Monday, March 03, 2008
The Greens of Ship Island
My father always spoke with pride of his connection to the Green family of Ship Island, Greenspond, through his grandmother, Mary Anne (Green) Carter, whom he called “Pollie” Carter. Before Dad died in 1981 he told me that his last living relative in the Green family was Fred Green in Greenspond, so when I visited there in 1986 I met three men on the Government Wharf and said to them that I was looking for Fred Green; two of them pointed to the other man and said, “That’s him there!” Well, I thought, what a stroke of luck, I had hit gold with the first attempt. I tried my best to explain the connection between the Carter and Green families but, unfortunately, because of not having done a vast amount of research into the Greens, I was unable to convince him that we were actually related. If I had known at the time that his father and my great-grandmother Mary Anne were sister and brother, it would have made things easier to figure out. Luckily, I had my camera with me and he agreed to let me take a photo of him, and also one of him and his two buddies. Fred died in 1993 at the age of 91 and is buried with his wife in the Anglican Cemetery in Greenspond; I suspect that he was the last member of the Green family living in the Greenspond area. In conversation with Dad’s half-brother, Uncle Walter Meadus, in St. John’s, following my visit to Greenspond I learned that Fred Green was the son of John, Mary Anne’s brother, who was born in 1855 and married Lucy Saunders of Greenspond on December 5, 1883. Fred had a brother and sister, Peter and Nellie. Peter was killed overseas in World War One, Uncle Walter said. I had been trying for years to contact descendants of the Ship Island Greens through the Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society and other means without too much success; however, earlier this year I made friends with Peter Johnson of Frankfort, Ontario, through a letter which appeared in The Greenspond Letter and we have been corresponding since April. It was a wonderful streak of luck; we have exchanged much information, as well as photographs, which has been a welcome benefit to both of us. Peter is the great-grandson of Susan Green, Mary Anne’s eldest sister who married James Tiller of Wesleyville in 1862. Mary Anne married my great- grandfather, Charles Robert Carter, in 1869. Peter informed me that James and Susan Tiller, following the death of Mary Anne (Green) Carter during an epidemic of diphtheria in 1889 at age 40, had taken Mary Anne's youngest daughter Alice (Aunt Allie) to live with them in Wesleyville, until she was old enough to return to Ship Island and keep house for her brothers Sandy, Kenneth (my grandfather) and Frederick. This was a choice bit of information that I had not been aware of.
Aunt Allie in 1906 married Darius Blandford III of Greenspond; they were the parents of six sons and three daughters.
The Plantation Records [Registry of Fishing Rooms, 1805-1806]
In the Plantation Records of 1805-1806, which contained a registry of persons occupying and claiming property on Ship Island, Thomas Green, my great-great-great-great-grandfather, was listed as the owner and occupant of property on Ship Island known as "Green's Room", which he said he had purchased two years before in 1803.It is not known when Thomas Green arrived in Greenspond, but certainly not as early as the Carters, who were reported in the same Records as having built their fishing room on Ship Island in 1725.Thomas Green, in his will which he made December 29, 1818, declared he was from "Christchurch now residing in the Harbour of Greenspond". It is claimed by Professor J.J. Mannion in his book, The Peopling of Newfoundland, that 40 per cent of the people settling in Bonavista North area were from Christchurch in Hampshire, England. He said: "Christchurch, together with the inland market town of Ringwood, account for more than half of all Hampshire origins." In fact, the Carters also emigrated from Christchurch.
The Early Greens
Thomas Green was buried in Greenspond on May 14, 1828, with his age listed as 74 which would place his year of birth at 1753/54. He had two sons: Thomas died before him at the age of 46 and was buried May 29, 1823, meaning he was born in 1776/77; and his son, John, was baptized on November 4, 1833 and gave his age as 53, which places his year of birth at 1779/80, most likely 1780. John, my great-great-great-grandfather, would live for another 15 years after his baptism before he was to meet his death under very tragic circumstances, which was a common occurrence in many Newfoundland families, where they gave up their loved ones to the raging seas. I will give you a more fuller description of that horrific event later.
The Will of Thomas Green
In Thomas Green's will of 1818 there was no mention of his wife, so presumably she had already died; also, he lists only two children, his sons Thomas and John. There may have been daughters as well but, if so, they most likely were married by then; if, indeed, there were daughters, he left nothing to them in his will. This generally was accepted as the proper decision where the male heirs and their families came into possession of the property of the deceased.Although there are no records listing marriages in the Green family before 1823, it is possible they were mislaid or misplaced, as the records in Greenspond before Rev. N.A. Coster's arrival in 1830 were reportedly kept in a very haphazard manner and probably got lost or discarded. Reports say that Rev. Coster pieced together the records now available by gathering together the various notes made on slips of paper lying around the church building. Thank God for his efforts in this regard.Because of the frequency of churches burning down and the records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths going up in smoke, the government brought in a regulation, effective in 1890, ordering the churches to transfer their vital statistics to appropriate forms supplied by the government and have them sent to the Vital Statistics department in St. John's. The forms eventually ended up in the Provincial Archives and I can vouch for some glaring inaccuracies in these records, because they caused some extended labour and time on my part while doing research into my family. In addition to completing these forms, the churches were also directed to report these ongoing statistics on a regular basis.However, we do have to be thankful to some conscientious individual who had the foresight to realize the importance of these records and the number of precious documents that were being lost to their future descendants and researchers through church fires.According to Thomas Green's 1818 will, his sons, Thomas and John, each had five children at the time. By 1830, when most of the baptisms took place in Greenspond, Thomas's family had grown to nine children and John and Elizabeth's to 10; however, John's daughter, Rose, had died and was buried May 6, 1824 at age six. Their children were all baptized in Greenspond between 1823 and 1830 at various ages; for example, Mary, of Thomas and Mary, was 17 and Jane, of John and Elizabeth, was 13 when they were baptized 1830.Thomas Green, referred to as a "planter", or property-owner, from the excerpts of his will of 1818 must have been fairly well-to-do; in addition to leaving the residue of his property and goods to his sons John and Thomas, he also allocated £900 to be distributed to his two sons and their children, noting that the grandchildren would receive their money upon attaining the age of 21. The sum of 900 pounds sterling was considered a very substantial sum in those days. It is of interest to note that he left £100 to Mary Green, daughter of Thomas and Mary "if she doesn't marry contrary to her father's and mother's wishes". (Supreme Court Records, Volume 1, Folio 49). According to burial records, Thomas died in May 1823; Mary was listed as a widow when she was baptized in 1826. She remarried in 1833 to John Farwell of Greenspond.I spent a considerable amount of time searching for my great-greatgrandfather's and grandmother's marriage record (John Green and Sophia Starks) and it wasn't until the summer of 2002 when my son, Philip, and I went through the original pre-1840 Greenspond records, which are stored in the Anglican Rectory in Templeman, Bonavista Bay, that the puzzle was solved; and I have to give Philip, with his sharp eye, total credit for that. We discovered that John and Sophia, as well as John's brother James, and his bride Susanna Cross, were married in a double wedding ceremony on November 6, 1837. The officiating clergyman, instead of recording the ceremony on two certificates, entered them on one only, and, when the records were recorded for the government statistics branch as per legislation in the 1890s, the marriage of James and Susanna was listed and John and Sophia's names were entered as witnesses. The problem is now cleared up and I have passed the correct information on to Provincial Archives staff in St. John's who is going to make the necessary notation in the records. I might add that I picked up a great deal of information, not only from church records but also in old graveyards where we had to practically unearth some of the headstones, during our trips to Greenspond and area for research. I mentioned above that my great-great-great-grandfather, John Green had met a tragic end at the age of 67 or 68. The following is a description of that misfortune which I first came across in Robert Dyer's diary of his activities in the Greenspond and Bonavista North area in the 1840s and 1850s. Dyer came to Greenspond from England in 1840 to take up the position of school teacher in the Church of England school and to assist the clergyman as layreader. His diary has proved to be of invaluable benefit in the field of research, not only by me but by many others.In reading Dyer's diary I came across an amazing story of courage and also a story of extreme hardship and disaster which was often the agonizing experience of many Newfoundland families, who lost loved ones in the struggle for survival in the North Atlantic waters.On March 6, 1848 around 5:30P.M. a sudden gale of wind and snow came in from the northwest and caught a number of boats and crews out tending their seal nets. One of those boats had four men aboard: John Green (senior), 68, my great-great-greatgrandfather; his son, Thomas, who was 33; and two others named Lush and Wicks who were described as two "stought" boys. The other boats managed to make land at Puffin Island and Little Copper Island, which were situated within a mile of Greenspond, and the crews were picked up later that night around 1 o'clock in the morning by men from Greenspond; however, Dyer's diary noted, in referring to John Green:
"It is thought that they were driven off to sea and frozen to death. Oh, how awful. May all of us take warning and prepare for death!"
An entry in the diary some weeks later on March 27, 1848 stated a follows:"Thomas Green who was cast away on the night of 7 March with his father, Lush and Wicks returned home in John Carter's schooner relating that Wicks died the same night they were cast away and his father and Lush the next day about 10 o'clock"It is almost impossible to comprehend Thomas's feelings about being witness to the indescribable sufferings of his father and friends and eventually being left alone in the boat, and what endurance he had to keep on living. I presume he had to bury the bodies at sea, as there was no mention of bringing them home.
In the Book of Newfoundland, volume 3, page 462, there was also a story included in a section titled, "Stories out of our History", by Joseph R. Smallwood, which described this incident; the story was titled, "Thomas Green's Great Adventure", but the details appear to be somewhat exaggerated, as compared to Dyer's account, but basically correct. Smallwood wrote that the boat got caught in drift ice in the storm and got carried out the Bay and to open sea; he said that the three others in the boat had died by the third day of drifting from the cold, exposure and hunger. A half hour after the last man died, Thomas killed an old harp seal on a pan of ice and for 52 days lived off the fat and meat of the seal, Smallwood said. By this time, he said, Thomas was 100 miles off the coast and saw a schooner which, lucky for him, was jammed in the ice. He left his boat and began the long trek to the schooner walking as quickly as he could. He started late in the afternoon and reached the schooner by midnight where the crew were startled to see a human board their ship so far out to sea. Smallwood further stated:
"It was the fifteenth of April when he finally arrived home in Greenspond. Seventy-two days he had been missing, and he had been long given up for dead. The endurance which many of our Newfoundland fishermen, seamen and seal-hunters have displayed is astonishing. Nowhere in the world have men proved themselves possessed of greater power of endurance, or more stamina and determination. "
Actually, the time Thomas spent lost at sea, according to Robert Dyer, was from March 6 to March 27, but regardless of the inaccuracies in the story in the Book of Newfoundland, it does give some more of an indication of how he managed to survive.Another version of this remarkable event appeared in the St. John's newspaper, Times and General Commercial Gazette, of March 25, 1848:
"Capt. N. Munden, of the Gem, which arrived here on Tuesday last, well fished, from the ice, informs us that on the I6th instant he boarded the sealing brig Jane Elizabeth, of New Perlican,— the master of which vessel (Wills) reported, that on the night of the 14th he fell in with a boat which had been blown off from Greenspond while the hands, four in number (_____ Green, and his two sons and a lad), were in the act of setting seal nets. It is distressing to add, that poor Green and one of his sons had perished in the boat from the severity of the weather and the want of nourishment.The survivors were very much frost-bitten, having been six or seven days exposed to the elements. "
Despite the differences in the various reports, it was a remarkable tale of our ancestor's endurance, albeit considering that his father John and two others had perished.Thomas Green died in Greenspond and was buried July 3, 1865; his age was given as 48. However, when he was baptized in April 1830, his age was recorded as 15, which would make him 50 at the time of his death.John and Sophia (Starkes) Green were the parents of my great-grandmother, Mary Anne Green who married Charles Robert Carter on December 27, 1869 and, incidentally, her eldest brother Sylvester Green married Mary Elizabeth Meadus the same day.
In addition to Sylvester and Mary Anne, John and Sophia Green were the parents of: Susan, Jane, Darius, Peter, Rosanna, John, and Thomas. There is no record of Sylvester's birth, but when he died in 1915 his age was given as 75 indicating he was born in 1840. In the baptismal records Sylvester and Thomas are shown as being baptized in 1859, but there were no ages given. It is possible, for whatever reason, that Sylvester was baptized at age 19 according to Peter Johnson.Of interest is the fact that James and Susanna Green (John's brother and his wife who were married the same day as John and Sophia November 6, 1837) had three boys, James, Mark and John baptized February 16, 1859, the same day as Sylvester and Thomas; however, there again were no dates of birth recorded, so unable to determine if they were triplets or not.George Green, who was born in 1884 the son of Darius (Mary Anne's brother) and Jane (Harvey of Cape Freels) Green of Ship Island, often came to visit Grandmother Meadus and Dad on the South Side of St. John's when we were young. George was a seagoing captain of various schooners and was a most proficient master; ships coming from England going to Labrador, whose captains were not sure of navigating in those northern waters, would call into Greenspond on their way and pick up George who would take over the captain's job until he would be dropped off at Greenspond on the way back.Dad told me he was walking down the street one day in Athens, Greece, during the First World War and, lo and behold, who should he see approaching him but his cousin, George. It's a small world! Actually, George and his wife, Winnie Forsey from Fortune were married in 1920 and were the two witnesses who signed my father's and mother's marriage certificate on September 1, 1922. George had one sister, Sophia who was born a year after him in 1885.Uncle Walter Meadus mentioned that Sylvester Green owned three or four schooners, so he must have been heavily involved in the fisheries.I don't know much more about Green ancestors; they would be distant relatives now, like most of the Carters who Dad thought were not related to us.Although there are no Greens listed in the Greenspond telephone directory any longer, it appears that the Greens gradually moved to various places along the coast, as well as to the mainland of Canada and the U.S.A. For instance, back in 1829 and 1833 Robert and Edward Green, sons of Thomas and Mary Green of Ship Island, married two women named Mary and Sarah Gill from Pinchard's Island, possibly two sisters, and apparently moved to Pinchard's Island to live, so the re-location started many years ago.
If anyone would care to add to my history of the Green family of Ship Island, or correct any of my work, I would be delighted to hear from you.