Loreburn commemorates 50 years since resettlement
For nearly 50 years, the resettled community of Loreburn sat silent. Headstones of the dead left behind were barely visible through the alder bushes reclaiming the land.
But today, the cemetery is well groomed, and the abandoned harbour is abuzz with hundreds of people reconnecting and telling stories about the way things were.
Loreburn is a resettled fishing and lumbering community in Southwest Arm, a short boat ride from St. Jones Within. It was resettled in 1967.
People who once lived here, and even more of their descendants, came for a weekend of activities planned to commemorate 50 years since resettlement.
“I remember the stages and the flakes set out with saltfish drying in the sun,” retired Rev. Silas Rodgers recalls in a sermon in the newly-built community centre. The centre is built on the very spot where the old church once stood, and where Rodgers gave his first sermon at the beginning of his career.
Sitting near the back of the community centre, and paying particular attention to the old stories of life in Loreburn, is Tim Richards.
Richards travelled to Loreburn from Colorado. He was raised in Colorado by his adoptive parents who lived on an American army base in Newfoundland in the 1950s. When Richards’ birth mother became pregnant as a young, single woman, she put him up for adoption and moved from St. John’s to Loreburn shortly after.
“I came here because I thought maybe I could hear some stories of what life was like here back then,” he said.
It is an emotional visit for Richards because his adoptive parents are now dead, and he did not find his birth family until after his birth mother had also died.
“You get overwhelmed with emotion. I had just about no family when I met everybody here, and now there’s, what? Hundreds.”
Richards says he’s visited a lot of places around the world, but he feels at home in Loreburn.
“I know that may sound silly because I didn’t grow up here, but it’s peaceful here. I came awful close to growing up here, and my mom lived here for a long time, and brothers and sisters lived here … and maybe that’s why.”
Others who grew up in Loreburn say they have mixed emotions while marking 50 years since they left.
Audrey King was 20 years old when she resettled from Loreburn to nearby St. Jones Within. A couple of years ago, King built a cabin in Loreburn.
“It’s sometimes sad, and sometimes beautiful to be able to get back,” King said. “It’s sad to think back about how many is gone since we left.”
Hector Meadus was 24 years old when he resettled. He recalls the move being especially hard on his late parents.
“When they (were) going out the harbour here, they looked back at their house, and ‘twas a lot of tears. Nobody wanted to go, but you had to. It wouldn’t a party like it was here yesterday … we had to go to St. Joneses. We had no land; we had to start all over again. My father was 60 years old, and he had to start off to day one. So it was tough on him, and my mother when they moved out of here, with seven kids.”
Those kids, now adults, are in Loreburn for the resettlement reunion. While there is much festivity, many conversations reflect on those who aren’t here to celebrate.
What might those people buried in the cemetery think about the big crowd in the community this weekend? At its peak, Loreburn had only about 50 people. But the small harbour is bursting at the seams this weekend, with about 300 people there for the event. And today, Loreburn has nearly as many cabins as there were once homes.
But Rodgers ponders the future during his sermon.
“Who knows, in 50 years time, there may be a celebration here of another type — different people, a different time.”
The oldest and youngest living Loreburn resettlers — Calvey Meadus and Diane Spurrell — cut the reunion cake.
The sign commemorating the reunion this month.