Port Nelson

History of Port Nelson

by Robert Cuff
Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1981

PORT NELSON (pop. 1956, 51). A resettled fishing community. Port Nelson was located on either side of Loo Cove, a 2 km-long inlet on the north side of Bonavista Bay, west of Greenspond. Port Nelson was probably frequented as a “winterhouse” by early residents of Greenspond, but was not settled year-round until, with the rise of the Labrador fishery in the 1880s, many inhabitants of the islands of Bonavista Bay moved to the adjacent mainland.

Port Nelson became a favoured place for Greenspond shipowners to “lay up” their vessels for the winter, and eventually a number of families relocated their “permanent” homes there, for although Port Nelson was quite a distant from most of the best cod fishing grounds in the area, this proved no disadvantage for families spending each summer fishing on the Labrador. Indeed the port was soon being frequented by Labrador schooners from the southern side of Bonavista Bay and from Trinity Bay, many of which made a practice of anchoring overnight at Port Nelson in order to sail up the treacherous Straight Shore to
the north in full daylight. The families of Port Nelson (Burrys, Burtons, Parsonses, Wickses and Whites from Greenspond, as well as Blackwoods from Swains Islands) soon made a name for themselves as seamen and skippers in the coastal trade, as well as in the Labrador fishery.

By 1921 there were 215 residents, but a decline in the Labrador fishery set in soon afterward and the exodus from Port Nelson was nearly as dramatic as the earlier influx had been. There were 164 people in 1935, 132 in 1945 and only 86 in 1951. In the mid- 1950s the community was abandoned with the remaining people being relocated to Brookfield and Wesleyville. Once again Port Nelson was visited only seasonally by Greenspond residents. However, in the mid-1980s, a road and causeway to Greenspond were completed, passing just south of Port Nelson, and since that time several cabins have been
built there. [Source: John Feltham (1992), Julian Moreton (1863), Census (1884-1956), Rounder (Mar. 1981), Archives (A-7-)

Dog Owners defy Tax Collectors. San Antonia Express August 4, 1936

Police Fired On After Arresting Several in Fishing Town. (By Associated Press)

ST. JOHNS, Newfoundland. Aug. 3.—A cutter load of police returned from Port Nelson today with several prisoners taken, they reported, under gunfire they silenced before leaving. The cutter with 20 policemen aboard was dispatched last Friday to Investigate a report of Constable Richards of Greenspond, near Port Nelson, that he had been defied in his attempts to collect a dog tax. Port Nelson residents claimed failure of the fisheries left them no money to pay.

A government act required extermination of a certain breed of dog in specified localities and the licensing of all dogs. The fee was 15 cents for males and 12 for females. Residents at Port Nelson resented the order as they maintained their dogs were a necessity in hunting sea birds for food and in obtaining firewood for the winter.

Magistrate Bradley went aboard the cutter at Catalina. At Port Nelson he said he went ashore to try to effect a settlement with the 30 families, all of whom, he reported, kept from one to 13 dogs. Bradley said the residents, reinforced by others from Shamblers Cove, told him they wanted no interference ‘ with their animals. An officer on the cutter issued summonses against eight persons, but they ignored them. Bradley said he thereupon issued warrants for arrest.

Two dories under Sergeant Humber with six men aboard put off for shore and made several arrests. On their way back. Humber said, shots were fired at them. Putting about, Humber said his men advanced under a fusillade and seized a man named White with an old muzzle-loading shotgun.

•Tonight White and the other unidentified prisoners were lodged in jail here. Newspaper men were forbidden to interview them. White was charged with shooting at a police sergeant with intent to do him bodily harm and was held in default of $4,000 bail for hearing a week from today.

Baxter White, on the left. Last resident of Port Nelson before it was resettled.

Loo Cove or Port Nelson 1903
Garland White’s house in Port Nelson with Lucy Burry’s rock in the background
Hugh White’s house, Greenspond

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get the latest information on Greenspond Historical Society news, projects, funding, volunteer opportunities, and more!