New Welcome Sign on Jamie’s Way

Our new sign has been erected on Jamie’s Way as you enter Harbour Grace! Thank you to Jerome McCarthy, Tony McCarthy, and Dave Bishop for their work installing this. Special thanks to Pam Edwards, our photographer, and Brenda Hunt-Stevenson, Committee Chair. Also, thank you to Kelly Fowler of Avalon TrimLine, who designed and printed this beautiful sign. We love it!

Volunteer Week: Message from the Chair

May be an image of brick wall and outdoors

As Chair of the Board of Directors of the Conception Bay Museum, I want to extend a huge thank you to our Board and the many volunteers who assist with the running of this institution.

Our mission is to preserve and celebrate the history and culture of our community. We are truly excited to continue our programs this season in the safest possible manner to the very best of our ability given COVID-19 and its restrictions. Please watch for further announcements as we move forward. Decisions on public visitation will be made later. Happy Volunteer Week! Thank you all!

– Patrick J. Collins, Chair

Passport Places: Conception Bay Museum

Happy to announce we’ve recently become one of the National Trust for Canada’s Passport Places in Newfoundland & Labrador!

Whether you are interested in castles, former jails, lighthouses, mansions, train stations or indigenous heritage there’s a Passport Place for you. There’s no better way to discover Canada’s history than in an actual historic place. Discover places that amaze, delight, and inform.

Enjoy FREE admission at these special places with your National Trust membership. Membership starts at only $40. Join today!

Find out more about Passport Places on the National Trust’s website.

Profile: The Waterford Arms, Harbour Grace

Waterford Coat of Arms outside the former Waterford Arms Hotel, Waterford, Ireland. (Source: Link)

As recorded in our ‘Harbour Grace Notebook’ project:

On February 3, 1832, the Association of Fishermen met at William Innott’s hotel, the Waterford Arms, and paraded with flags and banners to Bears Cove, then on to Samson’s Brook (often called Nichols Brook), the band playing their favourite songs the whole way. They circled back to the Waterford Arms, where refreshments were served and twenty-five speeches given. William Talbot stood as the chairperson, Robert Oke as the vice-chair.

Owned by merchant William Innott, the Waterford Arms was a popular hotel and community meeting place in the early part of the nineteenth century. It presumably took its name from County Waterford, Ireland, an area with strong migratory connections to Newfoundland. The hotel stood somewhere near the area of today’s LeMarchant Street (or Gas House Hill). A cooper’s shop stood near the rear of the hotel, as well as a stable built for Innott’s horses.

The will of James Cowan further details Innott’s property holdings in Harbour Grace:

The premises situated at Harbor Grace held under lease by William Innott consisting of the dwelling house and wharf lately held by Denis MacGrath deceased, a dwelling house also, garden in front thereof, and one at back thereof, with a Cooper’s shop in the rear of the Waterford Arms, together with a stable built by the said William Innott near thereto… And lastly I appoint James Bayly Gentleman and William Innott Merchant Executors of this my last will and Testament who shall with their heirs executors and administrators be at all times exonerated and indemnified in any acts matters or things to be done by them in the execution of such duty or trust.

Other groups which frequented the Waterford Arms include the Benevolent Irish Society, who held their annual anniversaries at the hotel every February.

Interestingly, Innott’s hospitality business brought him into contact with Governor Sir Thomas Cochrane. The two exchanged correspondence in the late summer of 1826 regarding the unpaid debts of Judge John William Molloy. A ‘Mr. Stark’ had arranged for several rooms to be rented by Judge Molloy from May 10 to July 13; the latter assured Innott that Cochrane would foot the bill. When the payment of £250 was not forthcoming, Innott promptly wrote the governor. E.B. Brenton replied to Innott on Cochrane’s behalf, stating that the governor was “wholly unacquainted with the circumstances you have state[d], and cannot therefore authorize payment prayed for by your memorial.” In further correspondence between the governor and the judge, the latter’s explanation for the expenses at Harbour Grace were deemed unsatisfactory; pointedly, Cochrane asked what authority Molloy thought he had to mention the governor’s name, or make implications that he could be drawn upon in payment of these expenses. Such “pecuniary embarrassments” occupied much of Cochrane’s time in the summer of 1826 and led to Molloy’s dismissal from office.

Tragically, on August 18, 1832, the Waterford Arms burned in the first ‘Great Fire’ of Harbour Grace, along with Keefe’s Hotel, the Commercial Rooms, and twelve public houses.

After this devastation, a public meeting was held at the courthouse to elect commissioners to planning the town anew. Where the hotel once stood, a firebreak, LeMarchant Street, was constructed.

No photo description available.
Map showing LeMarchant Street, 1879. (Source: Conception Bay Museum archives.)

Profile: Point of Beach Beacon Light

Beacon Light, Harbour Grace, 1947. Photo courtesy War Memorial Public Library Archives.

Since early settlement, Harbour Grace’s Point of Beach has been a notable landmark for mariners. In the 1700s, when surveying Newfoundland’s coastal waters, Capt. James Cook erected as ‘head of stones’ at Point of Beach to aid navigation.

In 1850, shipbuilder Michael Condon Kearney, with help from his Scottish foreman John Gunn, constructed a lighthouse at Point of Beach. Timber for the building was brought from St. Margaret’s, Nova Scotia, and Mirimachi, New Brunswick. Known as the ‘Beacon Light,’ the structure was originally lit by oil. The light soon switched to gas in 1852 and eventually moved to electricity. The beacon was a double light, one being placed over the other. It held this appearance for six miles. Further than this distance, up to ten miles away, the lights appeared as one.

The first light keeper was Capt. George Brown, known as ‘Bully Brown’ in Harbour Grace.

In November 1960, as a cost-saving measure, the federal government decided to replace the century old ‘Beacon Light’ with an open-tower steel structure. Transport Minister Léon Balcer said the wooden lighthouse was in such condition that it would cost $16,000 to replace the structure, but only $2,200 to build a new one.

Do you have any memories of the ‘Beacon Light’ in Harbour Grace?

Artifact Profile No. 8: Grinding Stones from Bannerman River Mill, ca. 1850

Grinding stones (or “runnerstones”) on a wintry day at the Conception Bay Museum grounds, 2021

Did you ever visit our grounds and wonder about these gigantic concrete circles? For years these rings have been a feature in our park on Water Street East, though their original location was much further to the west, at Riverhead, where predominantly Irish labourers tilled the land for subsistence agriculture, to supplement their work in the fishery.

Bannerman River, Riverhead, Harbour Grace, 2020. Photo courtesy Adam Hindy.

During the nineteenth century, Harbour Grace merchants John Munn and Thomas Ridley invested in various local enterprises outside of the fishery. In 1850, the two financially backed a flour mill at Riverhead. The mill was located at Bannerman River (also known as Dawley’s Brook) and utilized the waters’ substantial force to power the mill’s grinding stones (or “runnerstones”). A Scotsman by the name of Cockburn was the miller and Thomas Kitchin was superintendent.

Decades after the mill’s closure, two of the grinding stones once used at the Bannerman River mill were salvaged and brought to the museum grounds for public display, where they remain to this day.

Source: Munn, William A. “The Town Goes Ahead–1845 to 1855,” NQ, vol. 37, no. 2, p. 22.