“she long mourned her son as dead.”

Archival Moment

August 16, 1898

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives:  Two fishing boats, Broad Cove, Conception Bay, A 10-31  Elsie Holloway, Holloway Studio, St. John's, N.L.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Two fishing boats, Broad Cove, Conception Bay, A 10-31 Elsie Holloway, Holloway Studio, St. John’s, N.L.

In August 1898, Robert Hoskins waited at a small wharf in Quidi Vidi, St. John’s for a fishing boat. He was waiting for his brother, he was told he was fishing out of Quidi Vidi, he had not seen him in twenty eight years.

In 1870, a fourteen year old boy Robert Hoskins left his home in Plymouth, England. His mother bade her sailor boy goodbye, praying that God would bring him safe back to her again; but in the twenty eight years, the boy never returned to gladden his poor mother’s heart.

The Captain of the ship that Robert sailed on was very hard on the young teenager. Robert decided because of the ill treatment to jump ship and on his arrival at the first port. When the opportunity presented itself he jumped ship, he was in Newfoundland.

In the 1870’s those that deserted their ships often went into hiding and were forced to take on a new identity. The young boy made his way to Broad Cove, on the North Shore of Conception Bay; it was a good place to hide. Broad Cove was described “as an open cove with a beach, and by no means a place of shelter in bad weather, 15 miles from Carbonear.”

Upon arrival in Broad Cove he took on a new name (William) and found a friend in Skipper John Butt, who reared him up as one of his own, until he was old enough to look after himself. John Butt  knew by this act of kindness that he was breaking the law.

Newspapers of the day ran daily notices that typically stated:

“Deserted from the service of (name of person) the following YOUNGSTERS, who came out Passengers from Ireland (or England). The notice would then proceed to identify the individual giving details such as  name, height, hair colour, age and the clothing they wore.  The notices always ended with the warning “Any person harbouring or employing the above deserters, after this notice, will be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the Law.”

Robert (now known as William) would have maintained a low profile.

Twelve years after finding a home with the Butt family in Broad Cove, Robert decided that it was time that he marry his sweetheart Susanna Janes, the daughter of Mr. George Janes also of Broad Cove. On October 7,1882 they married with George Janes and Ada Stowe as their witnesses.

Ten years later, Mrs. William Bailey of St. John’s was visiting her grandfather, William Butt  at Broad Cove and became acquainted with Robert. During one conversation he told her how he had come to Newfoundland, 28 years earlier.

Upon returning to St. John’s she told her husband Mr. Bailey about the Hoskins in Broad Cove, Conception Bay and the journey of young man to Newfoundland. Mr. Bailey was intrigued, he worked with the fishery protection service on the H.M.S. Pelican  and had known a Richard Hoskins a signalman for 20 years on another vessel the H.M.S. Zephyr.

Mr. Bailey arranged that Richard should get together with his wife. When they met she quickly maneuvered the conversation to find out about his family, he was soon telling her about a brother William who had left as a boy and had never been heard from since.

She was stunned by the similarities of the two stories and proceeded to tell him that she knew a William Hoskins and would try and get his address. She discovered that William was fishing in Quidi Vidi.

On Sunday afternoon Robert went down to the wharf where he was rewarded by finding his lost brother. They recognized each other at once, although so long separated.

William Bailey who was instrumental in bringing the two brothers together decided to write to the local paper to tell the story. He wrote to the Editor  of the Evening Telegram on August 15,1898 :

“ We cannot imagine the feelings of those two brothers  after being separated for so long, and what will be the feelings  of that poor old mother to hear the joyful news  that her long lost son is alive and well.  She is now in her seventies.  The old lady at home may yet live to see the son that she had long mourned as dead.”

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to find your family in Parish Records:  Births, Deaths and Marriages. This collection contains photocopies and/or microfilm copies of original church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, as well as records of confirmations, minute books and other records of parish life. There are approximately 200 Newfoundland and Labrador parishes represented in this collection. The religious denominations include the Anglican, Congregational, United Church, Moravian, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Salvation Army faiths.  For more information go to:  http://www.therooms.ca/archives/prfa.asp

(Note to Hoskin family  genealogists: The Hoskins -Janes marriage on October 7, 1882 is recorded in the circuit marriage register for George Street Wesleyan – Methodist Church, St. John’s.  The story of the Meeting of the Two Brothers after 28 years can be found in a letter to The Editor in the Evening Telegram, St. John’s, 1898 – 08 – 16)

If you know someone from the Hoskins, Butt or Bailey families,  pass on this story.  Let’s find out if this young man did get home to see his mother!!