doing all in his power for the benefit of his flock and is ready to help the community in every legitimate way.

Our Heros

The Methodist Church where the Jubilee will be celebrated on May 24th has a Memorial tablet that speaks volumes for our community. It contains the names of both those who fell and those who offered to fight or die for their country's honour.

To the Members of this Congregation Who Served in the Great War (1914-1918)

    Rupert Bartlett, M.C. and Bar Chevalier
    Fred Wilcox
    George Clarke
    George Ackerman
    Thomas Jackson
    George Yonden
    Thomas Yonden
    Stephen Sparks
    Bertha Bartlett, V.A.D.

The names of 23 who returned are also inscribed:

Sergeant F. Jerrett is honoured by a beautiful bronze tablet in the Church of England, and Pte. H.W. Bartlett by a marble tablet in the same Church.

Brigus men have always given a good account of themselves.

Captain Robert Bartlett's name rang round the world in connection with his explorations. Lieut. Peary always wanted a Bertlett to go in charge of his ship when he went in search of the North Pole. The boys and girls do well when they leave us.

At the Jubilee Celebration we hope Brigus will be a rallying centre for those within reach of us who have always called Brigus by that magentic word "home".

We hope you who read these words will come and join with us in this celebration. Think of what the Methodist Church and Sunday School has meant to you.

In the morning the Rev. Dr. Dunn, an old Pastor, will be the preacher. In the afternoon the Rev. Oliver Jackson, an old Pastor will conduct a children's service.

In the evening, there will be a platform meeting when the visiting clergymen and laymen will take part. The most important feature will be the unveiling of two tablets to the Honor and Glory of God and to the Memory of two who lie buried among the people they served.

Mr.W.A. Munn of St. John's will unveil a tablet in honour of his ancestor the Rev. John Percey, pioneer of Brigus Methodism.

Mr. John Leamon of St. John's will unveil another tablet in honour of Rev. W.E. Shenstone, his grandfather who spent two terms as pastor and twelve years as Supernumerary Minister in this place. He is buried here with his people.

In this Jubilee, Brigus will pass another milestone in its religious march through the 2nd Centruy of its existence.


Transcribed by Barb McGrath, June 1999
Page revised: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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