About ten years or so ago my Murphy family was based on an article printed in ‘Come Ashore to Holyrood’ that provided some history on the Halfway House. In it the Murphy’s were described as being the original proprietors – John Murphy of Chapel’s Cove being named as the first caretaker. He had moved his family into the bush 7 miles from Holyrood to protect them from a cholera epidemic; the year was not given. While living there, the road from St John’s to Placentia had been begun – was finished – the Halfway House had been built – John Murphy was given the job as caretaker…and the rest was history.
That story of the Halfway House was essentially the same one that my mother had told me. It was a part of her family history and she had no reason to doubt it. However, John Murphy had never been a caretaker at the Halfway House. The ‘Come Ashore’ story is a muddle of fact and fiction, and John Murphy’s personality is no doubt a testament to it’s having endured for so long.
The Halfway House from “Come Ashore”
This fabulous folk history of Holyrood was compiled by Mary Veitch from stories and family histories submitted to her for the book. I’ve no idea who sent in this story of the Halfway House.
After some years of stop and go research on my Murphy ancestors I found a reference in the 1864-65 St Mary’s Hutchinson’s Directory at the Grand Banks site.
Murphy Thomas, hotel keeper (Half way house)
I scratched my head. My mother scratched hers. We decided that this man who we had never heard of before had to be related to the now famous ‘John of the cholera epidemic’. Who was this Thomas Murphy of the Halfway House?
As I later discovered, it was Thomas Murphy who was caretaker, and he wasn’t the first to hold that position. A man by the name of Walter Shelly had that distinction.
I was also to learn much about the road building fever that gripped the imagination of the first elected government in Newfoundland. In April 1834 a resolution was passed to allow £56 and change to build the road from St John’s to Salmonier in St Mary’s Bay. Twenty years would pass before the Halfway House would ever be needed.
Salmonier Line of Road & Halfway House
Interestingly, this road is still called the Salmonier Line. When I was a child, I assumed, naturally enough! that Salmonier was actually a place. It isn’t though, it’s an area.
Salmonier is the name commonly given to a collection of fishing and farming communities along Salmonier Arm, St. Mary’s Bay and includes the incorporated community of Mount Carmel-Mitchell’s Brook – St. Catherine’s and the communities of St. Joseph’s, New Bridge and Forest Field.
Here is an off site Government of Canada link that has a collection of photographs of not only Salmonier but of Holyrood and a number of other communities on the Avalon Peninsula. Salmonier and other Avalon Pen Communities
Thomas Murphy became caretaker of the Halfway House in 1857. I feel sure that his brother John, who was one of the Road Commissioners, might have had something to do with it.
In 2009 William Hannon sent me a pdf copy of a Petition for Administration that identified Thomas Murphy’s siblings.
To the Honorable the Supreme Court of Newfoundland or one of the Judges thereof.
The petition of THOMAS MURPHY
of Mount Prospect, Placentia Road
at present of St John’s.
That JOHN MURPHY late of Chapel’s Cove, Conception Bay,
Blacksmith, died at that place on the twenty eighth day
of March last.
That said deceased left him surviving a widow JOHANNA,
one brother, your petitioner, and three sisters, MARY,
wife of Michael Murphy of Holyrood, MARGARET wife
of John Hugo of Chapel’s Cove, and ELLEN, wife of John
Myers of Chapel’s Cove.
That no letter of administration of the Estate of said
deceased have been taken out or applied for by any
Your Petitioner therefore prays that letters of administration
of the Estate of said deceased may be granted to him. And
as in duty bound he will ever pray.
Dated at St John’s this 5th day of April A.D. 1875.
Thomas X Murphy
The Supreme Court decided that all parties in the matter should be notified of
Thomas Murphy’s intent regarding his brother’s estate, and that their approval
or disapproval should be determined. Citations were delivered to Harbour Main
and were handed over to the Constable for delivery. James Murphy, the local
constable, was also the son of Thomas Murphy and therefore (we think) would have
been in a position of conflict, so the Cat’s Cove constable, Edward O’Brien did
Harbour Main Writ
JAMES MURPHY of Harbour Main (which has been crossed out –
and written above this : ) EDWARD OBRIEN, Cats Cove,
Constable maketh oath and saith that this deponent did on the
Twenty first day of April instant personally serve MARY MURPHY
of Holyrood, **widow **of MICHAEL MURPHY, JOHN HUGO of
Chapel’s Cove, and JOHN MYERS of Chapel’s Cove, each, with
a copy of the Citation on the otherside written and nessessarily
travelled seven miles to ?make such served —
Sworn before me at Harbor Main
this 21st day of April
A.D. 1875. [signed]
Commissioner of Affidavts.
In the end, Johanna Murphy wrote a Letter of Intent, stating that all parties
except Thomas Murphy were satisfied that she should be Administrator to her
husband’s estate. She confirmed that her husbands ‘only nearest of Kin are these
mentioned in said Petition.’ Her letter was dated April 26th 1875.
About the same time that I received William Hannon’s Petition, Joe Byrne gave me a copy of a letter written by Charles Cozens, Stipendiary Magistrate at Brigus to James Crowdy, the Colonial Secretary on August 12 1846. This document presented an unflattering view of John Murphy, who was described as a blacksmith and a Road Commissioner at Chapel’s Cove, his brother who was unnamed, and ‘a relation’ Murphy, a mason who had built a bridge in Chapel’s Cove under the direction of John Murphy.
C Cozens’ letter
Recently, William Hannon told me about a newspaper item in the Evening Telegram published Feb 17 1899.
Before Chief Justice Little.
MYERS vs MURPHY
This case involves a dispute about land in the district of Harbor Main.
Mr Woods, for plaintiff, Mr F J Morris for defendant were heard at considerable length in support of their clientele. The Chief Justice reviewed the evidence, which showed that THOS. MURPHY, father of JAMES, the defendant, had given the land to his son 28 years ago , and that he enjoyed the undisputed possession of it ever since; and besides his assignment made in JAMES MURPHY’s favor in 1875 all the evidence went to show that he was the real owner.
LAWRENCE MURPHY, the brother who sold the land to MYERS, although having a deed of gift obtained from his father at a later date, and although the same was registered, still he never had taken possession or claimed the property until he sold it last year to plaintiff.
On motion of Mr Wood, LAWRENCE MURPHY was added as co-defendant, with an alternative claim for breach of conduct.
A notice of this motion will be given defendant before judgment is
delivered. F J Morris for plaintiff; W Wood for defendant. Final judgment will be delivered in a few days.
Evening Telegram (St John’s, NL) 1899 Feb 18, Supreme Court.
MYERS vs MURPHY
In the case of MYERS vs MURPHY (Harbor Main), for trespass, judgment was delivered this morning by the Chief Justice in favor of defendant, and plaintiff will have to give up the land. F J Morris for defendant; Wood for plaintiff.
There can be no further doubt that Thomas Murphy was the father of James, the constable in Harbour Main, and Lawrence, who took over the Half Way House. I’m hoping some day to find out who the Myers man was that Lawrence tried to sell the property to.
It would also be nice to know where this land is located. The news item merely said that it was in the District of Harbour Main. I’m pretty sure it was in Chapel’s Cove and was most likely the property from John Murphy’s estate, although like all my Murphy data, the dates are vague – either 1871 or 1875…