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A Personal History of Topsail
by Matilda Miller Somerton


This is a story written by myself at the age of eighty-six years (1960)

I was born in a little village called Topsail June 17, 1874.  My parents were James and Mary Miller (better known as Uncle Jimmie and Aunt Mary).  We were a family of seven daughters and three sons, all passed away with the exception of myself.

My Great Uncle Mr. Phillip Churchill was the first man to come and make his home here.  He was my Grandmother's brother, she being Elizabeth Churchill.  Mr Grandfather, Joseph Miller was the next to come and settle here.  These men came from Portugal Cove, Conception Bay.  They lived by the sea shore as their only way of travelling was by boat.  There were no roads, it being a forest of large timber when first they came.  I remember my Great Uncle very well; he visited our home every day the weather permitted.  His home was situated near Topsail Hill.

My Grandfather lived a short distance further west.

My father was born here Feb. 14th, 1822 and when in his teens was apprenticed cooper to Mr. William Foot in St. John's-family's for five years from 1838-1843.  The pay he received was five pounds for the first year, five pounds for the second year, six pounds for the third year, eight pounds for the fourth year and ten pounds for the fifth year.  He had to find himself in clothes washing and Doctor, Dr. Carson being his Dr. at that time.  I have his Indentures now.  He attended the first Methodist Gower Street Church.  I have one of his prizes given him from the Sunday School in 1840.

The road was being built from St. John's to Topsail during these five years.

The early days in Topsail had no stationed minister.  Ministers when passing through would conduct service at one of the houses and christen a new baby.  I have been told that the first cemetery was the Methodist now United.  My Grandmother Hiller is resting there since 1848.

The first school I attended was situated back of the United Church.  We had to pass through the Church to the class room.  My first teacher was Miss Hill, my next teacher was Mr. Thomas Darby, later Rev. Dr. Darby, United Church minister.  During his stay here a new school was built on the same grounds the present United School stands today.  The first Methodist minister to station here was Rev. Thomas Fox.  He is resting in the United cemetery here.

Topsail was a favourite summer resort.  Many families moved from the city and rented rooms for the summer season.  They came early and their children attended the school here, until they closed for the summer holidays.  A few of those that attended school here still remain.

Topsail from a small beginning has grown to a large place.  A number of people have moved in and built their homes here.  The old people were a very fine kind neighbourly people made up of English, Irish, Scotch and Newfoundlanders.  My mother's father came from England, Grandpa Chaytor.

I hope this bit of past history will interest someone.  If it does I shall be glad I was privileged to write it.

Matilda Miller Somerton 1960

A handwritten note on the bottom of the page states: recopied by her for Mrs. M. E. Nurse July 13, 1964

Contributed by: Barbara McGrath
Transcribed by: Ivy F. Benoit (January 2001)
REVISED BY: Ivy F. Benoit July 21, 2001

Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)

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