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West Coast - Codroy District


Religion / Smallpox / Captain Gallop

It is believed that Codroy received it's name from the abundance of fish in the waters off it's shores. "Roy" is thought to be derived from the French word "roi", which is translated to mean king.

In 1812, an Evans family were settled on the shore of Codroy. These were the earliest white settlers known in the area according to W.E. Cormack.

These families had both summer and winter residences. In the summer the families fished. They lived in a rough log cabin erected on the beach. In the winter they would move about 6 miles inland where a plentiful supply of game was available and where there was more shelter from the cold.

Codroy reached its peak of prosperity around 1915. It was then one of the major producers of food stuffs in the area. But by 1945, the amount of farming in dairy and dairy products had dwindled away to practically nothing, if one took into account what had been produced 30 years prior to this.


Codroy is predominantly Protestant. Anglican is the main religion. Many Protestants had migrated to the area in the 1800's and by the turn of the century, most of the early Protestants had been converted to the Catholic faith-excepting only the Protestant fishing village of Codroy. At times in the past, Protestants have outnumbered Catholics 3 to 1.

Catholics and Anglicans have always lived side by side, with no problems with Anglicans outnumbering all other faiths. By 1882, a visiting minister of the Anglican faith was sent regularly to Codroy. By 1881, a village school with 50 pupils in attendance was in operation, and services were held there. By 1900, the original Holy Trinity Anglican Church was built. It blew down in 1912, and it's door was found 1/8th of a mile away on Codroy Island.

A new stronger structure was built on the foundation of the old. The church was opened in 1922 and 50 years later in 1972, was completely renovated from the estates of James W. and Mary Collier, who left $50,000.00 to the church. A cemetery [Holy Trinity Anglican Church Cemetery] is located directly in front of the church and is part of the church yard. Before this, it was located down on the bank in front of the church but was washed away into the water. The church had a resident pastor and a school teache r in the past. Among those who have served in Codroy in the past are; Rev. Marks, Canon Ried, and Canon Martin (who presently resides in St. John's).

The Catholics also had a small church built in 1919, but no permanent clergy was ever stationed there. Today the building no longer remains. There was also a small school but it closed several years ago, and students were sent to schools in the Grand River area.

There has never been a serious need for a law officer in Codroy. A policeman named Halford came early in the 1900's to act as a justice of the peace of sorts. There was no successor to Mr. Halford. No serious offenses have occurred in Codroy.

Although the rest of the Valley was connected by roads by the year 1885, roads did not come to Codroy until the early 1900's. Prior to this, only a path existed northward, and travel was done mostly by water.


In the days before the coming of miracle advances in the prevention and control of diseases which had ravaged humanity in " darker ages," the words " small-pox " was enough to strike the fear of god into any mortal. The loathsome disease, extremely contagious, left an individual, if he survived at all, horribly disfigured with an ugly pocked face and other ghastly affects. Little wonder, then, when the Harbour Grace steamer Mastiff arrived at Codroy one March day in 1889 the inhabitants on shore were shocke d --terrified-- at the report that there were two cases of small-pox aboard the crew. The policeman at Codroy made immediate arrangements to have the two sick men brought ashore, intending to place them in isolation pending the arrival of a doctor.

But the people reacted vehemently. There was to be no one landed from the Mastiff they ordered, and prevented the police officer from removing anyone from the vessel. However, before the Codroy residents could unite to keep the vessel and those aboard her totally isolated, it turned out that two of the shoremen from Codroy had managed to board the Mastiff and to make matters worse, two men from the vessel owned by Captain Paul Hall of Grand River also managed to get aboard the Mastiff and had dinner with s ome of her crew.

A Codroy resident, in reporting the incident to the authorities in St. John's wrote: " Surely people should not have been allowed on board that vessel; they knowing that such a disease was on board." This resident's report went on to inform the authorities that " yesterday " while the Mastiff was still off shore, no people from Codroy were allowed to cross the Grand River Gut on the ferry. If they had a desire to do so, they were prevented from going by angry, fearful residents. The report to the St. John' s authorities outlined the extreme seriousness of the situation. " If small-pox should happen to break out on this shore," the report emphasized, "the consequence will be terrible as there is no doctor nearer than Channel, a distance of 32 miles."

The report went on to say that eight of the Mastiff's crew had deserted the vessel at Channel. Apparently they must have made their way secretly to shore because the residents of Channel found out there were two cases of the dreaded small-pox aboard, they prevented all others from leaving the vessel and would not allow any of the Channel residents to board the craft. The Mastiff then left for Codroy hoping that the two men ill with the pox would be allowed to land there. Meanwhile, those men who deserted the vessel at Channel set out on foot for Rose Blanche. It was a long and hard tramp and anxiety was ever present in the little band because no one knew which --if any -- of their mates also had small-pox. They were fearful that if one had the disease, the others would be also affected. However, a dispatch to St. John's from Rose Blanche dated March 23, 1889, said: " About two weeks ago (about the second week of March) eight men walked into this harbor reporting themselves as part of the sealing steamer (Mastiff) from Harbor Grace which they had left at Channel, fearing an outbreak of small-pox."

The dispatch said that the stipendiary magistrate at Rose Blanche at once "organized a board of health and promptly took means of isolating the men from the people and the dwellings. There does not appear to have been any sickness about them as yet. The precautions taken here were very wise and the magistrate is to be congratulated." I am not sure what happened to the Mastiff after she was refused permission to land her sick men at Codroy. It is probable that she returned to Harbor Grace, her home port, whe re the sick men were taken off and isolated.

It appears that small-pox was prevalent in some areas of Newfoundland at that time 88 years ago. At Lower Island Cove 12 cases were reported and two young girls succumbed to the disease. Others died in that Conception Bay community as the months passed and as a matter of precaution all the small-pox cases were buried without the benefit of an officiating clergyman. That will give an example of how much small-pox was held in dread. Rev. A.C. Warren, who was one of those in Lower Island Cove attending the sic k, himself caught small-pox and died.

Besides the Codroy incident on the west coast, there were other cases along the western shore in 1889 in which vessels were quarantined off shore until health authorities could determine definitely that there was no small-pox aboard. As far as the pox ship Mastiff was concerned, she continued to go to the seal fishery in later springs but was finally lost at the seal hunt of 1898.


In the four centuries Newfoundland has been occupied there have, of course, been many remarkable events around our coastline - many shipwrecks, and many narrow escapes from death. If a complete account of all the heroic episodes that have occurred during those 400 years were gathered together it would perhaps make one of the greatest books of its kind ever issued. Unfortunately, very few written records were kept for the first 300 years of our Island's history, and most of those episodes have been lost fore ver.

A remarkable escape from death was that of the crew of the little schooner ENEMEN about eighty years ago. Captain John Gallop belonged to the settlement of Codroy, in the Codroy Valley, on the West Coast of Newfoundland. Codroy was then mainly a fishing settlement, and Captain Gallop a fisherman. One year, in the month of October, he went up to Halifax, bought this little schooner, and proceeded at once to the coast of Labrador to go herring fishing. However, as the herring fishery was a failure that year h e decided to return to his home in Codroy.

It was while they were returning to Codroy that this remarkable series of events took place. Besides Captain Gallop himself, there were five of a crew. Henry, Joshua and Benjamin Gallop were the captain's own brothers. Wilson Fiander and an English boy who acted as cook were the other two.

They had a fair run back until they reached the mouth of Bay of Islands, when they ran into a fierce gale from the north-west. For twenty-four hours they "lay-to" under double-reef foresail, but even at that the mountainous seas were too much for her. One huge wave struck her and she keeled over on her side. She did not sink, however, because she had a large number of empty barrels aboard.

Five of the crew were on deck at the time, and they managed to scramble onto the side of the vessel. Henry Gallop happened to be in the cabin, and was drowned. Willie Owens, the English boy, was badly injured. The others crept together and helped to lash one another to the side of the doomed vessel, with the boy between them.

The mountainous seas continued, the terrible wind blew unabatedly, and they expected at any moment to be hurled to their deaths. You can picture the scene - the five of them clutching desperately the side of the schooner, which was being tossed about like a cork, and not knowing the moment she would plunge with them to the bottom. They suffered greatly from hunger and exposure as hour after hour passed during that terrible night, and the dawn of another day broke to find the storm still raging.

On the second day young Owens died. His last word was a plea to them, if they should survive, to write his mother in England and tell her what happened.

With two lives gone, and precious little hope of saving their own, there did not seem to be much use in holding on, but the will to live persisted in the remaining four men; and though exhausted, hungry and chilled to the bone, for another three days and nights they clung on, sleeping fitfully every now and then, only to be awakened as the little schooner would give a lurch in the boiling seas.

It was in one of those few moments snatched from consciousness, while he was half waking and half sleeping, that Joshua Gallop, one of the brothers, suddenly woke up and announced excitedly that he had a wonderful dream, a dream that would save their lives. They thought he was raving, but he insisted that he was right: that his dream, if they followed it, would really be the means of saving them all.

Without much hope they asked him what his dream was, and he told them earnestly that he dreamed they had made a canvas boat into which they all got and rowed away from the schooner to the land. They were not impressed, but Joshua would not let the matter drop, and kept insisting that at least they should try - to try was better than merely lying there in despair. So at last they agreed that it might be worth trying.

But all they possessed with which to build a canvas boat, apart from the canvas itself, was a knife that one of them had in his belt. It was broken and only part of the blade remained. However moving themselves about with extreme caution, and taking turns, they succeeded finally in cutting away the foresail and in getting it onto the side of the schooner where they were themselves. The they ripped off the schooner's bulwark - this was to be the framing of the boat - and proceeded to lash a frame together wi th lengths of rope.

When the crude and unshapely frame had been tied together they began slowly (because the vessel was still pitching about in the sea) to stretch the canvas around the frame. This was extremely difficult work, as most of their attention had to be given to the task of remaining safely in their places. Having got the canvas on, they next had to make a keel. This they did by using the fore-gaff of the foresail. With the boat completed, there remained only the task of trying it out, to see whether it would actual ly keep them afloat.

They launched her carefully, holding on to the painter they had attached to keep her from drifting away from them. To their heart-breaking disappointment she began slowly to leak and sink. The fore-gaff made too heavy a keel. Their mounting enthusiasm withstood this setback, however, and they hauled the boat up on the schooner again and looked around for something lighter for a keel. They succeeded at length in wrenching off a piece of the schooner's bulwark and putting it in place. Then they launched the b oat again. To their indescribable delight she floated. She was about thirteen feet long and four feet wide, with the bow and stern shaped roughly like that of a canoe. She was as ugly a boat as you ever saw, but to those four men she looked better than the greatest liner would seem today.

It was getting up toward nightfall now, and as the water was not yet smooth enough, though the storm was dying out fast, they hauled her up again and decided to wait until the morning. Next day was Sunday, their fourth since the capsizing, and it was fine and clear, with the water perfectly calm. Twenty miles away they could see land. Taking each of them a piece of the vessel's bulwark for an oar, they prepared to leave.

At the last moment one of them lost his nerve, and refused to trust his life to the crazy-looking craft. The other three, after pleading vainly with him, got gingerly into her and started awkwardly off toward the land. They had not gone far before their companion on the vessel began to signal and shout frantically to them to return for him, and they did.

Now again they began to paddle toward land and for an hour got along fairly well. Then the boat began to leak, but Captain Gallop, using his sou'wester as a piggin, began to bail strenuously, and this succeeded in keeping her comparatively free.

At dusk that same day they landed at Chimney Cove, a tiny hamlet on the shore between the mouth of Bay of Islands and that of Bonne Bay. Here they found some fresh water, and assuaged their raging thirst - the first water for four days. Captain Gallop decided that they should all take a night's rest before attempting what was for them in their greatly weakened state, the very difficult task of climbing up the 200 foot cliff from the beach to the land above.

Besides the wild berries which they found growing about, they came also to a small garden planted by fishermen who had been living in Chimney Cove during the early Summer and Fall. Here they found a few small turnips growing. After eating some of these and satisfying to a small extent their ravenous hunger they broke into one of the shacks and made a fire. This put new life in them; and one of them, looking about the little settlement, came to a barrel of salted cod's heads. Off these they feasted royally, the best meal that any of them, so it seemed, had ever eaten.

By Wednesday, three days after landing, they felt a lot better and by the following Saturday they had again fashioned a very rude and flimsy wooden boat, though it was stronger and safer than their canvas one. This they launched and began the long row to Bay of Islands. They met a schooner on their way and were taken aboard. The schooner landed them at Corner Brook. Thus ended this astonishing escape from death by drowning.

The above data was written by unknown high school students from a school in the Stephenville area in 1978, transcribed by Brenda Janes and posted to the Internet in July 1999 by Stephen Baker.

© Brenda Janes & NL GenWeb

Codroy District