Profile: Old Riverhead Post Office, 1916-1968

old riverhead post office

P.J. Hickey, then mailman on the train, approached Archibald W. Piccott, Minister of Marine and Fisheries and MHA for the Harbour Grace district, and told him of the hardship of the people who had to stand outside a dwelling and receive the mail through an open window. The House of Assembly was not open at the time; so Piccott asked P.J. Hickey if he could guarantee $1,000 for construction, until the legislature reopened. J. Mackey supplied the amount and the Post Office was built. Mike Mackey served as foreman, and lumber came from Gosse’s Mill, Spaniard’s Bay. The Post Office was constructed near the bottom of Station Lane (today, the Hard Path), which the postmaster/postmistress would walk up each day to meet the train, pick up the incoming mail and drop off outgoing mail.


Old Riverhead Post Office (left)

On May 18, 1916, opening day, Mary Coady became Riverhead’s first postmistress. After her death in 1937, Henry Coady was postmaster for eight months. Afterwards, Justin McCarthy worked there from October 1937 to August 14, 1941; Nelly (Barron) Ryan from August 15, 1941, to November 30, 1946; Marie Kelly from December 1, 1946, to 1951; and Margaret Cleary from 1951 until 1968, when the building closed.

James R. Tucker, MHA for Trinity-Conception, officially opened the new Riverhead Post Office on March 29, 1968, at 12:30 p.m. Sister Sylvia recited the Lord’s Prayer and Edward Russell–at 85, the oldest man in the community–posted the first letter. Johnny Shanahan, of Riverhead, and Betty Ann Peddle, of Tilton, cut the ribbon. Mail was delivered from the new location on March 30, 1968, by Margaret Cleary.

The Riverhead Post Office was eventually closed in the 2000s and replaced by outdoor mailboxes.

Do you have any memories or pictures of the old post offices at Riverhead? Contact us!

This post is part of the Harbour Grace Notebook series. Follow the updates on social media with the hashtag #hgnotebook.

— Information sourced from Riverhead Reunion pamphlet (2009)

Artifact Profile No. 3: Receipts from Strapp’s Pharmacy

Strapp's Pharmacy, corner of Bannerman St & Water St

Strapp’s Pharmacy (left) opened on August 31, 1900, on the corner of Bannerman St and Water St.

Dr. Walter A. Strapp, a local physician, opened Strapp’s Pharmacy on August 31, 1900. The business was located at the corner of Bannerman St and Water St. Edward D. Freeman, 14 years old, went to work there for Strapp in 1900. Six years later, in 1906, Strapp appointed Freeman pharmacy manager. Freeman operated the drugstore for several decades thereafter, developing the business into an important point of interest and information on Water St. As Patrick Collins writes in Dr. Charles Cron (2010), his biography of the well known local doctor, Strapp was “esteemed as a wonderful physician.” He began practicing with Cron when the latter returned to Harbour Grace from McGill. Though Strapp was doing well in his later years, he fell over a steep set of stairs and was never the same after. He died on April 2, 1918.

1944 fire - Government Building & Strapp's

Fire destroys the Government Building, Water St, 1944. Strapp’s Pharmacy pictured right.

By at least 1919, a new building was constructed (or renovated) on the site of Strapp’s original pharmacy. This new building featured a turret overhanging the entrance – a prominent landmark on Water St to this day. Across the street stood the former Government Building, the brick-and-stone structure which housed the Post Office and a telegraph office. Tragically, a great fire on August 17, 1944, gutted this grand edifice, and its shell remained on Water St for over twenty years before its final demolition. Fortunately, Strapp’s Pharmacy survived the 1944 fire and continued normal operations.

A prominent man in town, Freeman was deeply involved in community life. Notably, he served as chairman of the Harbour Grace Fire Sufferers’ Relief Committee, which raised $61,000 to help those who had homes and possessions. He was also treasurer of the Knights of Columbus, president of the Tennis Club, a member of the Harbour Grace Regatta Committee, and a former town councillor. The September 7, 1962, edition of the Daily News, a St. John’s newspaper, noted that Freeman, “although 76 years old[,]…is at his desk every day and always has time to chat with friends and visitors.” Rex Sinyard apprenticed under Freeman, later opening a pharmacy shop at the bottom of Victoria St. In the 1970s, Dr. Joseph Dunn operated Strapp’s.

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Edward D. Freeman and his daughter Kathleen, graduate pharmacist, 1962.

The Strapp’s Pharmacy building still stands on Water St, Harbour Grace. Today, it’s Easton 1602 Pub.

Receipts from Strapp’s Pharmacy

Our collection of receipts from Strapp’s Pharmacy are dated 1924, 1925, 1934 and 1935. There are 106 receipts in the collection, 103 signed for “Mr. Oscar Howell” (1934-35) and 3 signed for “Mr. Jos. [Joseph] Fitzgerald” (1924-25). As the company header indicates, by at least 1925 Strapp’s Pharmacy operated as a Rexall Store, a chain of pharmacies still in existence. As a Rexall affiliate, the pharmacy sold “drugs, toilet articles, stationery, cigars, garden seeds, rubber goods, ice cream and soda, [and] candy.” The above pictured receipt, numbered 4, is dated October 21, 1935. Though the handwriting is difficult to read, 100 aspirin, the first purchased item, cost $0.25 at Strapp’s in 1935. The customer’s total is $3.20.

These receipts were recently found stored at the Harbour Grace Railway Station (donor unknown). Look for them to be displayed in The Landing this summer, alongside our equipment from Dr. Goodwin’s dentistry.

One of the later owners of Strapp’s store, Kevin Williams, converted the space into Cuff’s Pub. Williams also has a number of receipts from pharmacy. In conversations, he noted Oscar Howell as a frequent purchaser in his collection of receipts. As well, he possesses the McGill University degree of Dr. Gerald Anthony Strapp (pictured below), Walter Strapp’s son. Williams found the degree inside the old pharmacy.

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Other items and advertisements from Strapp’s can be seen below.

More importantly, do you have any memories or further information regarding Strapp’s Pharmacy at the corner of Bannerman St and Water St, Harbour Grace? Contact us!

Sources & Further Information

Collins, Patrick J. Dr. Charles Cron: A Doctor for All Time, A Man Who Cured Our Hearts. Bowmark, 2010. Print.

Connelly, R.J. “Strapp’s Pharmacy.” Story of Harbour Grace, 1980. Print.

“Harbour Grace Steeped in History.” Daily News, St. John’s, September 7, 1962. Print.


— Written by Matthew Gerard McCarthy (Communications Officer) for the Conception Bay Museum, Harbour Grace.

Station Agents at the Harbour Grace Railway

Do you have any information on the station agents in Harbour Grace from 1884-1984? If so, contact us! View the working document here.



Photo of the Day: Slide-hauling, ca. 1910


Pictured: Slide-hauling wood, Harbour Grace, ca. 1930. (Lady Lake or Bannerman Lake?) The two men are George James Tetford and Harold Gordon Tetford.

These slides were often called “catamarans,” which the Newfoundland English Dictionary defines as “a sled with stout wooden runners curved up in front and with a vertical stick, or ‘horn,’ at each corner, hauled in the winter by dogs, horse or man, used esp for carting wood and other heavy loads, but also for pleasure.” Also, the horse in this picture is the famous Newfoundland pony breed.

Photo courtesy Conception Bay Museum archives.

Profile: Charles Davis Garland (1730-1810)

Charles Davis Garland

Silhouette of Charles Davis Garland

Born in 1730 in Musketta (Mosquito; later Bristol’s Hope), the son of George Garland (1677-1763), Charles Davis Garland was a planter with extensive holdings and properties in Conception Bay during the latter half of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. While he did participate in the fishery to some degree, he rented most of his holdings to migratory fishers and planters. These rental properties included several plantations in Harbour Grace and Musketta (Bristol’s Hope) and fishing rooms at Musketta and Devil’s Cove (later Job’s Cove). He also claimed haying and grazing privileges on Little Bell Island, Harbour Grace Island and Carbonear Island. Garland was also involved in the transatlantic mercantile trade and was part owner of several ships, including the Nancy, Friendship and Charlotte.

In 1755 Garland was appointed a magistrate for the Conception Bay area. One of his first acts, on behalf of Governor Richard Dorrill, was to investigate charges that Roman Catholic masses had been celebrated publicly in Conception Bay, contrary to the laws governing religious practices in Newfoundland. Garland’s preliminary investigation determined that a priest had performed mass at Caplin Cove, north of Carbonear, but that he had left and gone to Harbour Main. Garland was able to gather confessions from Michael Katem and Michael Landrican, two planter-priests, that they had celebrated the mass. Their properties were burned, and the two men were subsequently hit with heavy fines and exiled from Newfoundland.

In 1762 Garland helped organize the defence of Conception Bay against French invaders. In the same year he also marshalled a group of 50 volunteers to become part of Colonel William Amherst’s force, to help recapture St. John’s; he also provided boats and landing craft for the men. His service gained him an official commendation, with the London Chronicle reporting on his deeds. This same year he was given the added responsibility of Deputy Customs and Naval Officer.

As one of Newfoundland’s early peace officers in a developing civil service, Garland performed a varied role in a controversial office, during a precarious period in Newfoundland’s history. He served under many Naval Governors, whose views and interpretations of the act governing Newfoundland often differed. Also, British merchants and captains sometimes challenged his authority, conduct and integrity. Over most of his public career Garland tried to gain a livelihood from the fishery and trade, occupations that tended to draw him into a conflict of interest with his role as a peace officer. One such example was when Governor Sir Hugh Palliser temporarily relieved Garland of his duties in 1765, citing a dispute with a Devonshire merchant over an unpaid bill. Garland was eventually reappointed in 1766.

Local tradition in Harbour Grace maintains that in 1764-5 Garland gave some of his property in Harbour Grace to Rev. Laurence Coughlan, enabling the construction of Harbour Grace’s first Anglican church and parsonage.

Notably, Garland purchased a plantation at Harbour Grace in 1770 known as “The Grove,” near Bears Cove point, for which he paid 50 pounds to a Jersey merchant, Nicholas Fiott—the same Nicholas Fiott whom Coughlan chastised as “leading an immoral life” in May 1772. In 1805 “The Grove” contained two stages, three fish flakes, four dwellings, three vegetable plots and a meadow.

In 1799 he was appointed a surrogate judge with a yearly remuneration of £60. Rev. Lewis Anspach succeeded him as Surrogate Judge in Conception Bay in 1810.

Garland died at Harbour Grace on March 8, 1810, aged 79.

This post is part of the Harbour Grace Notebook series. Follow the updates on social media with the hashtag #hgnotebook.


Sources & Further Information

“Garland, Charles Davis.” Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1981, p. 478.

Hancock, W. Gordon. “Charles Garland.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Accessed 7 March 2019.

Profile: Cron House / Thornhill / Bellevue (1879)

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This century old house on Water St East is actually two houses. The contract for the building of the front house was let in September 1878. An agreement drawn up at the time between Thomas R. Bennett and Edward Comer, master carpenter, specified that Bennett would supply materials and Comer would be paid £85 in three instalments for his labour.

The back of the house was a preexisting structure, which craftsmanship indicates may predate the 1879 house by forty or fifty years. It was possibly moved a short distance to the present site, to be joined to the newer house.

Thomas R. Bennett (1830-1901)

Thomas R. Bennett 

A native of Windsor, Nova Scotia, Bennett moved to Fortune Bay in 1853, where he established a fishery supply business. This business proved profitable, particularly in trade with the antebellum southern United States. He eventually ran for politics, serving as MHA for Fortune Bay from 1865-74 and as Speaker of the House of Assembly from 1869-73. He was appointed to the bench in 1873, holding the post of Judge of the Northern District Court at the time he built his home in Harbour Grace. He served as magistrate for 25 years, from 1873-98. He died in Harbour Grace on August 13, 1901.

James Cron's draper shop (left)

Cron’s draper shop (left); old Post Office (far right)

In 1902 Bennett’s widow sold the unit to James Maxwell Cron, a prominent Harbour Grace merchant; Cron owned a draper’s shop on Water Street and raised his ten children at the house, which became known as Thornhill, after Cron’s hometown in Scotland, and, later, as Bellevue. (Coincidentally, Bennett’s mother-in-law’s maiden name was Thornhill, too.) Notably, Thornhill was the childhood home of Dr. Charles Cron–a son from James Cron’s first marriage to Frances Katherine Ross–the McGill-educated, well respected local doctor.

James Cron occupied the house until his death in 1935. He willed the property to Frederick Robert Cron, a son from his second marriage to Emma Martin. Robert raised his family at Thornhill, living there until his death in 1972.

The house now serves as a bed-and-breakfast and event space, Belle View Manor Inn.

Sources & Further Information

Collins, Patrick J. Dr. Charles Cron: A Doctor for All Time, A Man Who Cured Our Hearts. Bowmark, 2010. Print.

Ball, J.M. Ten Historic Towns: Heritage Architecture in Newfoundland. Newfoundland Historic Trust, 1978. Print.

“Bennett, Thomas R.” Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1981, pp. 177-8.

Artifact Profile No. 2: Portrait of Ernest Sheppard

Ernest Sheppard (1878-1955), Veteran of the Boer War

Ernest Sheppard (1878-1955), veteran of the Boer War.

Ernest Sheppard was born on March 4, 1878, to John Coryer Sheppard (1851-1932) and Janet (Courage) Sheppard (1853-1936), of Harbour Grace. In 1891, at the age of sixteen, Sheppard left Newfoundland to find employment in mainland Canada and the United States. When in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Boer War started in South Africa, and Sheppard enlisted with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse, a mounted Canadian regiment raised and funded by the eponymous Canadian millionaire.

According to his military discharge papers (see below), on March 8, 1901–Strathcona’s Horse disbanded the next day–Sheppard enlisted in the South African Constabulary (SAC), a paramilitary force raised by the British army during the war. Intended as a transitional policing force after peace was established, the SAC performed a much larger combat role than originally anticipated. Major-General Robert Baden-Powell, its commander, filled the SAC with a number of Canadians, after their impressive showing at the Relief of Mafeking on May 17, 1900. Sheppard served with the SAC for five years, leaving on March 7, 1906. His discharge papers note his conduct as “very good.” The SAC disbanded on June 2, 1908, six years after the war ended.

Movements of Strathcona's Horse, 20 June - 1 September 1900

Movement of Strathcona’s Horse, June 20 – September 1, 1900. Sheppard was likely part of this maneuver. (Photo courtesy

Shortly after returning from Africa, Ernest married May Catherine Payne; the two took up residence at Payne House, a row house her father constructed in 1856. The pair had two children, Harold and Frank (1910-1997). After May Catherine died in 1922, Sheppard later married Anne Beatrice Smith (1886-1974).

In 1912 Sheppard became the ferryman of the M.V. Muriel, the first engine-powered ferry to transport people between Harbour Grace, Harbour Grace South, and Riverhead. Sheppard operated the ferry until 1932, when the Newfoundland government discontinued the service to cut costs. His twenty-year service without accident earned him recognition that same year. Having some experience as a cooper in his earlier years–his military records state his occupation as such–Sheppard opened a cooperage near the waterfront behind his home, where he sold and repaired barrels. In 1940 he retired from business.

On March 4, 1955, Sheppard passed away at St. Clare’s Hospital, St. John’s. He is buried with his second wife, Anne Beatrice, at the Church of England Cemetery in his hometown, Harbour Grace. His headstone reads: “VETERAN OF THE BOER WAR.” Notably, Sheppard was a member of Masonic Lodge No. 476: the square and compass iconography of freemasonry figures prominently on his headstone. His obituary, printed in the Daily News on March 11, notes his “fifty-year” membership in the Lodge.

Portrait & Military Discharge Papers


Housed in a filigreed wooden frame, Sheppard’s portrait measures 24.5′ x 28.5′. According to John Payne, the portrait once hung above the brick fireplace at Payne House. A relative later donated this artifact to the Museum for posterity. Today, it hangs above the World War I & II uniforms displayed in our glass cabinet. Sheppard is pictured on a horse holding his rifle, with an ammunition belt draped across his chest. His uniform is unique–a wide-brimmed Stetson with knee-high, leather cowboy boots (called the Strathcona Boot). Sheppard fits the nickname for Strathcona’s Horse: “Canadian”–or Newfoundland–“cowboys.”

Sheppard’s military discharge papers (pictured below) note some interesting biographical facts, namely his medals–King’s and Queen’s Clasps–and former occupation, “cooper.”

Payne House (1856)

Payne House (1856), Registered Heritage Structure.

Sheppard’s biography is particularly unique, for various reasons. First, his military career broadens the accepted narrative of the “Fighting Newfoundlander”: Harbour Grace natives were fighting in imperial conflicts long before the Great War. (He’s not alone in this regard: Sir Henry Pynn famously fought in the Irish Rebellion [1798] and Napoleonic Wars.) Secondly, his career trajectory harkens back to a bygone era of Harbour Grace, the days when ferries were needed for quick transportation across the harbour, and handmade barrels required for storing and shipping goods. Thirdly, his connection to Harbour Grace’s early built heritage is worth noting: he lived in Payne House, a Registered Heritage Structure which recalls Water Street’s nineteenth-century architecture, before the third “Great Fire” of Harbour Grace in 1944.

This post is part of the Harbour Grace Notebook series. Follow the updates on social media with the hashtag #hgnotebook.

Author’s note: If you have any additional information (or corrections) on the life of Ernest Sheppard, cooper, ferryman, and veteran of the Boer War, email us. And come see Ernest’s portrait and discharge papers when we reopen in the spring!


— Written by Matthew Gerard McCarthy (Communications Officer) for the Conception Bay Museum, Harbour Grace.

Photo of the Day: Cable & Wireless Workers at Ridley Hall, ca. 1947


Cable workers outside Ridley Hall, the operating centre of Cable & Wireless Ltd, ca. 1947. In 1929 Imperial & International Communications Company acquired the assets for Harbour Grace’s cable station, changing their name to Cable & Wireless Ltd in 1934.

Back row: Eugene Farnham, Franklin Legge, Neil Legge, Harry Jones
Middle row: John Eades, R.V.C. Middleton (manager), Doug Burke
Front row: Basil E. Martin & Spinks (dog)

Picture courtesy Basil E. Martin. Information courtesy D.R. Tarrant’s Atlantic Sentinel: Newfoundland’s Role in Transatlantic Communications (Flanker, 1999).