Saturday, July 5, 2014

Norris Point - The Loss of the "Reddie" from Gadds Harbour Island

The third destination on our trip around Newfoundland was the town of Norris Point. Nestled in the National Park, Gros Morne, Norris Point is where my great-great grandmother, Sarah Samms-Earle-Bromley was born in about 1857.

I chose this destination because it was within the National Park. It was only after the trip was booked that I realized the connection to the Samms family...and I am glad I did.

While we were in driving around the National Park, Cousin Kelly and I stopped into a gift shop in the nearby town of  Woody Point. We almost didn't get into the shop. It was after their closing time and the door was lock but as we turned back to get in the car, one of the owners of the Hunky Dory, Mr. Charlie Payne, came running out of his home to open his shop up for us.

Just as with every stop, Cousin Kelly informed Mr. Payne that I was doing some genealogy research in the area; that I am an Earle. Mr. Payne immediately acknowledged that there were many Earles in the area. I explained to him that this was the section on Newfoundland where my Samms ancestors were from. "Samms?," he inquired. "My wife is Samms." At that point he excused himself to go back to his home to retrieve some genealogical research he had collected. When he returned he shared this story with us.:

Loss of the "Reddie" [recorded from] Louis and Ned Samms [by Charlie Payne]

During the 1870s, the Samms family of Gadds Harbour carried on a seal hunt on a small scale. The enterprise was short-lived because on an accident at the ice. It was during the 1870s that the "Reddie" went to the ice and was lost with her entire crew from Gadds Harbour and Norris Point. Her wreck was found later the same year on St. Paul's Island on the Quebec Shore of the gulf of St. Lawrence. Seven men were lost in total. Reuben Samms left a wife and 7 or 8 children, James Organ left a wife and 6 or 7 children, William Parrons left a wife and one child, James Harding was the only supporter of a mother, 3 sisters and 2 little brothers, and Richard Sams, the unmarried brother of Ruben Sams. It is said that there was only one man left in Gadds Harbour after the loss of the "Reddie." One day that same spring he left to walk across on the ice to Woody Point for food supplies and he too never returned. He fell through the spring ice and drowned.
Reuben Samms - also spelled Ruben Sams in this story - was my third great grandfather, the father of Sarah Samms-Earle-Bromley.

Mr. Payne - now more lovingly referred to as Cousin Charlie - recommended a book to me in which the story is recorded; The Good and Beautiful Bay: A History of Bonne Bay to Confederation and a Little Beyond by Antony Berger. 

When we returned to St. John's at the end of our trip I went to the Provincial Archives again to see if I could find anymore about the "Reddie." Unfortunately, I could not. As the librarian at the Archives concurred with me, oral history is perhaps the only way this story of the tragic event has survived. Thank God for the storytellers.

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