Henry Lind — hero or rogue?
Henry Lind (1805-70), a Church of England clergyman, arrived in Newfoundland from England in 1829. He was employed as a schoolmaster at Port de Grave.
Ordained priest in 1841, Lind was transferred to Heart’s Content. He took over a mission consisting of nine settlements and five churches.
Heart’s Content historian Ted Rowe describes Lind as a “pious, self-righteous man with a humourless demeanour.”
Rowe, in an understatement, also notes that Lind “finished out his term at Heart’s Content in an extraordinary swirl of controversy.”
Unsurprisingly, not everybody in the town liked the English clergyman; magistrate Robert Ollerhead was Lind’s chief detractor.
In 1854, a woman accused Lind of having committed adultery with her some seven years earlier.
“At first,” Rowe writes, “it looked like it would all blow over when the woman retracted her charge, claiming that she had been confused about what she was saying.”
I wonder, though, How can a woman be confused about whether or not a man committed adultery with her?
At the same time, Lind swore an affidavit of denial, providing Bishop Edward Feild (1801-76) with a statement declaring his innocence.
Lind then departed the island for a leave of absence in England.
Back at Heart’s Content, Lind quickly learned to his chagrin the woman had reinstated her charges against him.
Ollerhead and his cohorts lobbied Feild to remove Lind. The Heart’s Content clergyman responded by suing the magistrate for slander.
In June 1856, Lind showed up in a St. John’s courtroom with his witness- es, his wife and two other women.
Ten days later, the troika was sent home when Ollerhead failed to put in an appearance.
Though the magistrate and his witnesses eventually appeared, the trial was postponed until the fall.
Meanwhile, Ollerhead spread word around the town that Lind had been fearful to proceed.
“As a result, he was shunned by his congregation, who denied him entry to the church and refused to allow him to conduct services or administer the sacraments,” Rowe writes.
Some Church of England stalwarts even had their children baptized by the Methodist preacher from Hant’s Harbour.
The trial resumed in November. All parties appeared and all witnesses were examined. However, it came to a grinding halt, without a verdict, when a juror fell ill.
“ The testimony showed that the woman’s family had a history of mental instability and Bishop Feild was satisfied of Lind’s innocence of the adultery charge,” Rowe explains.
Feild issued a letter, supportive of Lind, to the Heart’s Content congregation.
However, it did nothing to clear up the ill feeling against Lind. “His reputation had suffered badly and the bishop had no choice but to remove him,” Rowe writes.
Lind was sent to St. George’s Bay on the west coast of the island where, in Rowe’s words, “he finished out his missionary days in relative peace and quiet.”
Feild later claimed: “ The trouble was got up by a wicked man (Ollerhead) to get rid of a disagreeable cleric.” Privately Feild said: “I have never had any matter which gave me so much distress, and I may say misery, since I have been in the Diocese.”
Another Lind biographer Frederick Jones concludes, “Lind was an undistinguished missionary whose grasp of church principle Feild found wanting. He is an example ... of a clergyman who had the misfortune ... to offend a local magistrate and acquire notoriety as the subject of the intolerance possible in a small, claustrophobic community.”
Was Lind a hero or rogue?
The answer to this is left to the reader’s imagination.
The history of Heart’s Content is replete with tales such as the scandal swirling around Rev. Henry Lind. Read all about many of them in Ted Rowe’s latest book, “Heroes and Rogues and the Story of Heart’s Content,” published by Creative Publishers in St. John’s.
Freelance journalist Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He c an b e r e a ch ed a t bur - firstname.lastname@example.org