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Conception Bay, NF.
Contributed by Frank Clarke
Much is known about the early history of life in Victoria but little information has been compiled or documented for researchers to examine. What is available, results from dogged research, interviews and through the study of public records. Sometimes only oral history is available to guide those who wish to discover where we came from and how we got to this place.
Any commentary on the history of Victoria must also include Carbonear, particularly Crocker's Cove. For the most part, since the late 1600s and the early 1700s, most of the ancestors of Victoria's settlers settled around Carbonear. A great deal of information from this period has been preserved in Public Records, Church related documents and the Newfoundland Archives. As well information is available from Colonial Office Records. For example reports from John Berry (1675), Captain Russell (1676) and W. Poole (1677) are available at the Newfoundland Archives. Information contained in the Plantation Book (1805) provides incite into the early history of Carbonear and surrounding area. This book identified fishermen who lived in Newfoundland with his family and information about the size of his claim and the names of his servants and the number of livestock he owned.
Formal churches were established in Newfoundland in the early 1700s. Before that few records of births, marriages and deaths were recorded. If they were, they are found only in old family papers, ships' logs or court records. During this period baptizing whole families was common for a circuit clergyman, or for remote areas, entire communities.
Of great interest to any researcher are Church records. In this area, those that contain valuable information can be found at the following places:
St. Paul's Anglican Church, Hr. Grace
- Births - 1775 - Present
Carbonear Methodist Church
- Births - 1793 - Present
Carbonear Anglican Church
- Births - 1800 - Present
Victoria United Church
Victoria Pentecostal Church
- Births - 1924 - Present
Many of these records also supply additional information such as place of birth, names of clergy and names of witnesses. In Victoria, the evolution of its name from Heart's Content Road to Victoria Village to Victoria can be documented. A great deal of information is also found in various census.
An interview with Roland Clarke, an 84-year-old former resident of Victoria living in Florida, revealed an interesting fact. He said that his Grandfather John Clarke, who was born in Crocker's Cove and married Sarah Vatcher (related to my grandmother Sophia Clarke) moved to Victoria in the mid 1800s. When asked by his father William (1843) why he was leaving, he replied, " I am going in there for water and wood, my son." He also said that for many years people from Crocker's Cove had gone into the valley to clear land and grow crops. This leads to the conclusion that a great deal was known about the resources found in the valley that was to become Victoria.
The community of Victoria is located in a river valley on the Avalon Peninsula near Carbonear, Conception Bay at Longitude 47' 45"N, Latitude 53' 15" W. For ages this valley was covered with great mixed forests including pine, a much needed commodity used to make ship's spars, flakes, build houses and other sundry uses. It has pristine ponds and an extensive river system. The community probably began as a "winterhouse" for people from Freshwater (1614), Crocker's Cove (1675) and Carbonear (1614). It has been noted that wood on the sea coast of the Avalon Peninsula had been harvested or destroyed by fire since early settlement began in the 1600s. It was still desperately needed by the fishers to build boats, erect stages and flakes, to use to build their houses and to provide firewood, flakes, gaffs and killicks.
If one examines topographical maps, the area that was eventually named Victoria must have been frequented at this time. Wood was available in large quantities in Carbonear Valley and what was to become Victoria Valley. Nowhere around the coast from Spout Cove to Carbonear was there a supply of wood large enough to satisfy the needs of the coastal communities. The forests near these communities had long since been denudated and ravished by fire.
We do not know for sure when Crocker's Cove was first settled but it is known that the Clark(e)'s who came from Dorset, Devon or Poole lived there as early as 1675. There is some speculation that they may have come by way of Trinity though this has not been confirmed. The community stood near Carbonear but was identified as a separate village for more than three hundred years. Crocker's Cove, believed to have been named for its first settler, a man named Crocker who came from Devon, is quite old and is shown on maps of Newfoundland as early as 1675. The Plantation Book reveals that by 1775 there were about 60 houses there. More than likely it was about this time that some settlers looked to the valley north of them. This large valley was approximately five miles long and about two miles wide with a large river system. As well there was an abundance of wood used as fuel, building material and for use in the fishing trade. There was so much overcrowding due to subdivision of family property at Crocker's Cove that there was little land available for cultivation. This may have led to some of them clearing land in the Victoria valley to set crops in during the summer. Since it was only about a mile from Crocker's Cove they could easily walk into the valley in the morning and return at the end of the day. More than likely they used the trail between Carbonear and Heart's Content that had been used for centuries.
Though Victoria lies inland, it is within walking distance of Carbonear first mentioned in connection with raids by pirates in 1614. It is also near Freshwater, first recorded in a journal kept by Abbe Jean Baudouin who accompanied Le Moyne d'Iberville on his expedition to Newfoundland in 1696 and was called "Fraishe ouatre." Salmon Cove that is east of the community was settled as early as 1680, and appeared on French and English maps as "crique de saumon" or the French translation of Salmon Cove. These communities depended on the fishery and had very little wood. Since the residents of Salmon Cove, Freshwater and Carbonear needed wood for homes, boats and flakes they went up the Big Brook that runs through Victoria, on some maps called Salmon Cove River, to gather wood that was very plentiful in the valley. Constant use over the years led to what was to become the Salmon Cove Road, the Carbonear Road, the Fisherman's Road and the Heart's Content Road. This fact has led many to infer that Victoria is much older than was earlier believed.
If one examines the early road system on the Avalon Peninsula, a path clearly existed between Heart's Content and Carbonear as early as the late 1600s. It is known that the French, particularly d'Iberville, crossed from Trinity Bay to raid the Conception Bay villages by way of the Heart's Content path to Carbonear. We know for certain that Carbonear was attacked more than once by the French in the late 1600s. It is easy to speculate that these paths were first established by Newfoundland's native people. (See Ingeborg Marshall, A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk, 1996)
The best evidence that there was a path through Victoria to Heart's Content comes from the journals of Abbe Beaudoin who was chaplain to d'Iberville. Writing in his journal of February 9, 1697 he writes. "We went to New Perlican... Next day we departed for Carbonniere through the woods. It was a bad trail, always water leg high, it not being very cold at this time." This entry indicates that there was a trail but it was very primitive. On February 28, the chaplain wrote. " We departed for Heart's Content with the English prisoners, after having burnt almost all Carbonniere. On March 1, d'Iberville left orders to take all prisoners,...to Bay Booulle Havre... and to leave M. Boisbrant at Harve Content with a detachment, who were to keep watch on what went on near Carbonniere." This leads to further proof that a path to Carbonear was well established.
The Abbe's journal further states: "April 13, Boisbrant, who left in the fort at Heart's Content with 20 men, going constantly to Carbonear, left that fort and fired it." The dairy concluded by saying: "April 18, an Irishman escaped on the ice from Carbonniere Island and came through the woods to Heart's Content" Thus we can establish that there was frequent travel through Victoria Valley to Trinity Bay since 1697.
Other evidence is available about early travel and settlement. Marriage records from the Methodist Church at the Newfoundland Archives show that many people who were married in the Methodist Church at Carbonear stated that they lived on the Heart's Content Road. In fact the first reference to Victoria's original name was Heart's Content Road. Parish records also show that people lived on Swansea Road, Beaver Pond, and Job's Pond as early as 1858.
Because of its ideal location the Victoria valley may have been attractive to the Beothuk Indians, though there is no direct evidence that they came here. The extensive river system stretching many miles up river from Salmon Cove was teaming with salmon and fur bearing animals and provided ideal living conditions. It was near the sea and was covered with trees.
Ingeborg Marshall in her book A History and Biography of the Beothuk presents information that allows one to speculate that the Beothuk Indians must have, at some time, either lived or passed through the valley.
Much of the early evidence comes from John Guy. Since John Guy thought trade in beaver and other furs might be a likely source of additional income, he dispatched exploring parties overland to Trinity Bay, from Cupids to contact Indians who were said to live there; fourteen of their homes had been seen thirteen kilometers across from Heart's Content, the exact distance from Heart's Content to Victoria. Neither of the two parties that made the attempt reached the intended destination. After this Guy decided that the only way to reach the Beothuk was by sea.
Further evidence of Beothuk in the area is provided by Crout. In a letter written after the expedition of 1612, he mentioned that John Guy had intended to "retorne this spring into trynity againe [to investigate} every crooke, [and to some] parle agayne with the sollvagges." As a first measure Guy sent ten men provided with food for fifteen to twenty days in January or February 1613 " to find out the salvages in solvage [Trinity] bay." He hoped not only to establish contact with the Beothuk but also to learn about their way of life in winter, their methods of procuring food, and their way of avoiding scurvy. The overland expedition did not meet with success. After two days of tramping through snows the men became discouraged and returned to Cupids. Could they have made it as far as the Victoria Valley?
There is also evidence that the Beothuk was around
this area. Shortly after the Newfoundland Company had initiated settlement
on the island the Bristol Society of Merchant Ventures acquired land
grants and founded the fishing community of Bristol's Hope in Conception
Bay. One of their intended purposes was to initiate trade with the
The primary interest that the Europeans had in the Beothuks was the fur trade. Beothuk only occassionally exchanged furs for European goods. This was usually by the "dumb (or silent) barter method in which articles were laid out in the absence of the trading partner. They were known to have done this with the Dutch in St. Mary's Bay in 1606 and with John Guy and Henry Crout in Trinity Bay in 1612. In the late 1800s, residents of Harbour Grace claimed in conversation with J. P. Howley that "in the early days of settlement" (presumably in the 1600s), Beothuk had camped on the beach at Carbonear in Conception Bay and exchanged furs for iron tools. If this is true, then more than likely they crossed through Victoria Valley from the Heart's Content/Dildo area.
Further interesting developments are reported by Marshall. It was believed that the Beothuk sometimes captured white women. Two versions of this are presented. These were recorded by J.P. Howley and the historiographer H.F. Short. Howley was told that in the early days of settlement, men from Carbonear pursued a Beothuk canoe in Trinity Bay; all occupants escaped but for the chief's daughter, who was sick. Around the same time the Beothuk captured three white women who were returned safely in the spring. It may be speculated here that the area between Carbonear and Heart's Content was well known to the Beothuk.
Some work is now being done on prehistoric remains in Newfoundland, however as yet, no major discovery has been made in Conception Bay. One can nevertheless speculate that the Beothuk was familiar with the resources in the bay and may have exploited them since prehistoric times. For example, the English Pilot recorded in 1689 that Indians came to Ochre Pit Cove in Conception Bay to obtain ochre (probably an iron oxide since there is no ocher deposit there).
Perhaps the most significant Beothuk tradition was the annual ochring ceremony, which appears to have been unique among the Indians, at least during the late period. According to information Santu, the daughter of a Beothuk/Mickac couple, all members of the tribe received a new application or red ochre on the face and body once a year. This coating was a mark of tribal identity. The event was held every spring and was accompanied by dancing, feasting, and games. Pulling also noted this ceremony in 1792. He wrote, "they rub [Oaker] over everything they make use of as well as over themselves at least evry thing that I saw which had belong'd to them had [Oaker] on it." Given the scarcity of genuine ochre, the Beothuk in this area had to use what was available such as soil with a rich iron content which is found along the North Shore of Conception Bay. Therefore it may be concluded that the Beothuk in this area traveled across the barrens every spring to Ochre Pit Cove to carry out this important ceremony.
Also, according to nineteenth-century lore, "in the early days" Indians, presumably Beothuk had camped on the beach at present day Carbonear and had traded furs with the English in exchange for iron goods. Where did they come from? No doubt from Heart's Content by way of the Victoria Valley. However, by the 1700s the Beothuk seem to have grown reluctant to enter the bay as much of the coast was fished by transient crews taken up by permanent settlements.
The evidence available leaves no doubt that Beothuk and their prehistoric forebears, the Little Passage Indians, had at one time or another exploited resources in every major bay of the island and had hunted inland from these bays. Victoria Valley was an ideal location for them to live having major river systems and wild life.
While none of the above evidence is conclusive, it is exciting to speculate that we now tread and live where the Beothuk did.
Methodism in Victoria
One of the better ways to measure a communities evolution is to examine the history of its religious practices. Since Methodism was one of the first religions to take hold in the Conception Bay area, it might be worthwhile to briefly examine its beginnings.
According to Semple (1996) the first Methodist mission began in the fishing outports of Newfoundland with the arrival of Lawrence Coughlin at Conception Bay in 1766. His influence on the religious, social and cultural life of the area cannot be underestimated. Coughlin was an Irish convert from Roman Catholicism who served as a Wesleyan traveling lay preacher in England and Ireland from 1755 to 1764. No doubt the conditions he found in Conception Bay were similar to those that existed in England and Ireland at the time.
He became disillusioned with Wesleyanism when Wesley refused to accept his ordination at the hands of Bishop Erasmus, but he retained his commitment to what he believed was Wesleyan evangelicalism. He was later ordained by the bishops of Lincoln and Chester through the permission of the bishop of London in early 1766 and left immediately to serve the settlers at Conception Bay, Newfoundland. By the end of the year, he was again in England, where he received 50 pounds and the sanction of the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to continue his work in Newfoundland. Much has been written about him and his work around this time which is available at the Center for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University.
For the most part, he was met by a populace resolutely uninterested in religion, "while oppression, violence, profanity and licentiousness were practiced without check." Except at St. John's and Trinity Bay, where there were Anglican ministers, the islanders lacked Protestant spiritual guidance. Even when a few were disposed to Methodism, effective pastoral oversight was all but impossible because the settlements were small and isolated. However, after nearly two years of familiarization the population with the rudiments of religion, Coughlin was able to report some success in 1788: "At length God was pleased to bless my endeavors in a very wonderful manner ... The word was now like fire, or like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces. It was indeed quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword. Under every sermon and exhortation, some were cut to the heart, and others rejoiced in loud songs and praise." Small societies sprang up in Carbonear, Harbour Grace, and Old Perlican, and a chapel was erected at Blackhead in 1769 which many believe was the first to be erected in Newfoundland. During the revival, communicant membership rose, according to Coughlan, from about eighty to nearly two hundred. When he returned to Britain, primarily because of the opposition of local merchants, he believed that the had laid a firm foundation for Methodism on the island.
The only evidence that Heart's Content Road existed at this time can be extrapolated from the fact that people went overland from Carbonear to Heart's Content. There is no evidence that anyone lived there at this period of history, though some speculate that overland journeys to Blackhead were undertaken which would have had people pass though the valley.
These journeys were never easy as Levi Curtis writes, " A glimpse of circuit itineraries in those days will not be lacking in interest. "Summer traveling in the circuit was very laborious, as we had to climb high hills, wade the streams and plunge through the mire of the marshes, with our bundles on a stick, and carried upon the left shoulder, while our persons were denuded of coat, sometimes of vest and neck-cloth likewise and, when wearied or hungry, we would doff our bundles, partake collation therein containing, drink from the purling brook, and, after resting for some time under the shade of some tree, would again pursue our journey toward its terminus.
'In traveling we never wore boots; for they were useless to keep us dry, as we would always get over the tops of any boots we could put on, when wading over the numerous brooks. We were always careful to have good soles on our shoes, to keep the feet from injury by the rocks, over which we had to walk."
Winter traveling was even worse, for it was often beset with danger and there were many stories of people being lost on the barrens between Carbonear and Heart's Content.
Coughlin's early success in the area was short-lived. Although he was a stirring preacher, his unbending moral standards and, more importantly, his over enthusiastic approach gained him only a limited following. Theologically he was closer to George Whitefield and the Countess of Huntington than to the Wesleys. Despite the fact he established a few class meetings that would prove vital for the survival of an embryonic society, his revival converts were rarely permanent. Coughlin relied more on emotional response than on a sound doctrine of grace, and his failure to appreciate the need for organized structures made disintegration almost invertible after the flame of revival had died down.
However, it was perhaps too much to expect that any eighteenth-century Methodist preacher would possess a mature sense of church organization. Certainly, the early failure of Methodism in Newfoundland was not Coughlan's alone. As late as 1813, Richard Taylor complained from Carbonear, "There has never been anything like system [sic] acted upon since the first laborers came out ... The people in general are as ignorant of our rules as if nothing of the kind existed." Coughlan was not unique in failing to develop a systematic plan for his mission, and no solitary preacher could hope to furnish regular pastoral car to his scattered flock. Bert Parsons in Blackfoots gives a detailed history of Methodism in Carbonear and lists all of the clergy who served from these turbulent times to the present.
After Coughlan's departure, the cause was overseen by lay leaders, including Thomas Pottle at Carbonear, Arthur Tomey and John Stretton at Harbour Grace, and John Hoskins at Old Perlican. Without the authority of an ordained minister and faced with increasingly hostile Anglican mercantile and government factions, they were constantly frustrated in their work. When John McGeary arrived as Coughlan's first ordained replacement in 1785, he found fifteen members and only a faint memory of the past revival. Although he provided some stability, he never developed cordial relations with the independent-minded lay leaders, and the fundamental problems remained. Parsons presents a list of all Ministers who served at Carbonear from 1785 - 1964 in his book.
McGeary resided in Newfoundland until 1791 and was resident minister at Carbonear from 1785 - 1788 and from 1790 -1791. During his final months he witnessed a new revival led by the visiting superintendent of the Nova Scotia district, William Black. Black arrived at Carbonear on August 11, 1791. Over the following months he preached at Port de Grave, Bay Roberts, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, Freshwater, and Blackhead. In addition to the two hundred converts he reported, he organized proper class meetings, appointed leaders, deeded property to the connexion, and attempted to explain Methodist doctrines and rules to the societies. Although Black's visit was of critical importance at the time, it failed to provide the impetus for a permanent, well organized mission. After his departure and McGeary's a few months later, Newfoundland again lacked Methodist clerical supervision and membership soon declined sharply.
From 1792 - 1793 no clergy served Carbonear. In 1794 George Smith arrived to succeed McGeary, and over the following two decades a succession of missionaries gradually rebuilt the Methodist presence. William Thoresby joined Smith in 1796 and remained for two years; James Bulpit served from 1799 to 1806; John Remington worked alone from 1806 until 1808, after which he was supported by William Ellis(1808 - 9, 1810 - 1811) and Samuel McDowell (1809 - 1810). The three expanded the work from Conception Bay to Bonavista and Trinity. William Ward served Bonavista from 1810 until he drowned in 1812; Richard Taylor worked for two years at Carbonear beginning in 1812; and Sampson Busby replaced McDowell in 1813. These were followed by John Walsh (1816 - 1817) and George Cubit (1816). Of these, only Ellis made Newfoundland his permanent home; the remainder left after their short tours of duty were completed.
Up until this time no Newfoundland born clergy were brought into the Methodist itinerant ranks. The lack of long-term service and local manpower were symptoms of the serious problems facing the Methodist movement on the island. These problems were aggravated by the fact that many of the missionaries added teaching or other secular work to their preaching in order to supplement their meager incomes. Such activity prevented full-time evangelistic labors. In addition to irregular religious services, discipline was generally lax and Wesley's rules were only indifferently followed by the adherents. The work of the church was slow and erratic at best.
Although Methodist membership had reached about 500 in 1797, it stood at only 340 seventeen years later. The intervening period had seen peaks and valleys, but the cause was never strong. No missionary was serving St. John's. The single important centre on the island. The only real progress was the construction of churches at Harbour Grace, Carbonear, Lower Island Cove, and Old Perlican by 1799. In fact, the future of Methodism looked bleak until the reorganization of the British missionary operations. In 1815 Newfoundland became a district directly responsible to the British Conference, and plans were instituted to expand missionary work from Conception Bay. In the same year, a minister was stationed at St. John's and a church was opened there. In 1816 the British Conference assigned six new missionaries to the reorganized circuits of Harbour Grace, Western Bay, Trinity Harbour, Fortune Bay, and Hant's Harbour. These circuits supplemented the existing ones in St. John's Carbonear, Blackhead, Island Cove and Perlican, Port de Grave, and Bonavista. From this period, Methodism expanded under the double impetus of greater financial support from Britain and increased local prosperity resulting from a temporary increase in the price of cod.
This boom was short-lived, however; a depression set in by 1818, and British assistance significantly diminished after 1820. Despite its head start, the story of early Methodism in Newfoundland typifies much of the general history of the island. Both were plagued by isolation and poverty. Methodism in the colony suffered from "isolation without supervision, from emotionalism without doctrinal foundation, from evangelism without sound faith or sufficient discipline." Without substantial external ministerial and financial support, it was sustained for long periods only by a dedicated laity and by private worship and prayer. Nevertheless both Methodism and Newfoundland contained strong-willed and determined people. Once evangelized, Newfoundlanders demonstrated a resilient private resourcefulness and a deep spirituality, and Methodism provided an effective moral structure to community life.
By the general conference of 1883 the name of the Church was changed from "The Methodist Church of Canada" to "The Methodist Church." The Newfoundland Conference of that year reported 7781 members with 1276 on trial. The number of charges was forty - two and mission offerings reached $5 681.21.
One other important event, to which reference should be made, was the consummation of union with the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, in Toronto on June 10, 1925. The new Church was named "The United Church of Canada," and is the largest protestant church in the Dominion. But in Newfoundland it meant little more than a change of name from the "Methodist" to the "United Church," as the changes in terminology and administration affected the general work of the Church in no essential way. The same ministers continued to preach the same Gospel to the same congregations; the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper were administered and the congregations continued to worship as before.
There is little wonder that no separate Methodist Church existed at Heart's Content Road, Victoria Village or Victoria until late into the 1800s or early 1900s, and then religious services were conducted from the homes of individual residents. In his book Blackfoots, Bert Parsons recounts the history of Methodist and United Church in Carbonear and surrounding areas. Of significance to researchers into the history of Victoria is a story recounted by Levi Curtis, D.D., M.A., M.B.E. In his article The Methodist (now United) Church in Newfoundland, he recounts some early history of the church. He describes very clearly the difficulties of travel in the circuit, particularly in winter.
Parsons recounts (p. 40) that Richard Knight, who was converted by Rev. William Black in 1791 was a minister in Carbonear in the period 1821 to 1825. As was common in the period people walked from Trinity Bay to Conception Bay by way of long established paths. One path used frequently stretched approximately 9 miles through what was to become Victoria Village. It is believed that this original path was west of its current location.
Records of the Missionary Society, a branch of which was established in the Maritimes Provinces, show the distressing conditions of many circuits. One such record published in 1818 described Newfoundland as follows. "In Newfoundland, where so much distress has lately prevailed, and still continues to exist; where there have been such destructive fires; where so many pecuniary embarrassments have been felt; and where there are so many things to discourage and depress the minds of missionaries, your committee is happy to inform you that Methodist missionaries are employed blowing the Gospel trumpet, and are wandering along its barren shores to scatter the word of life."
We know that previously to this time villages on the circuit were visited by boat. However, walking to Perry's Cove was common for the ministers from Carbonear, Black Head and Bay de Verde. Therefore it can be concluded that rather than take a boat all around the cape to Heart's Content people from Carbonear walked there on a regular basis along paths through the various communities.
The first evidence that there were people living in Victoria can be extrapolated from a story published in Volume II of The Book of Newfoundland (p. 395). Levi Curtis recounts that travel around the Carbonear circuit was difficult at the best of times but in winter it was particularly perilous. "In traveling we never wore boots; for they were useless to keep us dry, as we would always get over the tops of any boots we could put on, when wading over the numerous brooks." This reference is no doubt to the several rivers that run through Victoria Village and near Heart's Content. Parsons (p.43) makes reference to an account of a perilous journey undertaken in the winter of 1833. The account is found on page 395 of The Book of Newfoundland, Volume II. It is without question one of the first references to people living in the valley between Carbonear and Heart's Content.
In describing the problem of winter travel, Curtis relates the following story.
"In the winter of 1833 two of our ministers nearly perished in one of those winter journeys - Messrs. Knight and Tompkins. [Rev. Richard Knight and Reverend John Tompkins]. They left Heart's Content for Carbonear and, as the distance was only a few hours' walk, and the weather seemed favourable, they left without a guide, a gun or a pair of rackets, and with but a canty supply of provisions. When they reached the barrens, it became foggy; there a 'snow-dwie' followed, until it became a heavy snowstorm. They were lost; but they wandered on, and about nightfall they came to woods, but what woods they knew not. In the dark they strove hard to pass the woods and get on some shore; but all was in vain. Mr. Tompkins could proceed no farther. They had no means of making a fire, and their food was all used. The snow was up to their hips, but they a bare spot of some thirty feet in length; there they trod a path, on which they continued to walk to and from for the space of more than twelve hours. The night was dark and cold, their clothes were torn to rags in getting through the 'tuckemore bushes,' the storm howled fearfully, the trees were falling around them in every direction by the violence of the wind, and they were exhausted, wet, cold and hungry; repeatedly did Mr. Tompkins sit or fall, and he requested his companion to allow him to take rest on the snow-clad ground, if but for a few minutes. Mr. Knight could not grant this request, but shook hi, rubbed his limbs, and sometimes dragged him along, knowing as did that if his brother slept there he would wake no more." They lived through the night, however, and in the morning the crowing of a cock directed them to a "winter tilt," where they found food and warmth. No doubt he had come across one of the first settlers to have wintered in the valley.
The same story is recounted by Melvin Rowe in his book, I Have Touched The Greatest Ship, 1976. lends further credibility to the story. " In January, 1833, two Wesleyan-Methodists ministers ... having ended a successful revival tour of the north side of Conception Bay and the south side of Trinity Bay left Heart's Content for Carbonear.
They were told by experienced travelers that they should take a guide for such a perilous and hazardous trip across the barrens, but they politely turned down the suggestion saying that they were familiar with the area having covered the route on other occasions.
Here Rowe adds new information. " They had not gone more than 7 miles when the wind veered to the northwest and before they reached the Dog Hills (approximately 2 miles from present day Victoria), the snow began to fall." The story goes on. "Stubbornly and tenaciously they crashed, hacked and fought their way through the dense woods and came to a clearing of about 30 feet square. Shortly after dawn broke, and almost exhausted from hunger and cold they heard the clear shrill of a crowing cock. Taking their bearings from the direction in which the sound was coming, they again entered the woods. This time, it was not to seek refuge from the swirling storm to receive help and assistance from a nearby dweller. Just ahead of them was a tilt which stood on the outskirts of present day Victoria.
Following their 24-hour ordeal, they arrived at the home of their benefactor at ten o'clock where they rested for several hours. In the afternoon they bid farewell to their friend and continued their journey to Carbonear where they arrived just as the sun was setting to close out the day."
This story confirms several facts. First that the path from Carbonear to Heart's Content was well established by 1833. Secondly that people were living along the Heart's Content Road at this time.
More information is revealed about Victoria in The Methodist Monthly Greeting of 1890, p.114. The writer shares this information.
"We left Hr. Grace behind us after a short stay, resolved to try the "barrens" for Heart's Content, and passed through Carbonear. But what about Victoria Village? Well, we always had a kindly feeling towards this place. Some years ago, Father Peach, one Conference Sunday afternoon, took us out to preach there, and we had a good time. We were glad to observe that the general appearance of the place had greatly improved since then. But what a sight! There stands the frame of a church partly boarded up and left just as it was "years and years ago," when Rev. C. Ladner was on the Carbonear circuit. His Methodism in Victoria Village got to stagnation? We think not, for does not that school-room clearly prove that there is not neglect? But "hard times" have been felt. May "hard times come again no more."
Other writers have also added to the information available about this place. T.W. Johnson writing in Methodism in Eastern British America, 1925, p. 278 relates the following:
"Victoria - This community was for many years connected with the Carbonear circuit which had more than one minister. The young man, or supply, for many years resided at Victoria. The minutes of 1906 has "Supply" (to reside at Victoria); 1907 L.E.G. Davies; 1908, Robert. S. Smith; 1909, Supply (W.H.P.); 1910, Walter Cotton; 1911, Thomas. B. Moody; 1912, Samuel Sargeant.
In 1913, Victoria appears as the head of a separate mission with Robert S. Smith as pastor; 1915, George B. Pickering; 1918, Chas. R. Blount; 1922, Frank D. Cotton; 1925, U. Laite.
The appointments are Victoria, Salmon Cove and Perry's Cove. There is a good church at each appointment. The church at Victoria was enlarged in 1906. The parsonage was built in 1913 but not completed till 1916. Ambrose Cole and Henry Burke were local preachers. Rev. N. Cole, of Nova Scotia Conference, was born at Victoria and Rev. W.T. Kelloway, of Bay Quinte, is a native of Perry's Cove.
Victoria is a comparatively new community its whole history lying within the past fifty years. Its settlement was due to people moving back to the slightly better farming land and nearness to wood for firing. At first a collection of winter tilts then a few "liveyers" and at last a large community with fine church and three room school."
If this publication is accurate then it may be concluded that Victoria must have been settled not earlier than the mid 1800s.
Religion was very important in the lives of the people of Victoria. Of 448 people in Victoria Village in 1884, 378 were Methodist and there were two Methodist (Wesleyan) churches built. The first, a small one was destroyed in a windstorm and was replaced in 1902. A vestry was later built.
It is believed that Methodism in Victoria dates back to the late 1830s. The first services were held in homes or small schoolrooms. The first resident minister at Victoria was Reverend L.E.G. Davies (1906-1907). The first manse was built in 1913. My father Allan Pickering Clarke was named for Reverend George B. Pickering who was a minister in the community from 1915 to 1918.
The United Church of Canada was created as a legal entity by an Act of the Parliament of Canada in 1924. The movement toward union of the chief evangelical denominations in Canada (the Congregationalists, Methodist, and the Presbyterian churches) began in 1899. By 1904 the three churches had united in affirming their conviction that organic union was both desirable and practicable.
Mainly because of its conservativism in both ideology and practice, the Methodist Church in Newfoundland was generally opposed to Union, although from the beginning the larger, mainly urban congregations strongly supported the idea. Consequently, when in 1923 the final vote was taken of all Methodist congregations, boards and clergy, Newfoundland Methodists voted against church union, the only Conference (of the 11 into which the national Church was divided) to deliver a negative verdict. On June 10, 1925, the Methodist Church of Newfoundland became part of the new United Church of Canada. A record of all ministers serving at the Methodist Church and the United Churches, in Victoria is given on page 70 of Victoria: Recalling Our Heritage, August 1997.
In the year 1906 the "Pentecostal" religious denomination began in Los Angeles, California. By 1910 Pentecostal Assemblies were established in many countries of the world. At Easter 1911 Bethesda Pentecostal Mission was established at 207 Gower Street, St. John's.
In 1924, Victoria native Eugene Vaters received training at the Rochester Bible Training School (New York). When he returned home, he established an independent congregation that held services in the Orange Hall lent to him for a two-week period. He later joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and a Church was begun in the town. Sister Alice Garrigus from the Bethesda Mission in St. John's dedicated the church later that year.
A small group of people led by a Mr. Winter, Mr. Peckham, Mr. Slade, and Mr. Bess among others broke away from the church. They built a small church on what is now known as Penney's hill near the Gully Path. This church lasted only a little more than a year and the group re-united with the established Pentecostal Church. Local people referred to this Church as the "starrigan" Church as it was built from logs from the local area.
Of note is that they established their own Cemetery on the spot and at least one woman and a child were buried there. By 1935, 300 members were attending the churches regularly. A record of all Pentecostal pastors who have served at Victoria are recorded on Page 71 of Victoria: Recalling Our Heritage,Victoria: August 1997.
Melvin Rowe, in his book I Have Touched The Greatest Ship, 1976, established a second important fact about early Victoria. He stated that on April 30, 1836 a bill was introduced in the House of Assembly by Mr. Keough and Mr. Rowe asking for the Government to appoint a committee to investigate and report back as quickly as possible on the practicability of constructing a road from Heart's Content to Carbonear, a distance of 13 miles.
The committee agreed that it was both essential and expedient to build the road and the Government authorized a survey be made to determine which would be the better route to connect the two communities. In the spring of 1836, Joshua Green was named to make the survey and he completed the job by the end of June. In his report to the Government, Mr. Green said, "From Heart's Content I have marked a line of road to the Barrens about three miles to the northward, thereby greatly shortening the distance and preserving an excellent line of road that way." From this we may conclude that earlier paths may well have been west of the present road.
Records show that the Government voted 420 pounds and work was started on the 14 mile stretch which led over hills, through valleys, forests across streams and swampland. The road was completed that summer and opened to traffic in the fall.
With regards to the origin of the original path to Carbonear, Rowe has this to say. "The footpath by which d'Iberville may have made his trip across the barrens in 1697 had its starting point near the Main Brook Bridge. The narrow track then wound its way along the side of the Mizzen Pond, across the mouth of Glam Brook, up the steep slopes of the Mizzen Hill and on to Gunner's Rock to the fourth bridge. From there the newly-built road followed very much the old-time footpath." If indeed there were old-time footpaths one must ask how they were established? Could they have been established by earlier settlers or for that matter by Beothucks or other earlier peoples?
There is no doubt that the early road was rudimentary at best. Since there was no heavy equipment the men had to rely on pick, shovel and horse and box-cart. It didn't take long for the residents to complain to government that the road was inadequate. Rowe quotes from a petition that was sent to government a few years after the road was constructed. "That the people of Heart's Content and adjoining towns greatly deplore the poor condition of the road across the barrens which was almost impassable. The road, the petition added, was nothing but one framed on sticks with all the earth eroded. Bad enough, to travel the road by day in a carriage, but at night impossible." Their petition was successful as 150 pounds was allocated to undertake repairs. At this time the government set up a committee to administer the money. This resulted in the formation of the fist road board to carry out repairs on the Heart's Content Road. The board was formed on April 23, 1845.
Further petitions were submitted to government from other towns in Trinity Bay. What is of interest to residents of Victoria is that the member for Trinity Bay at the time was Mr. Job who took a personal interest in the road. Job's Pond found on Swansea Road was more than likely named in his honor even though the residents of Trinity Bay felt that he had neglected them. There is evidence to indicate that the original route of the Heart's Content Road was west of where it is now. The location of Job's Pond probably indicates that the road may have been as far west as this.
In 1868 the Halfway House or Hospice was built principally because another person succumbed to a violent snow storm which raged along the route. In February, 1886, Mr. Fenley, a school teacher at New Perlican perished while walking along the barrens. That is why that lonely stretch of marshland mid-way between Carbonear and Heart's Content is called Fenley's Marsh. The first caretaker of the hospice was Silas Ryall of Heart's Content. His salary was 40 pounds per year. Others who operated the Half-way house were, Robert Burridge, John Hopkins, Jack Cumby, Walter J. Clarke. Tragedies
The path that led from Carbonear to Heart's Content was long recognized as a dangerous place to travel. Quite often, especially in winter, people became lost and endured great hardship and often ended in loss of life. One of the first such tragedies was recorded in the Carbonear newspaper the SENTINEL in January of 1844. Dr. William Hanrahan of Harbour Grace, and a friend, Mr. Levi, had gone by foot and catamaran to the Heart's Contnet barrens where they intended spending the afternoon sliding. A sudden storm came up and they became lost. Mr. Levi managed to get home but the doctor perished. His body was found two days later. Sixteen years later a similar fate was met by his daughter Eliza.
On March 18, 1854, two elderly men of New Perlican and three teenagers of Heart's Content went to visit the Relieving Officer at Harbour Grace. When they had taken care of their business the travelled to Carbonear and decided to remain there overnight. The next morning at dawn the boys left to walk and reached home four hours later.
The Harbour Grace Herald said that with the light snow falling, the two men left Carbonear for what they thought would be a pleasant walk across the Barrens. The men walked very fast and overtook a friend John Cumby of Heart's Content, who was returning home from Carbonear.
Suddenly, and without warning the wind picked up and a howling blizzard roared out of the northwest. As the afternoon wore on, the storm increased. The three men even crawled on their hands and knees to escape the biting wind which swept down from the hills to penetrate their meager clothing and to numb their bodies. They groped and staggered through the swirling drifts in the hope of reaching the wooded valleys below the Stags Head Hills for a little measure of protection and comfort from the devastating storm.
With their strength ebbing each passing minute, they doggedly pushed forward until they reached a large marsh where the storm pelted them unmercifully. The dogs with all their strength gone, burrowed into the snow Banks and refused to budge.
About 8 o'clock, that night, Mr. Grant and Mr. Scott utterly exhausted from their trying ordeal laid down by the side of the dogs to try to get warm. Quietly and quickly they died.
John Cumby survived the terrible ordeal day and night and when morning came he walked five miles to Heart's Content. That afternoon a party of men recovered the bodies. The men had spent a terrible time on the Barrens.
The Hr. Grace newspaper STANDARD gave the following account of another tragedy: "At an inquest held at Harbour Grace on March 22, 1860, Mrs. Underhay longing to see her children, decided much against the advice of a sister not to undertake such a perilous trip to Heart's Content in the dead of winter. Undismayed she left Hr. Grace on January 20 and her whereabouts were not known until ...March 17 when her body was found..."
According to Roland Clarke and other seniors life in Victoria in the early days must have been difficult. They recall older people telling them when they were young about the hardships they endured. While we do not have information about how they lived it is known that living conditions elsewhere in rural Newfoundland were tough. They had to build homes from rough materials that they usually cut themselves and grew most of their own food. Because of the scarcity of medical treatment, they were subject to various diseases including scurvy, rickets, diphtheria, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. These diseases ravaged many early settlers, particularly the young. In the late 1880s a terrible epidemic struck rural Newfoundland. Reports in the REGISTER related that diphtheria of a very malignant type was ravishing communities.
In many communities large numbers of people, especially children were stricken and died. Burial records of the Carbonear Methodist Church reveal that between 1875 and 1885 more than 50 children under the age of 10 years died. While the records do not give the cause of death oral history tells us that most of the children died from this terrible disease. In many cases there were more than one in a family. The local newspapers reported that the disease was spread due to poor drinking water, lack of a proper diet, poor sanitation, close contact and was aided by the severe weather . The symptoms usually were a sore throat, fever and coughing. Often those affected didn't last more than several days.
The first known settlers in Victoria c.1833, more than likely lived in sod tilts. These were built quickly and for the most part were efficient. These were usually made from wooden posts driven into the ground that were then packed with sods. Often they were built into a small hill and were very low to the ground. They usually had a front door and sometimes had a small window. The floors were packed earth and sometimes had two rooms. A makeshift fireplace or a makeshift stove was used for heat.
The best description of a tilt was given in a book published in 1866 by a Wesleyan-Methodist minister, the Rev, William Wilson, who served the Conception Bay and Trinity Bay charges from 1820 to 1827. It is not sure if he was describing the tilts in Victoria Valley but this is the way that some of the older people in the town remember being told that they were. "The walls are formed of rough spruce sticks, called studs, of about 6 inches in diameter, the height of the sides 6 feet and of the gables about 10 or 12 feet. The studs are placed perpendicularly and wedged close together with the chinks or interstices filled with moss. This is the only defense against the cold. A ridge-pole passes longitudinally from the gable on which the round rafters are notched. These are covered with rinds, or the spruce bark which had been used during the summer as covering for the fish piles. These rinds make the tilt watertight. A hole is left in the rinds, about 4 feet square, which serves the double purpose of a vent for the smoke and an opening for the solar rays to permeate the dwelling. The tilt has seldom any windows. The floor is made with round studs like the walls, which are sometimes hewed a little with an adze. A few stones, piled 5 feet high, form the fire-place. Those stones are placed close to the studs, which, being thus exposed to great heat, will often ignite. A vessel full of water was always at hand to extinguish the kindling sparks; and it required no small skill to throw the water from that vessel up the chimney in such a manner as to prevent its return, surcharged with soot upon the head of the unfortunate operator. A rough door, a few shelves, and a swinging table fastened to the side of the building exhausts nearly all the boards usually allowed for such structures."
The tilts were in use for a very short time. Usually built to live in while a permanent structure was being built. The permanent houses were usually a one storied structure made of sawn logs or boards purchased from local mill operators. Sometimes called salt or pepper box houses they had a kitchen and one or two bedrooms. Roofs were usually peaked to allow the snow to fall off. A lean-to was attached to the back as a storage area. The kitchen had a very large fire-place called the chimney corner. The floors were usually covered with heavy canvas which was sometimes painted.
As time went on, commerce with Carbonear and other communities improved their living conditions. Since most of them were Labrador fishermen, they lived reasonably well when fish were plentiful. It is known that the Clark(e) brothers, Richard, Mark, Joseph, John and George built fishing rooms on the Labrador coast. They usually went there and fished throughout the season and salted their catch that they sold to collectors. Often they took their wives and children with them for the season
There were enough settlers by 1864 to justify a school, where classes were taught by Sarah Powell at her home that was near what is now known as Powell's Brook. In 1865 a one room school was built in the community. Other schools were established in the community over the years. In 1901 a one room school was built to serve the children of the Neck road. A second school was built on the Neck in 1946. By 1967 that school had been closed.
The settlement is believed to have been named in honour of Queen Victoria and was known in the nineteenth century as Heart's Content Road and Victoria Village. It is believed that there was a Welsh influence in Conception Bay and it is worthy of note that no other community other than Quidi Vidi had Village attached to its name. The term Village is found extensively in England and Wales. Some evidence suggests that the town was actually named after a packet the S.S. Victoria, Newfoundland's first costal steamer that was put into operation in 1862 used to bring supplies to Carbonear to be shipped to the North Shore by way of what became called Victoria.
To help one understand what early life was like in Victoria we need to understand where they came from. According to Roland Clarke, the Clark(e)s were well known in Newfoundland history. Prowse stated that Richard Clark(e) walked from Brigus to Carbonear in 1610. As well there was another Richard Clark(e) who was navigator on Sir Humphry Gilbert's Expedition in 1853. It is interesting that the name Richard Clark(e) recurs in the Clark(e) family up through the generations. According to Roland in 1903 there were four Richard Clark(e)s in Victoria.
The Clark(e) family, which had its origins in Poole and Dorset England played a significant role in the evolution of Victoria. In the early days in Crocker's Cove, Plantations were usually divided among children. Over time this resulted in smaller and smaller plots of land and made the problem of growing enough crops for the winter very difficult. It is reasonable to assume that some of these people came to Victoria to plant crops in small cleared places in the valley. It may be concluded that some of these people may have built rudimentary shelters or "tilts" and became squatters. This enabled them to claim land after the Registry of Deeds for Newfoundland began in 1828.
We know that several Clark(e) brothers moved to Victoria from Crocker's Cove and took up several acres of land each on what is now called Church Road and the Burn. Land Claims were common at this time. The way this was done was to claim land "as far as the eye could see, assuming that no one else owned it." This was usually a rock or a land formation that was easily identifiable. These men had no formal claim to the land but had quasi-legal status due to "squatters' rights." In the late 1800s and early 1900s government agents began to survey much of the land around Conception Bay and families like the Clark(e)s eventually received grants for their land and subdivided it and gave it to their children. To this day one can easily identify the land first settled because many descendants of the Clark(e)s still live on the same land that their ancestors claimed.
More than likely it was around this time that the first settlers arrived in Victoria. It is believed that the first to come were named Clark(e). We know that Richard Clarke and his four brothers, Mark, Joseph, John and George came and settled along what was referred to at the time as Heart's Content Road. The name Victoria Village was adopted around 1864. This name may have been linked to Queen Victoria or The M.V. Victoria that was a coastal boat that sank with all hands in 1850. The term "Village" was later dropped from the name.
The first mention of the Clark(e) family in Crocker's Cove is found in the Plantation Book of 1805. Here we find references to William Clark and John Clark who owned a Plantation and land respectively. The Clark Plantation came into the family in 1705 and John Clark acquired his land in 1745. It is believed that Clark Plantation was previously owned by Bartholmew Keys.
As has been stated previously the best source of information available about the Clark(e)s in Victoria comes from the Plantation Book of 1805. In 1775 the Clark Plantation was comprised of ten acres of land with six houses, seven gardens, three meadows and seaside flakes and stages.
The plantation was passed down through three generations. In 1775 the Clark(e) Plantation was divided by the second owner, possibly William, one fifth to his grandson William and four fifths to his son William. The grandson got about two acres of land, one house, two gardens, and one meadow. The son got eight acres of land, five houses, five gardens and five meadows along with the fishing premises. Then in 1785, the son William deeded his portion of the plantation to his three sons Adam, Thomas and Moses.
Over the years that followed the plantation was again changed. William Clarke (Jr.) divided his land between his sons Robert and Thomas. Thomas sold his share in 1832 to a Carbonear merchant. The whole of that portion of the plantation deeded to his three sons by William Clark(e) Sr. was sold in 1826 to Carbonear merchants Gosse, Pack, and Fryer. The portion of the landed deeded to Robert by his father William (Jr) was retained by the family. The property of John Clark(e) Sr. in 1745 remained with his decedents until the early 1900s when it was passed out of the Clark(e) name through marriage.
An examination of family size in rural Newfoundland in the early 1830s shows that the average number of people living in a household was six. In order for the population of Victoria Village to have grown to around 200 it can be concluded that the valley may have been settled at around 1830. By 1911 the population of Victoria was 999, it grew to 1103 by 1921 but declined to 1004 by 1935 because many residents went to the United States and Canada to seek employment. It grew steadily in the decades following as many people of the nearby communities of Blow-Me-Down (1857) Flatrock (1857), Otterbury (late 1700s), Burnt Head (1700s) and Crocker's Cove (1675) Perry's Cove (late 1700s) and Marshall's Folly (mid-1700s) moved here during Resettlement Programs.
An examination of available data show that there were 200 people in the community by 1869. If one examines the census of other Newfoundland communities it can be inferred that in order for the population to have grown to this number there had to have been a single in-migration that dramatically increased the population, or that it grew gradually, as some believe. If one examines the census from Crocker's Cove, it can be seen that the population declined significantly around 1875. At the same time the population of Victoria Village increased dramatically. In fact it can be concluded that most of the settlers moved to Victoria as the same names can be found there as existed in Crocker's Cove.
The best indicator of demographics in Victoria Village is found in the 1921 census. According to it; of the 1103 people living here 581 were men and 522 were women. They lived in 207 households scattered all over the community. The census also provides another very important piece of information. Not only does it give the age and birth date of each person, it also gives the community in which they were born. Table I shows the birth places of all residents of Victoria Village in 1921.
Clearly most of the settlers in Victoria Village were born there. It is interesting that of those living here in 1921, 35 were born in the 1860s, and 54 were born in the 1870s. The others for the most part were born after 1879. Exceptions to this are the following. Emma Summers, an 85-year-old widow living on Swansea Road reported that she was born in March of 1836. If this correct then she is one of the earliest known persons to have been born at Victoria. Fannie Vaters a 76-year-old widow living on the Church Road indicated that she was born in April of 1845. Also living on the Church Road was 68 year old Robert Stevens who was born in March of 1853. His 57-year-old wife Amelia was born in November of 1864. The census also showed that Dinah Clarke a 67-year-old widow born in 1854 was living with her son Arthur and his family on Swansea Road. Church records show that Diana (Clarke) had been married to George Clarke whose parents James Clarke (Dec. 20, 1840) and Ann Bridle came from Crocker's Cove. Information from these censuses along with oral tradition makes it believable that Victoria was a well-established settlement in the early nineteenth century.
Victoria Village Population Figures 1921
|Place of birth||Number|
|Bay of Islands||2|
|Lower Island Cove||2|
|St. John N.B.||3|
|Bay de Verde||1|
Transcribed by Dan Breen, (January 2002)
Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)
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