Tag Archives: Cupids

Would the First American Thanksgiving have happened without Newfoundland support?

Archival Moment

November 23, 2017

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 Exhibit:  At the Rooms Level 4:  Feast and Famine. This exhibit draws on the permanent collection to explore the changing relationship between cultural identity and food in Newfoundland and Labrador, as portrayed by artists such as Grant Boland, Ross Flowers, Jamie Lewis, Mary Pratt, and Helen Parsons Shepherd.

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





“We could hear their cries all night below us.”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: IGA Lantern slides, Pouch Cove, IGA 1-189

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: IGA Lantern slides, Pouch Cove, IGA 1-189

November 29, 1875

On the night of November 29, 1875, the Schooner Waterwitch left St. John’s bound for her home port of Cupids with 25 souls on board. She never made it to Cupids; in the middle of a blinding snowstorm she struck rocks just north of Pouch Cove.

In the local St. John’s newspaper, The Times, the Anglican Minister of Pouch Cove, Reginald Johnson wrote:

“We had a frightful wreck here last night. The schooner Waterwitch, … to and belonging to Cupids, in the Bay, total loss. There were 25 souls on board, – out of which we saved only 13. I was on the spot soon after the terrible news reached the houses, and helped to haul up the survivors. Every man was hauled up fast to about 100 fathoms line, as the wreck could not be approached. We could hear their cries all night below us. It was frightful! The people have behaved nobly ….”

The loss of the 12 men and women on that cold November night is commemorated  in song and story with much of the credit for the rescue of the survivors, given to Alfred Moores of Pouch Cove. He allowed himself to be lowered to the ship by a rope from an overhanging cliff so that he could carry the people to safety.

Also recognized for their role in the daring rescue were David Baldwin, Eli Langmead, William Noseworthy, and Christopher Mundy.

The horror of the night is told in the verses of the song the Waterwitch that is still song in Pouch Cove.

But, hark! Another scream is heard, the people get a shock,
Another female left below to perish on the rock;
When Alfred Moores makes another dash, as loud the wind do roar,
And brings a woman in his arms in safety to the shore.

The town of Cupids went into deep mourning; nine of the dead were from their small place.

A year after the tragic event Governor and Lady Glover at Government House, St. John’s presented Alfred Moores with the Silver Medal of the Royal Human Society. The other four were presented with the bronze medal for their heroic effort. The present location of the medals is not known.

Commemoration TONIGHT:  Commemoration of the Waterwitch Wreck and Rescue to take place beginning at the United Church Cemetery, Pouch Cove and proceeding to the Silver Threads Bldg. Pouch Cove. 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm., Tues. Nov. 29, 2016.

ecommended Museum: The Pouch Cove Museum located in the Town Hall has a small exhibit commemorating the sinking of the Waterwitch.  The Cupids Legacy Centre has a model of the Waterwitch as well as a piece of the original wreck.

Recommended Song: Sung by Richard Moores [d.1975] of Pouch Cove, NL (son of the song’s hero, Alfred Moores) and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/01/witch.htm

Recommended Book: The Loss of the Waterwitch & Other Tales by Eldon Drodge, 2010, Breakwater Press.