Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Chapter V. District of Trinity Bay

IN no part of the world are there more noble lays than in Newfoundland. Eighty and ninety miles the ocean is penetrated by those great arms of the sea, into the land, bringing the treasure of the deep to the very doom of the inhabitants. It is very probable that the whole of the earlier voyagers to Newfoundland visited Trinity Bay. The celebrated Captain Whitbourne, who went in a whip of his own against the Spanish Armada, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, visited Trinity Harbour so early as 1578, where he obtained poultry and fish. In 1762 Trinity shared the fate of all the other British settlements by being destroyed by the French fleet. Trinity Harbour (so called from being entered in Trinity Sunday) is the Capital of the District of Trinity Bay. It is one of the best and largest harbours, not only of Newfoundland, but of the world. It has several arms and coves, where thousands of ships may ride land-locked, secure from wind, tide, or sea. The N. W. arm runs in various directions for a distance of three miles.. The S. W. arm also flows in different branches to about the same distance, when both arms nearly meet, forming Rider’s Hill (which is situated in the centre of the harbour and at the foot of which stands the town) into a peninsula.  It has a Swiss appearance. The scenery on all sides of both arms is extremely picturesque, romantic and beautiful. The woods in some parts, skirt the edge of the water, amongst which are seen the graceful birch, shining like a silvery column amid the dark evergreens and underwood. Towering rocks are seen tossed into fantastic shapes from the Assures of which the fir, birch, and mountains spring, waving with the slightest breeze. Here also is heard the roaring of several large brooks thundering in solitude, and creating an ever varying succession of spray and foam, as they dance along their course from rock to rock in musical cascades.

In 1842, Trinity was visited by the first steamer, and which was the second that ever appeared in Newfoundland. She was called the John Me Adam, and had been previously employed running between Cork and Liverpool, and was sent to St. John’s 'n order to be sold. Trinity was long the seat of some of the oldest mercantile establishments in Newfoundland. The Messrs. Garlands and Slades, for a great number of years, carried on large and flourishing trades. The premises that formerly belonged to Mr. Garland were afterwards owned by Messrs. Brooking, Son & Co., of St. John’s, who carried on a large trade there, presided over by their agent. The executors of the late Robert Slade, also did a very extensive business. The venerable William Nelson, Esq., the Isaac Walton, of Newfoundland, resided here, who was always the unflinching advocate of the hook and line, over all other modes of catching fish.

The Circuit Court sits at Trinity once a year. There is a Stipendiary Magistrate and a Clerk of the Peace, and also a Custom House Officer. There are also two medical gentlemen. In 1838 a “Benefit Club ” was established here which, since its organization, has paid to sick members, and the relief of widows 82,000. Trinity has three churches, which belong to the Episcopalians, Methodists, and Roman Catholics. There is one English Church and one Roman Catholic School. The population of Trinity in 1836 was 1,253; in 1845 it was 1,268, and in 1857 it was 1,510. In 1833, Trinity employed thirty-seven vessels in the foreign trade, besides nineteen more in the seal fishery. There are several populous settlements in the neighbourhood of Trinity, such as Eughah Harbour, Trouty, and Bonaventure. These places, with Catalina and Bird Island Cove, are the only important settlements on the north side of the Bay. In 1857, over 6,000 pounds of soap were manufactured in these settlements. At Catalina is found the celebrated “Catalina stone,” iron pyrites. A light-house has been erected on Green Island, at the entrance of the harbour. Random Sound is a beautiful lake of water, the shores of which are well adapted for cultivation. Here John Tilley, Esq., resides, who by indomitable energy and perseverance rose from obscurity to eminence as a man of learning. Mr. Tilley taught himself to read and write at twenty-six years of age. He was the first to commence brick-making, and preserving salmon in tins in Newfoundland. The Rev. Henry Petley, Missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, thus describes his visit to Random Sounds in 1859:

“I had long wished to go round Random Island, and visit the people in the North-West Arm and Smith’s Sound, as the two reaches of sea water on two sides of the triangle of Random are called; the third side being that open to the bay, Trinity Bay. To visit these, I started about half-past nine A.M., on the 22nd August, from Heart’s Content, and got off Heart’s Ease, across the bay about fourteen miles, about one. Upon nearing my port here, Gooseberry Cove, I saw a punt with two hands making towards me, and slackened my sheets to allow it to come up ; it had my intended pilot on board, who welcomed me, and finding I was going the proposed journey, asked for a couple of hours to get his breakfast and split his fish, for he had been fishing since dawn on an empty stomach. We were soon under sail, and a light breeze carried us up the North-West Arm of Random, to near Mr. Blundell’s, Reekes’s Harbour, when down came the rain, and we had to row a mile or so up to his house. Blundell and his wife were away in St John’s, but his son received us kindly, and made up a blazing fire, which soon dried our wet clothes. After tea, at the request of young Blundell, I read some prayers, and explained the Gospel for the Sunday before, the Parable of the Unjust Steward. Soon after we went to rest, and I slept soundly till about four A.M., when I was awoke by my worthy pilot going out and commencing battle with some Indian dogs, used by the Blundells for hauling wood. The battle raged with fury whilst near the house, but as it got more distant slackened and died away. But it commenced again more severely when the poor pilot thought to return to the house ; stones and sticks flew about, and I was just starting up, fearing the dogs were on him, when the door opened, and the tumult ceased. Even tho inmates of the houses here are in dread of these dogs. I have not heard of their attacks being fatal on men, but an Indian dog and three others were shot in Heart’s Content, only a week or two, for killing a cow. They have a bad name, and deservedly. And yet some of these dogs must have been the ancestors of the noble dogs known in England as the breed of this island. The best are jet black, and of good size ; but the ordinary dogs, if not of the Indian breed, are very curs, and could be made to walk under the English Newfoundland dog. There are here, some miles in, remains of Indian gardens ; gooseberries, raspberries, and nuts are still growing there in profusion. Mr. Blundell has a sawmill worked by water. From this harbour to Smith’s Sound, across Handom, the distance is only, in Eastern phrase, a couple of hours.

“Leaving early, after giving away a few books, I went to a place called Piston Mere, where another saw mill has been set up; this has a more convenient wharf than any of the mills, shallow water being found -w here the streams issue into the arm. A house was building here for the owner’s brother, and the ground was good-sheltered and well cropped. It lies under a cliff, which receives the warmth of the sun in the day, and throws it back at night, thus causing an even temperature. Whilst here, the rain fell in torrents ; on its slackening a little, we started, refusing, for want of time, the friendly hospitality of the people. The weather soon appeared decidedly against us, so we were obliged to give up going to Maggottv Gove, Deep Bight, and Upper Shoal Harbour, places like those we had visited, occupied chiefly by Wesleyans, and similarly, each containing two or three families. After we had passed Foster’s Point, a dangerous shallow, with a rock, to take a skiff up about a third across the arm, we took to the oars, and rowed up under the shore till we got past Bound’s Head, when we got sail on the boat, and ran across to Mr. Tilly’s, of Lower Shoal Harbour.

Here we threw out our grapnel in about eight feet of water, and waited for a ‘flat’ to take us ashore. We were kindly entertained by Mr. Tilly, an old gentleman, who appeared to have found pleasure, and profit too, in scientific and learned pursuits. He is a Wesleyan, and, as I was the first clergyman, I believe, who had burst into this silent sea,’ I did not feel disposed, single-handed, as I am in this mission, to discuss the church question with him at any length, particularly when I found him recognising the Wesleyan teachers as a lay body, and giving me leave to have service in his house. He had a Homer’s Iliad in the Greek, which, as he did not want, he exchanged with me, after Diomed’s fashion, for Parker’s National Miscellany. I had no time to visit his saw-mill, or to take a walk into the country to see the large pines, now only to be met with some three miles in. But I saw his farm, a good extent of land for these parts, bearing fine crops of potatoes, oats, and grass. There is an old Englishman here, who is his principal labourer, who is very careful over the potatoes. The next morning brought St. Michael’s Day, and the service, Morning Prayer and sermon, was well attended. I soon after had to leave. My visit here gave me much pleasure ; the people were evidently more intelligent than the usual settlers ; and everything seemed to tell of prosperity following the track of industry and order. Mr. Tilly’s is about half-way between Trinity and the electric telegraph station in Bay of Bull-arm.

“Nearing the shoal water of the Bar, a score or two of wild geese took to wing. Spurrell had a winter tilt near this, and once on a March morning walked with two others to Trinity, arriving there the same day about five o’clock. Marshes and ponds, with a few woods, are the character of the interior of the country. Leaving the Bar, we entered Smith’s sound, and after a long sail came to Burgon's or Berrigon’s Cove, where were three families. Opposite this, on the other side of the sound were several small settlements, Apsey Cove, with a good harbour, Lance Cove, Lalle Cove, Porridge Cove, &c., with from one to three or four families, as I understood, in each. The people have all come here within the last five years or less. The land is good in places, and the fishing has been productive this year; but the people seem living too much for the day. The only one in these parts representing the ‘ king of men ’ (I have been reading Mr. T.’s Homer), has been the sheriff from Harbour Grace last spring ; whilst the sole visit of a pastor they have had has been my own. The next morning they came over, and I was sorry to tell them I could do nothing for them in the way of church or school, their numbers being so few. Mr. Corbury, my host at Burgon’s Cove, has an old Englishman with him, the only man about here who can read; he has been in the habit of reading part of the services on Sundays. Mr. Corbury wished to have a burial-ground consecrated, but as this was beyond my power, and as performing a partial service might have seemed to fix a station for a church, I thought it best to ask him to wait for the present.

“After the service. Morning Prayer with two christenings and a sermon, we started again, and soon passed the slate quarries, now becoming useful to the colony, and rowed, under a hot sun, to near a tickle called the Thoroughfare, containing four or live houses, where a slight breeze relieved us, and brought us once more out into the Bay. Here we had to take to our oars again, find row to Rider’s Harbour, where a poor fisherman named Bayly, kindly entertained us, and I gave him of such things as I could, holding a service in his house, and christening two of his children ; sponsors for whom, as well as the majority of the congregation, were found from some boats lying in the harbour.

I ought to have mentioned the pleasure it gave me when a poor man, who had been grass-cutting, came alongside of me as I was coming in, and gave me for himself and his neighbours a kindly invitation to Island’s Eye, or Ireland’s Rye, a very primitive place, where there is a little school-church, in which, if. report speaks correct, psalmody is unknown. But as this is out of my Mission, I could only say I had no time for such a visit. Here are great quantities of raspberries, and soon after arriving I had some with milk—very refreshing after the day’s work;

“Next morning we breakfasted about four, and were soon off, wishing to reach Heart’s Ease before night. The distance was not great; but tho wind, blowing frosh, was right ahead. We rowed up to Deer Harbour head, when we hoisted sail, and beat up, standing off and on between the small islands which dot tho coast here, and the main. We made our way up towards the Eastern Head of Random, a fine bold point where iron ore, or something unknown to Sinbad, attracts the compasses of passing boats, and renders them useless. My pilot once had the needle of his compass spinning here, in a gale of wind and fog, and by this he guessed where he was, just before the fog lifting showed the Head right above him. After passing the Eastern Head a squall of wind and rain came on, and if the little boat had not hooked well up into the arm, as Spurrell said, we should have had to run back again. One or two tacks brought us well into the arm, and under the Western Head, where the wind fell, and we had to row into the tickle above Heart’s Ease, where the wind came on smart again, and we beat up to Gooseberry Cove about five o'clock.”

The most important place to Trinity is Old Perlican on the south side of the Bay, which is one of the oldest settlements. It had a population in 1857 of 793. The next populous settlements are Grate’s Cove, Hants Harbour, New Perlican, and Heart’s Content, each of which has a population of from four to six hundred, with churches and schools. At Old Perlican there is a Methodist church and school. Stephen March, Esq., carried on a mercantile establishment here, and is now a member of the Assembly, and a merchant in St. John’s. There is also a Methodist church and school. There is a mercantile establishment, which is a branch of Messrs. Slade’s, of Trinity.

At New Perlican, there is an Episcopal church and school. There are also two mercantile establishments. New Perlican is celebrated as being the residence of the Astrologer of Newfoundland, the late Mr. Pittman, who was an Englishman, and formerly agent for Garland’s house, of Trinity. New Perlican is famous for shipbuilding.

At All Heart’s Content there is an Episcopal church and school. There are several merchants resident here. A packet-boat runs from this place to Trinity once a week. Here are the buildings of the Atlantic Telegraph Company.

The next places of any importance are New Harbour and Dildo Cove. At the former place ‘Mr. Newhook resided, a merchant and ship-builder. Dildo Cove is noted as being the residence of the late celebrated Tom Fitz-gibbon Moore, a poor fisherman, who was the representative of Trinity Bay, in 1836, in the Second House of Assembly of Newfoundland. Trinity Bay is famous for ship-building. In 1836 the population of Trinity Bay was 6,803.

In 1857, the following was the population :—

There were also 1,747 dwelling-houses; 20 schools, with 1,035 scholars. There were 1,819 acres of land in cultivation, the annual produce of which were 916 tons of hay, 10 bushels of wheat and barley, 39,312 bushels potatoes, 205 bushels of turnips, 277 bushels of timothy and clover seed, 126 bushels of other root crops. Of live stock there were 1,352 neat cattle, 680 milch cows, 240 horses, 536 sheep, and 1,395 swine and goats. There were five saw mills, valued at $6,000. The quantity of butter manufactured was 10,136 pounds. The numberjof vessels employed in the seal and cod fisheries was 37 boats carrying from 4 to 30 quintals of green fish and upwards. Nets and lines, 1,933. Quantity of fish cured as follows:—

86,723 quintals of codfish.
176 teices of salmon.
1,072 barrels of herring.

The number of seals taken was 6,100. Seal nets owned, 234. Quantity of oil manufactured, 95,562 gallons.

The following are the number of vessels employed in the seal fishery at different periods from Trinity Bay :—

Some of the above vessels were sent from St. John’s to Catalina and Hants Harbour in the Fall to be fitted out for the seal fishery. The above also include six schooners belonging to Bonavisto which sailed from Catalina.

The number of seals manufactured in Trinity Bay during the years 1839 and 1845 was as follows :—

In 1839........................38,560
In 1845........................14,350

At Trinity, the practice for a number of years had been to claim for the owners of the sailing vessels, a man’s share beyond the number of persons engaged in the voyage. In 1836, however, the hardy seal hunters determined to submit to this iniquitous practice no longer, They held a public meeting and threw the “dead man overboard.”

Measures were taken to extend a submarine Telegraph across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland.”

The following is from Lieutenant Maury, of the U. S. navy :—

“The United States brig “Dolphin,” Lieutenant-Command !ng O. H. Berryman, was employed last summer upon special service connected with the researches that are carried on at this office concerning the winds and currents of the sea.

“Her observations were confined principally to that part of the ocean which the merchantmen, as they pass to and fro upon the business of trade between Europe and the United States, use as their great thoroughfare.

“Lieutenant Berryman availed himself of this opportunity to carry along, also, a line of deep sea soundings from the shores of Newfoundland to those of Ireland.

“The result is highly interesting, in so far ass the bottom of tho sea is concerned, upon the question of a submarine telegraph across the Atlantic, and I therefore beg leave to make it the subject of a special report.

This line of deep sea soundings seems tc bo decisive of the questions as to the practicability of a submarine telegraph between the two continents, in so far as the bottom of the deep sea is concerned.

“From Newfoundland to Ireland the distance between the nearest points is about 1,600 miles; and the bottom of the sea between the two places is a plateau, which seems to have been placed there especially for the purpose of holding the wires of a submarine telegraph, and of keeping them out of harm’s way. It is neither too deep nor too shallow; yet it is so deep that the wires, but once landed, will remain forever beyond the reach of vessels’ anchors, icebergs, and drifts of any kind; and so shallow that tho wires may be readily lodged upon the bottom.

“The depth of this plateau is quite regular, gradually increasing, from the shores of Newfoundland to the depths of from J,500 to 2,000 fathoms, as you approach the other side.

“The distance between Ireland and Cape St Charles, or Cape St. Lewis, in Labrador, is somewhat less than the distance from any point of Ireland to the nearest point of Newfoundland.

“But whether it would be better to lead the wires from Newfoundland or Labrador is not now the question; nor do I pretend to consider the question as to the possibility of finding a time calm enough, the sea smooth enough, a wire long enough, a ship big enough, to lay a coil of wire sixteen hundred miles in length; though I have no fear but the enterprise and ingenuity of the age, whenever called on .with these problems, will be ready with a satisfactory and practical solution of them.

“I simply address myself, at this time, to the question in so far as the bottom of the sea is concerned, and as far as that, the greatest practical difficulties will, I apprehend, be found after reaching soundings at either end of the line, and not in the deep sea.

“I submit herewith a chart, showing the depth of the Atlantic according to the deep-sea soundings, made from time to time, on board of vessels of the navy, by authority of the Department, and according to instructions issued by the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. This Chart is Plate XIV. of the sixth edition of ‘Maury’s Sailing Directions.’

“By an examination of it, it will be perceived that we have acquired by these simple means a pretty good idea as to the depression below the sea-level, of the solid crust of our planet which underlies the Atlantic Ocean, and constitutes the basin that holds its waters.

“A wire laid across from either of the above-named places on this side will pass to the north of the Grand Banks, and rest on that beautiful plateau to which I have alluded, and where the waters of the sea appear to be as quiet and as completely at rest as at the bottom of a mill-pond.

“It is proper that the reasons should be stated for the inference that there are no perceptible currents, and no abrading work at the bottom of the sea upon this telegraphicive this inference from a study of a physical fact which I little deemed, when I sought it, had any such bearings.

“It is unnecessary to speak on this occasion of the germs which physical facts, even apparently the most trifling, are often found to contain.

“Lieutenant Berryman brought up with Mr. Brook’s deep sea line sounding apparatus specimens of the bottom from this plateau.

“I sent them to Professor Bailey, of West Point,^for examination under his microscope. This he kindly gave, and that eminent microscopist was quite as much surprised, as I was to learn, that all these specimens of deep-sea sounding are filled with microscopic shells; to use his own words, ‘ not a particle of sand or gravel exists in them.’

“These little shells, therefore, suggest the fact that there are no currents at the bottom of the sea, whence they came— that Brook’s lead found them where they were deposited in their burial-place after having lived and died on the surface, and by gradually sinking were lodged on the bottom.

Had there been currents at the bottom, these would have swept and abraded, and mingled up with these microscopic remains, the debris of the bottom of the sea, such as oozle, sand, gravel, and other matter; but not a particle of sand or gravel was found lying among them. Hence the inference that these depths of the sea are not disturbed either by waves or currents.

“Consequently, a telegraphic wire once laid there, there it would remain, as completely beyond the reach of accident as it would be if buried in air-tight cases. Therefore, so far as the bottom of the deep sea between Newfoundland, or the North Gape, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and Ireland is concerned, the practicability of a submarine telegraph across the Atlantic is proved.”

Bay of Bull's Arm, in Trinity Bay, has acquired great celebrity as being the place of landing of the first Atlantic Telegraph Cable.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus