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Note: Information on the history and archaeology of a number of the other places on the Baccalieu Trail will be added to this feature over the next few months.

Old Perlican

Probably the oldest documentary reference to Old Perlican comes from the writings of Captain Charles Leigh who, in a letter written in 1597, mentions a Spanish vessel, probably Basque, being at, “Parlican, which is an harborow in the North part of Newfoundland” By at least 1612 people had begun to refer to the harbour as “Old Pernecam”. John Guy mentions the harbour by that name a number of times in the journal he kept during his trip into Trinity Bay that year. The crew of the shallop that accompanied Guy on his voyage stopped into “Old Pernecam” on November 13, 1612 and left a Beothuk canoe there that they had towed from Bull Arm. On his way out of Trinity Bay in July 1613, Henry Crout stopped into Old Perlican where he received two letters written to him by Sir Percival Willoughby from John Combers who had just arrive there “in a ship of London”.


Old Perlican was settled by at least the 1630s when a planter named John Brown is recorded living there. The 1675 census of Newfoundland lists 146 people living at Old Perlican including 11 planters and their servants. Some of the planters mentioned in the census were Hugh Burt, James Welshman, John Corban, Thomas Taylor, William Green and John Carter. John Carter seems to have been one of the most well established. According to the census, he owned four boats and employed twenty servants. Like many of these early planters, John was well connected in the Old Country. His father was the mayor of Poole in Dorset.

Old Perlican was attacked and burned twice by the French during the English-French wars in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. On February 4, 1697, a force led by Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville attacked and burned the town and on May 23, 1705 the town was leveled a second time by a force led by Jacques Testard de Montigny. Despite this the community survived and by 1753 there were 266 people living in Old Perlican year round.

In the 1950s, the late Harvey Hopkins was laying down the foundations for a new home near the “Washing Brook” in Old Perlican when he uncovered a large Dorset Eskimo site. Unfortunately, the site was never properly excavated and little is known about it.


In November 2004 the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation spent two days conducting some initial archaeological survey work in Old Perlican. When we first arrived, we were shown around by Mr. Fred Cramm, a retired school teacher and member of the local heritage society. Among the things Fred showed us was the headstone of a John Parrett (or Barrett) “who departed this life anno dom 1714 age 60 years”.

We discovered two sites during our survey of Old Perlican. The first one dates to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and is located about 10 metres northeast of the Parrett stone on land belonging to Mr. Ron Barrett. The second is south of the fish plant on a piece of level, dry land roughly 50 metres east of the beach and just north of a steam that flows into Old Perlican harbour. This site dates to the second half of the seventeenth century. Unfortunate, much of the latter site had been destroyed by a bulldozer only a year or two before. We plan to return to Old Perlican at sometime in the near future to conduct more survey work.


Like many of the harbours on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, Carbonear was used as a seasonal fishing station by migratory European fishermen during the sixteenth century. In the second decade of the seventeenth century Sir Percival Willoughby was granted all the land on the Bay de Verde Peninsula north of a line drawn from Carbonear in Conception Bay to Heart’s Content in Trinity Bay and the first attempts to establish a permanent settlement in Carbonear began. When Henry Crout and Thomas Willoughby (Sir Percival’s son) returned to Newfoundland in 1616 they planned to build a house in Carbonear but were prevented because some of their labourers had deserted and they lacked, according to Thomas, a “house carpenter”. In the spring of 1619 Thomas Rowley was making plans to build at Carbonear that summer and at New Perlican the following year but by the autumn of 1619 he had abandoned his plans for Carbonear.

Carbonear was settled by at least 1631 and probably had been for some years prior to that. By 1631 Nicholas Guy and his family had moved from Cupids and established themselves there. In a letter written to Sir Percival on September 1 of that year Guy reported that "... this yeare I have made by my Industrie £100


cleare” and that “for flesh I have Enough [and] sufficient butter [and] cheese which parte I sell [and] parte I spare to my neighbours". One of Guy’s neighbours must have been Mary Weymouth, a widow who kept a plantation in Carbonear in the 1630s and 1640s. Another was Gabriel Viddomas of Berry Pomeroy in Devon who worked for Mrs. Weymouth for a number of years before returning to Devon and becoming a ship’s captain.

By 1675 there were six planters living at Carbonear. The Berry Census compiled in that year lists Henry Pynne, his wife and six children; William Bradley, his wife and four children; Jonathan Edwards, his wife and one child; Jonathan Guy Sr., his wife and five children; Jonathan Guy Jr. and his wife; and Richard Windsor (age 80 years) all living there. By 1677 the population had expanded to include Joseph Parsons, his wife and 6 children; Roger Burt, his wife and five children; Charles Davies and his wife; and Abraham King. Between them these planters employed 107 servants and owned 14 dwelling houses, 12 gardens, 24 boats, 70 cattle, 48 hogs and 22 sheep.

Carbonear was burnt by the French during D’Iberville’s raid on Newfoundland’s English Shore in the winter of 1697/1698 but over 200 settlers from the town and surrounding communities retreated to Carbonear Island and successfully defended themselves from the French attacks. According to Abbé Baudoin, the priest who accompanied D’Iberville, some of the planters at Carbonear were worth “100,000 livres” but, he reports, “they have not left the stuff here”. He also stated that the 22 houses owned by planters in Carbonear were “the finest built of all in Newfoundland”. 

To date no archaeological work has been done in Carbonear but the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation plans to undertake a survey at some time in the future to determine the location of the original seventeenth-century settlement.

New Harbour

Planters living in the outer reaches of Trinity Bay at places like Old Perlican had been visiting the bottom of Trinity Bay to cut wood and trap furs since at least the mid seventeenth century. However, it was not until about the middle of the eighteenth century that the first year round settlement was established in the bottom of the bay at New Harbour. The earliest references to settlers at New Harbour come from the 1750s. On October 3, 1754 the court at Trinity heard a dispute “between Edward Fisher and Cornealle Button concerning Quines Poynt at New harbour in Trinity Bay”. The case was settled when Fisher agreed to sell Button the property for thirty shillings on the condition that Fisher be allowed to use “ye olde stage if required”.

By the 1760s Trinity merchant Benjamin Lester had established premises at New Harbour and one of his first agents there was John Thorne (or Thornton).The records from the Anglican Church at Trinity record the birth of Richard the son of John and Mary Thorne at New Harbour in 1770 and the baptism of Thomas Thorne at New Harbour on May 6, 1773. The following year, the records tell us, James Hayler (Hillier) of Netherbury, Dorset married Mary Thorne of New Harbour and in 1785 William Pollett of New Harbour married Priscilla Hefford.  By 1800 there were nine families living there. Some of the family names listed include Thorne, Hillier, Pollett, Hefford, George and Hoskins: all common names in New Harbour today.



In 1997 the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation conducted an archaeological survey of New Harbour. In the spring of that year Edger Higdon’s son had found an Indian biface on the beach on the western side of the harbour while collecting kelp for their potato garden. When we examined the garden, we found numerous patinated chert flakes left behind from the manufacture of stone tools. Edger agreed to leave the garden undisturbed for the summer and in October we returned to conduct a two week survey. The biface, which may be of either Maritime Archaic or Recent Indian origin, was the only Indian artifact found in New Harbour: lost, perhaps, by an Indian hunter long ago. The flakes in the potato garden turned out to be of Dorset Eskimo origin and when we tested to the north of the garden, we found Dorset material extending along the bank above the beach for roughly 120 metres.

We also conducted an extensive survey of the rest of the harbour in an attempt to find the original eighteenth-century settlement. The only place to produce clear evidence of an eighteenth-century occupation was Newhook’s Point on the eastern side of the harbour. Testing in the southwest corner of the point turned up fragments of various types of coarse earthenware, clay pipe stems with 5/64 bore diameters (generally assumed to date from between 1720 and 1750)  and a number of shards of early to mid eighteenth-century Westerwald stoneware. The stone foundation of a building was also found although we were unable to determine whether it dated to the eighteenth century or later. It may be that the foundation is the remains of the Newhook house that once stood on the point. According to local residents, the Newhooks inherited the point from the Garland family from Trinity who once had a house there. Since the Garlands married into the Lester family and inherited their holdings in Newfoundland from them, it seems logical to assume that this was the location of the original Lester premises as well. Newhook’s Point derived its name from Charles Newhook II who was employed as a shipbuilder by the Garland’s at New Harbour in the early nineteenth century. However, it may be that its original name was  “Quines Point”-  the same place claimed by both Button and Fisher in 1754.

South Dildo

In their letters and journals John Guy and Henry Crout refer to both Savage Bay and Savage Harbour and it now seems clear that Dildo Arm was Savage Bay and South Dildo, located at the bottom of Dildo Arm, was Savage Harbour. At Savage Harbour on October 25, 1612 ,Guy reports seeing “some savage houses, a halberd, a wooden target & small coffins (i.e. boxes) made of the barke of trees & a broad way leading from the seaside throughe the woodes”. Speaking of the same place, Henry Crout reports that they saw “divers things of the savages: bucklers, long staffes or pikes, one arrow and little bowls and sundry houses where they had been”. Clearly, the Beothuk were occupying Dildo Arm and South Dildo in October 1612 and, given what we now know about Russell’s Point and Dildo Island, they were probably there for many hundreds of years before that time.


In October 1991 Doug Rutherford and I conducted a survey of South Dildo but could find no physical evidence of the camps mentioned by Guy and Crout. However, a number of years later, Courtney Murphy, who was about five years old at the time, was playing in the area known locally as the “the Salmon Pool” just were the river that flows from Dildo Pond drains into South Dildo when she found a water rolled Recent Indian spear point made of grey chert. While a precise date for this artifact is difficult to determine given its lack of context, it appears to be well over 1000 years old. Subsequent examination of the beach north of the Salmon Pool has revealed the presence of chert flakes that also appear to be of Indian origin. The Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation plans to conduct survey work in South Dildo at some time in the future to see if we can find more evidence of an Indian presence there.


Habour Grace

Harbour Grace has been settled since at least 1618 when the Bristol Company of Merchant Venturers established the Bristol’s Hope plantation and made it their base of operations. Prior to that, in 1612, it had been the location of a pirate fort built by Peter Easton. A number of the Bristol men who settled Harbour Grace had been involved in the Cupers Cove plantation but had fallen out with the London merchants and decided to branch out on their own. Once established, the Bristol’s Hope plantation seems to have prospered.

Writing in 1622, Sir Richard Whitbourne spoke of “Diuers Worshipfull Citizens of the City of Bristoll, who have vndertaken to plant a large Circuit of that Country, and have maintained a Colony of his Maiesties subjects there any time these fiue years, [and] who haue builded there faire houses, and done many other good seruices, [and] who liue there very pleasantly”. Writing a year later “T.C. (possibly Thomas Cary) reported that “At the Bristow plantation there was as goodly corne the last Summer as can be had in any part of England.” and that, “They are also well furnished with swine, and a large breed of Goates, far fairer by farre then those tha were sent over at first.” The only known governor of the colony was the Exeter born poet and visionary Robert Hayman who composed a book of poetry during his stay there. One of his verses was dedicated to “My good friend Master Thomas Mil-ware of Harbour-Grace in Newfound-land”.

Harbour Grace was still a going concern in 1675. The Berry census, compiled in that year, lists Thomas Player with two sons and a daughter, Joan Hibbs (a widow), Thomas Horton and his wife, Lewis Guy and one daughter, Emelin Garland and one son, and Arthur Batten, his wife, two sons and a daughter living there and records that these planters had between them 95 head of cattle.

No archaeological work has ever been conducted in Harbour Grace. However, the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation plans to conduct a survey of the town at some time in the future to see if any traces of the original seventeenth-century settlement can be found.



Images (left to right, top to bottom): 1. Old Perlican Harbour, October, 1994. 2. Headstone of  John Parrett (or possibly Barrett) in Old Perlican, "who departed this life anno dom 1714 age 60 years". 3. A  fragment of a seventeenth-century German bellarmine bottle found in Cook's Cove Pond, Old Perlican. 4. Carbonear, June 2003. 5. Sir Percival Willoughby. In the early seventeenth century Willoughby was granted all the land on the Bay de  Verde Peninsula north of a line drawn between Carbonear in Conception Bay and  Heart's Content in Trinity Bay (Image courtesy of the Carbonear Historical  Society). 6. The Indian biface found on the beach in New Harbour. 7. The western side of New Harbour. The Indian biface was found on the beach just beyond the shed. Dorset Eskimo material was found on the bank in the foreground. 8. Looking south towards Newhook’s Point. Archaeological and documentary evidence indicate that this was probably where the first settlers in New Harbour lived. 9. The Salmon Pool in South Dildo. 10. Courtney Murphy with the Recent Indian spear point she found by the Salmon Pool in South Dildo. 11. Harbour Grace, June 2003.