Posted by: alexhickey | August 24, 2014

Choosing a New Home: From Bay de L’eau Island to St. Jacques

Location of Bay de L'eau and St. Jacques from Google Earth

Location of Bay de L’eau and St. Jacques from Google Earth

St. Jacques has seen many family names come and go over the centuries. Throughout its history family names from many other places have been found here. People came here from such places as Terrenceville, Harbour Grace, Grand Jarvis, Harbour Breton, St. John’s, Bay du Nord, Lally Cove, Femme, Sagona, St. John’s Bay, Wreck Cove, Belleoram, Jacques Fontaine, St. Mary’s, St. Vincent’s, Barrow, Corbin, Marystown, Flat Island, Rencontre East, Oderin, Lamaline, St. Pierre, Rushoon, Champney’s, Trinity, Pool’s Cove, Bay L’Argent, Lawn, Fox Cove, Renews, McCallum, Greensport, Mose Ambrose, English Hr. East, English Hr. West, Balena, Lange de Serf, Change Island, Burin, St. Joseph’s, Furby’s Cove, Burgeo, Brunette, New Harbour, Harbour Mille, and from such countries as Canada, England, Wales, Ireland and Lebanon.

One group of people who came from a small island near the mouth of Fortune Bay, Bay de L’eau Island, has had a profound effect on the community in the over sixty years they have been living here. One of these families in particular today has a very visible presence. Why did they come to St. Jacques?


New T. Stoodley Home in St. Jacques

It all started when Tom Stoodley purchased a house in St. Jacques from the family of John Noseworthy with the intention of dismantling the house and having the material shipped to Bay de L’Eau Island where he planned to build a house for his new bride, Mary Lawrence. This was a common practice during those years. St. Jacques had experienced a population decline in the post-war years as the economy transitioned from schooners which harvested codfish for salting to trawlers which brought codfish fresh to markets. This decline resulted in empty houses throughout the community as we see today in other coastal communities where fishing as a way of life has come to an end and residents have left in search of employment elsewhere.

In other cases the vacant houses were purchased by enterprising local men who salvaged the building materials which they then sold in the local market.
Mr. Stoodley was accompanied by another man named Tom on this trip to St. Jacques; his still single brother-in-law, J. Thomas Lawrence. Both men conducted a thorough assessment of the property, met many local people who would eventually become lifelong friends, and returned to Bay de L’Eau. Upon their return, the talk of relocating from the island continued to grow, accentuated by an occasional family moving to nearby Harbour Breton. This was in advance of the Newfoundland government undertaking a resettlement program where they used a combination of force and incentive to move thousands of people out of centuries old, remote communities to growth centers where they could have access to medical, educational and other similar services.

Tom and Mary decided to move to St. Jacques and make this their new home rather than stick with their initial plan. This decision added fuel to the exodus off of Bay de L’Eau Island. Within a few years there would be no one left on the island to hear the waves crashing on the rocks during October storms or watch the seabirds riding the wind of late August. Neither would there be anyone to face the harsh wind driven snow and ice that lashed at the empty buildings still unrelentingly hugging their foundations.

joe johnson house

New Lawrence Home – St. Jacques

That was 1951. In 1952 Tom Lawrence purchased a house from Netta Johnson who had moved her family to Halifax the previous year following the death of her husband several years earlier. Tom Lawrence’s new home was located across the road from Tom Stoodley. Undoubtedly he had seen the house when visiting St. Jacques with Tom Stoodley. Tom, who was still single, moved his widowed mother Margaret and an unrelated older gentlemen into the house with him. There was no relationship between the old man, affectionately called Uncle Joe Bullen, and Mrs. Lawrence. Uncle Joe had no surviving relatives and nowhere to go as the residents of Bay de L’Eau Island left the place behind. As Tom Lawrence said to me many years later, “I couldn’t leave him there by himself. That wouldn’t be Christian.”

New Dominix Home in St. Jacques

New Dominix Home in St. Jacques

Around the same time a third man with Tom in his name moved his already growing family to St. Jacques from Bay de L’Eau Island. John Tom Dominix, his wife Esther, their four children, his father-in-law and his mother-in-law, John and Eva Strowbridge arrived to take up residence in a house once owned by Christopher and Lucy McCarthy.

New N. Stoodley Home in St. Jacques - Far Right

New N. Stoodley Home in St. Jacques – far right

A few years later two families from Red Cove in Bay de L’Eau also bought houses in St. Jacques and moved to new homes. Ned Stoodley, Lucy and their three youngest children moved into a house recently vacated by Sammy-Jim and Martha Hynes who had moved to Port-au-Port on the West coast of Newfoundland. Tom Osborne, his wife Effie, their two sons and his mother Pearl and her husband Ben Strowbridge moved into a house they had purchased from Hazel Young who had a couple of years earlier moved to St. John’s to take up employment as Matron of the Red Cross Hostel.

So ended the influx, but not the legacy. Tom Lawrence soon met and married Emma (Burnsie) Skinner. They gave the community eight children. Tom and

New Osborne Home in St. Jacques

New Osborne Home in St. Jacques

Mary Stoodley gave St. Jacques seven new residents over the years. John Tom and Esther added another eight children to their family. The size of Tom and Effie Osborne’s family and Ned and Lucy Stoodley’s family remained the same.

As families mature individuals move away to pursue interests of their own. Such was the case with these five families over the last sixty-odd years. Only one of the eight Lawrence children maintain a residence in St. Jacques though others do in the nearby community of English Harbour West. None of the seven Stoodley children live in the community. Two of them live nearby in Belleoram and Boxey. The Osborne family all moved to Arnold’s Cove and the family of Ned and Lucy Stoodley moved to Harbour Breton.

However, the Dominix family has shaped the current community in many ways with eight of their children with families in St. Jacques. Three other children live in nearby English Hr. West and Mose Ambrose. There are also seven of John Tom and Esther’s grandchildren married with families living in the community with several others living in the area. A quarter of the houses in St. Jacques are owned by members of the Dominix family! That is quite a legacy!

These families from Bay de L’Eau Island became an integral part of life in their new homes. They lived, worked, loved and contributed in every way to building community. Few can now remember when they weren’t here or even know how they arrived from Bay de L’Eau. How fortunate we all are that they chose to make St. Jacques their new home over sixty years ago.


  1. You have given me an insight on the many families who migrated to St.Jacques since we left in 1950. Thank you for that posting.and for honouring these families through your article

  2. I found this very interesting! My father, Charles Dawe,and my mother Bella returned to his childhood home of St Jacques after his retirement and made it there home. During all my visits to them there, I regarded it my “”home” a met all of these people mentioned in this article: Capt Tom Lawrenceand Burnsie, John Tom and Esther Dominix, Mary and Tom Stoodley, and so many of their descendants . Therefore this article had special meaning for me! Thank you!

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