NL GenWeb

Historical Information

West Coast Region - Bay St. George District

History of The Highlands

The article was written by Kate Hall(nee Gillis)and was originally printed in The Georgian, a local newspaper for Bay St. George. I transcribed a copy of the original hand written letter. Transcribed by Steve Gillis

History of The Highlands

The Highland’s is a level plain on the south side of Bay St. George, raising well up to 100 feet above sea level. It is a beautiful spot bounded on the east by Howley’s twelve mile line, on the west and south sides by the Cape Anguille Mountains, and on the north by Bay St. George

The Railway at St. Fintans is the highland township which is six mile square. There are many streams flowing into Bay St. George from the Anguille watershed, the largest of which is the Highland River or River Brook as it is locally called. It is a, or was a fine salmon stream and all connecting streams used to be teamed with trout.

There are three settlements in the township, they are: The Highlands, Loch Leven and St. Fintans. Loch Leven formed by the river about two and a half miles upstream was named by the late Arch Bishop Howley, who was the parish priest on this coast some years before he went to his home town St. Johns as Bishop of that Diocese in 1895.

The first settlers of the were Scottish Catholics by the name of MacLellans. The cove they landed in is still known as MacLellans Cove. They came from Cape Breton NS Canada but he himself came from West Scotland or some of the Isle’s. His wife Sarah"nee MacGilvary" had four sons and one daughter when they arrived at the Highlands.The Sons were Angus, William, Hugh and Ronald and the daughter was Catherine.They arrived at the Highlands in 1840 or 1841 as their daughter Flora2 was born at the Highlands. She was baptized in 1842. Her birth and Baptism are recorded in a bible which was in the home of William Maclellan of Codroy. Now all of his family have moved to Nova Scotia and other points and it is hoped that someone has the bible.

At the time the MacLellans came there was no other residents at the Highlands and the beaches and coves were used by the fishermen from what was then known as Crabbes and Barachois where English settlers lived. Some of those fishermen tried to prevent the Scots from landing but after they left in the evening for their homes the MacLellans came ashore and set up house keeping in a cabin on a little hill overlooking the sea. It was in their log house that the first Holy Mass was celebrated in the Highlands in 1848

As Christmas time drew Mrs maclellan felt lonely as did her family. Mr MacLellan1 said" Sarah" I am going down to Crabbes,as St. Davids was then known and the first person I meet I shall ask him to Christmas dinner. He did and the the first person he met was Elias Alley and as a result the two families were sincerest friends forever after. These same Anglican friends carried the remains of Mr MacLellan to Sandy Point and buried him when he died as it was the nearest Catholic Cemetery at that time. Mrs MacLellan had to prepare her husband for burial as at that time there were no other catholic families in the area. They spoke Gaelic and most did until they had grown.

When the boys to manhood they built a schooner to trade between Halifax and Bay St. Goerge. They named her The Highland Brothers and she made many a voyages under her popular Captain Angus, who the older brother and took charge. Captain Angus MacLellan is still fondly remembered by some of his old cohorts in Bay St. George. Eventually all his family moved to the U.S.A and two of his sons died in Boston May 1960. Captain Hugh MacLellanof Vancouver is the only one of Ronalds Family now living and there are none of that name presently living in the Highlands.

The first to come after the MacLellan's were the MacDonalds. The first

Rory MacDonald came from the Isle of Skye, Scotland to Nova Scotia

and later moved to Newfoundland. He was from the Catholic branch of the MacDonlads who sheltered the Jesuit Missionaries in the time of Elizabethian prosecutions. His sons Rory and Allen farmed at the Highlands.

Rory married a MacDonald from Cape Breton and had one Daughter named Ann, who married a John Macpherson, who’s grandchildren and great grand children live on the old farm. Allen married a first cousin of John Macphersons, Mary MacInnes. They had one daughter Mary. Mary's sons Alexander and Micheal used to live in Loch Leven. Allan died very young and his widow who was only 18 at the time of his death later married John MacIsaac, who’s grandson Wallace lives in Stephenville.

In 1850 Hugh and Donald Gillis decided to move from Judique, to the Boston States. They were the only sons of Ian Beck Gillis, who with his wife, resided with Hugh and of course came with him. Ian or John had many Daughters and two of them with their husbands and families joined the band of Emigrants.

Mary MacPherson3 had six sons, John, Duncan, Dougald Donald, Hugh, Angus, Charlie and one daughter. Her youngest son Angus was born in Flat Bay, in Bay St. George.

The Gillis brothers were married and had families also and it was a happy

band who left their household for the U.S. but a storm caught the two vessels and they were driven into Bay St. George where they built a shelter on Jantois Island on Sandy point peninsula, but not in St. Georges Harbour.. It is not quite clear when they actully moved to the Highlands but it is a fact that Hugh's son Alexander was born on Jantois Island and was baptized in 1852 at Sandy Point. The rest of the family were born at the Highlands namely, Isabelle, Archie, Hugh and Allen and twins who died while infants. Hugh Gillis4 settled at Gillis Cove. The MacInnes5 family about one half mile east of that.

Donald Gillis took a farm near what is now known as Heatherton. Donald Gillis6 later moved back to Sandy Point. They owned a Schooner and was necessary to be near a harbor. The late J.A MacLellan and Dougald of St. Georges were grandsons of this Donald Gillis.

When Donald left the Highlands he gave his property to the parish priest for church property. There is a graveyard on one corner of this property where

many of the early settlers are buried. The site for the graveyard was selected

after a small girls body was found on the beach below his property, evidently

from some ship wreck. She had a OUR LADY of PEACE medal arround her neck so when they needed a grave, hers was part of the consecrated grounds.

As people came and settled furthur west, the present site now being used was choosen as church property and Donald’s house and farm were sold to Andrew Gillis of Grand Codroy River, who’s wife was a niece of Donald named Catherine MacPherson. His brother Rory Gillis married Catherine Gillis, Hugh eldest settled on the next section to his father in law. Dan J. Gillis resided for years on the old homestead and is the grandson of Rory and Catherine.

The MacEachrens came about this time and a niece of Donald MacEachren and Catherine MacLellan became the wife of John MacInnes, son of Catherine Gillis and Alexander MacInnes who arrived with the Gillis's in 1850. Mary MacInnes, widow of the late Ed. J. MacInnes presently lives on the old MacInnes property near the church.

The first church built at the Highlands was blessed by the late Arch Bishop Howley under the patronage of St. Columcille, the great Irish missionary at Iona on the west coast of Scotland is famous. A new cemetary was concencrated on the north side of the church but unfortunately was blown into the sea in the year 1932 by a severe hurricane. There is presently two smaller churches in the area, one at St. Fintan’s and the other at the Highlands.

St. Columcilles was built at what was the most central spot at the time, for the Highlands extended from the Highland River to Shoal Point, which was where John Hall and his family resided.

John Hall was a direct descendant of Captain Hall who came to Canada with General Wolfe and took part in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. His wife was a sister to Rory and Andrew Gillis who moved to the Highlands earlier.

John Wallace Hall of Corner Brook and the late A.J. Hall of Corner Brook are grandchildren of John Hall and Con Hall of Loch Leven. Many other descendants live on parts of the Mainland and in various parts of the U.S.A.

The center of the parish is now St. Fintans where a church was consecrated in August 1958. The parish priest is Reverend George Smith, a native of Nova Scotia and a worthy successor to the Holy Missionaries, who firs belabored in this part of the St. Georges parish, as it was then known. I am sure Father Smith must often think of those pioneer priest, who walked, went by dog team, or in a open boat in order to administer to the spiritual needs of their parishioners. The older residents often told of trips to Codroy when the only shelter was ahastily constructed lean to or an overturned boat.

As late as 1900 though the railroad was then through, Father Rory MacNiel travelled all the way from Curling to the Highlands in mid-winter when the trains were stuck in deep snow on the Topsails. The late Bishop MacNiel was on a sick call to Heatherton on Holy Thursday and helped pump a hand car on the railway from Heatherton to St. Georges and arrived in time to bless the Holy Oils. What ever Father Belanger, Monsignor Sears and all our early priest went through is known to the recording Angel. May all the Holy men of all faiths who administered to the needs of our ancestors help us to cherish our faith as they did.

© 2001 Stephen Gillis and NL GenWeb