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Sights For Sore Eyes - Connaigre Peninsula



The Communities around the Connaigre Peninsula are nestled amid some of Newfoundland's most beautiful scenery.



The Evening Telegram - IN FOCUS
by Jean Edwards Stacey, Sept 30, 2000

Our summer sojourn to Newfoundland's south coast began not far from Grand Falls-Windsor where we left the Trans-Canada Highway and turned onto Route 360, more commonly known as the Bay d'Espoir Highway. Get through the first, rather boring, 129 kilometres of road and you're in for a continuous visual treat.

First, turn off the main highway at the turnoff for route 361 and go as far as the community of St. Alban's.

Route 361, en route to St. Alban's, winds through the small, pretty communities of Head of Bay d'Espoir, St. Veronica's, St. Joseph's Cove and
Swanger's Cove, goes along by the waters of Bay d'Espoir, past rivers, up and down hills and through wooded, green valleys.

Arriving in St. Alban's, at the end of the road, you'll find yourself in a lovely community surrounded and protected by softly rolling hills.

St. Alban's was known as Ship Cove before 1916. Part of the growth of the community in the late 1800s was a result of people building schooners for trade and for the Labrador fishery.

From the 1890s, there were sawmills across the bay, at Milltown and Little River. By 1902, St. Alban's had a population of 200 and was the largest settlement in Bay d'Espoir. Today's population is more than 1,500.

Back on Route 360 and about three kilometres past Route 361, there's a turnoff to the Mi'kmaq community of Conne River, the only native reserve in

Conne River Reserve, located at the mouth of the Conne River on the south
shore of the arm of Bay d'Espoir, is a modern community with a population of
about 800. The Conne is an excellent river for salmon fishing.

Route 362, off Route 360, will take you to Pool's Cove. A lovely little community with fewer than 300 inhabitants, Pool's Cove is thought to be
named after a family of Pooles who lived there and then moved on. Pool's
Cove first appears in the census of 1869 with a population of 56.

In 1871, Pool's Cove was reported to have nine heads of households, two
named Bambury and six with the surname Williams, still the most common
family name there.

In Pool's Cove, you can, if you like, take a passenger ferry to Rencontre East, a Fortune Bay community of 300 which said no to resettlement. "Isolated and loving it," reads their welcoming sign.

A round-trip ticket to Rencontre East is $7, half-price for seniors and students. The boat trip on the Northern Seal is enjoyable, but it would make
good sense to have a roll-on ferry, for passengers and vehicles, which would
allow visitors to see the Connaigre Peninsula, then cross Fortune Bay for
further exploration of the Burin Peninsula.

From Pool's Cove, drive on to St. Jacques and Belleoram.

Tiny St. Jacques was a thriving community during the 1890s when two churches were built, a convent opened and the fishery was flourishing. Family names included Myles, Lawrence, Lovell, Petite, McEvoy, Burke, Evans, Fudge and Cluett.

The first family to settle in St. Jacques was named McCarthy, and later the Burkes, who established a well-known business that carried on for more than 100 years. The Marion, a seven-dory banking schooner, immortalized in a well-known Newfoundland song of the same name, was owned by the Burkes.

Today there are very few traces of the lobster factories, the boatbuilding, the sail lofts or the sawmill that once contributed to the prosperity of St. Jacques, the place that was the largest town on the south coast at the turn of the century.

Continuing on Route 362 to Belleoram, you will marvel at the spectacular sight of steep cliffs which fall away to reveal the waters of Fortune Bay surrounded by huge, rolling hills.

Pause at the graveyard by the sign which welcomes you to Belleoram (population 650) and look across at Iron Skull Mountain, after which a yearly festival is named. The road dips down then to the community, where places to visit include the John Cluett Heritage House on School Yard Lane and St. Lawrence Anglican Church.

The church can be reached by way of steps going up from the main road which runs along by the harbour. In summer, the wild roses which grow in rich profusion on either side of the steps fill the air with their sweet scent.

Belleoram is said to be named after a French adventurer named Belorme, who brought settlers to Newfoundland in the late 1600s.

Further along Route 362, another turnoff, Route 363, will take you to the interrelated Fortune Bay communities of English Harbour West, Mose Ambrose, Boxey, Wreck Cove and Coomb's Cove.

The first settlers in English Harbour West came mainly during the late 1700s from west country England and from the Jersey Islands between England and France. The community - with a welcoming sign that refers to it as the "pride of the coast" - is among one of the oldest which was involved in the banking schooner fishery. The still existing firm of Jerry Petite and Sons operated one of the largest and most successful banking operations on the south coast. Charming and well kept, English Harbour West has a population of about 200.

Mose Ambrose, first called Mon Jambe and later spelled Mozambrose, had its first settlers in the early 1800s. They came mainly from west country England and the Channel Islands. Mose Ambrose was first established as the site of fishing rooms by English venturers. Never large, the population was 73 in 1857. Today there are 69 residents. Two old family names still left in the community are Yarn and Bungay

Boxey - thought to have gotten its name because it was cleared of box-like wood trees - was settled by the Blagdon brother from Bay L'Argent in the early 1830s. They had originally come to Newfoundland from Dover, England. Tiny Boxey was once a very busy place with a lobster factory owned by the Footes of Grand Bank.

Wreck Cove is on the south side of Bay d'Eau in Fortune Bay. The community was known for a time as Tibbo's Hill because when residents wanted a post office, Ottawa requested a name change as there was already a Wreck Cove in Nova Scotia. Wreck Cove went back to its original name when it lost its post office.

The exact date when Coomb's Cove was first settled is not certain. It has been said that a man by the name of Coombs lived there in a shack by himself for about a year in the late 1700s. In 1836, the community had 54 inhabitants. In 1905 there were 171 people and today there are fewer than 100. Older family names were Vallis, Fiander, Bungay, Bartlett, Yarn, Blagdon and Drakes.

Going back now to Route 360, you take the turnoff onto Route 364 and visit Hermitage in Hermitage Bay. The road to Hermitage is winding and hilly, with glimpses now and then of Hermitage Bay. Along the way you can detour into Furby's Cove. Once a small fishing settlement, it's dotted now with summer cabins.

In the 1700s, Hermitage was a French fishing station. In 1713, when the Treaty of Utrecht compelled the French to abandon their fishing stations on the south coast, the English mercantile firm of Newman and Company established a fishing station in Hermitage. By 1836, Hermitage had a population of 66, mostly people from Dorset, Devon and the Channel Islands.

Explore Hermitage and nearby Sandyville and continue on to the modern community of Seal Cove where logging is the main source of employment.

Past Seal Cove, there's a gravel road to the resettled communities of Pass Island and Grole.

In Hermitage, if at all possible, you should take the passenger ferry to Gaultois and McCallum, two communities not accessible by road, where people decided to stay put rather than resettle. From Hermitage, the boat trip to Gaultois takes no more than half an hour, McCallum is a further 1-1/2 hours. Cost is minimal, $7 for the round trip to McCallum, half-price for seniors and students.

Harbour Breton is at the very end of Route 360. A thriving, modern community with approximately 2,300 residents, it is one of the oldest and largest fishing centres on the south coast of Newfoundland. "Tradition by the Sea," reads the welcome sign.

The French were the first to base their Fortune Bay fishery in Harbour Breton. In 1819, more than 100 years after the Treaty of Utrecht, the English firm of Newman and Company made Harbour Breton its Newfoundland headquarters.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Harbour Breton became a major resettlement growth area as people relocated there from such communities as Jersey Harbour, Red Cove, Muddy Hole, Grole, Sagona, Miller's Passage and Pass Island. Sunny Cottage, a 1907 Queen Anne-style house that serves as a heritage centre, is a must see in Harbour Breton.

The portion of the south coast that we managed to see was beautiful, historically fascinating and very memorable. It's a part of the island of Newfoundland that should be a viewing must for everyone.



This page transcribed by Barbara McGrath (October 2000)
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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