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CHAPTER IX

 

 

Difficulties with the House of Assembly-Excursion to Topsail and Conception Bay-Start for St. Mary's Bay-The Butterpots Hill-Holyrood Pond-St. Mary's-Father D. and his Farm-A Wedding-Proceed to Colinet-Visit the Rocky River and return Overland to Placentia-Excursions to the Northeast Mountain, to Merasheen, and the Ragged Islands-Cross from Long Harbour to Chapel Arm, and return to St. John's.

On returning from the ice, I found that in consequence of some squabbles between the House of Assembly and the Council, the Money Bill as first voted by the House had been thrown out hy the Council, and that consequently the grant of £600 for the geological survey was become a nonentity. In the next Money Bill the House inserted no grant for the survey but voted me £100 to pay my passage home. I was considerably amused at this, but determined on taking the £100 and pleasing myself about going home. I was resolved, at all events, to see the rest of Avalon, and complete as far as I could the survey of that part of the country. However, after some time they determined to vote £450, £350 as salary and £100 for travelling expenses, and a member called on me privately, recommending me not to take a vessel, since in that case I could make as much money out of this grant as out of the former one! I need hardly say that my object was not to make money, but a geological survey; however, as they had shown so strong a disposition to throw me overboard, without notice given or reason assigned, I determined to take them at their word. My travelling expenses the previous year, including the cost of the vessel, had amounted to upwards of £400. It was now near the middle of May, much valuable time was lost, and if I stayed to equip a small craft, I should not be off before June: so I determined to trust to chance for my passage alongshore, and to set off with only a servant, a knapsack, and a shootingjacket. three miles, and was only marked out, without being gravelled. There was a pretty pond or two, with a brook running, out to St. John's Harbour. A wooden house, or tilt, was occasionally to be seen on the side of the road, and the first rude approach to agriculture was observable in small gardens or rough little fields fenced with logs. We then entered a wood through which the road had been cut, although the stumps and roots of the trees had been left. In this wood was a large pond on our left, closely girt with the dense forest, from which a brook sprang out, leaping down a wild and rocky channel into the little narrow valley that leads to Topsail. We crossed this brook by a wooden bridge, and presently came to a place where three men were employed in blasting and clearing away a mass of rock that obstructed the road. The rock was an intensely hard, close, tough, siliceous stone with few joints, and was about as troublesome a piece of stuff to cut through as I had ever seen. Although it was so early in the season, we were attacked by mosquitoes whilst talking to these men, and received one or two bites. These mosquitoes were of the kind called in Newfoundland gallinippers: they are a species of gnat, with long thin legs and a slender body, having a long trunk or proboscis, the end of which they insert into the skin, and suck the blood till their bodies increase to three or four times their original size, becoming quite red and bloated. A swelling forms round the bite, which continues painful and irritable at times for a fort-night or three weeks. Another kind, which in Newfoundland is always distinguished as the mosquito, is a little black fly with white thighs, and is more like a small housefly than a gnat: and this insect seems to bite off a piece of the skin, as the wound bleeds copiously, and a small cicatrix forms, which is very teasing and irritable. A third kind is the sandfly, very minute and troublesome, and found principally on the sea-beach near wood and running water. The mosquitoes of the second kind dance around you in thousands in the woods and marshes during the day, but are quiet at night; while the gallinipper with his sonorous hum hovers over you both by day and night, sailing about, banishing all sleep from your eyes, and alighting now and then on some exposed part, when you suddenly feel the sharp tingling of his bite.

The descent into Topsail is very pretty, the last two miles of road being finished and gravelled over. It winds along one side of a ravine, with a brook below and rocks and woods about it, until Conception Bay appears in sight, with some flat land and a great pebble beach stretching alongshore to the south. We arrived at four o'clock in the afternoon, and put up at a house which, although not a regular inn, was considered the travellers' house, and was almost the only one in which a bed was to be had. The people were very neat and clean, and gave us a dinner and supper of salt fish, eggs, and tea. The woman of the house had a bad foot, and she told us that the surgeons of St. John's charged £5 for a visit to this place, distant about twelve miles, while it was impossible for her to get to St. John's without sailing down to Portugal Cove or round Cape St. Francis, either way making a two days' journey of it at least. I mention these facts as showing the difficulties of overland travelling in Newfoundland, even where roads are partially complete.

April 26th.-In setting out this morning for Broad Cove, our first obstruction was a brook cutting through the beach, and crossed by a bridge consisting of one thin slippery pole: as I had a barometer on my back, I preferred wading through, to the chance, or, I may say in my case, the certainty of falling off the pole into the brook. We then clambered on along a rough beach, and climbed up a cliff into the wood. We here found a tolerable footpath leading through the wood along the edge of the cliff on our left, 80 or 100 feet above the sea, and having a bold precipitous hill called Topsail Head, rising immediately on our right to the height of 400 or 500 feet. From this path we had many highly picturesque and beautiful views of the bay with its three islands and its bold and varied headlands and rocky shores. Beyond Topsail Head were several small clearings, and some comfortable cottages, with little rocky coves and rough wooden platforms and stages along the face of the cliff, made accessible by rude stairs. At Broad Cove we had again to cross a brook on a single pole, which we did with the assistance of another pole held across by a man as a kind of rail. Here we got some dinner, consisting of fresh herrings, tea, and bread and butter. We then climbed the cliffs at the back of the cove, following a track which had been cleared of bushes, and was intended to be a road, though now consisting of a mere succession of crags and great boulders. At the top of this rocky Banks, which was about 200 feet high, was a cleared space, from which the view of Conception Bay was the finest and most beautiful we had yet seen. A tolerable track was then found along the new line of road, and the brooks were crossed by bridges till we came to the borders of Twenty-mile Pond after this we found the road gravelled, and shortly reached the Portugal Cove road, and so returned to St. John's.

Having at length come to a right understanding as to the continuance of the survey for the present year, Professor Stuwitz, who had taken my old vessel, the Beaufort, into his service, offered me a passage in her as far as St. Mary's Bay or Trepassey.

May l9th.-We set sail with a north-northwest wind, and a jumping sea, which before we got fairly round Cape Spear sent both of us into our berths. By the time we reached Ferryland Head, however, I was better: here the wind shifted into the west, and as this would be dead against us when we got to Cape Race, we beat up into the harbour of Aquaforte, and anchored near its head. This is a long inlet, with pleasant shores, and cliffs rising to a height of about 200 feet. It takes its name of Aquaforte from a pretty cascade on the northern side, where a brook shoots its waters over a cliff into the sea.

May 20th.-Fine morning, with light, variable winds. I determined here, if I could get a guide, to walk across the country to St. Mary's Bay. I consulted accordingly with a gentleman, the only resident merchant in Aquaforte, who recommended me to go to a man in Ferryland, as the person best acquainted with the interior of the country. Stuwitz and I accordingly walked across to Ferryland by a very fair road between three and four miles long. We there found the man who professed to be a "pilot" for the country, but on consulting him he said he would not undertake it without £5 for himself, and £3 for another man to carry provisions, &c., and that it would take us three days of hard work to get to St. Mary's. I was very angry at first at what I considered a rascally attempt at extortion; but on relating it to a gentleman of Ferryland, he did not seem to think the demand an extravagant one, more especially at this season of the year, when the people were busy preparing for and commencing the fishery. The man, moreover, by no means seemed willing to undertake the job, and absolutely refused to abate a jot, so I gave it up. I was still, however, determined to go to the Butterpots and the range of hills running a few miles from the coast, and made inquiries for a man to take me that far, but could not find one willing to undertake it. One or two said it was very difficult to go in and come out on the Aquaforte side, and recommended me to go to Renews and try it from there. There was a road made as far as Renews, and I therefore determined to do so.

May 21st.-After some delay in getting breakfast, I set off accompanied by Simon, at 7 AM for Renews. The road was pretty tolerable, passing over the high grounds between Aquaforte and Fermeuse, sweeping round the head of that long and picturesque inlet, and then over high ground again to Renews. The distance from Aquaforte to Renews was about seven miles, and we caught occasional glimpses of the Butterpots Hill over the woods on our right, and were evidently nearest to it when passing round Fermeuse harbour. After some little trouble, we found a house at Renews, where they undertook to give me a bed for the night, and the next thing was to procure a "pilot" or guide. Luckily we met with some of our ice comrades, and the brother of one of them, named Tom Coady, offered to go with us. At 10 AM we set out, walking through a brook at the head of the harbour, the water of which was sufficiently cold to the feet. The day was fine, and the sun shone on the side of the hill we were going to visit, which, indeed, seemed so near us, that the fuss made about going to it would have appeared to a stranger perfectly ridiculous. It was certainly not more than six or seven miles in a straight line. We struck along a small path into a wood, but in about a mile and a half this ended, and we came out on a marsh. Here we sat down to rest, when Bell pointed at a little distance, and before I could get up, a brace of ptarmigan rose, of which I bagged one; we then toiled across the marsh till twelve o'clock, when I began to feel almost knocked up. We accordingly halted, lighted a fire and made some tea, which, together with some beef we had brought with us, gave us strength for a fresh start. At one, after traversing some more marsh, we came on some small rocky "barrens," where I killed another brace of ptarmigan. We were then obliged to strike into the woods, and soon afterwards came down to the main brook, the same we had crossed near the harbour; wading through this, we had then some more very thick scrubby wood to scramble through for some distance, when we came out on some marshes and clear spaces near the foot of the first ascent of the hill. An amphitheatre of dark craggy precipices stretched away to the west at the distance of about a mile; but before us was a gentle ascent, which appeared to lead by an easy route and a succession of open slopes and short cliffs to the summit of the hill. We pushed on accordingly to the first exposed sheet of rock, which I found to consist of beds of common slate, dipping from the hill at a considerable angle. Climbing up this, we found ourselves on a bare table of rock tolerably smooth and easy to traverse, but had hardly proceeded 300 yards when to our great disgust we found ourselves on an insulated eminence, and that a valley 200 feet deep and a quarter of a mile wide, filled with the densest possible mass of wood, still intervened between us and the principal body of the hill. I descended the side of the hill with all care on account of the barometer slung across my shoulder, but notwithstanding my precaution, a thick sheet of moss gave way, and sliding with me along the smooth face of the slaterock, down I went into some stunted fir trees below, being partly caught and brought up by the barometer-case. Pushing our way through the woods, we arrived at the next slope, which was so rocky and precipitous, that we were obliged to pass my dog Bell from one to another as we climbed up. Most provokingly, after surmounting this eminence and walking across its tabular summit, we again found our route interrupted by a valley full of wood precisely similar to the last.

There was now, however, no time to be lost; so we clambered down, scrambled through the wood, and again climbed up the opposing precipice by the help of the trees that grew in the clefts, to a still loftier eminence than before. Even this we found cut off by a third valley, from the summit of the hill, but it was a much smaller and shallower one than before, containing merely a small pond and a bed of "tucking bushes." These consist of a kind of dwarf juniper or other fir tree, with very thick short stumps and strong flat interlacing branches. They grow breast-high, and are so close, firm, and level at top, that in some places a man can stand on them. As, however, it is not quite possible to walk everywhere along their tops, it is necessary sometimes to wade through them, and where it is not possible to avoid them by going round, I think 200 yards of "tucking bushes" in an hour would be quick work, and certainly much severer toil than six miles of plain ground. By walking in the water of the shallow edge of the little pond, we evaded these bushes, and after another short stoppage for a slight refreshment, were soon afterwards on the top of the hill, which was one rounded mass of bare rock, something like a rude dome. All the principal mass of the hill, after the first eminence, consisted of porphyry, passing here and there into sienite. On opening my barometer, I found the tube broken and the mercury gone, so I was left to guess at the height of the hill, which I should give at about 1100 feet. The view from the summit was very commanding, extending from the ridge at the Bay of Bulls to the country west of Trepassey Bay. The whole range of the eastern coast was visible, but in the west and northwest the view was shut in by rising ground, over which, however, I thought I could just discern the top of the northeast mountain of Placentia. In the direction of Conception Bay was a line of inconceivably broken and rugged country, hardly constituting a distinct ridge, but covered with knobs and hummocks. Some more decided hills with a steep face to the east were called "Bread and Cheese," "Bold Face," &c., and I thought I could make out the Cats Cove hills, bearing exactly magnetic north by my prismatic compass, but could not distinguish, among the many rugged eminences, which belonged to the Butterpots of Holyrood. It seemed to me inconceivable how the common notion could have originated that the hill seen from Conception Bay, and called the Butterpots there, was the same hill as this Butterpots near Renews; and yet such was the universal belief among the inhabitants. We counted from the summit of this hill eighty ponds or lakes of water, many of which were two or three miles across, and none less than one hundred yards. There was a great assemblage of large ponds in the direction of Trepassey, from which flow two streams, namely, the main brook into the harbour of Renews and the Black River into Biscay Bay. The wind was blowing, and it was piercingly cold on the top of the hill, but we stayed there an hour while I took a round of angles and bearings with the prismatic compass and box sextant, and left, completely chilled, at about five o'clock.

On coming down we selected an easier route than the one by which we went up, keeping more to the eastward, along the top of a regular ridge, and having only one precipitous face to descend. On reaching the bottom of the hill, we found some dry barrens with open ground, and a grove of birch-trees close by; and while stopping to eat some biscuit and drink some sugar and water, we consulted as to whether we should sleep where we were, or try to get to Renews before dark. Tom Coady, however, said he knew an easier route, avoiding the brook altogether, and coming into the road between Renews and Fermeuse; and, as I had no blanket, I determined to try. The way was almost entirely through marshes, and very wet; we were frequently nearly up to our knees in the moss, and the constant wet and cold chilled my legs and feet so much that I could hardly walk. At one place I stumbled over a great boulder and strained my left knee. By perseverance, however, and dogged labour, we succeeded in reaching the road about eight o'clock, just as it was getting dark. Even Bell was dreadfully tired; and as we sat down to get breath on the road side, she began scratching up the moss, and making a nest or form among the brushwood, evidently with the hope of passing the night there. I think it is in 'Woodstock' that Scott notices the habit dogs have of turning round before they lie down; and he makes old Sir Henry Lee say he cannot account for it. Once before, after a hard day's shooting in England, I had observed a spaniel make a nest for himself in the thick grass and brambles on the side of a wood, which he did by scratching away the sticks from a particular spot, and turning round several times with his body bent, till he formed a snug circular form, in which he lay down with a defence from the wind all round him. It is interesting thus to see on the rug before our parlour fires the habits and instincts displayed that were in-tended for a wild and savage life. Rousing up Bell from her bivouac, we again addressed ourselves to the road; and as we really had one now to avail ourselves of, we reached our quarters about nine o'clock. I found a neat little room upstairs, and tea, eggs, fish, and fresh-baked cakes, the master of the house coming to sit with me as a point of courtesy, and apologising for his absence if he left. There was also a clean bed, which, soon after a hearty meal, I laid myself down in.

May 22nd.-A sharp frost this morning, and I congratulated myself on our having pushed on last night. Stuwitz had agreed, if a favourable wind sprang up, to set sail and call for me at Renews; but as there was now a breeze blowing from the south, I set off back again for Aquaforte. The air was quite clear, and it was very hot along the road in the country, but we could see a fogBanks out at sea; and on getting down to Aquaforte we found a bitterly cold wind and a thick fog driving up the harbour. The coldness of the wind, which was now east, gave evidence of there being ice on the Bankss in considerable quantity drifting down from the north, a circumstance that frequently occurs at this season of the year. After sitting writing and reading for four or five hours, I found on getting up my left knee intolerably stiff and painful, but hoped it would recover again with exercises. The chief resident here, Mr. W-, kindly invited us ashore in the evening, and procured some scallops and other sea animals for us from the sand of the harbour.

May 23rd.-The wind came up from the northeast; so we beat out of the harbour and ran round to Trepassey, anchoring at that place at night.

May 24th.-My knee pained me during the night, however 1 determined to walk across to St. Mary's from this place; so after taking leaving of Stuwitz, I went in search of a man to act as pilot, and help Simon to carry my knapsack, and our provisions and implements. Simon had provided himself in St. John's with a tin kettle divided into two compartments, which could on occasion be separated, and in one of which we could boil our tea, and in the other a ptarmigan, or any other eatable. This sufficed for our cooking apparatus; a couple of hatchets provided us with beds, and sometimes with shelter, but we were obliged to carry a change of clothes and shoes, and my notebooks, ammunition, hammers and hammerbag, blanket, mackintosh, and various other matters. I soon found a strapping young fellow called Con Kennedy. His hand had been blown off by the bursting of a gun, but his shoulders and legs were as broad and as strong as ever, and he could still shoot, resting his gun across the middle of his left arm. He immediately agreed to go with us to St. Mary's for a pound and a pair of shoes, as his own would be worn out by the journey. As I had no shoes to spare, however, I offered to give him thirty shillings, and let him find his own shoes, which he accepted. We were put across the harbour in a punt, and followed a little path through a thin skirt of wood to the barrens. My leg pained me at first, and made me quite lame, bringing me to a slow march the whole of the way. The country was chiefly barren, generally clear of woods, and having only a few marshes and ponds interspersed about. It was by far the easiest country to traverse I had yet seen; in proof of which we met, to my utter astonishment, a man on horseback. It was the first time I had seen such a phenomenon, except on a regularly made road. It was an old man on a strong pony: he could never go beyond a walk, and the pony was plastered with mud up to the flaps of the saddle, in passing through some of the soft places, but still he was going down to Trepassey, having come from Peter's River, in St. Mary's Bay, and this was the only space of ground of that extent that I saw anywhere in Newfoundland where such a thing was possible without a regularly constructed road. About half way to Peter's River we crossed a brook which runs into a pond about a mile long, and afterwards through another pond lower down, emptying itself into the sea near St. Shotts. In the afternoon we came to the very pretty valley called Peter's River, with flat meadowland on each side of a considerable brook, bounded by abrupt ascents of rock and scrubby wood. We got some refreshment at the first house we came to, and then walked to Holyrood Pond, the path conducting us sometimes along a sand-beach, and sometimes along the edge of the cliffs. This pond was once an inlet of the sea, communicating with a little bay, the western point of which is called Cape English. The tide and current which sweep up the bay along this shore, aided by the prevalence of southwesterly gales, have drifted a beach of large pebbles and boulders to the shores of the little bay, and have completely blocked up the mouth of the inlet, separating it from the sea by a Banks of pebbles two miles in length, one hundred yards across, and from ten to twenty feet in height. This beach, however, was now intersected at the end next us by a passage one hundred yards wide, through which a rapid current was pouring; so we hailed and fired a shot, and presently a four-oared punt came across the pond and took us up to the house. The people here treated us very kindly and hospitably, giving us the usual fare of the country. At night they showed me into a small bedroom, and the good woman hoped I should have no objection to let the young man who came with me (my servant Simon) have part of my bed. As he was a very clean decent lad, I assented to this, but his modesty preferred the kitchen floor, so he did not make his appearance.

May 25th.-Sailed in the punt about thirteen miles along Holyrood Pond to the end of a road that goes down to St. Mary's harbour. The pond is twenty-five miles long, and about two miles wide. It is a fine sheet of water, but the ground about it is rather tame and uninteresting. In autumn all communication between the pond and the sea is prevented by the pebbles swept in by the southwest gales and heavy swell. During winter the water accumulates owing to the brooks which run into it, until on the melting of the snows in spring it stands almost as high as the top of the pebble-beach, and oozes through the upper pebbles. The inhabitants assemble at the beginning of June with their shovels and cut a small trench through the beach; the water then rushes out, widening the channel, and the pond falls to the level of the sea, and afterwards rises and falls with the tide, which rushes in and out with great rapidity. Herrings, codfish, salmon, capelin, and seals then all enter, the water becoming quite salt, and seaweed growing on the Bankss below high-water mark. The Bankss are enclosed when the winter gales repair the breach, and herrings and codfish are taken all the year round in the pond. In winter the pond becomes merely brackish, and trout from the neighbouring brooks are found in it. Before the country was inhabited, the beaver and the otter lived on its Bankss: deer are plentiful still, and from various causes the remains of these animals, and those of the wolf, the fox, and the bear, must frequently be deposited at the bottom of this piece of water. In the mud, therefore, at the bottom, there is probably a curious admixture of land and freshwater as well as marine plants, and of marine and fresh-water shells, while the bones of the trout are mingled with those of the cod, the herring, and the shark, and the remains of seals, beavers, and land animals are confusedly jumbled together. Were such an accumulation of fossils found in the mud or silt in the valley of a river, how puzzling would it appear, and yet there is no improbability in the idea of this pond being some day elevated into a dry valley, with a brook running along the bottom, winding through beds of mud, sand, or clay, containing all the things mentioned above, and possibly others. It is, moreover, curious that the pond, a little way inside the pebble-beach, is much deeper than the sea outside for some miles. The average depth of the pond is from thirty to fifty fathoms, while the people assured me there was scarce half that depth for five or six miles round Cape English. Were the country elevated, therefore, till the bottom of the sea became dry land, Holyrood Pond would be a lake of entirely fresh water, and to this alternation and combination of fresh water with marine beds would succeed others purely fresh water. The probability of such things having frequently happened is, undoubtedly, very great: but it is worth while to notice the circumstances under which they really do take place at present; and we may see, from this example, how very complicated may be the results of one simple action as for instance, of elevation.

From the middle of the western Banks of the pond, a road about three miles in length, and nearly finished, leads to St. Mary's-a scattered place, with few good houses, and a harbour, neither very safe nor commodious. We put up at the house of Mr. Ferrars, which, though not an inn, was the place where strangers usually resorted to; and he sold provisions and rum. We found everything in confusion, the only room he had besides the kitchen being filled with bags of bread and flour. At night, I learnt that they had but one bed to spare, and it was fully expected that I should admit Simon to a share of it. As I could not condemn the poor fellow to the kitchen-floor for an unknown number of nights, I even conformed to the custom of the country at once, and insisted on his taking half the bed, though with much reluctance and many apologies on his part.

May 29th.-The two men, John Davis and old Joe, to whom the boat belonged in which I intended to proceed, reported her ready this morning, but the wind was against us. At two o'clock, however, it seemed inclined to favour us, and we set off. The boat was a small unpainted skiff, with two old sails and a couple of clumsy oars; and besides the two men, Simon, and myself, there was a Mrs. Quigley, of Harricot, near Colinet, as a passenger. A light wind carried us out of the harbour, but it soon fell calm; and a light breeze from the northwest sprang up dead against us. We then toiled slowly on with the oars till dusk, when, just as we entered the passage between Colinet Island and the main, the wind shifted into the southeast, and we sailed down to Admiral's Beach, where we anchored, and went ashore at a lonely house. The people here were very civil, and received us most hospitably, giving us an excellent supper of fresh codfish, which, as I had lived lately on herrings, was quite a luxury. They gave up their bed to me, likewise, which had not only blankets, but sheets, another luxury; and I was heartily glad I had left St. Mary's. There was a light flame tonight on the other side of the bay, distinctly visible, and evidently proceeding from a great conflagration, which they said had been raging in the woods for three weeks. Bright patches of glancing aurora were likewise flickering all over the northern hemisphere, but without any distinct form.

May 30th.-Sailed early in the morning with a fine southwest breeze to the mouth of Salmonier, where I had intended to land; but finding nothing but the common clay-slate, I determined to push on for Colinet. We entered a narrow inlet between an island and the main, where we landed our female passenger, and then pushed on in very shoal water into the Tickle. What the origin of this word Tickle may be I am at a loss to conjecture; but it is applied all over Newfoundland to a narrow passage or strait between two islands, or other points of land. This Tickle is so shoal in some places that it is almost dry at low water; and once or twice we grounded, and Davis was obliged to get out and shove off. We soon, however, got round the island into the main arm again, and then sailed up to the head of the inlet, and the mouth of the Colinet River. Here we grounded, and flung out our anchor, and on hailing stoutly, Davis's wife came off in a small leaky punt, and took us ashore. His house was clean and comfortable, and situated in a small valley, down which a little brook ran into the river. He had several acres of meadow-land, only part of which had required clearing, and two or three potato-gardens, and also two milch cows and a bullock; but a winter or two ago had lost a flock of nine sheep and three cows by the wolves, who came two nights successively, and tore them in pieces, although they were in the immediate neighbourhood of the house. He has a salmon weir close by in the river, which is about sixty yards wide, but shallow and rapid: the weir he leaves to the care of his wife, a servant, and old Joe, (who lives in the same house,) while he himself fishes for cod in the bay during the season. Old Joe had been a hunter or trapper, till the beaver and other furbearing animals were nearly all destroyed. He then carried letters and messages across the interior of the country during the winter, and acted as "pilot" to any one wishing to cross with him. He was now, however, getting old and stiff, and lived generally with Davis. The latter had no grant of his land, or other title than that of occupancy; but as it was a fertile and pretty little spot, I recommended him by all means to obtain a title. The wolves were still troublesome, three having been shot during the last winter at Harricot between Colinet and Salmonier.

May 31st.-After breakfast this morning, there being no meat or fish in the house, we determined to separate into two parties, and try the two rivers which empty themselves here, in search of some food. Simon, and Davis with his gun, accordingly went up the Colinet River, while I accompanied old Joe to the Bankss of the Rocky River. The entrance to the Rocky River is broad and deep, with perpendicular cliffs of dark slate about twenty feet high. It continued thus for half a mile, obliging us to make a detour through the woods and across a small marsh, when we came out on what old Joe called "a very handsome fall." This fall consisted of two leaps, each about twenty feet high, with a foaming rapid between them, and a dark whirlpool below, the effect altogether being highly picturesque. Just above the fall, as we stepped out of the woods, old Joe drew me back and cried "Hist!" and immediately afterwards I heard the "conk" of a wild goose. Drawing back into the bush, I tried to steal through it and come down on them; the underwood, however, was so thick, and the fallen timber so plentiful, that they took the alarm. We then walked along the margin of the river, on a little rocky strand, where the footing was tolerably good. Half a mile beyond I spied two couple of geese, each with two young ones, little, callow, unfledged things. The old ones were very bold in the defence of their young, and allowed me to come within shot; but I found my light fowling-piece and small shot not heavy enough for the one I fired at. Joe, however, caught one of the goslings in the water; and we proceeded in pursuit of the second pair, that had made all haste up the river. Sending old Joe across and a little in advance to drive them over to my side, I again got within reach of an old one, and firing both barrels together, I succeeded in settling him, and Joe caught another young one. Having got a dinner, we did not proceed farther, as my knee became painful, but came back with our spoil, Joe carrying the two young ones in his cap. Simon and Davis came back in the afternoon, having seen nothing but one ptarmigan. The young geese immediately became tame and sociable, and a piece of turf being cut they hopped upon it and began pecking and eating, walking about the kitchen as though they had been born in confinement. No bird seems more shy and wary while wild, and none is more easily and quickly familiarised than the Canada goose.

The view from the rising ground just north of Davis's house was very pretty. Colinet Arm was like a large lake, with low, woody points projecting into it at intervals; and the narrow entrance in the distance into St. Mary's Bay presented the appearance of a river. The distant ridges on each side, and the undulating grounds about, though not high or striking, were still very pretty, being richly covered with wood and spotted with green and yellow marshes.

June 1st.-We all made an expedition up the Rocky River, and went much further than I had done yesterday. About three miles up, just at the place where we turned back yesterday, we found the fresh track of a wolf pointing down the river. We saw a good many geese, but they were now too wary: Davis got a shot with his long gun, but did no execution. The Bankss of the river are thickly wooded with spruce and birch, and the land generally seems of a much superior quality to that of the rest of Avalon. It is, moreover, low and sheltered; and if a road were formed along its Bankss to Trinity and Conception bays, it would offer by far the best locality for settling the interior of the country I had yet seen in Avalon. The river is shallow, but in wet seasons is navigable for little flat-bottomed boats, and when frozen in winter would make an excellent sleighing-road, being of an average width of sixty yards. In returning we left the river and walked through the country, where I shot a brace of ptarmigan.

June 2nd.-This morning I set out for Placentia overland, taking old Joe as a pilot. We walked down the landwash on the west side of Colinet Arm, for two or three miles, when we struck across the country over some rising ground to the head of North Harbour. On fording the river at the head of North Harbour we found the fresh track of a wolf. Just below we came to a house inhabited by two Irishmen, very civil and hospitable, but ragged and dirty. One of them, who went by the name of Big Tom, could hardly speak English; and they both seemed regular wild Irishmen. They had abundance of good potato-ground cleared, and excellent potatoes, thirteen fine cows and six calves, besides six or eight very fine pigs, fed only on milk and potatoes. During the summer they generally caught £20 or £30 worth of salmon. With all this material for comfort, and with plenty of good wood which they might have for the trouble of cutting it, their house had no window in it, no floor but the ground, one stool and a log of wood; a board suspended from the wall and supported by one leg made the table; and two dark little holes partitioned off formed the bedroom and store-room. They seemed quite happy and contented notwithstanding, and apparently had no idea of comfort or cleanliness. The bed, which they gave up to Simon and me, consisted merely of a few blankets; and had not the night been so cold, I should have declined it. I took care not to undress, but notwithstanding this I sustained a sharp conflict during the night with prior occupants. The inhabitants of the harbour had suffered much the preceding winter from wolves, which had destroyed all the cattle belonging to some people a mile or two below; and one of the men said something had disturbed the cattle at daylight that morning, as they came running in towards the house bellowing and affrighted.

June 3rd.-Breakfasted at daybreak, and at five o'clock we set off, with a fine morning, and hoarfrost lying on the ground. For the first mile and a half after leaving the shore we had to make our way uphill through a very thick wood, much tangled with old fallen trees. There was a kind of path, however, which enabled us to traverse it. On coming out on the marshes at the top of the high ground, we found them quite crisp with frost, and one small pond with a coat of ice over it. At two miles from the harbour we crossed a small river flowing down to Cape Dog; and at three miles or thereabouts we arrived at a considerable ridge, with a small peak, called North Harbour Lookout. This ridge is a continuation of the principal range of hills on this side of Avalon, and we had Cape Dog and Mount Sca-Pie on our left, and the Southeast mountains, as they are called, on our right. Before us stretched some level marshes, over which rose a group of hills to the southwest called Sawyer's Hills, and in the northwest a mass of hilly and broken ground about Great and Little Placentia. Behind us lay St. Mary's Bay with its opposite shores. The ground of this ridge had a singular appearance: it was utterly bare, and the sharp edges ofthe thin beds of slaty gritstone bristled up along it almost like the edges of a set of knives. Proceeding on our route, we had then to cross, for three or four miles, heavy marshes, and found it very slow and toilsome work. At one place we came upon a wolf's track quite fresh, which old Joe said had been made scarcely an hour ago. This was, probably, the fellow that had disturbed the cows yesterday morning, and who was still lurking about. We looked about us pretty sharply in going through the thickets, hoping to get a shot, but saw no further signs of him. We crossed two brooks flowing through the marshes down to Little Salmonier, and having at length got through the marshes, we came to some low barrens and a considerable pond with thin skirts of wood about it. Here, as we had now been walking nearly six hours, I shot a ptarmigan, and Simon plucked it as we went along. When it was ready we stopped under some bushes to shelter us from the cold northwest wind, made a fire, and cooked the bird and had some tea. We then proceeded through small barrens interspersed with woods, little ponds, and brooks or gullies. I was still lame, but my knee was much better, and I could keep up with old Joe. At length we got upon a lofty barren, among some old burnt wood, and came within sight of Placentia. On the slope of the hill we found the road which is intended to lead from Placentia to St. John's. The line has been surveyed the whole way; and for the two or three miles nearest Placentia the woods have been cleared away, making an opening twenty feet wide. Still the road would have puzzled any one not accustomed to the country, as in most places it was a mere bed of boulders and crags of rock, with wet boggy holes and soft places between them. To traverse it required a succession of steps and jumps from one slippery block to another, and the wet places we had to wade through. This delectable road conducted us to the head of the southeast arm of Placentia, where we found a house belonging to one Tom Kelly, whose family immediately proceeded to supply us with tea, and bread and butter. It was now three o'clock in the afternoon, and we had been ten hours walking about sixteen miles, including two hours for stoppages: this was at the rate of two miles an hour, which for Newfoundland is pretty good work. Tom Kelly now took us down the southeast arm to the harbour in his boat, where, to my great surprise, I found Stuwitz busily observing the amount of the dip or inclination of the needle. I got some very comfortable lodgings at the house of a Mrs. Morris, which, indeed, seemed to me replete with all possible luxuries and conveniences, after the rough work of the last fort-night.

June 4th to 8th.-I spent this time in examining the neighbourhood of Placentia, and in making preparations to proceed. I hired another man, a cousin of Simon's, named Tom Welsh, to assist in carrying our baggage, but found no boats or vessels willing to give me a passage anywhere: they were all busy fishing, and nothing but the most extravagant prices would have induced them to disturb their arrangements. Mr. S-, the principal merchant, has a farm here, which is in better condition than any other in Newfoundland. The centre of the great beach of pebbles at the old mouth of the southeast arm is covered with sand, and, at one place, is half an mile broad, and sheltered by a bold hill immediately on the east. This flat of sand has gradually become covered with a rank marshy vegetation, which has produced some vegetable mould. On this, with great care and cultivation, are raised good rye and barley, excellent potatoes, and a considerable quantity of grass: there are many cows, and a regular dairy on a large scale; and the dairyman assured me that during the summer months each cow yielded a firkin, or about thirty-five pounds of butter a month. I was unfortunate in not finding Mr. S-, but he had not yet returned from Europe, where he had spent the preceding winter. The weather was now beginning to get very hot during the day and the capelin were coming in.

June 10th.-I awoke once in the middle of the night from the buzzing of a gallinipper, or mosquito, and found that the fir boughs on which we lay had been place too near the fire, and that a flame was stealing quietly along the leaves to where we slept, with our guns and powder-horns beside us. The men jumped up in a great hurry at my shout, and we soon extinguished the cause of danger. At six o'clock we had breakfasted, packed up our traps, and were on our return. The morning was overcast, and cooler and pleasanter than yesterday, but my clothes were still saturated with perspiration, making me feel very stiff and uncomfortable, and my knee began to be painful again: however, we kept on, only stopping to shoot two or three ptarmigans, and at eleven we reached our boat. The distance from the water to the Northeast Mountain is about nine or ten miles, which again gives two miles an hour as the average progress through this rough country. Those who are used to it can do more, as I found that men whom I could leave out of sight when we were walking together on a made road would have a corresponding advantage over me in the wild country. On reaching the water it began to rain, and before we got back to Placentia we had a regular soaking.

June 12th.-Stuwitz gave me a passage across to Merasheen, which we reached in a fog. After dinner, however, it cleared off, and we found ourselves in a snug harbour surrounded by rocky precipices and full of little rocky coves. There were several houses, but I went to Mr. K-'s, the principal merchant, to take up my own quarters, boarding my men with a planter, or fisherman.

June 13th to 19th.-Examined this island and its neighbourhood as far as weather and circumstances would permit. It is very long, narrow, and lofty, and about five miles from the harbour is a peak at least 600 feet high, where Captain Cook had a station when he surveyed this coast. The lofty parts are of course all barren, but there are several little spots alongshore at the foot of the hills where there are settlers cultivating gardens. Dr. M-was living with Mr. K-, and was practising as a medical man in this thinly populated and scattered district. As most of his patients necessarily paid him in fish, he was obliged to keep a man and a boat to go round and collect his debts at the proper season. He kindly lent me his boat, and Mr. K-accompanied me in it to Isle of Valen and the Ragged Islands. These islands form a singular and picturesque group of rocks along the western shore of Merasheen, and we were beginning a very pleasant cruise among them when it began to rain; we then ran into a small place called Merry Harbour (one of the most dismal I ever saw), and went up to the best of the two houses which composed its habitations. This, however, was but a miserable hut, with half the roof burnt off, and the people too careless to mend it. As it was occupied, moreover, by a man and his wife and six children, we merely stopped to cook some tea and fish, and pushed off for another island, where was a winter-house at present uninhabited. This place was called "John the Gong," which must be a corruption of some French name, but what it was I did not make out. There was a snug little cove, in which we moored the boat, and we found a tolerable house, consisting of one room in two compartments, in a little glen between two steep hills covered with wood. The rain still continued: however, we made a blazing fire, and dried some fir boughs before it for a bed. It was still rather damp than otherwise, and as we had brought no blanket we were awakened once or twice by the cold when the fire got low.

June 17th.-We set off at daylight and found the eggs of several sea-birds among the clefts of the rocks in these numerous islands, and then commenced our return, beating up home against a smart breeze. Although the sun was shining brightly we got very cold while sitting in the boat, and when about half way home we landed at Virgin's Cove, and sent the men on with the boat. Virgin's Cove is a small space of flat land beneath a bold cliff of 300 or 400 feet, over which, at one place, a large brook precipitated itself, and was lost in spray before it reached the bottom. The steep slope of the cliff was in one place rather more moderate and clothed with wood, through which a path led to the top. Following this, and crossing a mountain torrent on two poles laid over it side by side, we arrived at Captain Cook's station, at a spot called, from a tall pile of stones, "the Naked Man." The view was bold and extensive, but the land all along the west side of Placentia Bay was barren and rugged in the extreme. We walked down to Merasheen harbour by a very rugged and precipitous track, and found the sun, when we were sheltered from the wind, intensely hot.

June 20th.-I had been detained by calms and contrary winds, but today I took leave of Stuwitz, who was now going to the Bankss, where he intended to anchor some weeks and make observations on the marine fauna. I took leave also of my kind friends, Mr. K- and Dr. M-; and the latter lending me his boat and man, I set sail for Long Harbour. The wind was not very favourable, being south-southeast, but in hopes it would shift a little we made a long stretch off to the southward, and tacked when we thought we could weather Red Island. It soon however began to rain, and a breeze sprang up that sent a heavy tumbling sea after us, and obliged us to keep away. I went and lay down in the fore cuddy, a place about the size of a dog-kennel, and stinking of salt butter and fish, and was dread-fully seasick; and as soon as we got between Red Island and Merasheen, being under the lee of the former, we had no wind, and we lay rolling in heavy rain on the tumbling swell that came in after us. At last, by dint of oars, we got to a place called Indian Harbour, and put up at a hut just erected by two old men who had recently come to live there. Their place was clean and comfortable, and they gave me a tolerable bed. One other man and his wife lived in the harbour, which, though safe and convenient, had till lately been studiously avoided. It appears it had the reputation of being troubled, or haunted, which for a long time had prevented its being inhabited. Boats had been known to stay out at sea all night in the roughest weather rather than put in here alone; and no boat ever entered unless in company with others. Although my men pretended to make a joke of it, I could see they were believers in their hearts: their first inquiries were after the spirits, and they were rather disappointed when one of the old men, being an Englishman, said the spirits were all rats.

From the name of the place-Indian Harbour-I am rather inclined to suspect its bad reputation may have arisen from some atrocity either committed upon or by the Red Indians in former days, but could not hear of any tradition to that effect.

June 21st.-Thick fog, but on a little breeze rising we set sail: the fog, however, soon cleared off, the breeze died away, and we lay on a glassy sea under a blazing-hot sun in a perfect calm. We were obliged to take to the oars, which, being small and short, had but little effect on our heavy boat, and we were nearly all day getting across to the harbour of Red Island. This place was composed of red granite. We got comfortable quarters at a Mr. McCarthy's, and I slept with several of the male branches of the family in a long, low loft, extending the whole length of the house, with a range of narrow beds, or berths, along the wall on one side, and stores and provisions on the other. A little window at one end let in light, and a trapdoor or hatchway in the middle of the floor, opening into the kitchen below, let in air.

June 22nd.-Thick fog and quite calm till about nine, when a breeze from the south springing up, we set sail, and had a fine run past the Ram Islands into Long Harbour. There were four houses in the middle of this inlet, but all the men were absent fishing, except one old man. Getting a guide across to Trinity Bay was accordingly out of the question, as the old man had never been across: he said, however, that there was a kind of path all the way across to Norman's Cove, in Chapel Arm, and he could show us the commencement of it. After giving us a dinner of tea and fish, he accordingly accompanied us in the boat to the head of the inlet, where there was a winter-house, and went with me through the woods to the barrens, where he showed me a small deer-track, and, the fog clearing off a little, I got a view of the bearing of the country for a mile or two round. Returning to the winter-house, he went off with the boat and left us to make the best of it. Simon and Tom had made a fire, cut some boughs for beds, and I set them to get some "rinds" or bark and repair the roof, and it was fortunate that we did so, for during the night it rained very hard.

June 23rd.-The morning was dark, foggy, and unpromising. By six o'clock we had breakfasted and packed up our loads, and, as our provisions were not very plentiful, we determined to advance rather than stay where we were. Climbing up through the wood, we came across the little track and followed it steadily for four or five miles over rocky barrens and mossy marshes till we came to a pond. Beyond this, we had been told of two remarkable hillocks, between which we were to pass. The fog was now so thick that we could not see the hillocks, but I believe we passed between them, as we still had a little track with us, and followed it to a large marsh, when it diverged to the left, and from its bearing I was sure it was wrong. Returning, we found another little track in a better direction, which led us to a small ridge, where it became too faint to follow farther. By this time it was ten o'clock, and the rain was pouring down in torrents, the bushes and marshes as well as our clothes being soaked with wet. We became entangled among several ponds, one of which was of considerable size, in a flat valley; but, getting upon another ridge, we found a track which led us down to a valley full of woods, in which was a large brook flowing to the north. In this wood the path ended. Returning to the rising ground, the fog cleared off a little, and I got a sight of Spread Eagle Peak, and found the brook flowed down a well-marked valley straight to the north. This valley I knew must either lead out to Long Cove or Chapel Arm. If to the former, there must be a valley two or three miles farther on leading to Chapel Arm, where I knew that a considerable stream emptied itself. I determined, therefore, to cross the brook and ascend the next ridge to ascertain this point. While spreading about on the side of the valley in search of the clearest space, my men came on a buck, doe and fawn of the caribou, trotting gently along about a hundred yards from them. Unluckily I was on the other side of a small hill, and did not see them. I shot, however, a brace of ptarmigan for supper, lest we should be obliged to sleep in the woods.

On ascending the next ridge, we could only see through the mist a large pond with some islands in it, and the ground beyond seemed to rise rather than fall. As I knew, from the aspect of the coast, which I had visited the preceding summer, that any ridge between Long Cove and Chapel Arm must be narrow, I was now convinced that the valley we had passed was the right one to pursue. We accordingly returned, and kept along the flank of the valley, avoiding as much as we could the thick woods. At length, however, we were obliged to enter them, and slowly, and with great exertion, we forced our way down to the brook. Here we were delighted to find a few strips of long grass on the margin of the water, and kept wading across the brook to take advantage of them as they appeared on either of its sides. Presently, however, the brook made a sudden turn to the right, and descended through some brick-red slate-rocks by several falls into a narrow and precipitous ravine. We were then again driven to the thick woods, and the sight of a good birch tree in a small open space almost inclined me to think of stopping and trying to bivouac. Everything, however, was so wet that we almost despaired of being able to light a fire, so, taking a mouthful of whisky we had brought with us from Merasheen, and a mouthful of biscuit, we pushed on.

My knee was by no means well, and began now to get very weak, and the extreme toil of the woods is most disheartening under any circumstances. However, we came before long to a small lateral valley which led us down to the brook again; and its rocky bed, where the water was not too deep, enabled us to proceed more rapidly. It was from ten to twenty yards wide and about knee-deep, but in another mile we were again stopped by falls; a barrier ofthe bright red slate opposed its passage, through which it had worn its way in the most singular manner. In some places it was contracted into a deep foaming channel not above five feet wide, with a fall of some ten feet, and then a deep black pool seemed to give the waters rest for a new leap. The channel first made a sudden and rapid turn at right angles to its general course, the water leaping from ledge to ledge, and then in about twenty yards it made an equally abrupt turn back through walls of the clearest and brightest smooth red slate. The descent altogether was not great, nor was the body of water enough to produce a powerful effect, but the contrast of colours in the bright-red slate and the dark-green woods, the white and yellow lichens and mosses and the clean dark-brown water from the marshes, the roar of the waters contrasted with the intense silence of the woods, and the wildness of the little glen in which we stood, detained me some minutes in admiration, wet, tired, and hungry as we were, and uncertain where we should lay our heads that night. The woods below this place became thicker and thicker, until at last we came to a part where it was no longer possible to force our bodies between the small pole-like trunks of the trees. This is no exaggeration, but the simple fact; the trees would not admit us among them, and we were obliged to scramble down to the brook and wade in its waters. We were, however, glad to find it getting less rapid and wider, and shortly we came to a still, wide place, where, on tasting it, I found it brackish, and immediately after we came to a kind of salt-water pond into which the tide flowed, and going round it, we stood on the shore of the sea.

We were at the head of an inlet with rocky cliffs, but at first I could not tell, through the mist, whether it was Chapel Arm or not. This was important, as Chapel Arm was the only inhabited place for miles, and that only near its seaward entrance. Close examination, however, showed me a headland which I recognised, and we also caught sight of a skiff at anchor some distance off, just discernible through the mist, which occasionally cleared off a little. As it was now quite calm, we hailed stoutly and fired several shots, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing the skiff come towards us. It contained two boys belonging to Norman's Cove, who had been fishing, but were on the point of going home when they heard our hail, at which they were much surprised and at first rather alarmed. We had hardly got on board before a wind sprang up from the northeast which would have prevented them hearing our shot, and before we had rowed a hundred yards it increased to a breeze that made rowing useless, and we were obliged to hoist our little sails and beat down against it. The inlet is quite open to the northeast, and we had a jumping sea to contend with for two hours. When we got on board, though wet, we were warm with exertion, but sitting cramped up in the little boat, in a cold wind, with driving fog and rain, seemed to numb our very blood. The salt spray, however, beat over us, and perhaps prevented our catching cold. At length we moored the boat in a little rocky crevice behind a projecting crag, the only shelter she could have with this wind; and by the aid of some posts we climbed up the cliff, being as much as our numbed limbs would enable us to do. Shortly after we arrived at a house belonging to an Englishman named Temple, who received us most hospitably, and gave us hot coffee and dry clothes. It was just six when we arrived at his house, so that we had been travelling twelve hours without stopping. The distance from Long Harbour to Chapel Arm is not more than nine miles, but Temple said we must consider ourselves fortunate under the circumstances in getting out at all, and most fortunate in seeing his boat, as he would have defied us to have got from the head of the Arm to his house (only three miles) before nightfall. A man who had come across in fine weather last winter, when the country is much easier to traverse, slept at the head of the Arm all night, and, though he had the sea-cliff on one side and a steep hill on the other to prevent his straying out of the right direction, he did not get down to Temple's house till after dinner-time next day. Two gentlemen with whom I had some acquaintance had been lost for two days whilst attempting to cross the summer before, and had been obliged to return to Long Harbour. Temple told me he believed they paid the man who at last came to pilot them as much as £5, although any person who knew the way could go and return the same day.

June 24th.-A beautiful morning, and we went in Temple's boat to Dildo Harbour, where we found a very fair road down to New Harbour, at which place I put up at the house of Mr. N-, the gentleman I had seen last year. The country from Chapel Arm, all the way through Spread Eagle to New Harbour, is low and sheltered, and this extreme corner of Trinity Bay is more pleasant and fertile than the generality of Newfoundland. A gentlemen from Trinity came in, in his cutter, who said, if we could get horses to take us the first part of the way to Spaniard's Bay along the new road, he would go across with me and return to Trinity Bay by way of Carbonear and Heart's Content, to which latter place he sent for his cutter.

June 25th.-We were disappointed in the horses, the only two belonging to the place being out in the woods. However, at seven we set out, Mr. N. and another resident accompanying us the first five miles. A road twenty feet broad had been cut through the woods for this distance, leaving the stumps and the boulders among which a narrow foot-path winded. The brooks were bridged over, however, and it was delightful travelling when compared with the wild and untrodden woods and marshes. We then came upon three or four miles of barrens, across which the road was not made, a mere track being observable over their rough and uneven surface. Here I shot a brace of ptarmigan, which, by the way, are always called partridges in Newfoundland. We then came into the woods, and the road gradually improved as we approached Spaniard's Bay. Unfortunately we found that Mr. D-, of this place, was in St. John's, getting his summer supplies, but his housekeeper gave us some tea and ham, on which we lunched and set off again for Harbour Grace. Since I was last at Spaniard's Bay the new road had been completed, and we found an excellent road all the way, sufficiently good for a gig to traverse. At Harbour Grace we were once more in the region of inns and public accommodation, and the next day I crossed in the packet to Portugal Cove and returned to St. John's.

 

Page contributed by: Bill Crant, February 25th, 2000
Page revised: Sept 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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