Photo of the Day: Joseph Ross’s Store, Water St

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Pictured: Joseph Ross at his storefront, a grocery located across from Bannerman St, Harbour Grace, adjacent to the east of the old post office. A prominent landmark business in downtown Harbour Grace, Ross’s store is visible in many photographs profiling the Water Street area in the early twentieth century.

Photo courtesy of a recent donation to the Conception Bay Museum archives.

New Event Listing: Guided Hike to Gibbet Hill


Event: Guided Walk to Gibbet Hill with author Patrick J. Collins

Join Patrick J. Collins on a guided walk to the site of one of Harbour Grace’s most gruesome incidents, Gibbet Hill. Learn about the principal actors in this sordid tale, the hanged man Peter Downing, the duped maidservant Ellen Coombs, and the treacherous criminal who escaped scot-free, Patrick Malone. Also, Collins will speak about his latest book, The Secret of the Fairy Ring, a story of one girl’s encounter with fairies and her family’s fight with a recalcitrant Harbour Grace, in the shadow of building the community’s first aerodrome in 1919.

Copies of Gibbet Hill, The Secret of the Fairy Ring, and Collins’s other books will be available for purchase.

Date: Sunday, September 22, 2019

Admission: $5.00 per person

Location: Hike starts at the intersection of Kane’s Rd and Lady Lake Rd, Harbour Grace, NL (GPS Coordinates)

Time: 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

WWI Soldier Database Now Online

WWI Digitization Project Team

Photo by Andrew Robinson / The Compass

In partnership with the Town of Harbour Grace, our project to digitize board member Anne Gosse’s immense research on WWI soldiers from the greater Harbour Grace area is now complete! The full listing can be viewed here, and the individual solider profiles can be viewed here. We are excited to have an interactive way to present this research on our website.

Many thanks to Katelyn Galway and Jennifer Pike, summer students for the Town of Harbour Grace (2019), funded through Service Canada’s Canada Summer Jobs program and Newfoundland & Labrador’s Dept. of Advanced Education, Skills & Labour’s Post-Secondary Student Summer Employment Program, who digitally uploaded this extensive research.

Thank you to the Harbour Grace Town Council and staff and the Conception Bay Museum’s Board of Directors for supporting this project.

You can read more about the project here, courtesy of The Compass:

Anyone wishing to contribute further information to the project can do so by sending an email to,, or


Recap: Open Doors & Treasures of the Past, #HistoricPlacesDay in Harbour Grace


We had a great turnout for our #HistoricPlacesDay events in Harbour Grace on Saturday, July 6. The Town of Harbour Grace held two ‘Open Doors’ events at Otterbury Schoolhouse, Municipal Heritage Site, and had their first public viewing of the newly restored Harbour Grace Railway Station (Gordon G. Pike Railway Museum), Registered Heritage Structure. Both buildings were constructed in 1884, and the railway station is considered the oldest left standing in Newfoundland.

At the Museum, we offered free admission all day Saturday and held a community artifact/heirloom display in the hall at St. Paul’s Church (1835), Registered Heritage Structure. We already posted some pictures on our social media, but want to present some personal stories and quotations from exhibitors about their items.

Table No. 1: Anne Gosse

Featured Items: A survey of her immense genealogical research

Anne has researched and digitized numerous gravesites on the popular genealogy resource Anne sees her research as a rewarding way to connect with likeminded people interested in their family histories. Her research on World War I soliders from Harbour Grace and Bristol’s Hope can be viewed online here. Anne’s FindAGrave profile can be found here.

“FindAGrave is such an interesting website. It serves to preserve the memory of those who passed, whether they have a permanent grave marker or not. This is especially important for those who were lost at sea or in military conflicts.

“It’s very rewarding when you receive contact from a family member who is so appreciative of a photo of an ancestor’s headstone. It fills in that missing gap in their family tree. I’m currently working on cemeteries in Harbour Grace, linking family members and completing headstone photos. The fact that FindAGrave is linked into the Ancestry websites is very important also, as it gives searchers that added information. It’s a wonderful pastime and one I thoroughly enjoy.” – Anne Gosse

Table No. 2: Jane (Cron) Lynch

Featured Items: Artifacts from Whitman’s Tailor Shop

Both L.A. Whitman, Jane’s grandfather, and J.A. Whitman, her great-grandfather, once operated a tailor shop in old downtown Harbour Grace, roughly on the same plot as the present-day Town Hall. The building survived the 1944 ‘Great Fire,’ which razed much of the former downtown. The land was later sold to the Bank of Nova Scotia. The display memorably contained accounting documents (namely, a collection of original, handwritten postcards), pictures of the former store, and a nineteenth-century Spanish-language newspaper from revolutionary Bolivia.

“I find the business postcards very interesting, because they show how people got in touch to place their orders. My grandfather and great-grandfather made most of the Salvation Army uniforms east of Clarenville. They also made the uniforms for the historic Harbour Grace Fire Brigade–you can go to the Firemen’s Social Building today and see an example.” – Jane Lynch

Table No. 3

Table No. 3: Steve Payne / Matthew G. McCarthy

Featured Items: Photographic negatives from Harbour Grace

Steve hopes to have these uploaded to MUN’s Digital Archives Initiative soon.  (Steve gave Matt these to display in his absence.)





Table No. 4: Ray Hyde

Featured Item: 150-year-old timber and ice saw

This well-worn 150-year-old timber and ice saw was used to harvest ice for the icehouses in Harbour Grace & Mosquito (Bristol’s Hope).  To cut timber with this saw, two men were required, one on top of the log and one on the bottom, hauling and pulling together.

“These was no electricity then for refrigeration, harvesting ice, and cutting wood. Hard work, yup; it was hard work. But that’s all they knew. Sharpen it up and it’d have no trouble cutting now, I’m sure. You’d need two people, though.” – Ray Hyde

Table No. 5: Joy French-Coleman & Heather Coleman

Featured Items: Family heirlooms from Victoria Manor

Joy’s heirlooms came from Victoria Manor, her parent’s old house, a Registered Heritage Structure at the top of Victoria Street, Harbour Grace. Joy displayed antique china, snowshoes and, notably, aged hand-sewn quilts, still holding up years later:

“Just look at the handiwork: hand-sewn. The time it must have taken, and to stay together after all these years–it’s amazing.” – Joy French-Coleman

Table No. 6: Chad Fraize / Masonic Lodge No. 476

Featured Items: Artifacts from Masonic Lodge No. 476

Chad displayed some assorted artifacts from Masonic Lodge No. 476 in Harbour Grace, Municipal Heritage Site and the oldest wooden Masonic Lodge in Canada.

Table No. 7: Patrick J. Collins

Featured Items: Bishop John March’s skis and John Collins’s scythe

Pat displayed Bishop John March’s skis, which he purchased from the recently deceased “Singin’ Cobbler” of Harbour Grace, Bill Luffman, and the scythe used by his grandfather, John Collins, to cut tall fields of grass in Riverhead, when farms were common there.

“[Bishop John March] would ski to various missions…When Bill Luffman had his shoe repair place open on Harvey Street, some 30 years ago I went in and I saw those there, and I said, ‘What are those?’ He said, ‘Well they belonged to Bishop March. I got them from the groundskeeper, his name was John Thomey’…These are skis that Bishop March gave [Thomey] for his good work while there.” – Pat Collins

Table No. 8a: Alan Cass

Featured Items: Research display on the old roads from Harbour Grace to Carbonear

Anyone who took part in the first two ‘Travel the Trail’ hikes in 2017 with Pat and Alan will remember the latter’s presentation on the old military roads linking the communities of Harbour Grace, Mosquito (Bristol’s Hope), and Carbonear. After discovering one of the paths for himself when out “birding” (ie., grouse hunting) years ago, Alan began researching the old maps and infrastructure of eighteenth-century Conception Bay North.

“I suspect Griffith Williams had his soldiers cut the path. They were stationed at these old military batteries with nothing to do, without a war to fight; so they probably constructed a road–a road to nowhere in particular–and you can still see the evidence, the shale rock. The road was later a slide path, used for hauling wood in winter.” – Alan Cass, on the military road near Charles Davis Garland’s former property, in Bears Cove, Harbour Grace

Table No. 8b: Matthew G. McCarthy

Featured Items: Portrait of Ernest Sheppard, with accompanying medal (Queen’s South Africa Clasps), military discharge papers, and research

Matt displayed the portrait, medals and military records of Ernest Sheppard, Boer War veteran, local ferryman and cooper. For him, Sheppard represents a bygone era of Harbour Grace, when ferries regularly crossed the harbour, cask barrels were needed for storage, and row houses lined Water Street. Matt also says he gained newfound respect for the cooper’s trade after visiting distilleries in Ireland and reading about the process in Scotland:

“I don’t have any personal connection to Sheppard–well, beyond my research leading me to meet some people I now consider close friends.

“In our discourse, the idea of ‘The Fighting Newfoundlander’ is so wedded to World War I, that era of imperial conquest, and rightly so. However, for me, Sheppard represents an interesting expansion of that definition here in town, what with him being a Boer War vet. People from this area were fighting in imperial wars long before WWI–look at Sir Henry Pynn, for instance. Canadians in Strathcona’s Horse–Sheppard’s regiment–were called ‘Canadian Cowboys’; so I guess we can call Sheppard a ‘Newfoundland Cowboy.’ He’s another man of adventure, to me.

“Beyond the guts and glory, in my opinion he links the lost symbols of old Harbour Grace: he lived in a row house–it’s still there today–which harkens back to the architecture of Water Street, Harbour Grace, pre-1944, pre-fire. For two decades, until 1932, he ran a ferry service across the harbour. So often today we just see the streets, the contemporary infrastructure, and take it for granted; we think it’s always been there, but it wasn’t that way at all. For instance, if you look back at the old pictures of Riverhead–I mean, to circle this harbour, to go from point A (say, Bears Cove) to point B (the top of the south side, for example) in a horse and buggy–geez, it’d have taken you hours. So Sheppard’s motorized vessel, the Muriel, would bring people across in a fraction of the time. It was a different era, a different way of being, a different way of interacting with the place. It’s fascinating to me. 

“Speaking of ‘ways of being’: his cooperage, it was behind his house. And it wasn’t the only one: there were several scattered around town; you can see them on the old insurance surveys. I remember when I first researched Sheppard, back in 2017, I had to look up ‘cooper’ in the dictionary–I didn’t know what the word meant. Then, I thought the trade was somewhat interesting; but when I visited County Antrim in Northern Ireland, when I saw the Bushmills distillery, I gained a new respect for that past craftsmanship. Those barrels are so durable, reused so often. They seem to take on the character of the place and their builders. The whole experience felt strange yet familiar–the best places usually are.

“Casks, barrels–there’s something traditional about them, something tangible yet intangible. You go to Bruichladdich on Islay and they’re throwing around these massive barrels, just launching them out of the trucks, and the casks don’t burst; and the barrels are stored in the most desolate, damp, windswept places, where some distillers don’t even use computers. You need a ferry to get to Islay, too. There’s a certain rugged romance to it. I guess I’m a romantic, haha. 

“But seriously, I can just imagine all these coopers like Sheppard building barrels to store fishing and sealing products–not whisky–in Harbour Grace, in the heyday of the maritime import-export businesses; you know, selling the casks to guys like William Azariah Munn, another fascinating character, who had a massive, state-of-the-art cod liver oil production facility here on Beach Hill. 

“And interestingly, I found out from Chad [Fraize] that Sheppard’s son Frank was a Master at the Masonic Lodge. I said, ‘Hey [Chad], this guy, Ernest, was in the Masonic Lodge. Was he a Master?’ Chad looked it up in their anniversary booklet and said there’s a Frank Sheppard listed. I told him that was Ernest’s son. It’s these discussions, these connections and tidbits, we wanted the event to facilitate. We had a lot of fun with it.” – Matt McCarthy

Table No. 9: Danita Power

Featured Items: 200-year-old mandolin from Ireland; lawn bowling balls; cricket bats; sporting pictures; Harry Hibbs’s accordion

Danita’s display showcased some of Harbour Grace’s storied sports and music history. Notably, she displayed lawn bowling balls once used behind Ridley Hall, when the imposing stone edifice was the epicentre of social and political life in Harbour Grace. The 1920s cricket bat was used here in town, likely at Innott’s Field (Bears Cove) or Shannon Park, on Lady Lake Road. The oldest item was her family’s 200-year-old mandolin, from Ireland.

“Music was always in my household, for as long as I can remember. I guess I started playing when I was ten or eleven, and I’m still playing today of course. I can’t stand silence. I always have some form of music playing in the background…My dad [former stadium manager Dick Power] had a big collection of records. I gave them to a friend–she’s got a new record player–and now she plays them.” – Danita Power

Organizers: Anne Gosse, Brenda Hunt-Stevenson, Jane Lynch, Heather Pumphrey, Danita Power, Patrick Collins, and Matthew McCarthy. Event recap written by Matthew, with contributions from the exhibitors. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Harbour Grace Notebook: May


Follow the Harbour Grace Notebook series with the hashtag #hgnotebook on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

1 May 1888: St. Paul’s Hall hosts its first grand concert. The press report that the entertainment greatly exceeded their lofty expectations. 500 people attend the show, and receipts total $131.00. Prof. and Miss Flynn perform together to much applause, the latter singing “Tell Me, O Bird of the Greenwood” solo. To close out the performance, Rev. J.M. Noel, the local rector, extends his thanks to everyone who contributed to the fine opening performance. More info: Profile: Old St. Paul’s Hall.

2 May 1857: Henry T. Moore, merchant of Harbour Grace, marries Maria Henley, daughter of late William C. Henley, merchant of London, at Bay Roberts.

2 May 1834: Merchant John Nuttall receives a letter advising him, “for his own good [to] drop the persecution of Michael Kief” (Keefe), and to allow him to assist his “starving Family Crying for Bread.” More info: “Collective Action in Outport Newfoundland,” by Linda Little.

4 May 1852: First gas pipes laid in Harbour Grace. 

5 May 1869: John Dalton dies at Harbour Grace. For years he was interred under the altar of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A native of Tipperary, Dalton was the first bishop of the Harbour Grace Diocese. He is remembered for improving its educational facilities and commencing the construction of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Harbour Grace. More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

6 May 1848: Bishop John Thomas Mullock arrives in Newfoundland. After succeeding Michael Anthony Fleming as bishop in 1850, he establishes the Harbour Grace Diocese, with John Dalton as its first bishop. More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography

6 May 1834: Merchant John Nuttall finds an ominous note, attached to stone thrown in his yard: “You persicuting in solvent Scounderell…We will level your wifes propperty…We put up with you to long…We are watching your movements…We will Make You Suffer For it…” More info: “Collective Action in Outport Newfoundland,” by Linda Little

8 May 1834: A cooper employed by John Nuttall warns the merchant that someone has tried to burn down his premises. More info: “Collective Action in Outport Newfoundland,” by Linda Little

11 May 1829: High Sheriff David Buchan asks for tenders to build new courthouse in Harbour Grace. More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

12 May 1813: Samuel Gordon, owner of Gordon Lodge in Bears Cove, born. 

12 May 1820: Yacht HM Forte arrives at Harbour Grace. Capt. Morice. and Hon. Judge Molloy are on board.

12 May 1884: HMS Tenedos stations in Harbour Grace due to sectarian tensions after the Affray. More info: Dr. Willeen Keough on the Harbour Grace Affray (Video).


13 May 1820: Judge Molloy leaves the HM Forte under a salute of 13 guns onto wharf of Hugh Danson and is welcomed warmly at Harbour Grace’s first courthouse, a wooden structure. 

13 May 1840: Herman Lott assaulted on Saddle Hill. 

13 May 1996: Harbour Grace Historical Society maintains custody of the Harbour Grace Railway Station. More info: Harbour Grace Railway Station.

13 May 1932: Liberty aircraft (Lou Reichers) arrives in Harbour Grace; departs for Bal-Dominal, Ireland, the same day. Flight rescued by SS President Roosevelt in Atlantic Ocean. More info: Liberty or Death: Lou Reichers’s Atlantic Attempt, 1932.

17 May 1864: William Azariah Munn born in Harbour Grace. More info: Fish Oil & Water: The Life of William Azariah Munn.

17 May 1965: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designate Rev. Laurence Coughlan a “National Historic Person.” More info: Parks Canada.

17 May 1907: W.B. Grieve lays cornerstone for St. Peter’s Church. More info: Profile: St. Peter’s Church.

18 May 1916: First Post Office in Riverhead officially opens to serve the community. More info: Profile: Old Post Office, Riverhead, 1916-1968. 

19 May 1835: Five men assault Henry Winton, editor of the Public Ledger and Newfoundland General Advertiser, on Saddle Hill; his ears are severed with a clasp knife and stuffed with mud and dirt. According to Governor Henry Prescott, the event was “a matter of open triumph and rejoicing to the Catholics of low degree, [with] even female servants and children expressing the greatest satisfaction.” More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography

19 May 1932: Amelia Earhart, Bernt Balchen, and Ed Gorski leave Teterboro, New Jersey, heading for Saint John, New Brunswick, before coming to Harbour Grace. More info: Transatlanticism: Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace.

20 May 1913: SS Kyle arrives in Harbour Grace for coastal service. 

20 May 1932: Amelia Earhart arrives in Harbour Grace with mechanic Ed Gorski  aviator Bernt Balchen; she leaves the Harbour Grace airstrip solo in her Lockheed Vega at 7:20 p.m. Aiming to match Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight, Earhart sets her sights on landing in Paris, France. More info: Transatlanticism: Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace.

20 May 1855: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (“The Kirk”) opens on Harvey St, Harbour Grace. Constructed by Alexander Ross, “The Kirk” was built on land donated by John Munn, Conception Bay’s most powerful merchant.


21 May 1932: Amelia Earhart lands in Culmore, near Londonderry, Northern Ireland, becoming first female (and second person) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. More info: Transatlanticism: Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace

21 May 1604: Robert Hayman marries Grace Spicer at Exeter. More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

22 May 1870: Enrico Carfagnini consecrated a bishop of Harbour Grace in Rome. More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography

22 May 1919: First test flight of the Handley Page Atlantic in Harbour Grace

25 May 1897: Sons of England Benefit (Benevolent) Society instituted in Harbour Grace. More info: Artifact Profile No. 01: Sons of England Benefit (Benevolent) Society Ceremonial Altar, 1918.

26 May 1869: Death of editor and proprietor of the Harbour Grace Standard, William Squarey. His son R.J. Squarey takes over operations. 

27 May 1862: Robert Stewart Munn marries Elizabeth Munden in Brigus. More info: Dictionary of Canadian Biography