Long Island and the Beothuks

Beothuks, Many Questions, Few AnswersThe unique location of this boot-shaped island in the outer reaches of Notre Dame Bay has attracted people since long before recorded history. Archaeological evidence indicates that a group called the Little Passage people favoured Long island.  The outlying smaller islands were a base camp during the summer time a thousand years ago. One of these well preserved campsites is still evident on Oil Island off the community of Lushes Bight.

Next came the Beothuk people who used the island as a summer base from about 1200 A.D. until around 1800. Several Beothuk sites were identified by the surveyor and mapmaker, J. P. Howley who sailed around the island in the 1870s. Two of these are caves near Sud’r Head, at the eastern end of the island.

Another large cave, likely a burial site, at Cheney’s Head (now commonly called Chinese Head or North China Head), was explored By D. W. S. Ryan in 1948. Many of the artifacts taken by Ryan wound up in private collections. The cave itself has a number of chambers and should only be explored by experienced cavers.

Many residents of Long island can trace their ancestry to a core group of settlers from the west country of England who made the island their home in the early 1830s. But as early as 1775, records indicate that a continuous fishery was taking place at Ward’s Harbour and winter crews from Twillingate Island were using Cutwell Arm on a regular basis to build small schooners.

Early church records indicate that the Heaths, Crouchers, Burtons, Paddocks, and Rideouts were already established at Ward’s Harbour in 1835.

 

BeothuksAfter 1850, these earlier residents were joined by settlers migrating from places like Herring Neck, Change Islands, Twillingate, and from the Bay Roberts – Carbonear area of Conception Bay. They were drawn by the excellent fishing grounds close by, as well as the abundance of seals and other wildlife which were major food sources.

Many place names on the island have historical significance: Lushes Bight, after a fisherman named Lush who used the harbour as a summer fishing station; Ward’s Harbour, after Matthew Ward, a planter who had fishing rights to this area; Cutwell Harbour and Cutwell Arm, officially renamed Beaumont North and South in 1921 to commemorate the large number of young men from the island who had volunteered for service during the First World War.