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Saved From Resettlement - GAULTOIS

The picturesque town of GAULTOIS is the only inhabited community that remains onLong Island in Hermitage Bay


The Evening Telegram - IN FOCUS

Located on the western shore of Hermitage Bay, Long Island is approximately 21 miles around and 16 miles long. Not accessible by road, it's a short boat ride away from the community of Hermitage.

Our destination on Long Island is Gaultois, a fishing and fish-processing community on the southern tip of the island.

Breakheart, Piccarie, Round Harbour, Stone Valley, Raymond's Point, Patrick's Harbour, Harbour Galley and Gaultois are the eight communities that were once located on the island. The communities were home to hundreds of people. Today, Gaultois is the only inhabited community.

Thirty to 40 years ago, the Newfoundland government was pursuing a highly controversial policy of resettlement. Rightly or wrongly, the government attempted to move people from places where they'd lived for hundreds of years to larger, more central locations.

People from communities on Long Island were resettled in Marystown, Fortune, Hermitage, and Bay d'Espoir. Some went to Nova Scotia, and some went even further afield to Ontario and Alberta. Those in Gaultois were the only ones who said no to resettlement.

Our trip to Gaultois is on the passenger boat Terra Nova, via Hermitage, a trip which takes less than 30 minutes and costs $2 one way, half price for seniors and children.

The harbour in Gaultois is surrounded by high cliffs. The name itself is said to come from an old Norman word "Gaultas," which means "like a pinnacle." The town is home to about 300 people, down from almost 600 in 1987.

Stepping off the coastal boat, we see Thomas Garland's shop located near the fish plant, which is the main employer in Gaultois.

The Garland premises date from the 1800s, when they were first established by the English mercantile firm of Newman and Co. Thomas Garland purchased the premises in 1906 when he arrived in Gaultois from Pushthrough.

Now resettled, Pushthrough - about 20 kilometres northwest of Hermitage - is thought to be one of the earliest settled sites in Hermitage Bay. Pushthrough had permanent settlers in 1814. However, as early as 1672, Newman and Co. had established a fishing station there. The Garland family set up a merchant business in Pushthrough in 1835. In 1906,Thomas Garland transferred headquarters to Gaultois while maintaining a branch at Pushthrough.

The section of Gaultois which contains the fish plant and Garland's shop is known as the Rooms. From the Rooms, coastal boat passengers walk up to the community proper by way of a wooden boardwalk. The boardwalk ends on a gravel roadway in what's called the Point.

From the Point we walk uphill to a small Catholic chapel called Our Lady Queen of Peace. There is no need of a large Catholic church in Gaultois. Most of the 300 residents are Anglicans; there are no more than 20 Catholics.

The Catholic church is situated next door to a brand new school, Victoria Academy. Behind the church there's a small graveyard with headstones that include the names Crant, Peters, Thompson and Wilcott.

Beyond the church and the school, the gravel road dips down over Breakheart Hill. The area at the bottom of the hill has houses and two ponds, Breakheart Pond and Bottom Pond. This part of Gaultois is known as Down the Bottom.

We retrace our steps now, from the small Catholic church and back to the Point, where St. Luke's Anglican Church is located.

The church sits beside a babbling brook which runs down from Cluett's Pond. The church is large, with three stained glass windows over the altar and windows along each side.

Past St. Luke's, we come to what's called the Valley, and cross Frenchman's Bridge. According to local tradition, the French once used Gaultois as a fishing station and the bridge is named because three dead Frenchmen were buried underneath it some time in the 1700s.

Community librarian Phyllis (Hunt) Harris, whose people settled in Gaultois in the 1840s, admits that as a child, the tale of bodies under the bridge was so fearsome that she and her friends were afraid to cross it in the dark of night.

Harris says, too, that up until the 1950s Gaultois had a well tended graveyard known as the French cemetery. The graveyard, full of headstones with French names, is now overgrown and one would need a local like Harris to point it out.

The Anglican graveyard is beyond the Valley, along the road to the deserted community of Piccaire. Names in the Anglican graveyard include Langdon, Skinner, Rose, Abbott, Garland, Hunt, Legge, Rendell, Cocharell, Day, Andrews, Engram, MacDonald, Green, Pack, Strickland and Lilly.

Walking is the most common mode of transportation in Gaultois. Aside from six trucks - including a fire truck, a truck used to haul garbage and one owned by Gaultois Inn proprietor, Calvin Hunt - the only other vehicles in the community are ATVs and Skidoos.

Long Island is a place which has much of interest.

Harris says that on back of Long Island, in North Bay and Bay East, the scenery is spectacular, with fjords to rival those seen anywhere in the world. The area is easily accessible by boat.

Long Island is also an archeological site.

At L'Anse a Flamme - a wide cove immediately northeast of Gaultois and bordering Little Passage, which narrowly divides Long Island from the mainland - artifacts recovered indicate the area was occupied by Maritime Archaic Indians, Paleo-Eskimos and Beothuks, according to the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gaultois was periodically visited by Mi'kmaq Indians in the 19th century, presumably in the course of their yearly trek from White Bear Bay to Bay D' Espoir.

By 1836, Newman and Sons had established a whaling station at Gaultois. The whaling station, which operated until the late 1840s, along with Newman's later cod fishery operation, brought settlers to Gaultois.

The census of 1836 reported Gaultois with a population of 136, 67 of whom were classified as fishing servants, including two who were heads of households.

By 1845, Gaultois had a Roman Catholic school with 32 pupils.

In 1884, the population was 291.

In 1877, a school, used also for church services, was erected by the growing Church of England congregation.

Newman's whaling operation in Gaultois was sporadic, and the cod fishery eventually became the mainstay of the community.

According to Harris, Newman's whaling factory was located on Whale Island in Gaultois harbour. In a boat, you can get there in about five minutes.

What's particularly intriguing about the whaling station is the so-called whalers' house, which is located on Thornhill's Head, between Gaultois and Piccaire.

The whalers' house is actually a cave formed out of solid rock in the cliffs between Gaultois and Piccaire. The cave is said to be where whalers stayed when they were working. From the cave, they could look out to the whaling station and see the flag which signalled a whale sighting.

In 1976, in one of his Offbeat History columns for the Evening Telegram, the late Michael Harrington wrote about the whalers' house at Gaultois. Based on information from A. R. Crewe of Piccaire, who was there in 1947, Harrington said that the whalers' house was 40 feet by 30 feet and contained about 20 rooms with passageways leading from one room to another.

That information is somewhat exaggerated, according to Louis Harris.

A Gaultois native whose people resettled from Great Harbour near Harbour Breton in the early 1950s, Louis, like most other residents of Gaultois, is well acquainted with the whalers' house.

Following a recent visit, he says the whalers' house consists of three large rooms, each about 10 feet by 12 feet, with ceilings close to six feet high. The rooms are accessible to each other and in one there's what looks like a couch made of rocks.

Thornhill's Head, where the whalers' house is located, is where residents of Gaultois go to cut their winter firewood. They use the whalers' house as a shelter for boilups.

The whalers' house is accessible by foot or boat. Librarian Phyllis Harris would like to see it designated as a tourist attraction.

As you leave Gaultois on a sunny summer Sunday, the bells atop St. Luke's Anglican Church begin to chime. The sound of the bells fill the air, sounding out what seems an appropriate farewell to a community located all by itself on one end of an island in Hermitage Bay.



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

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