NL GenWeb

Historical Information

Bonavista Bay Region

King's Cove Roman Catholic Parish Information

Written by FRED PAFFORD, August 2001. While I have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be errors.

The earliest Roman Catholic community on the North East Coast were small groups located at Burnt Islands, Gooseberry Island, Greenspond, Pinchard's Island, Barrow Harbour, Fogo Island and a few more places. During the first half of the 1800's, many of these people congregated into larger communities at King's Cove, St. Brendan's on Cottel's Island, Tilting on Fogo Island and Burnt Island. Between 1800 and 1830 there was also a large movement of Catholics into the King's Cove area from Ireland most likely because of the very bad conditions back home.

The first priests that ministered in this area were travelers or circuit ministers; and because the RC religion was outlawed, they did not stay very long in one place. They carried their registers with them as personal items wherever they went. Any baptisms, marriages or burials they preformed would have been recorded in them and probably nowhere else. I was told by Dr. Cyril Byrne some years ago that the personal records of one Franciscan or Dominican Priest that traveled the Newfoundland shores ended up in the New England area of the USA. It was found years later but was mistakenly returned to St. John, New Brunswick, instead of St John's, Nfld. He was not sure what became of it. One of the very first traveling priests was Fr. Cain or Kean, an Augustinian Friar from County Wexford, Ireland. He secretly ministered to the RC communities on the island from 1770 to 1776. Upon his return to Ireland an Irish born Dominican Friar (trained in France) named Fr. Thomas Lonergan (1752-1787) replaced him. He is buried in a Catholic cemetery on Fogo Island. (Gentlemen-Bishops and Faction Fighters by Cyril J Byrne; A History, Town of Fogo, Nfld. Patrick Pickett). There is no doubt that other priests had preceded them because in 1764 Governor Hugh Pallister remarked that the Catholic population, which exceeded the protestant population, "had priests scattered amongst them." (Gentlemen-Bishops and Faction Fighters by Cyril J Byrne).

The first acceptance of the Roman Catholic Church in Nfld. came about when Governor John Campbell allowed Father O Donel (later made Bishop O Donel) to come to Nfld. in 1784. When Fr. O Donel arrived on July 4, 1784 he brought with him Rev. Patrick Phelan whom he put in charge of the mission at Harbour Grace. In 1785 Fr. Edmund Burke arrived and went to Placentia. In 1788 a third priest, Fr. Thomas Yore (Ewer) arrived and took over the Ferryland mission. According to Cyril Byrne these were the only legitimate Roman Catholic Priests in Nfld at that time. Byrne goes on to say that Fr. Patrick Power, a Franciscan, and Fr. Thomas Lonergan, a Dominican, were already on the Island at this time and were the cause of many problems for Fr. O Donel; no doubt, because they were not under his control. Fr. Thomas Lonergan was excommunicated by O Donel but he continued to carry on as a RC priest wherever he went. He lived for a while at St. Mary’s but ended up on Fogo Island where he is reported to have died in a drunken fit. Fr. Patrick Power presented a problem to O Donel as well but he to was eventually removed from the island. The first official resident Catholic Priest in Bonavista Bay was Fr. Sinnott, and he took over the King's Cove Parish about 1815. The parish covered 500 miles of coastline between Fortune Harbour and Heart's Content. (History of King's Cove, J.T.Lawton and P.J.Devine)

From this we can see that the earliest possible official Roman Catholic records available would be 1784 when O Donel arrived in St. John's. Any RC records for the area north of Conception Bay between 1785 and 1815 would most likely have been carried back to Harbour Grace or on to St. John's. After the arrival of Fr. Sinnott in King's Cove about 1815, records for Bonavista Bay and areas to the North would most likely have gone to King's Cove. As more priests arrived, other parishes were set up; and in 1843 Fr. P.Ward arrived in Tilting on Fogo Island and that parish was made active. ( A History, town of Fogo, Nfld. by Patrick Pickett). It was not until 1891 that the church on Cottell's Island was completed and Fr. Battcock was appointed Pastor. (St Brendan's Irish by Tina Broderick Martin) This priest took over the responsibility of areas to the north and west of St. Brendan's; i.e. Burnt Island, Greenspond, Traytown and Glovertown.

Now where are the records?

Between 1784 and 1815 most likely everything went to St. John's or Harbour Grace.

Between 1815 and 1841 most likely every thing went to Kings Cove (I have some Kings Cove RC marriage records which includes Trinity, T.B. to Tilting, Fogo Is. and further north. Time period of records 1815-1855)

After 1841 Fogo and general area records would be at Tilting, Fogo Island. (early records maybe in the RC archive, Grand Falls)

After 1891 Bonavista Bay, north of Cottel’s Island would be at St. Brendan's. (The early records 1891 to 19-- are currently at the RC archives in Grand Falls)

© Fred Pafford & NL GenWeb