North River

Physical Setting... History... Church Facts...Oldest Resident.


Physical Setting

The Town of North River is located on the east coast of Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula. It is situated on the north side of Bay de Grave in Conception Bay, and extends along the northwest bank of the river of the same name. The settlement includes Hall's Town, the area south of what was formerly Fillier's Bridge, and some of the area further inland along the river valley

The 'North River' forms the northwest boundary of the town, and is a scheduled salmon river. The town of North River has no concentration of population, but is scattered for five kilometers along North River. (return to top)

History and Pattern of Settlement

The community of North River is located adjacent to Clarke's Beach, Conception Bay. The community extends along the North River in an extremely narrow band. Historically, what is now North River was more usually known as Northern Gut, while the post office name, North Valley, also appears on some maps. It is probable that the Gut and the Valley of the North River as far inland as The Pond That Feeds the Brook were early sites of winter houses for fishing communities
on the Port de Grave peninsula. The first year round settlers were probably fisherman of Irish descent who moved away form Port de Grave to cultivate gardens. By 1840 there were enough settlers to justify the establishment of a Roman Catholic School at North River, and as waterfront property at Clarke's Beach became limited, more settled form that community.

In 1857 the combined population of Hall's Town and North River was 335, with Roman Catholic families tending to settle in North River and Protestants (most notably the Hall family) further inland. All Hallows Roman Catholic Church was built at North River by at least 1874 and later St. George's Church was built to accommodate a growing Church of England congregation. In 1906 a Roman Catholic Parsh was established at North River, which had previously been part of the Brigus parish.

By the 1860's many people were combining farming with the
Labrador fishery out of Port de Grave and Bay Roberts. After the turn of the century some men took jobs on Bell Island or elsewhere, but the population remained relatively stable at about 400 people.


Since the 1960's there has been some increase of population form the number of people who have retired to the area and from the "dormitory" population commuting to job as far away as Carbonear and St. John's. There were full time farmers by the mid-1980's and
few people were directly involved in the fishery. All Hallows
Elementary School continued to serve the community, but after
1974 high school students attended school in Brigus.

 

The following is a copy of a letter written by Mr. Stan Atkins on the history of North River. It is dated 1963.

This is a little bit of history about North River. I was born in North River in the year of 1897 August 22. Now I know a lot of old people that lived there for a long time. Some of the men worked on Bell Island and some more went fishing and some stayed home, and worked on their farms. The Snows were the best farmers. There was a lot of Snows in North River in the old days. That is what they called a pond they have got up there Snow's Pond. It is a big pond. It is seven miles long. There is also a place called Hallstown. There were also people lived up there called Halls. There is a place called Morrissey Hill - where families of Morrisseys used to live. Also families of Hanlons and a place called Hanlons Point. Now there is North River and South River but I do not where they got their names from. I suppose the old people just called them that name so that they would know one from the other. My grandfather and his brother came out from the old country that is England in 1860 and settled in North River but he was not the first settler. He told me there was quite a number of people came out from England before he did. The two of them ran away from the British Army and settled in North River and when the railway was being built across the country in 1881, my grandfather was working on it in Whitbourne. He was on a bridge one day and he though the train could pass by but when the train came up close to where he was standing, he knew that he could not make it. The train was going across a bridge so he got down between the rails and he caught hold of the rail and the train cut his hand right off. He could tell me all about it when he and I went out together and when the train went across his hand and cut it off he fell 35 feet but he could work with his hand cut off but he stayed home and went farming. He had sheep and goats and a very nice farm in the old days. The old people would walk to St. John's in two days and then they would walk back in two more. My grandfather was six feet two inches tall and his brother was just as tall. The old people worked hard in the old days. Some of the old fellows would have a horse and they would have a plough out of wood. They would go to a blacksmith and they would make a shoe and they would fasten it on to the wooden plough. They would plough the land and plant their seeds and they would have some of the best little farms in the country. The old fishermen would come home and everybody would get in their winter stock. Some of the old men would build a boat and some would build a sled. The Bell Island Mines started in 1895 and my father went to work at that time. Many other people from North River also worked in the mines. I joined the army in 1914 and went overseas.(return to top)

Church Facts

(North River's Roman Catholic Church today)

(return to top)

The Oldest Resident

Born on October 21, 1828, Mrs. Ellen Carroll lived til December 8, 1943 when she died where she had been born in North River at the tender age of 115 years, 7 weeks.

In addition to her being Newfoundland's oldest resident, Mrs. Carroll is also known for her radio broadcast debut on the night of October 19, 1940 in celebration of her 113th birthday. Mr. J.R. Smallwood choreographed the broadcast and the following dignitaries were in attendance: Honourable Sir John C. Puddester, Vice-Chairman of the Commission of Government and Commissioner for Public Health and Welfare. Greeting were sent by the Queen and King, and His Excellency Governor and Lady Walwyn, as well telegrams were sent from the Bishop of Newfoundland, the President of the United Church, the Mayor of St. John's and Captain Bob Bartlett.

Mrs. Carroll in her lifetime had witnessed many changes in her community, province and country. For example, there had been rule by Governor, Representative Government, Amalgamated Government, Responsible Government, and Commission Government and when she was in her fifties the Dominion of Canada was formed. The first railway was built when Mrs. Carroll was in her early sixties. (return to top)

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