Labrador Connections

Labrador Connections

Like most families in Conception Bay, the Newells of ‘The Dock’, Bareneed were involved in the Labrador fishery.  This fishery developed in the early 19th century when overfishing started to deplete the inshore cod stocks along the Newfoundland coast.  Virgin cod stocks off Labrador encouraged fishermen to venture north each summer in search of better catches. This fishery was a mirror image of the migratory fishery that first brought fishermen from Europe to Newfoundland. Each spring fishermen from Newfoundland would follow the retreating ice edge north, then return home at the end of summer. The fishermen who ventured north were classified as either floaters or stationers; the latter returned to the same location each summer and had fixed ‘rooms’ where they processed their fish while floaters did not have fixed rooms and generally salted the fish on the boat and brought it home ‘green’ for processing (drying)  in Newfoundland.  Since floaters did not have fixed rooms they were generally more mobile which later became an advantage when cod stocks were depleted in southern Labrador.

My branch of the Newells of ‘The Dock’ were stationers since they had fixed rooms in Labrador which were at Rover Island (53 33’N, 55 59’W) near Indian Tickle (I am not sure if this applied to all Newells in “The Dock”).  Indian Tickle is a narrow channel between Indian Island and the mainland, on the south coast of Labrador (see Map).

Map showing Indian Tickle, Labrador from Chimmo 1867

Small boats travelling north along the Labrador Coast would take the more sheltered passage through Indian Tickle to avoid the many small islands further offshore.  The Newfoundland and Labrador Pilot of 1887 describes it as follows:

INDIAN TICKLE is formed by Indian island on the north east and Musgrave land on the south west The anchorage in a bay on the west side of Indian island is in 4 fathoms sand It is safe for shipping in ordinary summer weather and convenient for fishing vessels but the holding ground is bad and a heavy swell rolls in after easterly winds In the harbour rocky ground extends some distance from Terra Nova point leaving only a narrow channel with 3 fathoms water between it and the bank off Rover island on the Musgrave shore and caution should be used in passing through it Breakers extend nearly 2 cables from the north west point of Indian island. Warren Cove at the north end of Indian island is well sheltered for fishing boats and two or three small islands in the tickle afford excellent places for fishing stages and curing fish being protected from all winds and sea.

The following drawing shows Indian Tickle c 1885; the buildings in the background would be some of the Rooms.

Indian Tickle by George E. Gladwin

In the early 1770s George Cartwright recorded several passages through Indian Tickle, while travelling between the south coast of Labrador and Sandwich Bay, but does not note any settlements there.

Rovers Island, where the Newell Rooms were situated, is a small (aprox 500’ long) low rocky island on the south east side of the Tickle (see map below).

Rovers Island, Indian Tickle

There are only a hand-full of references to Rovers Island in the literature with the earliest being a record of a ship being wrecked there in 1838:

tremendous hurricane was experienced on the coast of Labrador from 7th to ult The Avalon, Mcally, [the captain also cited as Meally] of St. John’s, was totally wrecked at Rover’s Island.

22 October 1838 – Bell’s Weekly Messenger – London, London, England

This does suggest that it was a recognized landmark at a relatively early date.

My father (John Robert Andrews Newell) was the source for my initial information on the Newells’ Rooms at Rovers Island. In the 1970s he stated that after my great grandfather (John Newell) died in 1908 my grandfather Albert, who was living in Cape Breton, sold the Rovers Island Rooms.  However, there was an even more interesting side story which came to light after meeting Jane Reed (Alberts niece). Jane’s mother and her sisters had moved to New England (Salem) before John died and after his death they felt that Albert had short changed them on the proceeds from Rovers Island. As a result there was no contact between them and the Newfoundland Newells until the 1970s.

There is no family history on when the Newells first started fishing at Rovers Island; however, there is some evidence for another Bareneed family that also fished at Indian Tickle. The Rev Cannon John Thomas Richards OBE was born at Bareneed in 1875, he was a friend of my Grandfather and in  was a minister on the south coast of Labrador. His biography includes various reminisces of his early life including: that he first went to Indian Tickle as a child and that both his father and grandfather had fished at Indian Tickle (Sealskin Boots and a Printing Press, Irving Letto, 2012). This puts them at Indian Tickle in the early 19th century.

There is also a reference to a Mr. Nuel of Bareneed in church (SPG) documents dated 1816. It states that he had worked on the Labrador and so could translate for some Indians [possibly Inuit] that had been brought to Bareneed from Labrador. These “Indians” later died in Bareneed. [As a boy there were stories of the Indians buried under Greenland’s Store in Bareneed.]  This might indicate a very early (Philip) connection with Labrador.

Since we don’t know when the Newells first went to Labrador we need to review the entire historical record for the area around Indian Tickle.

The first Europeans to establish post in Labrador were Basque whalers in the 16th century. In the early 18th century French fur traders were operating along the south coast of Labrador up to Cape Charles.  By the 1740s the French fur traders started moving north to Hamilton Inlet but this was short lived since the Treaty of Paris (1763) gave control of the entire Labrador coast back to the Governor of Newfoundland. This opened up Labrador to English traders and fishermen based in Newfoundland plus Moravian missionaries who established post in Northern Labrador. The Newfoundland based firms that moved into Labrador after 1763 included the firm  Noble &  Pinson and  a firm composed of: Jeremiah Coghlan; Thomas Perkins, George Cartwright and Francis Lucas.

Noble & Pinson was a partnership between John Noble and Andrew Pinson. Noble was a Bristol merchant (living at #31 Queen Square, Bristol in 1775) who was born and died in Taunton Somerset. Noble had been involved in Newfoundland since the 1740s.  Andrew Pinson was born in  Abbotskerswell, Devon, conducted business from Dartmouth,  spent his last years at Wadstray House (in Blackawton, just inland from Dartmouth) and was buried at Broadhempston, Devon in 1810. Pinson was the son of a Newfoundland planter and he joined Noble in the 1760s and later became a partner in the Labrador operations.  In 1770 Noble and Pinson opened stations in Southern Labrador and in 1771 they were based in Dartmouth and were operating from Temple Bay in southern Labrador (See George Cartwright’ Journal,

The second firm was a loose partnership between Coghlan, Perkins, Cartwright and Lucas. George Cartwright, a junior member of the firm with limited experience in Newfoundland prior to the formation of the partnership, is the best know member of the firm due to the subsequent publication of his Labrador diaries.   Cartwright was born in Nottinghamshire and prior to joining the other partners in the Labrador venture he was an army officer on half pay (not on active duty). Cartwrights only Newfoundland experience prior to 1770 was accompanying his brother John  (first lieutenant of HMS Guernsey) on a cruise  along the northeast coast of Newfoundland in 1766 and a trip to the interior of Newfoundland (commanded by his brother)  in 1768.     Francis Lucas, the other junior member of the partnership, was an Irish born and recently retired Lieutenant Royal Navy who also served on the Guernsey and later commanded a fort on the south coast of Labrador. The lead players in the partnership were Coghlan and Perkins, Bristol merchants with earlier connections to Newfoundland, who brought Cartwright and Lucas into the business to increase trade (furs & Salmon) with the natives (Lucas had learned to speak their Language while commanding a fort in southern Labrador).

Thomas Perkins (born c 1747, possibly died 1824) was an established Bristol merchant who was admitted to the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol in 1768 after serving an apprenticeship.  In 1775 a Thomas Perkins, merchant was living at # 34 Castle Green, Bristol (1775 Bristol Directory, published by Sketchley).  In 1780 he severed as Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol.  From 1785-1790 Perkins was manager of the hot wells at the Manor of Clifton which was a business owned by the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol.  Perkins does not appear to have had a significant hands-on involvement in the Newfoundland or Labrador ventures other than as an agent and possibly banker in Bristol. Note this Perkins is sometimes confused with Thomas Handasyd Perkins of Boston.

This leaves the last and in terms of Indian Tickle the most interesting of the partners Jeremiah Coghlan .

Jeremiah Coghlan (aka Coughlan)

W. G. Gosling in his history of Labrador (1911) identifies Coghlan (referenced here as Coughlan) as one of the first English traders in Labrador:

Another prominent man among the early Labrador traders was Jeremiah Coughlan, whose head-quarters were at Fogo. Writing to Governor Montague in I777 he says that he was the first English subject to establish a sealing post on the Labrador, which he did in 1765 at Chateau, being encouraged thereto by his ” good friend Commodore Palliser.”

Another source from 1767 identifies Jeremiah Coughlan as the late agent to James Bombanous, Merchant of Bristol, now bankrupt

This is almost certainly the James Bonbanous [note spelling also Bonbonus] who in 1766 was Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol ( and who in 1775 lived on Trinity Street, Bristol (not the current Trinity Street but an earlier Trinity Street which was near the church of St. Augustine the Less).

#4. Trinity Street :Bonbonus, James, broker

#9. Trinity Street: Coghlan, Jeremiah, Newfoundland mer.

Sketchley’s Bristol Directory 1775

Bonbonus also had offices on Corn Street in the same area of Bristol.

Coghlan and his wife Johanna had 5 children baptized at St Augustine’s church between 1763 and 1775  Among these children was Jeremiah Jr whose obituary from 1826 describes the family roots in Ardo Ireland:

On his paternal estate of Ardo, Waterford Jeremiah Coghlan esq last surviving son of Mr Jeremiah Coghlan formerly an eminent merchant in Bristol By this gentleman’s death that ancient and respectable family has become extinct

The following suggest that the family originally came from this area:

Much of our information on the history of Ardo is in an article written by Frances Currey of Lismore and published in 1853. The Coghlans of Ardo are listed as one of the principal families of Co. Waterford in 1710. “Henry Coughlan of Ardo, High Sheriff 1776 married to a widow Lindsay of the Co. Tipperary” appears on a list of the principal gentry of the county in 1775, compiled by the Right Hon. George Ponsonby.

Interestingly, Bonbonous also has links to Ireland. In the early 18th century Bonbonous a French Huguenot refugee family settled near Cork. John Bonbonous lived in Cork, and made a considerable fortune as a woollen manufacturer

Evidence of our James Bonnonous connections to this family comes from a record from 1751 of a James Bonbonous of Bristol being admitted to a Freemasons Hall in Cork

For more info on Coghlan see:

Francis Lucas died in the fall of 1770, soon after Cartwright and Coghlan went their separate ways with Cartwright based at Cape Charles (southern Labrador) and Sandwich Bay (a large bay between Indian Tickle and Hamilton Inlet, site of the modern town of Cartwright) while Coghlan took the intervening coast that include Indian Tickle. Coghlan and Perkins dissolved their partnership in 1773. After the partnership dissolved Coghlan steadily prospered, prosecuting the cod fishery in the summer and leaving crews for sealing and furring in the winter and salmon fishing in the spring. By 1777 he could boast that he employed four times the men Cartwright did, “being bred in this business,” and he regularly sent two ships a year to the Labrador coast. At the peak of his career Coghlan annually employed between eight and ten ships to carry supplies out to Newfoundland and Labrador and cargoes of cod, salmon, furs, sealskins, and oil back to England During this period Coghlan had a post at Sand Hill Cove which is west of Indian Tickle

Both Cartwright and Coghlan suffered from raids by privateers during the American war and both went bankrupt in the early 1780s. The winner in terms of this period was Noble and Pinson who took over Cartwrights operations.

To be coninued