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Early History of Bay Roberts

A lecture on the History of Bay Roberts, Conception Bay, Newfoundland, delivered by Rev. M. Blackmore, at Bay Roberts, aforesaid, on January 24, A.D. 1865:



The Bay Roberts Guardian

Saturday, February 20, 1943




The subject of the lecture I have undertaken this evening is “ The Rise and Progress of Bay Roberts as a settlement from the earliest known date to present time.”


The motives which led me, in the first place, to note down the several circumstances I have to relate, you shall presently hear, while the object I have in view in relating them thus in public is both to convey information, and to raise at the same time a small fund for the temporary relief of the growing necessities of the poor in the settlement.  And now for the motives which led to the noting down of the circumstances I am about to relate.


You will thus see that the task I set myself relates in a great measure to matter in more immediate connection with the Church at Bay Roberts, and in the frequent references I shall make to the Church some of you may feel a degree of disappointment as being not altogether what you expected, or what you came here to hear.  But in the progress and prosperity or otherwise of the Church of the nation or settlement you will ever, I think, mark the progress or decline of the nation itself.  The welfare, temporal, as well as spiritual, of the one is so intimately connected with the parity, progress and life of the other, as to be so universal experience teaches as is inseparable.  If the Church thrives in the piety and zeal of its members, so will the people among whom it is planted thrive in everything calculated to promote their present as well as future good.  If on the other hand the Church declines, so will the people decline with it.


But combined with, and in addition to those references to the Church, I have dotted down a few particulars relating to the non-secular subjects, still keeping in view what I at first proposed, and I trust that after this explanation you will at the conclusion of the Lecture go away satisfied that though the beginning of Bay Roberts was small and of a humble character, and moreover, of no very ancient date, there is everything to encourage us to hope that a bright future is before it, and that it will one day take its place among the most prosperous settlements in Newfoundland.


Having had occasion to make enquires relating to the commencement of the old Church of St. Matthew’s in this settlement of Bay Roberts, and having at various times while visiting the members of the Church met with written records touching the birth and death of some of the earliest settlers in this place it occurred to me that a brief account of the first occupation of the Harbour as a fishing station, and more especially of the earliest efforts made by the inhabitants to erect a place of worship, and to secure the ministration of the Church among them, would at least be interesting to some among their descendants of present day; and thinking further that a tabular statement, with dates affixed, showing progress or enlargement at various times of the Church here, together with the names, time and appointment and removal of several clergymen who had laboured in this place down to the present year, might be useful also if only as a source of reference should any question touching Church matters hereafter arise; and moved also by the thought that many of these records to which I have had access, and many aged men and women from whom, by personnel enquiry, I have obtained particulars respecting the things I propose to note down and thus preserve will, in the course of a few years in all probability be destroyed and pass away to no more, I have drawn as carefully as I could, and from existing documents the following Record or Church Register for the for the settlement of Bay Roberts down to this present year of Our Lord 1865.




Parsonage, Bay Roberts, January 24, 1865.


The Lecture


As the following memoranda are intended more especially for those who at present reside in Bay Roberts, and as residents are necessarily familiar with its general appearance much need not be said on that point.


I shall only remark that it is a deep commodious harbour in Conception Bay formed by a projecting point or neck of land of about 4 ½ miles in length by ½ mile wide, stretching from the main land into the Bay in an Easterly direction, but well sheltered by a rocky island at the mouth, and by a slight curve or bend towards the head, bounded on the North by waters of Spaniard’s Bay, on the South by the promontory of Port de Grave, with a small Point called Coley’s Point, or correctly Cold East Point, stretching out from the head of the Harbour and dividing its two arms; the Northermost of which however, is the only safe place for shipping.


At this date of 1865 the land is almost bare of trees, there being only here and there a patch dignified by the name of a grove remaining, and these fast going into decay, or yielding to the stroke of the axe as the growing scarcity of firewood necessitates from time to time their destruction.  Fifty years ago the whole neck, with the exception of a narrow neck along the shore, was covered with a vigorous growth of fir and spruce.


In the year 1810 one thousand sticks of firewood were cut by Mr. Samuel Mercer, father of the present families of Isaac, Jonathan and James Mercer, just in the rear of his dwelling, and sold by him to Mr. Pack, the then resident merchant, for fuel.  For some years past the inhabitants of this Harbour have enjoyed the advantage of a good road extending the whole length of the settlement, yet fifty years ago there was only a narrow path along the beach, and elsewhere a mere track between the trees, passengers having to wait for the going out of the tide in order to get along.  As payment for his labours in opening out of this path through Beachy Cove, the grandfather of those carrying on business here, received in return a well-earned bag of bread.  This narrow and difficult path remained unimproved as the sole means of travel for some years later.  When it was widened, and the large stones cleared off by the voluntary labours of the inhabitants, who began at the old Church, and cleared up to Mr. Pack’s establishment, previous to which clearance neither cart or carriage could go along.


Somewhat later back, at the commencement of the present century there was only here and there a little cluster of houses or tilts in the harbour, six in French’s Cove, two or three in Beachy Cove, six between French’s Cove and Whit Monday Hill, a few more in Mercer’s Cove, and but six more from thence to the Riverhead, while at Coley’s Point the eye could only rest on two little tilts, which were occupied by Mr. T. M. Russell and J. Churchill, set up near the spot where Mr. G. Jackson now lives.  All the rest of the Point was covered with trees to the waters edge.


There was then no place of worship except a dwelling house in Mercer’s Cove, open for the use of any Minister that might by chance visit the settlement.  School rooms for instruction of the rising generation were unknown.  Now we see a continuous line of houses from Juggler’s Cove to Coley’s Point, many of them large and substantially built fields under cultivation and every sign of progress; and can point to two Churches, one Wesleyan Meeting House and one Roman Catholic Chapple, and these not depending on causal visits, but regularly supplied by clergyman and preachers, two of whom ministers of the Church of England, one resident in the settlement, and in addition can boast of four schools in as many buildings, especially set apart for the purpose of daily operation.


Saturday, February 27, 1943


At the beginning of the present century the seal fishery, now so essential to the support and advancement of the inhabitants, and when prosperous brining with it so large an amount of wealth, was indeed prosecuted, but only in small decked boats of 30 to 40 tons.  The first man in Bay Roberts that had energy enough to start with a schooner, and I may add the skill to build it, too, for it was built under his direction in the little cove at the foot of Whit Monday Hill, was Mr. Badcock, grandfather of the present Nathaniel Badcock.  The schooner was called the “Fox”.  It was 60 tons measurement, and carried a complement of 20 men.  Its owner appears to have been an enterprising and influential person, and endeavoured, as I shall have occasion by and by to notice, to benefit his neighbours by opening his house and conducting Divine service therein on Sunday for their and his own good.  At his death this schooner went into other hands, and his son not treading in his father’s steps, the family has gone greatly to decay.


The following year another effort was made, and another little schooner was built down the Harbour likewise, this time by the present family of Russell’s.  The schooner was named the “John William”.  Then followed an interval of some years when we hear of Roach and Goosney, Patrick and John Delaney, and later still Samuel Mercer, father of Isaac, building schooners and proceeding with them to the “ice”.  Still the number of vessels were few, and for their supplies these vessels were dependent on Carbonear, and were also small of tonnage and their complement of men.


The Harbour, though commodious and safe, does not appear to have been occupied, or at least inhabited by permanent settlers until many years after the neighbouring settlements of Harbour Grace and Carbonear, and it is probable that Port-de-Grave had also become established, as it would seem from existing documents.


The oldest record now existing in Bay Roberts, in which dates are to be found, is an old family Bible now in possession of Mr. Thomas Earle.  This book is unfortunately without a title page and has lost many leaves both in the beginning and at the end, but on a blank page the following record is inserted:


John Earle, born 1678, married Francis Garland, 1698.

John Earle, son of above, born 1701.

William Earle, son of above, born 1709.


In memory of this last mentioned person there is now in Juggler’s Cove a headstone in good preservation, bearing the date of his death, viz: 1776.


The late Frances Garland is of Harbour Grace.


This John Earle did not, I am inclined to think, live at the time of his marriage in Bay Roberts, but on Bell Isle, which was at the time partially settled, but moved there shortly after his marriage, and built his dwelling in the extreme point of the settlement in Juggler’s Cove.  Earle was followed by the heads of some other families now living here, particularly the French’s who settled in the adjoining Cove, to which they gave their name.  The emigration from Bell Isle was occasioned, so I am informed, and doubtless hastened by the incursions of the trepidations of the French.  Nor were they safe from these incursions even in this remote Cove.  They plundered the house and store of a Mrs. Earle, who was carrying on a small supplying business for the benefit of herself and her immediate neighbours.


The next existing records bring us down 68 years, and is in possession of Mr. Robert Mercer, Sr.  It is contained on a blank page of a book entitled “Fielding Wattner’s Ladies’ Pocket Book” dated 1780.  This records consists of the register of births and deaths of the children of John and Mary Mercer, commencing with Charles, the eldest, born in 1746, and including also Thomas, a younger son, born 1758.  From this Thomas comes the Robert, born 1784, & now living.


This John Mercer was the son of a Charles Mercer, an Englishman from Ringwood who settled first on Little Belle Isle, but removed from thence with four sons John, Charles, Thomas D, James to their part of the harbour now called after them, Mercer's Cove. From these four men all the families of Mercers now in Bay Roberts have descended.


Another record consists of a headstone now lying on the ground on the hill at the back of the old church, to the memory of this patriarch of the Mercer family, Charles, with the date of his death, 1766.  Close by is another headstone in the memory of Mary, the wife of Charles.  Date of her death 1775, together with her age, 80 years, bringing us back to 1693.  Another memorandum relating to the Mercer’s, where there is an entry of the marriage of James Mercer, youngest son of the first Charles Mercer, with Elizabeth French, date December 30, 1769.


From these several documents the date of the settlement as a prominent fishing station may be safely fixed about the year 1700, or somewhat more than 160 years ago.  There is however, reason to believe, from the remains of buildings found many years ago in Mercer’s Cove, that it was resorted to in the summer seasons by Jersey men fishing on the Banks, for the purpose of making the fish at an earlier date.  The old people now speak of these Jersey fishing rooms as existing within their memory, extending where what is now called the Pond, above Beachy Cove.  Others of these temporary establishments appear to have been made on the Bay Roberts Island.  For a long period the first settlers continued contently, to occupy their original dwelling places in Juggler’s and French’s Coves, being joined by the Badcocks, Snows, Elms, and Russells, all originally from England, who built somewhat further up, yet still below Mercer’s Cove.  The Mercers increasing in numbers, were the first to move onward towards the upper part of the Harbour.  Some of them settled in Beachy Cove.  Somewhat later a branch of these families took possession of the land adjoining the room at that time permanently occupied by Mr. John Perchard, an old Jerseyman.


But in the year 1807 a fresh movement took place, the occasion of which is somewhat amusing, and which led to the permanent occupation and settlement of the upper and better portion of the Harbour.  Mark Delaney, an Irishman, at that time living in French’s Cove, observing with usual astuteness of his countrymen that this upper and unoccupied part of the Harbour was an eligible site for a settlement, went quietly by himself and marked off that fine spot of land, or at least a large portion of it, on which his descendants are now settled, boasting on his return home that he had accomplished the best day’s work he had ever done in his life, and that he would not give what he had done for a schooner load of fish.


His remarks excited the curiosity of his neighbours, one of whom, William Elms, father of the present Henry, William and John Elms, speedily followed his example, and buying a large tract o land (which his family now occupy) in the nominal possession of an Irishman named Barnes, but uncared for by him, and purchased from him for a new pair of shoes, shortly afterwards proceeded to cut down the trees and to erect a tilt or studded house into which he and his wife in the year 1808 moved from the back of what is now called Fergus Place (line missing) where she had previously fallen in love with Mark Delaney, but her father not approving of the choice opposed it, and using some restraint the girl watched her chance, and worked her escape through the window, ran off and married the object of her affection, by whom she had six sons.


Williams Elms was shortly followed by two brothers, Isaac and Stephen Russell, who tool the piece of land between Delaney and Elms.  These were followed by the Wilcox and Snows, who took the vacant land on the other or lower side of Elms, and thus was the upper part of Bay Roberts settled.  We now come to a period in the history of Bay Roberts as a settlement, from which we may fairly date the commencement of its growing importance, and regard it from henceforth not merely and only as a little fishing village, but as already stretching forward to what it is destined to become, a thriving commercial town.


Saturday, March 6, 1943


In the year 1810 the late Robert pack settled here, and commenced business on the premises belonging to and adjoining Mr. Perchard’s property, and to him belongs the honor of being the first permanent merchant of Bay Roberts, all who had preceded him in trade having been summer suppliers only.  In 1812, two years later, this enterprising man secured the land on which the future merchant’s establishment was to be built, buying of a man named Russell for £10 the site on which has since been erected a dwelling house and stores, and was valued at £3000.  In 1814 these buildings were commenced.  In the following years 1815-1816, Mr. Pack was joined first by Mr. Fryer, and then by Mr. Gosse.  The firm assuming the name by which it was known  - Pack, Gosse & Fryer.  At this time Mr. Pack left Bay Roberts to live in Carbonear, and the business here was henceforth conducted by an agent until the death of the founders, when it passed into the hands of his son-in-law, W. S. Green, who became its sole proprietor.


In 1812 another mercantile establishment was opened down the harbour by John Fergus from St. John’s.  The owner of this establishment continued for many years to do a thriving business, benefitting himself and others.  Unfortunately he took up with dissipated habits, his business was neglected and soon went to decay.  After Mr. Fergus’ death, Mr. McLennon in 1836 took the premises, but the trade was gone, and now we may see the melancholy remains of the premises and store a rain and a warning of the sad effect of strong drink.


While on this topic I must not omit to mention another establishment which began at an early date, though not many years after the two mentioned.  The mercantile firm of Cormack & Co. in Mercer’s Cove is still in existence, the building, stores and dwelling in connection with the firm having long been an ornament to the lower part of the Harbour, while the business done by this house has given employment and support to many of its inhabitants, being of material assistance to them, while it has at the same time brought wealth and influence to its energetic proprietors.


Before proceeding further we shall now take a look backward and contemplate a few of the disadvantages under which the earlier settlers in Bay Roberts laboured and by contrasting their difficulties with our own more favoured conditions, may see how much cause we have for thankfulness.  We have already noticed the want of roads, and may fancy the inconvenience of traveling, more especially after darkness, along the water’s edge or through swamps and stones, yet this, as we have seen, was the state of things fifty years ago in Bay Roberts.


For justice the inhabitants had to resort (and that by water) to Harbour Grace, where a court was occasionally held.  There was, indeed, some little power for settling trifling disputes entrusted to three of the oldest and most respected inhabitants, and for the summary punishment of minor offences were stocks set up, one pair where the Evans’ now reside, and another near Mr. Charles Mercer’s premises.  These were in existence about 38 years ago, and were then removed being rotten, no others being afterwards put up in their places.


For the rites and consolation of religion, for the purposes of getting married, and for baptism of their children and in order to partake of the Holy Communion, the earlier settlers were also obliged to travel to Harbour Grace, and that by the same uncertain route, Easter, moreover, being generally the time of the year at which the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered.  They were, indeed, occasionally favoured by the visit of the clergyman from Harbour Grace when Divine Service was held in one or other of the principal planters houses.


The Rev. James Balfour, who was Incumbent or Rector of Harbour Grace from 1776 to 1795, is still remembered as occasionally holding service in French’s Cove in the house of Mr. John Loomy, French’s grand-child, and also by the planters themselves to preserve the memory of the Sabbath and to occupy some of its sacred hours by assemblance at least of public worship.


About the beginning of the present century Mr. William Badcock, grandfather of the present Nathaniel Badcock, used to hold service in his own house, and in those times of necessity to marry and christen.  Service was also held in a house in Mercer’s Cove by an old Jerseyman Baldwin, but these services were unauthorised  and doubtless very irregular at this period.  Also, at the beginning of the present century, I find the Harbour received occasional visits from preachers of the Wesleyan connection, who held their services in the above-mentioned house in Mercer’s Cove.  But these visits must have been rare, as in the year 1796, according to the minutes of the Wesleyan Missionary in the Island, they had but 200 members; and later still, down to the year 1812 there were only four.


And here I must say something of the house in Mercer’s Cove, where we have already noted religious services were occasionally held, as it ultimately became the first building in this settlement expressly set apart for public worship, originally the dwelling house of John Mercer, grandfather of the present Mr. Robert Mercer, Sr., and opened by him as a place where the neighbours might assemble on the Sunday and join in prayers of the Church, and listen to the reading of a sermon or religious book by one from among their member who possessed sufficient ability so to do.  It was afterwards left by him “by will” for the use of any minister or preacher that should visit the settlement to hold Divine Service in.  Thus set apart it was shortly fitted with seats, the lofting taken out a gallery run across.  Here old Mr. Baldwin read prayers and here Mr. G. Williams, a Cathechist and Lay Reader of the Church of England 53 years ago, ministered and continued to hold service on the Sabbath until the Church was built, when the house, being dilapidated, was taken down.


It will now be our pleasing task to note the dawn and gradual unfolding of a brighter and better state of things; and while so doing, we trust at the same time to accomplish the end we first had in view, namely, to give a tabular statement, with the dates affixed, of the progress and enlargement at various times of the Church of England in Bay Roberts, together with names, time of appointment and removal of the several clergyman who had in succession laboured in this place.


In the year 1795 the Rev. W. Balfour was succeeded as Incumbent of the Church at Harbour Grace by Mr. Jenner.  Mr. Jenner, in 1802 was succeeded by Mr. Anspach.  In 1813 he was succeeded by Rev. Carrington.  Mr. Carrington in 1820 was succeeded by Mr. Burt, who being of an active turn of mind and anxious to supply as far as possible the spiritual wants of the more remote settlements in his extensive Mission, which included the whole of Conception Bay, paid frequent visits to Bay Roberts.  At his suggestion, and through his exertions, aided by the praiseworthy efforts of Mr. Williams, the Cathechist, Mr. Jessie Hooper and a few others leading men in the Harbour, in the year 1824 the first Church in the settlement was commenced, and the frame was erected, on the rising ground in the front of Mercer’s Cove.  The original dimensions of this building were but small, being only 40 feet by 28, with a tower and gallery at the western end.  In the following year 1825 it was covered and shingled.


In 1827 two years later, the carpenters were still at work on the tower, when a strange vessel was seen entering the harbour, which proved, as will presently be seen, the harbinger of future good to the members of the Church of England in Bay Roberts.  Right Rev. Dr. Inglis, the third Bishop of the Church of England in British North America and the first who had ever visited Newfoundland, together with Arch-Deacon Wix of St. John’s, and another clergyman missionary to relieve Mr. Burt of half of his extensive and labourious charge, came in a vessel belonging to the Governor, Sir Thomas Cochrane.  Bishop Inglis arrived in St. John’s in June 1827.  The first act was to consecrate the Church of England there, and then he proceeded northward and southward, visiting Conception Bay.  In the tour he consecrated 18 churches and 20 burial grounds, and confirmed 2365 persons.  Previous to this visitation no church or burial ground had ever been consecrated in the Island, nor had the Rite of Confirmation ever been administered.


As soon as the Bishop’s arrived and his business in Bay Roberts was known, a flag was hoisted on the tower of the new church, and the inhabitants assembled to witness the consecration of the building as a place of public worship, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and also the land for the burial ground, this latter having been in use for this purpose many years before the name of St. Matthew’s was given to the newly consecrated church.  The Rev. Charles Blackman was at the same time appointed by the Bishop to minister in it.  The residence of this gentleman was however, fixed in Port-de-Grave, which place he also served in conjunction with Bare Need, Bay Roberts, Salmon Cove and Brigus.  The following year, the new Church of St. Matthew’s was finished.


Saturday, March 13, 1943


It may be proper for me to remark here that after hauling out the timber for their new place of worship, the inhabitants of Bay Roberts became divided in their opinion as to whether it should be a Church or a Meeting House, and so strong did the contention become that it led to blows and an appeal to the Harbour Grace Court.  The issue of it, however, was that the timber was divided.  With part of the frame of the Church was erected; with remainder of the frame the present Wesleyan Meeting House was built, and from that year, 1823, is to be dated the division into two, and thus weakening of a body of Christians, already connected moreover by family ties who should only have been and continued one.


Up to this time the only school in the settlement was a private one kept by Mr. Williams, the cathechist; but in the year 1820 an impetus was given to education by the visit of Mr. Mark Willoughby, Superintendent of the Newfoundland Society Schools of the Island.  By his advice and incited by the promise of a teacher from England, immediate steps were taken for the erection of a public school room near Mercer’s Cove, in connection with that Society and a Mr. Birknett was sent out from England shortly after the first teacher.


We now divulge a little to note an event which has an important influence over the welfare of the Colony and of Bay Roberts as included in it the year 1833 is memorable as witnessing the session of the first General Assembly of Newfoundland.  One act of this body was to order a census; the first ever taken of the population of the Island.  The return census for Bay Roberts gave: -


767 Members of the Church of England. 


296 Members of the Wesleyan Church. 


190 Members of the Roman Catholic Church.


The total population of Bay Roberts being 1253.


But to return.  St. Matthew’s Church was now found too small for the accommodation of those desiring to worship within it.  In the spring of 1837, therefore a gallery was added to each side of the building giving 28 additional pews, these were readily sold, and with the surplus of the proceeds the church was newly painted, both inside and out, and assumed a neat and comely appearance.


In this year also, 1837, Bay Roberts was detached from Port de Grave, and became, in conjunction with Upper Island Cove a Mission of itself, over which the Rev. Oswald Howell, then in Deacon orders was appointed, his residence being at Bay Roberts.  We come now to the year 1839 marking another era of progress also in the history of the Church of England in Newfoundland, and I may add of also progress in the history of the church of Bay Roberts.  In this year the Island of Newfoundland was detached from the spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of Nova Scotia, and formed, with the addition of Bermuda Island, a Diocese of itself, then the Archdeacon of Bermuda, Anthony George Spencer, being consecrated the first Bishop.  In the year 1840 Bishop Spencer visited Bay Roberts, administered the Rite of Confirmation, 13 years since the service had been last performed by Bishop Inglis.  In the same year Rev. Howell was admitted into Priest’s Orders.  Two years later 1843 this gentlemen moved to St. John’s taking the outport mission, from whence he ultimately removed with his family to England.  The Rev. W. H. Grant, a brother-in-law of the Bishop, was, after a short interval appointed as Mr. Howell’s successor in Bay Roberts, but held the office little more than two months, being removed by death.  His remains lie in the graveyard belonging to the Church of England.  An interval of nearly 12 months elapsed, during which the church in the settlement was without a minister.  The spiritual wants of the people were attended to and occasional service given in the church by the Rev. J. Griffin, minister of the church in Spaniard’s Bay, which settlement together with that of Upper Island Cove, had, in the preceeding year, been separated from the Mission of Bay Roberts, and formed into distinct Missions with a clergyman attached to each.


In May, 1845, Bay Roberts had once again a minister of its own, R. T. Lowell being appointed.  The church, in the meantime, had again become too small for the congregation, and this time it was proposed to lengthen it at the eastern end.  This was accordingly done, 12 feet being added, giving space for 12 additional pews.  The internal arrangement of the pulpit and reading desk was altered, and a small chancel built by Mr. Lowell, giving the whole building a greatly improved and more ecclesiastical appearance.


The year 1845 is to be noted also for an act of the House of Assembly by which the Island was divided into Educational Districts, and Boards, composed of the Ministers of the various denominations of religion and some five or six of the more influential lay members in each district, were formed for the purpose of establishing schools, and promoting Education throughout Newfoundland.


By this act Bay Roberts was attached and placed under the Board of Harbour Grace.  One of the earliest acts of this Board in the first year of its existence were to build a school room in the more destitute settlements under its jurisdiction.  Coley’s Point was selected as one of the places most needing a school.  One was therefore built, and a teacher was appointed, in the little settlement, much to the satisfaction of the inhabitants who had with the exception of an occasional, made by the teacher of the Newfoundland School Society resident in Bay Roberts to supply this need, being without the means of obtaining education for their children (?).


As in 1843 the increase of the church population of Bay Roberts necessitated the enlargement of the church so the same cause, attended by its inevitable result an increase in the number of deaths, the setting apart an enclosure of a fresh piece of ground consecrated by Bishop Inglis being now full.  This was accordingly done, and the part, enclosed and dully consecrated by Bishop Spencer who shortly afterwards was removed to occupy the See of Jamaica, and our present Bishop, the Right Rev. Dr. Field, appointed Bishop of Newfoundland in his stead.  Events at this time rapidly succeeded each other.


The year which saw the new graveyard opened at Bay Roberts is to be noted also as the date of a proposal for the building of a parsonage, the Mission having hitherto been without this provision for the convenience and comfort of the minister.  This proposal was well received and in the month of February, 1845, the church people assembled and proceeding to the woods hauled out a noble supply of timber for the framework of the future parsonage.  A site was also being secured, the frame was, in the course of the following summer, erected, but for the lack of funds the work proceeded slowly and other difficulties arising.  The Rev. Mr. Lowell, in 1847, finally left the Mission and the Island and returned to his native country, the United States.  This Missionary left behind him the regrets of his parishioners, to most of whom he had proved himself a kind friend as well as a faithful pastor.  He left the parsonage also on which he had moreover expended a large amount of his own private means, still unfinished, it being at that date only roughly boarded to protect it from the weather.


But we retrace our steps a short distance to notice the ordering, in the year 1845 of a fresh census of the population of Newfoundland.  The returns of this census gave for Bay Roberts 1245 members of the Church of England, and at total population of 1499, showing an increase of 478 members of the Church of England and of 546 individuals in the total in the interval between the years 1836-1845.


Saturday, March 20, 1943


Three months elapsed after the removal of Mr. Lowell during which the Church in Bay Roberts was without a clergyman.  At length, in November, 1847, the Rev. W. Rogers was appointed by the Bishop to fill the vacancy, and continued to serve until the arrival of the Rev. W. Blackmore, who took immediate steps to promote the completion of the parsonage devoting the whole of the collection made by him in the settlement towards this object.  In 1850, though still unfinished, the missionary removed, and took up his abode in the new building.  In 1856 the parsonage was completed, the sum of £550 having been spent upon its erection.


In the meantime the attention of the missionary had been drawn to the wants of the Church members resident on Coley’s Point.  This settlement by the influx of families from Port de Grave and Bareneed, was fast increasing the number of its inhabitants, who now began to feel the hardship of having to bring their dead ‘round to Bay Roberts for interment, and to be wholly dependent on the Church of Mercer’s Cove for their Sunday or other services.  The first step was the securing in 1852 of a large and convenient piece of ground as a place for burial.  This was duly consecrated by the Bishop in the following year 1853.


In 1852 the graveyard in Bay Roberts was newly fenced with neat substantial palings by the voluntary labour of the church members.


The year following the consecration of the graveyard on Coley’s Point, 1854, saw the commencement of a new church for that place, the inhabitants hauling out the required timber and assisting in setting up the frame.


In 1855 a further and final addition was made to the Church in Mercer’s Cove and 13 additional pews at a cost of £78, making the church capable of accommodating 540 persons.


In 1858 a third census was ordered by the House of Assembly and taken when it was found that the members of the Church of England in Bay Roberts now numbered 1653, the total population being 2373, showing that the population of the settlement had nearly doubled since 1836, and the members of the Church had more than doubled in the same period.  These returns, together with the impossibility of enlarging the old church, further suggested to the missionary and the leading members of the congregation the idea of taking steps for the commencement of a new and large Church.  A desirable site further up the harbour, and in a commanding position was accordingly secured in the month of Feb 1816.  Stout sticks of timber, each 20 feet long, were hauled out of the woods by the united efforts of the people, and placed on the appointed spot.  The requisite money for the purchase of building materials and for paying workmen was duly handed in to the missionary.  Windows of quarried glass were obtained from England, and the building proceeded with so much vigour that in the month of October, 1861 it was ready for consecration.  This service was duly performed on the 24th of October by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, assisted by other missionaries from several parts of Conception Bay.


The new church took the old name of St. Matthew’s, and was henceforth solely used for Divine Services, the old church being closed and some time after taken down.  St. Matthew’s new church was a spacious and handsome building 80 feet in length exclusive of chancel and 55 feet in breadth.  It contains 108 pews besides free seats, and accommodated 900 persons.  It had a tower and a pointed spire at the corner of the western end, and was built at a cost of £1280, the whole raised – the exception of £5 from Dr. Crowdy of St. John’s – in the settlement.


A few days after, on the 29th October, 1861, the church in Coley’s Point, having been got ready, was also duly consecrate and set apart for the services and worship of Almighty God under the name of Church of St. John the Evangelist.  The church contained 42 pews and a free bench, and afforded accommodation for 256 persons.


(The End.)


Other Local Historical Data


In connection with the early history of Bay Roberts as recorded in a lecture by the Rev. M. Blackmore in 1865, and reprinted in The Guardian, the following facts having further reference to the early history of Bay Roberts as published in the book “When Was That?” which contains a chronological dictionary of important events in Newfoundland, as complied by Dr. H. M. Mosdell, may be of interest:


Bay Roberts figured on Thornton’s Map of Trading Part of Nfld., in the English Pilot of 1689; was probably settled about the same time as John Guy’s colony at Cupids in 1610, if not earlier.


Bay Roberts was included in the Carbonear Judical District in a statement made by Governor Osborne of “persons appointed to administer Justice in the several districts of Newfoundland,” Sept. 25th, 1730; Robert Badcock was named as constable.


Bay Roberts was visited Aug. 21, 1791 by Rev. W. Black, Wesleyan evangelist from Nova Scotia, who states he preached to about four hundred people and that there were then thirty members of the Wesleyan church in the place in charge of George Vey.


Wm. Earle migrated from Little Belle Isle to Juggler’s Cove, Bay Roberts East, where he died of smallpox in 1777.



Contributed and Transcribed by: Ronald Crane (July 2006)

Page Last Modified: Wednesday March 06, 2013 (Don Tate)
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