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Codroy Valley can boast of having the earliest recorded evidence of settlement on the West Coast. In 1822, when W.E. Cormack crossed the island he commented on the number of settlers in the Valley.
It is thought that the earliest white settlers in the Valley were the Gale brothers from West England. Four brothers came from England and settled in what was later known as Grand River Gut. As this area was exposed to winter storms, the brothers moved to what is now presently Millville in an area close to the river or the sea, which were to a great extent, the source of their livelyhood. In a sheltered area the brothers cleared the land and built a new home. The land they cleared is still occupied by their decendents of the fourth and fifth generations. The period from 1825-1845 saw a great influx of settlers from Cape Breton Island who were largely Acadians, Scots, Irish Catholics, and English Protestants. Most of the early protestants had been converted to the catholic faith by the turn of the century - excepting only the protestant fishing village of Codroy. This was largely due to the stationing of a resident priest, Father Alexis Belanger, some 55 miles away at Sandy Point. Some of the early settlers were; the Bruces who came to Nfld via St. Pierre, from St. Malo in Brittany, the McLeans from Mabou, Cape Breton, the McIsaacs from Inverness county in Cape Breton, the Aucoins or O'Quinns also from Cape Breton, the Ryans from Margaree, Cape Breton, the Halls from Lunenburg, Novia Scotia, and the McDougalls, whose origins are uncertain
Although some French, Gaelic and MicMac were spoken, the area was predominantly English. Gaelic was also common, however, and Father Belanger, who was a french speaking priest, encountered a great deal of trouble with the language barrier. In fact in 1865, a petition was drawn up by Father Belanger and his Gaelic speaking parishioners and it was forwarded to Bishop McKinnon. It asked the Bishop to send to the area every now and again a priest who would be able to hear confessions and instruct in Gaelic.
This was answered by the coming of Father Shaw in 1866 and 1867, and then by the coming of Father Chisolm and Father Fraser in 1868. They would stay for periods of several weeks before returning to their home parishes. When Father Belanger died on September 7, 1868 ( exactly 18 years after he arrived in the diocese) he was replaced by Father Thomas Sears. Father Sears arrived in Sandy Point on December 14, 1868.
In 1872 there still was no government representatives, no civil law, no roads, carriages or wheeled vehicles and no mail service. The Valley was isolated from the rest of the world except for travel by sea. Monsignor Sears began pressing for mail service in 1869 and in 1872 some mail was provided to the coast. The telegraph was extended to the west in 1878, the same time that the court house was set up in St. George's. In 1881, Sir Frederick Carther, announced that the Newfoundland government was now authorized to make land grants on the French Shore, thus officially opening up settlement. He also ordered that the residents of the West Coast elect 2 representatives to the House of Assembly.
The West Coast was now eligible for government grants for development. The first area of concentration was on road building. Under Monsignor Sear's guidance, roads connecting all parts of the Valley were built for free labor. By 1885 these were completed. The railway came though in 1897. Around the same time, the Valley gained telegraph service and a Justice of the Peace. It was at this time that the first people not dependent for a living upon agricultural production or fishing, moved to the Valley. These people directed maintenance of the railway line.
Around 1905 the paper mill opened in Grand Falls and the iron ore mines re-opened in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Then people began moving out rather than into the Valley. Monsignor Sears died in 1885. Although various priests spent varying periods of time inthe Valley, a cousin, Monsignor Andrew Sears was the next priest to spend a long period of time in the Valley-from the first decade of the 1900's to his death in 1944. Monsignor was especially noted for the great deal of construction which occurred during his residence in the area.
RECENT HISTORY OF CODROY VALLEY
When cars came to the area in 1921, the roads became wider. Thomas Blanchard in Searston had the first car, and in 1924 six cars, all Model " T " Fords, came to the Valley. The owners of these were Tom Doyle, John Doyle, Michael Tompkins, Tom Blanchard, Duncan McIsaac and Jim Tompkins. On January 2nd, 1947, cars were driven for the first time on the right hand side of the road, not the left as formerly had been the case. Up until 1942, patrol men were paid to care for a section of road. Each man had so many miles of road that he was responsible for the upkeep of, and he was paid by the government. A horse, cart and shovel were his only tools. In 1942, the government men and trucks took over this responsibility. A government garage was built in 1958. In 1953, the roads were kept open in Codroy by machinery during the winter for the first time. On March 23rd, 1950, the first days work on the Trans Canada Highway was done. By 1958, the first 10 miles of pavement between Codroy and Port aux Basques had been laid. By 1963-1964 the road was paved through to Codroy Pond and in 1965 all work was completed. In 1970, the first pavement in the Valley itself was laid. By 1971, the road had been paved from Upper Ferry to Searston. By 1976, all pavement in the Valley was completed.
RADIO RANGE ROAD
A weather station was constructed here in 1942. Originally there were four buildings, but the school board purchased two and joined them together to make a convent. It was then hauled to Upper Ferry. The other two buildings are owned by Dr. Farrell and Dr. Simpson.
Electricity came to the area in 1962. Prior to this, (kerosene) gas lamps, also called aladdin lamps, were used. Telephones came to the area in the 1920's. Crank telephones, or eggbeaters as they were commonly known were used until they were replaced by the dial system in 1963. Television came to the area in 1966. One channel was available, channel 6, CBC, which originated from Halifax. In 1970, CBC began broadcasting from Corner Brook. In 1973 CTV or CJON arrived.
Limestone was found in O'Regans and coal in South Branch, although not in sufficient quantities to mine. Two years ago, oil was drilled in the mountains in the Cape Anguille area.
The first doctor in the area was a Doctor Whalen who left in 1921. The closest doctor was then at Port aux Basques, and one would travel there by train. In 1935-36 the English nurses arrived. Each stayed for 1-2 years, some of them were; Mrs. Stocks, Miss Whitley, Miss Myre and Miss Miles (who later converted to RC and became a nun) In 1941, the Newfoundland nurses took over the medical duties of the Valley. Rose Farrell was the first and then Nurse Roach (who married Frank Cormier and resides in Corner Brook). Next was Nurse Cooper, next Nurse Battcock, and lastly Margaret Hull from St. George's. The doctors took over the duties again. In January of 1948, Dr. Brian O'Brien arrived. Next was Dr. O'Leary and then Dr. Kilbain. This was in Monsignor Kerwin's time, and the Monsignor bought an old store and renovated it into a clinic. There were three nurses at the clinic and Beth Kelly was the third of these. This system was then discontinued. Debbie Downey was the only baby born under this system.
In 1960 an English doctor, Dr. King, was chosen by The Medical Committee. The doctor was subject to this committee and when the committee and Dr. King fell out, the entire medical committee resigned. Public Health of Newfoundland took over. The doctors residence was built in 1959 and the first doctor to reside there was Dr. Goulem from the Belgium Congo. He later went to St. George's and died there suddenly from a heart attack while on a fishing trip at Flat Bay River. Both Dr. Goulem and Dr. O'Brien are buried in the Valley. Dr. McSearraigh came November 5th, 1966 and left in 1971. Dr. Clark and Dr. Domion Currans (from Ireland) came next. Dr. Bernard Ring arrived after their departures, on September 12, 1972. He left in June of 1977. Next came a Dr. Pangia who stayed for several weeks. A Dr. Coo arrived next and was the doctor as of August 5, 1977
Cape Anguille is a French name which means "a place to launch boats." A ship went aground there in 1898, and this was a major influence in determining that the lighthouse should be put there. In 1907, construction was begun on the lighthouse which was to be one of 28 Canadian Government Lighthouses on the west coast of the island. Funds came from the Quebec government and parts and equipment for it came from France. By 1908, construction was completed and the lighthouse was officially opened in August of 1908. It was approximately 100 feet high, steel reinforced, and had 118 steps leading to the light. The tower was constructed of cement, which had to be poured by hand. There was a vapor light on top, and each day 150 pounds of kerosene oil had to be carried up to it. The first change in the lighthouse came about in 1930, when the diesel switched from being steam operated to oil operated. In 1959 a smaller horn was installed and electric generators were placed into operation. By the late 1950's, the lighthouse was in very poor condition. The cement deck around the top of the lighthouse was crumbling. It is believed that the cause of this was the either the salt air acting on the cement or that it was due to salt water being mixed with the cement when it was poured in the construction days of the lighthouse. At any rate, the tower was becoming too dangerous for use and had to be replaced. Construction on the new tower began in 1959 with funds from the federal government. The tower was completed in 1960 and placed into operation. The new tower is approximately 50 feet high and has 3 sets of stairs leading to an electric light. It was also constructed of cement. A new horn was established in 1971 in the key of 'G'. The old foghorn was in the key of 'A'. The only building that now remains on the grounds that was part of the original lighthouse complex is a small shed that stands next to the present lighthouse. It was built to store the oil used in the original lighthouse light and is now simply used for storage. However, this shed is in poor condition, and it is likely it will be torn down soon. A double house was built on the grounds in 1907 by another Quebec department for the use of the lighthouse keeper and his family and for the assistant lighthouse keeper. Although the building was to be used by 2 families, it was only used by one. The partition separating the two apartments was removed and it was used as a 6 bedroom home.
The building was occupied by Mr. Alfred Patry and his family, and then by his son, second lighthouse keeper, Mr. Gus Patry.*1 They lived there until 1968 when Mr. Patry moved into a smaller house he had built on the property and the assistant lighthouse keeper moved into the home. He stayed a short period of time but the building has remained unoccupied for a number of years and has been allowed to deteriorate to a condition almost beyond repair. Mr. Alfred Patry owned the first radio and telephone at Cape Anguille and immediate area. As lighthouse keeper he needed some form of communication, especially during the wars. He reported any radio conversations which he overheard between the German warships and submarines. The submarines were known to submerge in front of the lighthouse because they usually picked up the horn and the light on radar. Some Germans did come on the island as they were known to be seen around the docks and in the store at least once, out of uniform._ The present lighthouse keeper, Mr. Gus Patry is the son of the original lighthouse keeper, Mr. Alfred Patry. He was hired in 1907 by a Quebec Department to man the lighthouse. He and his wife came to Cape Anguille and he worked there until the last of June, 1943 for 36 years. His son, Gus, then took over the operation and still is the lighthouse keeper today. It is likely that Mr. Patry will be the last lighthouse keeper at Cape Anguille. The lighthouse is now in the first phase of a three phase automation program. The first phase began around 1971, when new equipment was purchased and installed. The second phase is due to begin in 1978 when more of this equipment is put to use. The third phase will begin when the Mr. Patry retires. Neither he nor the government is exactly sure when this will be.
It is believed that Codroy received it's name from the abundance of fish in the waters off it's shores. "Roy" is thought to be derived from the French word "roi", which is translated to mean king. Codroy is predominantly Protestant. Anglican is the main religion. Many Protestants had migrated to the area in the 1800's and by the turn of the century, most of the early Protestants had been converted to the Catholic faith-excepting only the Protestant fishing village of Codroy._ At times in the past, Protestants have outnumbered Catholics 3 to 1. In 1812, an Evans family were settled on the shore of Codroy. These were the earliest white settlers known in the area according to W.E. Cormack. These families had both summer and winter residences. In the summer the families fished. They lived in a rough log cabin erected on the beach. In the winter they would move about 6 miles inland where a plentiful supply of game was available and where there was more shelter from the cold. Codroy reached its peak of prosperity around 1915. It was then one of the major producers of food stuffs in the area. But by 1945, the amount of farming in dairy and dairy products had dwindled away to practically nothing, if one took into account what had been produced 30 years prior to this.
Catholics and Anglicans have always lived side by side, with no problems with Anglicans outnumbering all other faiths. By 1882, a visiting minister of the Anglican faith was sent regularly to Codroy. By 1881, a village school with 50 pupils in attendance was in operation, and services were held there. By 1900, the original Holy Trinity church was built. It blew down in 1912, and it's door was found 1/8th of a mile away on Codroy Island A new stronger structure was built on the foundation of the old. The church was opened in 1922 and 50 years later in 1972, was completely renovated from the estates of James W. and Mary Collier, who left $50,000.00 to the church. A cemetery is located directly in front of the church and is part of the church yard. Before this, it was located down on the Banks in front of the church but was washed away into the water. The church had a resident pastor and a school teacher in the past. Among those who have served in Codroy in the past are; Rev. Marks, Canon Ried, and Canon Martin (who presently resides in St. John's). The Catholics also had a small church built in 1919, but no permanent clergy was ever stationed there. Today the building no longer remains. There was also a small school but it closed several years ago, and students were sent to schools in the Grand River area.
There has never been a serious need for a law officer in Codroy. A policeman named Halford came early in the 1900's to act as a justice of the peace of sorts. There was no successor to Mr. Halford. No serious offenses have occurred in Codroy.
Although the rest of the Valley was connected by roads by the year 1885, roads did not come to Codroy until the early 1900's. Prior to this, only a path existed northward, and travel was done mostly by water.
Woodville was once known as Woody Head Cove. It is believed that the settlement received its name from Woody Head Point which was located nearby. The history of Woodville is closely linked with that of Codroy. It is believed the first family here were the Kendells,_ Mr. John Anthony, William Martin, and James Parsons. These early settlers fished and farmed. It is believed that the first school was built about 60 years ago._ Some teachers were Max Fiander, Muriel Evans, John Blackmore, Mrs. Theresa (William) Janes, John Anthony, and Harold Carter. For church services, people would travel to Codroy where there was a Methodist Church, a Catholic church, and a Anglican church. The first post office was kept in George Collier's house. In later years, Mrs. Irene (Eric) Kendell took over this operation. Today mail is delivered to mailboxes throughout the community. Twenty-five years ago Eric Kendell opened a store in Woodville which is still in operation today. Prior to this, people would travel to Codroy for provisions. Some merchants in Codroy at that time were: Mr. Ball, Mr. Gillis, Mr. Chaffe, Mr. Evans, and Mr. Parsons. These people all operated general stores. Salted and dried cod, halibut and salmon were sold to these stores. Also fish could be traded to Halifax for supplies. The residents of Woodville cut their firewood for the winter. They also built their own houses and boats. None of these boats were sold, however, as they were for their own use. Mr. William Janes of Woodville practiced locally as a blacksmith. He would only do work for his neighbors, and only when asked. He charged for his services. Whenever the need for a doctor arose, he would travel from Port aux Basques. Some of these doctors were; Dr. O'Brien, Dr. O'Leary, Dr. Whalen, and Dr. Gale. Now the people of Woodville visit a Dr. Kue in Codroy. There were always midwives instead of nurses to assist the doctor. Some of these midwives were; Mrs. Mary(George) Sparks, Woodville; Mrs. Jenny Anderson and Mrs. Susan Anderson, Codroy; Mrs. "Granny" Patten, and Mrs. "Granny" Ellis. The very first vehicle in the Valley was owned by Tom Blanchard. The first one in Codroy was owned by A.W. Moore, a merchant. The roads were paved around the year1970. An example of early entertainment can be seen from the following article:
"A Stumping spree was held in the premises of Mr. J.S. Galpin at Woodville. A good day's work was done; which ended up with a dance at the school, where, as usual, everybody had a good time."_
The community of Millville got its name about 85 years ago, when a Mr. Alexander Gale moved in from the coast and established a carding mill there. Formerly, people lived along the seacoast at Net Cove. The Gales and Jennings were the first families to move inward and start the community of Millville. The carding mill was in operation from 1893-1975. Mr. Gale and his eight sons all ran the operation at one time or another. The machinery was brought in by Mr. Gale from Nova Scotia and he later set up other mills in the area._ There were 16 machines in operation at one time._ Mr. Gale kept his machines in operation 24 hours a day and produced about 500 pounds of wool per day. The mill operated in two shifts of 12 hours each and usually 8 people were employed. For 50 years the mill was operated by water power, in later years the machinery was run by diesel. The old mill located further down the road from the present site. Mr. Alex Gale also operated a small grocery store. Goods were bought on a bartering system. There was a Catholic school built in Millville about 70 years ago. Some early teachers were: Elizabeth O'Quinn, Angela Blanchard, and Hughie O'Quinn._ Another school was later built to replace this one. Today, however, school has been centralized to Upper Ferry and students from all over the Valley are bussed there to attend classes. The first post office was kept in Mr. Alex gale's store for 50 years or more. It was then taken over by his son, Afra. In later years mailbox delivery was instituted.
DOYLES - UPPER FERRY
The communities of Doyles and Upper Ferry are so closely intertwined in reference to their location that it is virtually impossible to separate one from the other when writing about them. Doyles was named after the first postmaster, Mr. Jim Doyle, who operated a post office in 1898. The post office was near the railway where the train made its stop. The train ran through Codroy Valley in 1898. Upper Ferry received its name from the ferry services which were at both ends of the Grand Codroy River. Mr. Pat Chaisson was responsible for the ferry at the lower end of the river at what is referred to as " the gut." Mr. Tom Corneally operated the ferry boat some miles up river at a place referred to as Upper Ferry. " The Head " is a name sometimes applied to Upper Ferry._ Another place in the Doyles area is Benoit's Siding. This place gets its name from the Wallace and Joe Benoit families that lived there. The Benoits came from near St. Georges and settled " in along the line." A railway spur was built to this area to facilitate the shipping of potatoes which were grown there in large quantities. The first settler in the area was Angus MacIsaac. Mr. MacIsaac left Scotland in 1844 and landed in Margaree, Cape Breton. Three years later he came to this community. The main source of employment for the early settlers was farming. Some of the vegetables grown were: carrots, pumpkins, turnips, cabbage, spinach and swiss chard. Wheat was grown but to no great extent - its cultivation was fairly successful. It was ground into flour that was used in baking._ Some livestock that was kept by the settlers: oxen,_sheep, chickens, geese, pigs and cows. Many of these animals were slaughtered and the meat was eaten after the fat had been cut off. The fat was used for lard in cooking, also in the making of soap and candles. The milk from the cows was used for drinking, making cream, butter and cheese. The women of the area made clothes for their families from the sheep's wool. This wool was sheared from the sheeps back, washed, dried, carded and spun on a spinning wheel and woven on a loom. Before being woven some wool was died from a dye made by boiling moss and adding alum which created a brown color. In order to create a yellow color onion peels were boiled and salt and vinegar were added. Originally the forest extended to the river Bankss and had to be cleared for farming. There was, and still is, plenty of lumber available that is suitable for the construction of houses, barns, fences, and boats. The forest also provides fuel for cooking and heating. In later years_people cut ties for the railroad and pulpwood for contractors. Ties sold for 18¢ a piece and pulpwood sold at 90¢ a cord. Many of the men served as guides for sports fishermen and big game hunters. The Codroy Valley region was famous as an area for hunting and fishing. Many well-known sport personages visited the area on a regular basis through the years up to the 1950's._ Roads were slow in coming to the whole valley area and most of the traffic was by sea or river, railway after 1898-in winter travel across the ice was popular. Due to the nonavailability if liquor some residents either manufactured their own or purchased it from smugglers who usually obtained it from St. Pierre and Miquelon. The smugglers made trips to the bays but never would enter a community. They stayed outside the 3 mile limit until a person from the community arrived with the money. A 5 gallon keg cost $45.00 and a 10 gallon keg cost $90.00._ Most people who did not buy liquor often manufactured their own. Many brewed a form of beer known as "home brew". Others distilled moonshine_and others made blueberry wine. One of the methods of making this wine was by filling a 5 gallon keg with 3 gallons of blueberries and 2 gallons of molasses. This mixture was corked and buried for 6 months. The first mail carrier in Upper Ferry was Hughie MacInnes. He carried the mail from Upper Ferry to South Branch and overland north to Highlands. In the summer this work was done on foot but in the winter a dog team was used. The first school_ was built over 60 years ago, this was followed by a second school which was built by Monsignor Andrew Sears. Some of the teachers in these schools were: Angela Blanchard, Miss Genevieve Farrell, Julie Chaisson and Minnie O'Quinn. The story of Miss Genevieve Farrell, the school teacher from Fortune Bay (probably St. Jacques) is rather poignant and bears repeating. She was engaged to Sears Tompkins but died of galloping consumption shortly before the date set for her wedding. She was laid out in her wedding dress at the residence of Archie MacIsaac at Upper Ferry._ The present church, dedicated to St. Anne is the only church constructed at Upper Ferry and was opened in 1976. It is situated near the southern end of the long concrete bridge over Codroy River that joins the north and south sides. Unfortunately this bridge was destroyed by ice in 1977. Talking from memory and tradition, facts often become confused and dates blurred. However, the Roman Catholic Church records go back continuously to 1867. A number of priests served there from the time of Monsignor Thomas Sears, the Prefect of St. George's 1868-1885. However, the limited number of priests and the large area to be served meant the clergy moved from place to place. Right Rev. Alexis Belanger, first missionary priest and Vicar General on the west coast 1850-1885 visited the Codroy Valley many times during his sojourn in far flung missions. The following passage from Very Rev. Michael Brosnan's history might be of interest. Brosnan is speaking of Gaelic speaking people coming from Nova Scotia to the Codroy Valley.
'.......Thus about the year 1844, if not earlier, the following names are to be found in the Codroy Valley: McNeil, McIsaac, McLean, Murphy, Farrell, Ryan. These names were common in Codroy Valley in 1854 and there is good reason for thinking that they dated from 10 years earlier. As time went on many more families from the same part of Nova Scotia, some remaining at Little River and Grand River, several others going as far as Bay St. George, making their homes at the Highlands at places adjacent to Sandy Point, as well as on the Port au Port peninsula. They were mostly given to farming though a little fishery was carried on. As I have already said, Fr. Belanger visited the Rivers at regular intervals. He had a little church erected on the north side of the Grand River and beside it a little log cabin which he used as his home when on missionary work in that section. The priest at that time invariably came by sea from Sandy Point, sometimes in a sailing boat and not infrequently in a rowboat, a distance of about seventy-five miles. As the number of Scotch settlers increased Fr. Belanger, who was a French speaking priest, was faced with a very obvious difficulty in his pastoral work, particularly in the confessional. This was the language difficulty. The settlers who had come in from Inverness, Cape Breton, almost without exception used the Gaelic language as the language of the home. Though many of them had a passing knowledge of English they had not sufficient command of it to make their confession with facility and to their own satisfaction. None was quicker to see this difficulty and none could be more ready than the good priest to take measures to have it remedied; he heartily co-operated with the Gaelic-speaking people in their endeavor to secure at least a yearly visit from a priest versed in the silver speech of the Gael, the mother tongue of so many of his people. Old men whom I have met and who well remembered the then situation tell me of the earnest endeavors of Fr. Belanger to provide for his Scotch parishioners in this matter. Indeed, it would appear that he was almost continually striving to secure an assistant with these qualifications but in vain. In the year 1865 a petition drawn up by Fr. Belanger and signed by him and the Gaelic-speaking people was forwarded to Bishop McKinnon. It asked the good Bishop to send them now and again a priest from his diocese who would be able to hear confessions and instruct in Gaelic. The petition was not answered immediately, but in the next year when Fr. Belanger landed at the Gut at Grand River, the people who always assembled to meet him and escort him to the church, noticed that he was accompanied by another gentleman. The old missionary, as if to spring a pleasant surprise on the people, made no introductions nor any reference to his companion till the church was reached and then, in the words of one who was privileged to be present, I shall describe what happened: " Fr. Belanger bidding the people rejoice at the presence of two priests in their midst introduced to the congregation Fr. Shaw who had been sent as the result of negotiations between Bishop McKinnon and Bishop Mullock from Arichat to confess the Gaelic-speaking people. Fr. Shaw stayed a week and then went to Bay St. George, returning to Grand River he remained for two weeks. At the end of this time he left for Channel and from there some of the men from the Rivers landed him back at Ingonish."
The visit of Fr. Shaw was repeated in '67 and '68 by Frs. Chisholm and Fraser respectively. It was in the Fall of this year that Fr. Belanger died and the people of the West Coast were once more left without a sheppard.'
Father Patrick Brown served the Doyles-Upper Ferry area sometime before 1900._ Rev. Doctor Cornelius O'Regan, who married Sister Teresina Bruce's parents_ was drowned while on his priestly duties in a shipwreck shortly after coming to the Valley in 1899 or 1900. Even today in many houses can be seen the framed "write-up" from the Western Star,_ a newspaper published at Curling, now part of Corner Brook, concerning the untimely passing of the young cleric. Monsignor William J. Brown was there in December, 1902 as he baptized Sister Teresina Bruce. Sister made her first confession to Monsignor Brown in 1909, but received her first holy communion from the new parish priest, Monsignor Andrew Sears in 1910. Monsignor was the nephew of Monsignor Thomas Sears. One of the early doctors to serve the area was Dr. Barlow, who would come from Port aux Basques when called. Other doctors were Dr. Gill who later moved to Brigus, Conception Bay, and who is the father of H. Burnham Gill, the Provincial Archivist and Dr. Whelan, who moved to Bay Bulls. Both doctors were stationed in Port aux Basques. Father Joseph P. Palmer, a priest and medical doctor was stationed in the Valley for some years._ There were other doctors in the Valley before Dr. Gill and Whelan but Sister Teresina remembers both these gentlemen. In 1939 nurses Stocks, Whitley and Myles came from England and stayed one or two years aiding the sick. Nurse Myles is now (in 1978) in the Presentation Order. Beginning in 1941 nurses Hall, Mills, Roach and Badcock assumed nursing duties. These nurses "belonged" to the Newfoundland Department of Health and were referred to as the "Newfoundland Nurses"._ Some of the midwives in the Valley were Mrs. Matilda MacIsaac, Mrs. Maggie Hynes, Mrs. Will Keating, Mrs. Esther Blanchard and Mrs. Mary Gale also helped out when necessary._ Mrs. Keating around 1940 had a six week midwifery course in St. John's. The midwife's fee was $3.00 per child and they remained till the mother could resume her household duties._ One home remedy used for relief from a cold was boiled cherry bark (or dogwood bark), mixed with ground juniper. This mixture was taken orally. A remedy used as a treatment for exema was a mixture of balm buds boiled with balsam producing a waxy, sticky substance which was applied to the sore.
The first member of the Newfoundland Ranger Force_ to serve the Valley was Ranger Thompson who was followed by Ranger Tilley, both of whom were stationed in Port aux Basques. Before the Rangers " the law " came from St. George's. Sgt. Goodland of the Newfoundland Constabulary and Magistrate McDonnell are still remembered by the older citizens. The first road in the Doyles-Upper Ferry area went through in 1908. The first vehicle, a Model-T Ford, was owned by Tom Blanchard who purchased it for $600.00. John Doyle, the postmaster's son owned the first "crank" telephone and the first radio in the area was owned by Mr. Mike Martin. Sister Teresina remembers a crystal set at Philip Luedees and listening to the broadcasts using earphones. A son of Mr. Luedee had sent the set from the United States. Mr Luedee's residence was halfway between St. Andrews and Tompkins, which was some miles from Doyles-Upper Ferry.
O'Regans was named after Father Camelius O'Regan, who drowned between Port aux Basques and Rose Blanche on October 25, 1901 A informant moved to O'Regans in 1905 at the age of 9. There were families living in the area then, although it is uncertain how long they had been there. The original families in the area were; Pat Ryan, Tom Ryan, Will Ryan, Ed Ryan, Mike Farrell, a McInness family, and three Smith brothers, Bill, George and Jim (who are the sons of John Smith) The first stores were located in Searston were Knights had a store before 1900. William McLean had a store in Searston directly afterwards, this home still stands today, to the right of the dirt road on the way to the beach. The McLean's left or died about 30 years ago, and are remembered as being quite old by residents of the area who were quite young at the time. All stores carried a living-line of goods -only the necessities. While the main industry was farming, some logging was done. While some was done for Port aux Basques, the majority of the logging was done for Bowaters. The contract to Bowaters included the wording "100,000, more or less". Families in the area usually kept cattle - as many as 20 heads or more. There would be 2 or 3 young cattle to sell each fall and $100.00 would be a very good price for a fair sized calf. There were fox farms kept in the area, on a small scale. The largest in O'Regans, kept by Mr. John Ryan, had 6 or 7 pair of foxes. Most had only one pair. The fox would be caught in the spring and killed early in the New Year. Each year Mr. Ryan would travel to the United States, usually New York, with the fur, by boat and by train. Fox farms died out in the area about 55 years ago, and they started several years after the turn of the century. Mail was brought in by steamers to Port aux Basques and taken by train to Doyles. Mail carriers with a horse and carriage would bring it the rest of the way. The first school in O'Regans was built by Monsignor Andrew Sears. However, it was converted into a garage and still stands today. Mr. and Mrs. Sandy Ryan ran a rather large tourist industry. They kept as many as 30 tourists at a time. The business began 51 years ago and Mr. and Mrs. Ryan controlled it until 11 years ago when they passed it on to their son. Mr. Ryan has been a self-taught guide since he was 16 years old._ At that time tourists needed licenses for game but residents did not. The Ryan's had a four bedroom cabin with a cook-house outside and they attracted tourists from as far away as Florida, to hunt game and fish. Our informants stated that Indian Hill was referred to as such because two families of Indians lived there. Sonny Peters and Tommy Benoit, who are now all dead, once lived below the hill. These Indians were from Christmas Island, Cape Breton. Indian Hill can still be seen today, if you pass by Gillis' Cabins, you can see 3 houses on the right hand side of the road. Just past the last of these (Wilfred Downey's) is Indian Hill with a cemetery at the bottom or the side of the hill.
Searston was once known as Grand River. It received its name because the community was settled on the Bankss of the larger of the two rivers flowing in the Valley._ In the days of Monsignor Andrew Sears, the name of the community was changed. Early settlers of Grand River were the MacLean family, Hugh and his two sons Captain Dan and John. They landed at a place known as " The Block " about 150 years ago.
"........W.E. Cormack, who traveled about the island in 1822, and who indicated that there were..........five families (28 persons) at what is now Searston." In these days, the main source of a living was fishing. A little bit of planting was done. However, one had to clear and burn the land so this was done gradually. The brooks and rivers served as guides for travel. If a person was traveling in the woods, he would blaze a trail, so that he could find his way home again. When the community was first settled, people built along the shore of the river. Log-huts served as houses, with the doors facing the water. People fished cod and salmon, which would be salted and sent to Halifax by schooners. This was traded for winter supplies. The first store was operated by Bill Rowe and owned by Mr. Colin Campbell from St. John's. The next store was operated by Sandy Gillis for George MacQuart, a St. John's merchant. Other early stores were owned by Jim Keating from Port aux Basques and Duncan McIsaac. Willy McLean and Clem Gale operated stores at the same time, sometime in the 1920's. At these stores people could buy and trade fish. Some of these stores were stocked from St. John's while other store owners went to Halifax to pick up their supplies. A very popular annual event held at Grand River was the horse races. These races were held as soon as the river frozen over enough to support the weight of the horses. The race consisted of a half mile course, and often bets were laid. These races were a big attraction and many people turned out each year to view the event. While no prizes were awarded, it was taken quite seriously. Before the actual event, much time was spent training and grooming the horses. It was quite an honor to have the fastest "steed" in the Valley.
"....The horse races came off last week on the ice of Grand River, near McKinnons. The horse race was won by Peter Gales horse from Searston." These races took place between the years 1910-1940. As the older generation died, so did the interest in the races. The first school was a log building located by "The Block" at least 95 years ago. Some early teachers were Miss Maggie (Margaret) Kenny from the United States, Elenor Boland from Curling, a Mr. James from the southeast coast, Mr. Walker, Farquahar McLennon, and Mr. Hugh McDougall, from either Cheticamp or PEI. The school would have a teacher for perhaps only five or six months of the year. Once he or she left, it would be difficult to find a replacement. Most would arrive in summer and teach until Christmas. When they went home for Christmas holidays many would not return. The log cabin was torn down and classes moved to a frame school built next to it. On the same site a third school_ was built between the years 1905-1910. This school burnt sometime around 1944 and was replaced by a school which was built across the road from the church._ In 1968/69, the school system was centralized to Upper Ferry and the children were bussed from all over the Valley. The school in Searston was sold and the materials were used by the buyer. The first church in Searston was built by Doctor O'Regan_ sometime in the 1890's, before 1898. It had a 95 foot spire which was struck by lightning on September 8, 1930. A priest house was built at the same time as the first church, about 100 feet to the right as you face the church. It was a large two storey building with an attic. Construction on the second church_ began in May of 1931. This church was in use until 1976 when a new church was erected in Upper Ferry. Before either of these churches were built, a log church on the north side of the Grand River was used by the people of Searston. About 66 years ago, Dr. McDonald_ visited the area to vaccinate for smallpox. Some early midwives were: Mrs. Gillis,_ Mrs Joseph MacDonald, Mrs. Esther Blanchard, and Mrs. Minnie (William) Keating. When Rev. Thomas Sears arrived in 1868 there were no roads on the west coast, but by the time he died in 1885 there were path roads connecting most parts of the Valley. It was during the time of Andrew Sears that the roads were improved._ The roads throughout the Valley were finally paved in 1970. The first vehicle in the Valley was owned by Tom Blanchard._ In Searston the first telephone was owned by Duncan McIsaac. Others were: Tom Blanchard, William MacLean, Monsignor Sears, and Alex O'Quinn. These phones were all of the crank type. They were all party lines. The early post offices were kept in people's houses. The first man to keep the mail was John Doyle who also ran the telegraph. It was then moved to Tom O'Quinn's store. After the new school was built by Rev. Thomas Sears, a part of the old school was used as a post office. Today the post office is rented in people's houses or delivered to mail boxes. Years ago the mail was run by schooners or steamers in the summer and dog teams in the winter. The mail was collected along the coast about once a month and brought to Port aux Basques for delivery. When the mail was brought to the River it was distributed by a mailman. One of the first mailmen was John Downey. Mr. Downey would only deliver in the summer. During the winter when the mail was hauled on a sled, the team of dogs would follow the telegraph lines for guidance. A team of 8 dogs would make the round trip from St. George's and often it was necessary to camp overnight along the trail. When a doctor was needed he would be called from Port aux Basques. One of the first doctors was a Dr. French, but his first name was not known. In later years, Dr. Whalen was stationed in the Valley. Around Christmas of 1962 electricity came to the area of Searston. This was followed by television in the winter of 1964.
South Branch had its beginning around 1895-8, when the railroad came through the area. Dick Wells, Section Foreman, was the first settler. He married a lady from Millville, Miss Cassie Cashin. Some of the early settlers were; Sylvester White, Peter Muise, Joseph (Silver) O'Quinn, Dan Dan McIsaac, Medrick Aucoin. The first mass in South Branch was celebrated in the home of Sylvester White, opposite Mr. McIsaac's house. The South Branch church was named after St. Sylvester, and the South Branch School was named after St. Kevin. The bell on the ground near the church came from the Church of St. Michael (the Archangel), in Port aux Basques. When this church was being torn down, the bell was taken to South Branch. However, when it was being placed in the church, it fell and cracked.
St. Andrew's was once known as Little River. One may assume that the settlement was renamed after Monsignor Andrew Sears, who was stationed in the Valley from the first decade of the 1900's to his death in 1944. The first store in St. Andrew's was located in front of the present residence of Mr. Frank Wall. The area where it was located is still clearly marked by a rise in the ground. The post office, chapel and school were all located in one building which was about half a mile down the tracks. The railroad station and graveyard site in St. Andrew's is said to be the area where the first chapel or meeting house was built._ This was next to the site of the post office and a school/chapel building which were erected later. In 1912, the first school in St. Andrew's was built. Margaret Collins was the first teacher, Elizabeth O'Quinn the second, Sister Teresina Bruce the third. Mary Gale then taught there for 11 years and her sister, Mrs. Frank Wall then taught there from 1935-1946. Marg Elwood, Regina McDonald and a Mrs. Hogan, whose husband was a surveyor, also taught there. This school burnt on February 4, 1956. The replacement, a four room school, was opened on July 16, 1956. In 1967 this school was closed and the pupils were bussed to Upper Ferry. The church in St. Andrew's was constructed by Monsignor Andrew Sears, in 1913. The church is called The Church of the Precious Blood. The little tower to the right of the church, when facing the church, is the bell tower. The bell is still in it, but is no longer rung, " as the priests now come on time. "_ Originally, there were two towers and these towers were shaped like chalices. Fox farms came to the area about 45 years ago and they lasted about 12 years. In St. Andrew's, Jim Tompkins, John Wall (now 84 years old) and John Luedee kept farms. Pelts, especially the silver fox, then received good prices: as high as $500.00 a pelt. The early houses in the area were built close to the river. People always had to depend on the river for transportation, as the first roads were merely wagon roads. When the first cars came in 1921, the roads became wider.
"TOWNSHIPS " IN BAY ST. GEORGE
There was a somewhat unusual project undertaken in 1883 on the west coast. The colonial government decided to establish townships in St. George's Bay south. Surveyors and laborers under the eminent geologist James Howley went into the area and began their boundary line work. Howley's preliminary report on the land and the people living on the land makes interesting reading. To block off the land into townships, a base line was secured which involved a line running parallel to the coast and running inland for the required distance. Howley's total area was from Sandy Point at the Head of Bay St. George to the base of the Anguille Mountains.
Ten townships were bounded in all, six completed and four broken by the Anguille and Long Mountain ranges. These ten proposed townsites comprised an area of 340 square miles of which, Howley estimated, 220 were capable of a high state of cultivation. The geological formation of the region was chiefly carboniferous, which meant, said the surveyor, that the soil was part of the best of Newfoundland and on a par with many areas of Canada. Howley's report added: "The district is also richly watered. Streams such as Crabbs, Barachois, Robinsons, and Flat Bay Brook - rivers that should be designated - flow from the Long Mountains to Bay St. George. Though shallow, they are quite smooth flowing, except at the head. They are full of fish and run through excellent land, which is covered with large timber, principally birch, spruce, fir and poplar." Howley explained that Crabbs Brook region was especially good land and was the northern boundary of a settlement of Cape Breton Scottish people who had immigrated to the coast between Crabbs and the Anguille Mountains. Reported Howley: "These Scots are very thrifty and have carved out comfortable homes from the forest primeval. All their women have looms and weave from wool of their own growing all the clothing they need or use. North of them and extending to the Barachois there is a large congregation of Englishmen who chiefly came from the south coast of this island, some as long as 60 years ago. Upon the whole their land is superior to that of their Scottish neighbors, but they are not so thriftily or comfortably circumstanced." The Englishmen, apparently, occupied their land in common and a large amount of it wasn't cultivated. Howley induced them to agree upon a division and mark the boundaries of each lot. He told them that if they wished to continue to hold their land, they must cultivate each lot. It was supposed to be the beginning of the "townships" on the south-west coast.
In his report Howley said that north of Robinson's the nationality of the settlers was "rather mixed." He found some French and Scottish families, some English and "one Dutch or German." In surveying the township lines, allocations were made by the surveyors for future roads. Howley reported: " At the last session of the legislature (1883), a grant of $200.00 was made to aid the Scottish near Crabbs Brook to build a road to their back lands. With this small sum they have constructed a good wagon road three miles long, a fact which attests to the level and agricultural character of the land and to the energy of the Scots." In the overall development of the area, Howley noted, the lack of good harbors was a drawback. Vessels of 50 tons, he said, could harbor in the mouth of Crabbs Brook, but larger craft could find no place to enter south of the extreme head of the bay where there was good anchorage. He said a railway would find an outlet at Codroy, but only small schooners could avail of it. Channel would be the nearest port at which vessels of large size could load and unload.
COAL FOR 150 YEARS
Townships, roads and the railway were desperately needed for the area, said Howley. The region had vast deposits of coal and other minerals. He estimated that if 250, 000 tons of coal were taken from the St. George's coal beds every year the deposits would last for 150 years. Yet all mineral wealth lay dormant because there was no railway. He proposed a railway line from the head of St. George's Bay to Channel, a distance of 100 miles, and this would permit mining and export of coal. Another part of his proposal for railway service said: " A railway could be extended from St. George's Bay, pass the head of the Bay of Islands, up to the Valley of the Humber and connect with the head of White Bay or Hall's Bay with the line now building north from St. John's." Geologist James Howley, born in St. John's in 1847, championed west coast development as few other men had done.
WOES OF SPREADING THE GOSPEL
The traveling clergyman ministering to his flock in western Newfoundland a century ago was indeed a rare breed of man. His life was filled with dangers and hardships while getting to and from the widely scattered settlements, and yet he endured. Such a man was Monsignor Thomas Sears. He traveled the coast for 15 years until his death in 1885 at the age of 61. A good idea of traveling conditions in his time can be gleaned from a report he wrote in 1877 in which he described a rather harrowing experience in traveling the Cape Anguille Mountains.
In the time of his writing there were about 3,000 persons dispersed in detached settlements over 800 or 900 miles of sea coast. There were no roads to allow safe passage from one hamlet to another and the traveler had to go through the trackless forest or walk the sea-beaten landwash. There was the alternative of, what the Monsignor called, "going in an open boat or a cranky fishing skiff along the whole coast." But this was equally an unpleasant and sometimes hazardous means of getting around the far-flung mission. It had been suggested to Msgr. Sears that a sturdy schooner or yacht be obtained as a mission vessel. He maintained that, even if financial circumstances permitted such a luxury, the method would be impracticable. He reasoned that the striking peculiarities of the coast would render the acquisition of a mission boat unfeasible...."there being several hundred miles of our coast without a harbor, and our seas at the conflux of the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are so boisterous that the greater portion of the coast where the people inhabit, is unapproachable by a vessel." While summer travel had its share of difficulties, the winter season, when navigation was closed, presented greater obstacles for the traveling missionary. Msgr. Sears told of an experience he had while traveling in the St. George's Bay area for a few years after he first arrived on the coast. At 6 o'clock one March morning he left Highlands in company with "several able young men" as guides. They were bound for Codroy traveling on snowshoes, the priest said:
SNOW SIX FEET DEEP
".....Our way was first through dense forests ascending the Cape Anguille range of mountains. This took us till near 9 o'clock, the ascent being over seven miles. The snow was from five to six feet deep, but the young men beat the path so well that I had no difficulty in getting along with a lighter set of snowshoes. This I would need as I was never accustomed to walk on them before that winter. On arriving at the summit we found that the snow, which had been retained on the mountain-top by the shrubbery, was rendered as hard and slippery as solid ice by the heavy winds of such an altitude, about 1,500 feet. The culmen of the mountain was an undulating plain yielding only a low shrubbery, now over-topped with snow. The passage this way was very dangerous in the event of a storm. There was no shrub or landmark to point out the way, and no place to take shelter."
As the priest and his party advanced some loose clouds obscured the sun and snow began to drift. One of the guides, who, the monsignor said, seemed inclined to anticipate danger when there was none imminent, took alarm and began to run. This movement of fright spread to the other guides and they began to run. "I was at a disadvantage," Msgr. Sears later recalled, "for I could not keep up with these athletic men, and what was worse, the Eskimo boots worn to suit the snowshoes, were as slippery as the ice itself, and there was no chance even to take time to provide a remedy." In a stampede, the priest and his companions ran about nine miles and reached the opposite slope where any danger, if it existed at all, was felt to be over. Another hour's walk brought them into a dense forest. Here they halted, built a fire and had something to eat. They resumed their journey and in two hours were at the Great Codroy River. Monsignor Sears wrote: "I could see why it was called the Great River. It was here wide enough for 12 teams of horses to go abreast and that width extended to the mouth, and so level was it and clear of rapids that it was all frozen over and formed a fine winter road the whole distance."
24 MILES TO GO
The party still had about 24 miles to travel before getting to the first house. Said Msgr. Sears: "We had to get there before taking any rest, or else take the alternative of remaining under a tent such as could be formed with a few boughs of evergreen on the deep snow all night." The priest said that he disliked doing this as he "feared the consequence of taking a cold." He had perspired freely in the stampede over the mountains. At sundown they lit a fire, had another mug-up and resumed their journey along the broad frozen river. Shortly after midnight, men from the nearby settlement who had been expecting the priest came along with a horse and took the little band to the village. The ordeal was over, another priestly mission was accomplished.
CODROY VALLEY WOOLEN MILLS
The idea of a woolen mill in Codroy Valley has been around for several years, and it finally became a reality in July of 1976 when construction started. The mill was officially opened on June 3, 1977. Eight people are presently employed at the mill. The hours of operation are 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. Wool is purchased from all over the island. A deal is purchased from the Avalon Peninsula and much is local wool. The going price for wool is 70¢ per pound unwashed and 95¢ per pound washed. It is cheaper for the mill to buy unwashed as it is likely that it will have to be rewashed anyway. It takes 3/8 of a pound of wool to make one skein. The woolen mills are capable of processing 300 pounds of wool daily so they are producing a sizable amount of wool per week. The machinery used was not purchased new. It was purchased second hand from various places, the oldest piece is the carder, which was built in 1929. The newest piece was manufactured in 1963. A Young Canada Works Project added an extension onto the Mill this summer.
A relative of the present manager, Mr. Gale, operated a carding mill in the Codroy Valley earlier in this century.
UPPER FERRY CO-OP
The Upper Ferry Co-Op was in operation in 1937, although the exact date that it opened is uncertain. Our informant, Mr. Walter Gale, became a member of the co-operative in 1939 when he was first married. He can remember, however, his father and mother shopping at the co-op for some years before this. It was then a " buying club ", run by the Credit Union. According to one source,_ the first collective club activity was to purchase a seven pound caddy of tobacco.
"......Some good savings were made. After that they went into groceries, dry goods, ect., and eventually, the store."_
It is interesting to record an article which appeared in a local newspaper.
"......A large shipment of feed was landed last week for the Model Buying Club at Codroy Valley, which is the clubs first venture into this line. "
The organization actually began when the credit union began using any spare money in the union to buy goods and resell them to members at cost price, or wholesale. It started out on a very small scale, and involved only Upper Ferry in its early years. Today there are approximately 150 members from all over the Valley. There was a great deal of co-op organization carried out in the Valley in the 1940's. At various times in the 40's, there were credit societies at Codroy, Woodville, Millville, Upper Ferry, Tompkins, St. Andrews, and South Branch. All that remain now are two - one at Tompkins and another at Millville. Given todays means of transportation and good roads, one society would have sufficed, but in the days of horse and buggy with mud up to the axles, each place would have their own._
The Model Consumers Co-op Society Limited made application for registration on or about January 9, 1941. The signatures on the application to register were as follows:
George Cormier Doyles Angus McIsaac MacDale Angus McLellan MacDale Theo McNeil Doyles (First name appears to be Theo) Duncan McIsaac Doyles Toby McIsaac Benoit's Siding (First name appears to be Toby) William Aucoin Tompkins Walter McIsaac Doyles
When the co-op was incorporated in 1941, it sold items at a profit and returned the dividends back to its members. However, this system has changed in the past six or seven years, and the store has since become direct charge. Each member contributes $75.00 capital and pays $3.00 service charges per week. This enables the store to sell goods to the members at a very cheap rate which is usually close to wholesale. The first manager of the Society was Mr. Walter McIsaac. Mr. McIsaac owned the building that the organization operated out of. He managed the co-op throughout the 1940's The next manager was a Mr. Mike McNeil._ Frank McArthur was another manager of the store._Mr. bill Bailey managed the operation for a period of six months. He also returned sometime later in 1971 to manage the store during years of direct charge. Mr. C. Ledwell spent ten years with the co-op. (1956-1966) He was instrumental in seeing that the co-op movement of Upper Ferry did not die away into extinction. There was also a fieldman, Joe McIsaac, who was actively engaged in the movement in the Valley and adjoining areas for years. At the Highlands, a small group organized and called their society the Joe McIsaac Memorial. This society has since fallen apart.
CODROY VALLEY POULTRY CLUB
There were Poultry clubs organized on the West Coast about 40 years ago. According to newspaper reports, these were set up in the communities of Tompkins, Searston, and Doyles in the Codroy Valley.
"......Under the direction of the poultry expert, S. Earle, a meeting was held at Upper Ferry when arrangements were made for the organizing of a poultry club. Although the club is not absolutely decided on at present, there seems to be good prospect of its birth and hope of having incubation going on here next year on a large scale."_ Apparently these plans were realized as only seven months later a newspaper account reads;
"......Messrs. L Earle and William Meadows of St. John's are at present busily engaged setting up the incubators at Tompkins, Searston and Doyles. If their hatches are run off in each place it will require 5,480 hatching eggs. This is the beginning of a new industry and here's wishing the best of luck to the poultry clubs." Less than one month later the "new industry" was well underway.
"......The incubator of 450 egg capacity at Tompkins struck the first notes for the poultry clubs when over 200 chicks pipped up for the first time." And only slightly over one month later, the poultry clubs on the West Coast had organized to the following extent:
"......The poultry clubs that are now operating on the West Coast will sell their eggs and dressed poultry cooperatively. These products will be sold on a graded basis only and packed in attractive packages."
O'REGAN'S LIMESTONE QUARRY
A quarry was located at O'Regans_ sometime in the 1920's and was in operation until 1948. This quarry was funded by the Department of Natural Resources. The main use for this limestone was to aid local farmers in enriching their soil. It was sold to these farmers for $1.50 a ton. This limestone was pulverized so that it was finer than fertilizer. The farmers would collect it themselves at the pit. The quarry was producing about 30 tons of limestone per day and as there was no storage space, the excess limestone would be shipped to St. John's by railway. While at its peak, the quarry employed five to six men. One man operated the crusher, while the rest loaded limestone by hand. The stone was loaded by the conveyor belt into the shed and from there out to a chute into the trucks. There was no drilling or dynamite used in the quarry. The quarry ceased operation in the late 1940's due to high operation costs.
The scenic little west coast community of O'Regans has for nearly three quarters of a century been a living memorial to a zealous Roman Catholic priest who died in the line of duty. O'Regans is named for Rev. Dr. Charles O'Regan, D.D., who was shipwrecked while visiting his parishioners at Rose Blanche in October, 1901. The young missionary was not the first of his calling to lose his life in this area while in the performance of his work. Rev. W. LeGallais of the Church of England Mission at Channel was drowned in 1869 with two companions while responding to a sick call at Isle aux Morts. Another Anglican missionary, Rev. T. Boland, froze to death in a snowstorm in St. George's Bay in 1856.
DIED AT 29
Father O'Regan was only 29 years of age when he met a watery grave. Between 10 and 11 o'clock on Monday morning, October 26, 1901, the 30 ton schooner John Cabot, owned by Penny Brothers of Ramea, left Rose Blanche bound for Sidney, via Port aux Basques. On board was Father O'Regan as well as the Captain, George LeDrew, his father and his brother-in-law. Father O'Regan had been visiting some of his flock at Burgeo and Rose Blanche and was now enroute to his headquarters at Codroy.
Captain LeDrew had intended to land the priest at Port aux Basques and then continue on to Sydney. The morning the Cabot sailed was clear with a brisk breeze from the northwest. But shortly after the Cabot left port a squall with heavy snow was seen to make towards and completely envelope the vessel.
The storm was of short duration, but when the mist cleared away the schooner was not in sight. It was at first thought she was speeding on her way to Port aux Basques. From the time the Cabot was shut out of sight of those on shore no tiding of her whereabouts was ever again received. The American-Anglo Telegraph Co. wired all along the shore and over to Sydney in Nova Scotia, but the Cabot was unreported in any place. The Reid Nfld. Co. dispatched their vessel, Glenco, to search for the craft, but no trace of her was found. Fishermen and others speculated that the Cabot, heavily ballasted at the time, struck a rock known as " The Bad Neighbour " about three quarters of a mile off Burgeo. But there was no evidence to support this.
PUMP AND BUCKET FOUND
However, the next day brought grim evidence that the Cabot and all aboard her had indeed come to grief; a pump and draw bucket belonging to the schooner was picked up off Rose Blanche. The loss of Father O'Regan, who was pastor of Grand River in the Bay St. George Vicariate, swept like a great black cloud along the entire west coast. It was a staggering loss to the parish. Tributes in the churches and schools came pouring from the people. The Grand River area, said one tribute, was in dire need of a man at the helm, such as Father O'Regan. The place rose up....." rejuvenated materially and spiritually Phoenix-like from the ashes of decay " because of the young priest's good work, said one tribute.
Another tribute went: " A monument to his memory is the noble edifice at Grand River. The beautiful church there was reared through his energy. How proud was he on the day of the consecration of his church, which cost $13,000.00. The progress of Codroy has received a great blow - the loss to his parishioners is irreparable." Masses were said in churches along the coast as far north as Bay of Islands and Bonne Bay. Father O'Regan was born in St. John's, where he received his preliminary education. He decided for the priesthood at an early age and went to France to study. Later he was transferred to Rome, where he continued his studies and where he won academic honors. Upon his return to Newfoundland he was selected to work in the scattered district of St. George's. He was six years in this mission before losing his life at sea.
NAMED IN HIS HONOR
Before the settlement of O'Regans was so called, the place was known as " Backlands, Bay St. George " When the Newfoundland Nomen-clature Committee was formed in 1904. " Backland " was changed to O'Regan to commemorate the memory of a beloved priest. At that time the settlement was listed in the census as Valley O'Regan. It has a population in 1911 of 50 people. " Codroy Village " was more populace with 569 inhabitants while Great Codroy and N. Side Grand River had 118 people. There are other places on the west coast named to commemorate clergymen who labored for their flocks, sometimes under extremely difficult conditions. Curling is named for an early Anglican priest and Searston is named for Rev. Andrew Sears, one of the most progressive of clergymen ever to work in any part of Newfoundland. He strongly advocated roads and mail service and other improvements for the coast. He was not slow in pointing out these wants to the Newfoundland government and his prolific pen was instrumental in aquainting the western shore to people all over the island and even beyond the seas.
DREADED SMALLPOX SHIP
In the days before the coming of miracle advances in the prevention and control of diseases which had ravaged humanity in " darker ages," the words " small-pox " was enough to strike the fear of god into any mortal. The loathsome disease, extremely contagious, left an individual, if he survived at all, horribly disfigured with an ugly pocked face and other ghastly affects. Little wonder, then, when the Harbour Grace steamer Mastiff arrived at Codroy one March day in 1889 the inhabitants on shore were shocked --terrified-- at the report that there were two cases of small-pox aboard the crew. The policeman at Codroy made immediate arrangements to have the two sick men brought ashore, intending to place them in isolation pending the arrival of a doctor.
But the people reacted vehemently. There was to be no one landed from the Mastiff they ordered, and prevented the police officer from removing anyone from the vessel. However, before the Codroy residents could unite to keep the vessel and those aboard her totally isolated, it turned out that two of the shoremen from Codroy had managed to board the Mastiff and to make matters worse, two men from the vessel owned by Captain Paul Hall of Grand River also managed to get aboard the Mastiff and had dinner with some of her crew.
KNEW DISEASE WAS ABOARD
A Codroy resident, in reporting the incident to the authorities in St. John's wrote:
" Surely people should not have been allowed on board that vessel; they knowing that such a disease was on board."
This resident's report went on to inform the authorities that " yesterday " while the Mastiff was still off shore, no people from Codroy were allowed to cross the Grand River Gut on the ferry. If they had a desire to do so, they were prevented from going by angry, fearful residents. The report to the St. John's authorities outlined the extreme seriousness of the situation. " If small-pox should happen to break out on this shore," the report emphasized, " the consequence will be terrible as there is no doctor nearer than Channel, a distance of 32 miles."
The report went on to say that eight of the Mastiff's crew had deserted the vessel at Channel. Apparently they must have made their way secretly to shore because the residents of Channel found out there were two cases of the dreaded small-pox aboard, they prevented all others from leaving the vessel and would not allow any of the Channel residents to board the craft. The Mastiff then left for Codroy hoping that the two men ill with the pox would be allowed to land there. Meanwhile, those men who deserted the vessel at Channel set out on foot for Rose Blanche. It was a long and hard tramp and anxiety was ever present in the little band because no one knew which --if any -- of their mates also had small-pox. They were fearful that if one had the disease, the others would be also affected. However, a dispatch to St. John's from Rose Blanche dated March 23, 1889, said:
" About two weeks ago (about the second week of March) eight men walked into this harbor reporting themselves as part of the sealing steamer (Mastiff) from Harbor Grace which they had left at Channel, fearing an outbreak of small-pox."
The dispatch said that the stipendiary magistrate at Rose Blanche at once "organized a board of health and promptly took means of isolating the men from the people and the dwellings. There does not appear to have been any sickness about them as yet. The precautions taken here were very wise and the magistrate is to be congratulated." I am not sure what happened to the Mastiff after she was refused permission to land her sick men at Codroy. It is probable that she returned to Harbor Grace, her home port, where the sick men were taken off and isolated.
It appears that small-pox was prevalent in some areas of Newfoundland at that time 88 years ago. At Lower Island Cove 12 cases were reported and two young girls succumbed to the disease. Others died in that Conception Bay community as the months passed and as a matter of precaution all the small-pox cases were buried without the benefit of an officiating clergyman. That will give an example of how much small-pox was held in dread. Rev. A.C. Warren, who was one of those in Lower Island Cove attending the sick, himself caught small-pox and died. Besides the Codroy incident on the west coast, there were other cases along the western shore in 1889 in which vessels were quarantined off shore until health authorities could determine definitely that there was no small-pox aboard. As far as the pox ship Mastiff was concerned, she continued to go to the seal fishery in later springs but was finally lost at the seal hunt of 1898.
SHIP OF THE DEAD
Just about the entire rugged coastline of Newfoundland has been the scene of many unusual sea dramas throughout this country's long and eventful marine history. The west coast of Newfoundland had its share of sea disasters. Take for instance, the one I am about to relate. It's somewhat grisly. But sometimes fact is more terrible than anything fictionally invented. The story is about the wreck of the schooner Three Brothers, which occurred at Little Codroy River 102 years ago -- in 1873. Details of it reached St. John's from a narrative sent to the newspapers by " M.F. Howley, Clergyman." This was the byline he used. He said that "on Sunday forenoon September 14, some of the inhabitants of Little Codroy River discovered the hull of a vessel laboring in the through of the waves about three of four miles seaward from Nor-west Cove."
He went on to relate that some of the inhabitants set out in five boats towards the wreck. The day was fine but the sea high. They boarded the wreck before sunset and discovered it to be a schooner of over 50 tons. Her registration, afterward found, showed her to be 60 tons. On her stern in white letters was printed the name Three Brothers out of Petite Rivier, Nova Scotia. She was laden with " green fish " and supplied with all the materials necessary for the prosecution of the cod fishery. The Howley narrative continued: " The inhabitants towed the vessel ashore and after three days and nights of continuous labor, never letting her go all that time, pumped her dry."
DEAD FOR WEEKS
The workmen then made a horrifying discovery. They found in the fore-castle the bodies of five men in an advanced state of decomposition. The lifeless men were dressed in their oil clothes, and evidently prepared for heavy weather. They had been dead for about three weeks. Clergyman Howley stated: " The unfortunate seamen had doubtless met their fate in the terrible storm of August 5 . The bodies were placed in coffins and buried with all decency and respect in the vicinity of the English cemetery at Little Codroy River. Several articles of clothing, ect. were discovered which can be had by relatives of the deceased from Mr. John McIsaac, Little Codroy River. Among the articles discovered was a small sum of money consisting of $5.25 which was expended in burying the bodies. In another trunk was found the sum of 22 shillings, a handkerchief and stockings marked M.M.11, a boat, a fish jack marked J.V., a book of Protestant hymns on the flyleaf of which was written James L. Risey, Petite Riviere. The book was badly damaged by the water. An English Protestant Bible was found on which was written in several places " Milford Fralick, A.D. 1852 maney beblong" (?) [Howley's question mark]. Also on the back cover of the same book "David Abbott, born in the year 1825." This book is not altogether destroyed. Some boots and clothes of smaller sizes, evidently belonging to a boy, were also found, but no body corresponding to them was discovered. The schooner was registered at Lunenburg, N.S., and belongs to, I believe Perry and sons."
The clergyman ended his story with these words: " In the hope that these particulars may tend to dispel the anxiety, and allay the grief of the relatives of these unfortunate men, and assist them in recovering some of the objects as momentos of the departed. I beg the insertion of these particulars in your journal and remain Yours Truly M.F. Howley R.C. Clergyman." It would be interesting to know if Mr. Howley's report in the St. John's Courier had any results. I would appreciate hearing from any of my readers who could add to this unusual sea story.
FOOTNOTE: About the clergyman himself ; Rt. Rev. M.F. Howley was born in St. John's September 25, 1843. He was ordained in Rome where he also received the degree of D.D. in 1868. He returned to Newfoundland with Bishop Power in 1870; appointed Prefect Apostolic of St. George's June, 1885, and Vicar Apostolic of the same section in 1892. He succeeded Dr. Power as Bishop of St. John's in 1904 and elevated to the Archiepiscopate in 1904; invested with the Pallium June 23, 1905. He was the author of numerous pamphlets on Newfoundland and of the ecclesiastical history of the country. He died October 15, 1914.
A PICNIC IN AUGUST (1901)
People descended on the beautiful spot from all over -- from Cape Ray to the south and Bay of Islands to the north. Some came from as far away as Canada and a goodly number of American tourists were also there. The occasion was a summer picnic at Codroy Valley at a site known as Islandview which lies almost at the head of Grand River. Rev. Dr. Charles O'Regan, the parish priest of the area, was in charge of the arrangements for the picnic. The funds raised were to go for the erection of a new public hall and school room at Codroy. Islandview got its name, apparently, from the fact that a short distance further up the Grand River at a widening, the stream was studded with islands of all shapes. It was described as a " post card scene as only could be viewed in the Codroy Valley."
The site contained a large field and a new dwelling owned by a Mr. Doyle who had invited Father O'Regan to hold his picnic there. Arrangements were made with the Newfoundland Railway to have " excursion fares " for people from Port aux Basques to Bay of Islands who wished to attend the event at Islandview. One visitor from Bay of Islands who went to the picnic described the train ride as being made " heavenly because of the breath-taking scenery along the way." He described the railway cars as being "palatial." The day of the picnic opened dull and fog-tipped hills gave warning that rain may not be many hours distant. But the sun broke through the haze and fine weather blessed Father O'Regan's picnic.
There were over 200 persons present for the event, but Mr. Doyle's commodious grounds were by no means overcrowded. The priest and his assistants were kept busy from the start of the event. The ladies in charge were described as " looking well in their cool summer gowns." Bunting was profusely draped from pole to pole and the flags were displayed to the greatest advantage.
Hot dinners and tea were served in Mr. Doyle's new residence. Lemonade, cake, candy and "and other good things" were dispensed from tents by the ladies. Dancing stands were erected here and there around the grounds and many found amusement in dancing to bagpipes. Some were fortunate at the wheels of fortune, while others regretted their bad luck. Among the other activities indulged in by the west coast residents at that August picnic 77 years ago were football, "pugilistic exhibitions" and tug of war.
A shooting match attracted considerable attention. The object was an animated moving deer set up at 200 yards distant from the marksmen. The honors were taken by clergymen. First prize went to Rev. Dr. Kieran; second prize to Rev. Fr. Kiely and third place went to Dugald Gillies. An open air concert was held at 4 p.m., at which performers were received with hearty applause. Mr. J. Fitzpatrick of Codroy was described as being "intimitable." Others who went to the stage to entertain were Miss S. McLellan, Miss S. Doyle, and Mr. E. Rennie. Tea was served at 6 p.m. and after that all the articles not disposed of during the day were auctioned off. Field games then occupied the attention of all until 8 p.m.
When the receipts of the day were tallied it was found to the gratification of Father O'Regan and his committee that $400.00 was in the kitty. That went with the $100.00 previously raised for the building of the two-storey public hall and a school room. At that time there were six schools in Codroy under the supervision of Father O'Regan and the government grants were not sufficient to maintain them in a state of efficiency. Following the picnic the crowd left beautiful Islandview, many getting aboard the train for their homes in the various settlements along the coast.
For the interest of the senior citizens of western Newfoundland who may remember
some of the people who attended Father O'Regan's picnic, here, in part, is a
list of those who went to Islandview.
I thought a column about a picnic in a sylvan glade would be appropriate for mid August. Can any of my readers tell me if Islandview still exists? Are picnics still held there?
AS TOLD TO URSULA TOMPKINS BY HER
MOTHER-IN-LAW, JUDITH TOMPKINS
During the fall of 1882 my husband and I decided that the place for us was Newfoundland. The tales coming from there, of the beautiful fertile land of the Codroy Valley just waiting for the plough, of the delightful mountains and scenery, the climate, all tended to enkindle the pioneer spirit which we had possibly inherited from our parents who landed in the wilds of Cape Breton about eighty years previously from Ireland.
When we approached my mother and father (John's parents had been dead some years) with this sad news, we felt badly. Just how badly, only those who part with their loved ones can realize. Both were aged, my father almost blind. I shall always see them with the remaining members of our families standing almost helpless with grief as the boat took us away from the shore of the mouth of Margaree River. As I feared then we did not meet again. My dear old mother and father did not long survive that sad day. My brother James had been living in Grand Codroy about one year, and no doubt his anxiety to have us come too helped greatly in our decision.
We arrived the 6th of June, 1883 and with joyous acclaim did we watch the sun coming up over the Long Range Mountains as we sailed on through the North West Cove, up to the mouth of the Little Codroy, landing at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Augustine MacIsaac who welcomed the new family with a cordial, heartfelt, hospitable welcome. My husband was waiting for us at our new home, about five miles up the river. After partaking of a luncheon of delicious home baked bread, homemade butter, tea with cream, cottage cheese and bakeapple jam, my four children and I were well fortified and enjoyed so much that boat row.
Richard, the eldest was nine of age, Bridget seven, Mike five and James two years, six months. We landed directly near our home which consisted of a log cabin, which although rudley built, afforded us comfortable shelter and as it was then June with the summer months ahead, we knew that before winter we should have at least more space. We lived in that hut for four years where we were always very cozy and entertained many visitors. At one time Dr. Howley, afterwards Archbishop Howley of St. John's, was our guest for two days. "When you have ample beds and bedding", my next door neighbour, who lived two miles away, used to say to me "you can always take the passing stranger." I did not feel quite happy about entertaining such a distinguished visitor, but he very kindly calmed my fears saying " I wish you could see where I stayed last night. I thoroughly enjoyed my meals, my nice clean sheets, even the crying of that little rascal." Our new baby cried all night long and I felt terribly sad knowing well the poor priest, after his long walk from the Highlands of St. George's, needed the sleep which my baby was keeping off. Our priests of that day knew well the hardships of life in our new country without railroad, highway or comfortable steamboats. They had to walk from thirty to fifty miles in rough weather; in calm weather there was the open boat plied with oars, or, if one was lucky to find conditions suitable, there was a sailboat.
Monsignor Thomas Sears, our resident pastor at that time was failing in health. He was most interested in our coming to this country for he was most anxious to have more families come, and was very insistent that we settle on the north side of Grand River on the farm ajoining his place. But my husband wanted to settle where the railroad would come in due time. I remember well my husband discussing with the monsignor and pointing out to him just where the railroad would come. However, the poor priest did not live long enough to enjoy the coming of the railroad for he passed to his eternal rest just a year or so before the survey was made. Our first sorrow was Monsignor Sear's death. May he rest in peace.
We loved the spot we had chosen. When I look back over the years and picture in my mind's eye how tall the woods were all around us, tall spruces, firs and birches right where we are now standing. I would not let the children out of my sight fearing I'd never find them. There was a nice large garden which our predecessors had cleared and with the fertilizer which had been lying idle in our stables. We planted lettuce, peas, corn, beans, cabbage, turnip and potatoe. Everything grew like wildfire and in less that six weeks I had greens for the table, rasberries and other wild fruits. From the proceeds of that garden we had our vegetables for one whole year and sold cabbage, turnips and potatoes sufficiently to procure our flour, sugar and other necessities which one has to have.
We had two cows, some sheep from which we had our butter, cheese and meat. My husband made shoes for the children from the hides and I clothed them with the wool from the sheep. We lived entirely from the proceeds of the farm for several years. As time went by we had more and more lands cleared, more stock, and then the roads began to appear. In the meantime our family had grown in size and numbers. There were nine altogether.
You ask me how we succeeded in clearing the land. Well for many years we could not get much cleared. My husband was always a rather delicate man. For years he taught night school for adults. He had quite a few pupils who were most grateful for this great advantage and as compensation they cleared several lots of land. The people of that day were a kindly, good living people who appreciated any little acts of kindness.
Many of the old folks who have long gone to their eternal reward would tell you of the successful teaching of their old friend John Tompkins. No doubt about it, he was the first adult teacher in the Codroy Valley. Had Monsignor Sears lived to see that he would have seen one of his dreams come true. After a time the people built a little school in which my husband taught. We had no schools then.
We were part of the French Shore and there was no such thing as government legislation. The men worked for us as compensation. Bridget, Richard, Mike and James knew no teaching other than their father's. Sears and the younger girls went to St. Bon's and the convents later. Our people as I said before were a kindly, upright people. As well they were deeply religious. If you could but see today the manner in which the priest was greeted by the parishioners when he mad his bi-yearly visits. All who could would turn out to meet the priest and his coming was heralded by the music of the bagpipes. Our house was a mission house, that is the priest stayed with us and mass was celebrated in our living room; everyone coming to receive the Sacrements. For two days during the priest's stay with us not a thing was done other than attend to their 'duties' and follow the priest. This house of ours has been blessed with the celebration of mass, time and time again and the Sacrements Penance, Holy Eucharist, Baptism and Matrimony administered.
Now during the early years and before the railroad the angler would come along looking for trout and salmon. Gradually one brought another until there were so many fishermen we began to add on more rooms, so that is how we have what is now known as 'Afton Farm House'.
My husband lived to see the family all grown up. He died on May 14, 1904. My oldest son was his successor and was proving to be a very good man, but his health began to fail in the summer of 1906 and I saw another pass to his eternal reward. James, your husband, was left by Richard to take care of us all and I hope and pray that our divine lord will give him the grace to carry on the good work started by his good father.
In conclusion I would like to say that too much praise can never be given to Mrs. Tompkins. She must have been a wonderful woman to have lived and loved such a time of privation. Her home in Nova Scotia had been one of comfort. She had never known the feeling of want in her young carefree days, but how nobely she followed her delicate husband who was a victim of asthma, and came to this country where he knew he could be free of the discomfort of this trying disease.
Although she has never said to me, her children have told me 'Mother was the man at the helm' and died in her sleep August 1st, 1937. My husband, her son died on April 21st, 1948. The above is 'Grandmother's Story' to me.
John Szwed, Private Cultures and Public Imagery.
This building was torn down about 10 years ago when the school system was centralized to Upper Ferry. However, for a period of time students attended school in Codroy. from Port aux Basques.
Most residents of Woodville are Anglican.
"From our files......40 years ago," The Western Star January 10,1978.
"From our files.......40 years ago," The Western Star February 1, 1978.
"From our files......40 years ago," The Western Star March 25, 1978.
Located just past the bridge as you enter O'Regans. It is believed that the crusher for this operation arrived sometime around the coming of the bridge. This bridge was built in 1926.
Don Morris, "Vignettes of the West," The Western Star April 30, 1977.
Don Morris, "Vignettes of the West," The Western Star March 19, 1977
Don Morris, "Vignettes of the West," Western Star 24 May 1975.
Don Morris, "Vignettes of the West," The Western Star August 19, 1978.
Page contributed by: Brenda Janes, Codroy, NF, Canada
Page revised: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)
|NAME||DESCRIPTION OF ERROR||REPORTED BY|
|PATRY, Gus*1||The newspaper history states that Gus Patry was the second lightkeeper at Cape Anguille. This is incorrect. The lightkeeper was Laurier Patry - My grandfather. Uncle Gus was his brother. (March 2011)||D.C. Keeping|
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