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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Only Reminder of Long Ago Days - Resettlement Part 5

From the church we entered the woods and walked the old "road" from the church to St. Leonard's.  At one time the priest even had a truck that he drove between the communities on this road!

Father Fyme served the parish there for many years, and Wayne's mother was once even his housekeeper for a short time I learned today.  That, of course, was before she married Jim Leonard and started a family!

In Newfoundland they call Bunchberry by a different name, but the white flowers and the bright red berries are the same no matter what you call them! The "Crackerberry" plants were especially plentiful along the path, almost like a carpet rolling out alongside us as we walked.

View into the woods beside us

We kept our eyes busy looking for evidence of wildlife, but of course I also was scouting plant and lichen varieties.  "Old Man's Beard", or "maldow" as they call it here, is eaten by deer and caribou and can even be used to dye yarn.

Flower identification in Newfoundland is not as easy as it is in the States, and I give up on finding out what this little one is.  Someone please help a girl out!!  They popped up everywhere in the grass with the mosses.

It wasn't long before we were passing Chapel Pond and picking up our pace.

Chapel Pond

Of course there were still obstacles now and then!

Watch above for fallen trees, below for boggy spots!

 Before the Church of the Assumption that I featured in the previous post the church was located near Chapel Pond halfway between the two villages.  The church had a separate bell tower that is shown in the image below, complete with the pond behind it and the older cemetery on the hill which we also glimpsed on our walk but did not have time to explore.

Church bell tower - year unknown before 1921

My mother-in-law has quite a treasury of memorabilia including many of these old photos.  Others in the area tell of pieces of stone or glass from the windows that have wound up in their possession.  Would any of us save anything like that now?

Marilee Pittman in archway behind gateposts - more stones than now

Surrounding the stone church was a cemetery, posts and a gate.

same post as in photo above

The first grave I saw was the one I was looking for!  Some years back after my Nan's brother died she purchased a headstone that had her mother's name along with her two siblings' names.  Quite a few of her children (my aunts and uncles) took a boat out like we did and dragged that headstone through the woods to the grave.

Any information on Hannah Mae Whittle nee White (Whyte) of South East Bight greatly appreciated
Census shows she was born in 1908 but may be wrong as family legend has it as 1909
Due to missing church records no date of marriage found

Not one to visit graves of my deceased relatives usually, I found I was humbled and touched by this particular grave and this particular place.  I knew the stories of hardship behind the dates, of how Hannah Mae died at only 24 years of age just 3 months after birthing her third child from pulmonary tuberculosis. I cleared away the long grass, picked a few wildflowers to set atop the stone, and spent a few moments in silence contemplating how lucky we are to have photographs of our loved ones since there was none of Hannah to our knowledge and no one alive remembers her or what she looks like, not even her only living child.  My mother-in-law who will be 97 years of age in a few weeks would have probably been 11 years old when Hannah died and only remembers that her hair was brown and she was thin.

We plan to come back and clean up graveyard next year

Father Fames Walsh from Ireland was the man who erected the stone church between St. Kyran's and St. Leonard's and it was consecrated on August 15, 1859.  The dimensions of the church were approximately 79 feet long, 39 feet wide, 20 feet high at the sides and 45 feet high at the peak.  The main building material was locally quarried red granite, probably from Red Island but the sandstone was brought over from Ireland supposedly.

Stone  church remains in background - cryptic headstone with seashells embedded

The census of 1857 shows a total of just under 600 persons in the surrounding communities.  The cost of quarrying the granite, of importing the sandstone from Ireland and of hiring the stone masons must have been quite expensive.  In those times everyone pitched in and a beautiful church was something to make your community proud.

As I mentioned in the previous post the church served multiple communities, which would have had to walk from as far away as Clattice Harbour.  They would likely have left home at 7:00 am and walked over the hills to attend Mass at 10:00.  They would have met up with people from other communities as they made their way along, giving them an opportunity to socialize and catch up on local happenings. A three hour return walk saw them home at 2:00 pm in good weather, and of course they would have attended whether it was winter or summer.

Possibly Wayne's mother in front of stone church

Wayne's mother was born in 1921 and she said she had to be christened in the Priest's sister's house because the stone church had been destroyed by fire and the new church was not yet finished.

And what else did I find amongst Nell Leonard's fabulous collection of photographs? An image of the interior of the church!  Grainy and imprecise, I bet it still may be the only one due to its age.

The trees were growing up so thick and time was so short that I didn't have time to pace out the entire length of the church, but I did go around the side a bit and could hear a roaring creek behind all the tumbled stones and trees toppled by storms.

The graves were shot through with trees, but also overrun with Columbine and other wildflowers which was glorious. The title of this post is a reference to another Newfoundland song called "West Moon" by Pat and Joe Byrne and the YouTube video someone uploaded that I have here includes more old black and white images of those fishing villages which were disassembled and floated across the bay from the 1954-1975.

Al Pittman wrote a play called "West Moon" as well which is available through most booksellers.

If you missed my previous posts in this series here are the links:

Any comments or corrections on the information presented here about the area are appreciated!


  1. Looking for family history is a wonderfully rewarding task!

  2. Who owns the lands now? such a beautiful area.

  3. Must have been humbling to revisit a church like that even though it is now a ruin and to see all the graves there