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September 8th.-Sailed from St. George's Harbour, and examined Indian Head and the north shore of the bay. It was a most lovely day, and the chain of hills that sweep from the southwest round the head of the harbour, and pass off towards the north, showed to great advantage, with their patches of light and shade, their sunny peaks and dark hol-lows.
September 9th.-Landed in Ship Cove. The whole of the north shore consists of low perpendicular cliffs of yellow magnesian limestone, very straight, and with scarcely any indentation. Just east of Ship Cove is another small cove at the mouth of a little valley, down which a small brook runs out to the sea. The valley is full of clay, mingled with boulders, on the top of the crumbling cliffs of which I found a number of loose, partly decomposed shells. The same species of shells are abundant in different parts of the bay, but I did not see any in this cove, the beach of which is covered with large pebbles. For want of a spade I could not ascertain whether the shells were buried in the clay to any depth, and what I found on the slope of the Banks might have been brought by birds, and buried slightly by clay washed down by the rains. It was, however, the only spot in which any kind of evidence could be found to show a recent elevation of the coast of any part of Newfoundland which I visited, and here the evidence was uncertain, to say the least of it. The shells generally, on the coast of Newfoundland, are rare, both in species and indi-viduals, and are only found in such places as St. George's Bay, and the few inlets in which there is shoal water, and a sandy or muddy bottom.
In the evening we beat up to the southern shore of the bay, and anchored under a headland, and during the night it blew a very heavy gale of wind from the south.
September 10th.-Went to the mouth of Crabbes River, in order to explore for the coal re-ported to exist on the south side of St. George's Bay. This is a considerable brook, but has only depth of water enough to admit even such a small craft as ours at spring tides. There were two houses near it, in which were English settlers; and we got two men to aid us in warping the Beaufort over the bar into the little cove at the mouth of the river, where, when she was secured, there was but just room to row a boat round her. The cliffs here consisted of soft red and white sandstones, and red and variegated marls. The top of the cliffs, for about a hundred yards in width and a mile or two in length, was occupied by a fine short turf, like that of a sheep-down. At the back of this stood the usual dense wood, but the relative number of the different species of trees was not the same as on the slate rocks. There were more aspens, and other branching trees, and fewer firs and larches. The country, in the interior, was gently undulating for some distance, and more like some parts of England than any I had yet seen in Newfoundland. The people, too, seemed more agricultural than in other parts, with poultry and cattle about them. They informed me that the only place in which coal was to be seen was in the Bankss of a brook about three miles above them, and some miles from the coast.
September 12th.-Stephen Shears came down this morning, to beg me to write some letters for them, to their friends at home. He had been an apprentice in Devonshire twenty-five years ago, and when about sixteen ran away and came out here. He served his present father-in-law as a hired labourer some time, till he gradually accumulated a little money. He had now eleven cows, three oxen, and a bull, twelve sheep, a house at the brook for a summer residence, another house in the woods for the winter, where he had also a garden: he had also a few roods of ground cleared, which he had sown this summer with French wheat, which, he said, thrived very well. A few years before he had married his old master's daughter. His father-in-law, Morris, himself originally came out as he did, without a farthing, and now they were all happy, comfortable, and independent. The only want which Shears expressed was that of books and schooling, for himself and his children, and he begged me very earnestly, if ever I came that way again, to bring him some. I had none with me, but books of reference on scientific subjects, or I should cer-tainly have given him some. He says the snow here generally sets in about three weeks before Christmas, and breaks up in the beginning of April. The climate, during the sum-mer, is very fine, and certainly, while I was in St. George's Bay, nothing could exceed the beauty of the weather.
Existing treaties will, I suppose, preclude the regular settlement of this neighbourhood, but as far as its natural capabilities and resources go, St. George's Bay and its neighbour-hood is by far the most inviting part of Newfoundland. It is, indeed, the only part in which agriculture could flourish so as to become part of the resources of the country, and is likewise the only part which has any mineral wealth to boast of. Had the western shore of the island been the eastern, it would, before this time, have contained a populous and flourishing community.
At twelve o'clock today, being the top of high water, we managed to scrape out over the bar, getting one knock, however, from a hard rock, some great boulder, probably, brought down by the ice out of the river. We then stood out into the bay, for Cape An-guille, but, there being a light wind from the west, did not make much way.
September 13th.-Light breeze from east-southeast, with clouds and heavy rain. Doubled Cape Anguille, and entered by a rocky channel into the little harbour about three miles south of it, formed by a small island called Codroy Island. There were two small schoo-ners at anchor there, and a few huts on the island belonging to French fishermen, while on the shore were a few English settlers. It rained hard all day, and the wind gradually increased from the east. After dark it was blowing a gale from the southeast, which seemed to increase every minute. We got out another anchor, and about seven the two schooners dragged their anchors, and one of them drifted down upon us, but luckily brought up before she fouled us. As Gaden and I were talking in the cabin, we also began to drift, one of our anchors having loosed its hold. On coming on deck we found it pitch dark, and the wind blowing so furiously that we could hardly stand. I could just make out the outline of the land close by us, and saw, by its apparent motion, that we were drifting rapidly. We were obliged to stoop below the bulwarks, and shout in each other's ears to make ourselves heard. There was no sea, as the wind blew offshore, but the whole surface of the water was a sheet of white foam, which the blast tore up and shot into our faces, making them smart as if the spray were crystals of salt. We veered away all our cable, and when within fifty yards of the point of the island forming the harbour, the water get-ting shoal and the bottom more sandy, our anchors again bit well, and we held on. Here we determined to run her ashore, cut away our masts, or even take to the boats and aban-don her, rather than be blown out to sea in such a night; and I went to pack up my note-books and other light valuables in case of necessity. We held on here for some time, but swung occasionally inshore, and presently began to strike heavily. By shifting the yards and the helm we sheered off into deeper water, but still struck once or twice. I turned into my berth at ten o'clock, but left my pea jacket, with my watch and notebooks, ready for a start should it be necessary. Between twelve and one the wind moderated a little, and at one o'clock, just at high water, the wind suddenly shifted into the northwest. They took this opportunity of getting the vessel back into a safe berth, which they effected with some difficulty. For the remainder of the night the wind blew from the northwest as hard as it had done from the southeast, and we had every reason to congratulate ourselves on being where we were.
September 14th.-The wind a little moderated, but still blowing hard from the north-west. The channel by which we came in was now a widespread bed of breakers. Standing on the corner of the little island and looking towards Cape Anguille the sight was mag-nificent. Long waving ridges of sweltering water, with flickering tops like small moun-tain peaks, came rolling successively towards the land, rose and curled over when they touched the rocks, and fell in regular cataracts of foam like the falls of some great river. I at one time could count from six to seven of these great ridges of water, for they could hardly be called waves, each two or three miles long, coming in regularly one behind the other. It was not possible to land on the main, as the sea curled round each end of the is-land into the little harbour and caused a heavy surf on the opposite shore. There were several small fishing-boats in the harbour sunk at their anchors.
September 15th.-Fine, with light air from the southeast, so could not proceed to the river which I wished to visit. Found the stock of one of our anchors broken. Landed on the main and examined the cliffs, in which there was a great quantity of excellent gypsum in beds and veins. Heard of a large vessel being ashore near Cape Ray, sails all set, and no one in her. Many boats lost along the coast.
September 16th, 17th.-Wind southeast, so could not get out of the harbour. I grew quite tired of this spot and spent a day mending my clothes, sewing up a great rent in my shooting jacket, darning some smaller ones with black silk and putting some buttons on my waistcoat. My general costume at this stage was a pair of canvas trousers (washed occasionally) with a pair of Indian boots tied over them above the knee, a canvas jacket or frock, with pockets inside and out, white when fresh washed, at other times the colour of the last rocks it has been moving among, a blue shirt, sealskin cap, and a bushy beard, no razor having violated the integrity of my face since I left St. John's. My hands and face varied from a raw blue to a red brown, according to the temperature.
A schooner from the Magdalene Islands came in that had been out in the gale. They said it was the heaviest they ever knew. Her deck-boat was smashed from end to end by a heavy sea.
September 18th.-Calm. Towed the Beaumont out of the harbour into the mouth of the river, called the Great Codroy River. A large harbour is formed by a long spit of sand across the mouth of the river. At low water, however, most of it is dry, with the exception of the channel of the river, which has a depth of ten or twelve feet. Two or three English families, with cattle, reside on the south side, and one or two Irish, with some pigs, on the north. On the sandy point were three Indian wigwams. All the men had left the place and gone down to the wreck, except two old Indians and a young one, who was a cripple. This young Indian was about thirty, a fine intelligent fellow, with a noble countenance and piercing black eye. About two years ago he had fallen, while carrying a barrel of flour, and his back was so severely injured that he has not been able since to walk without crutches. His wife was an exceedingly pretty woman, with a Grecian countenance, dark but ruddy complexion, and a sweet smile. She spoke no English, and was very modest and reserved. They had been married ten years and had three children. Her husband gave me much information as to the interior of the country, and an animated description of his having once seen a Red Indian fishing in a river in the interior. This was about twelve years before, and since that time he had neither seen nor heard anything of the existence of the Red Indians, although before his accident he had traversed every part of the west-ern side of the island.
When Newfoundland was first visited by Europeans it was peopled by a race of Indians who, from the colour of their skins and from the red ochre with which they smeared themselves and everything belonging to them, were called Red Indians. They were no doubt the same aboriginal race as the red men of the continent of North America. They were at first friendly, but in the process of time a deadly enmity arose between them and the whites, so that neither spared the other. There is too much reason to believe that the greatest atrocities were committed upon these Indians by the rude fishermen who settled in different parts of Newfoundland. They complained that the Indians stole their boats and nets, and they shot them down whenever they saw them. Stories are current too of persons having gone into the interior on purpose to hunt the Red Indians, and shoot them for the sake of the furs and skins they had about them. Thus, partly from actual slaughter, and partly from the best parts of the coast being occupied by Europeans, the Red Indians seem to have decreased rapidly in numbers. At the beginning of the last century a body of Micmac Indians, partly civilized and converted to the Roman Catholic faith, either came or were sent from Nova Scotia, and settled in the western part of Newfoundland. These were armed with guns and hunted the country, making great havoc amongst the game. A quarrel soon arose-perhaps on this account-between them and the Red Indians; and Sulleon gave me a confused account of a battle that took place between them at the north end of the Grand Pond about seventy years ago. In this the Red Indians were defeated, as they were armed only with bows and arrows, and, according to Sulleon's statement, every man, woman, and child was put to death. About fifteen years ago attempts were made by a society, formed in St. John's, to open a communication with the remainder of these Red Indians, but without success; and Lieutenant Buchan, with a party from a man of war, having surprised and surrounded a tribe of Red Indians, near Exploits Bay, tried to con-ciliate them, and invited two of them on board his vessel, leaving two of his marines as hostages. The Indians, however, escaped, and returning to their encampment, he found it deserted and the bodies of his two marines lying on the ground without their heads. Sub-sequently to that, one or two women were captured, and one lived in St. John's some years. No Red Indians, however, had been seen in any part of the island for the last ten years, and I believe the last remnant ofthem have either perished or have passed over to the Labrador. Such, however, is not the opinion ofthe settlers in the distant outports. While on the Grand Pond my men were in continual dread of meeting the Red Indians, and their feeling towards them may be estimated by their open avowal that if they saw one they should fire at him as if he were a wolf. Their astonishment was really amusing when I told them that, if they did meet one and shot him without provocation, I should do my best to have them hanged on their return to St. John's. They evidently looked upon them as wild animals of a pernicious character.
The Micmac Indians inhabiting Newfoundland reside chiefly on its western side, wander-ing from Fortune Bay to St. George's, and thence to White Bay and the Bay of Exploits, living in the winter on the products of the chase, and in the summer joining in the fishery, or getting other desultory employment. Their number probably does not exceed a hun-dred families, and they bear on the whole a good character. A few of them are worthless vagabonds, and, especially when intoxicated, are not to be depended on; but the greater number are honest, well-meaning fellows, and when well treated are faithful and stead-fast. Sulleon and the cripple at Codroy River were men of a superior stamp, both morally and intellectually; and had the latter been well and unhurt, I would rather have had them for companions in the interior than any of the Europeans I met on the coast. They are all Roman Catholics; and Sulleon's daughter having been recently married to a young Indian when I was in St. George's, they had gone across the country to White Bay, a short time before our expedition, to have the ceremony performed by a Roman Catholic priest, who, they heard, was travelling upon the north coast of the island. I suspect, however, that, like most other people, they still preserve some of their old superstitions. Sulleon, for in-stance, would not allow one of my men to fire at a jay with his gun, as he said the gun would be spoilt, and get gradually worse after killing the jay, until it burst or would no longer shoot straight. He would not give his reason for this notion; and I could see that upon this and several other points he held notions which he did not like to express. From all I could hear they are a very moral people, being especially strict with regard to their women and marrying at a very early age.
September 19th to 24th.-Detained in Codroy River by contrary winds. Some of the men coming back from the wreck told us she was the Onondago of Cork, loaded with timber. The day after the gale she was seen in communication with a brig, which took out her provisions and crew and let her go, after which she drifted inshore. I heard reports of coal having been seen by the Indians up Codroy River, and tried to get more exact information and persuade one of them to go as a guide. Several professed to know where it was, and offered to accompany me, but when the time came always drew back. One Indian woman, middle-aged, and apparently intelligent, began talking about the "Indian king. " She said that they had a "king," who resided in Nova Scotia, that the whole country rightly belonged to him, and that he must be consulted before any of them dare give me any information. Another said he would go and show me if I would give him a hundred pounds, as I might get thousands or millions. I was told also that an Englishman, named Gale, who lived on the south side of the river, and who had the reputation of being very rich, had strictly charged the Indians to give no information. Those Indians who resided all the year round were sometimes dependent on the English settlers for food, and dare not disobey them and the latter were particularly churlish and uncommunicative, espe-cially old Gale. They feared, it seems, that mines would be established, and that thus the neighbourhood would be regularly settled, and not only their own trade and authority in-terfered with, but taxes and customs imposed. All along this shore I was looked upon with great suspicion by many of the European residents as a Government agent, and it was believed that my ultimate object was the enforcing of taxes and custom house duties. After being amused for two or three days by vague promises on the part of the Indians to come and show me where the coal was, I was privately assured by Peter, the cripple, that none of them had ever seen the coal themselves, and only knew of it from the report of an Indian, named Morris Lewis, who described it as in a lateral brook of this river, at a dis-tance of about thirty miles. I explored the river for about ten miles, and found a lovely valley between some gently rising ground on the one hand, and the bold and precipitous range of hills running down to Cape Ray on the other. The rocks were the same as those I had seen near Crabbes River, and dipped towards the interior of the country, in which direction there is, therefore, no doubt of the existence of coal. There were several strips of grass along the Bankss of the river, which had been cut and made into hay, and on some small islands were a few very good potato-gardens, belonging to the Indians down at the point. The day before we left I bought a good dog from one of the Indians for ten shil-lings. Newfoundland is one of the worst places in the world for getting a good, or at least a good-looking, Newfoundland dog. In St. John's and its neighbourhood they are the most ill-looking set of mongrels that can be conceived. In the more distant ports, however, the breed has been better preserved.
September 24th.-At length we got a slight breath of easterly wind, just sufficient to send us out of the mouth of the river, when a north-northwest breeze came up, which was also the best wind for sending us round the Cape. Cape Ray is a very conspicuous object at a distance, in consequence of the bold flat-topped ridge of hills that comes down to it, end-ing in two or three detached conical elevations. From the foot of these about a mile of flat ground stretches out to sea, forming the point of the Cape. In a small cove on the north side of this point, high on the rocks, lay the wreck of the Onondago. She appeared to have been a fine ship of 700 or 800 tons; her hull seemed not to have sustained much in-jury, but her masts were now gone, and she was of course stove in below by the sharp rocks on which she lay. Two small sloops, two or three fishing-boats, and several punts lay alongside, and their crews were on shore getting out her cargo, piling the deals and other timber of which it consisted, and loading their own vessels with all imaginable coolness and deliberation. She was evidently considered fair game, and 'first come first served' seemed the order of the day. The dirty little vessels around her put me in mind of a parcel of wolves preying on the carcase of a race-horse.
On passing the Cape there was a very striking change in the aspect and character of the country, but the change was by no means an improvement. The range of hills before men-tioned, whose steep northwestern face overlooked the rich and apparently fertile country of St. George's Bay, sloped more gradually towards the southeast, into a wild, bare, rug-ged mass of broken rocks inclining gradually to the sea, clothed only with moss and small berry-bearing bushes, and furrowed in every direction by narrow, and abrupt ravines. This rugged and broken country was evidently continued with the same character beneath the sea. The shore is indented with creeks and inlets in every direction, and a fringe of rocks and rocky islets, two or three miles broad, runs along it. Keeping alongshore we got entangled among sunken rocks before we were aware of it, as the water was quite smooth. A boat just ahead of us, however, left Codroy River a little before us, bound for Port aux Basques; and by keeping a diligent eye upon her motions, and following her winding course, we managed to keep the right passage. Frequently, on looking over the side, we could see rocks a few feet below the surface on each side of us, and in some parts the passage between them was not twenty feet across. Following the boat, we ran into a narrow channel, between a headland of the main and a string of islands, from which there appeared at first to be no outlet. Suddenly rounding a projecting rock, the boat hitherto our guide let fall her mainsail, and, shoving her bowsprit almost against the door of a small wooden house, her owner stepped ashore with a rope, made fast the boat, and was at home. Before we had recovered our astonishment at this sudden proceeding, we had passed the only place wide enough to swing at anchor, and saw a narrow opening out of the channel between one of the islands and the main. Here was another house, and a man and two boys, who told us the passage was safe, and we slipped through a place where half the crew might have leaped ashore on one side and half on the other. We were then in the small harbour of Port aux Basques, and, by the help of the chart and the sail-ing directions, worked up to a snug berth behind a small island, where we anchored. Just before it got dark we went ashore; and found the land very rugged and very difficult to traverse, in consequence of the thick matting of moss and dwarf bushes. There were no houses here, the few inhabitants living at the channel by which we had come in.
Page contributed by: Bill Crant, February 22nd, 2000
Page revised: Sept 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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