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History of King's Cove





Nestling cosily between Flagstaff Hill and Sarah Brien's Hill on the one side and a long range of granitic rock on the other, lies the sheltered village of King's Cove.

The origin of the name of King's Cove is uncertain. The cove is marked on the old maps as "Portus Regis"; but this is evidently a Latinisation of the present name. It must have been named King's Cove before these maps were made. The most credible theory concerning the origin of the name is that the first settlers name was Canning. He held the waterside now occupied by the Handcocks to whom he sold it and went to live at Englee on the "French Shore". Some of Canning's descendants are now living at Englee. The cove was consequently called Canning's Cove. Through the natural process of rapid vocalbation so apparent with other Newfoundland names Canning's Cove became King's Cove. and the transition to King's Cove was for Englishmen a very easy one. This theory is strengthened by the fact that there is a road leading up from the Handcock property in to the "Parson's Farm" called Canning's Scrape No one in King's Cove to-day can tell why it is called Canning's Scrape. But why the name Canning should have changed in reference to the cove and unchanged concerning the road is a matter awaiting explanation. It is probable that the geographers who drew the first map of the place mis-understood Canning for King and made their map accordingly. Once the place was mapped as King's Cove, it would retain this name.

Keels and Bonavista were settled before King's Cove. This is evident from the names Southern Head and Western Point. Southern Head lies to the north of King's Cove and could not have been named "Southern Head" by the King's Cove settlers. "Western Point" is the eastern extremity of the harbor and must have been named by the Bonavista people. The first settlers in King's Cove came from Keels and Bonavista-the Aylwards from Keels and the Cannings and Handcocks from Bonavista.

A very early settler in King's Cove was James Aylward. He was the grandfather of William Aylward who lived near the Pond This man Aylward and his brothers lived in Keels. One fall they carried their fish and oil to St John's. One Fall their boat loaded with fish went ashore in a storm at Keels and was a complete loss.

After this event the brothers dissolved partnership. This Aylward who settled in Kings Cove set out to look for a better harbor than Keels. He traveled down around Southern Head keeping along by the seashore till he reached Broad Cove. He saw that Broad Cove was no better than Keels, so he struck out around Broad Cove Head and into King's Cove. At that time it took two days to cover that distance, though in a direct line Keels is only five miles from King's Cove. King's Cove was the spot he was looking for. The following Spring he erected a temporary stage there. At that time the Brook ran out of the Pond at the north end of the Beach Some time after Alyward's settlement at the south end, a heavy sea stopped up the original passage from the Pond and the Pond water made a passage for itself at the south end where Aylward had his stage. This is the location of the Brook now.

The next settler was Handcock. He is buried in the Church of England cemetery. His tombstone has lain on the ground for years and the inscription on it is indecipherable; but standing beside this stone is another stating that Mary Handcock died in the year 1784. This Mary Handcock was probably his wife. If we assume Handcock to have been thirty years in King's Cove before he died, his settlement there must have dated from about 1754. As Aylward's settlement was earlier, the first settlement of King's Cove may be put around 1750.

Handcock was followed by James Sullivan. Handcock had taken in the waterside at the north end of the Beach. James Sullivan occupied all that strip now in possession of the Brown's and Murphy's and Sullivan's descendants. Two of Jim Sullivan's sons settled on the waterside east of their father. Later, an Irishman-Thomas Walsh-married Jim Sullivan's daughter, Kitty, and settled below Jim's sons. His waterside went as far as Beachy Cove. The next settler-James Flynn went below Beachy Cove He was followed by Maurice Devine-P. K. Devine's grandfather -who built a stage at Long Point Tickle. There was a small space between Thomas Walsh and James Flynn formed by Beachy Cove and the mouth of a brook: this was occupied by Richard Holland. Monks settled at the southern part of the Beach not far from Aylward and built flakes out over the Pond. Weeks went into partnership with him. Tom Ryan married James Aylward's daughter and built a stage to the eastward of his father-in-law. Mike Costello settled below him; and Ned Barron built further east, in Otter Gulch Later, Joe Lane built a small room below Barron. There was a space between Tom Ryan and Mike Costello of steep shelving rock that had been passed over as unsuitable for a stage this was occupied by Thomas Long. This settlement was taking place from about 1800 to 1830.

Thomas Walsh had two daughters,-Betsy and Kitty. The former married Richard Carroll and the latter Thomas McGrath So Walsh's Room fell to them and their descendants James Flynn sold out and went to St. John's to live The Martin's bought his place Billy Barrett and James Hogan who were step-brothers, were relatives of Kitty Walsh They were each given a waterside on the western end of Thomas Walsh's.

James McBraire bought the western end of James Sullivan's waterside

The Handcocks, Saunders, Cannings and Aylward were in King's Cove before the end of the eighteenth century. They were followed by Sullivan, Browne, Green, Dicks, Ray, Walsh. Ryan.

In 1804 Governor Gower sent out officials to make a list of holders of land on the foreshore of all the harbors all over the country by order of the British Government. The King's Cove List contained fishing "rooms" numbered from 32 to 41 beginning at Ling Point on the north side of the harbor and going round by the "Beach" to the south side, to the land on which Munn and Carroll in the sixties had their premises and later occupied by James Ryan & Company. In 1802 this land was occupied by Green; but it had been previously in possession of an Irishman named Yeo. This settler did a small trade in fishery supplies and was known locally as "Daddy Yeo." He got his supplies from a dealer at Bonavista named Street. Yeo probably sold out to Green.

No. 32 Room at the extreme end of the good foreshore on the north side of the harbor was held by James Ray, an Irishman. Following is a list of the others:

      No. 33-Thomas Walsh.
      No. 34-James Sullivan.
      No. 35-William Dicks.
      No. 36-Brown & Hiscock
      No. 37-Richard Handcock.
      No. 38-Edward Green (Flake and Beach)
      No. 39-James Aylward.
      No. 40-Patrick Ryan-
      No. 41-Edward Green (Stage, Store and Shop)

In later years James Ray sold out to William Casey. Green and Dicks had already sold out and gone to Barrow Harbor and Greenspond on the north side of Bonavista Bay. Saunders and Sampson who also had fishing berths, moved away. Sampson went to Flat Island where his descendants are living to-day. They were a clever and intelligent family and some of its members rose to good position. One was Secretary of Education and another is an official in the Custom House St. John's.

The Ryan pioneers came from Trinity as did also the Sullivans. The latter established a fishing "Room" on their arrival from Ireland at Ryder's Harbor at the back of Trinity. It was a good place for fish; but was a poor harbor. In their fur-hunting trips across the Neck to Bonavista Bay in winter by a narrow trail to Blackhead Bay (5 miles from King's Cove) they acquired a good knowledge of King's Cove as a deep-watered sheltered port with excellent anchorage. They decided to come to Kings Cove about 1780. They acquired a fishing room site at the south end of "The Beach."

The most of the settlers in the upper part of the harbor came from Bonavista. They were English immigrants from Devon, Dorset and the west Country towns. The English settlers were Brown, Curtis, Monks, Sampson, Handcock, Dicks, Green and 1;aunders: The population increased in the first quarter of the l9th century. The Irish settlers began to arrive. They formed the majority of the settlers at this time. Following are the names of the Irish settlers: Ned Barron, Thomas Long, Michael Costello, Thomas Lawton, Thomas Brien, Philip Kerrivan, Paddy Pendergast, Jimmy Carroll, Pat Dwyer, Matthew Freany, Jim Kane, Michael Murphy, Geo. Connolly, Michael C. Walsh, Maurice Devine, Dan Whalen, John Carroll, Paddy Troy, (P. K. Devine's Great-grandfather), Wm. McGrath, Thomas Walsh, Richard Carroll, Mick Callahan. Martin, Barrett, Connors, Hogan, Hollohand, Holloway, Flynn, Hartery, Doyle, Candow, Weeks. Coffins came later.

Besides these Irish Settlers in King's Cove, there were over forty Irishmen settled in the neighbouring settlements of Broad Cove and Keels. They all came to Newfoundland in the years between 1800 and 1830. They may be said to have "fled" from Ireland, for during the twenty-five years that followed the disastrous rebellion of 1798, Ireland had sunk to the lowest depths of poverty. In 1824 the English Government appointed a Commission to inquire into the condition of Ireland. Its chairman was the Earl of Devon. This sentence appears in his published Report

"There are no words in the English language to adequately describe the misery of the people"

It is no wonder that the shores of Newfoundland witnessed the greatest rush of Irish immigrants.

It must not be supposed that all these early settlers from England and Ireland were fishermen. The majority of them had never caught a fish. They practised in their own county trades far removed from fishing. Amongst them were masons, tailors, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, riggers, boat builders, and even one a glassblower. But they quickly adapted themselves to their environment, and when there was no demand for their own trades they became good seamen and skippers and it was from many of them that McBraire and William Brown recruited their coaster, ice-hunter, and foreign going captains.

King's Cove was fortunate at this early period in have a number of tradesmen. Connors and Lawton were coopers, Tom Brien was a blacksmith, Martin Berrigan was a carpenter as well as cooper, and Davey Kielly built the chimneys.


Page transcribed by: Bill Crant May, 2000
Page revised: Sept 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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