M*CH*MORE One Name Study

The Newfoundland Connection

The settlement of Newfoundland

As elsewhere in North America, Newfoundland was colonised by the British in competition with the French. However, the process was very much slower than was the case for Canada and the United States.

From as early as the 16th century, English and French fishermen sailed across the Atlantic in spring, spent the summer fishing the rich stocks of cod, and returned in autumn. Amongst the English, a triangular trade grew up: Supplies were sent from England to Newfoundland, salted fish and cod liver oil taken to the Mediterranean, and wine and fruit brought back from there to England.

The vast majority of the English fishermen and merchants were from Devon. In the period 1675-1681, for example, an average of 4000 Englishmen per year travelled in fishing boats to Newfoundland. Their most common ports of origin were Dartmouth (42%), Bideford & Barnstaple (18%), Plymouth (10%), Poole (9%) and Teignmouth (6%)(1). Several Dartmouth merchants made fortunes from the triangular trade.(2)

Settlement was slow and even discouraged at times. The size of the permanent population rose very gradually, from about 1000 in 1713 to 40,000 in 1830.(3) The English first settled the area around St John's, the present capital, and then expanded along the entire east coast. The French concentrated on the north and south coasts. Naturally there was conflict, but the French never succeeded in establishing a permanent settlement.

 

 

By 1830, over 80% of the population lived on the east coast; there were still very few settlers on the west coast, which was not settled until the second half of the 19th century. The vast majority of the permanent inhabitants were of English extraction, but there was a significant number of Irish.(4)

Newfoundland achieved responsible government in 1854, dominion status in 1909 and became (with Labrador) a province of Canada in 1949. For further information on the exploration and settlement of Newfoundland, visit the Newfoundland Heritage site. Wikipedia has a concise political history of the province.

M*CH*MORE involvement

Several visits to Newfoundland by M*CH*MORE fishermen are documented, but there were no doubt many more:

Some M*CH*MOREs stayed long enough to appear in Newfoundland church records:

  • In 1814, James MITCHELMORE married the daughter of a Trinity Bay settler family and may have remained in North America.
  • A William MITCHELMORE married in St John in 1828 and had at least three daughters there. This family may also have remained in North America.
  • Thomas MITCHELMORE married a succession of local girls and established a settlement at Green Island Bay on the Northern Peninsula (see below). The majority of his descendants still live in the same village.

Unpublished investigations carried out at the Maritime History Archives in St John's also suggest that several Staverton MICHELMOREs might have been involved as merchants.

Green Island Cove

The Strait of Belle Isle is the 125 km long stretch of water separating the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland from Labrador. At its narrowest, it is only 15 km wide. The Newfoundland coast was long known as the French Shore, but is now referred to as the Strait Coast. It is peppered with small fishing communities, some with as few as 150 inhabitants. From south to north, the largest are Black Duck Cove, St Barbe, Anchor Point, Bear Cove, Flower's Cove, Savage Cove (formerly Poverty Cove), Sandy Cove, Pines Cove, Green Island Cove, Lower Cove, Green Island Brook, and Eddies Cove.

Settlement of the Strait Coast began in about 1775 at Anchor Point, where Abram and Robert GENGE established an enterprising business(5). They attracted fishermen and seal hunters by promises of good catches. Not many settled, perhaps because the Strait is filled with sea ice for 6-8 months of the year and the mean summer temperature is only 10 C.

Gradually some of the fisherman began to settle, each newcomer searching out his own spot and raising his family in relative isolation. The result was that, right up to the present day, each village is dominated by people sharing a small number of surnames.

Green Island Cove, where Thomas MITCHELMORE settled in the 1850s, is a case in point. His was the only settled family until a Scotsman James McLEAN joined them some 20 years later. The population grew from 8 in 1871 to 56 in 1901 and 224 in 1971. In 1928, among the adult population there were 20 MICHEMOREs, 12 PARRILs and 8 McLEANS. Anchor Point was even more extreme: among 45 adults enumerated in 1928, all but two carried the name GENGE.

Cod fishing has declined substantially in the past 20 years due to over-fishing, and the economic conditions along the Strait Coast have deteriorated accordingly.

Click here for biographies of some early settlers of the French Shore/Strait Coast. Wikipedia has an interesting article summarising the history of Anchor Point up to the present.

References

(1) W. Gordon Handcock, So longe as there comes noe women: Origins of English settlement in Newfoundland. St John's NL: Breakwater Books, p. 56.

(2) Ibid., p. 154.

(3) Ibid., p. 97.

(4) Ibid., p. 102.

(5) Pat Mitchelmore, Green Island Cove, Newfoundland: 1800-1972. Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's NL, 1973. (Unpublished term paper)