Brigus & Georgetown

Brigus & Georgetown Newells

Brigus, Newfoundland is situated on the north west coast of Conception Bay, immediately south of Bay-de-Grave (see map below). Brigus was settled in the 17th century and by the 18th century it was one of the main towns in Conception Bay. See for a summary of the town’s early history. Georgetown is a town a few miles south of Brigus that was settled in the late 19th century.

A survey of settlers in Conception Bay conducted in 1805 records a John Noel who was established in Brigus by 1786 (see following):

Return of Possession held in Conception Bay 1805

Name and Description of the Room or Other Erections, with Its Exact Boundaries:  John Noel 50 yds. S.E. and N.W. bounded on the S.E. by John Antle on the N.W. by Wm. Antle Jr. 70 yds. from H.W.M. to the W. on the North bounds.bounded on the W. by William Morgan and 200 yds. from H.W.M. to the W. on the South bounds. bounded on the W. by the woods 1 Stage 2 Flakes 1 House 1 Garden.

In what Harbour, Cove, etc., Situated: Brigus

Name and Residence of the Party Claiming Right to the Same: Jno. Noel

The Nature of that Claim: Cut and cleared agreeable to Act Wm.3 Chap.25 Sec.7

Name and Residence of the Present Occupier: Jno. Noel

Whether-Built, Sold or Leased at the Time of this Entry: No Buildings

Date of this Entry: 1786

To Whom Sold or Leased or otherwise Transferred: Not sold or leased

John Noel’s grant was situated at Riverhead (aka River Head), Brigus near Antle’s Beach (see map below).

Modern Map of the Town of Brigus, NL.

The following Photo (taken by Jim A Goodyear and used with his permission) shows Brigus Bay viewed from the South Side looking North. The main town of Brigus is to the north (Brigus Cove) and Riverhead  is south of the town in a separate inlet (lower left of photo).

See /Goodyear_J

The following Photo (taken by Glen Bodie and used with his permission) shows more detail on the area of Antle’s Beach and Riverhead, where the Noel property was located.  Glen’s description of the photo is as follows: This panorama shot shows an area referred to as Antle’s Beach.  It was called Riverhead back in the 1800’s. The white modern 2 storey house near the farthest right of the picture is where the Wesleyan Chapel used to sit, and that is where the Antles of this area would have attended church. The Wesleyan congregation eventually became part of the United Church. From the middle of the  picture, going to the left, there is a road which rises up a small hill (Antle’s Hill) and goes down towards Antle’s Beach at the head of the inlet .

John Noel’s grant  at Riverhead, at the left side of this photo, was bounded on the S.E. [left] by John Antle and on the N.W. [right] by Wm. Antle Jr..

A section of land (beach) between John Noel and William Antle was owned by George and James Kemp and Company who were Poole Merchants who had extensive holdings in Brigus, Carbonear and Musketto (now Bristol’s Hope situated between Harbour Grace and Carbonear); interestingly, this grant had a Dock for building vessels.

George & Jas. Kemp and Co. 24 yds. from S.E. to N.W. bounded on the S.E. by John Noel on the N.W. by Wm. Antle Jr. 51 yds. from H.W.M. to the Westward bounded on the W. by Wm. Morgan 1 Dock for building vessels.

The Kemps had Methodist leanings and were active lay people in the dissenting congregation at Poole.

See also Ref to Kemps helping a Methodist minister sail to Newfoundland  in 1794.

One other piece of evidence may shed some light on this John Noel;  in 1781 a John Noel  married Frances Moores at  Harbour Grace.

Nov 6, 1781 Harbour Grace NOEL, John Portograve J Balfour
MOORES, Frances Portograve

Peter Noel links the John Noel married in 1781 to the Noels of Freshwater, Carbonear.  This marriage is just 5 years before the date given for John Noel’s grant at Brigus so this suggests that they might be the same person; however, there is no evidence supporting this.

John Noel’s grant in Brigus makes him a contemporary of Philip Noel (Newell) of ‘The Dock’ and Isaac Noel (Newell) of Burnt Head (see map above). John Noel of Brigus had one other link to Philip Noel of ‘The Dock’ and Isaac Noel of Burnt Head. In all three cases the family name that was recorded as Noel in 1805 but the spelling (used in records) eventually changed to Newell. This change took longer in Brigus than it did in ‘The Dock’ and Burnt Head. During the early 19th century the family name in Brigus was recorded as: Noel,  Nouel, Nuhe, Noulie,  and Noal but eventually settled on Newell by the mid-19th century (occasionally reverted to Noel in some government records such as the 1921 census).

There is evidence that John Noel, or perhaps his son with the same name, was prospering in Brigus at the start of the 19th century (see ). There is a house in Riverhead, Brigus dated c 1810 (see below) that was reportedly owned by John Noel..

In the records of John Percey, Methodists Minister at Brigus (1804-1820), there is a reference to a “John Nile?” buried on the 5th of Feb 1805  who Peter Noel links to John Noel but I am  not convinced. If John Noel was so successful during this period it difficult to understand how Percey could have gotten the name wrong.

In 1807 Percey records the birth and possible subsequent death of Stephen Noel, child of John and Mary Noel.

Year   Date    Males                  Females                Bap     Bur

1807    9-Jul   John Noel              Mary Noel              X              Their son Stephen

1807    15-Jul  John Noel              Mary Noel                      X       No name listed but would

assume its Stephen as it is entered right under the baptism.

John Percey’s records also show a series of children who were born or died at Brigus between 1810 and 1818  whose mothers maiden names were  Noel, Nouel, Noule or Noulie.  Their mothers Ann and Charlotte were likely daughters of the John Noel of the 1786 grant.

Year   Date    Males                  Females                Bap     Bur     Notes

1818    12-Apr  Ambrose Sparks         Ann Noel                       X       “Daughter buried, aged 8 months”

1815    11-Jun  Richard Penny          Charlotte Nouel                       Page missing

1815    25-Jun  Ambrose Sparks         Ann Nouel                             Page missing

1813    14-Mar  Ambrose Sparks         Ann Noule            X              “Their son Stephen, born Nov 9th, 1812”

1813    14-Mar  Robert Penny           Charlotte Noule      X              “Their son John, born Dec 24th, 1812”

1810    9-Sep   Ambrose Sparks         Ann Noulie             X              “Their son John, born May 23rd, 1810”

1810    12-Dec  Robert Penny   Charlott Nouel                 X

Plus the following who is clearly Ann Noule.

1806    6-Oct   Ambrose Sparks         Ann Sparks             X              Their son James

1806    8-Oct   Ambrose Sparks         Ann Sparks                     X       Their son James

Both Charlotte and Ann were likely related to John Noel as either daughters or possibly grand-daughters. Based on the date of the birth of her son James in 1806 we can assume that Ann was born c 1790 or earlier.  We can also speculate that she might be the Ann Sparkes who was buried at Bull Cove (near Beigus) in 1853.

49.   Ann Sparks,             Bull Cove   Nov. 5, 1853 no age given

Charlotte was almost certainly the Charlotte Penny who was buried in Bull Cove in 1867 which would make her DOB as c 1791.

224     Charlotte Penny        Bull Cove      Aug. 15, 1867  76 yrs

source: Brigus Methodist Burials

In a survey of the inhabitants of Brigus conducted in 1817, the only householder with a similar name was “John Nuhe” who was married with six children and who was described as “Distressed”.  Recently after examining the original written records I think Nuhe is likely Nule.  However, there was also a “Mrs Noyer” [poss Noyes] who had 7 children. Peter Noel makes a case for Mrs Noyer being Mrs Noel but I think this is debatable.

No Housekeeper Name Man Woman Children M Servants W Servants Suppliers Name Means of Providing
69 John Nuhe 1 1 6 2 “” [W. Kemp] Distressed
78 Mrs Noyer 1 7 W Kemp Distressed

Source: Inhabitants in the Harbour of Brigues 1817

I recently (March 2018) did some additional research and found a reverence to a Noel I missed earlier (name recorded as Noall).  This was Stephen Noall a son of John and Ann (Noall / Noel) of Brigus.

Brigus NOALL? John & Ann Stephen M Richard Knight Dec 4, 1826 Methodist Planter

This allowed me to put together a family tree that covers from John and  Ann up to their great grandchildren (see my Noel Newell Brigus tree on Finding Stephen’s birth explained why the name Stephen was so common in later generations in Brigus. John and Ann also had a daughter Elizabeth born 1824 which, if she was their first child, which might suggest that he (John father of Stephen) might not have been old enough to be recorded in 1817.

The next snapshot of the inhabitants of Brigus was a voters list compiled in 1835. This list includes a John and James Newell, and is the earliest record for Brigus to use Newell.

NEWELL, John Brigus River Head
NEWELL, James Brigus River Head

I now suspect that this John was likely Stephen’s father.

These names (John & James) are found in four different towns in Conception Bay North c 1835! There were:

  • this pair, John and James Newell in Brigus,
  • John and James Newell (sons of Philip) at the Dock,
  • John Noel Bears Cove, Harbour Grace and Jonathan Noel at SS Harbour Grace (1832),
  • John and James Noel at Carbonear.

The two sets at Brigus and Carbonear are especially confusing since all four wives were Ann.

There are no marriage records for Brigus prior to 1837 but John Noel at Brigus and his Wife Ann had children in 1824, 1826 and 1829 while John Noel at Carbonear only married his wife Ann Powell or Howell in Dec 1831.  The two James’ are even more confusing since they both married a woman named Ann in December 1832.

10 Dec 1832 Carbonear Noel James Bachelor Carbonear
Penny Ann Spinster Carbonear
J Burt George Joice, William Loder 45B
27 Dec 1832 Brigus Noel James
Mason Ann
Geo Ellidge John Noel, John Antle, William Antle Sr BB1-1

Between these two community snapshots (1817 & 1835) we have partial records of Births and Marriages recorded in Brigus which include the following references for Noel/Newell names.

Brigus Church of England Marriages

Marriage Date
and Place
Husband Surname Given Age Status Occupation Religion Residence
Wife Surname Given               
Married by Witnesses Volume #
06 Jan 1824 Brigus Antle John Brigus
Noel Patience Brigus
John Haigh John Antle (his mark), Amy Antle (her mark) BB1-1
27 Dec 1832 Brigus Noel James
Mason Ann
Geo Ellidge John Noel, John Antle, William Antle Sr BB1-1

Note: In 1805 John Noel’s grant in Brigus was bounded on the S.E. by John Antle and on the N.W. by Wm. Antle Jr.

Brigus Methodist Baptisms

Date Place Father Occupation Mother Child Sex Minister
05 Dec 1824 Brigus Noel John Planter Ann Elizabeth F Richard Knight
05 Nov 1824 Brigus Noel Robert Cribb Servant ? Mary Ann F Richard Knight

Brigus Methodist Baptisms

Family Individual Parents Town Month Date Year Bap Minister / Clergy
Noel Elizabeth John & Ann Dec 5 1824 (Bap) Richard Knight

Note: this is Stephen’s sister.

Assuming that girls married at 16 and had their first child by 17 and boys married at 20 gives the following estimated birth dates:

  • John Noel   c. 1804 or earlier since married before birth of Elizabeth
  • Robert Cribb Noel c. 1804 or earlier since married before birth of Mary Ann
  • Patience Noel c 1808
  • James Noel c 1812

Assuming that John Noel was 20 when he got his grant in 1786 then he would have been between approximately 46 in 1812.  Again assuming his wife (possibly Mary) was 17 when Ann [Sparks] was born C 1790 then she would have been 39 in 1812. This would suggest that the original John Noel of 1786 could have been the father of all the Noel children born up to 1812.  If so the four identified above plus Ann and Charlotte would equal the 6 children reported in 1817. Assuming that Ann and Charlotte were not counted since they were married in 1817 would allow for two other unidentified children born between 1791 and 1804.  It is also possible that there was a missing generation and that the children born in the 19th century were from one or more sons born in the 1780s or earlier if John was older when he got his grant.

Based on the preceding we can deduce that the John Newell recorded in the 1835 voters list was likely the John Noel born c 1804 and the James Newell recorded in 1835 was the James Noel born c. 1812 (or earlier).  The absence of a Robert Cribb Noel/Newell from the 1835 list suggest that he either died or moved away.

Up to this point I have focused on well documented facts but before proceeding on with later generations of Brigus Newells it is a good point to discuss some speculative theories regarding the Newells of Brigus. In my research on John Newall of Bristol (see ) I speculated that he might be the same person as John Noel of Brigus. I based this on the following:

John Newall of Bristol was born c.1761, married his wife Mary Ann in 1784, was involved in shipping to Newfoundland in the 1790s, had business connections in Harbour Grace, Nfld. at the start of the 19th century, lost his holdings in Harbour Grace in 1806 due to bankruptcy, disappeared from the Bristol records after 1806 and died at Bideford, Devon in 1832. This would make him a candidate for acquiring the Brigus grant in 1786 and operating it as another Newfoundland business or investment (the records for 1805 indicate that there was no house built on the grant). We know from shipping records that John Newall was still involved in shipping cargos to Newfoundland after his bankruptcy so he was still involved in business and may have relocated this operation from Harbour Grace (where he went bankrupt) to Brigus. There is some indication that John Noel of Brigus was prospering around 1807-1810 and this would fit with John Newalls new operation.  The evidence suggest that John Newall’s shipping operations ceased after 1811 and this might be a result of more financial problems which could also fit with John Noel of Brigus being distressed in 1817.  The John and Mary Noel of Brigus who had a son Stephen in 1807 could also fit since Mary Ann Newall would have been approximately 39; however, James would have to have been older than 20 when he married to fit. This theory fits the facts presented above but has a number of issues such as inconsistencies regarding John Newall Jr (born 1790 and reported dead 1808) and John Noel Jr (married in 1824).  This theory  is worthy of further research but should be considered as speculative.

Continuing on with later generations (of Noels/Newells) we have at least three potential fathers of future Noels/ Newells in Brigus; these are John Noel (born c 1804), and James Noel (born c 1812 or earlier) and possibly Robert Cribb Noel (born 1804).  There is also the possibility that Noels/Newells from Burnt Head or other towns in Cnception Bay moved to Brigus.

Of the three Brigus Noels/Noals/Newells above we have direct evidence for boys born to James and John.  For James and Ann there were  John Isaac  born 1835 and Joseph William born 1839 and for John there was Stephen  born 1826.

Mar 5, 1835 Brigus NOAL James & Ann John Isaacx M John McMurray Dec 1, 1839 Methodist Fisherman
June 10, 1839 Brigus NOAL James & Ann Joseph William M John McMurray Dec 1, 1839 Methodist Fisherman

Brigus NOALL? John & Ann Stephen M Richard Knight Dec 4, 1826 Methodist

We  also have indirect evidence for two other Newell who were likely born in Brigus during this time period.  In 1888 a James Newell of St. John’s Road, Brigus was buried and his age was recorded as 52 years which would make him born c 1836.

James Newell           St. J. Rd, Brgus      Feb. 10 1888    52 yrs

We don’t have a record for his birth but he may have been a child of James or possibly John.

There is also an  Abraham Newell who married in 1866 that was likely in this generation.

Abraham Newell Fanny Rose June 13, 1866

This conclusion is based on the death of Fanny Noel who died in 1913 at Georgetown (near Brigus).

Fanny Noel G’town Sept. 26, 1913 75 yrs  (so born c 1838)

If this is the same Fanny who married Abraham in 1866 then he was also in this generation.

This gives at least five male Noels/Newells (John Isaac, Joseph William, James, Stephen and Abraham) in this generation who were born between 1824 and 1839. In addition there may have been others.

The next snapshot of the residents of Brigus were two versions of McAlpine’s Directory published in the 1890s.

McAlpine’s Directory 1894-97 , Port De Grave District, Brigus Section

NEWELL Thomas B fisherman Ponds
NEWELL Abraham fisherman St John’s Road
NEWELL Thomas fisherman St John’s Road
NEWELL John A fisherman St John’s Road


McAlpine’s Directory 1898 ,Brigus District, Brigus and Vicinity

NEWELL, Beniah fisherman (Fourth pd)
NEWELL, Wm fisherman (St. John’s rd)
NEWELL, Thos fisherman (St. John’s rd)
NEWELL, John fisherman (St. John’s rd)
NEWELL, Jas fisherman (St. John’s rd)
NEWELL, Geo fisherman (St. John’s rd)

Some of the Newells recorded in the 1895-97 directory may have been part of the generation born between 1824 and 1839 (see previous discussion);  for example, Abraham may be the Abraham who married in 1866.  However, most if not all of those listed in 1898 were later generations.  The Thomas listed in 1898 was possibly the Thomas Newell  born c. 1870 (therefore ~ 28 in 1898) who died at Georgetown in 1950 (see below):

Burial: Thomas Newell		G'town		Mar. 4, 1950 	age 80 yrs

The Wm.  Newell from 1898 was likely  the William who was the father of James Henry Newell  (see my discussion of Newells who served in WWI) who was christened on 3 October 1897 in Brigus.

The next snapshot of residents of Brigus the Newfoundland  census of 1921 but this census did not record any Newells in Brigus; however, it did record a number of Newells in Georgetown, a town situated near Brigus. These Georgetown Newells listed in 1921 were the same Newells listed as living at S. John’s Road Brigus in 1898.

Georgetown is situated approximately 2 miles south of Brigus along the route of the Conception Bay highway (see map below).

Georgetown was reportedly settled by people from Bull Cove who moved inland to Georgetown.

( .

By moving inland to Georgetown they were closer to road and rail connections that were being built in the late 19th century (Bull Cove was never connected to the road network). The road heading out of Brigus to the south (towards St. John’s) was called St. John’s Road (see below):

A second favorite hiking trail in the community [Georgetown] is the road that branches off from Route 60 [Conception Bay Highway] and follows the path to Brigus using which the locals referred to as the “old St. John’s Road.” Here you will travel through “Grepes Nest” which once resided the Roberts and Spracklin families the road destination is the Cemetery Road in Brigus.

Map Showing Route 60 (Conception Bay Highway), Georgetown, Bull Cove and Fourth Pond.  Brigus is just north of the Riverhead Hills at top of map.

The Beniah Newell listed in 1898 was living at Fourth Pond (now in Georgetown see map above) and the other Newells listed as living at St. John’s Road in the 1890s were also likely living in Georgetown.  The fact that Georgetown was settled by residents of Bull Cove may have influenced the Newells of Brigus to relocated to Georgetown. As stated earlier Charlotte Noel of Brigus born c 1791 and Ann Noel born c 1790 both appeared to have relocated to Bull Cove after they married.

The Census of 1921 lists all family members which gives a  more complete picture picture of the Newells living in Georgetown. These were:

1921 Census Georgetown

Surname Given Name Sex Relationship Status Birth Year Age Place Of Birth
NOEL Beniah M Head Married 1870 50 Georgetown
NOEL Mary F Wife Married 1870 50 Georgetown
NOEL John M Son Single 1911 10 Georgetown
NOEL Thomas M Head Married 1872 49 Georgetown
NOEL Kate F Wife Married 1873 48 Georgetown
NOEL George M Son Single 1902 19 Georgetown
NOEL Mary A. F Daughter Single 1906 14 Georgetown
NOEL William M Head Married 1866 54 Georgetown
NOEL Bertha F Wife Married 1873 48 Georgetown
NOEL James M Son Single 1896 24 Georgetown
NOEL Maud F Daughter Single 1901 19 Georgetown
NOEL William M Son Single 1904 16 Georgetown
NOEL Bert M Son Single 1915 5 Georgetown
NOEL Ruth F Daughter Single 1918 3 Georgetown

Between 1898 and 1921 the number of families in Georgetown with the Newell /Noel name had decreased from 6 to 3. This pattern is similar to what happened in ‘The Dock’ and Burnt Head.  A decline in the fishery and other economic problems resulted in out-migration from Newfoundland to Canada (Cape Briton and Toronto) and New England.  The generation that came of age in the 1890s moved away leaving their parents behind in Newfoundland.

In 1945 the Census records for Port de Grave District, Conception Bay, which included Brigus and Georgetown, still recorded three families of Newells in Georgetown (see below) but two of these were elderly with no children.

1945 Census Georgetown, Port de Grave District

Surname First Relationship Sex MS Age Birth Place Place of Residence in 1935

Note #1  Both Birth Place and Place of Residence show Port de Grave (the District) for all residents so only indicates that they were from this District.

Note #2. MS is Marriage status e.g. Married, Widowed, Single

Family #9

NEWELL Benjamin R NA M W 78 Port de Grave Port de Grave

Family # 55

NEWELL Bertha Mother M M 73 Port de Grave Port de Grave
NEWELL Bertram Son F M 30 Port de Grave Port de Grave
NEWELL Alice Daughter-in-law F W 27 Port de Grave Port de Grave
NEWELL Maude Daughter F S 32 Port de Grave Port de Grave

Family # 62

NEWELL Thomas Father M W 73 Port de Grave Port de Grave
NEWELL George Son M S 43 Port de Grave Port de Grave

I have it on good authority that the last person in Georgetown with the Newell name was Alison, wife of Bert Newell, who died in 2010 at the age of 91.

I have posted a draft family tree for the Noel / Newell families of Brigus on my Ancestry site ( ). This tree links most of the early (pre 1900) Noels and Newells except the James Noel / Newell (born c 1871) who married  Margaret Costigan at the Roman Catholic Church  Conception Harbour in 1900 and remarried after her death in 1909 to Selina Keough. I have identified his descendants (see tree) but cannot identify his parents.

I have found a number of Ancestry DNA 4th and 5th cousin matches to descendants of Brigus Newells, including James referenced above; however, I likely have other ancestors from Brigus (e.g. Norman) which might be responsible for these matches. However, other Newells connected to the Dock also have matches to many of these people which provides support for the argument that there is a distant (18th century) connection between the Newells of ‘The Dock’, Bareneed and the Newells of Brigus.

This page is still under construction so check back later for updates.