European knowledge of the northern Labrador coast was significantly
improved after 1763 by a series of voyages carried out by Moravian missionaries.
Their aim was to find sites for mission stations where they could begin, and
then expand the work of converting the Inuit to Christianity
|Nain Mission Station, Labrador.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, (Siegfried Hettasch Collection)
Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's Newfoundland.
In 1765, two Moravians explored the Davis Inlet area in the schooner Hope,
which was provided by the British navy. Five years later, in 1770, another
Moravian party explored the Nuneingoak area, where they decided to establish
their first mission station. This was built the following year, and called Nain.
The missionaries then began to explore north and south of Nain. They used the
sloop George to explore the coast as far north as Nachvak in 1773 and 1774, and
as a result decided to build a second station at Okak, which opened in 1776. A
site for a third station, to the south of Nain, was selected during a voyage to
the Arvertok area in 1775. This was named Hopedale (Hoffenthal), and opened in 1782.
||Gravestone of Christoph Brasen
Christoph Brasen (1738-1774) was a surgeon and the first superintendent of the Nain mission.
He drowned in a storm that struck the 1774 expedition along the northern coast of Labrador. His
grave can be found at the Moravian graveyard in Nain.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Siegfried Hettasch Collection), Queen Elizabeth II Library,
Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's Newfoundland.
The Moravians were anxious to make contact with Inuit in the far north of Labrador,
and in both 1774 and 1775 tried without success to explore the coast north of Nachvak.
This project was not revived until the early 19th century. By this time, Inuit from
Ungava Bay and Hudson Strait had begun to visit the Moravian settlements, and the
mission decided that the time might have arrived for an expansion of its work.
In 1811, therefore, Benjamin Kohlmeister and George Kmoch sailed north from Okak
in a shallop, accompanied by 15 Inuit. They rounded the tip of the peninsula, and
sailed south along the east side of Ungava Bay as far as the Koksoak River which
they ascended as far as the site of what later became Fort Chimo. Kohlmeister was
convinced by this voyage that the Moravians should build a mission station in
Ungava Bay. This did not happen, in part because of the opposition of the Hudson's
Bay Company, and the mission instead built a fourth station at Hebron (1830) on
the Labrador coast. An account of the voyage was published in London in 1814.
|Hebron Mission Station in the 20th century.
This station was constructed in 1833 and originally included a church, classrooms,
administrative offices and living quarters.
Photo by Brian Bursey. From Brian C. Bursey, Exploring
Labrador (St. John's, Newfoundland: Harry Cuff Publications, ©1993) 86.
©1998, J.K. Hiller