Con­cep­tion Bay in 1906: A ge­o­graph­i­cal over­view

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

Wil­liam Pilot, who dis­tin­guished him­self as su­per­in­ten­dent of Church of Eng­land schools in New­found­land from 1875 to 1908, was born in Bris­tol, Eng­land, in 1841. He came to New­found­land in 1867. He wrote school texts, in­clud­ing out­lines of New­found­land’s his­tory and ge­og­ra­phy. He died in 1913 in St. John’s.

Through the good graces of Ross Boone of South River, I hold in my hand the sixth edi­tion of Pilot’s “Ge­og­ra­phy of New­found­land,” pub­lished in 1906.

“I have en­deav­oured so to im­prove it,” Pilot wrote, “as to ren­der it more help­ful to Teach­ers and more in­ter­est­ing to Schol­ars.”

More than a cen­tury later, the book re­mains an in­ter­est­ing snap­shot in time.

In the chap­ter de­voted to “Prin­ci­pal Towns,” the author refers to Har­bour Grace, with a pop­u­la­tion of 6,500, as “the cap­i­tal of Con­cep­tion Bay.”

As “the sec­ond town of im­por­tance in the is­land,” next to St. John’s, it car­ried on “an ex­ten­sive Labrador fish­ery and ex­port trade.” It pos­sessed a Ro­man Catholic Cathe­dral, four churches and three halls. Mos­quito (now Bris­tol’s Hope) was “cel­e­brated for its early set­tle­ment,” ex­tend­ing back to 1610.

Car­bon­ear, its pop­u­la­tion num­ber­ing 4,400, was “a thriv­ing town, car­ry­ing on a large fish­ing busi­ness with Labrador.” It pos­sessed three churches, schools, a court house and some halls.

“On Car­bon­ear Is­land,” Pilot added, “there are re­mains of for­ti­fi­ca­tions erected at dif­fer­ent times to re­pel the at­tacks of the French. In 1696, 200 men of Car­bon­ear suc­cess­fully de­fended their town against d’Iberville, and it was the only one in the is­land that was left un­taken.” The cel­e­brated nat­u­ral­ist, Philip Henry Gosse (1810-88), made some of his early ex­cur­sions in the town.

Bay Roberts was “a flour­ish­ing town.” A large por­tion of its 2,500 res­i­dents were “en­gaged in the Labrador and Bank Fish­ery.” Its com­modi­ous har­bour was “noted for its ship­build­ing and the en­ter­prise of its peo­ple.” It boasted three churches and sev­eral schools.

Port de Grave, with a pop­u­la­tion of 1,200, was an­other of the colony’s old­est set­tle­ments. The scenery in the com­mu­nity, which was “sit­u­ated on a nar­row, bleak tongue of land six miles long,” was, Pilot sug­gested, ro­man­tic.

“On a rock near this town is an in­scrip­tion, sup­posed to be a Ru­nic in­scrip­tion of the Norse­men. The town was peo­pled by set­tlers from Jersey.” Robert Traill Spence Low­ell (1816-91), author of “New Priest in Con­cep­tion Bay,” once called Bay Roberts home.

Pic­turesque Bri­gus, “sit­u­ated in a rocky hol­low,” traded mainly with the Labrador fish­ery. It had three churches, along with schools and large farms.” Gold has been dis­cov­ered in its vicin­ity.”

Cap­tured by the French, it was burned in 1697.

Cupids, for­merly Cu­pers Cove, was, Pilot sug­gested, “an im­por­tant fish­ing set­tle­ment, and prob­a­bly the old­est in the is­land, hav­ing been set­tled by John Guy in 1609. The colony con­sisted of 39 per­sons.”

Port de Grave, with a pop­u­la­tion of 1,200, was an­other of the colony’s old­est set­tle­ments. The scenery in the com­mu­nity, which was “sit­u­ated on a nar­row, bleak tongue of land six miles long,” was, Pilot sug­gested, ro­man­tic.

“It was taken by the French in 1697, and burned.”

Hall’s Town (North River) was “an in­creas­ing set­tle­ment in an agri­cul­tural dis­trict.”

Spa­niard’s Bay and Up­per Is­land Cove, with pop­u­la­tions of 1,500 and 1,300 re­spec­tively, were “im­por­tant fish­ing set­tle­ments, largely de­pen­dent on the Labrador trade.”

Old Per­li­can was an­other old set­tle­ment, while New Per­li­can was “cel­e­brated for its ship­build­ing.”

Western Bay, Black­head and Lower Is­land Cove were “pop­u­lous places, all prose­cut­ing the Labrador and in­shore fish­ery.”

Heart’s Con­tent, with a pop­u­la­tion of 1,200, pos­sessed “a mag­nifi- cent har­bour.” It was “the western ter­mi­nus of the At­lantic ca­ble. It is a very old set­tle­ment, and was taken by the French in 1696. There were then only 30 men, be­sides women and chil­dren.”

Hant’s Har­bour, Heart’s De­light, New Har­bour, and Turk’s Cove, the lat­ter for­merly the ren­dezvous of Turk­ish pi­rates, were pop­u­lous set­tle­ments.

Dildo, like Bri­gus, was both small and pic­turesque.

“On an is­land at the mouth of the har­bour is the cel­e­brated fish hatch­ery, where mil­lions of young cod and lob­sters are hatched and trans­planted to the sur­round­ing coves and bays.”

Since the ap­pear­ance of his book, Pilot opined, “the study of the Ge­og­ra­phy of New­found­land has been steadily in­creas­ing in the El­e­men­tary Schools of the coun­try, and a greater in­ter­est has been evoked in the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of its re­sources.”

One won­ders what the owner of the text­book, Em­mie Alethea An­thony of Clarke’s Beach, would have had to say about that!

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