Swain's Island (Newfoundland and Labrador)

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Not to be confused with Swains Island or Swain Islands.

Swain's Island, Newfoundland, is actually a group of eight islands on the north side of Bonavista Bay, southeast of Wesleyville. All of these islands were once inhabited but eventually all of them were resettled, mostly to Wesleyville.

History[edit]

The earliest island of Swain's Island to be settled were the Outer Swain's Islands which were close to good fishing grounds and provided excellent shelter for vessels. The first two settlers were English men, William Tiller and John Winsor in 1810. Other families soon followed, such as the Brentons, Mulletts, Stockleys, Dykes, and Hills. The islands' population combined in 1836 equalled 85, and by that year there was a Church of England school-chapel built on one of the islands, named Hill's Island. Swain's Island was prospering by the 1860s in its successful inshore fishery and involvement in the Labrador fishery; and by this time residents were also beginning to participate in the seal hunt.

By 1869 the population had reached 265, but people eventually began moving to the mainland to places such as Wesleyville. A ferry service had to be put in place in 1896 to take children to Wesleyville to attend school because Swain's Island could not get a teacher. As the population stayed stable for a few years and gradually deceased, the islands were completely abandoned by 1930.[1]

Church History[edit]

Swain's Island began with the entire population being of the Church of England. Swain's Island was visited often by missionaries from Greenspond; for example, the Rev. N.A. Coster visited in June 1830 and baptized over 40 people, and Robert Dyer and Julian Moreton describes their visits to Swain's Island in their diaries and reports.[2] The first record of a layreader, and also a teacher, was a Mr. E Churnside Bishop who began teaching and layreading in 1843. Bishop also helped organize the building of a new school which was opened in 1848. A Church of England church was built on Swain's Island and was consecrated in 1861.[1]

Education History[edit]

The first teaching done on the islands was by a fisherman, John Feltham, who was asked by William Tiller to stay ashore rather than fish to teach his boys. Feltham agreed to this, and sometime later, in 1829, he was appointed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (S.P.G.), to be a teacher. In 1830 there were about 25 students, but this school was discontinued in 1834. The next record of school was by the teacher Edward Churnside Bishop under the Newfoundland School Society from 1843 to 1883. In 1869 a new school house was built; and the last teacher to teach at Swain's Island was Annie Alice Hall in 1901.[3]

Fishery[edit]

Swain's Island was settled because of its prime location and advantages in the various fisheries. Its entire economy, like so many other communities in Newfoundland at this time, depended upon the fisheries. In 1874 there was a peak number of fishing rooms on Swain's Island, totalling 19 altogether, in 1884 there were still 10 fishing rooms in use.

Some of the vessels in the cod fishery on Swain's Island:[4]

  • Five Brothers, 1840
  • R.M.C.
  • True Blue, 1853
  • Caroline
  • Meteor
  • British Queen,1842
  • Oban, 1863

Sealing nets and boats on Swain's Island:[5]

1836 1845 1857 1869
Sealing nets 82 130 78
Large boats for sealing 4 5 9 4

Sealing steamer captains born on Swain's Island:[6]

  • William Winsor, Sr. Some of his steamers include the Iceland, 1889; and the Vanguard
  • George Hann, his first steamer was the Leopard in 1890, and last was the Labrador, in 1908
  • Edward Bishop, some of his steamers were the Algerine and Eagle II
  • Jesse Winsor, his first steamer was the Panther in 1906; his last was the Ranger, 1920
  • Samuel Winsor, his first was the Walrus, 1904 and his last was the Ranger in 1920.

Census Information[edit]

1836 1845 1869 1857 1874
population 85 103 265 171 354
inhabited houses 8 8 34 17 35
families - - 44 27 54
Church of England 85 103 251 170 161
Wesleyan/Methodist - - 14 - 190
Catholics - - - 1 3
# of students - 40 34 42 27
can read/write - - 101 - 148
people catching/curing fish - - 80 140 167
seamen/fishermen - - - 49 56
total boats 7 7 8 20 12
boats/vessels built - - - 2
sealing vessels - 2 10 4 12
men on board - - 135 138 85
tonnage - 86 350 382 388
nets/seines - 5 73 27 86
sealing nets - 82 78 130 59
seals caught - - - 2669 1654
cod fish cured (qtls) - - - 3800 4550
herring (Bls) - - - 50 -
oil produced (gals) - - - 13 tuns 2750
fishing rooms in use - - 15 11 19
stores/barns/outhouses - - 17 14 18
barrels of potatoes produced 504(busl) 102 310 190 446
barrels of turnip - - 15 16 30
tons of hay - 1/4 - - -
cows/oxen - - 2 - -
sheep/swine/goats - - 32 21 68

Directories[edit]

- Hutchinson's Directory of 1864 lists four residents of Swain's Island:[7]

  • Bishop, Edward C. - Teacher
  • Tiller, John - Planter
  • Windsor, David - Planter
  • Samuel Windsor - Planter and Shipowner

- Lovell's Directory for 1871 describes Swain's Island as an island on the north side of Bonavista Bay with a fine harbour but difficult to access. It is distant from Greenspond by 6 miles in boat and has a population of 265.[8]

  • Ayles, John - Fisherman
  • Best, Charles - Planter
  • Bishop, Edward - Planter
  • Breaker, James - Fisherman
  • Brenton, Thomas
  • Broobcomb, Robert - Fisherman
  • Carter, Benjamin - Planter
  • Carter, John - Fisherman
  • Cross, Thomas - Fisherman
  • Dicks, John - Fisherman
  • Fifreld, Thomas - Fisherman
  • Force, James - Fisherman
  • Hawkers, John
  • Hill, James - Planter
  • Hoyles, Joseph - Fisherman
  • Mullett, Abraham - Fisherman
  • Mullett, George - Fisherman
  • Mullett, Thomas - Fisherma
  • Mullett, William - Fisherman
  • Norris, Abraham - Fisherman
  • Paine, Charles - Planter
  • Samsbury, Japhet - Fisherman
  • Stanford, Benjamin - Fisherman
  • Stockly, George - Fisherman
  • Stockly, James - Fisherman
  • Tiller, John Sr. - Planter
  • Tiller, Joseph - Fisherman
  • Tiller, William - Fisherman
  • Wicks, Samuel - Fisherman
  • Winsor, George - Planter
  • Winsor, James - Fisherman
  • Winsor, John - Fisherman
  • Winsor, Samuel - Planter

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador
  2. ^ Naboth Winsor, The Sea, Our Life Blood, 1984
  3. ^ Naboth Winsor, The Sea, Our Life Blood, 1984
  4. ^ Naboth Winsor, The Sea, Our Life Blood, 1984
  5. ^ Naboth Winsor, Stalwart Men and Sturdy Ships, 1985
  6. ^ Shannon Ryan, The Ice Hunters: a history of Newfoundland sealing to 1914, 1994.
  7. ^ Thomas Hutchinson, Hutchinson's Newfoundland Directory, 1864.
  8. ^ J Lovell, Lovell's Newfoundland Directory, 1871

See also[edit]

  • List of communities in Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Field, Edward. A journal of the Bishop’s visitation of the missions of the northern coast, in the summer of 1846. London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1856
  • Moreton, Julian. Life and Work in Newfoundland: reminiscences of thirteen years spent there. London: Rivingtons, 1863
  • Prowse, D.W. A History of Newfoundland. London: MacMillan and Co., 1895

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 49°08′22″N 53°32′46″W / 49.13944°N 53.54611°W / 49.13944; -53.54611