Location: St. George's Bay, Newfoundland
In the nineteenth century Sandy Point was the hub of the St. George's Bay fishery, the largest year-round community on the west coast and the chief English settlement on the French Shore. Until the 1940s the site was a peninsula connected to the mainland at Flat Bay, but the sea gradually eroded the sandy soil, perhaps as a result of grazing by livestock, and a large storm in December 1951 finally widened the gap to the point that the isthmus was no longer passable even at low tide.
As early as 1740 Sandy Point was a hideaway for pirates Eric and Maria Cobham, who raided ships that came into the Bay to trade or to seek shelter from bad weather. It would appear that in the mid-1700s Sandy Point was frequented by both French and English fishermen. The Treaty of Versailles (1783) incorporated St. George's Bay within the French Shore and officially prohibited settlement, but the French were soon absorbed in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. The first few settlers arrived in the latter part of the eighteenth century.
According to local tradition the first settler was a Jerseyman, Philip Messervey with his wife, Suzanne. By 1801 there were four resident families, mostly from the Channel Islands. When the French returned to the Newfoundland fishery in force after 1815 they tolerated these few "English" settlers and even began to rely on them for bait. In 1822 W.E. Cormack stayed at Messervey's home after his trek across Newfoundland and noted 20 families at Sandy Point, engaged in furring and the salmon fishery, and estimated the total population to be about 100 people. During Cormack's visit four schooners were moored there, engaged in trading fish and furs to Halifax. The 1836 Census recorded the population at 112. In addition to the English and Jerseymen, fishermen of French descent (both Acadians from Cape Breton Island and deserters from French vessels) also settled at Sandy Point, along with a few people of mixed European and Micmac blood.
From about 1840-1850, a number of Acadian families migrated from the Margaree region of Cape Breton to Newfoundland's west coast region, and settled in Sandy Point.
Early family names included Bennett (Benoit), Garnier, Hynes, Fillatre, LeGrandais, Leroux, McFatridge, Messervey, Parsons, Pennell, Pieroway, Renouf, Shaw, Swyers, Vincent and Young.
Joseph Beete Jukes was a geologist appointed by the Genealogical Society of London, to do a survey of Newfoundland. He completed this survey of the Island of Newfoundland, with the exception of White Bay and the Northern Peninsula. The following list of inhabitants was taken from Jukes' notes during 1839 - 1840.
|Name||Age||Family Size||Years Present||Birthplace|
|1||Forest, William||23||2||11||New York|
|2||Parsons, John||11||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|3||Dennis, Philip||43||9||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|4||Messervey, Abraham||28||2||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|5||Hore, George||38||4||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|6||LeHeart, Francis||5||9||St. Pierre|
|7||Parsons, Mrs.||2||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|8||Messervey, George||5||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|9||Parsons, John||9||born here||St. Go. Bay|
|11||Dennis, John||46||7||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|12||Parsons, James||6||born here||St. Geo Bay|
|13||Meservey, Philip||8||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|14||Oizon, John||3||15||St. Pierre|
|15||Meservey, John||9||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|16||Prowey, George||6||14||St. Pierre|
|17||Pennell, John||7||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|18||Pennell, Clement||5||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|19||Hunt, William||1||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|20||Meservey, Je__||1||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|21||Pennell, Joseph||8||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|22||Pennell, James||7||born here||St. Geo. Bay|
|23||Jessou, Joseph||20||Sydney, C.B.|
|24||March, Francis Sr.||4||Cape Breton|
|25||Young, Benjamin||2||Cape Breton|
|26||Marsh, Rose||2||Cape Breton|
|27||Renouf, Julien||3||Cape Breton|
|28||March, Francis Jr.||2||Cape Breton|
|29||Duval, Charles||2||Cape Breton|
|30||Jessou, Louis||1||Cape Breton|
|31||Mole, William||2||Cape Breton|
|32||McHall, Jane||3||Cape Breton|
|34||Maddore, John||7||Cape Breton|
|35||Maddore, George||6||Cape Breton|
|36||Maddore, James||6||Cape Breton|
|37||Young, James||2||Cape Breton|
|38||Young, Francis jr.||2||Cape Breton|
|39||Young, Isaac||2||Cape Breton|
|40||Young, Lixey||6||Cape Breton|
|41||Parisaine, Benjamin||5||Cape Breton|
|42||Hoare, Mrs.||1||born here||Sandy Point|
|43||Biniard, Isaac||5||Cape Breton|
|44||Bennett, Brazou||3||Cape Breton|
|45||Bennett, John||1||Cape Breton|
|46||Young, James||1||Cape Breton|
|47||Pilley, John||3||Cape Breton|
|48||Lucau, John||3||Cape Breton|
Entries 1-3 are described as "Merchants, purchasing fish". Nos 23-30 "Very poor, sometimes employed by English merchants in the Cod fishery, at other times by the French merchants. All are french descent." Number 32, Jane McHall "runs a boarding house". Nos. 35-48 "Herring and Cod fishery very poor, not well hen___. Employed sometimes by English merchants and sometimes by the French. Very imprudent and fare badly during winter."
Rise and Fall
In the mid-1800s, Sandy Point had a population of over 700 people. Capitalizing on its central position in a bay noted for its herring fishery, the community was the major port and supply centre for much of the west coast, its merchants trading with the Port au Port Peninsula, the Codroy Valley and Labrador.
By the mid-1800s Sandy Point was a substantial community, with a population of over 700 people, and was the trading and administrative centre for the growing population of a coast where settlement was still technically illegal. A Church of England church was built by 1845, and the first resident Roman Catholic priest. Father Alexis Belanger, arrived in 1850.
After about 1860 settlement on the nearby mainland began to expand, as French tolerance extended beyond the tacit "special case" that allowed permanent inhabitants at Sandy Point. While services and trade continued to be focused on Sandy Point for some years, many families left to build homes elsewhere in St. George's Bay or went to the Bay of Islands, where the herring fishery had begun to boom. After a 1872 storm the population of Sandy Point fell to about 400 people, where it remained for some years. When the railway passed through the adjacent mainland at South Side (later St. George's) in the 1890s Sandy Point's demise was hastened. The community had been made the seat of the Vicarate of St. George's when it was created in 1892, but after 1904 Bishop Neil MacNeil built a new church and parish seat on the mainland. Soon there were also a new school and courthouse at St. George's.
In the mid-1920s many of the younger men left Sandy Point to work either at Corner Brook or in the woods supplying the new mill, as both St. George's and Stephenville Crossing grew rapidly. After 1941 others left to work at Harmon Field in Stephenville. By 1951 there were only 243 people left. In 1960 it was suggested that the majority of "independent" people had already left what was now an island, and that the remainder would be willing to leave if offered government assistance. The last resident of Sandy Point was Alphonsus Swyers, who left in June, 1969.
Note that Catholic (mostly French) records aren't available from the usual sources, but you can find many of the early records from the Sandy Point Catholic Church
- 1849-1899 Sandy Point Catholic Baptism transcriptions, from Rootsweb.
- 1849-1882 Sandy Point Catholic Death transcriptions, from Rootsweb
- 1850-1925 Sandy Point Catholic Marriage transcriptions, from Rootsweb
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, volume 5, Extract: letter S. pp 85-86. Poole, Cyril F. Cuff, Robert, Harry Cuff Publications Ltd. (1993), St. John's. Memorial University of Newfoundland, electronic collections. Accessed 2020.
- ↑ NL GenWeb. West Coast Region, St. George's Bay District. Jukes' Excursion Data. Sandy Point 1839-1840. Laverne Cormier. accessed 2020.