The history of the first English-speaking settlers in Mortier Bay can be traced back to the early 1800s, when families of Irish and English descent put down their roots at Mooring Cove, Beau Bois, Little Bay, Spanish Room and Rock Harbour.
Over the ensuing years the greater number of families moved into Beau Bois and Rock Harbour; the two places that were closest to the nearby rich fishing grounds in Placenta Bay.
It wasn’t too long before Beau Bois, which means “beautiful woods” in French, began to be regarded as the capital of Mortier Bay.
The first recorded settlers at Beau Bois was a family of Dobers and a family of Farrells, both from England.
The oldest cemetery in Mortier Bay is found at Beau Bois and many of the oldest headstones are still standing and legible. The oldest headstone to be seen when I first visited there in 1970 was erected to the memory of James Farrell, who died in 1853 at the age of 47, and also to his daughter, Mary Ann, who died in 1854 at 15 years of age.
Many of today’s Farrells, including Marystown businessman Bern Farrell, Amy Rowlands and others, are direct descendants of James Farrell.
Valentine Dober is recorded to have died at Beau Bois in 1852 but I could not locate that headstone.
It is interesting to note that prior to the year 1900, people who died at Spanish Room and Little Bay were also buried in the cemetery at Beau Bois. One headstone that was lying flat on the ground back in 1970 is to the memory of John Dober of Spanish Room, a native of Dorchester, England, who died in 1856.
Well-known Marystown educator/historian, 87-year-old Albert Dober, is a great grandson of John Dober. Many other Dobers presently living in this area also can trace their lineage back to this man.
Records show the first post office in Mortier Bay was operated at Beau Bois by the Dober family. All the mail for other communities in the area was sorted there and then distributed to the smaller post office outlets.
As late as 1900, Beau Bois was the only port of call for the mail boat S.S. Alert.
Beau Bois in its heyday was the base of a thriving fishery, with as many as 20 large Cape St. Mary’s boats fishing out of the pocket-sized harbour. An earlier census report dated 1836 showed the population to have been 112 people owning a total of 13 boats.
In 1857, with only 51 fishermen, 1,790 quintals (in excess of 200,000 pounds) of inshore cod were landed there.
In the late 1800s the population of Mortier Bay was increasing, with most of the newcomers moving into the general area around where the Canning Bridge is now located. Several businesses were set up in what is now Marystown North and Marystown South.
Larger fishing schooners were being built to sail further offshore to prosecute the deep-sea bank fishery.
The year was 1909 when, according to long-time former Mayor E.P. “Eddy” Reddy, then-parish priest Father E. J. Wilson changed the name of this area, referred to as Mortier Bay, to Marystown.
Allan Stoodley is a long-time resident of Grand Bank. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he welcomes comments on this or any other article he has written.