The ‘Salmonier Line of Road’ had the humblest of beginnings. On Wednesday, April 30th 1834, a number of Resolutions were read in the House of Assembly, some ‘for the purpose of opening, making and improving Roads’ in the Colony.
#28. Resolved . . . that a sum not exceeding Fifty-six pounds thirteen shillings and four pence be granted to his Majesty to be applied and expended under the superintendance of Henry P. Thomas, Esquire, towards opening a Line of Road between St John’s and Salmonier in St. Mary’s Bay.
It’s just as well that the first Government of Newfoundland didn’t know that this road would take more than 20 years and many thousands of pounds to complete. On an island where the only mode of transportation was the sea there were almost no roads at all, except in and near St John’s and Harbour Grace. Beaten tracks through the forests and over the Barrens skirted around a multitude of ponds; rivers could only be crossed when frozen, or at low water in the summertime.
The story of road building in Newfoundland would fill more than one book and this particular story is about my Murphy clan and their part in the saga, so I will try and stick to the short and sweet version.
The Half Way House or Government Cottage
In the Journal of the House of Assembly of 1850 there’s a small item concerning the Half Way House:
A62 Appendix – Treasury Accounts
Revenue and Expenditure, Quarter Ending December 31st, 1849 James Douglas [supervisor of roads] was granted under a Special Vote the sum of 40pounds for the ‘completion of the half-way house to Salmonier’.
(James Douglas – Central Board of Road Commissioners – this was the
St John’s Board.]
So, ‘John of the cholera epidemic’ wasn’t the first caretaker of the Halfway House; a man by the name of Walter Shelly had that position – on Tuesday, April 9 1850, a Petition from Walter Shelly was received and read in the House:
That he had prepared furniture suited to the Government Cottage on
the Salmonier road, and praying that a sum of money may be granted
him for a limited period as keeper of said House.
(Journal of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland 1850, pg 114)
In the Acts of the General Assembly, published in 1851 (page 75), it was noted that Walter Shelly was granted –
The sum of Thirty-five Pounds … Annual Allowance for keeping the Government Cottage Salmonier Road, and the further sum of Ten Pounds to defray Cost of Building Out-houses and Stables…
Also in 1851 the Journal (pgs 108-109) had this item.
Wednesday, March 19 1851 [date taken from page 99]
To His Excellency Sir John Gaspard LeMarchant, Knight, and Knight Commander of the Orders of St Ferdinand and of Charles the Third of Spain, Govenor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Island of Newfoundland and its Dependencies.
May it please Your Excellency,-
The House of Assembly most respectfully request that Your Excellency will be pleased to give instruction that there be kept at the half-way house, Salmonier road, a register of the names of persons travelling to and from St John’s, passing the said house; where going, and whence coming; and if with cattle, the number and descrption of such cattle, and whence brought: also, the day of the month in which such persons were so passing; such register to be returned quarterly to the hon. the Colonial Secretary, for the information of the Legislature.
In 1852 the Journal (pg 265) showed that another Thirty-five pounds had been granted as ‘salary of Walter Shelly, keeper of the half-way house at Salmonier; and the sum of Twenty Pounds towards defraying the expense of the erection of a chimney in the said house.’
Rev Mullock’s 1856 letter to the Ledger regarding the condition of the Salmonier Line.
Bishop Mullock strongly expressed his feelings on the subject of monies that had been assigned to the Road Board and said that it was being used “more as a pauper relief fund than a road fund”. This isn’t the first reference to that subject. The Newfoundland fisherman was being re-educated, and the movement from fishing to land based occupations had begun. The road building projects injected a passion into local communities for more and better. Just about every issue of the Assembly records after 1834 recorded endless petitions from landowners asking for more roads in their communities. And then they began asking for recompense for land that had been removed from their holdings for use in road building.
In the 1903 Judge Prowse, an eccentric and popular Newfoundland born member of the Bar -in what he perceived to be a humourous article in the newly created Newfoundland Quarterly, wrote that “Sir Joseph I. Little, it was said, gave every man in Harbour Main District a road to his garden.”
This document #345 supplied by Joe Byrne and written to J [John] Kent, the Colonial Secretary on May 18 1857 by John [illegible] confirms that Walter Shelly would no longer be the caretaker of the Half Way House. It would appear that the amount paid out to Shelly on the 21st of May was much less than was recommended by the writer for compensation – and certainly much less than he would have expected.
The year end financial records for 1857 were published in the 1858 Journal, and Thomas Murphy‘s name appears along with Shelly’s on an item labeled Unforeseen Contingencies and dated May 21st 1857.
(pg 391 Appendix)
Thos. Murphy (half-way house) …….. 6 pounds 1 shilling and 4 pence
Walter Shelly (repairs on ditto) ….. 21 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence
On page 38 of the 1866 Journal:
Mr. Hogsett presented a petition from Thomas Murphy, Keeper of the half-way house, Salmonier Road, which was received and read, praying for a grant to enable him to repair the building.
In the 1866 Journal’s year end for the 1865 accounts, the Salary for Keeper of the Half-way House was listed under Miscellaneous Expenses – 162 pounds. (page 8 Appendix)
John Murphy – Blacksmith and Road Commissioner, Harbour Main District
As it turns out, Thomas Murphy had a brother John, who was appointed a Road Commissioner in 1838 and was functioning as Chairman of the Harbour Main Board in 1844.
Title: [Acts of the General Assembly of Newfoundland]
Imprint: [St. John’s Ryan and Withers, 1838]
2nd Victoria, Chap. 3.
FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES FROM HOLYROOD TO BRIGUS —
Reverend Dennis Mackin
**JOHN MURPHY, Chapel’s Cove** Commissioner’s Report 1844
Reverend Patrick Ward, Harbor Main
Peter Ezikel, Harbor Main
FOR ROADS AND BRIDGES FROM CAPE BROYLE TO CORNFIELD, NEAR FERRYLAND —
Matthew Morey, Senr.