North River

North River Newells

North River (AKA Northern Gut) is a community situated along the river with the same name which flows into Bay-de-Grave (see map below). North River is approximately 3 miles west of ‘The Dock’.

The history of North River was outlined in a 1986 edition of Decks Awash magazine as follows:

There are a number of families of Newells in North River but my family tradition says that, despite the proximity, we are not related to the Newells of North River; however, this needs to be interpreted in context (see my conclusion). To the best of my knowledge there has been no research on the origins of the Newells of North River but the following is one possible theory. In the census of Conception Bay conducted in 1817, that listed Philip Noel [Newell] in Bare Need [Bareneed], there is a record for a Lawrence Newell at Bare Need. This Lawrence is listed as having a wife and 3 children but, unlike Philip, no other information is provided.

No of Inhabitants in Bare Need 1817

No Housekeeper Name Man Woman Children
  89 Law’r Newell 1 1 3

The census of 1817 was categorized into groupings that reflected the major towns including Brigus, Bareneed, Cupids and Port-de-Grave so everyone living between Bareneed  and Cupids (what is now Otterbury, North River, Clarkes Beach, South River and Salmon Cove) would be placed in one or the other. The dividing line would likely be Clarke’s Beach which was not settled until the 19th century. As a result Lawrence may have lived in what is now Otterbury, North River or Clarke’s Beach. Evidence for this comes from the 1817 record for William Wills, another person listed under Bareneed.

82 W’m Wells 1 1 2 W Graham Well Off
84 W’m Wells Son W’m 1 1 3 ditto Well Off

William Senior (82) died in 1828 and his residence at the time of death was listed as “River Head, Port-de-Grave”

WELLS William WELLS, Senr., River Head, Port de Grave. N.D. May 23, 1828

There are no later records for a River Head in Port-de-Grave; however, it likely indicates the area where North River flows into Bay-de-Grave (what later became Clarke’s Beach and North River).

Interestingly, the family members I interviewed for my original research in 1971, had no knowledge of a Lawrence Newell. Eleven years prior to the 1817 census there was a Lawrence Nevill married in the Roman Catholic church in Harbour Grace (sufficient time to have 3 children).


 Nov 18, 1806 Laurence NEVILL m. Mary CAVENAGH James LAWLESS & P. [GUILLY?]

Harbour Grace – Roman Catholic Marriage Records, 1806 – 1845


This might seem to be totally unrelated unless you understand that in Ireland the names Newell and Nevill are frequently interchangeable. The reason being that the letters V and W do not occur in the Irish  alphabet In my research on the Newells of Ireland I frequently found the same person referenced as Newell by English sources and Nevell by Irish sources.

Further evidence that this might be the same person is that the Voters List compiled in 1835 includes 2 Newells for Bareneed (Philip’s sons James and John) and a Nicholas Nevill for Northern Gut (an old name for North River).

1835 voters list Newells and Nevills in Port-de-Grave District with name of town.

NEWELL, James Port-de-Grave, Bareneed

NEWELL, John Port-de-Grave, Bareneed

NEVILL, Nicholas Port-de-Grave, Northern Gut


NcAlpine’s Directory of 1898 list 8 Nevilles and 7 Newells living in North River.

NcAlpine’s Directory of 1898 Conception Bay North – Port de Grave District

North River & Vicinity

NEVILLE, Nicholas fisherman North River
NEWELL, Wm. fisherman North River
NEWELL, mrs. wid Thos North River
NEWELL, Ebenezer fisherman North River
NEVILLE, Thos fisherman North River
NEVILLE, Jas fisherman North River
NEVILLE, Peter fisherman North River
NEVILLE, Michael fisherman North River
NEVILLE, Patrick fisherman North River
NEVILLE, John fisherman North River
NEVILLE, Jas fisherman North River
NEWELL, Jas fisherman North River
NEWELL, Jos fisherman North River
NEWELL, Samuel fisherman North River
NEWELL, Wm. fisherman North River


The Nevilles  were likely decedents of  Nicholas Nevill. Regarding the Newells listed for North River, I suspect that some were also decedents of Nicholas while others may have been later migrants from the Dock.

The Register of Deaths, Port de Grave District for 1891 – 1918 helps in this regard since it list Religion. Almost all the Nevills from North River were Roman Catholic (one Methodist) while the Newells from North river were either Roman Catholic or Church of England. The Newells from the Dock were either Church of England or Methodist. I suspect that the Roman Catholic Newells from North River were also decedents of Nicholas Nevill while the Church of England Newells, including the William Newell of North River who died in 1909 at age 79 were Newells from the Dock who migrated west to North River in the mid-1800s.

The William Newell from North River who died in 1909 was likely  the William Newell of ‘The Dock’  who married Emma Snow of Bareneed in 1853 (C of E).

Nov 12, 1853 William NEWELL Bachelor The Dock Emma SNOW Spinster Bareneed Jas. C. Harvey William BATTEN, Abraham BATTEN, Mary NEWELL, Emma CURLEW

Evidence for this comes seven years later when William and Emma Newell of North River had a daughter Susannah and two years after that a son William Thomas.

Port de Grave Baptism

Jan 30, 1860 Northern River NEWELL William & Emma Susannah F Jas C. Harvey Feb 26, 1860 C of E Fisherman
July 7, 1862 Northern River NEWELL William & Emma William Thomas M Jas C. Harvey Aug 3, 1862 C of E Fisherman

In the mid 1800s a number of fishermen from Bareneed and Port-de-Grave moved to Clarke’s Beach (a community at the head of Bay-de-Grave and adjacent to  North River).  They moved there looking for space to cure their fish (see Clarke’s Beach in Encyclopedia of Newfoundland).  This North River William was likely part of this migration who moved to North River (possibly the area near the mouth of the River which borders on North River and Clarke’s Beach).

In the 1860s another Newell from the Dock (William Henry) moved west with his wife Susannah.

June 4, 1864 Bareneed William Henry NEWELL Bachelor Dock, Bareneed Susannah RICHARDS Spinster Bareneed Jas. C. Harvey John RICHARDS, Patience RICHARDS

At the birth of their child Emily in 1866 they are recorded as living in North River.

Sept 17, 1866 Northern River NEWELL William & Susannah Emily F Jas C. Harvey Nov 25, 1866 C of E Fisherman

However by 1875 they are recorded as living in Clarke’s Beach.

1875 Clarkes Beach NEWELL William Henry & Susannah Frederic M Robert Holland Taylor July 20, 1875 C of E

During this period they may have moved from North River to Clarke’s Beach or the change may simply reflect the shifting boundaries of the towns which were just starting to develop.

Based on the above information I can put the information I received from family members (that we are not related to the Newells of North River) in context. The comments specifically refer to the  Newells who lived in North River proper (based on modern boundaries the area along the coast of Bay -de-Grave at the mouth of North River is in Clarke’s Beach).