January 1, 1970
Ochre is a naturally occurring earth based pigment that is found around the world in areas that tend to be rich in Iron. The word “ochre” comes from the Greek meaning “pale yellow,” and it can range in colour from orange to yellow, and from brown to red. Pure red ochre is composed of Iron Oxide (Fe2O3) which is also referred to as hematite. The other forms of ochre have water incorporated in their molecular structure which causes them to be yellow/orange in color. In cases where ochre has brown hues, manganese is usually present.
If yellow ochre is subjected to temperatures above 300 degrees Celcius the water is expelled from the molecules. This caused the colour to change from yellow –> orange –> red. There is evidence that humans have been using this process to create red ochre since the Middle Stone. Even today, most red ochre is produced this way, as the naturally occurring red ochre is not usually a pure enough shade of red.
In Newfoundland & Labrador, Deposits of ochre are found near Fortune Harbour (Notre Dame Bay) , Ochre Pit Cove (Conception Bay) and along the Shanapeushipis River in Labrador (Jenkinson and Ashini, 2014, p. 100-101). The earliest settlers likely used locally collected ochre as a pigment for their paints that were used to protect their stages and outbuildings. However, as time passed inhabitants were later able to purchase powdered ochre through local merchants. Most of this ochre was imported from England. That said, usage of local ochre for paint by frugal Newfoundlanders continued well into the 1970’s.
Typically, the powdered ochre was mixed with some type of liquid (usually seal, or cod liver oil) to create a basic paint. European / Scandinavian recipes typically utilized the a faster drying linseed oil. Regardless of the liquid component, the ochre paint was usually prepared months in advance and allowed combine thoroughly.
The colour of the red ochre paint is what we think of as “fishing stage red.” This color is not an exact one as the recipes, oils and ochre available locally would have had great variation.
January 1, 1970
The Vikings in Newfoundland
It was long believed that the first European to visit Newfoundland was John Cabot (c. 1450-1499), who arrived in 1497 under the banner of england’s King Henry VII (1457-1509). We now know that other Europeans visited Newfoundland and Labrador 500 years before Cabot, and they later committed their story to writing. For many years scholars weren’t sure if Newfoundland was the place being written about, or even if the stories were based on real events. These tales – the Sagas – were very much real. They tell of the first verified contact between people of the Old and New Worlds, as voyagers from Europe made an appearance in North America.
These voyagers were the Scandinavian warriors and explorers popularly known as Vikings (vikingr, meaning “raider” or “pirate”) or Norsemen (men from the north). Unlike most Europeans of the time, the Vikings practised their old pagan religion, worshipping many gods like Odin and Thor. Before the Vikings adopted Christianity people were shocked by their behaviour, especially the Norse destruction of churches and monasteries, and occasional human sacrifices.
Their open boats, propelled by oars or a simple square sail, were among the most efficient sea- going craft of the Dark Ages, and the Vikings used them to great advantage. The most famous type of Viking craft were the dragon-prowed langskips or longships, though their farthest voyages were made in deeper-draught vessels. Starting in the late-700s AD, the Vikings began raiding the British Isles and France before finally settling there. Their attention was also focussed further afield. Swedish Vikings reached Russia, while others visited the Byzantine Empire, now modern Turkey, and fought the Arabs.
The Vikings always seemed to like a challenge, and were possessed of a restless spirit. By the late-800s they settled the island of Iceland. One colonist was Thorwald, exiled from Norway for the crime of murder. He was accompanied by his son Eirik raudi (Eric the Red), who was banished from Iceland after he too committed murder. Leaving Iceland and sailing west, Eric discovered a large Arctic island which he named Greenland to encourage settlers. Eric established two settlements there which survived for 500 years before failing due to worsening climate conditions.
One of Greenland’s new colonists was Eric’s son Lief, or Leifr (fl. 1000). Young Lief Ericsson and his mother were converts to Christianity, though Eric followed the old pagan religion until he died. At Greenland Lief heard tales of the traveller Bjarni Herjolfsson. Blown off course while making his way to the new settlement from Iceland, Herjolfsson sighted a forested land to the west of any previous Viking discoveries. Though he never went ashore, Bjarni Herjolfsson might have been the first European to see mainland North America.
Buying Herjolfsson’s boat, Lief Ericsson sailed off around the year 1000 to find the new land. Lief and his crew first spotted an island they named Helluland, or Flat Stone Land, believed to be Baffin Island. They next came to a place whose trees led to the name Markland – Forest Land, probably Labrador. Finally, the explorers arrived at a locale they named Vinland after the grapes they found growing there. It is now thought that Vinland has some connection to Newfoundland. If not actually Vinland itself, the island may have been used as a base camp for exploring a larger area of that name. Lief and his compatriots returned to Greenland about a year after he first set out.
Over the next few years other Norsemen tried to establish a colony at Vinland. About the year 1003 Lief’s brother Thorvald led his own expedition to the new land. From the beginning the Norse settlements ran into problems, especially clashes with the aboriginal peoples, whom the Vikings called Skraelings,. After he and his men killed a number of the Natives, Thorvald died in a counter-attack. Around 1009 AD Þorfinnr, or Thorfinn, Karlsefni took up the challenge of permanently settling Vinland. Thorfinn also ran afoul of the locals, and returned to Greenland after a stay of around two years. About a year later Eric the Red’s daughter Freydis, and some Norwegian collaborators, made the last serious attempt to colonize Vinland. Trouble soon arose between Freydis’ people and the Norwegians, all of whom were killed. Once the survivors returned to Greenland the settlement was abandoned, but it remained in the Viking tradition through their oral tales, later written down as the Sagas. As the years passed people forgot the reality behind the Sagas and most assumed they were nothing more than legends.
One person who believed the Sagas recounted real events was Norwegian adventurer Helge Ingstad. He noticed similarities between physical descriptions of the land in the Sagas and Newfoundland. Along with his wife, professional archaeologist Anne Stine, Ingstad explored Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula in the 1960s, and noticed how well a place called L’Anse aux Meadows fit with the characteristics of Vinland. With the help of local residents the Ingstads were able to find and excavate a Viking settlement which could very well be inland.
The name of the place was a stumbling block for many years, as grapes do not grow in Newfoundland. Perhaps the Vinlanders discovered some of the island’s many berry varieties that can be used to grow wine, and named the settlement from there. Scholar Magnústefánsson has argued that beer was the Norse beverage of the era. Wine drinking was quite rare. According to Stefánsson, the problem may stem from confusion over the terms vín and vin. The name might derive from abundant grasslands, rather than having anything to do with wine. Other academics like Alan Crozier favour the “Wineland” interpretation. Whatever the truth behind the name Vinland, L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland can claim the only authenticated Viking settlement in North America.
January 1, 1970
Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland and The American Revolution
Notre Dame Bay (NDB), on the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland, seems far removed from the World’s battlefields. Today it is among the most idyllic of places. The bay is broad, and deeply indented, having the most jagged coastline and the most islands of all Newfoundland’s major bays. NDB is also the largest of the island’s great bays. Its name means “Bay of Our Lady,” and was bestowed by the French, who came in search of the region’s rich stocks of codfish starting in the 1500s. The French, along with the Portuguese, were the first non-Natives to see the value of NDB’s ocean resources. But it was the Anglo-Irish who became the first Europeans to permanently settle the Bay, starting at the turn of the eighteenth century. To modern tourists NDB hardly seems like a place where guns once roared and soldiers marched. Except for a few cannon still found in the town of Fogo, the communities of Notre Dame Bay look like they’ve been peaceful locales for all of their long histories. Appearances can be deceiving. Besides the low-level conflicts waged between settlers and the Native Beothuk people, Notre Dame Bay, particularly the Twillingate Islands and Fogo, was affected by the long wars between the British and French for control of North America. The bitter civil war fought between the British and their rebellious American colonies, popularly known as the American Revolution, had an even bigger impact on the bay.
In 1755 a Fogo resident named Christopher Bradley reported that forty French vessels were active on Newfoundland’s northeast coast. Although these were fishing vessels, the craft were heavily armed and seemed to be surveying local harbours. This same man also noted the capture of French spies on the island. These French activities probably had some relation to the larger situation in North America. Although the mother countries were not officially at war, British and French forces had clashed in America’s Ohio country in 1754-5. In 1756, for the third time that century, the two nations formally declared war. The conflict became known as the Seven Year’s War – “The French and Indian War” to the American colonists. The war only ended in 1763, the last North American actions being fought on the island of Newfoundland. Notre Dame Bay did not escape the effects of the conflict, with Fogo Island being harassed by French raiders. The French remained a hostile presence in Notre Dame Bay for some years to come. As late as 1786 Newfoundland’s Governor reported that a French vessel named the Bon Ami was paid a bounty to fish off Twillingate. Its job was not just to fish but also to irritate, and hopefully drive away, English settlers.
For a dozen years after the Seven Year’s War Newfoundland and Notre Dame Bay were at peace. Trouble brewed again in 1775 when Britain’s thirteen American colonies rose in revolt. The American Revolution, which lasted until 1783, saw some of the most serious military threats to NDB, though these were much less grave than the continental situation. Even so, the menace was very real to the people who lived in the bay during those years.
During the Revolutionary War Twillingate was troubled by privately-outfitted American warships, or “privateers.” This type of warfare was common during the age of sail, and allowed governments to field extra forces against their enemies without having to spend their own money. Privateers also helped countries with small navies to attack more powerful enemies at sea. They were commissioned to attack enemy shipping under a document called a “letter of marque.” In return for making war on behalf of one’s king or government, privateer owners could keep the value of any ships and cargoes they captured, with the captains and crews getting a share of the prize. Because privateers were not part of regular navies, and operated for profit instead of patriotism, they were often controversial. Many people thought privateers were not much better than pirates, and the line between them was often very thin.
According to Newfoundland’s great historian Judge Daniel Prowse (1834-1914), Twillingate planters suffered some of the colony’s most severe attacks at the Americans’ hands. In the Spring of 1779, for example, a small four-gun privateer, that may have been named the Centipede, raided the settlement. If a warship from Britain’s mighty Royal Navy had been nearby the little vessel would not have dared to attack. Sadly for Twillingate, no provision had been made to protect the town. The Americans were able to capture a vessel owned by a Poole merchant named John Slade (1719-92), who only a few years before had been the naval officer – a kind of law enforcer – for the port of Twillingate. The American raiders took a cargo of fish, and went on to break open Slade’s stores. Although this attack was bad news for Slade and his employees, not everyone in Twillingate suffered because of the privateer’s attack. Perhaps hoping that their fellow colonists would join the struggle against England, the Centipede’s crew distributed some of Slade’s confiscated goods to the “poor inhabitants” of Twillingate.
After their successful raid against Twillingate the rebels, as the British called their American enemies, headed North to Labrador. There they once again attacked property belonging to John Slade. Newfoundland Governor Richard Edwards (c. 1715-95) made extensive preparations to ward off this kind of assault. But the Americans, many of whom were familiar with the Newfoundland fishery, knew to make their attacks only during the early Spring and late Fall when British men-of-war were not on the Newfoundland station. For his part Slade did not take the attacks lying down, outfitting several of his own vessels as privateers, including the twenty-four gun Exeter under Captain Marmaduke Hart.
American raids on Labrador premises also affected one of Slade’s major business rivals, Jeremiah Coughlan (fl. 1765-85), whose headquarters were at Fogo. Like Slade, Coughlan was a West Country merchant, but hailed from Bristol rather than Poole. Having been appointed Naval officer Reservist for the port of Fogo and the region adjacent to Bonavista Bay, Coughlan actively recruited for volunteers to oppose a rebel invasion of Lower Canada (Quebec) in the opening months of the war. In 1778 an American privateer under a Captain named John Grimes sacked Coughlan’s Chateau Bay establishment. Grimes also attacked Coughlan’s posts on the Alexis River, capturing one of his ships.
With privateers like Captain Grimes active in the area, Coughlan was afraid Fogo would be directly attacked. The merchant-officer met with his competitors to try and form a defence force, or militia. When his fellow merchants refused to supply men, Coughlan drew on his own resources and armed his largest ship, the Resolution. In support of Coughlan’s efforts Newfoundland’s Governor sent a pair of naval vessels to search for Grimes. The privateer gave them the slip, escaping after he had destroyed trading premises in Sandwich Bay, Labrador. Thanking the Governor for his aid, Coughlan then redoubled his efforts to organize an informal militia at Fogo. Sixty-seven volunteers were mustered with Coughlan as their “Colonel-Commandant.” Starting in 1779 a new Governor sent Coughlan muskets and cannon to defend the port. With these resources Coughlan built forts at Garrison Point and three other places around Fogo Harbour. He was also given funds to raise an official militia from among Fogo fishermen. This militia kept a round-the-clock watch for suspicious vessels entering the community’s eastern or western tickles. Jeremiah Coughlan’s preparations soon proved their worth; following its attack on Twillingate, the privateer Centipede was deterred from a similar assault on Fogo by Coughlan’s militia and forts.
While these events were tame compared to what Americans (both Patriots and Loyalists) went through on their own soil during the Revolution, the privateering raids in Notre Dame Bay must have made some impact on local military planning. When Britain and the United States went to war again in 1812 engineers suggested mounting cannon at Crow and Carter Points to guard Twillingate’s harbour entrance to protect the growing fishing community, though in the end nothing came of this suggestion.
In the two hundred years since the American War of Independence Notre Dame Bay residents have seen combat around the Globe, but the Bay itself has remained at peace. When World War II broke out in 1939 the Americans returned to Fogo Island and Twillingate. This time they came as friends, establishing facilities at Twillingate and Sandy Cove (Fogo Island). Though there was some military activity in the area, neither place suffered an attack by the Germans, as did the Newfoundland mining town of Bell Island. This time peace had returned to Notre Dame Bay for good.
January 1, 1970
Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, the World’s First Ace
Manfred Von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892. He went into the German army and completed his cavalry cadet training in 1911, but soon after the outbreak of the Great War, he became bored and decided he wanted to fly. He secured a transfer in 1915 and started flight training in October, completing his first solo flight on October 10. Taking the liberty of mounting a machine gun on his Albatros B II reconnaissance plane, he essentially created his own fighter. It wasn’t long before he shot down a French reconnaissance plane, although it wasn’t credited to him.
During one of his many exploits, on November 23, 1916, he shot down and killed Major Lanoe George Hawker, who at the time was the best of the British pilots, one whom Richthofen considered very “big game”. By this time, of course, the Allies were concentrating intensely on going after him. He was causing entirely too much damage and had to be stopped.
With 20 kills in April of 1917, Richthofen brought his total to an unprecedented 52. By this time he had become a fearless as well as a ruthless killer, even shooting Allied pilots trying to escape from their downed planes. This was quite a change from earlier, when he once sent a box of cigars to a British opponent who survived.
Then in July of that year, he took a round that grazed and partially splintered his skull and, because it never healed properly, caused discomfort in the form of severe headaches for the rest of his life. After a period of treatment and recuperation, he returned to the squadron, but he wasn’t at his peak for several weeks.
By September of that year, he had managed to recover somewhat, and raised his kill count to 60. By then he was flying the distinctive red triple-wing Fokker Dr I that he is remembered for today.
Von Richthofen was killed in battle on the morning April 21, 1918. As with many wartime battles, there was no shortage of carnage and confusion. Thus there is some uncertainty as to who actually fired the shot that killed him. Von Richthofen was hit while flying over the Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River. Some accounts have him crashing to the ground, others say that while he was shot through the torso, he maintained enough control and presence of mind to land his Fokker Dr I before he died of his wounds. Whatever the exact circumstances, he was hit with a .303 caliber round, which confirms that he was killed by a British Empire troop.
Officially, credit for the Richthofen kill went to RAF Captain Arthur Brown, who was pursuing him at the time. Later analysis tends to credit an Australian machine gunner on the ground, primarily because of the route traveled by the round. It was determined that it went from low in his right side and slightly behind him, then went up and forward from there, but the most telling fact was that it was found still in Richthofen’s clothing. Had the shot come from Brown’s machine gun, it would not have still been there, since the planes were in close proximity to each other.
Thus both the angle of the wound and the diminished velocity of the bullet indicate that the shot came from the ground, most likely one Sergeant Cedric Popkin of the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company.
At the time of his death, Von Richthofenhad achieved 80 kills. This was the highest number for and pilot that fought during World War (regardless of nationality). Von Richthofen’s air battle record still stands.
January 1, 1970
The Beothuk Indians – “Newfoundland’s Red Ochre People”
he Beothuk Indians, who probably spoke an Algonkian language, were indigenous to the Island of Newfoundland. Lying off Canada’s East Coast, Newfoundland makes up one part of Canada’s tenth Province, Newfoundland and Labrador. The Beothuk may descend from a people called the Maritime Archaic, who inhabited Newfoundland and Labrador from around 5500-1000 BC. The earliest group from whom archaeologists confidently trace Beothuk ancestry are known as “The Beaches” culture, after the place in Bonavista Bay where much evidence of them has been found. They were succeeded around 1000 AD by the “Little Passage” people, who are generally considered the prehistoric phase of Beothuk culture.
The normal social organization of the Beothuk was into bands of fifty or less persons. The group’s total numbers on the Island were probably no more than two thousand at any given time. In the past some estimates put Beothuk numbers much higher, contributing to the idea that they were massacred in large numbers by White settlers. For much of the year the Beothuk lived along coastal areas in small structures called mamateeks, their version of a wigwam. These dwellings were single-family structures with hollowed out sleeping areas, a feature practically unique to the Beothuk. In Winter the bands retreated from the coast, moving into larger, multi-family dwellings.
The Beothuk were hunter-gathers and lived off a wide variety of foods. These were caught using a range of weaponry, including toggling harpoons, spears, and the bow and arrow. Sea mammals like seals were important, as were fish, including salmon. Birds also formed an important part of the Beothuk diet. The now-extinct flightless great auk was especially valued by the Natives. Using their crescent moon-shaped birch bark canoes, the Beothuk sometimes travelled sixty kilometres (thirty-seven miles) to the Funk Islands in search of the birds and their eggs.
In Winter the main source of protein for the bands was the caribou. The Beothuk followed herds of the animals along their migration routes, building a type of fence to funnel the deer into one area where they could be brought down more easily. Caribou skins were put to a wide variety of uses by the Beothuk not least of which was the manufacture of clothing. There is evidence the bands participated in a ceremony similar to the Innu mokoshan feast where caribou marrow was consumed to honour the spirit of the animal and to ensure good hunting in the future.
An important aspect of Beothuk life was their use of red ochre – extracted from iron deposits – to coat their implements, bodies and the remains of the dead. The colour red played a role in Beothuk tribal identity; disgraced band members might be ordered to remove the colouring as a form of punishment. It is very likely that the red hues also had spiritual overtones for the people. This extensive use of ochre led Europeans to name the Beothuk the “Red Indians.” (read more about ochre here)
Although we know little about Beothuk religion, it seems they believed that when a person died their spirit travelled to a “Happy Island” to be with the Good Spirit. Like the Christian Heaven, getting there depended on a meeting certain moral qualifications. Not least among these was a refusal to make peace or communicate with White people, who came from the Bad Spirit. This belief probably formed early in the Beothuk relationship with Europeans, and partly explains why they avoided contact with settlers.
No one is sure when Europeans first encountered the Beothuk. Natives met by Viking explorers around 1000 AD – named Skraelings by the Norsemen – may have been Beothuk ancestors, but that has never been proven. By the 1600s the Natives were already reluctant to meet with Europeans, and may have been mistreated by fishers who had been coming to the Island for a century. British officer John Cartwright (1740-1824) thought that the Beothuk shunned Europeans in response to wrongs committed against them.
Not all interaction between the Beothuk and Europeans was hostile, however. In 1610 merchant adventurer John Guy (d. circa 1629) arrived in Newfoundland in hopes of founding a colony. Though Guy left Newfoundland for good in 1613, he engineered one of the only peaceful encounters between the Beothuk and the English. In 1612 Guy set out with a party of men in two boats trying to establish contact with the Natives, whom he finally located in Placentia Bay. The two parties exchanged gifts, danced, and shared a meal. Guy apparently hoped this would lead to a yearly trade, but when the Beothuk appeared the next Summer they were met by a ship whose captain had no knowledge of Guy’s trading venture. Alarmed at the sudden appearance of “Savages,” he fired a shot at them and the Beothuk fled.
For the next two hundred years the Beothuk dealt with the European presence in their midst by retreating from the newcomers and refusing to trade or interact with them. The expansion of English settlements and competition with the Mi’kmaq gradually confined the Beothuk to the Island’s Northeast Coast, especially the area around Red Indian Lake. No one is sure why the Beothuk refused to interact with the Europeans. The (well-founded) belief that Europeans were untrustworthy may have played a role in this, but the Natives might just have felt that they did not need to trade. The Beothuk prized materials like iron and canvas, but could get all they needed from fishing premises vacated over the Winters. This tendency only made things worse between the settlers and the Natives as it was considered “pilfering” by the Europeans. In the end interaction consisted of little more than retaliation and counter-retaliation for perceived wrongs. By the early 1700s Notre Dame Bay, along with the lakes and river systems to the south, were the Beothuks’ major retreat.
As encounters between Beothuk and settlers increased in the 1700s, so too did hostilities on both sides. This being said, the Beothuk were normally a peaceful people. When they did take hostile action it appears largely the result of feeling threatened, or in revenge for injuries inflicted upon them. Reports of settler aggression span Newfoundland history. A journal written by seaman Aaron Thomas in 1794 records an instance where four hunters came across a party of Beothuk. Seeing that the band were carrying furs, the hunters fired a gun, frightening the Natives away. Along with the furs some cooking utensils were also stolen, and all were later sold.
In many cases it wasn’t just the Beothuks’ property, but their very lives that were in danger. In 1768 Cartwright was approached by a settler who expected a reward for his part in the killing of a Beothuk woman and the abduction of her young child. One early settler boasted he had personally killed sixty of the Natives, including nine at one time.† These claims were probably exaggerated, given the small numbers of the tribe. In fact, archaeologist Ralph Pastore felt that no more than seventy Beothuk met violent deaths at the hands of settlers, at least in cases that can be verified. Still, there must have been many unreported cases where killers feared punishment by the authorities if their actions were known. Though we should be careful of old adage that the Beothuk were slaughtered wholesale, the stories above certainly show the callous attitude some White people had toward our Island’s indigenous people.
Today, only a few Beothuk are remembered as individuals, the best-known being two women – Demasduit (Mary March) and Shanawdithit (Nancy April). Demasduit was captured in 1815 by a group of men from Twillingate, led by merchant-trader John Peyton, Jr (1793-1879). Having lost goods to the Beothuk, Peyton hoped to make contact with the Natives, and convince them to trade rather than keep taking his possessions. Peyton’s party did meet up with a group of Beothuk at Red Indian Lake. Unfortunately, a Beothuk man – Nonosabasut – was killed when he tried to stop the Europeans from seizing his wife. This woman was Demasduit, and for a number of years she resided at Twillingate and St. John’s. It was hoped that Demasduit could act as an “ambassador” to the Beothuk, but these plans came to nothing when the young woman died of tuberculosis in 1820. A party of men, including Peyton, returned her body to Red Indian Lake but did not make contact with her people.
Three years after Demasduit’s death, Shanawdithit was found in a starving condition along with her mother and sister, who soon died. Like Demasduit, Shanawdithit spent a number of years living with Whites, for a time residing with the Peytons, for whom she acted as a kind of servant/nanny. Shanawdithit was also taken to St. John’s, sharing Demasduit’s fate in another way, when she died of tuberculosis in 1829. Although it is far from extensive, information gathered about the Beothuk from Shanawdithit by William Epps Cormack (1796-1868) provides some of the only real clues we have about their culture.
Though people like Cormack and Cartwright (along with some of the colonial governors) tried to help the Beothuk, by the time Shanawdithit was found her people’s numbers were greatly reduced. Many people believe she was the last of her people, although some good evidence to the contrary exists. The work of anthropologist Frank Speck points to Beothuk descendants still living in the 1910s, and credible reports of Beothuk sightings on the Island of Newfoundland were made as late as 1878. Perhaps we have not heard the last of the Beothuk Nation.
January 1, 1970
Lewisporte – “Gateway to the North”
Lewisporte, with a population of 3,312 in 2001, is located in Notre Dame Bay on Newfoundland’s Northeast Coast. It was incorporated in 1946 with Albert Anstey as its first Mayor. In the days when most Newfoundland communities were linked only by sea Lewisporte was home to the “bay boat” S.S. Clyde. Found near the head of Burnt Bay in the Bay of Exploits (part of Notre Dame Bay), Lewisporte fills the role of distribution centre for the Northeast Coast, central Newfoundland, and Labrador north to Nain. Its modern role as a shipping entrepôt has earned Lewisporte the moniker “The Gateway to the North.” Its harbour is home to a boating marina complex where visitors can avail of boat tours and sailing charters.
First known as Big Burnt Bay, Lewisporte was used by European settlers before the arrival of permanent residents. People often travelled there seasonally from Notre Dame Bay’s older communities in search of wood for building and fuel. The first record of settlement was in 1857, when a census noted twenty-eight residents; eleven were fishers, and six were involved with lumbering. Robert Woolfrey from Moreton’s Harbour was probably the first permanent settler, arriving in 1876. Woolfrey was accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, a former school superintendent at Moreton’s Harbour, along with their six sons and two daughters. The family constructed a home on today’s Main Street which also served as a Methodist church, with son John acting as lay-reader. Robert’s grandson Willis was the first baby born at Lewisporte.
In 1877 the Hann, Russell and Pelley families settled, while in 1881 the Martins became the first settlers on the harbour’s South Side, where most people lived in the community’s early days. One prominent South Side settler was Solomon Northcott, who was operating two schooners in the Labrador fishery. By the late 1920s Stephen Jeans was considered the South Side’s most important citizen, operating a school and post office. He also acted as a lay-reader and Sunday school superintendent. In the 1880s twenty-one vessels were fishing out of the area. The 1884 census showed 150 permanent residents at Big Burnt Bay, with twenty-two acres of cultivated land; by 1911 a local farming industry was well-established.
Another attraction for the community’s early settlers was its thick stands of white pine trees. In a colony of fishers the white pine was especially prized for its use in boat building, but was just as adaptable to woodworking and general construction. In the nineteenth century the pines were so thick at Lewisporte that one of Robert Woolfrey’s sons got lost in them. Besides the pines, which eventually fell victim to over harvesting and disease, Lewisporte’s timber resources included both birch and spruce.
The area’s early settlers descended from Notre Dame Bay’s earliest European immigrants, who mainly hailed from England’s West Country. The early population was almost entirely Protestant. The 1884 census reveals that 143 of 150 residents that year were Methodists. The first resident Minister, Reverend C. Abner Whitemarsh, arrived in 1901. The community’s first Methodist church was built sometime between 1901 and 1903. A second Methodist church opened in 1916 under Reverend W. J. Wilson, while the current church held its first services in 1964. The Methodist Church – United since the 1920s – remains Lewisporte’s predominant religion, but there are Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and Salvation Army adherents as well.
The early settlers were concerned with education as well as spiritual matters. The first local schooling was done at the Woolfrey dwelling, with Robert and Elizabeth’s daughter as teacher. A second school is said to have opened in 1891, while another member of the Woolfrey clan is credited with starting a school at her home in 1895. The South Side had a own school building of its own.
Big Burnt Bay was renamed Marshallville in 1891 to honour missionary William Marshall, and by 1901 logging and sawmilling were the community’s main economic activities (The industry was dealt a major, though temporary, setback in 1905 when a forest fire burned its way through the region). Around the year 1900 the Reid Newfoundland Company chose Marshallville as the site for a railway terminal. The line later took coal to Gander and Bishop’s Falls, with thousands of tons of the fuel shipped into the community by collier. In 1937-8 Shell and Imperial Oil began operations at Lewisporte (as it by then named), constructing large fuel storage tanks. This allowed for the rail shipment of millions of gallons of gasoline and aircraft fuel to a new airport at Gander. Passenger traffic was also important to the railway, with two runs out daily.
The coming of the railway led Robert William Manuel to open the Manuel Hotel in 1900. As the rail line ended at Lewisporte, travellers often waited for coastal boats to Notre Dame Bay and St. Anthony at the Manuel establishment. Well-known guests of the hotel included Dr. Wilfred Grenfell and Twillingate soprano Georgina Stirling. Manuel opened a second hotel in 1915, which operated – under the Pelley family after World War II – until it burnt down in the 1960s.
In the early 1900s a Scottish lumberman named Lewis Miller began using Marshallville’s port as a shipping yard for his sawmills at Millertown and Glenwood; the community was later renamed “Lewisporte” in Miller’s honour. He also operated a sawmill in the town under the name Timber Estates Limited. By 1911 forty-five Lewisporte residents were involved in lumbering, compared with twenty-four fishers. The Woolfrey family began a new sawmilling enterprise in the 1920s, and had three competitors by 1941. By this date World War II had spurred further development in Lewisporte.
An airport at nearby Gander was used as a base by the Canadian forces. Aviation fuel for Gander was transshipped via Lewisporte. With its deep, well-protected harbour open year-round, Lewisporte was considered an ideal place to establish a military base. By 1941 Three installations were located at Lewisporte; one in the east end by Hann’s Point, a second at Bowater’s Point, and a third in the town centre. An American station was located on the site of today’s Shell Oil building. As of 1942 the Royal Canadian Artillery’s 107th Coastal Battery was stationed at Lewisporte. The armed observation post at Hann’s Point allowed observers to watch the harbour for enemy activity. Until 25 June 1942 this was a tranquil posting, but on that day the accidental discharge of a rifle into dynamite boxes created an explosion that killed five men. Today, few remember the incident, and little trace of the once-extensive military presence remains at Lewisporte.
The end of the war saw new economic progress in the town. Lewisporte Wholesalers started operations at Lewisporte in 1947. The company had a fleet of vessels transporting foodstuffs to the communities of northern Newfoundland, but as the road network expanded the vessels were all replaced by trucks. By the 1980s Lewisporte Wholesalers, along with competitors Steers and Blue Bouy Foods, were the town’s major employers. Many secondary businesses were launched at Lewisporte from the 1940s on. The Bank of Nova Scotia opened a Lewisporte branch in 1942, while a shipyard was established in 1964.
Along with such businesses came institutions for the benefit of residents. By 1944 the town had its own theatre, with a library founded in 1946. A regional newspaper called The Lewisporte Pilot was founded in 1961, with a local vocational school opening its doors the following year. In 1973 a new arena was officially opened by hockey personality Howie Meeker.
Lewisporte is home to a number of community organizations. A Loyal Orange Lodge was started in 1904. Masonic Lodge #6670 was founded in 1948, with a Lewisporte branch of the Shrine Club (Shriners) started in 1970. These men’s organizations were accompanied by a number for women and children. Between 1951 and 1955 Lewisporte became home to Cubs, Boy Scouts, Brownies and Air Cadets. The 617 Squadron, Air Cadets are one of Lewisporte’s most accomplished youth organizations, being named the most proficient of Newfoundland’s sixteen squadrons for 1967-8. They have also received the Naval Award and the Gordon Morris Shield. Lewisporte also has a Women’s Institute branch, formed in 1976.
By the mid-1980s the growth that encouraged such organizations was slowing down, the worst setback being Canadian National’s (CN) curtailing of operations at the port, which began with the cessation of CN’s coastal boat service, apart from certain Labrador routes. This was followed by a government decision to eliminate the railway service across Newfoundland, and the fishery crisis shortly afterwards.
Still, the community remains the base for a variety of commercial activities. The Labrador ferry service was given a boost in 1997 when Marine Atlantic’s coastal shipping infrastructure in Lewisporte (and Goose Bay) was transferred to the provincial government. Part of the assets included the 10,433-ton car and passenger ferry Robert Bond, acquired for the Lewisporte-Labrador run after its predecessor, the William Carson, sank after striking ice off Labrador in 1977. Another important element of the Lewisporte service to Labrador was the 2,561-ton passenger freighter, MV Northern Ranger. In 2003 the coastal service was moved entirely to Labrador bases by the provincial government, although the move was later rescinded by a new administration. Despite such uncertainties, however, Lewisporte remains a hub of Notre Dame Bay.
January 1, 1970
Twillingate – A Brief History
The area around Twillingate has been continually inhabited for about 3,500 years. The earliest known inhabitants were the Maritime Archaic. This group lived on the islands about 1500 BC. A major finding of their artifacts occurred in 1967 in Back Harbour, Twillingate. Over seventy five items were recovered from the site such as projectile points, adzes and crystals. In more recent times the maritime Archaic were supplanted in Twillingate by the Dorset Eskimos.
French fishermen were probably the first Europeans to sight the Twillingate Islands as early as the 1500s. They didn’t settled the area, but gave Twillingate its name, which is derived from the word Toulinguet. This could refer to a French surname, but likely comes from an island group off Brest that resembles Twillingate from the sea. The name was in use prior to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and appeared on a French map of 1720 . Although they never settled the area, the French remained a presence off Twillingate for some time. As late as 1786 Newfoundland’s governor, Sir Hugh Palliser reported that a French vessel, the Bon Ami, was paid a bounty to fish off Twillingate to irritate and hopefully drive away English settlers.
The French were said to have abandoned their local fishery for fear of the area’s Native people. These were no longer the Dorset, however, as these people were long gone from Newfoundland. By the historic period the main indigenous group on the Island were a people known as the Beothuck, or Pi’taw. The Beothuck enjoyed sole possession of the area until around 1700 when the first English settlers arrived. Eastern Newfoundland suffered from poor fishing and overcrowding at the time and Twillingate, now vacated by the French, was natural place to relocate. There are two traditions about who the original settlers were. According to a Twillingate diary found in 1870, four families-said to hail from the English town of Sturminster Newton-can lay claim to this distinction. A planter named Moore made his home in Back Harbour. Lawrence Smith settled on the North Island where Smith’s lookout still carries his name. The Bath family settled in Jenkin’s Cove, Durrell and the Young’s on the South Island. Most of the surnames still exist in the town. The other tradition originated in a letter written to James Cook in 1764 while he was mapping Newfoundland’s west coast. This letter indicates that the first Englishman to settle at Twillingate was a Thomas Tizzard, originally from Bonavista, in 1732. Whichever story is true, Twillingate was a well-known settlement by the year 1750 and had acquired its modern name-the closest the early English inhabitants could come to the old French.
Despite strained relations with the Beothuks (see the separate section on these people), the settlement continued to grow. In the 1730s Rev. Henry Jones of Bonavista complained about the numbers of his congregation who were being lured away to Twillingate and nearby Fogo by the plentiful fish. Twillingate was then the most northerly English settlement in Newfoundland. In 1738 Twillingate was first recorded in official English records by Governor Van Brugh. According to his letters, 12 families were then living in Twillingate. They were joined by 114 servants from England. Settlers might hire as many as 20 men to help with the fishing and these fishing servants signed on for a term of one to three years. Normally a settler would divide about a third of his catch equally among the servants. With their help Twillingate’s 14 fishermen caught and dried 8000 barrels of fish. English fishing vessels were also active off the islands and in the same year caught 4000 barrels. In the Fall 3 vessels returned to England with the Twillingate catch and 152 stayed behind for the winter.
With its good harbour and closeness to rich fishing grounds, Twillingate grew steadily over the next 100 years and became one of Newfoundland’s greatest fishing ports. By the year 1857 Twillingate boasted some 400 fishing vessels with 793 nets and seines. About 40 vessels were also engaged in the seal fishery. The residents owned about 1000 farm animals, including pigs, milk cows, sheep, goats and horses. A variety of crops were grown including 7141 barrels of potatoes, 154 barrels of turnips and non-food crops like hay. 6416 lbs of butter were churned and 9 boats built. The population that year was 2348, including clergy, a doctor, mechanics, fishermen and merchants.
Like the fishermen, the merchants were an early feature of life in Twillingate. English businessmen were attracted by Twillingate’s fine fishing grounds and fitted out vessels to send to the islands for cod. For the first decades of settlement the merchants conducted business through their ships which returned each Fall with their catch to ports in Spain and Portugal where the fish was sold. The merchants also imported food, fishing supplies and salt which they provided in return for Twillingate’s salt fish. This barter system lasted well into the twentieth century and many fishermen never received cash for their labour.
Twillingate’s first resident merchants were the Nobles, their main suppliers being Slades of Poole, Dorset, in the years 1785-1848. At one time the islands were home to more than a dozen fish merchants, including the Hodges who came from Fogo in 1871; Earle and Sons on the South Island; E.J. Linfield, established in 1888, and Manuals who still operate on the north island, not far from their original store. Merchants are often seen in a bad light, but towns like Twillingate would probably never have survived without their activities. Without men like John Slade and their vessels, Twillingate fishermen would have had no way to get their fish to the markets in Portugal and Spain. These ships also carried most of the early settlers to Newfoundland and gave them work when they arrived. As in all Newfoundland communities, Twillingate’s merchants were at the top of the social scale and often filled important appointments such as Justice of the Peace.
Although they lived in a very religious age, Twillingate’s early settlers had no permanent clergy, or church for more than a hundred years after they first arrived. In the early 1800s residents petitioned the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to send a minister whom they agreed to pay themselves. In October of 1816 Rev. John Leigh arrived and remained until 1819. At this time the first St. Peters Anglican church was built, although its construction was said to be poor. In 1842 a new St. Peters was consecrated during the tenure of Rev. Thomas Boone at a cost of 1000 British pounds. This fine building, modeled on a church in Poole, England, remains as a proud testimony to the faith of the Twillingate settlers. The original church served as a Parish Hall, Sunday School, Day School and Rectory until 1870. It was then replaced by a new Parish Hall, which, like St. Peters, is still in use.
The first Methodist congregation met in a private home in 1831 and welcomed their first minister in 1842. A new church was built, but it burned, along with the rectory, in 1868. The rebuilt church still stands and, although replaced in recent years, can still be viewed by the public.
Twillingate’s Anglican Church contains a relic of the most famous event in the town’s early history, the Great Seal Haul of 1862. Twillingate was once an important centre of the sealing industry since the ice flows on which the seal herds travel often strike the land here. In 1862, however, a seal catch unheard of even in Twillingate blessed the island residents. The seals first struck on March 10th, but the ice drifted offshore and five men were lost. By March 14th the winds turned around strongly from the northeast, pushing the seals on their ice pans back within reach of Twillingate sealers. One lucky man even retrieved a batch of seal pelts he marked from the earlier strike. In all, island residents took 30,000 seals, including a number caught by a woman who struck out to feed her family as her husband was too ill for the work. This was the largest seal harvest ever in that period. In thanks residents commissioned a bell in England to place in the tower of St. Peters church where it remains to this day. On the bell are inscribed the words, “In memory of the great haul of seals 1862.”
The seal harvest-and more particularly the cod fishery-continued to bring prosperity to Twillingate and by the turn of the twentieth century it was one of the most important settlements in the colony of Newfoundland. Fishing schooners departed with fish and arrived with goods from all over the globe. The town’s merchants and ship owners even had their own Mutual Insurance Club to protect their investments. The club insured 193 vessels in 1888. The value of this protection was evident during the great gale of September, 1907 when dozens of schooners broke free from their moorings and were grounded-luckily without losing their cargoes of fish. One schooner even drove its mast through a store window as workers watched! As one of the largest settlements in Notre Dame Bay Twillingate became known as the “Capitol of the North.” With an active community life the town had a number of lodge halls such as the Masonic, the Society of United Fishermen and the Orangemen. By the 1940s Twillingate had three coopers, an equal number of blacksmiths, a tin shop and a customs office. There was also a furniture factory owned by the Colbourne family.
The fishery was always the bedrock of Twillingate’s economy, but attempts were made to diversify. The best known of such industries was based at Sleepy Cove in what is now the municipality of Crow Head. An American firm, the Great Northern Copper Company of North Dakota, opened a copper mine there in 1913. Newspaper opinions held high hopes for the find and former Twillingate resident Obadiah Hodder was a partner in the venture. In the end the mine amounted to little; after only a few loads of ore were shipped out, the price of copper plummeted and the mine shut down in 1917. Today, little remains of the original mine structures, but tourists can still see pieces of the mine equipment and its site in Crow Head’s Sea Breeze Park.
Much more successful was the paper where news of the copper find appeared. The Twillingate Sun was founded in June, 1880. Its founder was Jabez P. Thompson, a former journeyman printer for the Harbour Grace Standard. He had a staff of two and all his print was hand-set. The paper was normally four pages in length, with the first being given over to outside advertisements; the inside contained local news centering on the town and local area. This included church news, weddings, socials etc. Its original price was three cents an issue.
In 1896 Thompson sold the paper to George Roberts, who later became a member of the House of Assembly. He then sold the Sun to its third editor, William B. Temple in 1910. Temple played a role in bringing the first telephone service to Twillingate, helped form a fire insurance company and was involved in founding Twillingate’s hospital.
In August of 1921 Stewart Roberts took over the newspaper. In 1946 the Twillingate Sun was acquired by its final editor E.G. Clarke. Clarke employed five men, all of whom were typesetters. Paper for the Sun in this era was provided by the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company (AND) of Grand Falls and was shipped to Hodge’s Store in Twillingate via coastal boat. The Sun’s final issue appeared on January 31st 1953. At the time it was Newfoundland’s oldest continually published paper and the last in Canada to be hand-set.
Another long-lived Twillingate institution is the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Hospital. It is the greatest monument to the community spirit existing in Twillingate over the years. Since the 1920s no institution has been more important to the people of Twillingate and the North-East coast of the Province. The region had medical services of some sort before the 1920s, with its first permanent doctor, William Stirling, setting up practice around 1850. At the end of the Great War, in 1918, locals started a movement to establish their own hospital as a tribute to those who died in the war. The hospital site was chosen on South Side since it was near a good source of water. Building took three years (not counting the winters) and the Memorial Hospital was opened for patients on October 1st, 1924. The first medical superintendent was Doctor Charles Parsons who served until 1934. Parsons was replaced by John M. Olds who served with the hospital in some capacity until the 1980s. On February 28th, 1943, part of the original hospital burned down-luckily with no fatalities. The greatest loss was the staff house and storage space. Rebuilding the hospital took three years and cost almost $200,000. The current hospital opened near the site of the original in 1974.
Twillingate has produced well known people along with its institutions. Undoubtably the most famous Twillingate resident was a daughter of Dr. Stirling. Georgina Sterling was born on April 3rd 1867 and John Peyton Jr. was her maternal grandfather. As a young girl Georgina showed promise as a soprano opera singer. There was no local training available, but as the daughter of a doctor Georgina was able to travel to Europe where she could study and hone her skills. In Paris she studied under Madame Marchesi. She performed under the stage name Mme. Marie Toulinquet, from the French name for her home town. In addition, her singing talents earned her the nickname “Nightingale of the North,” from her many fans. Stirling’s career took her to both Italy and France, the centres of the operatic world. It is said that during a performance in France she once sang Britain’s martial naval anthem, “Rule Britannia.” At the time the two nations were on far from friendly terms, but such was the power of Georgie’s talent that her performance, including Rule Britannia, got rave reviews and won over the audience. Besides this triumph, she sang in Milan at the La Scala opera house with the Italian Royal Family in attendance. Sadly, illness prematurely ended her singing career. She died in 1935 in relative obscurity. In 1964 a memorial was erected to “Miss Georgie” at her grave site in St. Peter’s cemetery.
Another famous Twillingate resident was John Peyton Jr. His father, John Sr., first came to Newfoundland in 1770. Peyton Senior traded in fish and furs on the Exploits River. His relations with the native Beothuk were even less amicable than usual and he was said to have been harsh in his retaliation for Native ‘pilfering’ of goods. In 1812 Peyton’s son, John Jr.-born in the family’s home town of Wimborne, England in 1793-accompanied him to Newfoundland. Like his father, John experienced losses at the hands of the Beothuck, but appears to have been more even handed in his approach to them. Peyton is best remembered for his dealings with these people, especially the women Demasduit and Shanawdithit (See Beothuk section). Still, this is far from the only contribution made to the area by John Peyton. Aside from his own merchanting activities, he became Twillingate district’s first Justice of the Peace (1818) and the area’s first Magistrate in 1836. John died in 1879. His son Thomas was himself a member of Newfoundland’s House of Assembly, a magistrate and Justice of the Peace. John Peyton’s greatest gift to the town of Twillingate may be his correspondence. Between his diary and other writings Peyton left an invaluable record of nineteenth century Twillingate.
Twillingate was rising in importance during John Peyton’s lifetime and probably reached its greatest prosperity at the height of Mme. Toulinguet’s fame. By the end of Georgina Stirling’s life, however, Twillingate was slowly declining. The building of a railway across Newfoundland was much closer to the community of Lewisporte than Twillingate. More and more goods were being shipped by rail than water and Lewisporte replaced Twillingate as Notre Dame Bay’s main entrep�t for goods and services. Twillingate was once the heart of the Bay but became just one of many isolated communities on the Northeast Coast. More recently, the decline of the town’s traditional industry, the fishery, has seen many young families leave, never to return.
Still, Twillingate’s story remains a positive one. Since the 1970s the community has been linked to the mainland by a modern causeway and the “Road to the Isles.” Although the fishery is in decline, Twillingate has become one of the Province’s premiere tourist attractions. Some of our old buildings, such as St. Peter’s church, remain and the Twillingate and Durrell Museums continue to preserve our history. Perhaps the greatest attraction, however, is the town’s natural beauty. Hundreds of people each year come to see breathtaking sunsets, magnificent icebergs and the playful antics of pods of humpback whales.
January 1, 1970
Chief Tecumseh – “The Wellington of the Indians”
Sir Isaac Brock is often remembered as “the saviour of Canada” for his role in the War of 1812 (1812-14), but another man should rightly share that honour – the Native leader called Tecumseh. His name has been translated several ways, and relates to the legend that a comet passed over the Shawnee village of Old Piqua – on the Mad River near modern Springfield, Ohio – on the night Tecumseh was born in March 1768. Tecumseh was reportedly the fifth of nine children born to Shawnee warrior Puckeshinewa and his wife, a Creek woman called Methoataske.
Puckeshinewa was killed during the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. Five years later about 1,000 Shawnee abandoned the Ohio Valley after a raid by Kentuckians. Among the refugees was Methoataske; Tecumseh remained in Ohio living with an older sister. The greatest influence on the youth came from his eldest brother, Chiksika, who acted as a surrogate parent to his younger siblings. Chiksika had no love for the people who killed his father, and felt that peace could only be made once the Whites were chased from the Ohio region. Tecumseh adopted his brother’s outlook even before Chiksika died attacking an American outpost in 1788. The troubles of Tecumseh’s family mirrored that of their people.
According to John Sugden, the name Shawnee means “southerners,” and this Algonquian people may have originated in the Carolinas. In the late-1600s they were living in the Ohio and Cumberland Valleys, but were dislodged by raids from the Iroquois Confederacy. By 1730 one group of Shawnee had settled in modern Pennsylvania. Attacks by the Iroquois (along with the English) continued, however, and the Pennsylvania Shawnee moved west to their old Ohio homelands. Safe from their old tribal enemies, the Shawnee were still not secure against the spread of White settlement. The struggle to find a safe haven, and defend against American incursions was a hallmark of the Shawnee’s existence at the turn of the nineteenth century; the same was true for Tecumseh himself.
Tecumseh wed at least twice, but by 1807 had renounced married life. Tall for his people, Tecumseh stood at around five foot ten. He was noted for his handsome features, and most people who met Tecumseh were impressed by his grace and dignity of bearing. His only real physical flaw was a limp, caused by a leg injury suffered when he fell from a horse as a youth. Today we can only guess exactly what Tecumseh looked like, as he never agreed to have a White artist paint his portrait. The full extent of his powerful oratory skills are also lost. When speaking, and through his physical presence, Tecumseh could move an audience to rage, sorrow or joy. Though parts of his speeches have survived, these are filtered through interpreters, and even at the best of times we cannot experience the full impact Tecumseh had on his audiences.
Speaking ability was prized among many First Nations peoples, and so was courage – Tecumseh was known as much for bravery in battle as for his oratory. During the American Revolution (1775-83) the teenage Tecumseh fought alongside Chiksika, and afterwards the brothers participated in raids on settlements south of the Ohio River. It was during this period that Tecumseh witnessed the burning of an American captive. From that point on Tecumseh decided he would never again be party to torturing prisoners.
His views on torture did not mean Tecumseh shied away from a fight. He was part of the action in 1794 when a large force of Shawnee, and allied tribes, battled 3,500 Americans sent to pacify the Shawnee as a threat to Kentucky settlers. Led by major general “Mad” Anthony Wayne (1745-96), the Americans routed the Natives near the Miami River in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Most of the defeated chiefs signed the Treaty of Greenville (1795), giving up title to vast tracts of land. Tecumseh was now a minor chief himself, but refused to sign. Following the Greenville Treaty, Tecumseh and a number of like-minded followers moved several times.
A new phase in Tecumseh’s life began in 1805 when his younger brother experienced a religious revelation, becoming Tenskwatawa, “The Open Door.” Also called the Prophet, Tenskwatawa preached that the Americans were evil, and that Native peoples must break their reliance on White goods like firearms and alcohol, and have minimal contact with the invaders.
The ideals Tenskwatawa preached suited Tecumseh’s goals for his people. Tecumseh revived the ideas of the Ottawa war chief Pontiac (c. 1720-69), who worked toward a Native confederacy against their European enemies. Tecumseh travelled vast distances to spread his message, arguing that the only way for the First Nations peoples to survive was to set aside their traditional mistrust and resist their common enemy. One of Tecumseh’s most important ideas was the notion that the land was held in common by all, so no more could be sold to the Whites.
In 1808 Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa founded a new settlement at the mouth of the Tippecanoe River, near present-day Lafayette, Indiana. Called Prophetstown, the village was populated by families from a number of tribes. Whether brought there by Tenskwatawa’s religious revival or Tecumseh’s message of Indian confederacy, the settlers of Prophetstown were seen as a threat by some Americans, especially Indiana governor – future US President – William Henry Harrison (1773-1841).
Harrison became Tecumseh’s greatest enemy. An officer at Fallen Timbers, he actively promoted settlement in the Northwest, and engineered a number of land deals that removed millions of acres of territory from Indian control. In 1809 Harrison achieved his biggest coup with the Treaty of Fort Wayne, a dubious document that ceded three million acres in central Indiana. Considered by Harrison as recently-arrived “nomads” in the region, neither Tecumseh’s followers nor the Shawnee in general were party to the treaty.
Returning from his travels to promote the Native confederacy, Tecumseh had two turbulent meetings with Harrison, rejecting the terms of the Fort Wayne treaty. Harrison felt a grudging admiration for the Shawnee leader, but this did not stop his plans to destroy Tecumseh’s Native alliance. When Tecumseh set off southward to meet with the Creeks, Harrison marched with a force including US regular troops to repeat the success of Fallen Timbers.
In 1811 Harrison’s army camped near Prophetstown. Though he intended to destroy the settlement, Harrison hoped to make the Natives seem like the aggressors; the Prophet played right into his hands. Under his direction the warriors launched a night attack, assured that they were protected from American bullets. In the end, Harrison narrowly won the 7 November “Battle of Tippecanoe,” and the Prophet was discredited in the eyes of many followers. Only a few warriors had died, but the failed promise of invincibility led many to doubt his spiritual influence. With his brother in disgrace, Tecumseh was now the sole leader of their followers. He was enraged at the American destruction of Prophetstown, and vowed revenge. His opportunity came in 1812.
President James Madison (1751-1836) asked Congress to declare war on Great Britain, which they did on 18 June. Holding much of what is now eastern Canada, the British had continued to trade with the Native tribes, and many Americans blamed them for provoking Indian attacks. This was not exactly true, but Harrison’s attack on Prophetstown drove Tecumseh and his followers wholeheartedly into the British camp. With Britain engaged against Napoleonic France, its resources in Canada were thin. It was estimated that Tecumseh’s confederacy could bring 3,000 warriors – Shawnee, Miami, Wyandot, Potomac, Delaware – into the fight. As the war opened, the support of Tecumseh, along with that of other tribes allied to the British, were a crucial factor in saving Canada from American invasion.
Tecumseh was impressed by British major general Isaac Brock’s fighting spirit. The admiration was mutual. Brock called Tecumseh “the Wellington of the Indians,” perhaps the greatest compliment a British officer of the day could give. Tecumseh and his warriors participated in the battles of Brownstown and Monguagon, and in Brock’s bloodless victory at Detroit (For his role at Detroit Tecumseh was granted the honours of a British brigadier general). Tecumseh was not present in October 1812 when Brock was felled during the Battle of Queenston Heights, but soon felt the loss of his great ally.
By Spring 1813 the war was going badly for the Anglo-Canadian forces. In May Brock’s successor, brigadier general Henry Proctor (c. 1763-1822), led an unsuccessful attack on Harrison’s Fort Meigs. The action’s only “British” success was the defeat of some Kentucky militia by Tecumseh’s warriors. September found Proctor, now a major general, retreating up the Niagara Peninsula pursued by Harrison, after the Americans had seized control of Lake Erie. Tecumseh had little respect for Proctor, whom he saw as cowardly. He browbeat the general into making a stand against Harrison’s forces near Moraviantown, Ontario, by the banks of the River Thames. Fought on 5 October, Moraviantown – also called the Battle of the Thames – was Tecumseh’s last stand. Though British forces broke and ran, the Native warriors fought on against overwhelming odds. After a time Tecumseh’s voice, which urged his comrades on through the battle, was stilled.
No one is sure who killed Tecumseh, and even the fate of his remains is unknown. No other leader emerged to take Tecumseh’s place, and the dream of a great Indian confederacy was never realized. Though Native warriors continued to fight with distinction – on both sides – in the War of 1812, their military services never regained their importance in North American warfare. Still, Tecumseh has achieved a kind of immortality as an example of courage and tenacity to people of all races. His memory is enshrined in the names of several towns, both in his country of birth and the country he helped preserve.
January 1, 1970
Isaac Brock – Saviour of Canada
The man who became known as the “Saviour of Canada” was born on 6 October 1769. Isaac Brock was the eighth son of John and Elizabeth (nee De Lisle) Brock. The Brock family lived in the town of St. Peter-Port on the English Channel Island of Guernsey. Noted for his gentle nature, young Isaac was nevertheless skilled in the martial sport of boxing, and was a good swimmer. Starting school on Guernsey, Isaac left home at ten years of age to complete his education at Southampton.
This schoolboy grew into a handsome man, with a broad forehead and grey-blue eyes. Pierre Berton notes that Brock’s portraits tended to make him look slightly feminine, but that his physical bearing would have offset any such impression. In the fullness of manhood Isaac Brock stood about six foot three, a powerful presence with a large build to match his height. Throughout his life Brock was a popular, respected figure, though sometimes aloof. Although he enjoyed the company of women, and was rumoured to have a fiancee at the time of his death, Brock never married.
Like certain famous bachelors of the Victorian era, young Isaac Brock was destined for a military life. Four of his brothers served in the British forces, and Isaac followed this tradition when, in 1785, elder brother John purchased him a commission as an ensign in the 8th Foot.  In 1791, with the rank of captain, Brock transferred to the 49th Foot. By 1797 he was the senior lieutenant colonel of his regiment. In 1799 he was slightly wounded during an attack on the Dutch town of Egmont-op-Zee, and two years later was present during Admiral Lord Nelson’s attack on Copenhagen. Brock’s career seemed to take a downturn when, in 1802, the 49th was transferred to British North America (Canada).
While battle raged between the forces of Britain and Napoleonic France, Brock spent a peaceful but – for an ambitious military man – frustrating ten years in North America. A true man of action, Brock longed to be where the fighting was. Still, his stay in Canada did give the officer practical experience as an administrator, supplementing that gained during a stint with the 49th in Barbados and Jamaica. Promoted to full colonel in 1805, and to brigadier general in 1807, Brock had acted as commander-in-chief of British forces in Canada, though he continued to chafe at his backwater posting.
A family financial crisis in 1811 saw Brock, through no fault of his own, in debt to the tune of £3000. The following year he applied to Horse Guards (army headquarters) for a transfer out of Canada. Just as permission was granted news arrived that the United States, irritated by British restrictions on its maritime trade, and Royal Navy impressment of American seamen, had declared war. Brock felt duty-bound to remain in Canada where his services were now sorely needed.
By the time war erupted in June 1812 Brock had already done much to prepare Canada for the coming conflict. He persuaded his superiors to renovate and strengthen the neglected defences of Quebec City, considered one of the lynchpins of the province’s defence. A major general by 1812, Brock was in charge of all military forces in Upper Canada – today’s Ontario – and acted as the province’s civil administrator in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor. Ever since America and Britain had almost gone to war in 1807 over the Chesapeake affair, Brock had tried to ready Upper Canada against the possibility of invasion, pleading with Governor General Sir George Prevost (1767-1816) for reinforcements.  Although Sir George’s top priority was the defence of Lower Canada (Quebec), he managed to augment Brock’s troop strength to some extent. This was important as Upper Canada was the setting for many of the War of 1812’s land engagements.
Perhaps Brock’s greatest contribution to Canadian defence in the weeks after the American declaration of war was the alliance he forged with the First Nations peoples. Although Brock’s attitude towards the Natives was ambiguous, he realized that their support was key to bolstering Upper Canada’s thinly-stretched force of redcoats and semi-trained militia. Without the support of their Native allies it is doubtful the Anglo-Canadians could have resisted the first American invasions. Although he enlisted the aid of a number of tribes, Brock’s most important Native ally was the Shawnee leader Tecumseh (c. 1768-1813), who was promoting an aboriginal confederacy against the
Americans. Brock must have impressed Tecumseh who, on meeting the general proclaimed, “this is a man.” Tecumseh and many other Natives had no great love for the British, but aggressive westward expansion and a number of land swindles alienated them from the Americans.
Despite Prevost’s warnings to be cautious, Brock believed the best way to defend Canada was to go on the offensive. Quite sensibly, Native warriors liked to ally themselves with whoever had the best chances of winning a conflict. A victory would not only bolster their resolve to stand by the British, but would reassure those who feared Canada might be lost to an American force; from 1812-14 the Americans launched eight invasions, only one of which accomplished much.
Brock soon had his first success. Acting on the general’s orders, a small band of regular soldiers, Native warriors, and North West Company employees under a British officer spearheaded an attack on Fort Michilimackinac, on Mackinac Island at the northwestern end of Lake Huron. The American garrison was unaware that war had been declared and soon surrendered. Formerly a British outpost, Michilimackinac was strategically located – whoever controlled it could control the important western fur trade. As historian Carl Benn notes, the capture also kept open lines of communication with Natives tribes on the Mississippi, while encouraging tribes of the upper lakes to
join the British cause.
News of the British success also reached Brigadier General William Hull (1753-1825), who was leading an American army east across the Detroit River into Upper Canada as part of a three-pronged, if badly co-ordinated, invasion. The loss of Mackinac led Hull to fear that local Natives would rise up against his forces, and might even attack American settlements. Hearing reports that Brock was advancing on his position, Hull withdrew his army from Canada into the safety of Fort
Brock arrived on 13 August and, though his force was actually smaller than the American garrison, demanded Hull’s surrender. Not a professional soldier, Hull was fearful of Brock’s Native allies, led by Tecumseh. Brock played on these fears, indicating that if the Americans resisted he might not be able to control the Indian warriors should his forces take the fort. The implication was clear – fight and they could expect a massacre. To complete the picture, Brock had Tecumseh parade his warriors in full view of the garrison at Fort Detroit, moving so as to make their numbers seem greater. A deadly cannonade broke down the last of Hull’s resolve, and he surrendered to Isaac
Brock’s forces on 16 August 1812.
With this second bloodless victory Brock took a large number of prisoners and badly-needed materiel. The success also made the Niagara Peninsula’s western frontier secure for the moment, while persuading even more Native tribes to openly declare for the British. A massive embarrassment for the United States, the action at Detroit was received with joy in Canada and Britain. Isaac Brock earned a knighthood for Detroit, but never received the news – his next battle was his last.
In the Autumn of 1812 the Americans launched a new invasion west over the Niagara River from New York State. Hundreds of regular troops, militia and volunteers made the journey, coming under fire from defenders across the river at the village of Queenston. Although some militiamen refused to cross onto Canadian soil, and there was bad blood between some of the American commanders, the force managed to land successfully and fight their way onto Queenston Heights, a ridge dominating the settlement below.
From Fort George Brock heard the distant sound of gunfire, and galloped off on his horse Alfred to take command. Just after dawn, 13 October, an outnumbered Anglo-Canadian force charged up the heights to drive off the Americans. Brock said he would not ask men to go where he would not lead; he led from the front this morning, an easily identifiable figure, wearing a bright sash given to him by Tecumseh. An American sniper took aim, ending the general’s life. It was left to his successor, major general Roger Hale Sheaffe (1763-1851) to win a lopsided victory that will forever be associated with Isaac Brock – Queenston Heights.
Brock became the first hero revered by both English and French Canadians. This was ironic in a way, since Brock never particularly cared for Canada. He also distrusted democracy, and was never convinced of the loyalty of the Canadian militias or the Native peoples. Even his famous dying words, “push on brave York Volunteers,” were probably never spoken. In the end, though, Brock did matter to Canada. Apart from being a revered symbol of the nation, with an impressive monument where he died, Sir Isaac Brock’s example in the opening weeks of the war mobilized the populations of Upper and Lower Canada. As the producers of Canada. A People’s History note, Brock bought the colony precious time to organize its defences, while giving them heart that the American invaders could be beaten. It was an invaluable legacy.