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JUDGE PINSENT'S REPORT OF COURT OF LABRADOR, 1867.
COLONIAL OFFICE RECORDS 197/46. JOURNAL OF THE COUNCIL. Appendix.
Report of Robert J. Pinsent, Esq., Judge of the Court of Labrador.
December 20th, 1867.
To His Excellency
the Governor of Newfoundland
I have the honour to report to Your excellency on my proceedings and observations at Labrador during the past season.
I sailed from St. John's——on the 4th June.
We arrived at Battle Harbor Labrador on the 16th of that month [June] from which period until the 4th of October, we continued crusing on the coast visiting most of the principal harbors from Red Bay in the Straits of Belle Isle to Rigoulette in Hamilton Inlet. We should have called at some other places had the vessel not been detained for several days, in the month of September, in Battle Harbor, owing to a disagreement between the Collector and the captain.
The cases actually brought before me during the circuit were:—
Nine cases of debt.|
Five respecting nets,
One respecting a wrecked vessel,
Two of bastardy,
One of defamation of character,
Two requiring sureties of the peace,
One respecting a lunatic man whom I sent home to
A case of enquiry into a report of the murder of a man in the
woods near Murry's Harbor, which on investigation, I
concluded to be false.
At Red Bay on the 28th September, I fell in with Capt. Green of the Schooner “Emblem,” of Nova Scotia, against whom a warrant had been
issued last year, by Judge Sweetland, for a violent assult on Collector Winter. I caused him to be arrested, took the necessary examinations, and bail being offered, I bound him over to take his trial in St. John's at the next sitting of the Supreme Court. This is a case which it was bery desirable should be brought to issue as it had excited much public attention.
I think the amount of legal business done may appear small, but I am of opinion that the presence of the Court on the coast of Labrador, has an important moral effect in preventing offences against the law, and in causing private settlements of accounts between parties engaged in the fisheries and trade of this district.
On the subject of legal proceedings in the Court of Labrador, I beg to make a few remarks for the consideration of the Government.
With respect to actions for the recovery of debts, I would suggest the desirability of some enactment to prevent the injustice that sometimes arises from cases in which persons obtaining judgment for old debts, require the levy of execution for the amount recovered out of th eproduce of the current voyage, without reference to the claims of the absent supplying merchants, the fishery servants, and other creditors.
It might also be advisable to give the court power to grant probate of wills, and letters of administration, and to register deeds, so far as property situate at Labrador is concertned, subject to the condition that they should be recorded in St. John's.
I would further suggest, that provision be made for bringing up, under warrant, any person summoned as a witness, who may fail or refuse to attend at Court in civil cases; as in the event of default of attendance by such person the ordinary process for contempt would be a dilatory and difficult proceeding.
If the Government would decide on any legislation with reference to the matters above named, I would then respectfully recommend some minor amendments. I would suggest that there should be a room fitted up on board the circuit vessel for a lock-up.
I would recommend that the bailiff of the Court should be provided with a suitable dress to be worn when he is engaged in official business.
It appears that the cod fishery has for some time declined on the southern part of this coast, so that many of our fishing vessels and crews have gone further and further north until they have reached Hopedale, the southern Moravian settlement.
The salmon fishery was, this year, pretty good in Sandwich Bay and Hamilton Inlet, which are principal places for what may be called the embayed fishery.
On the open coast the salmon fishery was not so successful.
The Hudson Bay Company have establishments in Hamilton Inlet, N. W. River and Rigoulette. Here we met Mr. Smith the Deputy Governor of the Company, and Chief Manager of their business in this quarter; he arrived from Canada in the steamer “Labrador,” a fine new vessel belonging to the concern. This Company receives most of the salmon in the neighbourhood of their establishments, and cut them up and preserve them in small tin canisters for exportation to England and other countries.
The mercantile firm of Hunt and Henley do the same, in Sandwich Bay. Mr. Nathan Norman of Indian Harbor, carries on a similar business in the neighbourhood of his establishment.
The resident population of Labrador (as distinguished from the people who go there on the fishery in the summer only) from Blanc Sablon in the Straits of Belle Isle to Indian Harbor Esquimaux Bay, which in the year 1864 was estimated by Judge Sweetland at 2026, may be considered as rather increased since that time. It is difficult for a transient visitor to ascertain, reliably, even the probable number of resident inhabitants, scattered as they are in so many places along this extensive coast; to take personally a census is impracticable.
The residents are principally of English origin, including some from Newfoundland, but in Esquimaux Bay, Hamilton Inlet and that neighbourhood, there are several families of Esquimaux and half-breeds, the latter are descendants of European fathers and Esquimaux mothers.
These people are occupied chiefly in the salmon fishery in summer and in furring during the winter; and are supplied, principally by the Hudson Bay Company, at Rigoulette, and by Mr. Norman at Indian Harbor. They are very docile and well behaved, and in their simple way, fond of learning; most of them can read, and some can write-taught by their fathers and by each other.
They have a taste for music and singing; several whom I met could play a musical instrument. I distributed some elementary school-books among them, which I am sure were much appreciated, and will be used to good purpose. I consider that the permanent residents of Labrador are better off than the poorest class of people in Newfoundland. They are well employed in the summer in the fisheries on the coast, and in the winter they go up into the bays of the mainland where there is plenty of wood for fuel; some animals yielding valuable furs, to be caught for trading, and rabbits, partridges, and sometimes deer for food. The rabbits, so called here, which are very like the hares of Nova Scotia, have been numerous the last three winters, affording an excellent and important article of diet to the inhabitants.
Although the amount of pauperism is comparatively small at Labrador, yet a few cases will occur, in which the resident mercantile agents, or other principal inhabitants, may have to give assistance to destitute persons having no special claims on them, and in such cases they look to the Government for re-imbursement.
ROADS. The fishing stations at Labrador are nearly all on the numerous rugged islands of the coast, and consequently the communication being by water, there is little or no necessity for making roads.
RELIGION. There is at present only one resident clergyman of any denomination on the coast of Labrador—from Blanc Sablon in the Straits of Belle Isle to Hopedale, the Moravian Southern Mission Station. That clergyman is the Revd. Robt. Dobie of the Church of England, who resides at Forteau in the Straits of Belle Isle.
During the past summer three other clergymen have been on the coast, employed in their religious duties—viz.: Revd. William Wilson of the Church of England, who was stationed at Battle Harbor, and who visited other settlements; the Revd. Henry Carfagnini of the Roman Catholic Church, who came down in the steamer “Ariel” and visited several places; and the Revd. Thomas Allen of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, who was engaged all the summer in travelling from one harbor to another.
For several years prior to this year, the Revd. George Hutchinson, a clergyman of the Church of England, who resided permanently at Battle Harbor and from thence was in the habit of visiting, in summer and winter, many places north and south, of that station. His Christian zeal, kindness and liberal charities are well remembered and acknowledged by the people, Who spoke of him with the greatest love and respect.
PLACES OF WORSHIP. From Blanc Sablon to Hopedale, there are five of the Church of England, viz.: one each at Forteau, Red Bay, Battle Harbor, St. Francis Harbor, and Seal Islands; two Roman Catholic, viz.: one at Pinware, and another at Matthews Cove, Battle Island; one Wesleyan Methodist at Red Bay. At Indian Tickle there is a convenient building appropriated as a place of worship for clergymen of all denominations who may happen to come there.
SCHOOLS. Four schools were in operation during the past summer, viz.at Battle Harbor, Venison Tickle, Cape Charles, and Pinware; the three former kept during the summer only, that at Pinware is continuing through the year. It is proposed to open a school at Red Bay during the coming winter.
These schools are but moderately attended; the number of scholars in each, ranging from about 15 to 25.
I distributed amongst the teachers of these schools the sums placed at my disposal by the Government, and supplied them with some school books. Owing to the peculiar occupations and scattered habitations of the people, it is impracticable to establish a general system of school education; but I think it would be well to distribute a liberal supply of elementary books among the inhabitants, who would make good use of them in their families for domestic instruction.
I found the medicines and drugs with which I was supplied by the Government very acceptable, and useful for the people, both residents and summer fishermen. Many cases of disease and death, this season, came to my knowledge.
There was no regular medical man (except the surgeon on H.M.S. “Fawn,” which vessel came twice to the Labrador for short periods) on the whole coast from the Straits of Belle Isle to Hopedale last summer. I would suggest the advisability of sending a surgeon in the revenue and circuit vessel, who would then be enabled to attend to such cases of disease and accident as he might meet with, while cruising about during the season.
It would be gratifying to all those engaged in business on Labrador to have postal communication with St. John's, and through it with other places at home and abroad, two or three times during the summer. They consider they are entitled to this advantage as contributors to the General Revenue; indeed they complain that Labrador does not get its fair share of the public money in any way.
Labrador is no country for agriculture; the summer is so short, and the sea coast and islands so rocky and barren that nothing can be grown there but turnip greens and lettuces.
In the deep bays, such as Sandwich Bay and Hamilton Inlet, where there are woods, some soil and the climate warmer, a little more cultivation of the ground might be accomplished. I saw potatoes which were grown at Red Bay, in the Straits of Belle Isle, but none further north.
I may remark, that on the whole coast, from Battle Harbor to Rigoulette, I did not see a horse, cow, or sheep (except one cow at Indian Tickle, brought down for the summer from Newfoundland). Dogs abound in all settlements at Newfoundland. They are chiefly of the Indian or wolf breed, and are used during the winter season harnessed to sledges for hauling timber out of the woods and for travelling, in which occupation they are very sagacious and enduring.
With the exception of the dreadful effects of the storm of the 9th October, the present year may be considered a good one for the fisheries of Labrador, which in extent and importance are, I suppose, unsurpassed in the world.
I have, etc.,
(Signed) ROBERT J. PINSENT,
Judge of the Court of Labrador.