ST. JOHN’S, the capital
of Newfoundland, lies in 47° 33' 33" north latitude, and 52° 45' 10"
west longitude from Greenwich, and 10° 52' east of Halifax. Magnetic
variation in 1828, 28° 47' westerly.
The first authentic
record of St. John’s is given in a letter to King Henry VIII., by John
Rut, in 1527, who was at that time employed on a fishing voyage. This is
recorded by Hackluyt, one of the earliest writers on Newfoundland.
The capital is situate
on the most eastern part of the coast, in the Bay of St. John, which,
however, is but a slight indentation of the coast. On approaching St.
John’s from the sea, the shores present an air of grandeur and
sublimity. The coast for miles consists of old red sandstone and
conglomerate, from four to six hundred feet in height, presenting an
almost perpendicular wall, which resists the unbroken surges of the
Atlantic Ocean that incessantly thunder at its base.
In the summer season
this wall of nature’s masonry is adorned with touches of the
beautiful—the interstices and crevices of the sublime cliffs are dotted
with grass, wild flowers, plants, and shrubs of various kinds, the green
foliage of which trailing along the red surface of the rocks, gives it a
picturesque and romantic appearance.
I have seen no part of
America that can compare with the grandeur of the Newfoundland coast.
The Palisades or high lands on the River Hudson, in New York, may
probably bear some resemblance. The Saguenay river, in Canada, strongly
reminded me of the. coast about St. John’s.
St. John’s is one of
the finest harbours in Newfoundland, where a vessel might in a few
minutes shoot from the stormy Atlantic into a secure haven, and ride at
anchor completely land-locked, in from four to ten fathoms of water, on
a mud bottom. The entrance to St. John’s is very narrow, which is
therefore called the “Narrow's.” The channel from point to point, that
is, from Signal Hill on the north side to Fort Amherst on the south
side, is 220 fathoms across; but it widens just within the points, then
again gets narrower on approaching Chain Rock, from which to Pancake
Rock the distance is only 9;> fathoms across, after which it expands
into a beautiful sheet of water, one and a quarter miles long, and about
half a mile wide. In war times a chain used to be thrown across from
Chain to Pancake Rocks. On each side of the Narrows are lofty cliffs,
five hundred and six hundred feet in altitude, studded with forts and
batteries, while a short distance to the right is seen Cuckold’s Head
and Sugar Loaf, towering in solitary grandeur above all the surrounding
coast. Bishop Mullock says:
“St. John’s is placed
almost in the centre of the peninsula of Avalon, on the nearest point to
Europe, with a port the most secure perhaps in the world, fortified by
nature, and only requiring a very moderate outlay, and a few thousand
brave soldiers, to make it, I may say, impregnable—the Gibraltar or
Sebastapol of the North Atlantic. A fleet of war steamers stationed in
St. John’s, sheltered by the guns of Signal Hill and Southside
batteries, would give the command of the North Atlantic to West Britain,
and with Bermuda, paralyze the commerce of the entire seaboard of the
neighbouring continent. I consider St. John’s and Bermuda as the two
great bastions of North America.”
At Fort Ambrose, on the
south side, the harbour lighthouse is situated, which is also a signal
station. There is another signal station at the north side on Signal
Hill. As soon, therefore, as a ship hoves in sight at Cape Spear (which
is eight miles distant, and is also a signal station, with a splendid
lighthouse), she is telegraphed to the principal station on Signal Hill,
and as soon as she approached the south entrance of the Narrows, an
artilleryman on duty, with trumpet in hand, used to walk to the edge of
the rocky precipice, and hail—“From whence came you.” Vessels acquainted
with the trade usually chalked on the quarter the number of days on the
passage, also their name, if they carried no distinguishing flag. The
city of St. John’s (since 1839 St. John’s has been called a city, owing
to a Protestant bishop being at that time appointed—it is not
incorporated) stands principally on the north side of the harbour, on
hills of slight acclivity, on the western one of which, in 1762, the
French took a determined stand against the English batteries. The south
side of the harbour is formed by a lofty and unbroken range of hills
which plunges into the water at an angle of about 70°, which is lined
with wharves, warehouses, oil manufactories, and some dwelling-houses.
St. John’s was twice
destroyed by the French. Some relics of their dominion are still to be
seen. It is said the stone buildings at Fort William were erected for
their commander, and some chairs, with the fleur-de-lis, which belonged
to the commandant, are also yet in existence.
It will be seen by the
following letter, addressed to Mr. Hutchins, whose descendants are now
some of the principal inhabitants of St. Johns, that down to 1790 no
tavern or house of entertainment was allowed to be set up, neither was
the soil to be cultivated:
“Letter from the
Governor, M. K. Milbanke, to George Hutchins, Esq., dated Government
House, St. John's, Newfoundland, 15th October, 1790.
“Sir,—I have considered
your request respecting the alteration which you wish to make in your
storehouse near the waterside, and as it appears that the alteration
will not be in any ways injurious to the fishery, you have hereby
permission to make it. As to Alexander Long’s house, which has been
built contrary to His Majesty’s express commands, made known to the
inhabitants of this place by my proclamation of the 13th of last
October, it must and shall come down. The pretence now set up of its
being intended for a craft-house serves rather to aggravate than
extenuate the offence, for by the confession of your tenant to the
magistrate who forbade him to go on with the work after it was begun, as
well as to me when I viewed the house 011 Saturday last, no such use was
to be made of it: as he said it was intended only as a covering to his
potato cellar, though there is a complete chimney, if not two in it, and
lodging for at least six or eight dieters. I shall embrace this
opportunity of warning you against making an improper use of any other
part of (what you are pleased to call) your ground, for you may rest
assured that every house or other building erected upon it hereafter,
without the permission—in writing—of the Governor for the time
being—except such building and erection as shall be actually on purpose
for the curing, salting, drying and husbanding of fish, which the
fishermen from any part of His Majesty’s European dominions, qualified
agreeable to the Act of the 10th and 11th of William the Third, and the
15th of George the Third, have a right to erect without asking
permission—must unavoidably be taken down and removed, in obedience to
His Majesty’s said commands. And it may not be amiss at the same time to
inform you, I am also directed not to allow any possession as private
property to be taken of, or any right of property whatever to be
acknowledged in any land whatever which is not actually employed in the
fishery, in terms of the aforementioned Act, whether possessed by
pretended grants from former Governors or from any other—no matter what—
unwarrantable pretences—therefore it behoves you, with all possible
despatch, to employ the whole of the ground which you can lay claim to
in the fishery, lest others should profit by your neglect, and make that
use of it which the Legislature of Great Britain intended should be made
of all the land in this country, and without which no one has a right to
claim it as his own. The sheriff * ill have directions about the removal
of the house above mentioned, which you will no doubt assist him in
I am, &c.
“To George Hutchins,
Up to 1811, St. John’s
consisted of one long, narrow, dirty street, with irregular blocks of
low wooden buildings, interspersed with fish flakes. In the above year,
however, important alterations were made by Admiral Duckworth, who was
then Governor, under authority of an Act of Parliament, the “ ships’
rooms ” were divided into building and water lots, and measures were
adopted for the general improvement of the town. From this period the
place began to rise into importance, for until the year above named no
building could be erected in any part of Newfoundland without the
permission of the Governor, in order to prevent settlement.
On the 12th of
February, 1816, a most destructive fire desolated a great part of the
town of St. John’s. The property destroyed is said to have amounted to
more than £100,000 sterling, or $500,000. When the intelligence of this
calamitous event reached the “City of the Pilgrims,” Boston, the Capital
of the “Old Bay State,” a deep and powerful sympathy was excited among
her citizens for the destitution of 1,500 human beings left homeless and
penniless amid the frost and storms of a Newfoundland winter! Burying in
oblivion the recollection that the year previous the two countries were
hostile to each other, and regardless of the disputed right of fishing
on the Banks, which right America wished to claim but Britain was
unwilling to concede, the noble and disinterested citizens only
remembered the claims of their suffering fellow-creatures upon their
hospitality. A vessel was immediately loaded with provisions, which were
sent to be distributed gratuitously among the distressed inhabitants of
St. John’s, where she arrived and delivered her valuable cargo. To brave
the storms of a winter passage to Newfoundland, at that period, was
considered a most daring and hazardous enterprise.
In the following year,
1817, on the night of the 7th of November, another immense fire broke
out at St. John’s and in nine hours destroyed thirteen mercantile
establish-merits (well stocked with provisions) and one hundred and
forty dwelling-houses. The estimated value of the property thus
destroyed was £500,000, or $2,000,000. This distressing calamity was
succeeded by another, on the 21st of the same month, when fifty-six more
houses, besides stores and wharves were consumed. During the winter,
great distress prevailed in consequence of these fires: and, owing to
the failure of the crops in various parts of Europe, the usual
quantities of supplies had not been imported in the fall, and the
merchants, seeing the great improbability of receiving any immediate
returns for their goods, circumscribed the accustomed credit system.
Numbers of the inhabitants, rendered desperate by want, began to break
open the stores. Volunteer companies were immediately embodied and armed
to prevent further depredations, and committees of relief were formed to
issue small quantities of food at stated periods.
St. John’s has since
been visited by several smaller fires. In 1839, a block of houses on the
north side of Water Street, comprising fifteen tenements, were consumed;
and, in 1840. the Exchange and other buildings were destroyed.
The next great fire
with which St. John’s was visited was on the 9th of June, 1846, but,
like the Phoenix, it. always rises better, brighter, and more triumphant
from its ashes. The great fire of the 9th of June took place when all
the mercantile establishments were well stocked with every article of
merchandize, and seal vats full of oil.
“On the morning of
Tuesday,” says the Morning Courier newspaper (published a few days after
the fire;, “the sun rose on St. John’s a busy mart; its population arose
from the slumbers of the previous night, and applied themselves to the
occupations of the day,-w ith the hope that it would be done as the days
that had gone before ; arid ere that sun had set, at least three-fourths
of the town, including the whole of the business part of it, were in
“About seven o’clock in
the evening the work of destruction may be said to have been completed,
so that in ten hours and a half our town was almost entirely destroyed,
and the moon rose in cloudless splendour, throwing her mild light on a
homeless population, who stood viewing, with intense anguish the smoking
ruins of their habitations. Besides the two men that were killed, we
have heard of another aged man who had contrived to save his bed and
some valuables, and while struggling along to a place of safety with a
load too heavy for his strength, fell down and expired.
“It is but justice to
His Excellency, the Governor, to state, that he remained in the vicinity
of the fire till a late hour. We also observed Lieut.-Colonel Law, Major
Robe, and all the other officers of the Garrison actively engaged during
the whole day. The troops were turned out for the protection of property
on the first alarm, and guards were posted for the night, wherever
“A cold night succeeded
a day eventful to the inhabitants of St. John’s, and far the greater
portion of them spent it under the canopy of heaven. The open ground in
front of Government House down towards Gower Street, was occupied by
numerous family groups sitting beside the portions of their furniture
saved from the flames. It was a sad sight to see shivering mothers
endeavouring to shelter their little babes, and to hush them to sleep ;
while the cries of the older ones for food had in many cases to be
answered by ‘ wait ’till daylight, and we shall try to get some for
“A great number of
mercantile establishments were destroyed, besides those we have named;
were we to attempt a complete list, we should have to name every firm
except the solitary one of Messrs. Newman and Co., which is the only one
now in St. John’s that has either a store or an office, except the
stores on the south side of the harbour.
“We never saw a fire
spread with such awful rapidity ; the flames seemed actually to leap
from roof to roof; and the noise of the burning mass could be compared
to nothing that we ever heard, except the roaring of the cataract of
Niagara. The crash of falling materials was heard above the deep sound
of the advancing flames, as roof after roof fell in at short intervals.”
By this awful
conflagation, upwards of 2,000 houses were consumed, and property to the
amount of £800.000, or $4,000,000, destroyed.
The day after the tire,
the principal inhabitants of the town attended a meeting at Government
House, at which a committee was appointed for the relief of the
distressed. A military patrol was appointed to protect the property in
the town, anil Sir John Harvey, the Governor, issued a Proclamation
placing an embargo on all shipping about to leave the port; and Mr. Hele,
R.N., master of Her Majesty’s Ship Vindictive, who was at the time in
the colony, offered his services to search all vessels leaving the port,
to prevent the, removal of any unnecessary quantity of provisions.
Lieutenant Chambers’s, H.N.C., yacht was moored as a guard-ship in the
Narrows, and all the available military tents were pitched at the rear
of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, to afford shelter to the houseless. Two
vessels were despatched to New York and Halifax for provisions.
On the intelligence of
the fire at St. John’s reaching Halifax, a public meeting of the
citizens was convened, and a committee appointed to receive donations
for the sufferers. A quantity of provisions were shipped immediately by
the mail steamer “Unicom,” Captain Meagher, for St. John’s, which was
the first supply received after the fire.
The British Government
gave a munificent donation of £30,000, or SI50,000, to which was added,
under the sanction of the Queen’s letter, addressed to the Archbishops
of Canterbury and York, to make collections in the Churches of England,
the further sum of £31,516, or $157,580 ; making a total of £01,516, or
$307,580 ; in addition to which the sum of $100,236 was received from
various parts of Great Britain, Ireland, tlie British Colonies and
United States, equal to £26,557 16s. 4d. currency, or $100,230.
From Quebec, per
Industry :—33 barrels flour; 100 barrels eal; 93 barrels peas; 67
barrels Indian meal; 25 boxes window glass; 50 pieces deals; 500 boards;
1 keg tobacco; 3 cases; 3 boxes; 1 trunk; 1 bale and 2 barrels clothing
and merchandise. Per Orion:—7 barrels oatmeal; 2 boxes window glass; 1
keg nails; 8 M shingles, and 2 pair shoes.
From Montreal, per St.
Croix: 549 barrels flour; 318 barrels pork; 32 bags bread: 42 kegs
butter; 200 pieces deals; 500 boards; 14 kegs nails; 7 cases and 6 bales
clothing and merchandise. Per Thistle:—495 barrels flour; 187 barrels
pork; 21 bags bread; 158 bags peas; 250 boxes window glass; 200 pieces
deals; 500 boards; 1 case; 3 parcels; and 1 bale clothing and
From New York, per St.
Margaret:—731 barrels flour; 100 barrels pork; 100 kegs butter.
From Halifax, per
Star:—1,055 barrels flour. Per Uni-corn:—360 barrels flour; 100 barrels
pork, and 1 box clothing. Per Dove:—12 barrels flour; 2 barrels pork; 1
case; 3 parcels clothing; 1 bale tinware; 1 nest pails.
From Kentville, per
Unicorn:— 1 box clothing, and 1 keg cheese.
From Exeter, per Sir
Robert Peel :—7 bales clothing, &c., &c.
(Colchester), per Unicorn :—1 bale clothing.
flour; 700 barrels pork; 53 bags bread; 142 kegs butter; 100 barrels
oatmeal; 93 barrels and 158 bags peas; 67 barrels Indian meal; 275 boxes
window glass; 450 pieces deals; 1,500 boards; 14 kegs nails; 1 keg
tobacco; 11 cases; 5 boxes; 3 parcels; 1 trunk; 16 bales, and 2 barrels
clothing and merchandise; 8 M shingles; 2 pair shoes.
Out of the money
collected under the sanction of the Queen’s letter, £15,000 or $75,000,
with the consent of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, were
appropriated towards the erection of a Protestant Cathedral, in the room
of the Church which had been destroyed by the fire.
The following are among
the instances in which it is said the money subscribed for the fire
sufferers was diverted from the proper object for which it was intended.
caused great dissatisfaction. Public meetings were held, and memorials
sent to the Home Government on the subject. It must be confessed,
however, that the Governor was constantly appealed to in aid of cases of
distress, most of which were consequent on the fire, which caused, we
presume, the large expenditure in provisions.
Some of the persons
employed by the e< Relief Committee” were paid handsome sums, who were
then in receipt of a competent salary, and who had suffered nothing by
fire. The Legislature voted $10,000 for the erection of a convent, and
$2,000 for a school-house attached; which were destroyed by the fire,
and which ought to have been taken from the fire-funds—instead of from
the revenue of the colony, which was then insufficient to meet the
expenditure by many thousand pounds.
St. John’s, unlike the
towns of the neighbouring colonies, is not divided into squares, or laid
out into streets intersecting each other at right angles. It has three
principal streets (Water, Duckworth, and Gower), running parallel with
each other, and with the harbour, about two miles. There are several
cross streets, the principal ones are Cochrane Street, fronting
Government House; Queen street, and Prescott street. Since the fire, the
streets have been widened and otherwise improved, and stately stone and
brick dwelling-houses, shops, and a long range of large and commodious
warehouses have taken the place of the low wooden buildings, which
before, for the most part, occupied Water street. Many of these
buildings will compare with the cities of the neighbouring colonies.
The Public Buildings of
St. John are, the Colonial Building. From the granting of a
Representative Constitution, in 1832, the Legislature met in the Court
House, a wooden building, which was always felt to be too small and
inconvenient for such a purpose. No effort, however, was made for the
erection of a Legislative Building, until the destruction of the Court
House by the fire in 1846. Since then a fine building has been erected,
with a staff of officers, and of which Captain W. J. Coen is Governor.
The erection of the
present Parliament Building was commenced in 1847, and opened for the
sitting of the Legislature in 1850. It is a rectangular form, and, built
of white limestone, finely wrought, imported from Cork, Ireland. The
cost of the building was about £20,000 or $100,000.
The aspect of the
building is almost due south, looking towards the harbour, and it
extends 110 feet north, by 88 from east to west. The front entrance is
approached from the Military Road, the ground being thence gradually
brought to a considerable elevation, through a portico supported by six
massive columns of the Ionic Order, surmounted by an elegantly-executed
pediment, representing the Royal Arms; the pillars are nearly 30 feet
high. The height of the floor of the portico from the ground is about 12
feet, and to the top of the pediment, about 55 feet.
The entire of the
building, externally, is of cut stone, with moulded architraves to
windows and doors, and entablature corresponding all round. The
Legislative Halls, for the sitting of the General Assembly and the
Legislative Council, are each 30 by 50 feet. The building also affords
accommodation for House-keeper’s family, Treasurer’s office,
Surveyor-General’s office, &c.
The foundation stone of
this edifice was laid by His Excellency Sir John Gaspard Le Marchant.
Underneath the stone are placed some wheat, the produce of the Island,
and a tin canister, containing some newspapers, British coins, and the
following inscription engrossed on parchment:—
“The foundation stone
of this building was laid on the 24th day of May, in the tenth year of
the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty, Victoria, Queen of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Anno Domini 1847, by His
Excellency Sir John Gaspard Le Marchant, Knight, K. F. and K. 0. S.,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Island of Newfoundland
and its dependencies.
“This edifice was
raised by virtue of an Act of the Colonial Legislature of Newfoundland,
6th William IV., Cap. 14, under the direction of a Board, consisting of
nine Commissioners, viz. :
HEADS OF CIVIL AND
The Hon. James M.
Spearman, Collector of Her Majesty’s Customs.
The Hon. Joseph Noad, Surveyor-General.
Peter W. Carter, Esq., Chief Magistrate.
Benjamin G. Garrett, Esq., Sheriff of Newfoundland.
Christopher Ayre, Esq., Marshall of the Vice Admiralty Court.
Lieut.-Col. Robert Law, K.H., Commander of the Forces.
Lieut.-Col. Robe, Commanding Royal Engineers.
Lieut. Brettingham, Commanding Royal Artillery.
Thomas Weir, Esq., Assistant Commissary-General.
George Winter, Esq., Ordnance Storekeeper.
Mr. James Purcell, Architect and Contractor.
Mr. Patrick Kough, Superintending Inspector.”
House.—This building was commenced in 1825, and finished in 1828. It is
built of cut stone, some of which was obtained from the South-side
Hills, and the remainder imported. The west wing of the building was
formerly occupied by the Colonial Secretary’s and Clerk’s offices. It is
much larger than either of the Government Houses of Nova Scotia or New
Brunswick. It is destitute of exterior architectural ornament, but
possesses superior interior accommodation. This building is said to have
cost £50,000, or $200,000. The grounds around Government House were
planted some years ago with trees, but owing to the exposed situation
they did not thrive well. On the arrival of the Governor, Sir John
Gaspard le Marchant, the grounds were laid out into grass plots,
shrubberies, flower gardens, potato-fields, and wheat plots, and
otherwise embellished and beautified. In front of the building is a
circular or crescent walk, called the “ Mall,” which is a public
promenade, where, during the rule of Sir John Harvey, the military band
used to assemble twice a week to play for the gratification of the
public; but, unlike the people of Halifax, few of the citizens of St.
John’s assembled to listen to the martial strains of music.
The Custom House.—This
building was finished in 1848, the former one having been destroyed by
the fire in 1846. It is built of brick, with stone cornices and
architraves of windows and doors and colonade. It is 51 feet long, 36
broad, and 29 feet high, and cost about $24,000. In front of the
building is the Queen’s Wharf and warehouses. In the foundation stone is
deposited a tin case, containing a few of the current British coins and
the following inscription :—
of this building was laid on the 3rd day of May, in the tenth year of
the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and in the year of Our Lord One
Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty-seven, by His Excellency Sir John
Gaspard Le Marchant, Knight, and Knight Commander of the Order of St.
Ferdinand and Charles III. of Spain, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in
and over the Island of Newfoundland and its dependencies, in presence
The Hon. James Morton
Spearman, Collector of Her Majesty’s Customs.
The Hon. James Crowdy, Colonial Secretary.
The Hon. Patrick Morris, Colonial Treasurer.
The Hon. Joseph Noad, Surveyor-General.
The Hon. Edward Mortimer Archibald, Her Majesty’s Attorney-General.
Lieut-Colonel Robert Law, K.H., commanding Her Majesty’s Troops.
Lieut.-Colonel Alexander W. Robe, commanding Royal Engineers.
Lieut-Colonel Henry R. Wright, commanding Royal Artillery.
Thomas C. Weir, Esq., Assistant-Commissary-General.
William Jenkins, Lieutenant Royal Newfoundland Companies, and Acting
William Parker, Contractors and Builders.
Patrick Reed, Contractors and Builders.
John Macpherson, Clerk of the Work.
The Hospital, which is
a spacious wooden building, is situated at Riverhead,
The Factory, a large
wooden building, the upper part of which is used as a public hall, and
the ground floor is occupied by persons who are employed making wearing
apparel, nets, etc.
Exchange, which is occupied chiefly as a reading-room, is built of
stone, and has one spacious and elegant room, besides several smaller
ones occupied as offices by various persons.
The Bank of British
North America (now called the Commercial Bank), is built of brick and
stone, embellished with a superb front which is quite an ornament to the
city, and of which Robert Brown, Esq., is manager.
The Post-office is a
fine stone building, near which is the telegraph office. The Orphan
Asylum School is a large wooden edifice, belonging to the Benevolent
Irish Society, in which a large number of children are educated.
The Union Bank is
located on Water Street, of which John W. Smith, Esq., is manager.
The Market House.—This
building is situated on Water Street about the centre of the city and
built in 1849. It is a large and handsome building, built chiefly of
stone obtained on the site of the building, with facing of Nova Scotia
cut freestone, in which is placed the town clock. The lower story of the
building is occupied as the Market House, and the second story which
fronts on Duckworth street, is occupied as the Court House, in which the
Supreme and Circuit Courts sit. Here also is located the Registrar’s and
The Church of England
School Society for Newfoundland and the colonies, is a large brick
building capable of accommodating several hundred children.
The Colonial School at
Maggotty Cove is a neat wooden structure. There is also the College and
School of the Church of England. The Roman Catholic College, and the
Methodist and Presbyterian School Houses.
Cathedral is a large and magnificent building, 120 feet long, 56 feet
broad, with tower and spire 130 feet high. It is partly built of stone
obtained in the island, and partly of cut stone imported from England,
Ireland and France. It is estimated to have cost $200,000. It was opened
for worship by the Right Rev. Dr. Field, the Lord Bishop of the diocese,
“The naive of this
church is all that has yet been erected and finished, but it is in
strict conformity with the original design of the entire building, and
of the pointed gothic or ecclesiastical style of architecture. The
finish externally and internally is characteristic, elaborate and
beautiful; the carvings upon the oaken pulpit, the desks and seats are
splendidly executed, as is also the sculpture of the heads upon the
various arches. The communion table is formed of a deep slab of white
marble upon a frame of oak ; the roof is of hardwood timber stained, and
appears like oak; a hot air apparatus, sufficient to temper the
atmosphere within the church in the coldest weather, is arranged beneath
the flagged floor; a small but powerful organ has been set up, and the
appearance generally of the interior is rendered most solemn and
impressive by the mellowed and subdued light admitted through the lofty
pointed windows. It is, so far, a magnificent building, and when the
transcepts, tower and chancel shall have been completed, it wid rank
amongst the finest buildings in British America.”
Collections are now
being taken up by Bishop Kelley for the finishing of the building.
The Roman Catholic
Cathedral—a great proportion of the stone for this building was obtained
in Conception Bay, from Kelly’s Island. The whole exterior of the
building is faced with cut lime stone and Irish granite. The cathedral
is in the form of the Latin cross, with two towers 138 feet high. Its
extreme length is 237 feet, the length of transcepts, 180 feet; breadth
of naive, (10 feet, and of transcepts GO feet; with an ambulatory twelve
feet in breadth, connected with the main body of the church by a screen
of square massive pillars and semi-circular arches. The height of the
walls to the naive course is 60 feet. It was opened for worship in
January, 1850, by the Right Rev. Dr. Fleming, Sr., Bishop, assisted by
Bishop Mullock, Archbishop Hughes, of New York, and Bishop McKinnon from
Arichat, Nova Scotia.
St. Thomas, Church of
England, is a wooden building with a spire; this is where the military
used to attend, and usually the Governor and family. The Rev. Thomas M.
Wood is curate of this church and rural dean of Avalon.
St. Andrew’s, Church of
Scotland, is a neat wooden building with a spire 110 feet high, erected
The Wesleyan Methodist
Church is a spacious brick edifice, with stone facings, erected in 1857,
and another at River’s Head.
Church is a neat stone building, erected in 1853.
There is a fine stone
Church of England (St. Marys), on the south side of St. John’s harbour;
and a Roman Catholic stone church near the River Head.
The Presbyterian (Free)
Church, was erected in 1850. It is built of wood, and is said to be a
very neat and elegant structure. For a view, and more detailed account
of the churches, the reader is referred to “Wandering Thoughts,”
published by the author in 1846. The convent is a stone edifice near the
cathedral. The Presentation Convent, a large and beautiful wooden
structure was destroyed by fire in 1846. A splendid Presentation Convent
has been erected near the cathedral, with which it is connected by a
passage leading to the chancel. A school house is attached to the
convent. The whole erected of cut stone ; cost £7,000 or $28,000. The
foundation stone of this building was laid in 1850 by Dr. Mullock, the
Bishop. With the foundation stone was laid, deposited in a block of
granite, a vase containing several medals, currents coins, the seal of
the late Bishop Dr. Fleming, the names of the clergy of the colony, of
the Bishops of Ireland, of His Holiness the Pope, periodical journals of
the day published in Newfoundland, some wheat, the growth of the Island
in 1848, together with a scroll bearing the following inscription :
“The Foundation Stone
of this Convent of the Nuns of the Presentation Order (first established
in the city of St. John’s in MDCCCXXIII. by the Right Rev. M. A.
Fleming, O.S.F., Bishop of Newfoundland) was laid by the Right Rev. John
Thomas Mullock, O.S.F., Bishop of Newfoundland, on the XXIII. day of
August, MDCCCL. in the V. year of the Pontificate of His Holiness Pius
IX., in the XIV. year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty
Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland; Sir John Gaspard Le
Marchant being Governor of Newfoundland.
Superintendent j PATRICK KOUGH.
“Builder j JAMES
Fort Townsend consists
of a square of wooden buildings, the centre of the square is used as a
parade. Fort William consists of another square of stone buildings. Long
ranges of stone barracks line Signal Hill. All the military has now been
withdrawn from Newfoundland.
In 1845, the erection
of a Native Hall was commenced, for the purposes of a classical school,
lecture room, library, and reading-room. The site of the building was
given by the Government. The foundation-stone was laid by Sir John
Harvey, who was then Governor. The following is a copy of the
inscription on the foundation stone :
“On the twenty-fourth
day of May, Anno Domini 1845, being the anniversary of the birthday of
Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, this stone was laid by his
excellency Major-General Sir John Harvey, Knight Commander of the most
honourable Military Order of the Bath, and of the Royal Hanoverian
Guelphic Order; Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Island
of Newfoundland and its Dependencies, as the foundation stone of the
“For the erection of
which the site has been freely granted by his Excellency the Governor,
then kindly consenting to officiate, unto Richard Barnes, Edward Kielley,
Robert Carter, George Hoyles Dunscomb, Hannibal Murch, Ambrose Shea, and
Philip Duggan, in trust for the use of the Newfoundland Native Society,
instituted in this town on the 12th day of June, in the year of our Lord
1840, Edward Kielley, Esq., being its first, Robert Garter, Esq., lieut.
Royal Navy, and M.G.A., its second, and Richard Barnes, Esq., M.G.A.,
its third and present president.
“The object and aim of
the Association, in the use to which the contemplated structure shall be
appropriated, being the advancement of science by the creation of a
thirst for knowledge.
“The present Building
Committee being Richard Barnes, Chairman; Hannibal Murch, Secretary;
George Hoyles Dunscomb, Thomas Graham Morrey, James Johnston Rogerson,
John Barron, Philip Duggan, Wm. Freeman, James Gleeson, Henry Thomas,
Ambrose Shea, James S. Clift, and Archibald Hamilton McCalman.
“May the building be
speedily completed amidst the rejoicings of the Society.
“God Save the Queen,
and prosper our native land.”
The building was to be
of wood, and was partly erected when it was destroyed by a violent and
terrific gale of wind in the fall of 1846, since which, for want of
sufficient funds, no effort has been made to rebuild it. I hope a
substantial stone edifice will soon be erected, appropriated to the
purposes of a public hall, library, and lyceum.
At the river head a
building was occupied temporarily as a lunatic asylum, which accomodated
about thirty persons. The institution is presided over by Doctor Stabb,
a highly respectable and intelligent physician.1
In the insane asylums
of the United States, reading, writing, arithmetic, drawing and music
are taught. The State Lunatic Hospital of Massachusetts is located at
Worcester, which is one
of the finest buildings in the country, and has 400 patients residing in
it. I have often visited this building, and have been surprised at the
arrangement and order which prevails. ])r. S. B. Woodward in his report
“In my experience of
six years as physician of a prison, and thirteen as superintendent of
this hospital, I have seen many individuals who were broken off abruptly
from all stimulating drinks, yet I do not think a single case of
delirium tremens has occurred.
“Alcohol is not the
only narcotic which affects the brain and nervous system. Tobacco is a
powerful narcotic agent, and its use is very deleterious to the nervous
system, producing tremors, vertigo, faintness, palpitation of the heart,
and other serious diseases. That tobacco certainly produces insanity, I
am unable positively to observe; but that it produces a predisposition
to it, I am fully confident. Its influence upon the brain and nervous
system generally, is hardly less obvious than that of alcohol, and if
used excessively, is equally injurious.
“The very general use
of tobacco among young men at the present day, is alarming, and shows
the ignorance and devotion of the devotees of this dangerous practice to
one of the most virulent poisons of the vegetable world. The testimony
of medical men of the most respectable character, could be quoted to any
extent, to sustain these views of the deleterious influence of this
The following are some
of the charitable and other institutions in St. John’s. .
The Benevolent Irish
Society, established in 180G, is the wealthiest and oldest society on
the island. The Dorcas Society, Mechanics’ Society, British Society, St.
George’s Society, St. Andrew’s Society, Provident and Loan and
Investment Society, Coopers’ Society, Volunteer Fire Company (Phoenix),
Agricultural Society, Bible and Tract Societies, Volunteer Companies,
Law Society, Chamber of Commerce, Library and Reading-room, Masonic
Order, St. John’s Total Abstinence Society, and various Orders of the
Sons of Temperance. A Catholic Total Abstinence Society. A Mechanics’
Institute, established in 1849. A Young Men’s Christian Association,
Church of England Society for Widows and Orphans. The Native Society was
established in June, 1840, and was organized in consequence of the
systematic and almost entire exclusion of natives from offices under the
Government. Strangers from the Old Country were appointed to offices of
emolument, and the Natives were reduced to the necessity of continuing
in their own country as a secondary and subordinate class, or becoming
expatriated and seeking some better field for the exercise of their
industry and talents.
The Natives of
Newfoundland have never asked for anything exclusive in their favour.
They only wished to be placed on a 'perfect equality with all others,
and their own energy and talent, would work out the rest. The Rev. J.
Brewster, an Englishman, and Weslyan Methodist minister, says:—
“The natives of St.
John’s, Brigus, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and other wealthy and populous
places, are a well-educated and intelligent people. Among them may be
found men who could fill with honour the higher stations of political
power and trust; and women who would adorn and bless the family circle
of the most refined establishment. We could refer to instances in which
the offices of the Colonial Government have been better filled than by
the gentlemen sent out from Downing Street. I know not whether our
Colonial Secretaries have a large staff of dependents to provide with
salaries, but the fact is, they have sent out young men from England to
fill important stations, who were not worthy to carry the shoes of some
of the natives, and were inferior to them either in point of morals,
general intelligence, and a natural promptitude and punctuality in
Taking the natives
generally, I have perceived, from personal observation, that they are
superior in manners and speech to the peasantry of many of the country
villages of England.
There is not that
provincialism in their speech as among the peasantry of the Peak of
Derbyshire and the moors of the East Killing of Yorkshire. While
travelling in those parts 1 have frequently felt my want of an
interpreter. During a visit to one of these romantic villages where
every prospect of mountain and flood gave enchantment to the scene, I
spent some time in visiting the different families. A farmer accompanied
me as guide. Stopping before a garden gate, on which a boy was idly
swinging, my guide asked him in his dialect—“Beeal, ist morrow ’it toose
t ’ “Yah,” was the answer. Had rudest of Newfoundland’s ocean sons
accumpained me, he would have asked in plain English, “Bill, is your
mother in the house?” and the answer would have been, “Yes, sir.”
The natives (if
Newfoundland were not only debarred from a participation in the offices
of the Government, but they were also excluded from the pulpits of the
various denominations. Mr. Brewster’s remarks are equally as applicable
to some of the Methodist preachers sent to Newfoundland, as to persons
sent to fill offices in the Government. It is we! known that many
natives were immeasureably superior to the preachers who were sent from
England, in point of general intelligence. It is a well known fact,
also, that most of the Methodist preachers sent from England to
Newfoundland, were raw young men without experience or education. They
were sent “ to fill important stations who were not worthy to carry the
shoes of some of the natives.” Some of the preachers were accustomed to
write to England an account of their privations and sufferings, and
these accounts were published in the Report of the Wesleyan Missionary
Society in London; when most of them well knew they were enjoying more
comforts and luxuries than they ever dreamed of in their paternal homes.
See the debate which took place in the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in
England, 1860, as reported in the Watchman, August 9tli, of that year.
I believe it was not
until 1862 that the Methodists had a native preacher among them; and I
do not remember to have heard of a single native Roman Catholic priest
until 1858, the Rev. Father Brown, of Bonavista. In 1859, when the first
Bishop of the Church of England, Dr. Spencer, was appointed to
Newfoundland, he saw the importance of employing a native ministry. He
at once established a Theological Institution, in which several natives
were trained for the ministry, and of which the Rev. Charles Blackman,
A.M., was the first Principal. Bishop Field, his successor, has pursued
the same course. There are now a number of natives employed as clergymen
of the Church of England, and others going through a preparatory course
of study for ordination. There are natives of Newfoundland clergymen of
the Church of England in England, the various British colonies, and the
United States of America. The Rev. Dr. M‘Cawley, a native of
Newfoundland, was many years President of Kings College, Windsor, and
Archdeacon of Nova Scotia. Another, the Rev. Joseph H. Clinch, A.M., is
a poet, and one of the most talented clergymen of the Protestant
Episcopal Church in the City of Boston, U.S.
A number of others
might be named,—indeed, many who have left the Island have in other
places distinguished themselves in law, medicine, and the army and navy.
Sir Henry Pynn, of Mosquitto, Conception Bay, entered the army, and died
on his estate in Ireland. The present Chief Justice of Newfoundland, Sir
Hugh Wm. Hoyles, the Attorney-General; the Hon. F. C. B. Carter, the
Premier; also the Solicitor-General, the Hon. Judge Hayward, are all
members of the Newfoundland bar, and natives of the country. The first
commander of Newfoundland, the Hon. Ambrose Shea, formerly Speaker of
the House of Assembly, the Hon. John Bemister, formerly Secretary of the
Colony, the Hon. E. W. Shea, the present Secretary; the Hon. J. J.
Rogerson, present Receiver-General; Matthew Ryan, Esq., District Judge,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, are all natives of Newfoundland.
The following are the
Joint Stock Companies of St. John’s:—St. John’s Water Company, Gaslight
Company, Savings Bank, Union and Commercial Banks, Association of
Underwriters, and Farmers’ Mill Company; besides which there are agents
for the following insurance Societies: —Britannia Life Assurance Office,
the Colonial Life Assurance Company, National Loan Fund Life Assurance
Society, London; Protection Insurance Company, New Jersey; Alliance
British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company, Liverpool; Hartford
Life and Fire Insurance Company, etc.; Telegraph Company, Steam Packet
Company, Benefit Building and Investment Society.
The merchants occupy
the most important position in the social character of St. John’s, most
of whom are permanent residents. Many of them have villas in the
neighbourhood of the city. The merchants of St. John’s are renowned for
their hospitality, and liberality towards all philanthropic and
The mercantile class is
the only one who accumulate wealth in large amounts, hence, like the
“Colonocracy” of Boston, the “Fishoeracy” of St. John’s exert a great
influence over all the other classes of the community. Society in St.
John’s is composed of four classes—
merchants, high officials of Government, and some of the lawyers and
merchants, large shopkeepers, some of the lawyers and doctors, and
mechanics, and schooner holders; and the
Fourth Class is the
The first and second
classes rarely, if ever, hold any social intercourse with the others.
There is no colony belonging to the British Empire where influence and
name tend so much to form caste in society, and where it is more
regarded than in St. Johns. This distinction of caste has a very
pernicious influence. It prevents the amalgamation of fellow citizens,
and destroys mutual confidence. Here I shall let my friend, E. Fry,
“We live in a business
age. To obtain the character of a thorough man of business, is to obtain
a passport to the administration and confidence of mankind. There is no
volume studied with more intense and laborious devotion than the
ledger—no pursuit so fascinating and absorbing as that of making money.
We are not about to enter any protest against business men and business
habits. The age needs them ; and their energies, wisely directed,
contribute largely to the public good ; but the age also demands that
they should really be business men, and not business machines. He who
gives up all the faculties and powers, all the time and all the energy
with which God has endowed him to the pursuit of wealth, to his
counting-house or his counter, may be an excellent business machine—as a
thing of figures, weights and measures he may be first rate—but the
higher attributes of his manhood are gone; for the highest privilege is
to be the steward of God, not the slave of self. For the government of
the great human family, Divine Wisdom has framed laws as beautiful as
they are simple and practical. He has written them by the finger of
inspiration—He enforces them by the teachings of experience—He implants
in every heart the power to understand and fulfil them. ‘Love is the
fulfilling of the Law,’ but the law of what? of gold, of power, of self
Nay, but the love of God, and the broad comprehensive love of universal
humanity. Why do we see so much want and misery in the world, but
because men of power and of business, whose love should be universal,
narrow down their senses and their sympathies to the service of one
object, and that object is self. They regard their neighbours, not as
men and women to be served, but to be used. Their solicitude is not how
much happiness they can confer, but how much they can extract—not how
much good they can do to others, but how much they can compel others to
do for them. This is the working of a heartless system of trade
machinery, but should never be the policy of a Christian man of
The mercantile clerks
of St. John’s are a highly respectable and intelligent class of young
men, and as some of them will be the future merchants of the country,
they are of course a very important class of persons. Few of them
exhibit the “swell manners and flash appearance of the roue,” which are
too frequently found amongst this class of persons. The merchants very
generally close their shops at an early hour during three months in the
summer and three in the winter, so as to afford their clerks an
opportunity for mental and moral culture. The clerks are always employed
by the year, and generally board in the house of the merchant. The
family of the merchant, however, rarely take meals with the clerks, and
if the merchant or his agent be present, it is eaten in silence.
“There is a strange
want of confidence exhibited in the intercourse between merchants and
their clerks. Too frequently their conversation resembles what may be
termed ows-examin-ation. Confidence begets confidence. No mail has so
much talent and power as to be above learning many important points of
intelligence, respecting both men and business, from his young men. Each
of the parties moves in a different circle; and the clerk, from the
nature of his young companions, has equal means of obtaining valuable
information his master enjoys.
“What would be said of
a military commander, and what would be his success and fate, did he not
avail himself of all the talent and diversity of character in his
subordinat e officers ? A mechanic is careful to attend to the
suggestions of his work men; a shipmaster should have the most perfect
confidence in his mates and crew ; and should a merchant lose all the
advantages to be obtained from an active exercise of all the talents and
means of information his clerks possess?
“Another evil attendant
upon this intercourse, is the want of interest manifested by employers
respecting their young men during the time they are away from their
places of business. In a very large majority of cases, employers do not
trouble themselves about this matter; and yet who does not see that upon
this point depends, in a great degree, the value of the services
rendered while the clerk is on duty. I ask clerks,— How many of you
receive any indications that your services are appreciated 1 How many of
you have ever been invited to meet your employers at a house of worship,
even in cases where you are professedly Christian ? I ask again, How
many of you are requested, even once a year, to visit your employers at
their dwellings for one evening of social intercourse V’
The following is the
population of the City of St. John’s
at different periods :—
“ 1874........................................... .. 30,575
According to the
returns of 1845, the population of the Electoral District of St. John’s
Roman Catholics .............................18,986
Protestants of other Denominations..........15
Wesleyan Methodist Chapels........4
Roman Catholic Chapels...............5
There were also 4,110
dwelling-houses, and 52 schools, and 3,620 scholars. There were 8,099
acres of land under cultivation, yielding an annual average of 48,543
bushels of potatoes ; 3,436 bushels of oates and other grain ; and 4,313
tons of hay and fodder (since this period quantities of wheat and barley
have been raised in the district.) There were also in the above year,
771 horses, and 1,307 head of cattle. The manufactures of St. John’s
consists of boots and shoes, tin-ware, cabinet-ware and upholstery,
carpentry, lime, seal-oil, cod-liver oil, &c. Recently salt has been
manufactured from sea water, and spinning and weaving wool and flax have
commenced, producing the fabrics called “ home-spun.” There are two
grist mills at work, and a distillery. There is also a nail manufactory,
saw mill, and an iron foundry, where every description of castings is
made. This establishment is owned by the Hon. C. F. Bennett, one of the
oldest and most enterprising merchants in the island. The City of St.
John’s is lighted with coal gas, and is well supplied with water, which
is conveyed from Signal Hill, three miles distant. The streets are well
provided with fire plugs, which are also used to water the streets.
Nearly the whole trade
of the island centres in St. John’s. There is probably more business
done in St. John’s, for the extent of population, than in any other town
in the world.
The two districts of
St. John’s, East and West, return six members to the House of Assembly.
According to the census returns of 1857 and 1874, for the two electoral
districts of St. John’s, the population was 30,434, and 30,574 The
different" denominations were represented as follows:
There were nine
Churches of England, nine Churches of Rome, three Churches of
Methodists, one Church of Scotland, one Free Church of Scotland, and one
There were 4,553
inhabited houses, and 70 schools, with 4,303 scholars.
The following is a
comparative view of the number of vessels employed in the seal fishery,
from St. Johns, from the year 1830 to 1859 :
In 1872, twenty
steamers sailed from St. John’s and Harbour Grace, for the seal fishery.
Some of them were 800 tons burden, carrying 280 men each. There were
also a number of sailing vessels sent out.
The following is the
number of foreign vessels which entered the port of St. John’s in 1850:
Exports from St. John’s
in foreign bottoms, in 1850:
Besides the above,
about 600 vessels belonging to St. John’s, were employed in the foreign
The following will
enable the reader to form an estimate of the number of seals annually
manufactured at St. John’s.
Number of seals
received in St. John’s in 1839:
Landed from 76 St.
Landed from 98 out-port vessels .............150,576
The following is the
number of seals received by the various mercantile establishments up to
the 30th of April, 1845. There were, however, many thousand more
received after that date.
Robinson, Brooking &
John P. Mullowney .................3,500
Parker & Gleeson ... ................700
James Douglas & Co.................3,300
Lawrence O’Brien ........... .....14,000
James Tobin & Co..................26,500
Hunters & Co.......................7,150
Job, Brothers & Co.................6,431
W. & H. Thomas & Co...............11,000
Baine, Johnston & Co...............8,000
Richard Howley................ ....7,800
McBride & Kerr....................15,497
John & J. Kent ....................3,000
R. O’Dwyer & Co....................7,000
E. & N. Stabb......................1,996
John Nichols ..................... 1,000
John H. Warren.................... 5,100
C. F. Bennett & Co................ 9,572
J. & W. Stewart.............. ....18,235
Rennie, Stuart & Co...............13,523
R. Alsop & Co..................... 7,800
Stabb, Row & Holmwood ............ 4,900
Hounsell, Schenk & Hounsell .... . 5,978
Newman & Co..... ................. 5,557
Mudge & Co........................ 4,250
Making a total of..........207,754
Which produced 2,596
tuns of oil imperial, at the usual calculation of 80 seals to a tun—valued
at <£30 per tun, amounts to £77,880, or $311,520.
In 187G, Messrs. Job
Brothers’ steamer “Neptune,” commanded by the Hon. E. White, returned
from the seal fisheries with 8,000 young harps the first trip, and
18,000 old seals on the second trip. The total value of both trips
estimated at $132,000.
The staple articles of
the produce of St. Johns exported are fish and oil. Some few years ago,
four or five cargoes of ice were exported, but I believe none have since
been sent away.
I do not know why the
exportation of ice is not more attended to. The ice trade of Boston and
other parts of the United States is very considerable. The freight on
ice exported from the United States in 1849 amounted to $95,027.
The following is the
number of vessels employed in the ice-trade of Boston in 1848:—
To various ports of the
United States—41 ships, 33 barques, 39 brigs, 128 schooners, making in
all, 241 vessels coastwise.
To foreign ports—22
ships, 19 barques, 13 schooners, in all 85 vessels.
The total value of the
GO,425 tons of ice shipped from Boston in 1848 amounted to $386,700. The
quantity of ice shipped from Boston in nine months in 1851 was 8(3,752
tons. It is calculated that about 66,000 tons of ice are consumed in the
City of New York, valued at $2.50 per ton of 2,000 lbs., will give
8104,500 as the value of the ice consumed in the city. The ice sells in
foreign ports at from three to six cents per pound.
The ice crop of New
York in 1851 was 180,000 tons— of course it is a great deal more now.
There are eleven
newspapers published in St. John’s, four weekly, four tri-weekly, two
semi-weekly, and one published on the arrival of every mail packet.
There is also a small paper devoted to temperance, and an agricultural
journal- -a quarterly publication.
In order to complete
the improvements which are going on in St. John’s, the town should be
incorporated. The great objection to this, by the Protestants, is, that
all the patronage would be thrown into the hands of the Roman Catholics,
who compose two-thirds of the population. There are two police
magistrates in St. J ohn’s, called district judges, with a clerk of tlie
peace. There are about a dozen medical men living in St. John’s, some of
whom have a very lucrative income.
formerly distinguished from the other North American Colonies by its
frequent exemption from cholera, but in 1854 St. John’s suffered
fearfully from that disease.
It attacked chiefly,
says Bishop Field,—
“Those quarters of the
town which are occupied by the poor, dwelling in houses closely packed
together, or in over-crowded rooms wholly unventilated, and unprovided
with appurtenances as essential to decency as to healthiness, and having
no pro] ter drainage or sewerage. There it was sadly true, in the course
of this visitation that ‘there was not a house where there was not one
dead.’ It has been estimated that 700 or 800 persons died, of whom 80
were Members of the Church of England.
“The Clergy had
frequently, in addition to their own more proper duties, to minister
with their own hands to the sick and dying. There was such a panic among
the people, that many who only fancied themselves ill, summoned us to
them. The Bishop, who was at St. John’s throughout this distressing
time, not only aided us by his counsel and advice, but directed us by
his example, and encouraged us by his earnest and fearless devotedness.
I have myself seen him pouring nourishing ‘drinks’ into the mouth of the
poor agonised patient, in a room or hovel, where filth and offensive
odours proclaimed the very hot-bed of pestilence. Even when friends or
neighbours declined the office, his Lordship has assisted in bearing the
sick to the vehicle in which they were to be carried to the hospital;
and in any way in which he hoped he might be useful to the souls or
bodies of his suffering flock, he was forward to prove himself their ‘
servant for Jesus’ sake.’
“The parish also had
the benefit of the services of the Rev. J. F. Phelps, Vice-Principal of
the College, and of the Rev. A. E. C. Bayley, Missionary in charge of
the out-harbours, and especially of a pious and devoted English lady,
who has for the last year and a half given herself to the work of God
here. She not only toiled beyond a woman’s strength, but with more than
even a woman’s kindness and sympathy in ministering to the afflicted.
The nourishment which she had prepared at her house, she carried and
gave to them herself, and shrank from no office of piety or
charity,—even closing the eyes of the dead, and otherwise preparing them
for their coffins.
“A distressing fact
connected with this visitation was the seeming indifference to the
highest and most momentous concerns produced by the rapid and entire
prostration of mind as well as body, which occurred in almost every
case. I remember very few instances in which the dying expressed any
anxiety about their souls.
“Many of the
inhabitants (including Churchmen, Dissenters, and Roman Catholics)
afterwards expressed their sense of the valuable services of the Clergy,
by contributing to present Archdeacon Bridge and the Rev. T. M. Wood
with appropriate and acceptable gifts.”
The merchants have two
steam tug-boats for towing vessels in the Narrows. Instances have been
known of vessels after having arrived at the mouth of the Narrows in the
winter season, being obliged to hear up for Europe. The pilots of St.
John’s are a noble and fear-nought race of men, who are constantly
exposed to the “peltings of the pitiless storm.” The pilot-boats are
small open boats, built sharp at both ends, like whale-boats; they are
furnished with a crew of good rowers, and, when the breeze is favourable,
sails are spread. This class of boats, however, ought to be superseded
by larger and decked boats. Many persons wonder how the pilot-boats of
St. John’s live in weather in which they are frequently found.
The Newfoundland Mails
are conveyed to and from Halifax by a Royal Mail Steam-packet, and one
of the Ounard line, once a fortnight, except in the months of January,
February, and March, once a month. The steamer leaves Halifax for St.
John’s, immediately after the arrival of the homeward bound Mail, (from
Boston), and after remaining there seventy-two hours from the time of
arrival, proceeds hack to Halifax with the return Mails, calling at
Sydney, Cape Breton. On the average the passage is performed in about
three and a half days.
calculation of the distances between New York and Bristol, and New York
and Liverpool, and also between Boston and Liverpool, via Halifax and
St. John’s, were given some years ago in the Liverpool Standard:—
Taking, therefore, the
direct course in each case, as by the calculations given, we have the
following results :—
The voyage from New
York to Liverpool is 43 miles longer than from New York to Bristol. From
New York to Liverpool is longer than from Halifax to the same port by
529 miles. From New York to King’s-road, near Bristol, where the Great
Western anchors, is 99 miles further than from Boston, via Halifax to
Liverpool; and that the voyage from Liverpool to Halifax, via St.
John’s, is only 104 miles longer than the direct passage.
There is a
Postmaster-General in St. John’s, with a Chief Clerk, ami five
assistants. Post Offices are established at the following places:—Harbor
Grace, Carbonear, Brigens, Trinity, Bonavista, Greenspond, Fogo, Twillin^ate,
Bay Bulls, Ferryland, Trepassey, Placentia, Burin, Harbor Briton, Burgeo.
Roberts, King’s Cove, New Perlican, Old Perlican, St. Mary’s, Grand
Bank, Corelin, Isle of Va-len, Little Platentia, Salmonier, Garnish, and
John’s and Portugal Cove, every (lay, except Sunday and Friday, by
Between Portugal Cove,
Brigus, Harbor Grace, and Carbonear, by Steamer, tri-weekly.
Overland, by Waggon,
for Carbonear, via Topsail KeJ-ligrews, Holyrood, Harbor Alain, Brigus,
Port-de-Grave, Bay Roberts, Spaniard’s Bay and Harbor Grace, Four Hours
after the arrival of Halifax Steamer.
Mondays and Thursdays, between St. John’s and Carbonear, calling at all
the intermediate places.
Between Carbonear and
New Perlican (calling at Heart’s Content) weekly, by Messenger.
Between Carbonear and
Bay-de-Yerds, weekly, by Messenger, calling at intermediate places.
Between New Perlican
and Bay-de-Verds and Grates, calling at Old Perlican, weekly, by
Between New Perlican
and Trinity, weekly, by Boat.
Between Trinity and
Bonavista, weekly, by Messenger.
Between Trinity and
King’s Cove, weekly, by Messenger.
Between Bonavista and
Greenspond, fortnightly, during summer months, touching at King’s Cove
or Tickle Cove.
Between St. John's,
Fogo, and Twillingate, leaving St. John's every second Wednesday after
the arrival of the
Mail Packet from
Halifax, or on such other days as the Postmaster-General may appoint.
* Between St. John’s
and Ferryland, weekly, by Waggon, during summer months, and fortnightly
* Between Ferryland and
Trepassy, by Messenger.
* Between St. John’s
and Placentia, by Waggon, at 4 o’clock, a.m., on the Tuesday after the
arrival of Halifax steamer.
* Between Placentia and
St. John’s, by Waggon, in one hour after the arrival of Packet Boat from
* Between Salmonier and
St. Mary’s, by Messenger.
* Between Great and
Little Placentia, by Messenger.
* Between Little
Placentia, La Manche, Sound Island, Harbor Buffett, Red Island,
Merasheen and Bourgeo, by Boat.
* Between Great
Placentia and Burin, by Boat, touching at Paradise and Oderin.
* Between Burin and
Garnish, by Messenger.
* Between Garnish,
Grand Bank, and Fortune, by Messenger.
* Between Garnish and
Harbour Briton, calling at English Harbor, by Boat.
* Between Harbour
Briton, Burgeo and La Poile, by Boat.
Routes marked thus (*)
are fortnightly during summer, and monthly during winter months.
Mr. Morris says:
“On the great Holyhead
line, the coach stops to deliver the mails at the smallest villages or
post towns; on the rail-roads, rapid as their course is, the same system
is adopted. The consideration that is given to a village is denied to
Newfoundland, Her Majesty’s Mail passes her shores, and she is not
considered of sufficient importance to stop for a few hours to deliver
them. The trade to Newfoundland is not so large, the demand for British
manufactures is not so great as that to the American continent, yet it
is not insignificant; there is between three hundred and fifty thousand
and half a million’s worth of British manufactures annually consumed,
and the amount rapidly increases. There is nearly a million of exports,
the returns chiefly centre in England. Some two thousand British ships,
manned with many thousands of British seamen, are employed. To say
nothing of the growing importance of the country itself, surely such a
Colony claims a due share of consideration.” It has never yet received
In 1888, when
establishing direct steam communication between England and America was
contemplated. Admiral Prescott strongly recommended the harbour of St.
John’s as a convenient post to touch at in the passage out and home. He
forwarded a memorial from the Chamber of Commerce of St. John’s on the
same subject, to show the facility with which the passage to
Newfoundland was made, even by sailing vessels, in the depth of winter.
His Excellency, Governor Prescott, in a despatch, under date of the 2nd
February, 1839, said:
“With reference to my
despatches of the 12th and 19th January, I have the honour to inform
your Lordships, that a merchant brig arrived here from Cork, on the 30th
pit., after a passage of only thirteen days, and had no difficulty in
entering this port, and sailing up to her owner’s wharf.”
recommendation of St. John’s as a post of call was submitted by the
Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the Lords Commissioners of the
Treasury, who did not deem it expedient to attend to his recommendation.
His Excellency Sir John
Harvey, in his speech to the Legislature, at the opening of the Session
in 184G, points out the advantages of making Newfoundland an
intermediate post of call, and fully confirms the opinion given, under
the high professional character of Admiral Prescott.
“The impressions which
have been produced on the minds of several distinguished individuals by
whom this Island has been visited during the last summer, as to the
decided superiority which this port of St. John’s possesses over every
other, as an intermediate point in steam navigation between England and
America, whether tlie terminus be the British Colonies or the
United States, are:
1st—From its geographical position. 2nd— From the depth of water and
perfect security of its noble harbour, accessible at all seasons, and at
all hours of day or night, owing to the absence of tides or bars.
3rd—From the safety of navigation along the whole of the southern coast
of Newfoundland, from Cape Spear, on which a splendid light has long
existed, to Cape Race, which—or in its neighbourhood—it is hoped will
ere long exhibit one of equal power. 4th—From the numerous harbours of
refuge which present themselves along that coast.
“These are among the
circumstances which have attracted the attention of the intelligent
individuals to whom I have referred, and I now allude to the subject in
order to point to it the attention of the mercantile interests of this
Colony, at a moment when such great efforts are being made to extend
railroad communications to the western extremity of Ireland, with the
object of shortening and facilitating steam communication between Great
Britain and her transatlantic possessions.
“The General Assembly
petitioned Her Majesty and both Houses of Parliament on the same
The railroad extending
from the State of Maine, through the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia, will greatly faciliate travel between Europe and America. Also
the Intercolonial Railroad. The distance from St. John’s, Newfoundland,
to the nearest part of Ireland is about 1,650 miles, and instances are
on record of sailing vessels having anchored in Ireland 7 and 8 days
from St. Johns. A powerful steamer would accomplish the distance in
about 5 days. By making St. John’s an intermediate port of call for the
mail steamers, the distance between the old and new world would be
“This can only be
achieved by shortening the sea voyage, and dispensing with the vast
weight of coal and other superfluous load now carried. Vessels designed
for crossing the ocean with speed, should be relieved of all load not
requisite for steadiness and good carriage. Ordinary merchandise will
always go more cheaply in sailing vessels. Valuable goods could be
transferred to boats of still greater speed, from the ocean terminus
running if necessary to the various Atlantic cities. In this way the
safest and swiftest passage would be secured. In a few years, instead of
a semi-weekly, a daily arrival of steamships may be expected.’’
A railroad is now being
surveyed across the Western part of Newfoundland to St. Gaspard’s Bay;
thence to Shippegan in New Brunswick, connecting with the Intercolonial
Railroad. Steamships from Europe now make St. John’s an intermediate
port of call. Messrs. Lord, Major and Munner’s steamers from Montreal
run to St. John’s, calling at Sydney and Pictou.
The following is an
interesting incident in the life of Fulton, the father of steam
navigation, taken from an American paper:—
“Some twenty years
since, more or less—for I cannot fix the date with more certainty—I
formed a travelling acquaintance, upon a steamboat on the Hudson Iliver,
with a gentleman, who, on that occasion, related to me some incidents of
the first voyage of Fulton, to Albany, in his steamboat, the Claremont,
which I have never met with elsewhere.
“I chanced, my friend,
to be at Albany, on business, when Fulton arrived there in his unheard
of craft, which everybody felt so much interest in seeing. Being ready
to leave, and hearing that this craft was to return to New York, I
repaired on board and inquired for Mr. Fulton. I was referred to the
cabin, and there I found a plain gentlemanly man, wholly alone, and
engaged in writing.
“Mr. Fulton, I
“Do you return to New
York with this boat?”
“We shall try to get
“Can I have a passage
“You can take your
chance with us, sir.”
“I inquired the amount
to be paid, and after a moment’s hesitation, a sum, I think six dollars,
was named. The amount, in coin I laid in his open hand, and with his
eyes fixed upon it he remained so long motionless that I supposed there
might bo a miscount, and said to him, is that right, sir 1 This roused
him as from a kind of reverie, and as he looked up to me the big tear
was brimming in his eye, and his voice faltered as he said, ‘ excuse me,
sir; but memory was busy as I contemplated this, the first pecuniary
reward I have ever received for all my exertions in adapting steam to
navigation. I would gladly commemorate the occasion over a bottle of
wine with you, but really I am too poor, even for that just now; yet I
trust we may meet again, when this will not be so.’
“The voyage to New York
proved successful, as all know, and terminated without accident.
“Some four years after
this, when the Claremont had been greatly improved, and her name changed
to the North River, and when two other boats, namely, the Car of Neptune
and the Paragon, had been built; making Mr. Fulton’s fleet, of three
boats plying between New York and Albany, I took passage on one of these
for the latter city. The cabin, in that day, was below; and as I walk
its length too and fro, I saw I was very closely observed by one I
supposed a stranger. Soon, however, I recalled the features of Mr.
Fulton, but, without disclosing this, I continued my walk and awaited
the result. At length, in passing his seat, our eyes met, he sprang to
his feet, and eagerly seizing my hand, exclaimed, ‘ I knew it must be
you, for your features have never escaped me; and although I am still
far from rich, yet I may venture that bottle now.’ It was ordered, and
during its discussion, Mr. Fulton ran rapidly but vividly over his
experience of the world’s coldness and sneers, and of the hopes, fears,
disappointments, and difficulties that were scattered through his whole
career of discovery, up to the very point of his final crowning triumph,
at which he so fully felt he had at last arrived. ‘And, in reviewing all
these,’said he, ‘ I have again and again recalled the occasion and
incident of our first interview, at Albany; and never have I done so
without renewing in my mind, the vivid emotion it really caused. That
seemed, and still does seem to me, the turning point in my destiny—the
dividing line between light and darkness, in my career on earth—for it
was the first actual recognition of my usefulness to my fellow-man.
“Such, then, were the
events coupled with the very dawn of steam navigation—a dawn so recent
as to be still recollected by many—and such, as Fulton there related
them, were the early appreciations by the world of a discovery which has
invaded all waters, causing a revolution in navigation which has almost
literally brought the very ends of the earth in contact.”
The following, from the
Montreal Transcript, is a history in brief of the losses of ocean
steamers since the experiment was satisfactorily tried of crossing the
Atlantic in steam-propelled vessels. Our contemporary is, however,
incorrect in one particular. The Royal William and not the Sirius was
the first steamer which successfully performed the ocean voyage from
Pictou to Cowes, Isle of Wight, in 1833.—The only vessel of the Cunard
line lost was the Columbia, at the entrance of the Bay of Fundy.
“The first steamship
that crossed the Atlantic was the Sirius, in 1838.3
The regular line of European steamships was started by Mr. Cunard in
1840, and since that time there have been lost on the Atlantic twelve
steam vessels, making an average in nineteen years of about one in every
eighteen months. The disasters may be summed up as follows:-
Never heard of.
Never heard of.
A few only
Never heard of.
A few only
Never heard of.
loss of life.
hundreds within a few feet of shore.
Hewn down by a
twenty minutes, after striking an iceberg.
These, with numerous
minor cases, the details of which will never be known, go to swell the
list of lost steamers.”
A magnetic telegraph
has been erected from St. John’s to Conception Bay and the western part
of the island. As yet no effort has been made to establish a “Sailor’s
Home,” or to erect a Mariners’ Church, in St. John's. In this respect it
stands alone amid all the North American colonies, although possessing a
larger number of seafaring persons than any of them. The writer
communicated with the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society, in London,
in 1846, but from various causes the project was then abandoned. The
first President of the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society, Admiral
Lord Gambier, was a well-known and philanthropic Governor of
Newfoundland in 1802. It is calculated that there are three millions of
persons throughout the world occupied on the great deep, and of this
number 300,000 are at least British seamen. Of these, it is said, not
20,000 have any practical or experimental knowledge of the great truths
of Christianity, so that not fewer than 280,000 of the most deserving
portion of our fellow creatures are in moral darkness and ignorance. The
poor sailor is more deserving of honour than the most renowned warrior
that ever crimsoned his sword in the blood of his fellow man. The people
of Newfoundland, above ail other countries, are deeply indebted to the
adventurous and daring intrepidity of the sons of the ocean!
To use the language of
the eloquent author of “Britannia,” a Prize Essay, dedicated to William
From the shores of
eternity they cast back on us looks of upbraiding and reproach, because
we never stretched out a friendly hand to save them from destruction ;
and because, while every other class was enjoying the benefits of our
Christian solicitude, we entirely neglected them. From eternity they
implore us instantly to warn their brethren and children, lest they also
come to the place of torment.”
The following is an
extract of a letter addressed to me by the British and Foreign Sailors’
Society, in 1847:
“It has been computed,
that for every sixteen sailors who die of all diseases, eleven die by
drowning, or in wrecks : that the number of British ships which are
lost, is about one to twenty-five : that nearly two thousand of our
mariners perish every year in the mighty deep, chiefly by shipwreck, by
which property to the value of nearly three millions sterling is
annually lost to the empire; while hundreds of widows, and thousands of
orphans, are thrown upon public charity; and that the more frequent
cause of these shipwrecks is intemperance! These thrilling facts must
speak with deep and solemn emphasis to every one possessed of the
feelings of our common humanity; but especially to such as have a due
sense of the worth of the soul, and the momentous doctrines of salvation
by Christ. Oh ! if there were any bowels and mercies in those who call
themselves disciples of the Lord Jesus, let them—by all that is precious
in redeeming blood—by all that is touching in Divine Love—by all that is
real in the discoveries of the gospel—by all that enters into the worth
of a deathless soul—by all that stands connected with immortality and
eternity, attempt, without delay, the present and eternal salvation of
our deserving Seamen !”
The advocacy of
Temperance first commenced in St. Johns in 1835. A society was then
formed, but eventually failed for want of being conducted on the total
abstinence principle. In 1838, a total abstinence society was formed,
which, for a long time consisted of only nine members. In 1849 more
public efforts were made, when the Society began to increase. In 1841
the Society numbered 250 members. The Society held several public
meetings and festivals in aid of the cause, and put in circulation
temperance journals and tracts. All these efforts were the means at
length of inducing others to embark in the cause. In 1843 this Society
was denominated “The Abstinence Union Society,” connected with which was
then the Presbyterian and Methodist Ministers.
In 1841, the Right Rev.
Dr. Fleming, late Roman Catholic Bishop, commenced the advocacy of total
abstinence. He imported several thousand medals, on one side of which
the trade, fisheries, and agriculture of Newfoundland were represented,
and on the reverse side was tlie pledge, with the name of the president.
The hisliop appointed one of his clergymen, the Rev. Kyran Walsh, to
administer the pledge, and in the course of a few weeks several
thousands enrolled their names and received the pledge. From this time
the temperance cause made rapid strides, through the zealous advocacy of
Mr. Walsh. Subsequently, the Rev. John Forestal was appointed president
of the Society, who was indefatigable in his exertions to extend the
cause. Mr. Walsh has now resumed his old post again as president of the
Society. In 1842, the Rev. Thomas F. H. Bridge, M.A., rector of St.
John’s, parish church, began to administer a temperance card amongst the
Protestant part of the community, when hundreds signed the pledge. After
this the Catholic and Protestant clergymen in the outports commenced the
advocacy of total abstinence.
In 1844, the number of
teetotalers had increased to 22.000 for the whole island, of which
number there were 20.000 Catholics. During the Governorship of Sir John
Harvey, he delivered several temperance speeches, and aided the cause by
his presence on several occasions. After this period the temperance
cause retrograded, until 1848, when Mr. Kellogg, an American temperance
lecturer, visited St. John’s, and delivered a course of lectures, which
gave a fresh impetus to the cause. A new society was then formed, under
the title of “St. John’s Total Abstinence Society,” when several
influential persons, who had hitherto stood aloof, joined the Society.
Since this period public meetings have been regularly held, and converts
obtained to the cause. Several Orders of the Sons of Temperance have
The following is the
quantity of liquors imported in the undermentioned years, including ale
and porter, wines and spirits, of all kinds:—In 1838, 277,808 gallons;
in 1847, 94,208 gallons; in 1850, 250,361 gallons.
The scenery around St.
John’s is as fine as I have ever seen in any country. The land is
beautifully cultivated, and dotted with cottages and groups of trees.
The trees are, however, destitute of that magnificent foliage that the
trees of the neighbouring continent present. Neither oak, elm, maple,
beach, cedar, walnut, butternut, or chestnut adorns the Newfoundland
landscape; the principal trees being spruce, fir, birch, and pine. There
are some well cultivated farms in the neighbourhood of St. John’s. In
the winter season the environs of St. John’s is crowded with persons
drawing wood from the interior with horses and dogs, on low sleigh-like
vehicles, called slides and catamarans. The greater part of the wood is
used for fuel. The principal part of the inhabitants, however, burn
coal, which is imported from Sydney, C.B., and Great Britain. The
air-tight or. close stoves which are so common in the United States and
the continental provinces, and which are so very convenient, but which
are also very destructive to the health, are not much used in
Newfoundland. During this season also, trains of sleighing parties are
seen flying about in all directions, while the brass harness glistening
in the sunshine, and the tinkling of the little bells on the horses’
necks, present a scene of gaiety and animation.
The sleigh of
Newfoundland is not a vehicle of business, sleighing being pursued
mostly for recreation and pleasure, and principally confined to St.
John’s, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and Brigus.
The principal places in
the district of St. John’s, east and west, besides the City of St.
John’s, is Torbay, which has three cod liver oil manufactories, and a
population of 1,200; Petty Harbour, where are three cod liver oil
manufactories, and a population of 747; and Portugal Cove, with a
population of 651—at the latter place there are three churches, one
Church of England, one Wesleyan Methodist, and one Roman Catholic. There
are also three hotels, also two schoolhouses, and a public wharf for
passengers, &c., to land off the packets which touch here every day from
various parts of Conception Bay. The passengers either walk or ride in a
coach over a beautiful road nine miles and a half to St. John’s. The
craggy rocks and wild towering cliffs, crowned with stunted fir trees,
surrounding Portugal Cove, gives it an exceedingly romantic appearance.
Waterford Bridge and Tindi Vidi in the neighbourhood of St. John’s, are
places of great resort for pleasure parties, also Topsail, some miles
Quidi Vidi Lake is
frequented in the summer for bathing and regattas, and in the winter
season for skating. A considerable quantity of ice is taken from the
lake and deposited in an ice-house by the side of the lake, which
belongs to a company who supply the city during the summer months. The
whole country surrounding this lake is finely cultivated.
About three miles from
St. John’s is “ Virginia Cottage,” once the rural retreal of Sir Thomas
Cochrane, the governor. The lands are beautifully embellished with
trees, and laid out in gravel walks. There is also a small lake along
which winds a walk. This lovely spot was adorned from the private purse
of Sir Thomas Cochrane, and after his departure from the island, was
sold to the present proprietor, George H. Emerson, Esq., once a member
of the House of Assembly, and solicitor-general of the island.
Besides the above
places in the two districts of St. John’s, there is Logy Bay, population
180; Flat Rock, 236; Outer Cove, 237; Pouch Cove, 736; and Broad Cove,