Make your own free website on Tripod.com
History of Quirpon


   (pop. 1986, 212). A fishing community on the extreme northeastern
 tip
               of the Great Northern Peninsula, about 35 km north of St.
 Anthony qv.
               Quirpon Harbour is the most northerly sheltered harbour on
 the Island
               and has been frequented by migratory fishermen since the
 sixteenth
               century. Quirpon Harbour is formed by Quirpon Island and is
 entered
               from the north, where the approach is somewhat sheltered
 by Jacques
               Cartier Island. Little Quirpon Harbour is entered from the
 east, a better
               approach in some respects, but is quite shallow,
               while the tickle between
               the two anchorages is not navigable by most craft. The
 name of the
               harbour comes from its resemblance to Le Kerpont, near
 St. Malo,
               from whence came some of the earliest fishermen. Quirpon
 has been
               spelled a variety of ways, including Carpon, Carpunt and
 Karpoon, and
               is pronounced locally to rhyme with harpoon.


                         Fishing premises at Quirpon in the 1960's

               The explorer Jacques Cartier qv probably knew the harbour
 by reports
               from Breton fishermen before he anchored there in 1534
 (and again in
               1541). The rich fishery in the waters around Quirpon made
 it one of the
               centres of the French migratory fishery on the Petit Nord qv.

           Though ice  kept ships from arriving before early June,
    during the   summer large numbers of French boats fished the
    grounds less than 5 km from shore. In 1763 James Cook
    charted the area and described Little Quirpon Harbour as ``a
    very snug place for mooring ships''. Though settlement  was not
    encouraged on the coast of the Petit Nord, increasing numbers
    of English fishermen kept fixed establishments there in the
    nineteenth century. Quirpon was also the site of one of the
    earliest meetings of Inuit  people
         with a Moravian missionary. In 1764 the missionary Jens
 Haven  was
         brough to Quirpon by an English ship, and in September met
 with a  
               small group of Inuit who came into the harbour from
 Labrador. He
               followed them across the Strait to begin his missionary
 work. It is not
               certain whether Inuit peoples had come to Quirpon solely to
 trade with
               European fishermen or whether they had been visiting the
 area
              since theprehistoric period.

               The French continued to fish in the area in significant
 numbers into the
               nineteenth century. (An 1818 convention gave American
 fishermen
               access to Quirpon Island, but not to the occupied shore). In
 the
               mid-1850s establishments from St. Servan and St. Malo
 dominated the
               fishery. By this time Newfoundland fishermen, out of
 Conception Bay
               ports such as Brigus, Bristol's Hope, Cupids and Harbour
 Grace, had
               begun summer fisheries in Quirpon. Eventually some
 settled
               permanently, the first being Fred Pynn, who was gardien of
 the French
               premises there in 1872. Little Quirpon and Quirpon Island
 tended to be
               used for the most part for seasonal fishing stations. A
 permanent
               population was first recorded in the 1857 Census, with 10
 families
               comprising 69 inhabitants. Family names recorded there in
 1869 were
               mostly common family names of Conception Bay: Bartlett,
 Bessey
               (Bussey), Crabb, Tucker and Simmonds. Three people, all
 with the
               surname Pynn, owned fishing premises. Many of the
 settlers wintered
               at sites in Pistolet Bay to the west, as both Quirpon Island
 and
               the adjacent  mainland were quite barren. As late as
               1874, when 109 French fishermen were at Quirpon,
               Newfoundland fishermen wereoutnumbered.

               In the 1880s, with the decline of French influence and the
 increasing
               involvement of Conception Bay ports in the Labrador
 fishery, Quirpon
               took on added importance. It was the usual ``last stop'' in
               Newfoundland for Labrador schooners preparing to make
 the dash
               across the Strait of Belle Isle to Battle Harbour and, through
 the firm of
               J. & J. Maddock, a minor supply port for Labrador
 ``stationers'' out of
               Carbonear. There were also families coming each year to
 L'Anse au
               Pigeon qv on Quirpon Island and year-round residents at
 Fortune, just
               outside Little Quirpon harbour to the southeast. By 1884 a
 Wesleyan
               church had been built. The population of 194 shown in that
 year's
               Census may have included a number of short-term
 residents. In 1891
               the permanent population was 77 at Quirpon and 37 at
 Little Quirpon.
               There were approximately 250 Newfoundlanders fishing
 from the
               harbour with two schooners and 40 other boats. The French
 still
               maintained two fishing rooms in the vicinity and English
 schooners
               were present in the fall  and spring.

               After the turn of the century, migratory  fishing in the area
 decreased,   coming to a virtual halt after the decline of the
 Labrador fishery in the 1920s. Quirpon then became the base for a
 resident inshore fishery, with a population approaching 150 by the
 1940s.
         Common family names of Quirpon mostly originated in
  Conception Bay, members of the Bartlett, Hedderson, Patey, Pynn,
 Roberts, Taylor and Tucker families having been involved in the
 fisheries in the area for generations.

               Nearby communities, such as St. Lunaire-Griquet and St.
 Anthony qqv,
               had become the local mercantile and service centres in the
 early 1900s,
               and by the 1930s provided most services to Quirpon. In the
 1960s,
               when Quirpon was connected by a dirt road to the highway,
 47 people
               from the community were resettled to larger centres,
 especially St.
               Anthony. And the last few families left Little Quirpon,
 Fortune and
               Jacques Cartier Island, so that by 1970 Quirpon proper was
 the only
               settled part of the community. In 1992 Quirpon was still
 reliant on the
               inshore fishery and a small fish plant operated seasonally.


        W.G. Gosling (1910),
        C. Grant Head (1976),
        Harold Innis (1940),
        D.W. Prowse (1895),
        E.R. Seary (1959),
        JHA (1872),
        Lovell's Newfoundland Directory (1871),
        Archives (A-7-2),
        Newfoundland Historical Society (Quirpon). ACB

       ENL:7119 Quirpon Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador                       Quirpon