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Published: September 13th 2009
Our party sets off...
Our parents, Aunt Suzie, George, and I at Snooks Arm as we set off for Indian Burying Place.
Excepting China, much of our journey this year will take us to places that are completely foreign to us. In this first part of our journey we have been lucky to revisit familar places like Chicago, Toronto, Guelph, and St. John´s, and to catch up with friends and family. Uniquely, our Newfoundland stop took us to a place that was both foreign and familar, a place we had never seen before, but one we claim as home.
Most Newfoundlanders are descendants of Irish and English immigrants who came here in one way or another through the cod fishery. They settled every nook and granny along the coast. My great-great-great grandfather James White came from England sometime in the 1820's, and settled in a tiny cove on the Nortre Dame Bay. There is some uncertainty in the name, but we believe it was called Indian Burying Place. There was only one other family in Indian Burying Place when James came, and he married one of the daughters. He had been a doctor in England, so God knows why he came. His sons and his son´s sons were fishermen, thus may not have been able to read or write. My great grandfather
Indian Burying Place is a 3-hr hike from Snooks Arm, the nearest inhabited village.
moved my family out sometime in 1920´s as he found work in the mines. By the 1950´s everyone else had moved out of that town as well, leaving the abandoned village to the elements.
Although off the map as it was, Indian Burying Place is still visited in the summer by former residents and their descendents, and was known by the fisherman in neighbouring communities. In 2005, my Dad enlisted the help of these fisherman to lead a trip back with my mother, sister, aunt and cousins. As far we know, that was the first time any Whites had been there in almost 80 years. I missed that trip and another a couple of years later. This year was my turn. On Friday, August 28th, following a 7-hour car ride and a 2 1/2 hour hike through multiple bogs, Eva and I stood on a hill overlooking the former community of Indian Burying Place. Not much is left - about 8 houses in various states of decay and 2 overgrown cemeteries. But it is a pretty place with a sheltered cove, high banks on either side, and a stream running through the center. Some non-native plants such as rhubarb,
hops, and red currants remained from the days when people lived and farmed there. It was probably as good a place as any on the island to live when there were plenty of cod just offshore.
We went with my father, mother, and Aunt Susie, and stayed for two nights. Except for our visits to the cemeteries and the old houses, we spent most of our time doing the normal things one does on a camping trip: cooking, eating, playing cards, and toasting marshmallows on a fire; but I felt moved the whole time I was there. My ancestors would have lived a hard life compared to mine. They caught and grew enough food or else starved. They had enough fuel in the winter or froze. Injuries, boating accidents, and pregnancies were dealt with without any outside help. I am grateful they toughed it out so I could be here.
P.S. Sincerest thanks to my dear and lovely wife Eva who hiked for over 2 hours through the Newfoundland bogs, twice, one time in the poring rain, and who one time fell in said bog up to her waist, who did not utter a single word of complaint
nor mention the promised boat around the bog.
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