NL GenWeb Place Information

West Coast - Codroy District


O'Regans was named after Father Camelius O'Regan, who drowned between Port aux Basques and Rose Blanche on October 25, 1901. A informant moved to O'Regans in 1905 at the age of 9. There were families living in the area then, although it is uncertain how long they had been there. The original families in the area were; Pat Ryan, Tom Ryan, Will Ryan, Ed Ryan, Mike Farrell, a McInness family, and three Smith brothers, Bill, George and Jim (who are the sons of John Smith). While the main industry was farming, some logging was done. While some was done for Port aux Basques, the majority of the logging was done for Bowaters. The contract to Bowaters included the wording "100,000, more or less".

Families in the area usually kept cattle - as many as 20 heads or more. There would be 2 or 3 young cattle to sell each fall and $100.00 would be a very good price for a fair sized calf. There were fox farms kept in the area, on a small scale. The largest in O'Regans, kept by Mr. John Ryan, had 6 or 7 pair of foxes. Most had only one pair. The fox would be caught in the spring and killed early in the New Year. Each year Mr. Ryan would travel to the United States, usually New York, with the fur, by boat and by train. Fox farms died out in the area about 55 years ago, and they started several years after the turn of the century. Mail was brought in by steamers to Port aux Basques and taken by train to Doyles. Mail carriers with a horse and carriage would bring it the rest of the way. The first school in O'Regans was built by Monsignor Andrew Sears. However, it was converted into a garage and still stands today. Mr. and Mrs. Sandy Ryan ran a rather large tourist industry. They kept as many as 30 tourists at a time. The business began 51 years ago and Mr. and Mrs. Ryan controlled it until 11 years ago when they passed it on to their son. Mr. Ryan has been a self-taught guide since he was 16 years old. At that time tourists needed licenses for game but residents did not. The Ryan's had a four bedroom cabin with a cook-house outside and they attracted tourists from as far away as Florida, to hunt game and fish.

Our informants stated that Indian Hill was referred to as such because two families of Indians lived there. Sonny Peters and Tommy Benoit, who are now all dead, once lived below the hill. These Indians were from Christmas Island, Cape Breton. Indian Hill can still be seen today, if you pass by Gillis' Cabins, you can see 3 houses on the right hand side of the road. Just past the last of these (Wilfred Downey's) is Indian Hill with a cemetery at the bottom or the side of the hill.

A quarry was located at O'Regans sometime in the 1920's and was in operation until 1948. This quarry was funded by the Department of Natural Resources. The main use for this limestone was to aid local farmers in enriching their soil. It was sold to these farmers for $1.50 a ton. This limestone was pulverized so that it was finer than fertilizer. The farmers would collect it themselves at the pit. The quarry was producing about 30 tons of limestone per day and as there was no storage space, the excess limestone would be shipped to St. John's by railway. While at its peak, the quarry employed five to six men. One man operated the crusher, while the rest loaded limestone by hand. The stone was loaded by the conveyor belt into the shed and from there out to a chute into the trucks. There was no drilling or dynamite used in the quarry. The quarry ceased operation in the late 1940's due to high operation costs.

The scenic little west coast community of O'Regans has for nearly three quarters of a century been a living memorial to a zealous Roman Catholic priest who died in the line of duty. O'Regans is named for Rev. Dr. Charles O'Regan, D.D., who was shipwrecked while visiting his parishioners at Rose Blanche in October, 1901. The young missionary was not the first of his calling to lose his life in this area while in the performance of his work. Rev. W. LeGallais of the Church of England Mission at Channel was drowned in 1869 with two companions while responding to a sick call at Isle aux Morts. Another Anglican missionary, Rev. T. Boland, froze to death in a snowstorm in St. George's Bay in 1856.

Father O'Regan was only 29 years of age when he met a watery grave. Between 10 and 11 o'clock on Monday morning, October 26, 1901, the 30 ton schooner John Cabot, owned by Penny Brothers of Ramea, left Rose Blanche bound for Sidney, via Port aux Basques. On board was Father O'Regan as well as the Captain, George LeDrew, his father and his brother-in-law. Father O'Regan had been visiting some of his flock at Burgeo and Rose Blanche and was now enroute to his headquarters at Codroy.

Captain LeDrew had intended to land the priest at Port aux Basques and then continue on to Sydney. The morning the Cabot sailed was clear with a brisk breeze from the northwest. But shortly after the Cabot left port a squall with heavy snow was seen to make towards and completely envelope the vessel. The storm was of short duration, but when the mist cleared away the schooner was not in sight. It was at first thought she was speeding on her way to Port aux Basques. From the time the Cabot was shut out of sight of those on shore no tiding of her whereabouts was ever again received. The American-Anglo Telegraph Co. wired all along the shore and over to Sydney in Nova Scotia, but the Cabot was unreported in any place. The Reid Nfld. Co. dispatched their vessel, Glenco, to search for the craft, but no trace of her was found. Fishermen and others speculated that the Cabot, heavily ballasted at the time, struck a rock known as " The Bad Neighbour " about three quarters of a mile off Burgeo. But there was no evidence to support this.

However, the next day brought grim evidence that the Cabot and all aboard her had indeed come to grief; a pump and draw bucket belonging to the schooner was picked up off Rose Blanche. The loss of Father O'Regan, who was pastor of Grand River in the Bay St. George Vicariate, swept like a great black cloud along the entire west coast. It was a staggering loss to the parish. Tributes in the churches and schools came pouring from the people. The Grand River area, said one tribute, was in dire need of a man at the helm, such as Father O'Regan. The place rose up....." rejuvenated materially and spiritually Phoenix-like from the ashes of decay " because of the young priest's good work, said one tribute.

Another tribute went: " A monument to his memory is the noble edifice at Grand River. The beautiful church there was reared through his energy. How proud was he on the day of the consecration of his church, which cost $13,000.00. The progress of Codroy has received a great blow - the loss to his parishioners is irreparable." Masses were said in churches along the coast as far north as Bay of Islands and Bonne Bay. Father O'Regan was born in St. John's, where he received his preliminary education. He decided for the priesthood at an early age and went to France to study. Later he was transferred to Rome, where he continued his studies and where he won academic honors. Upon his return to Newfoundland he was selected to work in the scattered district of St. George's. He was six years in this mission before losing his life at sea.

Before the settlement of O'Regans was so called, the place was known as " Backlands, Bay St. George " When the Newfoundland Nomenclature Committee was formed in 1904. " Backland " was changed to O'Regan to commemorate the memory of a beloved priest. At that time the settlement was listed in the census as Valley O'Regan. It has a population in 1911 of 50 people. "Codroy Village " was more populace with 569 inhabitants while Great Codroy and N. Side Grand River had 118 people.

There are other places on the west coast named to commemorate clergymen who labored for their flocks, sometimes under extremely difficult conditions. Curling is named for an early Anglican priest and Searston is named for Rev. Andrew Sears, one of the most progressive of clergymen ever to work in any part of Newfoundland. He strongly advocated roads and mail service and other improvements for the coast. He was not slow in pointing out these wants to the Newfoundland government and his prolific pen was instrumental in aquainting the western shore to people all over the island and even beyond the seas.

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