I’ve been skimming the Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland by the Very Reverend Michael Francis Howley, D.D. (Published Boston, 1888). The man is a veritable font of information about the Catholic Church in Newfoundland and gives some interesting clues about the sources of our earliest records of baptism and marriage.
(In) 1784 . . . Dr. (James Louis) ODonel, the first Prefect Vicar Apostolic and Bishop, arrived in the country; and from that time the Newfoundland Church was organized, and took its place among the provinces of Christianity. (pg 186 image 211)
Establishment of Parishes and Districts
AFTER his consecration (1796) the Bishop (ODonel) continued to exercise his missionary duties as before. He divided the whole diocese into missions or districts, of which there were at first four.
First. St. John’s, including from La Manche to Holyrood, which was attended by the Bishop and his nephew, Father Michael ODonel.
Second. Harbor Grace, including from Holyrood to Grates Cove; north from there was visited annually by a priest from St. John’s, who also visited Labrador. This district was attended by Father Whelan (1794), who would seem to have been its first missioner. After his death (by drowning), Fr. Yore came from Ferryland, but stayed only a short time; then Fr. Fitzpatrick took charge of this mission, and Fr. Yore went for good there in 1806.
Third. Ferryland, including from Lamanche to Cape St. Mary’s. This mission was first attended by Fr. Fitzpatrick until the arrival of Fr. Yore in 1789.
Fourth. Placentia included from Cape St. Mary’s to Fortune Bay, and all beyond. It was, as we have seen, first at tended by Fr. Bourke (1786) till 1798, when he was succeeded by Fr. Whelan. (pg 206 image 231)
On page 183 (image 208) Rev. Howley says about Father Whalen: “Twice every year, spring and fall, he made a visitation of his parish. It was when returning, in September, 1799, that he lost his life during a storm.”
It would seem that the early Holyrood records are divided between Harbour Grace and St John’s. Reverend Howley implies that the priests visited the various communities at regular, although widely spaced intervals. This would explain the ‘batch’ baptisms and marriages recorded for the same day, or within a period of a few days, that appear during that time.
It might be an idea to pay more attention to all of the names recorded during these common times to get a better idea of which community these people lived in or near. Of course, it is also possible that people who missed the priest’s mission in one community might ‘catch up’ with him at another mission in another place. I’ve found batch records for the same family as well and this might be a clue that they were recent arrivals to the area, perhaps from somewhere more remote that had no access to the services of a priest.
Harbour Main Chapel
I have a copy of Our People . . . Our Church, produced by Rev. J. Glavine, P.P. in 1982, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Parish of Sts. Peter & Paul Parish in Harbour Main. In 1982 the communities of Chapel’s Cove and Lakeview had already been incorporated into the town of Harbour Main, and their history is included in the book. This book is an interesting read and various chapters cover the history of the church and school system, fishing, sealing, and everyday life in the parish.
The section, “The Church in the History of the Parish of Harbour Main” was contributed by Cyril J. Byrne, Ph.D., coordinator of an Irish Studies program at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Dr. Byrne’s family roots belong to Holyrood.
Dr Byrne also mentions the missions of the priests from Harbour Grace. He says that no register of Father Phalen’s (1786 – 1799) vists to Harbour Main have been found, nor of Father Fitzsimmons (1800 – 1806). The first entry in Father Ewer’s (Yore) (1806 – 1833) register for Harbour Main was the marriage of ‘John Quindlan and Mary Costollo, 17 August 1806′.
Dr. Byrne says that Father Ewer was responsible for the building of the first church in Harbour Main.
On 9th of August 1811, the Governor, Thomas Duckworth, wrote to the Rev. Amadeus Anspach who, besides his role as Anglican clergyman at Harbour Grace, acted as surrogate for the district. In his letter the governor stated that he was sending to Anspach “a memorial from the R.C.’s of Holly Rood, Bacon Cove and Harbour Main with which memorial I have thought to comply and have accordingly granted them leave to erect their chapel in Harbour Main.”(pg 44 refs 8 & 9)
On October 18th 1811, Anspach wrote the Governor: “I wrote on the 15th of the same month (August) a letter to the Chief Constable* of Harbour Main, a Roman Catholic, for those of that persuasion residing at Holyrood, Bacon Cove, and Harbour Main, desiring him to consult with them and to transmit to me, as soon as possible the information which your Excellency had directed me to obtain on that subject: on the 20th of September last, shortly after my return from St. John’s, I met the Roman Catholic priest residing in this place, the Reverend Fitzsimmons at his home, having been invited to attend the funeral of one of his flock, — who observed that he had seen my letter, expressed a high sense of the indulgence shown them and lamented their backwardness in availing themselves of it in this instance. —
On the 11th instant I received an answer dated the 6th from the Constable, stating that “he had called on several of the Roman Catholics concerning the Chapel, but they have not settled what place they will build it on, and I believe it will be a long time before they will. There are two places that they can have, one given by George McDonald, the other by Mrs. ONeal before she died. When I know more about it, I will inform you.”
*The Constable at Harbour Main was probably William Mullowney who got the job about 1811.
There appears to be a conflict between the dates assigned by Rev. Howley and Dr. Byrne, and the dates of Anspach’s letters – regarding the priest at Harbour Grace. Rev. Howley has a Father Fitzpatrick, both Dr. Byrne and Rev. Anspach have Father Fitzsimmons, although this priest is still in Harbour Grace in 1811, when Father Ewer (Yore) is supposed to have taken his place in 1806.
Rev. Howley (pg 208 image 233) writes that Father Yore went to Harbour Grace in the year 1805 or 1806, “where he continued his labors till his death, in 1833, at the age of eighty-four years.”
Missing Records from the Brigus Church
Dr. Byrne goes on to say that “sometime between 1811 and 1818 the chapel was built.” He says that from the time the chapel was built until 1833, Harbour Main and the area at the head of Conception Bay bounded approximately by Brigus and Holyrood was still serviced by the priest from Harbour Grace.
The information at The Rooms (PANL) says that the Brigus church was built, or at least the records began circa 1824. When the church in Brigus opened, it serviced the communities as far west as Holyrood, and when it burned, sometime in the 1930’s, all the records were lost. This left a gap of 33 years between circa 1824 and 1857 when the registers at Sts. Peter & Paul in Harbour Main took over from Brigus. If the registers in Brigus began in 1833 then we would have a shorter period of 24 years between the records at Harbour Grace and Harbour Main.
The date of September 1893 is a typo; the records at Holy Cross Parish in Holyrood begin in September 1883.
The following extract from the Will of Rachel Veitch which was written on June 7th 1851, and posted at the Grand Banks website, would indicate that Holyrood did indeed have an early Chapel, and that the priests were being accommodated in the community.
Will of Rachel Veitch Grand Banks
Page Contributed by Judy Benson & Ivy F. Benoit
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St John’s – Archives Parish Baptism, Marriage and Mortuary Records (1763-1850)