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Historical Information

West Coast Region - Bay St. George District

The Lady was a Kingpin


The following was originally written by Don Morris, in a column he wrote called Vignettes of the west.

Transcribed by Steve Gillis with permission granted by the Western Star

The lady was a kingpin

It was indeed rare in the nineteenth century Newfoundland society for a woman to advance so far in the material world, as did Mrs. Ann Hulan of the second Barachois River on the West Coast.

This singular lady became what amounted to an industrialist and her influence was felt wherever there were knots of population along the coast. Quite an achievement in a male dominated world.

Something of the exploits of Mrs. Hulan is contained and immortalized in the writings of W.E. Cormack of his epic walk across Newfoundland in1822. Cormack, who is reported to be the first white man to accomplish this feat, wrote in his narrative that he first met Mrs. Hulan in the fall of that year.

Cormack impressed

He was greatly impressed with the agriculture prospects of St. George’s bay and said that some of the residents had well stocked farms. And here he singled out Mrs. Hulan. He wrote:

" As evidence of the capabilities of portions of Newfoundland for agriculture purposes, notice must be taken of the farm of my hostess Mrs. Hulan, at the second Barrasway River. The stock on it consists of six milch cows, besides other cattle. The dairy could nit be surpassed in neatness and cleanliness, and the butter and cheese were excellent. The butter made exclusive of what was kept for her comparative numerous domestic establishment, was sold part to the residents of other places in the bay and part to trading vessels that come to the coast in the summer."

Cormack goes on to say that Hulan cellars are full of potatoes and other vegetables for winter use. Mrs. Hulan was an experimental farmer and exhibited eight different kinds of potatoes, all possessing different qualities.

Besides farm produce, Cormack said the Hulan family also had ample stock of poultry.

Mrs. Hulan had been living in St. George’s Bay upwards of 60 years when Cormack met her in 1822. She told him that she remembered the celebrated navigator and mapmaker James Cook when he surveyed the coast. Cook started his four-year survey of the coast of Newfoundland in 1763. Here is the glowing tribute Cormack paid the kingpin of St. George’s Bay Commerce:

"She is indefatigably industrious and useful, and immediately or remotely related to, or connected with, the whole population of the bay, over whom she commands a remarkable degree of material influence and respect."

I found out more information on this interesting woman from sources other than the Cormack narrative. Her maiden name was Ann Cyril. She was a native-born Newfoundlander. She married James Hulan who came from Jersey in the Channel Islands. Her husband died about 1800.

Some information can be found in the National Archives in Washington. There is on record the capture of her schooner by American Privateers during the 1812 war between England and the United States.

Fell prey to the Yankees

On Aug. 7, 1812 Mrs. Hulan was enroute from Bay St. George to St. John’s in her vessel the Industry- very aptly named. The vessel carried a cargo of pickled salmon and packages of furs. American Privateers infested the waters off Newfoundland during the war and many American ships were taken as prizes and brought to Newfoundland ports. On the other hand, local vessels fell prey to the Americans and they were taken to Yankee ports.

The Industry was one of these. The privateer ship Benjamin Franklin, off Cape St. Mary’s and the vessel seized her, with Mrs. Hulan and her captain and crew aboard, were escorted to New York. Here they were interrogated by American authorities.

It was eventually decided by the Americans that the Industry and those aboard her were not belligerent to the American cause. The Industry was neither a man-of-war, a privateer nor any other hostile vessel and that Mrs. Hulan was " an old lady" whose health wasn’t robust. It was concluded that the Industry was simply a domestic vessel enroute to market with a cargo of seasonal products.

What cargo was confiscated was given back to Mrs. Hulan and the vessel was allowed to go after a nominal fee. All of this is in the Washington Archives.

Industrious and frugal

Getting back to Cormack when he met Mrs. Hulan at Barachois River ten years after the incident in the 1812 war, he wrote: "(Nov. 17 1822) The inhabitants at the Barasway Rivers were now in their winter houses under the shelter of the woods, having recently left their summer residences at the shore. Like the people of St. George’s harbor they are industrious and frugal."

"The following animals are entrapped and shot for their furs: martin, foxes, otter, beavers, muskrat, bears, wolves and hares. Although ermines are numerous, the inhabitants do not preserve their skin, because they are small and their value not being known." Those who worked the land raised oats, barley, potatoes, hay and wheat was produced to perfection.

© 2001 Stephen Gillis and NL GenWeb