Tag Archives: Dohey

Killer avalanche hits Tilt Cove

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 11, 1912

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. VA 85-55: Tilt Cove

On March 11, 1912 an avalanche struck the mining community of Tilt Cove on the Baie Verte Peninsula. The avalanche struck two houses built at the head of the cove at the foot of a steep slope, one belonging to Mr. Francis Williams, manager of the Cape Copper Company, and the other belonging to a Mr. William Cunningham, JP, the telegrapher and customs officer.

William Cunningham’s daughter, Vera, was interviewed in 1996 – she was 95 at the time but vividly remembered life in Tilt Cove, and in particular the afternoon of March 11 1912. She recalled that the previous night, following a day of freezing rain a snow storm raged and this continued through the day. Her father came in for tea and said, prophetically, “this would be a great night for snow-sliding“.

Next door the Williams family was sitting down to tea, when a large avalanche swept down the slope and struck the Williams and Cunningham houses. The avalanche just glanced Doctor Smith’s house, which escaped with minor damage.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Smith Family Collection: A 24-98.

The Williams house was  the most severely damaged, with the lower floor collapsing as the rear wall was staved in. The Cunningham house was swept off its foundation and Emily Day the family servant thrown across the kitchen and buried. She had three year-old Edward Cunningham in her arms and protected him against the weight of the snow. Unfortunately she was buried, jammed against the hot kitchen stove, by the time she was dug out,  two hours later, she was very severely burnt. Edward was only slightly injured with minor burns.  Her loving embrace had saved his life.

Emily survived but was badly hurt; she was sent to hospital in St. John’s but died on July 18. A headstone erected in her memory in the Anglican Cemetery on Forest Road, St. John’s reads:

“Emily Day, aged 29 years who died July 18, 1912 from injuries  received  while saving the life of a child in the Tilt Cove Avalanche.  Greater Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”

The rest of the family survived almost unscathed.

Mr. Williams and his 13-year-old son (James) were killed instantly. The St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported, “the little boy was found dead with bread still in his mouth“. Peter and Francis Sage the two servants in the Williams household were also killed. Mrs. Williams and her two daughters were rescued after three and a half hours of burial, without serious injury.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives  is home  to a number of photographs detailing life in the mining community of  Tilt Cove can be found as well as occasional mining reports on the state and prospects for  mining in Tilt Cove.

Recommended Web Sites: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/environment/avalanches.html

http://www.nr.gov.nl.ca/nr/mines/outreach/disasters/avalanches/march11_12.html

Recommended Reading:  Killer Snow, Avalanches in Newfoundland by David Liverman., Flanker Press,St. John’s, 2007.

Influenza Epidemic Raging

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 2, 1919

Influenza Notices were  posted on all  Public Buildings.

In March 1919 Newfoundland  and Labrador was being ravaged with the dreaded Influenza Epidemic.

The local government and the churches were in the fore front of the fight against the spread of the dreaded disease. In St. John’s, on March 2, 1919,  the Catholic Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, issued a Pastoral Letter removing any obligation of fast and abstinence during the 40 days of Lent. The rationale was that if Roman Catholics were observing the ritual Lenten fast and rules of abstinence that they might be weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to the pandemic.

On March 12, 1919 a notice was read in all churches that:

“Owing to the prevalence of influenza among the people, His Grace the Archbishop by the authority of the Holy See, grants during this present Lent, a general dispensation from the fast, except on Good Friday”

A variation on the same notice was read in the churches of all denominations.

The move, thought small was unprecedented. One of the many steps that were taken to try and stop the spread of the disease.

St. John’s as an international port of call for ships from around the world was exposed to all the good and ill that came with its geographical location. In 1918 with the influenza epidemic raging throughout the world, it was only a matter of time before the province became vulnerable to the disease.

The pandemic reached Newfoundland on 30 September 1918 when a steamer carrying three infected crewmen docked at St. John’s harbour. Three more infected sailors arrived at Burin on October 4 and they travelled by rail to St. John’s for treatment. A doctor diagnosed the city’s first two local cases of influenza the following day and sent both people to a hospital. Within two weeks, newspapers reported that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

Soon after the outbreak, government officials closed many public buildings in St. John’s, including schools, churches, and meeting halls, and introduced quarantine regulations for incoming ships. Many outport communities also closed public buildings to curb the spread of influenza. By the time the epidemic was over, 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s and 170 more in outport Newfoundland.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador, where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Room Provincial Archives explore Death Records 1918-1919.  Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918- June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland.  Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007) http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396

 

 

The First Giant Squid

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

October 25, 1873

 

On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour.

 

On 25 October 1873 a fisherman, Theophilus Picot fishing off Bell Island in Conception Bay, had a battle with a giant squid. This battle resulted in the first giant squid specimen to be studied scientifically on land!

It was Alexander Murray, the first Director of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland who brought the story to the attention of the international scientific community.

A few weeks following the fisherman’s battle with the giant squid Mr.  Murray, wrote to Louis Agassiz, Professor of Zoology at Harvard University.  In the letter he explained that the fisherman Picot

 ” struck at it  (the squid, at the time he had no idea what it was)  with an oar or boat-hook, whereupon the creature’s fury seemed to be aroused, and it struck at the bottom of the boat with its beak, and immediately afterward threw its monstrous tentacles over the boat, which probably it might have dragged to the bottom had not Picot with great presence of mind severed one of the tentacles with his axe.”

Mr. Murray had more than a story he also included:

 “a couple of photographs of the said tentacle and a few of the small denticulated sucking cups.”

The reference to the  battle with the giant squid  first appeared the prestigious publication scientific journalThe American Naturalist’  8 (1874), 120-124. under the tile “Capture of a Gigantic Squid at Newfoundland.”

This was the first of the giant squid to be documented. Over the years their have been others. At the Rooms Provincial Museum a giant squid that was originally caught November 14, 1981 in Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay, is on display.  The last giant squid caught in Newfoundland waters was in Triton in 2004 and there was another found in Sandy Cove, Fogo Island, in 1982.

On July 7, 2011 Canada Post launched the Glovers Harbour Squid stamp which features a 55-foot (16.8 metre) giant squid statue from Glovers Harbour. It is a life-size replica of the World’s Largest Giant Squid (Guinness Book record) that was landed nearby on November 2, 1878.

Recommended Reading: Aldrich, F. A., and Brown, E. L. 1967. “The Giant Squid in Newfoundland,” The Newfoundland Quarterly. Vol. LXV No. 3. p. 4-8.

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

Recommended Exhibit:  At the Rooms see the exhibit “Beneath the Sea”  this exhibit features a 29-foot-long giant squid,  which was found by a fisherman in Hare Bay, Nov 10, 1981.

 

 

The harbour is quiet, no slides for the children.

Archival Moment

March 6, 1907

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. B 4 - 148. James Vey Collection

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. B 4 – 148. James Vey Collection

The first week in March month in St. John’s traditionally saw the population grow by the hundreds as the “men from the bay” began to arrive in the city hoping for a berth on the sealing vessels going out to prosecute fishery.

The city, especially the waterfront, would be busy with activity. Many of the men would be looking for lodgings as they awaited news of a berth on one of the vessels, some consumed a little too much and  there were the inevitable rows between the ‘bay men’ and ‘the townies’ looking for the same work.

The Gambo Slide

It was not only St. John’s that was a hub of activity the other hub was the town a Gambo. In the first week of March, 1907 the St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News reported:

“Last night there were 100 men at Gambo, who had walked from Wesleyville and vicinity, to take the train. About 200 more are expected there, this morning, which will be the last coming from that section.”

The Gambo train station was the terminus for just about all of the sealers who would walk the trek from Wesleyville to the train station in Gambo, “an unpleasant tramp” that took from 24 – 32 hours.

However, there would be much excitement in Gambo, especially among the children. The children would be waiting for the Gambo slide.

The Gambo slide was a small lightweight sled that was constructed by the men of Wesleyville and area, that they used to pull their sealing gear and clothes.  As the men of Wesleyville, now exhausted from walking, approached Gambo, the children of the town would be on the outskirts to help them pull their slide for the last few miles.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Start of the Slide Race. A11-19. Elsie Holloway Studio, St. John's.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. Start of the Slide Race. A11-19. Elsie Holloway Studio, St. John’s.

The children knew once they pulled the “Gambo slide” to the train station, the sealers would board the train for St. John’s and the slides would be theirs!

It was not only the men from Wesleyville that were walking into Gambo to catch the train, the Daily News reported on March 6, 1907:

“Eight hundred men will leave Greenspond, Newtown, Pools Island and neighboring places, this morning and will walk over the ice to Gambo, and come into St. John’s by train.”

Walking in the unpredictable weather especially in March month,  the slides not only served to lighten the loads of what the fishermen had to carry, if the weather “turned on them”, they could always burn the slides and use the  wood as a heat source.

One story goes that upon arrival in Gambo  a small group of young men  from Greenspond, Bonavista  Bay had hours to wait for the train.

“So to keep the fire going we broke up our slides which we had used to drag our suitcases or clothes bags on. This kept the fire going for two or three hours … I was some glad when the train finally came, and, I had never been on a train before in my life.”

With the loss of markets for seal products, the hustle and bustle that came with the preparations for outfitting the boats and signing on the crews in St. John’s is no more.

The first week of March on the St. John’s waterfront is now quiet.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read the journal of Dr. William Waddell (MG 1006.1). The journal documents a typical sealing voyage including a description of the vessel and role of the crew.

Recommended Reading: The Last of the Ice Hunters: An Oral History of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt  edited by Shannon Ryan, Flanker Press,St. John’s, NL.

Recommended Reading: Perished: The 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster  by Jenny Higgins.  Boulder Publications, Portugal Cove Conception Bay, NL.

 

The tradition of Midnight Mass

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 23, 1895

Midnight Mass has been celebrated in the Basilica since 1895.

On December 23, 1895 the St. John’s newspaper The Daily News announced that:

 “His Lordship the Right Reverend Dr. Michael F. Howley  (Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s, Newfoundland) has decided to revive the custom of celebrating  the first Mass of Christmas morning  at the very opening of the ever glorious day.”

Bishop Howley was reviving the tradition of the celebration of Midnight Mass, a custom that has continued at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) since that announcement in 1895.

Bishop Howley noted that midnight mass was “long in existence in the Roman Catholic Church though allowed to lapse for some years past in this country – Newfoundland.”

The article does not explain why the tradition of the midnight mass was dropped before 1895 in St. John’s.

The newspaper account went on to describe the elaborate decorations of the cathedral. 

Basilica Cathedral St. John's

Basilica Cathedral St. John’s

“The interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral is already beginning to assume the festive garb which always marks the anniversary of the Nativity. The altars and the pulpit are artistically festooned with evergreen to which will be added extensive floral ornamentations interspersed with countless twinkling lights, before the joy bells ring out their glad peal at midnight, to proclaim the birth of the God Man.”

Many theologians say that the Midnight Mass evolved from individuals making pilgrimages to the Holy Land and the actual birthplace of Christ. Because the Bible states that Jesus was born at night and in a manger, to fully immerse oneself in the story and the liturgical significance of the moment, a Midnight Mass seems the best place to achieve these goals. The darkness and the gentle hush that nighttime helps set the scene and enhance the spiritual component of Christmas.

On the Christian calendar – Midnight mass has been observed since at least the year 381. In  381 a Christian woman named Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, observing for three years and keeping a journal of the customs and liturgies she saw there. She witnessed the Christians celebrating the birth of Christ at midnight with a vigil in Bethlehem, which was followed by a torchlight procession to Jerusalemculminating with a gathering in Jerusalemat dawn.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese of St. John’s, Bishop Michael Francis Howley Collection.

Recommended Reading: The Story of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist by: Susan Chalker Browne . Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2015. There have always been many rumours, tales and fiction told about the securing of the land, the money and the stone and the construction of the imposing building. Susan Chalker Browne has written a book to sort fact from fiction.

 

The first Salvation Army kettle in Newfoundland

ARCHIVAL MOMENT : CHRISTMAS TRADITION  

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 51-65. Salvation Army Christmas 1906 in front of No. 1 Citadel on New Gower Street,St. John’s, the first occasion of Salvation Army using collecting kettles at St. John’s.

One of the enduring symbols of Christmas is the Salvation Army kettle. Salvationists and friends stand at strategic shopping locations inviting the public to drop a few coins in their “kettles” with the monies realized going to the poor.

The kettle first appeared on the streets of San Francisco, California, USA in 1891 brainchild of Captain Joseph McFee, the kettles were used in a campaign to raise funds for a shelter in the waterfront district.

He remembered, during his earlier days in Liverpool, England, seeing a large kettle where passengers of boats that docked nearby were able to toss coins to help the poor.

Captain McFee suspended a large cooking pot from a tripod and placed a sign above it that read: Keep the pot boiling.” Shortly thereafter, Christmas kettles began appearing in communities across the United States and are now an indispensable part of the holiday season.

In Newfoundland the Salvation Army has been firmly established since the first meeting of the Army on September 3, 1885 at the Methodist Church in Portugal Cove.

In late January of 1886 a group of four female officers arrived in St. John’s, soon followed by a District Officer, Arthur Young. This initial group of Salvationists established the first corps in Newfoundland on Springdale Street in St. John’s. They held outdoor meetings at the Parade Ground, and marched with their followers through the streets making as much noise as possible. Within two months, the Salvation Army in St. John’s had 200 soldiers.

It was the Christmas of 1906 that the first kettle was introduced into Newfoundland. The kettle was suspended on a tripod in front of No. 1 Citadel on New Gower Street, St. John’s.

In Canada the Salvation Army collects approximately $15 -20 million in the nearly 2,000 kettles on street corners and at retail outlets. In Newfoundland the kettles raises approximately $200,000.

Recommended Archival Collection: At The Rooms Provincial Archives there is a small collection of photographs documenting the presence of the army in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Spanish Lady in Newfoundland and Labrador

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 30, 1918

Photo Credit: Volunteer nurses, 1918
These volunteer nurses worked at the King George V Seamen’s Institute during the Spanish influenza pandemic. Located in downtown St. John’s, the institute served as a temporary 32-bed hospital to help treat influenza victims.
Photo by J.C. Parsons. Reproduced from The Newfoundland Quarterly 18.4 (1918), 21.

On September 30,1918 the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported three seamen from a steamer were admitted to hospital with the flu.

The next day, the Daily News reported that two cases from the schooner Ariceen of Twillingate were taken to hospital. The Spanish Lady or Spanish Flu was in Newfoundland.

Within two weeks, the local newspapers were reporting that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

By mid-October, Medical Officer of Health N.S. Fraser had closed the city’s schools, theatres, concert halls, and other public buildings to help prevent the virus from spreading.

In the last week of November 1918, 1,586 cases of influenza and 44 deaths were reported in 28 communities across the island. The highest incidences occurred in St. Mary’s Bay which reported 628 cases.

By February 1919, the epidemic had largely ended on the island, although traces of it remained until the summer.

Before it disappeared, the disease killed 170 people in outport Newfoundland. 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 20 and 40 million people worldwide, making it one of the largest and most destructive outbreaks of infectious disease in recorded history.

Recommended Archival Collection:  At the Room Provincial Archives Division  explore Death Records 1918-1919. Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special  File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918-June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007)  http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396