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Sixth in a series of Eight
Cecil J. Reynolds Letters
The following family names appear in this letter: COUGHLAN, DAVEY, DAVIS, ELSON, GOWER, KENNEDY, KING, LACEY, MOORES, REYNOLDS, SLADE, and THISTLE. As before, the symbol "[?]" immediately following the last letter of a word indicates that we are uncertain about that word. The same symbol with a space on both sides of it indicates that an illegible word or phrase has been omitted.
P.S. My scrawl gets worse by the week.
Dear Bruce & Mary,
My little room here at my son’s is approximately 104 sq ft and my wonderful daughter-in-law whom I call the second Saint Theresa is a very neat person, so I try my best to humor her. She has placed a wastebasket with a plastic bag in it next to the door. She empties it every three days so I try to put something in it to make it worthwhile. So every so often I try to discard something, a practice utterly unknown back in my old home at Stillwater, two miles south. But there I did have a den—library hardly more than half the size of this room. I did not have a wastebasket, but occasionally Alice suggested I get rid of some of my “stuff.” I tried, but most of the “stuff” went back in, stored in different places.
Here at Alan’s I have an enormous correspondence from all over, especially at Xmas and New Year. When people find they have me on a long-kept list for Xmas greetings, some of these I never hear from otherwise, but I try hard to acknowledge everything. Of course I hear from former students, most of them already in retirement. After all, I retired in 1972 after 40 years of “holding forth” and grading papers. I have a tall bookcase here about 4 feet wide. Yesterday I took down a book because it looked very new and I may not have read it all. I found it was to “the old prof” from Jim, but who this Jim is escapes me. It was entitled [?] , a series of reports by less well-known persons about their encounters with the “great ones” in a variety of fields, but mainly the arts and literature. Some of them I had myself read in the old days ( [?] & Somerset Maugham) also some of the writers. I had a fascinating hour with these, and still haven’t placed the Jim who gave me the book.
Well, as I was sorting through all this recent correspondence, I found I had the good sense to save your long typed letter of October 12. So I read and re-enjoyed the material on the old homeland. As I’ve already told you, I have traced my REYNOLDS ancestry back to James REYNOLDS born about 1650 at Honiton in Devon. He was a younger son who was lucky enough to find an heiress to marry and thus come into a property. Oddly, the very same thing happened in Nfld. to a descendant also named James REYNOLDS several generations later. A friend had taken a snapshot three years ago of St. Mary’s church at Rockbeare, 2 miles east of Exeter, on which the James who was emigrated to Mulley’s Cove, C.B. had been christened in January 1750. But he failed to get a plot of the REYNOLDS farmhouse at Marsh Green on the outskirts if Rockbeare. Several years later he remembered my interest and got an “agent” to go out from Exeter to the farm to get a picture. Naturally he asked permission of the current owner & got not only the pictures but his name and address, complete with postal code. The pictures he took were relayed to me and I paid the very small expense. The farmhouse in which our James (1749 – 1834) was born in [?] lived in and is the middle section of a connected row of farm buildings with a metal roof in place of the old thatched roof.
I had written in my story of our James’ career that he had definitely kept in touch with his older brother Nicholas after he came to Nfld. So I [wondered?-BWK] whether letters or other relics had survived the years in old farm past. The chances were about a thousand to one, but I wrote to our W.H. DAVEY the current owner with my story and my hope. Such letters are almost invariably answered by the wife (who is supposed to have time on her hands). I got a delightful long letter from Elsie DAVEY, dashing my new found hope, but enclosing a color photo taken back & front from about the same spot as the earlier ones, also with a picture of the present new farmhouse, a very fine brick structure just west of the old farm buildings. Mrs. DAVEY also took the trouble to send me the addresses of the present rector of St Mary’s and the name of the churchwarden (who would have access to the old church records from which I had learned so much earlier through a lady in Newton Abbot, west of Exeter. What I was after now was the name of the family of the heiress whom that [?] James had married and come into possession. So far I have not heard from the churchwarden (and the $20 I sent him) but I still have hopes. When these give out, I shall write to the rector. The pair were probably married at St. Mary’s, but many rural couples went into the city of Exeter to get hitched. At one time Exeter had had as many as 24 churches, at one of which (St Mary [?] ) our James’ father at 27 had wed 18 yr old Julianne[?] Gould. I trust the rector is less likely to pocket another $20.
Did I tell you how our James escaped starving to death in Nfld.? His apprenticeship hitch with the boot-making LACEYs in Mulley’s Cove was for 7 years (as in England). He would live with the family and remain unmarried. In April 1776 he would be free to set out on his own, probably as a fisherman as that was the sole profitable employment then in the bay. But on that same April 1776 the American colonies revolted. It was from these colonies, not from back home, that the Nfld. settlers (called “planters”) got all their food supplies, some of it, such as sugar & molasses secured by the Yankees from the Caribbean & Brazil. I and your ancestors were brought up on molasses and tea, also “lassie” bread. But this vital supply was cut off and there was as yet no agriculture in Nfld., save for a few small gardens kept nostalgically by the officers of the St John’s garrison far from their homes in England. Almost at once Yankee pirateers were sinking and capturing English fishing vessels not only on the Banks but even in several of the easily accessible harbors (St. John’s was not one of these). The great majority of the “looters” then were bachelors. Now without food (apart from fish in the summer) many of the men walked all the way to St John’s looking for relief. Fortunately, the colonel of the garrison there was farsighted as the numbers of desperate young men increased there was the possibility they would raid the garrison’s own stores & blood would be shed. The colonel proceeded to enlist quite a number of these young [?] thus giving them legal access to the stores.
But starvation stalked elsewhere. A letter sent home to England by a missionary of Hr. Grace revealed that he had buried 42 people in the time in which he normally buried a dozen. Also 9 of them had actually starved to death. You may have heard of the Rev Laurence COUGHLAN who before this used to go down by boat to the North Shore villages and held prayer meetings in homes before the first Blackhead Church was built in 1767-9 just before our James arrived from Devon. But COUGHLAN had gone back to England & written his memoirs which were published in London in 1776 just after the outbreak of the war. Our James was fortunate in that he had a roof over his head that his employer, the LACEYs, had enough supplies. They did not fish, and apparently got their supplies from back in Exeter. So the war went on. The Yankee pirateers sunk or captured nearly every fishing vessel. They could not enter St. John’s but they did enter other harbors in pursuit of English vessels.
Our James had no choice. There was no point in going “free” so he extended his apprenticeship for another 7 years. Its end coincided with the end of the war in 1783, whereupon he went “free” into a fishing partnership with Richard MOORES in Mulley’s Cove. They built a stagehead, a flake and two dwelling houses. How do we know this? Twenty years later, the new governor, Sir Erasmus GOWER, arrived in St John’s. In those 20 years there had been a flood of new emigrants after the war, especially from Ireland which verged on [?] poverty for centuries. So every niche & cranny along the North Shore were soon occupied [?] broke out for access to the sea, the only source of a living.
The report of the commissioners sent out is on file in St John’s. I’ve seen it. It’s an invaluable document. I found my maternal ancestors, the DAVISes, were already settled on the Head at Freshwater as early as the 1690s at least, long before our James came over. Our James & his partner testified that they had a stagehead & flake next to Michael THISTLE’s property at the shore, also two dwelling houses. However, the commissioners, being bureaucrats, did not go beyond their original instructions. They could see the two wives & several children but [?] of them, so I had quite a search on my hands, but got it pretty well straightened out. In the 1970s, long after he was dead I discovered that my grandfather had had a middle name, KENNEDY. I believe our James, now at least 33, married a teenager named Elizabeth KENNEDY. There was no career for girls then except marriage and children, and in some areas men outnumbered women by as much as 3 to 1. It was customary to name the first child after the appropriate parent. A girl was named for the mother, a boy for the father. So the first children were Elizabeth and James Jr. Elizabeth married John SLADE of Carbonear, a junior member of SLADE, ELSON & Co. to whom her father sold his fish.
My big problem was that there seemed to be no James, Jr. But a fellow researcher into the Blackhead church files found a James, Jr. following James Sr as pewholders. But fairly early James Jr disappeared in favor of Lot REYNOLDS the second son of James & Elizabeth. There is no burial record for James Jr. He may have drowned out fishing and his body not recovered. He left 3 or 4 daughters and a little son James III, who was only 11 when his grandfather died in 1834 after making his will in which he left the Mulley Cove property to Lot, not to little James. His true heir. He knew that Lot had no sons & the property would go to little James from Lot.
Now this is where you may come in. Little James’ older sister Elizabeth married Wm KING (1807 – 1891), and I have not traced their descendants. I had plenty on my hands tracing male descendants. (Two of my uncles and a cousin married KINGs in [?] .) The next sister Sarah married James THISTLE (1814 – 88) famed as “very devout.” The third sister Esther married John LACEY (1814 – 95) the current head of the LACEYs, and went up the slope as mistress of the home where her grandfather had lived for 14 years as a servant. The [?] died young. James [?] the [?] married Jane KING when both were only 21.
This is all I have true or room for now. When cousin Christine (who is very busy) finds time to make copies of the Foreword, with lots of cheer “stuff,” I’ll send you one.
With best wishes for an excellent 1996, Yours
Back to: Cecil J Reynolds Table of Contents
This page transcribed by: Bruce King (October, 2001)
Page Last Updated September 24, 2012(Craig Peterman)
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