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Community naming rights a man's domain


Ed Roberts

The names of our communities are important; we often identify ourselves by saying "I am from Brigus," or wherever we call home. But where do we get these names?

Some, obviously, are simply geographic or natural features. There are scores of examples - the Round Harbours, the Seal Coves and the Bear Coves and so forth.

But an astonishing number of the settlements scattered around Newfoundland and along the coast of Labrador bear the names of individuals; men who were prominent in their time or have otherwise made a mark in history.

Here's a list of some of them.

• Blaketown - This Trinity Bay community was given the name of Sir Henry Arthur Blake in 1888, during his brief term (1887-89) as Governor of Newfoundland.

• Port Blandford - Captain Darius Blandford, a noted sealing captain from Greenspond, Bonavista Bay, lent his name to this community, which became the railhead terminal for that Bay.

• Botwood - Archdeacon Edward Botwood, a Church of England priest worked in central Newfoundland in the 1860's, before he became Rector of St. Mary's Church, in St. John's, where he served until his death in 1901.

• Buchans - In 1810, David Buchan, a Royal Navy officer, led an expedition up the Exploits River to try to make contact with the Beothuck. Buchans and Buchans Junction recall his efforts. Michael Crummey's River Thieves is a masterly retelling of the tragedy that marred the expedition.

• Calvert - This Southern Shore community perpetuates the memory of Sir George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, the man who founded the Colony of Avalon in 1621.

• Cambellton - John Campbell managed a large sawmill in this Notre Dame Bay community between 1901 and 1911.

• Cartwright - George Cartwright, a British army officer, ran a trading business in Southern Labrador between 1770 and 1786. His Journal of Transactions and Events, During a Residence of Nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador, is one of the classic works of our history. He founded the community in 1775.

• Cavendish - Originally known as Shoal Bay, Cavendish was renamed in 1904, at the end of Sir Cavendish Boyle's term as Governor. Boyle is remembered today as the author of The Ode to Newfoundland.

• Cook's Harbour - James Cook, the famed British hydrographer and explorer, gave his own name to Cook's Harbour when he surveyed the northern part of the Great Northern Peninsula in 1763 and 1764.

• Curling - Joseph Curling, an officer in the Royal Engineers, became a Church of England priest and came to Newfoundland, where he worked intermittently until shortly before his death. Birchy Cove, in Bay of Islands, was named in his honour in 1904, to mark his 13 years of ministry on the west coast.

• Dunfield - Two small communities in Trinity Bay were renamed, in 1911, as Dunfield, in memory of Canon Henry Dunfield, a well-known Church of England clergyman.

• Glover's Harbour and Glovertown - Sir John Glover, Governor of Newfoundland between 1876-1881 and 1883-1885 (the only man to hold the office twice) is today best-known as the man after whom both these communities were named.

• Harcourt - A small community in Smith's Sound, in Trinity Bay, Harcourt was originally known as Sandy Point. In 1904, it was given the name of Sir William Harcourt, a British politician in the latter years of the 19th century.

• Hawke's Bay - James Cook named this Northern Peninsula community after Edward, Lord Hawke, Admiral of the Fleet and first Sea Lord between 1776 and 1771.

• Horwood - Sir William Horwood served as Chief Justice of Newfoundland from 1902-44, the longest term of any person to hold the post. Dog Bay, a lumbering community in Hamilton Sound on the northeast coast, was renamed in his honour in 1914.

• Howley - This inland logging community in western Newfoundland commemorates the work of James Patrick Howley, a Newfoundland geologist and surveyor who conducted extensive mineral explorations in the area in the late 1800's.

• Lewisporte, Millertown and Millertown Junction - These all recall a Scottish timber merchant who ran a large sawmilling operation in Central Newfoundland at the start of the 20th century. Lewis Miller is the only man to have three communities named after him.

• Lumsden - Located on the Straight Shore in Bonavista North, this town perpetuates the memory of James Lumsden, a Methodist missionary who preached in Newfoundland between 1881 and 1892.

• McCallum - first known as Bonne Bay, this community was renamed shortly after the turn of the 20th century in honour of Henry McCallum, Governor of Newfoundland from 1898 to 1901.

• Morrisville - Located in Bay d'Espoir, and originally known Lynch Cove, it adopted its present name in 1910, during Sir Edward Morris's term as Prime Minister of Newfoundland.

• Musgrave Harbour and Musgravetown - Sir Anthony Musgrave, Governor from 1864-1869, left his name to these two towns.

• Mount Pearl - Sir James Pearl, a British naval officer, was granted 500 acres of Crown land located just west of St. John's, in 1829. He built the home in which he lived until his death on the land, which subsequently became part of the City of Mount Pearl.

• Petley - This small community on the north side of Random Island in Smith's Sound bears the name of Henry Petley, an early Church of England missionary in the area.

• Port Saunders - another of the communities named by James Cook, recalls the service of Sir Charles Saunders, Commodore of the Royal Navy's Newfoundland station in 1754.

• Roddickton - Sir Thomas Roddickton, born in Harbour Grace and a long-time Dean of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, gave his name to this Northern Peninsula town.

• Whitbourne - Sir Richard Whitbourne is one of the great figures in Newfoundland's early history. He wrote several influential books extolling the new colony's charms, and established the first court, at Trinity, in 1615.

• Whiteway - Located on the south shore of Trinity Bay, it was originally known as Witless Bay (one of the two in Newfoundland). It was renamed, early in the 20th century, in honour of Sir William Whiteway, a 19th century Newfoundland Prime Minister.

Dozens of communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador take their names from the family who first settled them, as opposed to individual men - and it is an historical oddity that no community is graced by the name of a woman.

But nobody knows for certain whether there was a Joe Batt, or why he went to live on Fogo Island, if there was.

Edward Roberts has had a lifelong interest in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. He was an MHA for 23 years, and served as the province's lieutenant-governor from 2002 to 2008.

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