Posted by: alexhickey | February 18, 2015

In Belleoram Road©

Road Leading from St. Jacques to Belleoram

Road Leading from St. Jacques to Belleoram

“Let’s go for a walk.
Where?
Let’s go in Belleoram road.”

That conversation may be attributed to any generation of people who have lived in St. Jacques since there has been a road between it and Belleoram. What is presumed by “in” isn’t quite clear to me since the road roughly parallels the shoreline, then up one side of Bungay’s Hill and down the other. Yet, all will speak of going “in” the road. Curious, isn’t it?

What does it mean to take a walk in Belleoram road? Today, it’s a paved secondary highway without traumatic twists and turns which climbs steadily from the level section adjacent to St. Jacques Pond. It cuts along the south side of Bungay’s Hill with an incredible vista of Fortune Bay on one’s right then an exquisite view of Iron Skull and The Reach as one descends to Belleoram. The old road, upgraded and replaced in the mid 1960’s, used to follow the contour of the pond and wend its way around a number of bends and turns until it reached the crest then did the same as it found its way down the other side. It was narrow, barely wide enough for a single vehicle, but with plenty of room for a horse and cart.

After a heavy rain the water level of the pond would be near the tire ruts in the old road. During spring run-off when an increased water flow found its way down from Barred Pond and Belleoram Big Pond, it frequently flooded one or two sections making it a challenge to traverse. On a positive note, this proximity to the water made it a great location to stand on its shoulder and cast a line out into the pond in hopes of getting a bite from one of the numerous mud trout which prosper beneath its surface. Through the generations many a resident could be seen standing there patiently watching the bobber drift until it was quickly pulled under. A knee-jerk reaction, cultivated from experience and seeing the same response from others, resulted in a bamboo pole being flicked and a six inch trout going airborne, sometimes falling off the hook as gravity took hold and landing to flap desperately in the middle of the road.

The old road is still visible though more the worse for neglect and the effects of water. Though it’s called the old road it truly isn’t the real “old road” to Belleoram. That one is almost completely grown over now by Spruce, Fir, Birch and Alder trees. However, if you know where to look, there is a perceptible difference in the age of the forest at the first major curve of the new old road as it climbs upward. The road curves to the right towards where the new road passes by now. On the outside bend of the curve is where the first road between St. Jacques and Belleoram is located. It used to be an attraction for young boys and girls in the middle decades of the last century because just a short distance in that road stood an apple tree which fascinated all. It was an attraction to visit and observe the apples as they grew each season. Then, with any luck, there would be an opportunity to pick some of them when they ripened. Life doesn’t always work out the way you anticipate or imagine it should for as often as not, someone would decide to raid the tree before the apples ripened and either throw the apples away of take them home to ripen.

The road at that time was more of a wood-path, partly grassed over and being encroached upon by saplings. I cannot say for certain but I have been told by elders that the road continued up and around the back of Bungay’s Hill then approached Belleoram from the west. Today it isn’t discernible, even from a distance.

We can assume the first overland link between the two communities was a walking path, one which most likely grew out of wood harvesting patterns in the area. That would have been sometime in the 1700’s or before. It would have grown in width to accommodate horseback riding and then a horse and cart and a horse and sled during winter months. There were no motorized vehicles until around 1900 and their arrival in the Belleoram-St. Jacques area was probably sometime later. Therefore a pathway smooth enough to allow a horse and cart to move safely around would have been the ideal.

It was probably the first overland link between St. Jacques and any of the other surrounding communities which speaks of the level of communication, interaction and commerce which was taking place with Belleoram. When the Church of England established the Deanery of Fortune Bay in 1841 the three communities of Belleoram, St. Jacques and Point Rosie made up Belleoram parish which places the two communities in a common history for quite a long time.

When Church of England Bishop, Edward Feild visited St. Jacques in 1848 he walked from Belleoram to St. Jacques and took a boat from there to English Harbour West. This is how he described in his journal the condition of the road between the two communities on September 21, 1848, St. Matthew’s Day:

“Full service in the morning at the church (Belleoram). Directly after the service we started to walk to St. Jacques, en route for English Harbour, where I was expected to consecrate the grave-yard. The road for the greater part of the way is only laid out, not made: the stumps of the trees are still standing, and it is very wet and boggy. I was several times in over my shoes.”

Improvement were made and a century and a half later we see the results. Traffic flows back and forth between the two communities all day and night.

So that’s the road. What significance does it have? The road itself has a function namely to provide an avenue of transport for people, animals, and goods. That has been true over the years despite the condition of the road. What makes it most interesting is what the road enables, where it takes people and how people make use of it.

A Sand Pit located a short distance in the road at the back of the pond served not only as a source of naturally crushed stone to repair gravel roads and walkways but also as a rendezvous place for lovers under the cover of night, a place for friends to gather and light evening fires, toast marshmallows and cook wieners on sticks. On summer evenings, young people, couples and groups could be seen making their way in the road. Drinking underage is not something parents encouraged but suspect some of their children might experiment with from time-to-time. That sand pit served as a private haven for such experimentation, especially on weekend evenings.

On sunny summer Sundays, families could be found, with table cloths spread on the grass in the area along the side of the old road where the brook from Barred Pond skirted along the road’s edge, setting up an afternoon picnic. While children jumped stepping stones to cross the stream, parents gathered wood and built a fire pit to boil the kettle or picked early blueberries, raspberries and marsh berries. Across the brook a wide open space owned by the Evan’s family was a meadow which offered older children a place to explore. Small pools of water in the stream were attractions for small children as they sought out the young trout moving up and down the brook. Smoke from blasted boughs burning filled the air in a frequently futile attempt to ward off black flies.

For generations that reach back to the first settlers in St. Jacques men harvested wood throughout the valley between Big Hill and Winterhouse Hill to heat their homes. In one season they would cut down the wood and leave it to dry before trimming it out and hauling it home during the fall and winter. Horses and sleighs could be seen coming out the old road laden with neatly trimmed sticks of spruce and fir in winter. Where the going was good and the horse pulling with minimal effort the owner often stood on the runners or sat atop the load. When the going was tough it wasn’t unusual to see the wood cutter helping the load along by pushing from behind the sleigh. The frozen surface of the pond was a welcome stretch for both horse and man for it meant little effort to keep the load moving.

In the fall of the year young boys, youth and men explored the forested valley along the road for signs that rabbits were moving about. Once a good run was identified a snare was set with the expectation that by tomorrow it would yield fresh food for dinner.

December was the month when, as Christmas neared, people could be seen walking in the road seeking the perfect tree to bring home for their living room. Back in the days before Forestry required people to go back three hundred metres from the road to cut a Christmas tree, a good one could be found usually within sight of the road or on the point of land that extended from the road out into the pond which was owned by Denis McCarthy.

Then there was the need to walk to Belleoram for services which were not available in St. Jacques. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce had its branch in Belleoram which required periodic visits. Following the closure of Dr. Conrad Fitz-Gerald’s clinic in St. Jacques residents had to visit the medical doctor in Belleoram. The coastal boats called to St. Jacques and Belleoram on alternate schedules. On those occasions when she didn’t call into St. Jacques it was necessary to travel to Belleoram to catch the Portia, the Kyle, the Prospero, the Home, the Bar Haven, the Baccalieu, the Tavernor and others who serviced the coast during the last century.

Retail stores in Belleoram had freezers to carry frozen foods before those in St. Jacques. It was not uncommon during those years for one to walk to Otto Bond’s shop in Belleoram to purchase a chicken for Sunday dinner. Mr. Knott, whose general store was located near the middle of the town was a place to purchase hardware after the larger general stores closed in St. Jacques in the 1950’s. Most families did not have access to cars or trucks thus the necessity of walking to Belleoram.

Halfway up Bungay’s Hill there was a grassy area off to the side of the road which invited curiosity. What was it doing there? Everyone called it Mary Allan’s. As a young child that name was abstract to me; however, later I learned that the Allan family lived there for quite some time. Travellers from a generation before me used to stop in for a visit and a break as they climbed the hill. All I ever saw there were the remains of the foundation of the house.

Social bonds kept the residents of both towns in close contact. If there was a dance in the Lodge, the Legion or another hall in Belleoram a contingent of youthful dancers from St. Jacques would converge and walk back up over Bungay’s Hill following a night of dancing! Friends visited friends and families visited relatives by walking to Belleoram generation after generation. Yet, there was at least one dark reason for young boys to walk in Belleoram road. That was to ambush other young boys from Belleoram as they walked into St. Jacques. They hid in the trees and when their prey from Belleoram passed before them they unleashed a barrage of rocks towards them which inevitable ended up in a reciprocal effort. The same was practiced upon groups of young boys from St. Jacques entering Belleoram. It wasn’t terrorism, it wasn’t war; it was simply rivalry without any serious intent to injure or maim. Though I don’t remember the specific instance I am certain I probably threw rocks at some of my best friends from Belleoram as well.

Crowning all of the reasons to walk in Belleoram road and the reason which enabled both towns to sustain their populations to some degree over the years was the rituals of courtship. For generations young men and women from St. Jacques found partners in Belleoram and vice versa. Today there are numerous descendants of “St. Jacquesers” living in Belleoram and the descendants of “Belleoramers” living in St. Jacques!

The road between the two communities has had profound impact on both of them. When a Belleoram resident speaks of it their reference is to the road to St. Jacques as though there exits nothing else beyond. For St. Jacques residents a walk in Belleoram road could have a thousand motivations, a thousand memories and a journey in the footsteps of many generations before them.

Check out a few of these sites which may provide you with some background to this post.

Belleoram
Memoir of the Life and Episcopate of Edward Feild, D.D., Bishop of Newfoundland, 1844-1876, by the Rev. H.W. Tucker, M.A., London: W. Wells Gardner, 1877
Fitz-Gerald’s Visit Their Roots

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Responses

  1. Loved the story Alex, brings back a lot of memories from my childhood. Visited that old apple tree quite a few times back then as well. Thanks for the memories.

  2. Hey I was just wondering if all the Youngs in the 1921 Census from St. Jacques were related? The reason I am asking is my Great grandmother Ida Noseworthy (Young) married Walter Noseworthy , also the McCarthys, actually there was Ida, Elizabeth married Joseph McCarthy, Georgina (Jane) married Allan Marshall Dominix from Belleoram, Maude married Fred Longaphee moved to NS and John, whom I have hardly any information on. All I know is Ida’s father was James Young and mother was Mary Jane Miles/Myles. If you can find out anything please let me know


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