Moravian Church Mission Ships

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Etching of the Moravian Church mission ship Harmony #4 c1888 from With the Harmony to Labrador by the Rev. B. La Trobe.

The Moravian Church Mission Ships were a series of twelve ships (five named Harmony) that made an annual voyage from London to the Moravian Church mission stations in Labrador every summer for the 156 years between 1770 and 1926.[1][2] The purpose of the voyages was to supply provisions to the church's mission stations in Labrador and to rotate mission personnel.[1][2] All but one were pure sailing vessels; the final ship, Harmony #5, had an auxiliary steam engine.[2]


The ships were owned and operated by the Brethren's Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the Heathen, apparently a joint venture between the Moravian Church (the Unity of the Brethren) and the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel among the Heathen.[2]


The mission stations during the time of the ships were Nain (established 1770), Okak (1776), Hopedale (1782), Hebron at Kauerdluksoak Bay (1830–1959) serving also Napartok Bay and Saeglek Bay, Zoar (1864–1889), Ramah (1871–1908), Makkovik (1896), and Killiniq on Cape Chidley island (1905–1925).[2] Two further stations were added after this period at Happy Valley near Goose Bay (1957) and North West River (1960).[2]

The ships[edit]

Ship's Name From To Captain Notes
Jersey Packet 1770 1770 Thomas Mugford[2] A small sloop of 80 tons (bm).[2]
Amity 1771 1776 Francis Mugford[2]
Good Intent 1777 1779 Francis Mugford[2] Sloop of 70 tons (bm).[2] Captured by a French privateer on her return voyage during Autumn 1778 but recaptured by a British cruiser before she could reach a French port.[2] This incident led to passes being issued by both the King of France and Benjamin Franklin to prevent recurrence.[2]
Amity 1780
Francis Mugford[2]
James Fraser[2]
Harmony #1 1787 1802 James Fraser 1787‑?[3] Brig of 133 tons built for the Society specifically for arctic service at Bursledon under the supervision of Thomas Mitchell, a deputy surveyor of the Royal Navy.[2][4]
Resolution 1802 1808 J Fraser
Hector 1809 1809 Fraser[5] Owned by the society for less than two months.[2]
Jemima 1810 1817 Fraser[2] Brig of 180 tons (bm).[2]
Harmony #2 1818 1831 Fraser[2] Brig of 126 tons (bm) built for the Society specifically for arctic service under the supervision of Brother Taylor.[2][4] In 1830 she was accompanied by the Oliver, chartered to convey additional stores needed to establish the Hebron mission; similarly in 1831, the Venus.[2]
Harmony #3 1832 1860 William Taylor
1832‑at least 1836[2]

James Sutherland[2]
Snow of about 230 tons (bm) built for the Society by Fellows and Sons of Great Yarmouth specifically for arctic service during Autumn and Winter 1831/1832 under the supervision of Brother Taylor at a cost of about £3,500 (about £298,426 at current prices).[2][4] During the outbound voyage of 1836 she was caught in ice for eight days while approaching Labrador towards the end of July.[2] During then return voyage the same year she rescued nine survivors from Superior which, under Captain Dunn, had been thrown on her beam ends during a furious gale on 28 September 1836 bound from Miramichi to Cardiff.[2] The Harmony had herself been damaged in the same gale when a heavy sea breaking over her carried away the skiff hanging astern, stove in the cabin windows and swamped it, washed away the binnacle and the cook house, broke the wheel and nearly killed the man at it.[2] Following this voyage she was strengthened by doubling i.e. adding a second layer of planking over the bows at a cost of about £350.[2]
Harmony #4 1861 1896 John White
‑1862[2] Henry Linklater 1863‑[2]
A barque of 251 tons register built for the Society by Fellows and Sons of Great Yarmouth specifically for arctic service and launched on 24 April 1861.[2][4]
No Moravian ships 1896 1900 The Society chartered a vessel to supply the mission stations during these years.[2]
Harmony #5 1901 1926 Joseph Linklater 1901[2]
J C Jackson 1902‑1926[2]
Ex steamship Lorna Doone (originally a barque built at Dundee in 1876 for expedition work) bought for £2,000 and re-rigged by the Society for a further £2,000 as a barque with auxiliary steam power.[2]


Spanish Flu[edit]

In the summer of 1919, SS Harmony #5 carried Spanish Flu from St John's to Hebron and Okak.[6] The resulting deaths cut the population of Hebron and the surrounding area from 220 to 70.[6] In Okak 204 of the 263 residents died, including every adult male Inuit; the survivors dismantled the community entirely, burning all houses and furniture before moving to Nain, Hopedale or Hebron.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Moravian Messenger.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak E Wilson, ed. (1975). With the Harmony to Labrador. 
  3. ^ Whiteley, William H (June 1960). "INVENTORY OF MORAVIAN MISSION RECORDS FROM LABRADOR" (PDF). Moravian Archives Bethlehem. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Labrador Region ~ North Coast District". History. NL GenWeb. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  5. ^ There were two Captain Frasers, first James and immediately after, Thomas (no relation); it is unclear when the changeover occurred.
  6. ^ a b c Higgins, Jenny (2007). "The 1918 Spanish Flu". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site. Retrieved 16 March 2014. 

External links[edit]