History of the Communities of the Peninsula


Aguathuna

What is now called Aguathuna was, in fact, Bellman's Cove when the area was first settled, and the quarry area was first known as Jack of Clubs Cove. Its first mention appeared in the 1873 Geological Survey as having limestone deposits, but no mining was undertaken until almost 40 years later. In 1891, Jack of Clubs Cove had 65 residents. The name, Aguathuna, an Mi'kmaw word meaning "white rock", was adopted after a petition dated October 24, 1911, signed by 55 residents..

The Dominion Steel Corporation (DOSCO) of Sydney, Nova Scotia, sent Arthur House prospecting in the area in 1910 and built a pier at the quarry in 1912. DOSCO needed limestone for a flux to take impurities out of Bell Island iron ore shipped to its Sydney steel mill. From its opening in 1912, the limestone quarry operated on a seasonal basis, employing as many as 140 people year round and 400 people at its peak in the early 1920s. Most of the workers were local men who were paid 12 cents an hour plus a bonus after 20 tons. At first, employment was high because loading was by hand, but it dropped off dramatically as mechanical loading equipment was introduced. In 1920, DOSCO built several houses, including a staff house..

The first shipment of limestone was in 1913. The quarry had a maximum annual output of 300,000 tons of high-calcium limestone, and, to avoid splintering, instead of blasting, a 2,600-lb. steel ball was used. In 1918, 221,450 tons of limestone worth $125,000 was shipped to DOSCO. The highest value was $197,057 in 1923, and the largest shipment was 250,781 tons in 1930..

The first licensed club outside St. John's, The King of Clubs, was opened at Aguathuna in 1913 to entertain delegates and visitors to the mine. New members were decided by a secret ballot using white and black beans for each of its members-three black beans meant rejection. Its wartime caretaker. Max Snow, Sr., became manager from 1968 until it closed in 1976. The Aguathuna Co-op was formed in 1914 in the same building as the King of Clubs, with Arthur House, the quarry manager, as president. It was active until 1965. James Joy and Sons were general merchants with a store at Bellman's Cove to supply Aguathuna. Mary Ann Hayes of Stephenville became the first postmistress in the early 1900s, and Albert Cochrane was a policeman at the quarry. Lizzie (Dubordieu) Joy taught school at Bellman's Cove in 1913, while a Mr. Leich taught in Port au Port West. Mary (Leich) Walker and Lizzie Joy taught in the first high school. Aguathuna provided a local market for produce from Boswarlos and The Creek. Aguathuna, Boswarlos and Port au Port West together had 407 residents in 1911. By 1913, there were schools in Bellman's Cove and Aguathuna. In 1934-35 there were schools at Goose Pond Road (two pupils). Bellman's Cove (23 pupils) and Aguathuna (20 pupils).

Peter McCann started the first bus service between Aguathuna and Stephenville in 1946. He operated the first bus to Cape St. George in 1949, although part of the trip was over grass. He also bought two snowmobiles in 1954 to make winter trips to West Bay and Mainland. The Aguathuna quarry closed in 1966, partly as a result of a 20% tax on each ton of limestone shipped to Sydney. The Harmon base in Stephenville closed at the end of the same year. In 1967, the Sea-Mining Corporation had a plant built by Lundrigans Limited to remove magnesium from seawater. It employed 60 men but, in 1970, it, too, closed, and its equipment is still visible at the site.

Other place names in Aguathuna area:

Bellmans Cove


Felix Cove

Felix Cove is now part of the incorporated municipality Port au Port West - Aguathuna - Felix Cove. Felix Cove was named for early settler Harold Felix from France. He probably arrived around 1850, and his great-grandson, Mike Felix, longtime resident of the community, says Harry had five or six children, including his own grandfather Emile. Mike fished beside his father Albert and other men in the community, as fishing was the main occupation with farming only for home use and logging merely supplemented incomes. The fishery remains the most important industry. The first settlers spoke French, but they were quickly joined by English and Scots. Some early names included John Duffey, Sr. and Jr., Ogden, Hall, Gillis, Preado, Bedo, Abbott, Rowe and Marche, and there is every indication they got along well, since the English, Mi'kmaq and French intermarried, resulting in a new generation of children who could speak virtually no French and no Mkmawsimk (Mi'kmaw).

Emile Felix's granddaughter Lorraine Hoskins from Felix Cove, said her father and his family spoke French to each other, since her mother could speak only English, they spoke English in their home.

There was no church in Felix Cove, and children attended school in Campbell's Creek until about 50 years ago, when an old house was used as a school. It has long since disappeared, and students now go to Port au Port East. There are three Roman Catholic churches to serve the community, one each at Port au Port West, Port au Port East and Campbell's Creek. The one on Berry Head was sold to the Anglican Church. Mike Felix recalled at most about 10 or 15 fishermen at one time in the cove, but now only half that number land their catch on the small, pebbly beach. The fishery always had good years and bad, and about 60 years ago, there was such a shortage of lobster, a ban was placed on the species, effectively closing the season for three consecutive years. Mike said there may not have been any around before the before the closure, but when they got back at it, there were more than they could handle. "Two of my uncles, Joe and Jack Felix, put out 100 traps one time, and packed 88 cases of lobster. And, remember, each case had 48 one-lb. tins. That will never happen again. The cod is gone for good, and the lobster soon will be, too."

When buyers from Abbott ∓ Haliburton and Butts from St. George's began to buy from fishermen in the cove, they stopped canning and sold all lobsters live from their traps.

There have been at least three general stores in the community over the years, one run by Mike's brother Jim, whose name still graces an old shed by the slipway where he sold his lobsters.

About 15 to 20 families live in Felix Cove, and it has not grown significantly in the past 20 years. Longtime residents say there are far fewer children than in the past, indicating smaller families and a general aging of the population. Unemployment is the biggest problem, as it is for most of the Port au Port Peninsula, although, because Felix Cove is close to Port au Port and Stephenville, many of its residents commute to work there

Other place names in the Felix Cove area:

Man of War Cove

Goosepond Road

The Alpacas of Port au Port


Campbell's Creek

According to Decks Awash magazine, researchers at Memorial University say that:

"most early settlers of Campbell's Creek came from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, were Roman Catholic, Gaelic-speaking, and of Scottish origin. Steve and Daniel Campbell (sometimes called Donald), were among those who came from the Western Islands in Scotland to Cape Breton in 1853." Their knowledge of the West Coast and in particular this area is inaccurate and misleading to say the least.

Decks Awash states:

"When it was learned that land in Cape Breton was to be taxed by 1854, they moved to Newfoundland, where it was still free for the taking, and Daniel Campbell settled in the Codroy Valley at Little River, now known as St. Andrew's. Stephen Campbell went to Sandy Point and John Campbell ended up in Piccadilly before moving probably in 1853 to Campbell's Creek, which was then known as Pieroway's Cove, named for Pieroways from Sandy Point who fished there in summer. John's son Archie is said to have brought the first cow through the woods in 1854. He died in 1937."

Most or all of the Campbell families may have been of Mi'kmaq ancestry - if they are in fact descendants of the Camus families who are documented Mi'kmaq.

In issue # 16.4 of the Newfoundland Ancestor, a publication of the Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society, an article called: The Camus (Cammie) Family of Bay St. George, Nfld. by Allan Stride #339, states that:

"The Sandy Point R.C. register has a birth entry of a child for one Stephen Camet (pronounced Camay) during the year 1854 which is somewhat mysterious. Light has been shed on the possibility that certain members of the Camus family actually changed their name to Campbell. This Stephen Camet in later entries of the church registers is identified as Stephen Campbell, so is this person a Camus or has the Reverend Alexis Belanger made a mistake in the entry?"

Decks Awash adds that "Mike and Don Campbell may also have been early settlers and Captain Archie Campbell built a 30-35-ton schooner in the community. Several families arrived later from Margaree, Cape Breton. Other early residents were French speaking families named LaCosta and Marche, along with Scots MacDonald and Gillis, and English families Gale, Noseworthy and Hall." They omitted that the Marche family is Mi'kmaq and French speaking. It seems that there is little knowledge of the Mi'kmaq families who were a large part of the fabric of community life on the Port au Port Peninsula. Decks Away says:

"Campbell's Creek was unusual in its mix of people, perhaps understandable since it was a long distance from Cape St. George but not linked to either Piccadilly or Port au Port West and East.

"Salmon, cod and lobster fisheries generated most income in those early years, and nearly all families kept domestic animals. Wool was sent to the Codroy Valley and Stephenville to be carded, and there were several fox farms. In 1913, a silver fox pelt was reputed to have been sold for $1,750, but since even $17.50 would have been considered a good price at that time, it's likely the decimal point was incorrectly noted. The only fox farm remaining belongs to a LaCosta family.

"The first school, built in the early 1870s, was phased out in 1955 with the coming of regional schools. There was no church, however, until 1947, several years after the road to Port au Port was completed.

"The community became well-known for producing first-rate sea captains, including Archie Campbell, first settler John's son; Steve Campbell, captain of the Gloucester; Mike Bruce, whose father was from Abraham's Cove; John Hall, another captain of the Gloucester; and Danny Campbell's son Stan

"A Mrs. MacDonald, known locally as Mrs. Mac, was the first postmistress, and the mail was delivered by [Mi'kmaw] Roddy Benoit, first by horse and sleigh or cart, and later, in winter, by snowmobile. The Canadian National Telegraph and post office run by Alice Nosewort closed in 1970. Until very recently, most people in the commun were self-sufficient, fishing and farming. That way life died out with the downturn in the fishery, but men found work to supplement their incomes until recent years, when unemployment prevalent on the peninsula has also begun to affect some of the 160 or so residents who call Campbell's Creek home."

Other place names in Campbell's Creek area:

Campbell's Cove

Pierways Hill

Pieroway's Cove


Abraham's Cove

Located on the southern shore of the Port au Port Peninsula, Abraham's Cove geographically was linked more to Piccadilly than what formerly was the French Shore around Cape St. George.

Local tradition states it was settled in the late 1800s by the Duffeys, a most likely Mi'kmaq/ Acadian family. Next came a Bruce family who arrived from St. Pierre by way of the Codroy Valley. Long-time resident Archie Bruce, 85, whose wife Isabelle aka (Belle) was one of the few midwives on the coast, says his grandfather came from St. Pierre. Archie's father Julian was born in the Codroy Valley, and moved to Abrahams Cove to settle exactly where Archie moved. Others in the family came from Isle aux Morts and Campbells Creek. By 1891, the population had grown to 15. French language died out quickly in the area, and Mr. Bruce said he never learned to speak it at all. Residents kept cattle, sheep and poultry, and fist cod. Around 1900, the lobster fishery was growing as the huge reserves in St. George's Bay were discovered and subsequently exploited. In 1901, 21 people lived in Abraham's Cove, where a small lobster factory employed three people in 1902. Residents also operated a sawmill at that time. By 1911, the population had risen to 46, but had dropped to 23 by 1935.

Lobster and cod remained important to the local economy, with herring growing in prominence until the early 1980s, when they became scarce in local waters.

In 1981, flounder and wolffish joined lobster and cod as commercial species, and 14 fished in the inshore fishery in eight small vessels. Markets included fish-plants in Piccadilly.

In 1960, the provincial department of highways depot was established providing work for some local residents. Others worked on the Harmon USAF base in Stephenville, and the population rose to 71 by 1971.

In 1976, there were about 103 residents, and there has been little change in the population since that time, although many, particularly men, leave to find seasonal work elsewhere in Newfoundland or in Nova Scotia. Very few still fish and grow vegetables to supplement their incomes, and still fewer fish full time.


Ship Cove

Stephen Wheeler and his friend John Campbell were the first to clear land around the main cove in Ship Cove, settling there in 1888. Wheeler settled first in Cox's Cove on the north shore of the Bay of Islands before moving to the Port au Port Peninsula, and Campbell had been living in Campbell's Creek, but the extraordinarly good fishing and rich soil attracted them to Ship Cove. They were joined shortly after by Mi'kmaw Alex Benoit who used to live in Lower Cove and a LaPage, who apparently deserted a French ship off the Cape.

Note: The island off Ship Cove is a bird sanctuary and is Called Ship Island

Older residents recall the community had another name of French origin at first that sounded something like "Viats Cove", but for at least the past 80 years, it has been known as Ship Cove, so named by an anonymous resident for the number of ships that ran aground on the rocks close to shore.

Ship's Cove was first mentioned in the 1891 census, with 34 residents, most of them children of Wheeler and Campbell, who each had about 16. They built around the initial clearing in the main cove in the lower part of the community, taking up most of the land in that area. Today, however, just half a dozen Wheeler families and a few Campbells remain, with most of the community Mi'kmaq with either Benoit or Jesso families, who settled the upper part of Ship Cove above the section called Jerry's Nose.

Duncan Campbell, from in Ship Cove and a First World War veteran, John's son, recalled some of the stories about the community's origins, and Stephen himself died at the age of 96 only in 1963. His wife died when she was young, although they had 18 children, two of whom died, and he lived alone. He always had a bottle for a hot toddy. Fishing, as other areas, was an important part of their liveihood -as in the early days in Ship Cove. He said the men could go out on the rocks just off the shore and get lobsters, they were so plentiful. They processed them and fed their families until many years later buyers began to come after the road was put through.

From 1891 to 1901, the population nearly doubled to 65, but it subsequently dropped to 44 in 1911. In 1935, 69 people lived in Ship Cove, and the population doubled again in the following 10 years to 148. Ship Cove undoubtedly grew faster than many of the communities on the shore of the peninsula, most likely because of the excellent fishing and agricultural land.

Just a handful of people still fish in Ship Cove, but it has three suitable beaches. The first, west to east, is at the base of a dirt road joining the main road through Ship Cove with the shore. This area is called Jerry's Nose.

Jerry's Nose was named by Americans who built a base in Ship Cove sometime during the Second World War. The base, located in the upper or eastern end the community and well off the main road, included a school, a recreation centre and work centre consisting of one large building and several smaller ones, and was situated in Ship Cove, according to residents mainly because of advantages in transmitting from the location. They employed a number of local men to clear a huge tract of land and build the base, and, unfortunately some say, supplied them and others in their community with cheap liquor and tobacco. The base closed in the 1960s, and one of the buildings became a high school after that, but there is now little evidence left of the installation.

Early settlers in Jerry's Nose, mostly Mi'kmaq, came from Bras D'or, Nova Scotia and other parts of the peninsula and region. Albert Jesso, resident Ron Jesso's grandfather, came from the Pictou area to fish at Ship Cove. About 15 homes are still in Jerry's Nose Road, many owned by Jesso families.

Yet another small section of Ship Cove is Tommy Touche, meaning Tommy's touch, pronounced locally as "Tommytush", and apparently spelled a number of different ways. It is located between Jerry's Nose and the main cove, and still has several families.

Tidbit:

Ship Cove seems to be linked more, both econoncally and historically, with Piccadilly and Port au Port East and West than with the Cape St. George area. The accent with traces of the French inflection typical of the Port au Port Peninsula is dominant in the area. Many people left Ship Cove when the economy in the surrounding area began to suffer, some returned in the 1980s hoping to get work at the Lower Cove Mine and local fishplants. Unfortunately many were disappointed and are again leaving either seasonally or permanently to find work mainly in Nova Scotia or Ontario. Rampant unemployment has resulted in sporadic outbreaks of vandalism, and drug abuse appears to be on the rise. The Mi'kmaq of Ship Cove like most of Bay St. George have been deliberately kept out of the Indian Act and the services that would be available.

Areas in Ship Cove:

Fiods Cove

The Site

Jerry's Nose

Tommy Touche

Ship Island

Ship Cove Cementary


Lower Cove

Located about halfway between Ship Cove and Sheaves Cove on the southern shore of the Port au Port Peninsula, Lower Cove is characterized by high mountains surrounding a deep valley. It curves around one of the most scenic shorelines in the area, which must have attracted its first settler, reputed to be Alex Jesso, a Mi'kmaw who came from Little Bras d'Or, Cape Breton, via Kippens in the mid- to late 1800s. There's also a large stream running through the valley, and it has become known as one of the best trouting streams in the area; in fact, it's still frequented by local people and those willing to drive on notoriously bad roads to try their luck.

By 1891, 23 people had joined Alex to make up the census count of 24. In 1911, 33 people were listed. It was a relatively prosperous fishing area with a good beach but its isolation and distance from any churches or schools prevented significant growth. Harold Jesso recalled (1990) when he started fishing more than 60 years ago, there were just four fishermen working in the cove. It rose to five over the years, but dropped again to just three who use the beach today (1990).

In the 24 years between 1911 and 1935, the population grew by just three to 28, but a small school was built around that time. There was never a church in the community, so residents attended at a school in nearby Ship Cove, where a priest held mass once a month up until about 30 years ago, when a new church was built at the Crossroads. There was also no town hall or auditorium, but Mr. Jesso said there was plenty to do with fishing and farming carried on by every family.

Longtime resident Caroline (Carrie) Jesso recalled her arrival in Lower Cove from Jerry's Nose about 60 years ago. She said there were only about three families living there year round, and all of them fished and farmed. Her husband, the late Johnny Jesso, was born there, and he and his brother Henry, (known locally as Son), fished. They were soon joined by two of Mrs. Jesso's brothers.

Travel was by horse and sleigh or cart, and there was little recreation apart from spring spinning sprees, when women, mainly from Ship Cove, brought spinning wheels with them to Lower Cove. They sheared sheep, washed the fleece and spun wool, enjoying the rare opportunity to talk with people who were, at that time, considered distant neighbors.

Lower Cove's main industry today, other than fishing, has become the limestone mine that recently went into production. Its quarry is considered virtually inexhaustible because of the rich mineral reserves in the area, but local unemployment has been alleviated only slightly since workers from all over the Port au Port Peninsula compete for the 30 to 40 jobs at the mine. The population has not grown significantly, although a few houses are being built. There not much more than 22 families in Lower Cove, and, besides the mine, most fish or work in the woods. There is perhaps tourism potential however, as many tourists, said Harold Jesso, stop their way around the shore just to take pictures in valley. Harold has since passed away.

Areas in Lower Cove:

Lower Cove Cementary

Pigeon Head


Sheaves Cove

The first reference in any census was in 1891, when "Charley Sheaves Cove" was listed with 21 residents. It was named for one of the first settlers, Charles Sheaves, who arrived in the mid-1800s. Longtime resident Isaac Jesso says the very first settler was his grandfather, Peter Jesso. a Mi'kmaw who was married to Elizabeth Barry, and he doesn't know why the town wasn't named for him instead of Charley. Local residents say Charley came from Cape Breton, but other sources say he moved from Port aux Basques.

Both accounts may be correct, as many people living on the Port au Port Peninsula arrived via the south-west coast of the island. The tiny community promised good fishing and a ready supply of lumber, so Peter and Charley and their families stayed. Peter, had what would be considered a small family in an area where having 15 children was not unusual-probably not more than five or six- including at least two sons, one of whom was Isaac Jesso's father, Peter Thomas Jr. At least, he was called Peter in Sheaves Cove. When he visited his mother Philemena Perrier's home in St. George's, he was called Tom.

Tidbit:

By 1901, 38 people in nine Roman Catholic families lived in Sheaves Cove where they were fishermen-farmers. Residents processed 46 cases of lobster, and caught 144 quintals of cod and four tierces of sair in a fishery worth $1,135. The large beach at Sheaves Cove was considered exceptional, and until recently as many as 10 fishermen used it on a regular basis.

About one-quarter mile from Sheaves Cove there was a second beach in the community called Red Cove because of the ochre which could be found there, it was there for more than 30 years that Isaac, his father and two brothers fished together in just two dories. None of the 10 children was in school in 1901 although a school was built early in the communty history and later became the church. The current church seats about 80.

By 1911, 50 lived in Sheaves Cove, and by 1935, 92. A small lighthouse operated in the community around 1900 until about 1925. Any evidence of its existence has long since disappeared, and the site is unmarked. Everybody fished and most grew their own vegetables and kept some livestock.

In 1945, 40 residents were counted, and about five years later, Joe Rowe opened the first general store. Joe, whose mother, Maggie Jesso, was Peter Jesso's daughter, later gave the business to his son Clifton and wife Bertha Bruce from Abraham's Cove. It was closed when they retired.

In 1971, 240 people lived in Sheaves Cove, with little growth since, with just 36 families year round in the community. Among them are the Jessos, descended from the first settler, along with Felix, Rowe and Young families.

Areas of Sheaves Cove:

Three Ponds

Sheaves Head

Falls Brook

Sheaves Cove Cementary

Big Cove


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