Prisoner Escapes Penitentiary, Reward Posted

Archival Moment

November 25, 1887

"Manslaughter Without Mercy"

“Manslaughter Without Mercy”

There was much excitement in St. John’ on November 25, 1887, the talk in town was all about the whereabouts of Michael Whelan, a convicted murderer who had escaped from the penitentiary at Quidi Vidi Lake. The local newspapers ran advertisements that stated:

“Whereas, Michael Whelan, a prisoner in the Penitentiary, under sentence of manslaughter, escaped recently from prison, and is now at large. Notice is hereby given, that reward of two hundred dollars will be paid to any person or persons who shall give the police authorities such information that shall lead to his arrest; and all persons are cautioned not in any way to harbour or aid the said Michael inn his escape.”

Michael Whelan, a fisherman of Horse Cove, (now St. Thomas) was charged with the willful murder of Livi King of Broad Cove, on the 6th of October 1883.

Witnesses swore that the tension between the two men was driven by alcohol and religion. According to the trial testimony it seems that the custom of those travelling from St. John’s to the Broad Cove – Portugal Cove area in those days on horse and cart was to make an occasional stop for a drink along the way. They stopped at M. Lundrigan’s to pick up a bottle to bring home, next they stopped at Walsh’s, near the pond, for a few drinks. It was here that the trouble started. It seems that Whelan “was cursing the Orangemen” and King threatening to “go down and haul down the chapel.” Nothing good was to come of this.

Michael Whelan pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Levi King when he was arraigned. The trial took place on November 28, 1883. It took the jury one hour to decide on a verdict of “manslaughter without mercy.” Whelan was sentenced to prison for life in H. M. Penitentiary.

On November 25, 1887, between seven and eight o’clock seven prisoners left to work on a drain which they were constructing from the General Hospital (Forest Road)  to Quidi Vidi Lake in the charge of two prison officials. Amongst the prisoners was Michael Whelan.

Whelan had been slowly plotting his escape gradually ingratiating himself into the good books of the prison officials. He was rewarded for his good behavior by being allowed to join the other prisoners in their work detail. While at work in the drain he asked to retire “for a natural purpose”. He was permitted to do so.

In the meantime the prison wardens were distracted by the other prisoners, when Whelan saw this he made a dash for liberty; he was a powerful man and a fast runner; he followed the margin of Quidi Vidi Lake to the East end. The officer gave chase; Whelan outdistanced the prison officials and disappeared into the White Hills.

Despite an intense search using all of the police resources and the large reward offered for Whelan’s capture, he was never caught. Police watched his home and questioned his friends but to no avail, he was not to be found.

An inquiry into the escape established that this was a planned escape, not some spontaneous act by the prisoner. Whelan’s prison guard told the inquiry that he should have known that something was up because Whelan had taken his Rosary beads that had always hung on his bed post. Typically,  when he went with the prison work crews  the beads were left in his prison cell.

There were lots of rumors about what happened to Michael Whelan, some said that he made his escape to Placentia, a town where the Whelan family were well established, and from there he got away to America in a fishing schooner.

It is known that his wife left Newfoundland some years after his escape for America, fueling rumors that he had established a home somewhere in the Boston States. Twenty years following his escape in November 1906 the Evening Telegram speculated that she was living with him in Boston.

The Whelan’s were among the first settlers of Horse Cove; the town changed its name to St. Thomas in 1922 and was amalgamated with Paradise in 1992. St. Thomas with the amalgamation is now the oldest settled part of the town of Paradise and the Whelan’s remain among the residents.

It is not likely that Michael Whelan came home but did any of his kin visit with him? Did he keep his connections to friends and family in Horse Cove?

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN2.2 Evidence taken at the Magisterial Inquiry, The Queen vs Michael Whelan for the felony of Prison Breach, November 29, 1887. A transcript of the trial can be found in the Evening Telegram (St. John’s, N.L.), 29 November 1883.

Would the First American Thanksgiving have happened without Newfoundland support?

Archival Moment

first-thanksgivingWhen our American friends sit down for their Thanksgiving dinner it might be appropriate if they gave thanks to the early colonists of Newfoundland, in particular the colonists of Cuper’s Cove (now Cupids).

It could be argued that it was some of the early fishing and farming techniques that were practiced in Cupids, Newfoundland and  were later passed on to the  Mayflower Pilgrims  that helped them survive  their first winter  in the United States, allowing them to have their first Thanksgiving!

In late 1614, Squanto (also known as Tisquantum and Squantum ) walked into the London office of John Slany, manager of the Bristol Company, a shipping and merchant venture that had been given rights to Newfoundland by England’s King James I in 1610.  Squanto had been captured four years earlier in his home  (Massachusett) and sold into slavery in Spain. Having escaped his slavers he made his way to London.

Squanto, while in London, worked with Slany learning the English language, Slaney had hoped that Squanto would be his interpreter working with other native groups in the New World. In 1617, Squanto set sail with Slaney and the other Colonists for Cupers Cove,  (Cupids) Newfoundland.

While in Cupers Cove, Squanto worked with the other colonists, perfecting his English and learning farming and fishing techniques.

Late in 1619, Squanto befriended Thomas Dermer, a British Merchant in Newfoundland who agreed to sail Squanto home.  On arrival, Squanto learned that his people the Patuxet  (a Native American band of the Wampanoag tribal confederation, they lived primarily in and around modern-day Plymouth)  were no more. Disease had ravaged his home in his absence, and not a single Patuxet native had survived.

Just weeks later the Mayflower’s naive and ill-prepared (Mayflower) Pilgrims arrived to face the winter of 1620 in the New World. Squanto, now alone and his home and people destroyed became a mediator and interpreter for the Mayflower Colonists.

As historian Charles C. Mann wrote in “Native Intelligence,” (Smithsonian, December 2005):

Squanto was critical to the colony’s survival. The Pilgrims’ own supplies of grain and barley all failed in the New World soil while the native corn gave them a life-saving crop. Squanto taught them how to fish, and how to fertilize the soil with the remains of the fish they caught…|”

In the spring of 1621, the colonists planted their first crops in Patuxet’s abandoned fields. While they had limited success with wheat and barley, their corn crop proved very successful, thanks to Squanto who taught them how to plant corn in hills, using fish as a fertilizer as he had seen in Newfoundland.

With Squanto’s help, the pilgrims grew enough food to survive the following winter, prompting them to invite him to the first Thanksgiving Feast in 1621.

The first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast to celebrate the successful fall harvest. No exact date for the feast has ever been recorded but it is believed that it most likely took place sometime between September and November. The pilgrims served fowl and deer for the occasion.

Squanto’s other claim to fame is that he also served as a negotiator between the Pilgrims and other aboriginal groups in the area. Because he spoke English (that he  perfected in Newfoundland) he was instrumental in establishing a friendship treaty between other aboriginal groups and the Mayflower Pilgrims, allowing them to occupy traditional aboriginal land.

Newfoundland has another connection to the American Thanksgiving. According to a popular local legend the ship that the Puritans sailed on, the Mayflower landed at Renews, Newfoundland in 1620, where it picked up water and supplies before sailing on to Plymouth Rock.

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends!!

Recommended Archival Collection:   File GN 8.59 1913 Office of the Prime Minister,  Edward Patrick Morris,  file consists of correspondence related to proposal by Governor Ralph Williams (1908 -1913) for the establishment of Thanksgiving Day in Newfoundland.

Recommended Read: The Story about Squanto in Cupids, Newfoundland:  http://www.cupids400.com/english/about/squanto.php

 

 

 

 

Tidal wave reached the Burin Peninsula

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

November 18, 1929

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A86-90; Eastern Cove Pond, Lord’s Cove. The Rennie home. Sarah Rennie and three of her children were found drowned in the kitchen. Survivor Maggie Rennie was found in her bed on the second floor

On November 18, 1929, an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale out in the Atlantic Ocean on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland created a tidal wave ((tsunami).  When the ground shook at 5:02 p.m., some thought there had been an explosion in the mines or on a distant vessel. Yet nothing immediately followed the violent tremor so people resumed their previous activities.

Traveling at a speed of 140 kilometers per hour, the tidal wave reached the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland  at 7:00 p.m.

Detailed accounts of the devastation were made known on November 23 when a deputation from Burin consisting of Hon. G. A. Bartlett, Rev. Fr. James  Miller, and Capt. W.H. Hollett traveled to St. John’s to meet  with the Executive Government.

Father Miller (the Parish Priest of St. Patrick’s Parish, Burin from 1925 -1934) spoke to a reporter from the “Evening Telegram”  (the St. John’s daily newspaper) and told him of the distress and needs of the people in the stricken area.

Father Miller told the reporter that the fishermen were hit hardest, not by the loss of their own fishing gear, boats and stages, but by the fact that in many cases the whole community depended on one or two firms, now so badly shattered that it was impossible.

Several times during the conversation with The Telegram reporter Father Miller referred to heroic rescues by the local fishermen. In the darkness, with chaos everywhere, they calmly set about their work – climbed floating houses, searched amongst debris, and rescued the women and children.

“They (the fishermen) were most heroic, but they least suspect it” Father Miller told the Telegram.

This giant sea wave claimed a total of 28 lives – 27 drowned on the Burin peninsula and a young girl never recovered from her injuries and died in 1933. This represents Canada’s largest documented loss of life directly related to an earthquake.

At Port aux Bras a fisherman saw his home being swept away. He tried to save his wife and family but was blocked by another floating house. He was helpless as his imprisoned family whirled into darkness. His house was pulled out to sea faster than a boat could steam.

Mr. Ern Cheeseman of Port au Bras on the Burin peninsula in a letter to his brother Jack a few days after the tsunami wrote:

You could hear the poor humans who were caught, screaming, women and men praying out loud. Oh God, Jack, it was terrible Excuse this scribble but we are not over the shock yet. Every move one hears one jumps expecting the same to happen again.”

The Newfoundland government sent ships with doctors and supplies. Canada was the largest foreign donor donating $35,000 individual Newfoundlanders raised more than $200,000 to help their countrymen.

Apart from the Burin tsunami, two others have been reported, at Bonavista in 1755 as a result of the Lisbon earthquake, and St. Shott’s in June 1864. These caused damage, but no reported loss of life.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to read MG 636: South Coast Disaster Relief Committee Report consists of a list of losses by settlement, reports, telegrams, correspondence, minutes of meetings; regarding the tidal wave and earthquake disaster on the Burin Peninsula, 1929. The collection also includes a report of the South Coast Disaster Committee, 1931.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Rooms  online database for descriptions of our archival records and view thousands of digital photographs. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections  Take some time to look at the Tidal Wave photographs in the collection of the Rooms Provincial Archives.  A series consists of ten postcards documenting the damage to Burin area during a tidal wave (tsunami) along the South Coast of Newfoundland, Nov. 1929. The photographs were taken by Rev. James Anthony Miller, Roman Catholic priest, Burin. Miller’s film was developed by S.H. Parsons & Sons. The photographs were reproduced as postcards by Parsons. The photographs were also published in the New York Times (8 Dec. 1929).

Recommended Reading: Hanrahan, Maura. Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster.St. John’s: Flanker Press, 2004.

Newfoundland Woman Interned in German Prison Camp

November 16, 1941

Mr. and Mrs. Andrew B. Edwards of Lawn, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland wrote Cluny Macpherson, Assistant Commissioner of the Red Cross at St. John’s on 16 November 1941 informing the Red Cross that their daughter Marie Andrew Edwards, age 22 was interned in a German prisoner of War Camp in France. The Edward’s were aware that McPherson was the local representative of the International Red Cross.

Mary Andrew Edwards: was born in Lawn, Placentia Bay. She was the daughter of Andrew Edwards and Nora (Picco). She received her early education in Lawn and at age sixteen she went to work in St. Pierre et Miquelon.

After a few years in St. Pierre et Miquelon she felt the calling to religious life, this she confided to her parish priest who encouraged her to join the St. Joseph of Cluny Sisters, a teaching order of nuns at St. Pierre. Upon being accepted into the congregation at St. Pierre she took the name Sister Therese. She left St. Pierre et Miquelon in 1938 going to a convent in Paris.

After the Nazis victory over France in 1940, Sister Therese and four hundred nuns from different congregations were rounded up and sent to Prisoner of War Camps. She was in a particularly difficult position, as a Newfoundlander, she was carrying a British passport.

POW CAMP

During one period the commander of the POW camp, allowed the nuns to have Mass celebrated by priests and bishops who were also prisoners of war there. Sister Therese and two other sisters of the order were allowed to take Religious Vows, the ritual that officially made them nuns.

Near the end of the war the Swiss Red Cross investigated the camp, finding many of the prisoners were very ill. They encouraged the Germans to release the nuns to a healthier camp. This was done.

When Sister Edward’s was liberated she was sent to Africa for six years after which she was recalled to France. After a few months in France she was sent to New Caledonia.

After twenty three years there she was allowed home to visit parents and family members, after which she returned to the mission. She did this a few times in the ensuing years and at one time she and her sister Nora – who also joined the convent – came home together.

Mary Andrew Edwards died in 1997.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search the Rooms online database for descriptions of our archival records and view thousands of digital photographs. https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s File 107-15-8

Recommended Book: Did you know that German’s were interred in camps in Newfoundland during WWII? Read: Gerhard P. Bassler. Vikings to U-Boats: The German Experience in Newfoundland and Labrador. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.

His broken-hearted mother …”

Archival Moment

July 1, 1916

Greene FWW CollectionIn the wake of the death and carnage of Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916 many mothers in Newfoundland and Labrador clung to the hope that their sons did not die but had been taken as Prisoners of War (POW). They were desperate to have any shred of evidence. Mothers, like Catherine Andrews of 249 Water Street, St. John’s wrote letters to government officials urging them to do all that they could to find their sons.  She had three sons that signed up to fight for ‘King and Country’.  The government typically responded:

Dear Madam,

For some time past the Imperial Government have been making enquiries in relation to those men of the First Newfoundland Regiment who have been reported missing since the action of the 1st July. I very much regret to state, however, that from the correspondence which has taken place …. it is evident that none of them are Prisoners of War in Germany, and the authorities are, therefore, reluctantly forced to the conclusion that all these gallant men [including] one of whom was very dear to you, were killed in that fateful action on the 1st of July.

I desire to express to you on behalf of the Government, as well as for myself, the sincerest sympathy in this time of sorrow. We feel the loss of our loved ones, but it will, no doubt, be some consolation to you to think that he – for whom you now mourn- willingly answered the call of King and Country, did his part nobly, and fell, facing the foe, in defence of the principles of Righteousness, Truth and Liberty. Though he has laid down the earthly weapons of warfare, he now wears the Soldier’s Crown of Victory and his name will be inscribed upon the Glorious Roll of Honor, and be held in fragrant memory by all his fellow countrymen.

When the victory is won, and Peace again reigns upon the earth, it will be a comforting thought to you that in this glorious achievement he bore no small part.

Like many in Newfoundland, this determined mother, Catherine Andrews, could not comprehend the staggering toll of Beaumont Hamel. Almost a year later, she contacted government officials, requesting that they publish a photograph of her son, in hopes that someone might recognize him:

 The letter, dated 21 May 1917, was addressed:

 “ To whom it may concern.   [I] don’t know if this is the correct address…. I am sending my darling son’s photo to you to see if it will be of any use to you as there are now hopes of being able to trace our missing men. You will see by the photo that he was posted as missing on July 1st 1916 and later I was sent official notice that he was believed killed in action, but there are many of us who believe they are alive. If you have any proof of my son’s death will you kindly send such to me, his broken-hearted mother.

 I have received some letters we sent him stamped with the two words: “Casualty verified”. Please explain how that can be possible and, if true, do please send me anything you may have in personal property or belongings of his… I shall be very thankful for any news of him or his affairs. I have one [soldier] son now at Wandsworth [Hospital] and another still in France with the Canadian Royal Engineers.

 Very respectfully,

Mrs. Catherine Andrews

When informed that no information was available about her son’s death, Mrs. Andrews wrote the governor:

To His Excellency Governor Davidson

Sir,

 As the mother of one of our fallen heroes I wish to see you on a very important matter. Will you kindly arrange for me to see you at the very earliest possible date and if that is not possible may I see Lady Davidson instead.

 The private secretary to the Governor contacted the Regimental Record Office; unfortunately, Joe Andrews, like so many other Newfoundland soldiers was missing, leaving no personal effects, no identification discs, no grave, no memory of his last words. Sometimes the families found out the circumstances of their son’s death several years later.

(This narrative originally appeared as part of a dramatic reading ‘Soldiers’ Stories’ written and researched by Jessie Chisholm using archival material from the Rooms Provincial Archives.)

On July 1 take some time to visit our National War Memorial, St. John’s or the War Memorial in your home town. Remember, Catherine Andrews and the many other mothers who lost their sons.

Recommended Archival Collection: Search individual soldier’s files here:  https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/introduction

“Moisture might be noticed in many an eye … “

Archival Moment

October 4, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 8-28; Soldiers of the First Newfoundland Regiment marching at Pleasantville, St. John’s.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 8-28; Soldiers of the First Newfoundland Regiment marching at Pleasantville, St. John’s.

October 4, 1914, is a significant date on the Newfoundland and Labrador  calendar, it was on this date that the Newfoundland Regiment set sail on the transport vessel the SS Florizel to fight for Country and King. This was the first of some 27 groups to embark from Newfoundland’s shores during the course of the First World War.

These men that marched from the camps in Pleasantville on Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s to the Florizel are the men that are celebrated in our history as the First Five Hundred, or by their other popular designation “The Blue Puttees.”

These were the men that faced near annihilation at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, and costly major engagements in October at Gueudecourt and at Monchy-le-Preux. On the battle field these proud soldiers solidified their place in history. The Regiment earned no less than 280 separate decorations, 77 of which were awarded to original members of the “first 500” of which 170 were killed in action.

On October 3, 1914  as they marched through the streets of St. John’s to their transport they were not thinking of death, this was an “adventure” for them.  For many it would be the first time away from home.

The day following their departure from St. John’s, a reporter for the St. John’s newspaper The Daily News, wrote on October 5, 1914:

“The 1st Newfoundland Regiment actually started for the front when they left Pleasantville at 4:30 Saturday afternoon.  (October 3, 1914) Under the command of Captain Franklin the volunteers headed by the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C.)  Band proceeded by King’s Bridge, Circular, Military Roads, Prescott  and Water Street to the Furness Withy Company’s pier where the transport Florizel lay to take them away.

Thousands accompanied them on the march from the camp and crowds gathered along the route to bid them God’s speed. The principal buildings, stores and many private residences were gaily decked with flags as was also all the shipping in the harbour.

The crush, all the business have been suspended, near the embarking point was indeed a sight, the gathering being undoubtedly the largest ever seen in the city. Every vantage point was seized to see the men go by only with the greatest difficulty did the police and the men of the H.M.S. Calypso keep the crowds from pressing on to the pier.

The volunteers are indeed a body the Colony may be proud of and as they swung along, they warmly answered the wishes of their good friends. All were in high spirits and showed plainly their eagerness to be off, evidencing the true spirit of patriotism.

At the pier His Excellency the Governor, Lady Davidson and children and Premier, members of both branches of the legislature, clergymen of all denominations and citizens prominent in every walk of life, had assembled.  Arriving at the pier, each company was drawn up inside the entrance and marched on board the ship, between lines of people whose enthusiasm knew no bounds, the (Catholic Cadet Corps)  C.C.C., (Church Lads Brigade); C.L.B, , Methodist Guards and Salvation Army bands meanwhile rendering spirited airs,  also the hymn  “God be with you till we meet again.”

Some little delay was caused in the embarking, the men being delayed by friends who would not be denied the saying of the last farewell. As the men ringed along the ships rail a continuous outburst of cheering was kept up.

Many pathetic scenes were witnessed and suspicious moisture might be noticed in many an eye while those who had immediate relatives in the ranks wept bitterly.

 

Photo Credit: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-68; 1st Newfoundland Regiment along the Florizel’s rail ready to depart St. John's October 4, 1914.

Photo Credit: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-68; 1st Newfoundland Regiment along the Florizel’s rail ready to depart St. John’s October 4, 1914.

At last all the men, their kit and supplies were on board  and at 6 p.m. the transport hauled of to the stream. Whistles sounded, guns blazed forth, the C.C.C. on board the tug John Green played, the British marching song “It’s a long way to Tipperary”  the members of the contingent and thousands  assembled joining in the chorus. Surrounded by a flotilla of tugs, motor and row boats the Florizel came to anchor in the stream.

All night and yesterday the boats remained near the ship, while the waterside premises particularly the King’s wharf were lined with people anxious to see a relative or friend who might come on shore. … she (Florizel) got underway and steamed grandly through the Narrows, those on shore cheered wildly. Many of the boats and launches accompanied the ship outside the heads.  … Those who had enlisted but were not among the 525 selected bitterly expressed their disappointment.”

Search Individual Soldiers Files here:  https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/database

Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf

Recommended Reading: Out of a Clear Sky: The Mobilization of the Newfoundland Regiment, 1914-1915 by Mike O’Brien, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies.  Volume 22, Number 2 (2007)    Memorial University of Newfoundland.  Article on line. http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/nflds/article/view/10117/10390

 

 

 

On the brutal front lines of war

Fallen Soldier’s Death Penny

Sacrifice: Young Canadians and Newfoundlanders on the brutal front lines of war

From the fields of Flanders to the shores of Gallipoli, more than 640,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in the First World War. Here, from diaries, military records and letters sent home, Tu Thanh Ha retraces the wartime journeys of some of these men and women

By TU THANH HA,
Globe and Mail
NOVEMBER 9, 2018

JAMES MOORE
When the war began, Newfoundland was still 35 years from joining Canada. A British dominion, it raised its own regiment. In St. John’s, James Moore, a 22-year-old longshoreman with a heart tattooed on his right arm, was among those who would be known as “The First Five Hundred”
Original documents:  See the personnel file for James Moore at The Rooms

Recommended Archival Collection: Search individual soldier’s files here: https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/introduction

 

GEORGE GOUDIE
A paper-mill timekeeper in the company town of Grand Falls, George Goudie was 18 when he headed to St. John’s to enlist in the Newfoundland Regiment in March, 1916. By the following spring, just a few kilometres south of the fighting at Vimy Ridge, Corporal Goudie’s unit attacked the German lines in the Battle of Arras – and were met by a brutal counterattack. The regiment had gone to battle with 521 men; it suffered 487 casualties. Cpl. Goudie was reported missing.
Original documents: See the personnel file for James Moore at The Rooms

Recommended Archival Collection: Search individual soldier’s files here:https://www.therooms.ca/thegreatwar/in-depth/military-service-files/introduction

 

Read the full article here:  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-portraits-of-sacrifice-young-canadians-on-the-brutal-front-lines-of/