Newfoundland – District Of Burin

BURIN is the capital of the district, and situated on the west coast of Placentia Bay. In the year 1845 it contained a population of 1,653. It is now over 2,000. It has a courthouse and gaol, also a police magistrate the late Wm. Hooper, Esq., who was the member of the district in the first House of Assembly of Newfoundland. The circuit court sits here yearly. There is a clerk of the peace and a custom-house officer.

Burin has an episcopal, a Roman Catholic, and a Methodist Church ; there are also three schools. The principal merchants were formerly Messrs. R. & J. Falles (a Jersey house), and Mr. O’Neil, and others. Burin is sup-plied with three medical men. Many years ago a large and flourishing mercantile establishment was carried on here by Spurrier & Co., the ruins of which are still to be seen.

The principal fishing ground is Cape St. Mary’s, which is about 30 miles distant on the opposite side of Placentia Bay. In crossing the mouth of this wide bay, the fishing boats are exposed to all the fury of the storm. In a gale in 1847, eleven fishing boats and forty-four fishermen were lost belonging to Burin.

Burin Bay is a beautiful inlet of the sea, it is nine miles long, and front a mile to a quarter wide ; along each shore the land is superior, the fishermen have some well-cultivated gardens here. The distance from this to Garnish, in Fortune Bay, is 17 miles. In the ” Reach ” some good lime stone is found.

Mortier is the next settlement to Burin. At the head of Mortier Bay the land is good, red marl line the banks on both sides. The head of the bay is very narrow, and the tide here runs very rapid, from the Salt Ponds (ponds in the interior composed of fresh and salt water).

In September, 1848, having been provided with a guide by my hospitable friends, the Messrs. Falles, of Burin, I walked through the country from Burin to Fortune Bay. We stopped a night at Samuel Merley’s (cousin of the late Joseph Templeman, Esq.), at the head of Mortier Bay. Mr. Merley carries on a salmon fishery, as well as the cod fishery, and during the summer he killed fourteen seals in the salt pond near which he lives. At the time I was there I saw four seals in the pond. Mr. Merley had several well-cultivated gardens and some cattle, and his table was well supplied with sea-fowl. The whole distance from this to Fortune Bay was at that time uncultivated and uninhabited, although the soil is better than any I have seen in either Placentia or Fortune Bays.

Messrs. Harrison & Hooper formerly carried on a very considerable trade at Mortier, but, like most of the remote parts of Newfoundland, the foreign trade has declined. The population of the place is now about 400.

At Andierac, or as it is now called Odearin, which is an island, the large house of Spurrier carried on an extensive establishment some years ago, the ruins of which were occupied by Mr. Farlong, who shipped his fish to Halifax. The population of Odearin is about 450. There are many other important settlements further up the bay, such as Isle of Valen, Marashan, &c., &c.

The principal places on the west are Corbin, St. Lawrence, Lawn, and Lamalin, each having a population of from 150 to 500. St. Lawrence is a beautiful harbour, about a mile from the Cape of the Red Hat (Cape Chapeau Rouge). Some years ago Newman & Co. carried on a large trade, which they afterwards removed to Little Bay, thence to Harbour Breton. The remains of Newman & Co.’s premises at St. Lawrence, were, at the time of my visit, occupied by Mr. Thorn, son of the late Mr. Thorn, who was forty-nine years agent of Newman & Co., and on his retirement from the trade, was allowed by them a pension of £40 per annum, in consideration of his services. In the granite rocks which compose the coast about St. Lawrence, a small vein of lead has been discovered, containing silver.

Lawn is one of the principal fishing stations on the coast, and during the summer, boats assemble here from almost every quarter. The principal inhabitants of the place at the time of the author’s visit was Mr. Connors, an intelligent Irishman, who had a large family. He carried on a large fishery, and had a well-cultivated farm, with sheep and cattle, and was in very comfortable circumstances. Here a copper mine has been discovered.

At Lamalin there is a police magistrate and a collector of customs ; Messrs. Pittman, Cake and Hand have a large and well-cultivated tract of land, and keep from eight to twenty cattle each. These tracts of land at Samalin have been obtained by draining the bog which mostly comprise the neighbourhood. Mr. Cake has a beautiful piece of meadow land which he reclaimed by draining the bog, after which he spread over it sand, with a coat of manure of sea-weed.

The whole coast from Lawn to Lamalin, and for many miles beyond it, is flat and very barren. The rocks are mostly sienite and porphry. Hardly a stunted tree is seen within miles of Lamalin, and most of the inhabitants have to procure fresh water from an island, owing to their houses being erected on the beach, which is also surrounded with bog. This bog forms excellent peat for fuel, heaps of which were drying at the time of my visit to Lamalin. A considerable bait trade in herring, caplin, and squids is carried on between Lamalin and the French island of St. Pierre. The distance from each place is about seven miles. The French are allowed by treaty to fish half way, or mid channel. A Church of England has for some years been erected in Lamalin, and roads are being made to the different settlements.

In 1833, the District employed 54 vessels in the Foreign trade, viz : Burin, 45, and St. Lawrence, 9.

In 1845, the population of the District of Burin, was-

1,951 Roman Catholics.

1,221 Episcopalians.

1,183 Methodists.

2 Presbyterians.

4,357 Total.

There were 639 dwelling-houses and 11 schools, with 428 scholars.

There were 1,046 acres of land in cultivation, giving an annual produce of 11,081 bushels of potatoes ; 20 bushels of oats and other grain; 777 tons of hay and fodder. Of live stock, there were 85 horses, and 889 horned cattle.

According to the Returns in 1857, the population was as follows :

In 1857. In 1874.

1,356 Church of England. 1,633

2,354, Roman Catholics, 2,492

1,810 Wesleyans, 3,348

1 Kirk of Scotland, 5

1 Congregationalist 0

5,522 Total. 7,478 Total.

There were 858 dwelling-houses ; 12 schools, and 476 pupils : 3 Churches of England ; 5 Roman Catholic, and :3 Wesleyan Methodist. There were 1,254 acres of land under cultivation, producing annually 794 tons of hay ; 50 bushels of oats ; 8,445 bushels of potatoes, and 200 bushels of turnips. Of live stock, there were 1,278 neat cattle ; 488 milch cows ; 86 horses ; 280 sheep, and 232 swine and goats. The quantity of butter made, was 16,656 pounds ; of soap, 4,820 pounds. The number of small schooners and boats employed in the fishery was 1,004; nets and sieves, 1,188. Quantity of fish cured, 80,071 quintals of cod fish ; 5,723 barrels of herring ; 145 tierces salmon ; 18 seals ; and 66,362 gallons of oil.

There were 858 dwelling-houses ; 12 schools and 476 pupils ; 3 Churches of England ; 3 Wesleyan Methodist ; and 5 Roman Catholic. There were 1,254 acres of land under cultivation, producing annually 794 tons of hay ; 50 bushels of oats ; 8,455 bushels of potatoes ; and 200 bushels of turnips. Of live stock, there were 1,278 neat cattle ; 488 milch cows ; 86 horses ; 280 sheep ; and 232 swine and goats. The quantity of butter made was 16,656 pounds. Of soap, 4,820 pounds. The number of schooners and small boats employed in the fishery, was 1,104 nets and seives, 1,188. Quantity of fish cured, viz:-80,071 quintals of cod fish ; 5,723 barrels of herring ; 145 salmon ; and 18 seals, and 66,362 gallons of oil.