Showing posts with label Harbour Grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harbour Grace. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Drown'd by the stroke of a whale, 1782: the grave of Jonathan Webber

Recently, I came across an intriguing headstone inscription on the Stone Pics website, for the community of Harbour Grace, Conception Bay. It was for a young man who was killed by a whale, and who lies buried in St. Paul's Churchyard. The stone reads:

In memory of Jonathan the son of Henry & Elizabeth Webber. This stone is erected by his sorrowful parents. He was a dutiful child, a loving brother, his parents chief hope of children, was drown'd by the stroke of a whale the 12th & found 16th July, 1782, aged 18 years and 9 months, and lies interr'd here.

I asked Matthew McCarthy, the Economic Development Officer for the  Town of Harbour Grace if he knew about it, and he ventured out to the churchyard and took the attached photos. The stone lies approximately here.  Thanks to Anne Gosse, who sent along the entry on, which you can view here:

"Whaling was an exceptionally dangerous business both physically and economically," reads the New Bedford Whaling Museum website, "In the Yankee whale fishery injuries and death were common to almost every voyage" (1).

As one example, the brig Emeline, of New Bedford, sailed from port on the 11th of July, 1841. The captain, Captain Wood, was killed by a whale in July, 1842 (2).  Consider also this dramatic report published in The Patriot And Terra-Nova Herald 1851-12-22, about the fate of the whaleship Ann Alexander, also of New Bedford, on 20th of August, under the command of Captain Deblois:
...while in pursuit of whales, two of his boats that were out in pursuit were attacked by a large sperm whale, and completely demolished. The captain promptly ordered a third boat, and proceeded to the assistance of the men, who were thrown into the sea by the destruction of their boats. He succeeded in rescuing all of them, and reached his ship in safety. But the whale becoming  more frantic with rage, immediately directed his course for the ship, and struck her abreast of her foremast, injuring her so badly that she instantly filled. All hands took to the boats on the 22nd, and were subsequently picked up by the ship Nantucket... (3)

While it isn't explicitly stated on the stone, it is likely that young Jonathan Webber was engaged in the whale fishery of the time. The whale fishery was well-established in 18th-century Newfoundland.  By 1750, the Webber family of Boston set up business in Harbour Grace and made strenuous efforts to promote a whale hunt in Conception Bay; in 1766 Governor Hugh Palliser oversaw regulations for preventing disputes amongst whalers that arose from claims to a share in any whales. The whaling factory in Harbour Grace closed circa 1913, but memories of it lived on well past that date: the Harbour Grace Regatta was established using whale boats for the races, a tradition that persisted up to 1971.

Works cited:


(2) page 149.

(3) page 3.

Got a whaling story from your community? Let me know at

Friday, November 16, 2018

Invite to Harbour Grace Heritage Opportunities & Priorities Session Nov 28

Invite to Harbour Grace Heritage Follow-up Session

Wednesday, November 28, 2018
1:30 p.m.
Firemen's Social Building,
Bannerman Street, Harbour Grace

A “People, Places & Culture “Workshop was facilitated by Heritage NL in Harbour Grace 10 November 2018. The workshop comprised two parts: I) a cultural mapping activity that considered the community’s tangible and intangible cultural assets; and II) a session to explore opportunities for protecting, safeguarding and developing these assets. The latter activity involved identifying themes and clusters of cultural assets that emerged from the mapping session. This meeting involved local heritage enthusiasts, residents, town staff, and representatives from the Town of Harbour Grace, Conception Bay Museum, and the Heritage and Redevelopment Committee.

15 themes emerged from the discussion, written notes, and mapping exercise. The next step will be to prioritize these and set some actionable items with some recommendations from Heritage NL.

You can view the preliminary report and the list of themes and sub topics here.

The follow-up session is set for Wednesday, November 28, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. in the Firemen's Social Building, Bannerman Street, Harbour Grace, and is open to everyone. If you're interested in heritage and development, come along! We'll be going over the preliminary report, and setting some priorities for future heritage work in Harbour Grace.

You can register for the workshop online.

For more information contact:
Matthew Gerard McCarthy
Economic Development Officer
Town of Harbour Grace

T: (709) 596-3042
C: (709) 222-9320
F: (709) 596-1991

P.O. Box 310
112 Water Street
Harbour Grace, NL
A0A 2M0

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Occasional Paper No. 008 - A Social and Architectural Analysis of the Harbour Grace Railway Station

Harbour Grace Railway Station and Freight House c. 1980. Photo by Joe McMillan. 

For the past couple of months, I've been researching the Harbour Grace Railway Station. I interviewed several people who have memories of the station, conducted archival research, and visited the building on various occasions to document its architectural features. The final result of this project is an occasional paper.  

If you would like to download the full PDF click here.

-Katie Harvey

Friday, July 21, 2017

Memories of Historic Places: A Trainful of Mary Brown's Secret Recipe Dough

Over the past couple of weeks I have been researching the Gordon G. Pike Railway Museum and Park. Erected in 1881, this building was once the station for the Harbour Grace Railway. It is a small, one-story, hipped roof building located on Military Road in Harbour Grace. 

I always enjoy hearing people's memories of places, but here on Friday afternoon, as suppertime approaches, one story, as told by Patrick Collins, stands out in particular:

"I remember the train coming down with a load of Mary Brown’s secret recipe.  Aboard were boxfuls of secret recipe dough that they use for the deep fried chicken at Mary Brown’s which is here in Harbour Grace. And I remember that being quite secretive; the owner coming up and saying, 'make sure none of those boxes are stolen.' There was a freight shed that was right next to the station that is gone now and that was very securely looked after."

I can imagine how exciting it must have been for the employees of the station, entrusted with protecting the sacred deep fried chicken formula that has become a staple to many Newfoundlanders. It must have been difficult to resist sneaking a peek of the secret recipe. 

If you or someone you know has a memory of the Harbour Grace Railway station, please contact Katie at or (709) 739-1892 ex. 7.

-Katie Harvey

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A cemetery visit on Orangeman's Day - the grave of William Janes

Yesterday was Orangeman's Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the curious provincial holidays that some people get off work, and other people know nothing about.  While the Heritage Foundation office was closed, I headed off to Carbonear for a meeting about a possible future oral history project, and a visit to St. James Anglican to meet with their committee about their cemetery cleanup project. We'd blogged about St. James Anglican before (read here) and today was the first day their student workers in place. So off I went to help them make a plan for removing brush, and to prioritize which sections of the cemetery they should work on first.

When I arrived, the students had already cleared away some of the brush from around the memorial stone for William Janes, work appropriate, perhaps, for Orangeman's Day. William Janes was killed in the notorious Harbour Grace Affray, and his marker reads:

Who was shot dead whilst
walking in an Orange Pro
cession at Harbour Grace
ON DEC 26TH 1883.

There is a detailed account of the affray here:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Harbour Grace Railway Memories

Canadian National Train in Harbour Grace. Photo from the Town's website.
On Sunday evening the Heritage Foundation along with the Town of Harbour Grace hosted the Railway Memories and Story Swap. Although we didn't come across any photos of the railway station that evening we did hear some great stories and were told there are a couple of photos in the local museum's collection. If you or anyone you know has photos of the Harbour Grace Railway station or the Conception Bay North railway more generally please get in touch at as we are still on the hunt for photographs!

We arranged a follow up interview with Pat Collins who had excellent stories about his time working on the railway.  He told us about a old railway station in Riverhead, Harbour Grace and suggested several people we get in touch with for more stories.

Pat also described his fear and embarrassment when he fell asleep during an overnight shift on the Main Line and awoke to the sound of a work train coming through. In his confusion he thought it was a passenger train which was not supposed to come through on the tracks at that time. He put the call over the radio to stop the train but was laughed off the radio instead. Pat was told to go back to sleep  and was informed it was a freight train coming through in the early morning and there was nothing to worry about!

~Terra Barrett

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Railway Memories Photo and Story Swap - Harbour Grace

Harbour Grace Railway Station. Photo by Michael Philpott.
Did you work in the building or on the railway line? Do you know someone or have a family member who did? Do you have memories of taking the train? Do you have old photos or items associated with the Harbour Grace Railway Station? The Heritage Foundation NL, in partnership with the Town of Harbour Grace, wants to know!

We’ll be hosting a Railway Memories Photo and Story Swap in the in the Danny Cleary Harbour Grace Community Centre, 1 Cee Bee’s Way, Harbour Grace on Sunday December 4, 2016 at 7:30pm.

“We are looking for anyone connected to the Newfoundland Railway in Conception Bay North including labourers, station agents, telegraphers, and flagmen, as well as locals with memories of railway travel.” says the foundation’s folklorist Dale Jarvis. “If you have memories or photographs of the Newfoundland railway, we would love to hear from you.”

The oral history project is part of the foundation’s Collective Memories Project. This project is an initiative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, with funding provided by the Department of Children, Seniors, and Social Development. The Collective Memories Project invites seniors to record their stories and memories for sharing.

Come for a cup of tea, and bring photos, calendars, timetables, tickets, objects to show off. This information will be used in the restoration of the train station. There will be a scanning station there to digitize or photograph everything that people bring, so you can take your originals home with you. The information gathered will be used to help restore and celebrate the old railway station in Harbour Grace.

For more information please contact Terra Barrett with the Heritage Foundation toll free at 1-888-739-1892 ext. 5 or email or Natalie Austin with the Town of Harbour Grace at 709-596-3042 or email  Click here for the Facebook event.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Harbour Grace, circa 1949-1951.

We have a gem of a historic photograph for Tuesday's Folklore Photo this week!

The Heritage Foundation of NL has been working with a committee in Harbour Grace to find a new life for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (read about that here) and it has unearthed this great photo of the building, taken sometime between 1949 and 1951.

The photo comes from Bill Brooks, and was taken by his father, William Brooks (who was at the time a Captain in the US Air Force). I asked Bill what his father had been doing in Harbour Grace, and this is his response:
I’m guessing that he played some role in decommissioning the signal intelligence facility that was located at Harbour Grace – perhaps for reinstallation at Ft McAndrews, but it’s pure speculation. He was stationed at Ft McAndrew AFB in Argentia from 1949 through 1951 (where I was born). He was a Signal Officer. From his orders: “Commanding Officer of Signal Company Aviation responsible for training, administration, supply, personnel.” Responsibilities included “supervising installation, maintenance, operation of telephone, telegraph, and radio equipment.” I don’t think he was in Harbour Grace on vacation – not to dismiss it as a cold war period USAF personnel vacation destination, but his service record shows he had 58 days of unused vacation when he concluded service in Newfoundland, so he probably wasn’t taking much time off.
If you have any old photos of the Cathedral (or a memory of Captain William Brooks) email me at

Read more about the Cathedral itself here

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Old gates in historic Harbour Grace, Newfoundland

I spent a couple hours this morning, walking around the heritage district and surrounding neighbourhood of Harbour Grace, Conception Bay. I'm giving a presentation to the town tomorrow on cultural mapping and inventorying of heritage resources, so I just wanted to see what I could see.

One of the things that jumped out at me was how many properties still maintain their old gates, some of which are of a very similar style. Some of these were possibly constructed by Art Tapp, a blacksmith who "fashioned many of the iron gates and fences in the district" (Harbour Grace Heritage District Report, HFNL, 1992).

A very preliminary walk-around revealed a large number of wrought iron gates and fences standing, some possibly Tapp's work, others of later periods. To give you a sense of numbers and variety of styles, a selection of photographs follows, taken today, 6 May 2015.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fashion, alcohol, and religion in Regency Conception Bay, Newfoundland

A Tale of Two Houses: Fashion, Alcohol, Religion in Regency Conception Bay Townscapes

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Benevolent Irish Society, Harvey Road.

Robert Pack—English Methodist Politician and Merchant—and William Innott—Irish Catholic Publican and Horse Breeder—shared the streets and social circles of their respective towns of Carbonear and Harbour Grace. Wealthy and prominent, they built summer dwellings away from their urban households and business interests. Constructed in the 1820s, the summer dwellings were part of the architectural fashion of villa and cottage—retreats from towns of noise, crime, prostitution, and wayward pigs. These juxtaposing houses become an entrĂ©e into the material, social, and aesthetic life of Regency Newfoundland townscapes.

Folklorist Dr. Gerald Pocius will present on Pack and Innott at the Annual General Meeting of the Newfoundland Historic Trust on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at 7:30pm, at the Benevolent Irish Society on Harvey Road.

Pocius has researched and written on topics ranging from joke-telling and pop music, to tract housing and religious popular prints. He has worked on many aspects of Newfoundland folklore and popular culture, publishing studies of belief, religion, medicine, narrative, and music. His specialty has been material culture, and he has published widely on gravestones, cemeteries, textiles, folk art, architecture, furniture, and cultural landscapes. While working primarily in Newfoundland and Labrador, he has also conducted fieldwork in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Lithuania.