Tag Archives: horse

Horses, turned into the roads and woods to die of frost and starvation”

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: NA19658: Horses grazing ina field

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: NA19658: Horses grazing ina field

Archival Moment

November 29,1893

In November 1893 the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in the local St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram published an article “enlisting the services of supporters throughout the colony.”

The article read:  “The SPCA desires to enlist the services of its supporters throughout the colony in detecting and punishing cruelty, and, at this season, the practice of exposing old horses and other animals.”   The article stated:  “Worn out horses are often turned into the roads and woods to die of frost and starvation.”

The Executive of the SPCA were keen to stop this cruel practice and insisted that “the crime should be effectually stamped out.”

The SPCA which was established in Newfoundland in November 1888 was originally formed to eradicate this practice and other cruel hardships that the horses had to endure such pulling excessively heavy loads.

The Executive of the SPCA wrote to the readers of the Evening Telegram that “Without the watchful assistance of the public, the efforts of our agents must be of little effect.”

Since their founding in 1888 the SPCA had encouraged laws “wide enough to cover all cases that may arise, and the magistrates never fall in their duty when such cases come before them.”   They proposed however that “While it is the duty of all Justices of the Peace to execute this law upon offenders, it is no less the duty of every citizen to prosecute cases coming to notice.”

In 1893 it was the hope that  “branches of our Society (should be) formed in every outport where a Justice is within reach.”

To assist with establishing societies  outside of St. John’s  “Either Mr. Greene, Q.C. (Hon. Treasurer) or Mr. Johnson, Q.C. (Hon. Secretary)  of the St. John’s Society  will be ready  at all times to assist in the formation of branch Societies an in instructing as to the method of prosecuting offenders.”

Recommended Archival Collection:  At The Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 593 is the SPCA Collection 1912 -1927. It consists of correspondence; complaint books, and investigation reports into complaints of cruelty.

Recommended Song: Tickle Cove Pond. Allan Doyle (Great Big Sea).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SNScBpa4lc

Recommended Web Site:  Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – http://www.spcanl.com/

A St. John’s horse went into hysterics

Archival Moment

Motor cars begin to displace horses

September 9, 1914

There was much excitement in St. John’s on September 9, 1914 with crowds gathering, all scrambling to get the best view of the first annual work horse parade that was ever held in the city. The parade held under the auspices of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor and Lady Davidson took place and was described as “a decided success.”

Upwards of 130 horses were entered into the parade that looped past the post office along Water Street to McBride’s Hill, thence to Duckworth Street and up Cochrane Street to Government House grounds where the exhibition was held.

The parade was headed by the Salvation Army’s fine brass band that “presented a very attractive and novel sight, the horses being decorated with patriotic colours.”

For many the parade was seen as a distraction from the seriousness of the conversation about the ‘Great War’ that had been called a month earlier.

The local newspapers reported:

“Citizens from every point of vantage, viewed the procession as it wended its way to the exhibition grounds, (at Government House on Military Road) accompanied by an immense crowd of people who thronged the sidewalks and followed with admiration the long line of horses from different classes”

On the field at Government House the animals were taken to their allotted spaces and the judging was done by some of the leading citizens, the gentlemen and ladies of the town, including his Excellency and Lady Davidson, the Premier and Lady Morris.

Judges had to choose the best horses in a number of categories including; “Heavy Draft Horses”, won by “Ben” driven by J. Morrisey; the “Truck Horse” that had to driven and owned by truckmen was won by “Charlie ” owned by John Fowler;   “The Express and Delivery Horses” category was won by “Bruce”, owned by M. Fleming; “The Cab Horses”, category was won by “Stella” owned by   A. Symonds. There were also categories for farm horses, ponies and an old horse category.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that was established in Newfoundland in November 1888 was always seeking new ways of bring attention to their cause.

Motor Car or Horse

The parade of horses was in September 1914 a success but because of the Great War (1914-1918) what may have been a grand tradition was interrupted after only one year.

The parade also stands as a symbolic divide between the old and the new. It was in 1914 that motor cars or automobiles began to take the place of the horse. The shift from horse to motor car was so evident in St. John’s that the Editor of the Twillingate Sun in July 1914 felt obliged to write an editorial about the phenomena.

The Editor noted that the first motor car had arrived in Twillingate owned by Mr. Ashbourne’s had brought with it:

“considerable criticism, and naturally there are some old folk who can see no use in such contraptions as automobiles. There are also the owners of horses who, unused to such things, easily see in an automobile a terrifying sight.”

The Twillingate man cautioned in 1914 that it was inevitable that the horse would be displaced by the motor car. He wrote:

“Now although horse owners, (with the exception of Mr. POND, whose horse Dick, regards automobiles with contempt and indifference,) have their kick, they are not the first. A St. John’s horse went into hysterics when the streetcars first started, and no doubt the cars were valiantly cussed by the drivers, but the horses got used to them, and ours will do the same. …..”

Recommended Archives: Search the Rooms Archives online database for descriptions of our archival records and to view thousands of digital photographs. Click the image to begin your search.  https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections Try this in the search bar type Horse.

Recommended: Support the work of the Newfoundland Pony Society: Read more: https://newfoundlandpony.com/

Recommended Web Site: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: http://www.spcanl.com/

Potholes and Gulches


February 19, 1880

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: E 32-7; Horses and sleighs loaded, Water Street, St. John’s.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: E 32-7; Horses and sleighs loaded, Water Street, St. John’s.

A word that is rarely used in Newfoundland and Labrador nowadays is the word “gulch”. (also gulche) Long before the term “pot hole” was used to describe a hole in the surface of the road, the preferred term was “gulch.”

In 1880 one of the issues that angered people was the state of the roads, so much so that some people wrote to the local papers to complain.

On February 19, 1880 in the local paper the Evening Telegram one subscriber wrote:

“Allow me through the columns of your valuable paper to draw attention of the government to the deplorable state of Water Street owning to the late heavy fall of snow. This street is almost impassable for man or beast, and unless something is speedily done, in the way of filling up the “gulches” traffic will be at a standstill.”

In February 1917 the local St. John’s newspaper the Daily News reported

“A heavy fall of snow brings its trouble to the horse traffic on our streets which are filled with gulches.”

The term “gulches” continues to appear in local publications until at least 1937.  The St. John’s, Evening Telegram reported:

“Traffic conditions on Torbay Road are very bad, the road being studded with many treacherous gulches”

Those who took the time to write to the local papers and complain had a legitimate concern. The horse was often their only means of transportation and these ‘potholes” or “gulches” presented a major problem.  If a horse stepped into a deep enough pothole or “gulche” there was the possibility that the animal could be crippled.  A broken ankle or leg was often fatal for a horse.

Long before “pothole” found a place in our vocabulary the preferred term to describe the phenomena was “gulch.”  In the United States and some parts of Canada  the preferred term to describe the phenomena was “chuckhole”  because  the ‘gulches”  were being created by chuck wagons  that were being used to carry food and cooking equipment on the prairies of the United States and Canada.

The first time that the term “pothole” was used was in 1826. The term “pothole” never took hold in Newfoundland until the 1940’s when we had the combined influence of the American invasion of culture and the automobile gradually replacing the horse.

When driving about the town – just as it was in 1880 – watch out for the gulches!!  I mean potholes!!

What are the current road conditions: http://www.roads.gov.nl.ca/default.htm

Recommended Archival Collection: GN2.19.2  File consists of a letter book  (1834-1836) of correspondence from the colonial secretary primarily to the outport road commissioners and to the commissioner for the relief of the poor. The correspondence recorded the allocation of public funds to roads and bridges both as a means of improving transportation and relieving poverty by providing employment.



“Quite a commotion arose among the people of Branch.”

Archival Moment

December 29, 1914

German-horse-drawn-supplies-in-snow-595x409On the morning of December 29, 1914 there was much conversation in the town of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay about the survival of the mailman. On the previous evening with a blinding snowstorm raging, the horse of the mailman with the buggy arrived in Branch, but where was the mailman?

A resident of Branch, writing under the pen name “Com” wrote to the Editor of the Evening Telegram about the incident. The letter under the banner “Hardships of Mailmen” was printed in the newspaper on January 4, 1915. The letter reads:

Dear Sir:

To drive the daily service over the bleak country between Branch and Patrick’s Cove in winter is no soft job. On the 28 December 1914, in the full fury of the blizzard the mail couriers have arrived without the driver, leaving him in the country between Branch and St. Bride’s. The courier was proceeding on his way when he was overtaken by a storm four miles from his home, the snow falling so thick together with a gale of wind.

The horse going to near the ditch caused the buggy to overturn throwing the driver out. The horse bolted and turned homewards leaving the driver in the country, in a blinding snowstorm then raging. When the horse arrived without the driver quite a commotion arose among the people; however a search at once started and the driver was met at the entrance of the place after making his way through the blizzard.

“All is well that ends well.”


Branch, 29 December 1914

Unfortunately, the letter does not identify the mail courier? Do you know his name?