Tag Archives: Harbour Grace

Mummer, struck me a violent blow with a broom

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

Mummer, struck me a violent blow with a broom

January 9, 1860 

Mummer created by Stephanie Baker Sutton

Mummer created by Stephanie Baker Sutton

On January 9, 1860 John Charles Snelgrove of Harbour Grace a fisherman swore before Robert John Pinsent, her Majesty’s Justice of the Peace in that town:

“On last Friday night  (January 2, 1860) at about nine o’clock, I was on the main street  in Caplin Cove, Harbour Grace in the District of the aforesaid when some MUMMERS came up  and one of them named Henry Critch of Harbour Grace, Blacksmith, struck me a violent blow  with a broom stick on my shoulder, I told him to leave me alone – but he would not, he struck me several blows more  with the stick and knocked me down and beat me severely on my body and face, leaving marks on my face and body, he broke his broom stick on my body from the force of  the blow he  gave me. I did nothing at all to him. I pray that the said Henry Critch may be required to answer my complaint and be further death with according to law.”

The Justice of the Peace was not amused at the shenanigans of Henry Critch and his “mummer” friends and was quick to convict, sentencing Mr. Critch to pay a fine of one-pound sterling and to be imprisoned ten days.

In the Christmas  tradition of mummering, friends and neighbours conceal their identities by adopting various disguises, covering their faces, and by modifying their speech, posture and behavior.

It was not surprising that some, using these disguises, would be up to no good. Some in disguise would use the mummering season to retaliate against those that they disliked or had some grudge to settle.

In order to control the violence associated with mummering such that had been experienced by Mr. Snelgrove, five months after the Snelgrove decision ( June 1861) the Newfoundland government passed an act which dictated that:

“any Person who shall be found… without a written Licence from a Magistrate, dressed as a Mummer, masked, or otherwise disguised, shall be deemed guilty of a Public Nuisance”. Offenders were to pay “a Fine not exceeding Twenty Shillings”, or to serve a maximum of seven days’ imprisonment (Consolidated Acts of Newfoundland, 1861: 10).

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives, St. John’s.  GN5 /3/B/19  Box 24File 1R59 – A  – 3

Recommended Song: Mummer Song:  Original 1987 uncut TV broadcast. Newfoundland Christmas tradition inspired this hit Simani song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8OPy7De3bk

Recommended Reading: Any Mummers ’Lowed In? Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador. Flanker Press, St. John’s, NL. 2014. Folklorist Dale Jarvis traces the history of the custom in Newfoundland and Labrador and charts the mummer’s path through periods of decline and revival. Using archival records, historic photographs, oral histories, and personal interviews with those who have kept the tradition alive, he tells the story of the jannies themselves.

Recommended Reading: MUMMERS ON TRIAL Mumming, Violence and the Law in Conception Bay and St. John’s,Newfoundland, 1831-18631 JOY FRASER Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s:  http://www.shimajournal.org/issues/v3n2/h.%20Fraser%20Shima%20v3n2%2070-88.pdf

“They had veils over their faces … mummers”

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 27, 1862 

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: B 4-158; Mummering inSt. John’s, Newfoundland

In Newfoundland the tradition of mummering or jannying is often associated with the mummer’s parade, home visitation, music and the occasional drink!  The tradition has a darker side.

Few people know that in order to mummer in Newfoundland participants at one time needed a license to do so and that for almost 100 years mummering was outlawed!!

In the tradition of mummering, friends and neighbours conceal  their identities by adopting various disguises, covering their faces, and by modifying their speech, posture and behavior.

It was not surprising that some, using these disguises, would be up to no good. Some in disguise would use the mummering season to retaliate against those that they disliked or had some grudge to settle.

In order to control mummering and the violence associated with it in June 1861, the Newfoundland government passed an act which dictated that:

“any Person who shall be found… without a written Licence from a Magistrate, dressed as a Mummer, masked, or otherwise disguised, shall be deemed guilty of a Public Nuisance”. Offenders were to pay “a Fine not exceeding Twenty Shillings”, or to serve a maximum of seven days’ imprisonment (Consolidated Acts of Newfoundland, 1861: 10).

On December 27, 1862   in the Town of Harbour Grace, Constable Joseph Nichols arrested and dragged before the local magistrate,   Joseph Pynn and a few of his friends, Constable Nichols told the court:

“they had veils over their faces and was disguised in female clothing and the other in men’s dress, they were acting in all respects as mummers.”

The magistrate was not amused,  Jospeh Pynn was “Fined each 20 pounds sterling  or 7 days  imprisonment.” Pynn and his friends were not about to spend Christmas in jail – the court record shows that “Stephen Andrews paid the fine and all discharged.”

The idea of a license to mummer did not go over very well.  Mummering was a passion ingrained in the culture of the Newfoundland people. The St. John’s newspaper the Public Ledger in January 1862 suggested that 150 licenses had been issued during the preceding Christmas season, but that many more participants in the custom had failed to comply with the new legislation.

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives:  GN5 /3B/19 Box13, File Number 3

Recommended Song: Mummer Song:  Original 1987 uncut TV broadcast. Newfoundland Christmas tradition inspired this hit Simani song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8OPy7De3bk

Recommended Reading:  Any Mummers ’Lowed In? Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador. Flanker Press, St. John’s,  NL.  2014.  Folklorist Dale Jarvis traces the history of the custom in Newfoundland and Labrador and charts the mummer’s path through periods of decline and revival. Using archival records, historic photographs, oral histories, and personal interviews with those who have kept the tradition alive, he tells the story of the jannies themselves. 

 

International Airport Proposed for Trepassey

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 21, 1928

International Airport at Trepassey, Newfoundland

On June 21, 1928 the prestigious New York Times  newspaper declared that Trepassey, Newfoundland would be the site of a great international airport.

The newspaper headline declared:

“Miss Earhart Predicts Great Airport at Trepassey for Transocean Flights.”  

The headline came about as a result of an interview that Amelia Earhart had with the international press shortly after landing at Burry Port, Wales becoming the first woman to make the Atlantic crossing.

Earhart and her crew had departed fromTrepassey, Newfoundland the morning of June 17 landing “across the pond” on June 18.  Prior to departure from Trepassey she has spent twelve days in the town meeting many of the local people.

Earhart told the New York Times reporter:

“Trepassey ought to be some day a great airport for transoceanic travel. It processes the finest harbor, perhaps the only harbor, adapted naturally for seaplane takeoffs in its part of the world.”

But she cautioned that Trepassey needed to develop an infrastructure to sustain this new industry that was emerging.  She told the reporter:

“…there are very few trains from the outside world into Trepassey and absolutely no facilities for taking care of a plane or repairing them. … If someone would build a seaplane station in Trepassey it would be a great help to aviation, for there is going to be more transatlantic flights from there so many that they will not even be of interest to the public.”

Unfortunately for Trepassey no infrastructure was established.

In Newfoundland, the town of Harbour Grace became the airport of choice. The  Harbour Grace airfield, built on the summit of this hill by the  local  people became starting point of many early flights from West to East.  Amelia Earhart  the next time she was in Newfoundland  by passed  Trepassey that she had spoken  so highly about   and completed the world’s first transatlantic solo flight by a woman after taking off from Harbour Grace, on 20 May 1932 and landing at Northern Ireland about 13 hours and 30 minutes later.

Recommended Archival Collection:  (International) George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers:  The Amelia Earhart papers offer a rare glimpse into the life of America’s premier woman aviator. In 1928 she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.  The online collection includes more than 3,500 scans of photographs, maps, documents, and artifacts relating to Earhart.  http://www.lib.purdue.edu/spcol/aearhart/

Recommended Reading: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart  By Susan Butler.  Da Cappo Press, 2009.  (A chapter is devoted to her time in Trepassey.)

 

Body dropped on the doorstep of the magistrate

Archival Moment

29 April 1834

Photo Credit: Gibbeting is the use of a gallows-type structure from which the dead or dying bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display to deter other criminals

Photo Credit: Gibbeting is the use of a gallows-type structure from which the dead or dying bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display to deter other criminals

On the evening of 29 April 1834, a large crowd gathered in Harbour Grace to cut down the gibbeted body of Peter Downing a convicted murderer.

Downing was convicted in early April for the brutal murders of a school teacher (Mr. Bray) , his infant son and a servant girl. For his crimes Downing was sentenced to be hanged, dissected and gibbetted.

For much of the month of April the people of Harbor Grace were forced to look on the gibbeted body of Downing.

The residents of Harbour Grace, approximately one thousand,  had had enough, they removed the partially decomposed body of Downing,  paraded it  through the town, past the Court House, and dropped it on the doorstep of a magistrate, Dr. Stirling, along with a note, signed  by anonymous which read:

Dr. S.  This  is your man you were the cause of bringing him here take and bury him or Look Out should you  be the cause  of allowing him to be put up again we will mark you for it,  so do your duty and get him out of sight. 

truly  a friend,

Anonymous Carbonear

Dissection and gibbeting were punishments that had long been established in England and her colonies for crimes of traitors, murderers, highwaymen, pirates, and sheep stealers.  The intention was that the body of Peter Downing would be left as a grim reminder and would stay on the gibbet for a year or more until it rotted away or was eaten by birds.  Gibbeting was formally legalised in Britain by the Murder Act of 1752.

Gibbeting was not generally accepted by the people in Newfoundland.  Many were offended by the sight and odor of a decaying body, others believed that the decaying bodies spread disease, others felt that being hung by the neck till dead was enough, even a criminal should meet his Creator in his full body.

In Harbour Grace, Dr. Sterling heeded the content of the note from the angry citizens. The decayed body of Peter Downing was buried immediately at the Court House, and no attempts were made to have the incident investigated or the body gibbeted again.

In Newfoundland “gibbetting” is well documented. In St John’s, Gibbet Hill, a small peak close to Signal Hill, takes its name from the practice.   The location was very intentional.  Anyone looking towards Signal Hill would see the ‘gibbeted bodies.”  A reminder to heed the laws of the colony!

Newfoundland for a number of years held the dubious distinction of being the last place in the British Empire to proceed with gibbetting.   The last man believed to be gibbetted in England was William Jobling on August 21st 1832. The last man in the British colonies was likely John McKay, in 1837. He was gibbeted on a tree near Perth, Tasmania.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives take some time to explore the records of the Office of the Colonial Secretary. This office served as the official repository for Newfoundland state records and as the registry for varied legal and statistical documents, the collection includes extensive holdings relating to all aspects of Newfoundland political, economic, community and social life.  In particular take some time with GN 2/2  this  series consists of correspondence, reports, petitions, and records related to the operations of government in Newfoundland. The records include summaries of court cases.

Recommended Reading: Plebian Collective Action in Harbourt Grace and Carbonear, Newfoundland, 1830 – 1840, Linda Little  (1984) . Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Recommended Activity: Visit Gibbet Hill in St. John’s, imagine the horror  the gibbetted  bodies struck in the hearts of the  citizens of St. John’s as they stared at the decaying bodies overlooking their town.

Women plea for justice

Archival Moment

August 1891

Harbour Grace Court House

Harbour Grace Court House

We do not often hear the voices of women speak to us from the pages of history especially the wives and sisters of poor fishermen but an incident in Carbonear in 1891 forced some women to take action.

In early June 1891, George Peckam and David Clarke of Victoria Village near Carbonear, Stephen Howell, Mark Dean, James Reid, and John Powell all of Carbonear were convicted “on a charge of disobedience of orders and refusal of duty.”  They were all crew members on the banking Schooner Argonaut.

When these six  men signed up  to prosecute the fishery on the banking Schooner Argonaut it is likely that he would have signed a standard agreement known to many as the ‘Masters and Servants Agreement.’  This agreement covered the contractual obligations of the fishermen and the consequences of disobeying the Captain or deserting the vessel.

These Carbonear fishermen would likely have also been aware of the Statutes of Newfoundland passed in 1888 that detail laws concerning dissertation of a Banking Schooner. The law read:

  “When any person, fishermen, shoreman or shareman, shall fail or refuse to perform such contract or agreement without showing cause therefor, such as unseawothiness of the vessel, insufficiency of food, absence of suitable accommodation, or a medical certificate or some other good excuse, any justice may, upon complaint by some employer or his agent, issue his warrant and cause such person to be apprehended and brought before him. “

Disobeying orders and or refusal of duty automatically meant 30 – 60 days in jail.

The Stipendiary Magistrate in Carbonear, James Hippisley who heard the case  was not sympathetic to the men. He gave the maximum sentence.

The mothers and children of the six men were devastated. These men were the bread winners in their families; if they did not work their families would face starvation.

On June 15, 1891 the five women made an emotional plea in the form of a petition to the Colonial Governor of Newfoundland, Sir John Terence Nicholls O’Brien begging  for some form of relief  and that that their men be released from the prison in Harbour Grace.

In the petition Susannah Peckam explained that her son George Peckham had “six children the eldest is only ten years old.”

Martha (Clarke) Howell the mother of Stephen Howell explained that he had five children, the eldest is seventeen and that her husband is a cripple and unable to work. She was determined to get her son releases. This was the second petition presented on his behalf.

Martha Clarke the sister of David Clarke explained that she is “deprived of the ways and means of assisting an aged father of 76 years according of the duty of a child to a parent.”

Margaret (Butt) Dean the wife of Mark Dean explained that she had no support and that they were responsible for “an aged father (84) and mother (60) and two young children.”

Sophia (Mulley) Reid the mother James Reid explained that she would be “deprived of all help.”

Cecily (Gillespie) Powell pleaded for the release of her son John Powell “who has four in family the oldest 17 and labors under heart disease and very often bad with it and often falls down.”

Cecil Frane, the Secretary for Governor O’Brien, responded to the petition. He wrote:  “the case of the prisoners has already been reported upon,  Magistrate Hippisley and the Governor refused to release Howell who first petitioned and the other cases are exactly similar.”

From June till early August 1891 the six men languished in the Harbour Grace prison.

It would be a difficult fall and winter because they had no income, no share in the summer catch of fish.  Their families faced starvation and destitution.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 2.22, Box 12, v. 2, no. 27. , p. 104-111 (15 June 1891) Petition requesting  for relief due to losses incurred by imprisonment at Harbour Grace of sons and husbands, crew of banking schooner Argonaut.  Letter to Robert Bond, colonial secretary from Cecil Fane, private secretary, governor, enclosed. p. 104-11

Recommended Reading:  Bannister, Jerry: The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Recommended Reading:  The Newfoundland Bank Fishery: Government Policies and the Struggle to Improve Bank Fishing Crews’ Working, Health and Safety Conditions. Fred Winsor, B.A., M.A.  Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996.

The Harbour Grace Affray

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

December 26,  1883

The  Harbour Grace Affray

St Stephen’s Day (known nowadays as Boxing Day) is a significant date on the Newfoundland

Unknown artist: Scene of the Harbor Grace Tragedy, St. Stephen’s Day, December 26th, 1883. Lithograph, Printed and published by H. Seibert and Brothers Lithographers, New York R9266-3300

Unknown artist: Scene of the Harbor Grace Tragedy, St. Stephen’s Day, December 26th, 1883. Lithograph, Printed and published by H. Seibert and Brothers Lithographers, New York R9266-3300

calendar. It was on St. Stephen’s Day in 1883 on which the Harbour Grace Affray took place.

On St. Stephen’s Day, 1883, the hostility that was forming in the town of Harbour Grace between the Protestants and Roman Catholics came to a boiling point. Approximately 400 – 500 members of the Loyal Orange Association held their annual parade through the town.

It was during their march around the town that a group of 100 to 150 Catholic men from Riverhead formed a line in an attempt to prevent the Protestants from passing through the lane from Harvey Street to Water Street because they felt that the Orangemen were encroaching on their territory.

From this confrontation came five deaths and 17 injuries. Resulting from this event, known as the Harbour Grace Affray, nineteen people were arrested and brought to trial.

Due to conflicting evidence and suspected perjury, all charged individuals were acquitted.

Killed in the Affray:

  • William Jeans, aged 21, Carbonear
  • William French, 40 years, Courage’s Beach, Harbour Grace
  • Patrick Callahan, 56 years, Southside Harbour Grace
  • John Bray, an aged man, Courage’s beach, Harbour Grace
  • Thomas Nicholas, Oterbury, Harbour Grace

Recommended Archival Collection:  The Rooms Provincial Archives: GN 170 Newfoundland and Labrador Court Records: Files consist of charges relating to the Harbour Grace Affray.

Recommended Reading:  The Harbour Grace Affray: St Stephen’s Day 1883 by Patrick Collins, DRC Publishing,  St. John’s, NL, 2011.

Old Word: Affray: person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and his conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.

CAPTAIN JAMES COOK IN NEWFOUNDLAND WATERS

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

September 1762

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 85.10; The harbour of Trepassey with Mutton and BiscayBays; The road and harbour of Placentia; St. Mary’s Harbour

In August and September of 1762 if you were sailing about Newfoundland and happened into the harbours of Placentia, Harbour Grace, Carbonear or St. John’s it is likely that you would have met James Cook.

Captain James Cook, (1728-1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy.  He may be best known internationally for his work in the Pacific Ocean, Australia, the Hawaiian Islands, and New Zealand, but it was in Newfoundland where he cut his surveying teeth!! 

James Cook first came to Newfoundland in the summer of 1762 giving six years of his life over to the survey of Newfoundland waters.

When he arrived on our shores, most of the island was known only in shadowy outline. When he left he had scientifically surveyed almost all the unknown coasts. His charts with detailed sailing directions and remarks on suitable anchoring, watering and wooding places would serve well into the 20th century.

Governor Graves of Newfoundland was so impressed by the work of Cook that he reported in 1763 that Cook’s attention to detail was “beyond my description.”  He continued:

“I have no doubt in a year or two more of seeing a perfect good chart of Newfoundland and an exact survey of most of the good harbors, in which there is not perhaps a part of the world that more abounds”.

Two hundred and fifty years after Cook’s arrival in Newfoundland waters it is time to celebrate his accomplishments.

You are invited to view the charts created by Cook on exhibit at the Rooms Provincial Archives and to join the Newfoundland Historical Society for the Cook Symposium.  The opening lecture of the Symposium and reception will be held at The Rooms on Friday September 28 from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.  Please note that that the reception will begin at 7:00 PM with a lecture from Dr. Olaf Jenzen to follow at 8:00 p.m

The Symposium will continue at 10:00 a.m.  Saturday morning  September 29th at Memorial University’s Engineering Building. Parking is free and located in parking AREA 16, adjacent to the building.

The symposium is free and registration is not required. Come for any or all of the sessions.

For more information on the Cook Symposium:  www.nlhistory.ca.

Recommended Website: To view some of Cook’s Charts go to:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/cooks_charts.html

Recommended Exhibit: Visit the Rooms Provincial Archives Reference Room where five reproductions of the Cook charts are on exhibit.