NL GenWeb History

Notre Dame Bay Region

Transcribed by Robert Layte
The Newfoundland Quarterly December 1905 Vol. 05-No. 3, page 16


And Their Conflicts with the Red Indians
By A. A. Parsons

Early in the seventies (nb. 1870s), the late Mr. T. D. Scanlon (one of the best informed Newfoundlanders of his day) found under the ruins of a “West Country fish-flake” at Back Harbor, Notre Dame Bay, a tin canister containing a very old and highly interesting “Diary of Events.” Some of the entries, he assured me, when talking the matter over with him a few years before his death, were made by the Peyton family, one of whom took a prominent part, on March 5th 1818, in the capture of Mary March, “the last of our aboriginals.” According to this diary, some two hundred years ago Twillingate was settled by four Englishman, namely: Moore, at Back Harbor; Smith, at the Point; Young at South Side, and Bath, at Jenkin’s Cove. Their social visits were few and far between--not oftener than three or four times a year, and never without their guns. The woods which covered the island were infested with thieving Indians, constantly on watch in the neighbourhood of the settlers’ tilts, seeking what they could carry off. Moore, of Back Harbor, usually carried two guns, one in each hand, when crossing to the South Side, and frequently had occasion to use them, to the terror of the Red Men. They dreaded the White Man’s “thunder” and were known to have remarked that whilst they could kill one man at a time, the White Man frequently brought down two and sometimes three at one shot. Bath, at Jenkin’s Cove, when an old man (and long after the Red Men had ceased from troubling), in recounting the exploits of his youth, could never be got to acknowledge the actual killing of an Indian, but trimmed very closely at times. Lying in his bed one night, enjoying a soothing pipe, he heard a slight noise outside, close to his head, as if someone were picking out the moss with which the tilt was “stogged”, to get a view of the interior. Suspecting that Indians were around, he quietly seized his seven-foot Poole gun, charged with “twelve fingers”, softly opened the door and fired. What was the result of that shot? Even garrulous old age could never draw him beyond the fact that he fired. The result of that reconnaissance was never known.

Mr. Peter Picket, the oldest inhabitant of Fogo, used to tell his friends that he often, when a boy, heard the old folks talk of a peculiarity of the Red Men in putting out their fires; and that, in his opinion, something really worth knowing in this respect was never discovered by the white settlers. It seems that, no matter how suddenly an encampment was met with, the fire was instantly put out, and nothing be seen, but the steam from the hot embers. When surprised they never left a fire burning behind them.

An old fisherman named Pilley, who came from Dorset to Slade & Co., some eighty years ago, said he often saw the Red Indians running along the strand of the Exploits as he sailed up the river in quest of wood. They always ran from the White Man.

Apropos to Slades: The founder of the house was “old Captain Tommy”, a mighty fisherman and a bachelor. His dress comprised a swanskin pants and blouse, protected when “on the ground” by a leather barvel. Cape Ann’s and rubber coats were not then invented. His habits were as simple as his dress, and his frugality surpassed both. An apprentice boy was his chief and sole companion. The domestic duties were of painful sameness. First thing after breakfast was “out-dog-irons” to cool before the door; they were never allowed to remain in the fire after a meal and to thus uselessly waste away. The same operation took place after dinner and supper, and stray crumbs left on the table by the boy afforded an excellent theme for a lecture, during the delivery of which the old gentleman would carefully lift the crumps to his mouth with the tips of his moistened fingers, admonishing the boy to do likewise and waste nothing.

End of article

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