Avalon South Region ~ St. Mary's Bay District
History of St. Mary's
1597 - 1949
By Michael McCarthyThe community of St. Mary's is situated at the bottom of a long in draught on the eastern side of St. Mary's Bay, on the southern coast of Newfoundland. Like countless other Newfoundland fishing communities, the history of St. Mary's is often shrouded in the mists of time, and unfortunately few records are available to tell of the early settlers and their struggle for survival. Yet, an occasional reference, in some official report, or personal letter reveal a little of the history of this old and interesting community. It is the purpose of this paper to relate, from the available records the growth and history of the community of St. Mary's.
Like other communities on the South coast of Newfoundland, St. Mary's was first known to the French and Portuguese. In 1597, an English captain, Charles Leigh, visited St. Mary's Harbour and found several ships of Bell Isle and Rochelle fishing there. He captured the Bell Isle ship, and repaired his ship at St. Mary's, before preceding on to Perlican in Trinity Bay. It would appear from his report, that there were no permanent inhabitants in St. Mary's at this time.
In 1662, it appears that St. Mary's had at least one planter, for in that year, John Matthews, a bailiff for the governor of Ferryland was sent to St. Mary's to arrest a Mr. Russell for non payment of his rent, and to investigate a report that some Indians were trapping beavers and other animals in the area. He was unable to serve his warrant because he was captured by a French captain who informed him that the southern part of Newfoundland was now under the authority of the King of France. It would appear from the records, that the English recognized the French claim to the area, for in 1675 Trepassey is given as the most western harbour in possession of the English, though there were some French living there too.
Although, St. Mary's was recognized as French, it does not seem that they established a colony there, for as late as 1680, we learn from the trial report of four Englishmen who were tried at Bay Bulls, in that year, for destroying French fishing boats and property at St. Mary's and Colinet, that there were no permanent settlers at this time. In the same year, the fishing admiral at St. Mary's reported that the fishery in St. Mary's Bay was a complete failure. In 1702, an English warship under the command of Captain Leake made a raid on the French fishing stations in St. Mary's Bay and destroyed the fishing stages and boats at St. Mary's and Colinet. He reported that there were no permanent inhabitants. From 1702, until the Treaty of Utrecht, the English continued to harry the French in St. Mary's Bay. In 1710, Costabelle the governor of Placentia reported to Paris that two English sloops of war, with fifteen men each, had seized the personal property of the French fishermen at Cape St. Mary's, but had retreated when a small French detachment of soldiers had arrived at Cape St. Mary's. He also reported that one English privateer had been lost on the Cape, and her crew of fifty five had surrendered at Placentia. Again in 1710, there were no permanent inhabitants in the area.''
By the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the French gave up their claim to the southern coast of Newfoundland. and English settlers were soon settled at St. Mary's as a planter's deed dated 1720 shows:
By Captain George Purvis, Commander of His Majesty's Ship Dursley:
Whereas the Admiral of the Harbour of St. Marie's in Newfoundland have represented to me by writing under their hands, that yesterday the 24th of August 1720, they called a court and therein made a strict and careful enquiry into the right of the stage and room now in the possession of one John Rose of this place inhabitant, and upon the said enquiry, do find the same to be a planters' room, and not a ship room, and have also measured the said boundaries to the same, to prevent the said John Rose from encroaching on ships' rooms, and also the ships' from encroaching on his room, which boundaries are as follows viz: the westernmost part of the beach bearing north from a run of water near John Morgan's house, in breadth from the sea shore or beach fifteen perches or two hundred forty seven and a half feet. but on the hill above the beach on the east side of his boundaries, on the beach as far eastward as a house built by Robert Brooks, master of a fishing ship, to hold his sails and now called the sail house, and as far southward as right up into the land as the said John Rose shall have any use for. There as therefore by virtue of an Act of Parliament made in the 10th and 11th year of King William III entitled "An Act to Encourage Trade to Newfoundland", to ratify and confirm to the said John Rose, his heirs, estate or assignees, his right to the above room with all stages, train vats, houses, all outhouses, cookrooms, beach flakes, with all the things which are or shall he built therein willingly, and requiring all persons whatsoever not to molest or hinder the said John Rose of all and every part thereof, as he or they will answer the contrary at their peril.
Dated on board His Majesty's ship Dursley in St. Marie's Harbour this 30th day of August Anno Domini 1720.
This document is important for two reasons, first, it proves that by 1720. St. Mary's had permanent inhabitants, and secondly, that from the very beginning of the community, property was held on a legal basis. In 1797, the above document was produced in court at Trepassey and a copy sent to the governor at St. John's to settle a dispute over this plantation between Edmond Kieley and John Richards. The principal inhabitants of St. Mary's were consulted and sent the following information to the governor at St. John's:
We the undersigned inhabitants of St. Marie's do certify that we have examined the grant given John Rose for a plantation in St. Marie's in the Island of Newfoundland and have also examined the spot of ground on the said plantation that is claimed by Edmond Kieley of St. Marie's aforesaid, and do give it as our opinion that from the tenor of the aforesaid grant the spot of ground in dispute is really the property of the patentee (Richards) as witnessed our hands at St. Marie's this eleventh day of October 1797.
The governor of the day accepted the document and confirmed Richards in possession of the land in question. This is one of the earliest records of land title being legally held in early Newfoundland. Although, we have no written records for the next five decades, yet, it appears that St. Mary's continued to grow, and a number of English fishing enterprises were established at St. Mary's, among them the firms of Pinney and Frampton, and William Spurrier who had their home firms in Poole. In 1782, St. Mary's again received official notice for in that year the citizens of the community attacked and captured an American privateer named the Hazard, under the command of Captain Hugh Elmes, who had been attacking shipping in the Bay. The privateer mounted six carriage guns, besides swivels, and carried a crew of twenty four men.
The privateer captured a Ship bound from St. Mary's to Trepassey, and plundered the boat off Cape English. The privateer then proceeded to North Harbour, where she captured three more boats. As soon as the News reached St. Mary's, a sloop belonging to Pinney and Frampton was ballasted and six carriage guns were collected from the other ships in the harbour and mounted on the sloop. Twenty-two men volunteered, and on the 16th of September the American privateer was captured and taken as a prize to St. Mary's to await the governor's pleasure. The crew, including a man named John Dart who had been a servant at Trepassey, were sent to St. John's, where they arrived on October 2nd, 1782.
The governor was delighted with the war like spirit displayed by the people of St. Mary's and wrote immediately to congratulate them on their action, and to give them the right to dispose of the prize they had captured:
St. John's, October 2nd., 1782.
I received your letter of the 18th of last month and beg you will accept my best thanks for your very spirited conduct in taking the Hazard, privateer on the 16th. you will please to inform the inhabitants and others who so bravely assisted you upon the occasion, that I very much approve of their conduct and cheerfully resign all right of title to the prize, which I hope will be disposed of to the satisfaction of everybody concerned.
If the weather should be so bad as to prevent the sloop of war now at Placentia from calling off your port on her way to this place, you may venture to send your vessels hither without convoy, as the coast is at present clear of privateers.
Your most Obedient & Humble Servant,
At this time Trepassey was very important to St. Mary's as it was here that the magistrate for the area, James Follett, resided. St. Mary's had a Justice of the Peace in the person of William Spurrier who held the commission until 1792, when he was succeeded by John Brown who had been the Justice of the Peace at Placentia. There was also a good deal of trade between St. Mary's and Trepassey.
In 1819 we have our first census of St. Mary's. At this time the community had a population of 431 Roman Catholics, and 23 Protestants. There were 63 private dwelling houses, and three public houses. There were 17 stages and 12 train oil vats. The chief merchant was now William Phippard, who was also the justice of the peace for the area. The community had a total of 16 fishing boats belonging to the inhabitants which carried a total of 108 men. There were 64 men who fished from the shore in small boats. The total fish catch for 1819 amounted to 2600 quintals, made by the boatmen, and 2500 quintals made by the shore men. Twenty-two tierces of salmon and 15 tons of train oil were also exported. It would appear that the shore fishermen had a much better catch than the men who went further away, in the larger boats, as only half as many men had almost the same catch. The population of St. Mary's also included 190 children, and during 1819, there had been twelve births, three death, and five couples had been married. At this time St. Mary's like the other villages of Newfoundland was fairly prosperous for the price of fish was still 12 shillings per quintal.
From the court records of St. Mary's we find that there was little crime, and most cases appearing in the courts were of a civil nature, usually for recovery of wages or debt,. A typical example would be the court held by the surrogate on October 20th 1817. Twelve cases were heard all civil, and there was not one case of assault or any other violent crime. Typical cases were those of John Peddle versus John Walsh:
The plaintiff claims from the defendant the sum of 3 pounds for sundry supplies to defendant. It appeared to the court that defendant gave the plaintiff an order on one Michael Murray for payment of said sum which order plaintiff states had been lost. Murray appearing in court promised to pay plaintiff the sum of 2 pounds 2 on account of defendant, as part payment of said sum of 3 pounds due the plaintiff.
John Baldwin, Surrogate, and of Peter Breen, Matthew Congdon, & Thomas Walsh versus John Dinn:
Plaintiff stated that defendant had charged them for extra provisions. It appeared to the court that defendant made improper use of said provisions by ordering it after it was cooked to be given to people not belonging to the boat. Therefore the court do order that defendant hereby do pay Samuel Carter & Co. the current suppliers for the extra provisions supplied."
At this same court sitting, the court was petitioned to rule that the custom of giving the person who made fish one quarter of the value of the fish made, be made legally compulsory, as this was the "custom of the Bay". The court gave the necessary order that unless a private agreement had been made, one quarter of the valve of the fish fetched should go to the person who made it. From the records of this court one can agree with a statement made in 1837 by John Nugent in a petition to the Queen, where he states that over a twenty-five year period there had been only one criminal case in St. Mary's; and the offender had served two hours in the public stocks which St. Mary's at that time boasted. He thus said that the people of St. Mary's were a quiet and God fearing race," and from the available records it does appear that St. Mary's was free from the violence that was so prevalent in many other communities. This is explained in part, by the fact, that except for a few temporary residents, the population of St. Mary's were of the same religion. As a result it was, except in one incident, spared the sectarian disputes that divided so many other communities.
It would also appear from the records that at this time the only source of revenue collected was in the form of the license fee of 10 pounds paid for permission to run a public house. In 1826, there were three licenses issued, one to William Christopher, who was also the high constable for the area, one to Elizabeth Fewer, and one to Richard Critch. In the following year Pat Stamp war also issued a license.'"
In 1828, a young Englishman who was later to become a world famous naturalist came to St. Mary's as a clerk, in the St. Mary's branches of the firm of Slade & Eleson. This was Philip Gosse who had come to Carbonear from the English Branch of the same firm. He had grown fond of Carbonear, and on his appointment to St. Mary's he was very disappointed and described St. Mary's as "an obscure, semi-barbarous settlement on the South Coast of Newfoundland where Slade Eleson and Co. had just purchased an old establishment. He proceeded to St. Mary's on the firm's coastal trader the Plover, and gave his opinion of the community during his stay when he described it as "a dreary desolate place of about three or four hundred people". Gosse found the time long and as he had a great distaste for the Irish who formed the larger part of the population, he made few friends. He did however become friends with the family of the other English merchant, William Phippard who was also the magistrate, and especially with Phippard's unmarried daughter Emma, with whom he spent much of his spare time. Phippard's other daughter was married to a man named Coles who was captain of a small coastal vessel. From Gosse's account of life in St. Mary's there appears to have been little contact between the Protestant English merchants and the Irish Catholic fishermen.
Gosse found William Phippard a very jovial, good natured man, but John Wills Martin, the manager of the Slade Co., he described as a very haughty, pompous, overbearing little man. Martin's son John was even more overbearing, and took keen delight in embarrassing the young clerk, in the presence of the servants of the company.
Among the things of interest that he describes was the novel way that Martin took to prevent theft from his premises. Realizing that the Irish population was very superstitious, he had it spread around, that the premises were haunted, and occasionally late at night a faithful servant placed lights and thumped across the floor to give the story credence. The firm also did an extensive trade in furs and one large store was kept for this purpose. It was this store that was supposed to be most haunted and even screams were heard coming from it at night, which Gosse thought proved that Ned O'Toole, the faithful servant was doing his duty to prove that a ghost was an excellent watch dog.
It was at St. Mary's that Philip Gosse began his career as a naturalist. Time was long, and in his spare moments he turned his attention to a study of the birds and animals in the area. The local people finding that he was interested brought him many specimens, especially any oddities that they caught or killed. He continued his dreary existence at St. Mary's until January of 1829, when to his delight he was posted again to Carbonear. Accompanied by a trapper Joe Byrne, he crossed overland from St. Mary's to Carbonear in the month of January, and after a very hard journey arrived safely at Carbonear, from where, he later returned to England, and went on to become a world famous naturalist.
In 1832, Newfoundland was granted Representative Government, and the first elections were held. At this time St. Mary's was combined with Placentia to make the electoral district of Placentia St. Mary's, with two members to represent the district. In the first election the two members elected were, Mr Roger Sweetman, the head of the firm of Saunders & Sweetman at Placentia, and John Wills Martin, the manager of Slade & Eleson Co. at St. Mary's. There was considerable opposition to Martin's election, and Bishop Fleming states that a petition with two thousand names petitioned against him on the grounds that he was not qualified because he was not a householder, but his own vote was allowed to negate the motion for an inquiry into his qualification, and he kept his seat." The election result is very interesting in the light of later political developments, in that both members were Protestant, while the electorate was almost entirely Catholic. It is also worthy of note that the two members elected were the heads of the mercantile firms supplying St. Mary's and Placentia Bay.
In 1834, St. Mary's obtained its first resident Parish Priest in the Person of Reverend James Duffy who was destined to play a very controversial role in the history of St. Mary's. He arrived at St. Mary's in March of that year, but stayed only a short while. In December of the same year he returned and took up permanent residence at St. Mary's. Previous to the arrival of Father puffy, the Catholic population of the village had built two churches on a high mound overlooking the beach and because of their exposed position, both churches had been blown down. On Father Duffv taking up residence in St. Mary's, he immediately turned his attention to building a church which would withstand the winter gales, and with this aim in mind, he decided to come down to the foot of the mound and build.'"
Until the spring of 1834, the beach at St. Mary's had been treated as common property, and was used by the fishermen to dry and mend their nets and repair their boats. It also served as part of the road to Riverhead. In the spring of that year a citizen of St. Mary's, William Fewer erected a small fishflake on the beach. Immediately, John Willis Martin sent men "in the grey of the morning" to cut down Fewer's flake, and then he had a large flake constructed which ran the entire length of the beach, which cut off the fishermen from their drying place, and also access to the cemetery which was located on the mound behind the beach, near the site of the former church. Martin claimed that the beach had been the property of a man Doyle, who had sold it to a William Christopher, from whom Slade Eleson Co. had acquired title."
Father Duffy approached Mr. Martin for permission to build his church on the beach but Martin refused, though offering him an alternate site. On examination, the site offered proved to be wet and marshy and in a poor location. Father Duffy then went ahead and built his church on the beach. With the help of his congregation, the church was built in a few days, and on completion Father Duffy asked Martin to remove the flake as it was a public nuisance. Martin was extremely annoyed and determined to take a civil action against Father Duffy for trespass. In January, Martin went to St. John's to attend the opening of the legislature of which he was still a member, but before leaving instructed his chief clerk, Mr. Lush, to have no dealing with Father Duffy, in Mr. Martin's absence. Martin had only been gone a few days when Father Duffy sent to Lush for a gallon of brandy which Lush refused to supply him."' This was on the 12th of January, and the next morning, January 13, 1835, Father Duffy took action. Mr. Lush in a later statement described it thus:
.... That about 9.00 o'clock of the morning of Friday, January 13th in the present year this informant perceived smoke to issue from the said fish room and premises, and immediately proceeded to the same, where he found James Duffy one of the R.C. priests of this island together with Michael Christopher alias Yetman, Pat Tobin, John Bowan, Stephen Conners, Thomas Murray, James Whelan, James Fagan the elder, John Bishop, and Geoffrey Quilty and divers other persons amounting to the number of 80 or upwards, all of whom were unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled to the disturbance of the public peace of St. Mary's, and did with force demolish and pull down, and burn and destroy the greater part of the flake on the before mentioned fish room. That the greater part of the people then assembled were employed in destroying the said flake, some cutting it down with hatchets, while others laid it in piles and set fire to it. That this informant heard then and there the said James Duffy, Catholic priest aforesaid order the persons assembled as aforesaid, to do and commit the damage and injury mentioned. That informant then approached the said James Duffy and said he had come to request that the said James Duffy and the people there assembled would desist, and the reply given to informant was that Mr. Martin had been appraised of the intention to destroy said flake which would be carried into effect, that the said James Duffy then assisted and directed the destruction of the said flake and ordered the people there present to persevere in their labours of destruction. That he, James Duffy, seemed to take much interest in the destruction of the said flake by giving his assistance in beating it up and tossing it on the fire. That this informant spoke to several persons then assembled and requested they would desist from doing what was wrong, and some of them replied that they were ordered by their priest to destroy the flake and could not leave off, and this was said by Michael Christopher otherwise known as Yetman. That the said flake was two hundred ft. in length and twenty-four ft. in breadth ... That said informant had heard from Philip Breen, John Tobin, Michael Adams, Michael Roach, Martin Kearney, and others of the men under the command of said James Duffy on the day aforesaid that James Duffy had told the congregation in chapel to break up and burn the flake and that those who should refuse to do so should have the curse of God and the curse of the congregation upon them, and this informant saith that he heard Michael Roach say that James Duffy said that they should burn and destroy the flake and he James Duffy would be accountable and the Devil might go with those who did not assist.
On this occasion, the men of St. Mary's under the command of Father Duffy cut down only the portion of the flake that extended beyond the premises of Slade Eleson Co. They approached Mr. Martin again and asked him to remove the remainder of the flake, when he ignored their request, they returned in February of the same year and removed what remained of the flake. In contrast to the account given by Mr. Lush, the men of St. Mary', in a later petition to Governor Prescott stated that they had not assembled in riot or disorder, but that having made a request to Mr. Martin to remove a public nuisance, and being ignored, they had acted as responsible citizens of the community to remove the said nuisance.
Mr. Martin was enraged by their action and after consultation with the governor made his complaint to the Attorney General in March of that year. It was decided to institute proceeding in the Supreme Court at St. John's, and because of this Martin, delayed his complaint, until after Judge De Barres had held the regular court session of the Southern Circuit at St. Mary's. When the Spring Session of the Southern Circuit had finished without any civil proceedings against Father Duffy and the men who had destroyed the flake, they thought the incident was finished, and went about their regular business. On May 20th., 1835, Martin made his first move. He wrote to the governor that he had been informed that Father Duffy was on the eve of leaving the country, and expressed great anxiety that Duffy should escape the law. The governor acted at once, and two constables were sent to St. Mary's, who arrested Father Duffy and took him to Ferryland, where he had to post bail. Father Duffy went without any trouble and there was no interference from his congregation. No charges were laid against the other men at this time, as Martin had no desire to spoil their fishing season which would be expensive to his company.
The fishing season at St. Mary's ended in late October, and towards the end of November, Mr. Martin laid charges against eight other men of St. Mary's as being the leaders in the destruction of his property. They were Michael Christopher, otherwise known as Yetman, Patrick Tobin, Stephen Conners, Thomas Murray, Thomas Whelan, James Fagan the elder. John Bishop and Geoffrey Quilty. At the request of the Attorney General, the Colonial Brig. Maria was dispatched to St. Mary's in mid December with two constables to arrest the eight men named in the warrant. The Brig arrived at St. Mary's about 9.00 pm on the 15th of December, and there were two versions given of the arrival of the constables. The people of St. Mary's in their petition to the Governor stated that in December several persons landed back at Harbour Point, and coming in secretly said that they had been shipwrecked at Trepassey, and had put into St. Mary's to obtain provisions. Later, when they claimed to be constables and members of the Maria's crew, the people had doubted them, and did not think they had any authority, and had refused to have anything to do with them. Martin in his report to the governor gave a much more detailed account.
He said that the Brig arrived at 9.00 p.m., and before she anchored the two constables from St. John's came on shore in a boat and with the mate of the Brig came to his house. He immediately sent for William Burke, the local constable, hoping that he together with the St. John's constables could arrest some of the people named in the warrant, before the people knew that the brig had arrived. Burke, however, on his arrival informed them that the people already knew of the arrival of the brig. He further said that the people had arranged signals with lights so that help could be summoned if any arrears were attempted that night. He also told them that the people of the harbour were resolved not to let any of their number be arrested, and if any arrest was attempted at night the harbour would rise up as one, as most of the people were in some way or other related. Martin was still for attempting to make some arrests that night, when one of the crew members of the brig who had been left to look after the boat arrived at Martin's house. He told the mate that he had been taken out of the boat by two armed men, who had questioned him about the number of men on the brig and whether any soldiers had been sent. He also reported seeing about twenty other men near the boat, and they had hauled him about and threatened to make a sacrifice of him if he did not tell the truth. Then they had released him. The mate then went to see to the boat, and Martin sent his trusted servant to see if the man was telling the truth. He returned to say that there were about fifty men armed with guns, swords, pitch forks and hatchets, that they had stopped him but had offered him no violence. In the light of these events Martin taught it best to wait until morning.
The next morning he sent again for Burke, who came and told him that he was not willing to assist the St. John', constables, for the night before his house had been visited by a great number of men who had threatened to shoot him if he helped to arrest any of them. He said that he would relinquish his post rather than assist the St. John's people, and Martin discharged him on the spot. All that day parties of armed man could be seen moving through the settlement and it was not deemed safe for the St. John's constables to come on shore.
On Tuesday, the place seemed less hostile and Martin as magistrate ordered the constables to come on shore and make the arrests. When the boat left the brig a crowd collected at the stage head landing, but the constables were allowed to land. Martin, then pointed out Thomas Murray who was among the crowd, and constable Hurley entered the crowd to arrest him. He was immediately set upon by Michael Fagan who knocked him down, kicked him, and then went under a flake to get a stone to finish him with, but was restrained by John Quilty. The two constables then retreated to Martin's house, and remained there until dark when they returned to the brig. Hurley had been hurt too badly to come on shore again. The next morning, Butt came on shore and told Martin that he considered it too risky to come on shore again, as he considered his life was placed in danger by merely landing.''
The next two days it blew a gale and there war no communication with the brig. The following day Martin sent a note aboard, saying that as the constables could not arrest the persons named in the warrant, they should address a public notice to the parties concerned, calling on them to surrender in the king's name. This was done but nothing happened. Mr. Martin then prevailed on Captain Buoy of the Maria to make an attempt to serve a subpoena on Michael Roach, an Irishman, but at that time residing at St. Mary's. Roach was to be the star witness. and Captain Buoy entered his house and told him he had came to serve him with a subpoena to go to St. John's and give evidence against James Duffy. Roach who was standing in his chimney corner said he would have nothing to do with such a thing. Captain Buoy then placed the subpoena close to Roach's foot and placed a shilling on it, at the same time telling Roach that he need not be afraid of the subpoena, as it was only to make a witness of him. At this Roach picked up a gun, placed it across a form and told Buoy to be off, when Buoy continued to talk, Roach shook the gun in such a way that alarmed Buoy who fearing for his own safety left. As he left a little girl followed to the corner of the house and threw the subpoena and the shilling after him. Buoy had been guided to Roach's house by a servant of Mr. Martin, but when Buoy requested him to take note of what had happened he replied that he would not be a witness.
As it was impossible to serve the warrants and the subpoena; the Colonial brig Maria returned to St. John's. On receiving Mr. Martin's letter, Governor Prescott lost no time in reporting the incident to the Colonial Secretary in London. The Colonial office took a very serious view of the affair at St. Mary's, and promised to ask the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to dispatch a proper vessel to support the lawful authority of the governor at St. Mary's. However the Colonial Secretary pointed out that any threatened resistance to the law should be handled in such a way as would permit "the least possible hazard to the person and property of His Majesty's subjects". On February 18. 1836, the Colonial Secretary advised Governor Prescott that Vice-Admiral, Sir George Copburn was sending a vessel to assist the governor in putting down the rebellion at St. Mary's.
In the meantime, news of the arrest of Father Duffy had come to the ears of his superior, Bishop Fleming, who after waiting for the law to take it course, and being disappointed when the Southern Circuit was held in St. Mary's and no charges having been laid, but rumours continuing to circulate, decided to visit St. Mary's and conduct his own investigation in the summer of 1835, and found that his priest and congregation had acted in the only manner possible in such circumstances. In the meantime Father Duffy had walked the hundred miles to St. John's, only to have his case postponed. This happened several times, and Father Duffy calculated that he had walked fifteen hundred miles before the case was settled. There is a small park on the Salmonier Line which commemorates this event, it contains a small spring which has been walled with rocks and it is known as Father Duffy's well, from the fact that it was here that the priest stopped to refresh himself and rest on his many journeys. During his stay at St. Mary's, Bishop Fleming confirmed eighty five persons before leaving for St. John's where he arrived on the 12th of September.
In the meantime news reached him in the spring of 1836 that troops and a warship were to be sent to St. Mary's in May of that year. On May 6th, the Executive council agreed that troops and a warship would be sent to St. Mary's, and authorized the governor to issue a proclamation calling on the persons concerned to surrender themselves to the civil process of the law. On May 7th the Proclamation was issued, and appeared in the Royal Gazette and Newfoundland Advertiser on May 10th. Fearing the worst for the Catholic population of St. Mary's, Bishop Fleming issued a Pastoral letter to the people of St. Mary's, asking them to surrender themselves to avoid the greater evil of having occupation forces in their town. The Pastoral letter is given below:
To Our Beloved Children in Christ Jesus, The People of St. Mary's Bay:
With a bosom burning with affection and a heart agitated with anxious cares and solicitude for your spiritual and temporal welfare, it becomes our painful duty to address you on a subject as important to your eternal happiness as to your wordily peace.
Man's duties here on earth may be classed into political and personal duties, and it is the great object of religion to enforce their fulfilment, and upon the manner in which and the motive with which both are discharged will depend our future misery or eternal bliss.
When we speak of your personal duties we would imply those which seem to have reference more immediately to yourselves and your families, and when we speak of your political and social duties in the manner of discharging which, the interest the happiness and the safety of Society depends, and Our Sacred Religion teaches us that eternal damnation is due to those who violate either.
Now, of all our social duties ordained by the precepts of Catholicity none is more imperative than obedience to the laws of our country, and respect for those whom God in his mercy has placed over us, and so far is this doctrine carried out that not even the perversion of those laws by those who administer them is considered a justification to resistance in a country whose Glorious Constitution secures you the indisputable right of pouring your complaint upon the ear of your king.
Well knowing that you have been carefully instructed in these truths, and always regarding your character as respectful, peaceful and obedient, it caused our heart to bleed when we were informed you had rashly and inconsiderately amid tumult and confusion and with threats and menaces entered upon a piece of ground, the property of Slade Eleson Co., a highly respectable mercantile establishment at St. Mary's and in a spirit of riot and confusion tore down and destroyed a valuable flake, and we patiently awaited the laws award, and prayed the punishment may full upon the guilty.
However, months flowed on and the name of a clergyman and the character of his congregation remained under the slur of imputation so slowly, and as the laws were refused to be appealed too, we naturally began to doubt your criminality and felt solicitous if possible to remove aspersions so degrading to the honour of both priest and people, and in order as far as in us lay to produce such a result we made a visitation to your Bay and to your harbour, and when we found the Southern Circuit Court passing by without interference and after a diligent and patient investigation, we were induced to lay aside prejudices we had conceived and to allow our feelings of commiseration for the insults and outrages you suffered, and sympathy for the calumnies with which you had been surcharged to take the place of anger and dissatisfaction.
Scarcely had the toils of our visitation terminated when without the least previous intimation, two common thief-takers are dispatched after the clergyman, and a priest is arrested in the midst of his people and carried through the country a common prisoner with no greater force than two common constables, and the priest as in duty bound submitted in peace, and bent his neck in humiliation to that cross which the laws of his country, however unjustly, imposed.
Neither riot or rescue nor attempt at confusion resulted from this open and straight-forward motion of arresting the Reverend Mr. Duffy, but in the silence of the night your Bay has been subsequently visited by the Colonial Yacht, and the Authorities of the country by secretly landing and descending to false representation, created distrust and suspicion and the few others who had been charged and who would by an honourable course of proceedings have easily been induced to surrender, were scared away by the mean attempt to entrap them and have not since been taken.
Beloved children in Christ behold what arts are used by the enemies of Social Order to malign the people and to misrepresent their acts and to magnify their faults. In this case an offence is alleged to have been committed against the laws, well, this offence is as I have been given to understand neither felony or treason but a simple misdemeanour, and yet it appears that the advisors of His Excellency have thought fit to represent this petty misdemeanour case as a case worthy of being a Crown prosecution, and next as the people of St. Mary's are said to have obstructed and prevented the arrest of the parties accused, these government Advisors have caused it to be represented to his Majesty, that you are in a state of rebellion and have actually succeeded, it appears, in procuring one or two of the king's ships to be sent to blockade your Harbour of St. Mary's, and a company of soldiers to be placed as a garrison, and all this to procure the arrest of half a dozen poor fishermen in a place whose population scarcely exceeds three hundred! And not only this but they have actually caused a proclamation of outlawry to be issued against those men who never left their homes or were ever served with any description of process of law.
Does it not appear evident therefore that this has in it more than meets the eye. The object is evidently to exhibit the character of the people of this country as turbulent, in order to prove the value to the Government of individuals in high places who will not be fettered by the law when the object is the coercion of the people. The natural question then is how shall you defeat the machinations of your enemies? Simply, by not suffering yourselves to be led astray from the paths of rectitude, by reverence for the law, and respect for authority.
Some people my beloved children laugh at the silly notion of sending a blockading squadron to St. Mary's Bay on so foolish an errand--; it may be amusing to some but to us it brings nought but affliction of spirit, for who can contemplate the establishment of a military section among your wives and daughters, at a season when your avocations will require you to abandon your families and your home and fireside to the unbridled licentiousness of soldiers without the presence of a single magistrate, or local tribunal to restrain them.
How then are you to prevent this violent outrage being perpetrated in the name of the law? Let every man of the following persons whose names are mentioned in the proclamation, viz. Michael Christopher, Pat Tobin etc, come forward to St. John's and tender bail for their appearance. This will be the means of proving to those evilly disposed characters that no circumstances or irritations will or can seduce you into a violation of the law.
Beloved Children in Christ have no apprehension in surrendering yourselves to the award of the law. It is only the guilty that need fear punishment and even if the innocent from any motives be made the victims of persecution their cause must eventually triumph and justice be proudly vindicated.
There stands at the helm of the Government of Newfoundland a man whom in my heart I believe to be determined to relieve the oppressed, to vindicate the injured and although perhaps he is the only man in office in this country who is not directly opposed to the principles of His Majesty's Government-standing alone against a host--yet that man vested as he is with vice-regal power equitably fulfilling the great object of his mission to Newfoundland will be your refuge and protection from the evil machinations of the true disturbers of the peace.
May He who preached "peace to men of good will" long dwell in your hearts is the sincere prayer of your devoted pastor.
Michael Anthony Fleming,
There might be some doubt in the people's mind about the Bishop's philosophy, but there was none concerning the duty of the eight wanted men when the wives and daughters of the other residents of the community were to be placed in danger. Once this letter was read from the pulpit they no longer had a choice, but the Bishop had made it possible for them to give themselves up gracefully. Thus in a letter to Governor Prescott, Martin reported that the men named in the proclamation had left for St. John's to give themselves up as they had been commanded to do by their Bishop.
The eight men went to St. John's and posted bail, but as the Supreme court was due to open in mid-July they petitioned the Governor to have the date changed, as this would result in their losing half the summer fishery, and as witnesses would have to accompany them, it would mean destitution for a greater part of the town. They also gave an account of their side of the story of their refusal to accompany the constables in December pleading that they had been made suspicious by the different stories that the two men had told on their arrival.
The governor replied to their letter and told them that he would announce the opening of the supreme court at a time that would suit the general interest of the public. He further stated that the men had been deluded if they believed that they had been outlawed as no such instrument had been given. The session of the supreme court was called for December but as no witnesses for the prosecution appeared, the case was postponed until the Spring Session. In the meantime two petitions ware presented to the supreme court asking that Father Duffy might have the choice of some individual to represent him during his trial as there were no Catholic lawyers in Newfoundland at this time. The petitions were signed by all the Catholics of Carbonear and Harbour Grace."
The petition respecting Father Duffy's right to have an attorney of his own faith was rejected by the Chief Justice. Father Duffy and the other men returned to St. John's for the May session of the supreme court in 1837. At this time again, the principal witnesses for the prosecution did not appear, but the case went ahead and was put before a jury who brought in a verdict of not guilty. This ended the case but for some years after, the case of Father Duffy and the many hundreds of miles he travelled was used by the Catholic party as an example of the injustice of Chief Justice Boulton who was later removed.
The case had further ramifications at St. Mary's, as a result of the bad feelings engendered by Martin, there was a decrease in the business of Slade Eleson Co., and as a result John Eleson the senior partner of the firm withdrew from the company. The firm continued to operate at St. Mary's but was gradually phased out. John Martin was relieved of his commission of the peace and Mr. Josiah Blackburn was appointed in his place. Mr. Blackburn received a salary of 60 pounds per annum, the first magistrate in St. Mary's to do so.
In 1836, there had been a general election in Newfoundland and two new members, John Nugent and Patrick Doyle, had been elected for the District of Placentia-St. Mary's. Contrary to the previous election, both were Roman Catholics, and neither were in business. In this same year 1836, an official census had been taken and at this time St. Mary's had a population of 325 people in the Harbour, the population of the area was divided as follows:
The school board had at its disposal the sum of 100 pounds, and this was divided so that the teacher at Placentia received more than the teacher at St. Mary's and little Placentia. St. Mary's protested this arrangement, and as a result the school board was dissolved and a new one appointed on November 15, 1836 at the court house in Placentia. The new board divided the funds so that the teachers at both Great Placentia and St. Mary's received equal amounts, and the first educational crisis of that area was resolved. The new board also set the hours of school to be from nine to twelve, and two to five from April to October, and from November to March the hours were to be from ten to three. On Saturdays school was to be held for half a day.:"
In 1840, the school board was in financial difficulty and on October 24th of that year, the executive of the board, composed of Rev. P. Nowlan. James Murphy, John Riley, Thomas Miller, Richard McCrath, Luke Collins and W. J. Bradshaw, met and finding that they had only 41 pounds 11/10d remaining, voted to cut the teacher's salaries by 10 pounds. The teacher at this time at St. Mary's was Mr. Curtis. Our first detailed report on the education facilities at St. Mary's is for the year 1845, when Mr. Nugent the government school inspector visited the community:
"On the I0th of October I visited the school of this settlement (St. Mary's). The teacher is Mr. Devine, he is a tradesman and a competent teacher. There is in the Harbour 100 children of an age for school, but owing to the pressure of the fishery business there were only 44 at school, and the attendance of these is tolerably regular. The age of those present ran between three and twelve, those absent from twelve to fourteen. Nine of the children were in arithmetic some in the rule of three, fourteen were writing and amongst those one whose right hand is furnished with but two fingers writes a very fine hand. The writing is generally good. Fifteen were reading and seven of them read very well. The school is as well provided with books as any I have seen. The school is kept in the house of the teacher who receives 23 pounds per year. Devine was employed by the former board at a salary of 30 pounds to teach the boys only. He now teaches both male and female. In the total area of St. Mary's District 200 children are provided with educational opportunity, in smaller communities 157 children are not."
It would appear at this time that St. Mary's was now separate from the education District of Placentia and the following communities were included in the St. Mary's Educational District, Holyrood (St. Vincent's) Trepassey, Point L'Haye, Riverhead, Coots Pond, Admiral's Beach, Mall Bay, North Harbour, John's Pond, and Salmonier North and South. There were only three schools in the District and these were at Trepassey, St. Mary's, and Salmonier. The population of the communities not having schools were as follows:
In 1851, the school board established a Commercial school at St. Mary's. The Commercial school was a type of high school where subjects such as grammar, geography, navigation and needlework were taught. The teacher at a Commercial school usually commanded a greater salary and as a result had better qualifications. In 1858 it was announced by Bishop Mullock that a Presentation Convent was to be established at Sr. Mary's and towards this end a house had been purchased. The Sisters came in 1859, and in April of that year opened the first convent school. From this time, until tile first quarter of the twentieth century the boys and girls at St. Mary's attended separate schools.
In 1860 the Inspector, Mr. Kelly, reported that there were now four schools located in St. Mary's Bay, Trepassey had been made into a separate educational district. These schools were located at St Mary's, Holyrood (St. Vincents), and Salmonier North and South. The teacher at the Commercial school received a salary of 56 pounds per annum, and six weeks allowed him to fish during the caplin scull. The register showed two pupils under seven years of age, twenty-five between seven and twelve, and fifteen over twelve years of age for a total registration of 52 males. The average attendance was 30, and the subjects taught were the three R's, and geography and grammar. The total income of the board in grants was 126 pounds, no fees had been collected, and all the grant went to pay the teachers' salaries. Mr. Walsh the teacher did poorly in arithmetic, grammar, and geography, but promised he would devote more time to these subjects. The only money available to the board for repairs and supplies was a special grant of 46 pounds.
In 1862, the Inspector was very unhappy with the Commercial school at St. Mary's. He visited the school on September 10th and found only 18 pupils present. The writing of the students was poor, spelling was only fair, and only one child was doing grammar. The school was poorly supplied with books, and the teacher complained that the attendance of the pupils was very irregular. Without actually blaming the teacher the inspector wrote that this Commercial school was not up to many of the elementary schools he had visited. The school at Riverhead had been opened again after being closed for four years, but was closed on the day of the Inspector's visit and had been closed the day before because all the children were picking berries. There was no Register kept, but the teacher who received a very low salary of 20 pounds per year stated he had thirty pupils. On his return the Inspector wrote a very gloomy report of the education situation:
" There is no improvement in the schools of the district of St. Mary's, and as the board seems determined to continue the same mode of expenditure of their grant which I had reason to find fault with last year I am precluded from the hope of seeing the schools of this district improve or altered in the slightest degree from the miserable position they are in at present ".
In St. Mary's Harbour the state of education may be fairly inferred from the fact of the Register showing an average attendance of 16 boys to the Commercial school there, and that with a population of 700 inhabitants, and of the entire number attending three are stated to be writing on paper and four as far as the Rule of Three.
The total revenue in grants to the school board in 1862 was 128 pounds which was distributed as follows, (but teachers salaries are not included):
Convent school St. Mary's 15 pounds, Commercial school 5 pounds, Salmonier North Side 25 pounds, South Side 14 pounds, John's Pond 10 pounds, Point L'Haye 5 pounds, Riverhead 20 pounds, Holyrood (St. Vincent's) 25 pounds, North Harbour 5 pounds, 4.00 pounds were assigned for books and stationary.
Only one school was in operation in Salmonier, in a house, and a house was in use in Riverhead but it lacked every article of school furniture. It was also customary for school to close during the trap season.'"
In 1864, the Inspector had a much better report and wrote:
The return from St. Mary's Board show that after paying the salaries of the teachers and expending 6 pounds 4s in the purchase of books and stationery a balance of 41 pounds 19/4d, remained in the balance. I was pleased to perceive that in the appropriations for the ensuing year a sum of 34 pounds was voted towards erecting two school houses at Salmonier Arm."
In 1870, the Inspector reported a change of teachers in the school at St. Mary's but "no change whatever in the character of the school, which continues to have the same miserable attendance as when last reported. The average attendance for the year is but 8, the school of course is quite elementary." In the Convent school however there were 71 registered with an average attendance of 48. In 1874, the Inspector was even more despondent, and he saw little hope of any improvement:
I am quite unable to account for the continued backward state of the school at St. Mary's. The average daily attendance is 14, about one third of what it ought to be and only four writing on paper and not one cyphering of the 21 registered pupils. This is certainly not hopeful for the rising male population of St. Mary's,'"
At the same time the Convent school had 80 students registered and an average daily attendance of 40, of these 30 were reading cyphering and doing grammar. In 1875, conditions at the school at St. Mary's had improved considerably and the Inspector reported:
A school-house has been erected at the River Head of St. Mary's which when finished will be a very creditable building. The school-room which is capable of accommodating a large number of pupils was receiving a supply of desks and forms on the day of my visit. There having been no school in the settlement for some years the children were necessarily backward, -30 children were present, and the attendance has been very regular since the school opened.
An improved attendance has taken place in the St. Mary's School which has now an average of 23. The school room was undergoing some repair, and desks and forms were about to be supplied to it. Attendance of pupils is still low."
However, from this on, conditions in regard to education at St. Mary's continued to improve. The real problem with education in all of Newfoundland, St. Mary's included, was that children were taken from school at around eleven years of age to assist in the fishery. Around the turn of the century a prominent Catholic educator Vincent Burke described the evils of the system that took young children from school and placed them in the fishery to do the work of adults, with a resulting crushing of their mental and physical development. He felt that custom and ignorance were behind this practice, and that parents were unaware of the great injury they were doing to their children in a system that was to all intents and purposes, slave labour. As a result however, education in Newfoundland remained backward, and in some areas this practice was not abolished until the early nineteen forties when the compulsory school attendance act was passed.
St. Mary's, like the other communities of Newfoundland has always depended on the fishery, and until the opening of the American Bases, and the development of industrial work in Newfoundland, the entire population depended solely on the fishery. Two types of fishery seem to have been carried on at St. Mary's, the shore fishery conducted in small skiffs or punts, and the small "Jack" boats of fifteen to thirty tons which fished off Cape St. Mary's. It does not appear that St. Mary's had any connection with the Bank or Labrador fishery. At times the fishery in St. Mary's Bay failed bringing with it great want and hardships to the population. The first report of a fishery failure was in 1680, when the fishing admiral at St. Mary's reported the catch a complete failure. At various other times during the 19th century the fishery failed again. Thus, in 1834, Roger Sweetman, one of the members of the House of Assembly for the District of Placentia-St. Mary's petitioned the House for relief for his district. The motion was defeated, and Francis Bradshaw wrote to him concerning conditions in the area:
I am sorry for the fate of your motion for relief, there never was so much need of something being sent, not a seed potato here but they have long ago been eaten. Unless something is sent round by government I dread the state the poor will be driven too next winter property will be of little value and the risk of keeping it in stores too great. However, despite the desperate condition, the people survived, and in most cases the merchants who supplied the fishermen and bought their fish advanced them credit to tide them over.
From 1834, until 1858 the fishery at St. Mary's Bay was generally only fair, and in 1854 we have our first report on pauperism in the area. At this time pauperism existed to a large extent especially in the winter months and in the spring. The magistrate reported that the average catch per punts and skiffs was 30 quintals per man, in "Jack boats" 40 quintals per man, and for those using large cod seines 80 quintals per man. He also reported that although there was much relief, everybody except widows, orphans and the sick performed work for the relief. He also listed the reasons for the high degree of pauperism in the area: (1) the potato blight (2) the fact that the merchants were now non resident and there was no one to supply credit during the winter months. (3) The small fish and the low price paid for it and the high price charged for supplies. He suggested that three things could be done to remedy the state of pauperism, (1) engage the unemployed in road repair (2) Supply the people with seed potatoes, oats and other seed vegetables for the spring planting. (3) Lower the price of salt, and control the use of seines which were hurting the net and thrall fishermen.'" The government provided a certain amount of road work and some seeds were supplied.
In 1858, the census for that year showed that the population of St. Mary's was now 692 people composed of 113 males under 10 years of age, 125 females under ten years of age, 64 males between ten and twenty and 57 females in the same age group. 125 males between 20 and 30, and 70 females in that age group. There were 93 houses and 83 families, of the houses six were vacant, and eleven new homes had been built that year, 244 of the population were engaged in the fishery and there were 1 clergyman, 1 farmer and 1 mechanic. Of the people all except 14, had been born in Newfoundland, of these 12 had been born in Ireland, and two in England. All the people were Roman Catholic. The Harbour had 14 fishing rooms and 73 stages."
In 1860 the fishery failed again in St. Mary's, and Mr. England the member for the area presented a petition in the House of Assembly from John S. St. Croix and others of St. Mary's, Riverhead, and Mall Bay requesting that relief might be given to the communities in their present state of destitution which was the result of a failure of the fishery end the potato crop. As a result the government instituted a program of road repairs, and some work was done to cut down the hills in the road which were so steep that carriage traffic was nearly impossible. Little Hr. Bridge was also repaired. Also the building of the Lighthouse at Cape St. Mary's afforded some employment. The court house at St. Mary's was also repaired.
To add to the discomforts of a fishery and crop failure, epidemics of scarlet fever, measles and whooping cough struck the area, causing many deaths and there was no resident doctor in the St. Mary's Bay area. Many children died in this year. The fishery was so bad that only one ship cleared for Spain, and things were desperate in the community.
One of the big questions which the Newfoundland government and the fishermen were asking at this time was the effect of using bulltows in the fishery. The government was concerned and some fishermen from Placentia and Bonavista Bays petitioned the government to forbid the use of bulltows. In reply to this petition the fishermen of the St. Mary's Bay region petitioned the government to the effect that the petition from the other Bays be disregarded and the Bulltows not be forbidden to be used. The Bulltows they claimed had been very successful in St. Mary's Bay, and men who had used the Bulltows had obtained over 15 quintals more fish for the month of June than those who had not used it. The petition was dated 1864, and was signed by the following people, and presented by the five principal inhabitants of the area:
The five principle inhabitants of the area who presented and recommended the petition were: James Murphy, John Walsh, John Whelan, James Kennedy, and Patrick Walsh. The petition had its effect and restrictions were not placed on the use of the Bulltows despite the contention of some fishermen that its use would destroy the mother, or spawning fish. In the same year it was reported that the fishery at St. Mary's was still below the average catch, and that scarcely any revenue was collected there although it was a port of entry. It was also reported that for a few years trading vessels from Halifax had been supplying the fishermen on a barter system, but they too had been discouraged by the failing fishery and now no longer came. The total value of imports for 1864 was only to the value of 282 pounds, while exports amounted to 1700 pounds, and as the dried codfish for the year only totalled 1700 quintals it would appear that the catch had indeed been below the average. The preventive officer at St. Mary's also reported that no herring were hauled in St. Mary's for sale at St. Peter's, but the St. Mary's boats leave for Fortune Bay about March 17th and begin hauling herring in Fortune Bay about April 15, and it is inferred that these were sold to the French at St. Peter's.
In 1867, His Majesty's ship Fawn, under the command of Commander Haysham, visited St. Mary's from June 7th to 10th and wrote the following report of the community:
There are 25 large boats of 28-30 tons with seven men each, and fifteen smaller boats called fifteen quintals boats, with four men crew, and one hundred fifty punts with two men each. This numbering is for the whole district from Peter's River round the Bay including St. Mary's and Salmonier, and is a decrease of six large boats from last year. The season commences about the 20th of May and lasts till the end of October although I am told little is done after the 15th of October. Last year the catch was said to be about 25 quintals per man in the large boats and 15 in the small boats. This they say does not pay, and ought to be at least 50 quintals per man to make it so. Caplin generally come in between the 6th and 10th of June. They came in this year on the 9th.
On Sunday the 9th of June there were 104 large boats at anchor here, having come in from various places the evening before. They were brought in by the bait (caplin) having come in in large quantities.
The people here I am told are all R.C. except one man.
In 1868, Captain Parish of H.M.S. Sphinx paid a visit to St. Mary's and reported that the fishery had started off well, and there was the prospect of an excellent fishery for the first time in many years. Even as early as June 11th, some boats had thirty Or forty quintals. At St. Mary's Harbour there were only 6 large boats, though he found a total of 70 at the harbour, most of them obtaining bait. Though the fish were plentiful yet they were small and the fishermen hoped for larger fish to strike in. Captain Parish was impressed with the people whom he described as rough and "poorly clad but a fine set of men".
He visited the Magistrate and the Parish Priest and heard a sad story of want and destitution during the previous years, and unless the fish catch was unusually large both men feared another gloomy winter of hunger and disease. He found that the fishermen had been so destitute of food that many had nothing to eat but a little oatmeal and water. Again the people under the stress of hunger had eaten all their seed potatoes and as a consequence were unable to cultivate the soil.
1868 marked a turning point in the economic future of St Mary's for once again the fishery was successful and continued so. The people were able to supply their agricultural needs and gardens and livestock were again developed. In 1871 Captain Malcolm visited St. Mary's in the H.M.S. Dana and his detailed report shows how quickly the people had recovered from the economic depression that had hung over the community for more than a decade:
This is a well to do settlement, the entire population of approximately 700 souls, with the exception of one being Roman Catholics. They are administered too by Father Ryan. They have a good stock of cattle and cultivate nearly sufficient ground for their own use. They trade and barter principally with St. John's houses. The health of the settlement is good. In winter they get a good supply of deer and wild fowl, now and then bears and seals are killed. They catch here and in the neighbourhood, cod, and a few halibut, also herring and caplin. The two later are used for bait. They report the herring fishery over and the caplin fishery beginning. They fish for cod with nets, bulltows and hook and line. They report that those who have nets can get from 1000-1200 quintals in a season, men with hook and line from 50-80 quintals. The catch as yet (June 15th) has not been good, but now that caplin have struck in, if fine weather comes they hope for much success. It is very difficult to arrive at the number of crafts they have as the accounts here are more confusing than usual, but from what we could see they must have about 60 large schooners and 30 small schooners under thirty tons. When H.M.S. Dana arrived there were 55 schooners in the roads, we passed 33 and they said many vessels were up to the bay fishing. I hear it is no uncommon thing for 400 craft to be collected here. They have no complaints about the foreign fishermen--they seldom come here. Though using bulltows with many hundreds of hooks they like the settlers of other ports consider them as destructive to the mother fish. St. Mary's Harbour on the whole gives the impression of being thriving and prosperous. The drying establishments are vaster than at any other place. From the report it appears that Captain Malcolm did not realize that St. Mary's was one of the most important bait centres on the South Coast and that vessels from many places came there to obtain bait, especially for the Bank fishery.
The fishery continued to be good and St. Mary's prospered. Seines were widely used and for a number of years very large fish were caught. From the seine fishing a new export came, this was dried spawn which accumulated in the seine and was then placed in heaps on the shore salted, and sun dried for export to the Mediterranean. The Officers of the ships which came to visit St. Mary's thought that this practice which destroyed billions of fish eggs would result in the destruction of the fishery, but for the next decade the fishery continued to be very successful. Among other things these fishery protective vessels carried a surgeon who gave medical aid to the inhabitants. In 1874, Alex McBride, surgeon of H.M.S. Spartan, reported that at St. Mary's there were a great many applications for medical aid and that many of the inhabitants suffered from chronic compliments of long standing and among the complaints he listed, rheumatism, neuralgia. amaurosis, opere halma, bronchitis, asthma, catarrh, sprain, diarrhea and haemorrhoids. In the same year there had also been an outbreak of measles and malignant fever at St. Mary's but the rest of the Bay had escaped it.
Road building at St. Mary's did not begin until 1836, when the House of Assembly appointed Josiah Blackburn to make a survey for a road to link Placentia and St. Mary's. At the same time he was also appointed magistrate of St. Mary's at a salary of 60 pounds per year. In 1841, he was appointed, together with William Lush, and William Fever, to the St. Mary's Road Board along with the Reverend James Duffy, who had been chairman of the previous Road Board. The first Road Board had been composed of Father Duffy, John Walsh and Thomas Whelan. Walsh and Whelan had resigned in 1840 because of the "pressure of their private affairs."
Blackburn had been elected chairman of the Board by Lush and Fewer and on the 24th of September 1841, he sent a letter to Father Duffy to attend the first meeting of the new Board on September 27th at 12.00 noon at the St. Mary's Court House. That relations were strained can be seen by the fact that Blackburn sent the local constable, Michael Murray, to deliver the letter and obtain a receipt for its delivery from Father Duffy. In a letter to the Governor, on September 30th. Blackburn reported that Father Duffy had told Murray that he would never attend a meeting with Fewer and Lush, both of whom had played a part in the flake incident of 1835. "
Blackburn further told the governor that on Sunday the 26th Father Duffy after first Mass distinctly told his congregation that he would never sit with the newly appointed commissioners of roads and bridges, Lush, Fewer and Blackburn, that one was an informer, another a perjurer, and the third a swindler, in addition to an abundance of scandalous abuse and threats to the three men named. He further related that on the 27th of September, Father Duffy had sent one of his men to the court house to inform the other commissioners that "Father Duffy had desired him to tell us that he did not choose to meet us, that perhaps in a month or six weeks or some time when it was convenient to him, he would have a meeting with the other commissioners.
Blackburn informed the governor that the roads and bridges in the St. Mary's area were in a desperate condition requiring immediate attention, but the board could do nothing until they meet which they could not do without Father Duffy. They requested the governor to take action to remedy this situation. They also enclosed a letter for the governor to send to Bishop Fleming which read:
St. Mary's, 30th September 1841.
Having for the past three years observed the proceedings of the Reverend James Duffy, PP. of St. Mary's, with some degree of pain and anxiety hoping that experience and reflection would work in him amendment we at length feel ourselves loudly called upon to bring his misconduct under your Lordship's particular notice.
We beg to assure you My Lord that it is not trifles that now bring to complain and oblige us to say that his misconduct is now no longer to be born with--that it is perfectly insufferable.
If therefore My Lord you will investigate his proceedings here, we will lay before your lordship, face to face with him, such proof of his gross impropriety and insufferable misconduct as we are shore will not meet with your decided reprobation."
J. Blackbum, W. Lush & W. Fewer.
To Rt. Rev. Dr. Fleming,
Which the governor forwarded. Bishop Fleming did not choose to answer it. Father Duffy however choose to ignore the fact that the new road commissioners had been appointed under the governor's warrant and wrote to him on this question:
St. Mary's, October 2nd, 1841
I beg leave to request that you will solicit the governor pro temp. that Mr. John Walsh and Mr. Thomas Whelan may again resume their former station as commissioners of roads and bridges in the District of St. Mary's until the contracts are completed which have been commenced under our board.
This time last year they declined from a multiplicity of business which developed upon them in their domestic concerns. At present they are prepared to assist me in getting the contracts finished. I trust the governor pro temp. will be pleased to issue a warrant for their re-appointment (if necessary) in order that the poor and industrious contractors may be able to get their lost investment.
I am etc. James Duffy C. R&B
The governor had no desire to tangle again with Father Duffy, especially, as he was at this time trying to get Rome to remove Bishop Fleming. He did not re-appoint the old commissioners as Father Duffy had requested, nor did he remove Father Duffy as Mr. Blackburn had requested, as a result a stalemate occurred and the roads and bridges of St. Mary's deteriorated until Father Duffy was transferred to another parish, which was done in 1844.
By 1852, the road from St. John's to Placentia was well under way, and by 1862 the road had been laid out in sixty separate lots of which 15 had already been constructed, and a footpath four feet wide had been blazed through the remaining one. There were however no bridges to either North Harbour River or Rocky River. At this time St. Mary's had improved communications by water, as in 1860 it became a port of call for the steamer Victoria which called at the community twice a week. By 1867, the road was being prepared at a faster pace and it was worked from June 14th to November 22nd, in an attempt to link up St. Mary's with Salmonier which was already connected with St. John's. In 1870, the St. Mary's road was being extended from St. Mary's Harbour to Holyrood Pond, a large grant of $740.00 was voted to complete the Salmonier-St. Mary's road which was now passable, and the following year a grant of only 103.00 pounds was required for keeping the road in repairs. The main grant of 5662.00 was spent on extending the road from St. Mary's to Point L'Haye and Gaskiers. In 1876, communications were further improved by the placing of a ferry at Riverhead at a cost of 550. per year.
St. Mary's had always had a good reputation as a law abiding community, and in 1837, John Nugent had been able to report that during a twenty-five year period there had been only one criminal case there, yet, it appears from the records that the position of constable had been one that often changed hands. In 1834, John Martin had dismissed William Christopher from his post because he spent a few days in St. John's, and appointed William Burke in his stead.
In the crisis of 1835, Burke had refused to do his duty and Martin had dismissed him. However, when it became apparent that not even the two St. John's constables could do anything in the situation, Burke was restored to his post. In 1841, the then magistrate, Josiah Blackburn, dismissed Burke on the grounds that he wilfully neglected his duty and appointed Michael Murray on a temporary basis in July of that year. In October Blackburn confirmed Murray in his job saying he had carried out his duties in a proper fashion. Murray remained in his position until James Murphy was appointed as magistrate and then he was replaced by James Burke. Burke supplemented his salary of 116.00 pounds per year by collection the fee paid by the government for killing dogs. On May 7, 1867, he killed eleven dogs and was paid 52.50. On December he received 53.00 more for killing 6 dogs.
During his term as constable, St. Mary's again became involved in a serious way with the law, for the crime of "wrecking". On May 1, 1873 Judge Prowse was ordered to proceed to St. Mary's with such policemen as he should deem necessary, to investigate a complaint of "wrecking a vessel called the Florence."
The Florence was a brigantine from Charlottetown, PEI, on a voyage from Boston to St. John's with a load of general cargo. On February 8, 1873 a sudden storm forced the captain to run for St. Mary's Harbour. The wind being South East he was unable to beat in the Harbour so he beat up for Mall Bay, and came to anchor in seven fathoms of water. On the 9th of February, the storm continued, and the vessel dragged her anchors. Being unable to bring the ship around, the captain put out a kedge anchor and hove it taunt. The tide falling however his vessel began to touch bottom but not enough to endanger her.
At noon on the 9th, three boats came out from the shore with a large number of men, but until dark were prevented from boarding the vessel. After dark the men forced their way aboard, cut the line to the kedge anchor and carried it away. Then they broke into a storeroom and took a mainsail, while others went aloft and loosened the top-gallant sails on the boat. The Captain did everything in his power to make them desist, but soon the whole group armed with sticks and hatchets took complete possession of the vessel, forced open her hatches and unloaded her cargo of flour, Indian meal, pork, and furniture, none of which was damaged in the slightest way. They took 369 barrels of flour, 92 barrels of meal, 34 barrels of pork and one barrel of kerosene. The Captain in the meantime sent one of his boats for the magistrate at St. Mary's, but by the time that gentleman arrived, the boat was plundered and the plunderers all fled.
When the tide rose the Captain succeeded in getting his ship afloat, and moved her to the mouth of the river at Riverhead where he completed sufficient repairs to get to St. John's. Police were sent to arrest the marauders, but they had taken refuge in the woods and the police were unable to dislodge them. From a letter to the Colonial officer by the governor it appears that the practice of wrecking ships in Newfoundland, in order to obtain their cargo, was very common.
In January of 1878, there was some trouble about the distribution of relief at St. Mary's, and letters were sent to the Colonial Secretary Mr. Shea, and to the member for the district, Mr. Bennett. The people complained that favour had been shown to the people of St. Mary's, in that some people there had been advanced either whole or half barrels of flour while the people of Riverhead and Point L'Haye had been give only gallons. It was insinuated further that the magistrate, Mr. James Harvey, JP, had been drunk. The Secretary in his letter to Mr. Harvey said that he knew him to be a sober man but was telling him what had been said, and also that he was sorry for the injury he had received during the disturbance.
At this time relief was distributed to the local road board which in exchange for the food had a certain number of days work done on the roads. The magistrate was the chairman of the road board. Mr. Harvey wrote back to the Secretary explaining the circumstances which had given rise to the charges and the disturbance during the issuing of the relief. He said that the flour for St. Mary's had been landed by the SS Plover at a different place in the Harbour, but as the weather was bad, the people from the other harbour could not get to St. Mary's that day so their share of the provisions were stored in the court house. That night Michael Mahoney had come to him and they went to the court house where they found the padlock forced and evidence that some of the flour had been stolen. Mr. Harvey had returned home to get a lantern and summon the constable, but in his rush did not notice that the door of his cellar was open and fell headlong into the cellar which had given rise to the rumour that he was drunk, which he said was a flat lie. He also answered the accusation that he had given work on the road beard to unauthorized persons.
He said that a young fellow named Walsh had come to him in November when the road was being repaired and told him they had nothing to eat in the house and could not borrow any more, and that his father was in St. Johns The magistrate after investigating his claim and finding it true gave the boy four days labour on the road being constructed to Path's End. The father came home and after abusing the magistrate also wanted to work on the road, which he did authorize for one half a day. As others had done the same the magistrate had been instructed pay them he did the same for Walsh. The disturbance had occurred when a mob collected the day after the arrival of the Plover, and many assembled which the magistrate felt had only come to cause trouble and were not in need of welfare. There hadn't been any rioting or unlawful assembly, but they had crowded and shouted, and as some of the flour intended for distribution to these people had been stolen it was found necessary to distribute a certain number of gallons of flour rather than one half barrels as was intended. As a result of the magistrate's explanation 13 more barrels of flour, 12 boxes of meal and a puncheon (80 gallons of molasses were sent on the next boat to Placentia for reshipment to St. Mary's).
At the same time Magistrate Harvey complained of the selling of spirits by unlicensed people, and the fact that the constable was not inclined to do his duty, even though the magistrate felt that the constable knew the guilty parties. Once, after being questioned by the magistrate, the constable directed him to the house of a man named "Yankee", but he had had no liquor for some time previous. The magistrate asked that a detective from St. John's be sent to investigate and search suspected houses from Salmonier to St. Mary's. At this time there was no licensed house in the St. Mary's area. As a result of the magistrate's complaint it was decided to suspend James Burke, the constable, until he was prepared to do his duty. In 1881, a new constable was appointed and an apartment was added to the court house for him to live in. From this time on it was usual for the constable to be a man from outside the area, in the hope that he would be better prepared to carry out his duties. In 1900 and 1901 there was again no constable at St. Mary's.
In St. Mary's, as in other communities which were regarded at the chief town or "capitol" of their district, were found the people who made up the public service, the magistrate, the doctor, the relieving officer, the tide waiter and the priest. St. Mary's had had a magistrate dating from the late eighteenth century, a priest from 1834, and a tide waiter from the second half of the nineteenth century. The first doctor to have resided at the community war a Dr. Goddard who, in 1878, was boarding at Riverhead during an epidemic of diphtheria. The magistrate reported that he had done excellent work in making the people obey the laws of sanitation, but the family, with whom he resided were afraid of keeping him, because they feared he might bring the diphtheria to them. The doctor then charged the government for his board which they re fused to pay, and it would appear that he left the area.'" The next medical man to take up residence at St. Mary's was Dr. William Hogan, M.D. By 1900, Doctor Hogan was filling three of the civil posts in the town, that of doctor, magistrate and relieving officer.
In 1900, there was an epidemic of Scarlatina, and at a result of his attendance on people who could not pay, Dr. Hogan submitted his bill to the government. This bill was questioned by the Auditor General, F. C. Berteau, in his report for 1899 who also questioned the wisdom of having the three offices vested in one man, he wrote to the Colonial Secretary on the matter:
April 22nd, 1899
I have the honour to enclose certain correspondence, accounts, etc., having reference to three cases of Scarlatina which occurred recently in St. Mary's. Apart from the charges made for attendance, goods, and drugs which the commissioner of Charities states to be excessive, I beg to call the attention of the Government to the possibilities which exist for improper and unnecessary expenditure of the public funds in consequence of the union, in the person of one individual of the several positions and occupations of magistrate, relieving officer, preventive officer, local physician, druggist and grocer. As local practitioner he is called upon to attend in cases of illness, and if in doubt of payment of his fee by the patient, he (as magistrate) directs himself (as relieving officer) to employ himself (as doctor) to attend the case on Government Account, and also to give such groceries and drugs as may be required, which goods he (as druggist and grocer) supplies. Then (as magistrate) he certifies all the bills as being "authorized by me" and that the prices of the goods are "fair and just".
I respectfully submit this is a condition of things that should not be permitted to continue and that the offices of magistrate and relieving officer should, in this case be separated. May I ask for the early consideration of the foregoing and the communication of the Government's decision to me, as I have refused to pass the accounts for the present.
I have, &c., F. C. Bertreau, Auditor General "
The reply from the Secretary of the Treasury Board was that the bills should be paid but that the Commissioner of Public Charities should insist on a reduction of the prices charged thereon. The Secretary of the Treasury Board also wrote to the Colonial Secretary asking the Government to take such steps as would prevent a Government officer from holding several posts. A look at the bill submitted by Doctor Hogan will at once relieve him of any charges of having abused any of his offices, especially when in the case of just one patient he had had to travel a considerable distance to make 9 house calls. The bill was as follows:
Mrs. Hogan assisted her husband on delivery cases, and Nolan was occasionally used by the Doctor to drive him to his out harbour patients. The Doctor was also allowed by the Government to continue in his various public functions.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the Government of Newfoundland made a great effort to develop the agricultural possibilities of the country. Agriculture societies were set up and the Government distributed breeding bulls and stallions and rams in an effort to improve the local livestock. Seed potatoes and other varieties of seeds were also distributed to the local agriculture society for distribution among its members. In 1912, the Agricultural Society was very busy in St. Mary's. During that year an improved type of seed potatoes had been used and despite a poor season, these potatoes had averaged 16 barrels to each barrel of seed potatoes. The Society had received 6 breeding rams and these had been distributed around the area. The breeding pigs had been placed in charge of John Crawley, Daniel Hogan, and M. Acheron, these men already had pigs and agreed to sell the young pigs for $1.50 each. Land cultivation was up by 25% and there was only one case of potato disease that year. As there were no dogs in the area except a few in St. Vincent's, the sheep population was rapidly increasing. All the dogs at St. Mary's had been destroyed by popular vote twenty years earlier. As a result of the destruction of the dogs, nearly every family now kept a pony.
The Society also reported that they had purchased seven ploughs for the use of the community, and two sets of Peat cutting tools. A few people had tried cutting the peat and drying it but the wet summer had prevented this. However, even the damp peat burnt fairly well, and as wood around the community was getting scarcer, it was hoped that peat could be substituted. The Society had obtained the use of a stallion and twenty-four foals were expected. The animal population at that time for the area was: 160 horses, 400 cows, 1200 sheep, and 300 pigs. Farmers in the area had done well and over $2,000 had been realized from the sale of beef. The Society also hoped the Government would pass a law to prevent the local bulls from roaming at large, as this was preventing maximum use of the breeding bulls imported by the Society.
The Agricultural Society remained active and in 1916 reported that the potato crop at Riverhead had been 18 barrels to each barrel of seed potatoes. In the same year the sheep population had been increased and improved, and for the district the cultivation of land had been increased by 25%, potatoes were the chief root crop. The only report of canker in potatoes had been just one case at St. Vincent's. Cattle had been increased by 15% and the stock much improved. The cows were giving an average daily output of two gallons, and over 1,000 lbs. of butter had been produced which was all disposed of in the area. The Society continued, but the outbreak of the First World War, with the corresponding increase in the price of fish, led to less development of the agricultural assets of the area.
Like other communities in Newfoundland, St. Mary's contributed her share to the war effort and gave freely of her young men. At the close of the war, there was an emigration to the United States and Canada, but many of those who went returned eventually to take up residence again at St. Mary's. Like the rest of Newfoundland it suffered during the great depression, and once again many of its inhabitants had to seek Government relief in order to survive. Then came the Second World War, and the building of the American bases at St. John's, Argentia and Stephenville. Many men from St. Mary's Bay found employment in the construction of the bases, and found permanent employment after the construction was finished. Young men turned less and less to the fishery, and went further and further afield in search of employment. Many of them spending long months in Greenland and other Northern American bases. St. Mary's thus became for the greater part a dormitory town. It seems strange, that in an area with all the requisites for a great fishery development, an excellent harbour, one of the best sources of bait in Newfoundland, and a proximity to the prolific fishery off Cape St. Mary's, that not one fish plant has been established, and both the herring, and the cod are trucked to centres outside the area to be processed. In roads too the area has been neglected, and while most other areas have paved roads, St. Mary's road continues to be a dusty trail.
In 1949, Newfoundland entered Confederation, and the District of Placentia-St. Mary's became together with the rest of Newfoundland, a part of the tenth province of Canada. At this time St. Mary's was, in the spring of the year, experiencing the start of an excellent herring fishery and men were making as high as $100 per day. It was a very cold spring in St. Mary's but was enlightened by the first General Election, which was held on May 27th, 1949. Unlike the majority of other Newfoundland settlements the District of Placentia St. Mary's returned a Progressive Conservative member in the person of Mr. Leonard Miller, a businessman from Placentia.
Despite the excellent start of the herring fishery, the fishery failed for the rest of the year and a correspondent from St. Mary's reported later in the year that most of the fishermen of the area would have to seek Government Relief. An increased road repair and bridge building program by the Government helped to improve the economy, and the new influx of money in the old age pension and family allowance, helped to improve conditions. During this year a new hotel was built at the junction of the military and Salmonier roads to replace an old building which had been destroyed by fire. At the same time a new church was under construction at St. Mary's, and many socials were held throughout the parish to help finance the building. A new doctor, Dr. Wood, had taken up residence at St. Mary's, and Mr. S. Battock, a local businessman, had taken over the distribution of all relief work for the area from St. Mary's to Harriot. He was also the local magistrate or JP
The local correspondent for the Observer's Weekly, while pointing out the benefits that had come to St. Mary's with Confederation, such as an improved old age pension and family allowances was quick to point out that also there had been an increase in the price of certain articles, such as "Jumbo Tobacco", and "Radio Batteries". The correspondent found great fault in the increased price of the batteries sayings that in an isolated place like St. Mary's where radios were often their only means of communication, there should be a special exemption. And so in the Brave New Port Confederation World, St. Mary's prepared to face the future.
AppendixLetter of Charles Leigh 1597:
The 24th we had advice of our Spanyard of certain Leagers which were in the harborow of cape st. Mary. Whereupon the same night, being within five or six leagues of the harborow, I sent off our two shallops with thirty men to discover the harborow, and to suprise the enemy. The 25 (July) in the morning we approached the harborow with our ship, and in the mouth thereof we espied three shallops, two whereof were ours, and the third of a ship of Rochel, which they had surprised with foure men in her; who told them that there were but two ships in the harborow, whereof one was of Rochel, and the other of Bell Island. And as we were discoursing with the Rochellers, we had sight of the ships: whereupon we sent our boat aboord the Rocheller to certify him that we were his friends, and to request him not to hinder our fight with the enemy. This message being sent, we made all haste we could unto the ship of Bell Isle, which first began with us with three great shot, one whereof hit our maintopsaile, but both the other missed us. And we also sent one unto them: then being approached nere unto them, ten or twelve of us went in a shallop to entre them, and we carried also a warpe with us to make fast unto their ship, whereby our ship might the better come up to ayd us. And when we boorded them in our boat, they betooks themselves to their close fights, playing chiefly upon us with shot & pikes out at two ports, between which we entred very dangerously, escaping neere dangers both by shot & pike. Some of our men were wounded but no great harme was done. And mine owne piece in entering, was shot out of my hand into the sea; which shot also burst one side of the ladder, through the helpe of God we caused them to yeeld unto our mercy. There were off them in the ship above forty men most whereof we sent aboord of our shippe, there to be kept in holde with order to our chyurgion to dresse the wounded men, one of which was wounded unto death. That done, we had then time to view our prize, which we found of great defence, and a notable strong ship almost two hundred tun in burden, very well appointed, and in all things fitted for a man of warre. They had also foureteene or fifteene men ashore which were then absent from the ship or we should have otherwise had a hotter fight. The same day we got our sailes to the yard and our topmast on end and rigged our ship what we could. The 26th day we got some oile aboord, and there we tarried untill the second of August fitting our selves for the sea and getting fish aboord as the weather served us. During our abode there we divided our men and appointed to each ship their company, my self and my friends being resolved to take our passage in the prize, wherein when we were shipped and the company there arose great emnity against us by the other shippe, which afterwards we quieted. The second day of August having taken in wood and water we put to sea from that harborow in company of the Hopeall with purpose to go directly to Parlican.
Letter to Admiral Campbell, Governor of Newfoundland:
His Excellency, Admiral Campbell:
The 15th instant a boat from hence bound to Trepassey, near Cape English fell in with a sloop, an American privateer mounting six carriage guns, besides swivels and twenty-four men, of about a burden of twenty-five tons, and plundered the boat of her roads, anchors &c. and immediately proceeded up the bay to a place called North Harbour where she captured three boats more. On our receiving information of this we immediately ballasted a sloop now lying here belonging to Messrs. Pinney and Frampton, and with twenty-two men and six carriage guns which we collected out of different ships here, went in pursuit of said sloop. On the 16th in the morning she struck to us and is now lying here which we hold at your excellency's direction. Her name is the Hazard, Hugh Elmes, commander, belonging to Salem. We have sent you the prisoners in three boats. Their intention was to lay off this bay to intercept ships here bound to St. John's to join the convoy. We sent your excellency a petition a few days ago for a ship of war to protect us from hence to there which more you'll take into consideration and do. As I suppose we need not tell you the danger is very great, and there will be five ships of sail ready to sail from hence the 5th of next month.
We have not enclosed the Hazard's commission likewise Captain's Elme's orders from Congress, and we must beg to remark that one John Dart (not a native of America) whom we have now sent was the pilot of the sloop, served out of Trepassey many years and well acquintated on this coast. Captain Elmes informs us he entered with him and was the occasion of his cruising here to intercept the ships, and he further informs us a great number of privateers are on this coast.
Signed: Pinney & Frampton
St. Mary's September 18, 1782
Letter of John W Martin to the Governor:
I have the honour to request that you will be pleased to inform his excellency the governor that the Colonial Brig, Maria, arrived here about 9.00 pm, Sunday the 15th, when I received a letter from her commander W. W. Buoy informing me that he had brought with him two constables and that he waited my order--you will also be pleased to inform his excellency that I received a letter from the Attorney General having reference to a warrant for the apprehension of eight persons at the suit of the king and calling upon me as a magistrate to give assistance in the execution of the same--and I have further to request that you will lay before his excellency the following particulars of the outrageous proceedings of the people on the arrival of the yatch and during her stay in this Harbour.
At soon as the St. John's constables came on shore which they did before the yatch had anchored, I then dispatched a messenger for the constable of this place in the hope that some of the offenders might be taken into custody before it was known the yatch had arrived. The St. Mary's constable soon made his appearance who informed us that the yatch's arrival was known to the people, many of whom had been expecting her. That in coming from his own house he had observed a constant and universal quick passage of lights from house to house, and which extended throughout the Harbour. That he was persuaded that the people were on the alert and he could speak from his own knowledge to the fact of their determination not to suffer any man among them to be taken, and moreover in his opinion it would be impossible to take any of them that night for if a constable were to approach any one of their houses a signal would be made that would bring to it every person concerned in the destruction of the flake and perhaps many not concerned as all the people of the Harbour were in some way related to each other. I was not disposed to believe all which had been advised by the constable and still kept to my first intuition that it would be best to arrest some of the party that night, when a seamen who was left in care of the boat came to inform the mate that he had been taken out of her by two armed men who had collared him and took him from the boat, and that there were on his leaving 30 armed men near-the boat, that they threatened to have his life and make a sacrifice of him, and he was hauled about and desired to answer on the peril of his life such questions as they should put to him. They inquired whether there were any soldiers on the boat, what number and how many constables? Orders were then given by the mate for the removal of the yatch's boat to another place. I sent a person with the boat's crew to conduct them to the spot where the boat had been left, and at the same time to ascertain whether the servant's statement was true as regarding the assembly of armed man. This person soon returned and reported that he had seen upwards of 50 armed men coming in a body towards him and that one of the men desired him to stop, but afterwards suffered him to pass. Their arms consisted of guns, swords, pews and hatchets.
On the following morning I again sent for Burke, the constable of St. Mary's, in order that he should be in readiness to assist the St. John's constables on their landing in the discharge of their duty. He informed me that during the night his house was beset by a great number of men who threatened to shoot him if he did not make a promise not to assist the St. John's constables, consequently he stated he would rather relinquish his position than assist on such an perilous occasion. I warned him of the consequences of his taking such an improper step, but he having persevered in his first determination, I was left no alternative but to dismiss him from office--during the whole of this day, Monday, the 11th, men were to be seen hurrying about in parties of from twenty to thirty-some of them carrying firearms--and it was not deemed safe for the constables to come ashore from the yatch-about noon a boat was perceived leaving the yatch and approaching the shore, when upwards of 60 men ran to the place where it was likely to land, but as there were no constables on board of her the mob made no resistance to the captain landing. Captain Buoy was asked in a tone not to be misunderstood what was the reason he did not bring with him all his people.
On Tuesday morning this place presented a less hostile appearance than it did on the preceding day, when I recommended the constables to come on shore, and on their landing at the stage head the mob instantly collected and repaired to the spot. One or two of the parties named in the warrant were amongst the crowd and pointed out by the writer to the constables. Hurley, one of the constables from St. John's, entered the crowd and in an attempt to arrest one of them was struck several times, thrown down and otherwise ill-treated--so much so as to prevent him from again coming on shore. On Wednesday, Butts, the other constable, waited on me to say he considered it to be too much risk for him again to venture on shore in the discharge of his duty, from which he had never shrunk when he could get the least assistance, but in St. Mary's he considered his life in danger even in landing from the boat.
It blew a gale on Thursday and Friday which prevented me from having any communication whatsoever with the yatch. On Saturday I wrote a note to the constables informing the constables that they ought not to leave St. Mary's until they had notified the parties named in the warrant the object of their visit to St. Mary's, but as that could not be done in the usual fashion I thought it right for them to address a public notice to the parties concerned, calling on them in the King's name to give themselves up to the authority of the law. By 12.00 on Monday this notice was given but without effect--one of the witnesses for the crown fled before subpoena could be served upon him. The other on being subpoenaed refused to obey it. The person who served the subpoena informed the writer that the witness in question handled a gun in such a way as was calculated to alarm any person who went upon such an errand.
Any observations coming from me in reference to the foregoing narrative may be termed presumptions, but I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without requesting you to express to his excellency my regrets that it should be my lot to reside among persons who should raise up an army against their sovereign and the law of the country. I do indulge in the hope that such outrageous conduct may not be suffered to pass by with impunity, not only for the sake of punishing delinquency but to prevent the reoccurrence of further crime.
Letter of Governor Prescott to Rt. Hon. Lord Glenely:
My Lord I have the honour to transmit the copy of a letter received from J. W. Martin (agent for the house of Slade & Co.)a magistrate of St. Mary's and a member of the House of Assembly for that District.
I assembled the council on the first inst., and laid this document before them. They were of course of a unanimous opinion that nothing could be done respecting it during the winter season, but expressed the greatest anxiety that vigorous measure, should be advanced to bring the offenders to justice in the spring.
St. Mary's contains a population of about 500 souls, all Catholic with the exception of Mr. Martin, his two clerks and one servant. Until lately they were of a quiet and inoffensive character, but Mr. Duffy, an ignorant and bigoted priest having been sent among them, has unfortunately produced the present state of thing, which I fear may occasion considerable trouble.
It seems that the Southern District of which St. Mary's forms a part was placed under the spiritual guidance of Mr. Duffy early in 1834. The Reverend gentleman first appeared at St. Mary's in March of that year, he stayed but for a short time than and did not return until the following December.
He immediately applied to Mr. Martin for a piece of ground on which to build a church, and Mr. Martin not consenting to give him the exact site he desired, he forcibly took possession, levelled a mound and erected a wooden church in a few days by the voluntary labour of his flock. Mr. Martin irritated at these proceedings and about to depart for St. John's to attend his Legislative duties desired his clerk to hold no intercourse or trade with Mr. Duffy, and decided upon institution of a civil suit for trespass. He had not been long at St. John's when Mr. Duffy sent an order to Mr. Martin's clerk for 1 gallon of brandy--this was refused, and the next morning the priest led his flock from the chapel and with their assistance burnt and destroyed a valuable fish flake.
The Attorney General intending to proceed criminally against Mr. Duffy during the last session of the Supreme Court applied to me for the Colonial Vessel to go to St. Mary's with peace officers carrying warrants for the apprehension of Duffy's accomplices and subpoenas for witnesses.
The result is detailed in Mr. Martin's letter which with its deposition of Mr. Lush also appended will I hope put your lordship in complete possession of the whole transaction.
Your lordship having informed me that the Colonial Vessel is to be discontinued it being certain the Legislature will not support her, I shall have no means of sending a military detachment to St. Mary's on this occasion, indeed the appearance of a ship of war is much more desirable, and my idea is a small frigate should arrive in St. John's in the latter part of April exclusively devoted to this service and independent of any force destined for the usual protection of the fishery. Here, she will receive on board 20 or 30 men of the Veseron corps, an intelligent magistrate and law officer and trustworthy constables, and proceed to St. Mary's.
I trust that such a demonstration accompanied by a proclamation may induce the offenders and required witnesses to come forward and yield to the law. If on the contrary they should abandon their homes and families and go into the interior, the ship and troops must remain. The latter can be perfectly accommodated in a large empty house belonging to Mr. Martin and provisions are abundant. The stay of the frigate must of course be regulated by weather and other circumstances.
I hope your lordship will approve of this arrangement and procure a ship of war to be sent here in accordance with it.
Yours etc& H. Prescott
Lord Glenel's Reply:
5th February, 1836
I have your dispatches dated the 4th and 12th of January last reporting the outrage committed at St. Mary's Harbour Newfoundland under the direction of Reverend Mr. Duffy, a R.C. priest, and enclosing various depositions proving that the inhabitants of that place in the month of December last rose simultaneously in an open preconceived and armed resistance to the magistrate and constables who had proceeded thither invested with the King's authority to apprehend the offenders.
I entirely agree with you that it is impossible to succumb to such violence without endangering the peace of society and bringing the law and its ministers into contempt. In compliance therefore with your recommendations I have therefore desired the lords' Commissioners of the Admiralty to instruct the principal officer in command of his majesty's navy in command at the nearest naval station to dispatch a proper vessel to support your lawful authority at St. Mary's Harbour and I have further directed the officer to be employed on that service to place himself in communication with you to act in such a manner as you shall think proper and adopt for subduing the threatened resistance to the law, with the least possible hazard to the people and property of His Majesty's subjects.
I have the Honour etc.
Proclamation issued at St. John's May 1836:
William IV by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith To all our loving subjects in our island of Newfoundland, Greetings:
WHEREAS on the 28th day of November last a warrant under the hand and seal of our Chief Justice of our said Island was issued for the apprehension of Michael Christopher (otherwise known as Yetman) Patrick Tobin, Stephen Conners, Thomas Murray, Thomas Whelan, James Fagan, the elder, John Bishop and Geoffrey Guilty, all of St. Mary's in the Southern District of our said island, fishermen, charged upon oath before our said Chief Justice with having committed a RIOT at St. Mary's aforesaid,
AND WHEREAS it appears by the information of the peace officers charged with the execution of the said warrant and of other persons who were present, that the said peace officer were in the month of December last at St. Mary's aforesaid, openly and violently resisted in the performance of their duty while endeavouring to apprehend the said offenders by a large number of armed men, inhabitants of St. Mary's aforesaid, and that the peace officers were beaten and threatened with further violence if they persisted in endeavouring to execute the said warrant, whereby they were prevented from apprehending any of the said parties named in the warrant, and were compelled to desist from any further attempt to perform their duty, and the said offenders do still continue at large in contempt of our authority and of the laws of our said Island;
AND WHEREAS it is high misprision and contempt of our Royal Prerogative to resist the lawful commands of our judges, justices and other officers of justice or to be aiding or assisting in the rescue or escape of any persons charged with any offence against our LAWS or to neglect or refuse to assist any sheriff, Justice of the Peace, constable or other peace officers in the apprehension of any such offenders, when therein to required by any of our said peace officers.
NOW THEREFORE KNOW YE that we do by this our ROYAL PROCLAMATION strictly charge and command the said Michael Christopher (otherwise known as Yetman), Patrick Tobin, Stephen Connors, Thomas Murray, Thomas Whelan, James Fagan, the elder, John Bishop and Geoffrey Quilty, all of St. Mary's in the Southern District of our said Island, forthwith to surrender themselves to our officers and ministers of justice to be dealt with according to law. AND WE DO FURTHER CHARGE AND COMMAND all our loving subjects to be aiding and assisting our sheriff of our said island and our justices of the peace and other peace officers in the apprehension of the said offenders and in bringing them to justice AND LASTLY we do further command and strictly enjoin all persons throughout our said Island, that they in no way harbour, conceal, comfort or in any WAY or MANNER be aiding or abetting the said offenders or any of them in their further resistance to our lawful authority upon PAIN of our highest displeasure and the punishment that shall await them.
Witness our trusty and well
beloved Henry Prescott Esquire at St. John's
in our said Island, the 7th of May 1836 in the sixth
year of our reign.
The information of William Hurley of St. John's, Constable, who says that on the 13th having arrived at St. Mary's he went on shore and visited the residence of Mr. J. W. Martin with Richard Butt, and the mate of the yatch Marie for the purpose of showing the warrants and papers he had brought from St. John's to Mr. Martin. That Mr. Martin read the said statements then sent for William Burke and he on his arrival being requested to go with informant and Butt to the house of some of the parties named in the said warrant refused to do so saying there were 30 or 40 armed men around the premises of Mr. Martin, who he the said William Burke was aware had said that they would be the first man's life to attempt to take them. That on the refusal of the said William Burke to do his duty he was dismissed by Mr. Martin from his office. That after the mob had dispersed Butt and informant had gone on board the yatch accompanied by two of Mr. Martin's men to the boat. That on the 15th instant informant and Butt went on shore by direction of the said John Martin and met at the landing place a large collection of men who permitted them to land without issuing any obstructions. That Thomas Murray was pointed out to informant on the same day by Mr. Martin from his window, who is named in said warrant and on this informant approaching said Murray and telling him he had a warrant against said Murray, Michael Fagan, son of James Fagan, the elder, of St. Mary's aforesaid fisherman, assaulted, beat and knocked down informant and then ran under a flake for stones but was prevented doing further injury to informant by John Quilty. That informant went to the house of Mr. Martin and remained there until the mob dispersed and he heard the said Michael Fagan say they would go on board the yatch and tear her in pieces and that from the violence used by the said persons it was impossible to arrest the persons named in the said warrant.
Letter on behalf of Legal Representation for Father Duffy:
E. A Archibald
I have the honour to be entrusted for the purpose of presenting with a petition the Honourable Chief Justice and associate judges of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland signed by Robert Pack Esq., C. P. James Power Esq., L.C.P. Thomas Chaney Esq., and about 600 other citizens of Carbonier, praying that Rev. James Duffy may be permitted to select from one of his own flock or the Catholics of Newfoundland generally an advocate to defend him at his approaching trial. May I beg the favour of your communicating with their lordships on this matter and inform me when it might be convenient for their lordships to receive the petition.
Extract From Petition presented by Patrick Nugent to the Queen:
That all the terror of the law and all the power of the executive have been put in requisition during a space of nearly three years to blight the character and to harass and annoy the Reverend James Duffy and the Catholic people of St. Mary's - notwithstanding that the people of St. Mary's have been almost proverbial for their peaceful and orderly conduct, the criminal calendar of the Southern Circuit for the last twenty-five years only including one solitary offence against the laws in that Harbour offence was promptly punished by the award of two hours in the stocks.
That on a preference of a charge of misdemeanour this Rev. gentleman was arrested by two common constables and dragged through the wilds of Newfoundland nearly 30 miles to give bail to stand his trial in the Supreme Court at St. John's and that subsequently in his various journeys to and from St. John's for the purpose of pressing on his trial he was obliged to travel in the most inclement seasons of the year upwards of 1500 miles and when at length the parties were brought to trial in the term of the Supreme Court last past the prosecution was abandoned through inability to sustain the charge.
Early Priests at St. Marys:
Population Figures for Various years:
** By 1935, the population of St. Mary's had dropped to 375 and the Depression had taken a toll for when the new parish priest, Father McGettigan arrived from Marystown in December 1936 he found all the buildings in an advanced state of disrepair. In April 1937 he started the foundations for a new parish hall finished that August, and in November 1937 he saw electric lights installed in the church for the first time. (from a gas driven motor-generator). Then in April 1940 he began the excavations for a new presbytery, the old one being about 100 years old.
May 1943 saw the construction of a new three room school under Edward Bonia and William Corcoran. When opened in September it was named for Father McGettigan's patron , Saint John the Baptist. The school was extended by one classroom in 1952 and lasted until 1967 when parish priest Father J A Dunne began excavations for a new school. But Father Dunne died in June 1968 before the school was completed in January 1969, so it was named the Dunn Memorial School in his memory.
By 1944, Father McGettigan had replaced every building except the church and this he started to do in August by first demolishing the existing 108 year old structure. The new church of our Lady of the Assumption was dedicated 23 September by Archbishop Skinner.
The Population of St. Mary's was 601 in 1981 and remains the civic centre for the area with the regional high school, courthouse and fish processing plant located there. However, the fishery on which St. Mary's was originally founded now supports few fishermen.
The following list of fishermen and planters of St. Mary's is taken from the Newfoundland Directory, 1864-1865.