Butter Cove

Butter Cove, c1965

Butter Cove, c1965


Moses Spurrell of Sooley’s Cove, near Dunfield, Trinity Bay, and his three eldest sons, David, Urias and Abraham, began fishing at the Heart’s Ease Beach area around 1844. It was there that they came upon the little cove now known as Butter Cove. Since no one was living there, Moses decided to move his growing family to this cove. It appears that in the spring or early summer of 1845, the family left Sooley’s Cove with all their belongings and settled at Butter Cove. A son, Joseph, was born in 1845 to Moses and Honor after their move. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1847; another daughter, Amelia Ann, in 1849; and the youngest child, Joshua, in 1853. It wasn’t until this birth was recorded in 1853 that the community was officially listed as Butter Cove. Moses’ and Honor’s sons later married and built their houses at Butter Cove.

Other early surnames include Hiscocks, when Thomas Hiscock and his wife, Providence, came to live at Butter Cove, or more precisely, Ganny Cove (a little cove within Butter Cove). After the death of his first wife, Thomas married Charlotte Reed. After her death in 1898, Thomas moved across the arm to live with Moses Baker. It seems that several of Thomas’ children had died young, while the others must have moved away. After the death of Thomas there were no more Hiscocks at Butter Cove. Later there were Bakers, when Elias Baker married Amelia Ann Spurrell of Butter Cove and lived there briefly. Eliol Balsom of George’s Cove and his second wife, Sarah Barfitt, moved to Butter Cove in 1901. By 1935, all the Balsom family had either passed away or moved out of the community. Israel Strowbridge of Sound Island, Placentia Bay came to Butter Cove around 1900 when his sister, Clothilda, married William Spurrell. Strowbridges lived at Butter Cove until the 1970s. The Smiths show up at Butter Cove in the early 1900s when Cicily Spurrell married Ebenezer Smith of Island Cove, Trinity Bay. These Smiths later moved to Little Heart’s Ease.

On the voter’s list of 1835 Moses Spurrell, who later moved to Butter Cove, is listed as living on the Southside of Trinity. In 1836, he is described as a tenant in Trinity. In 1837 and 1838, he is listed as an owner at Trinity. On the voters’ list of 1870, the names of men living in Butter Cove were given as follows: Urias, David and Abraham Spurrell. Their father Moses’ name appears but in the margin is written the word ‘dead’. Moses must have died shortly before. There is no mention in the 1870 voters’ list of Thomas Hiscock, although the church records show he was living in Gannett Cove (a cove within Butter Cove) in 1865 when his two sons, John Thomas and William were baptized. Thomas Hiscock shows up in the 1873 voters’ list for Butter Cove where he is classified as an owner there. The other owners listed in Butter Cove in 1873 are David, Urias, Abraham and Joseph Spurrell (all brothers). In the 1884 voters’ list, Thomas Hiscock appears under ‘freehold’ at Gannett Cove. Elias Baker appears for the first time under ‘freehold’ in Gannett Cove Arm (Elias’). The Spurrells listed in Butter Cove are the brothers David, Urias, Abraham, Joseph and Joshua. They are all listed under ‘freehold’. The census of 1921 listed 61 people living in Butter Cove of which 45 were Spurrells, six were Smiths, five were Balsoms, four were Strowbridges and one was a Drodge for a total of 11 families. In 1935 there were 78 people living at Butter Cove of which 61 were Spurrells, nine were Strowbridges and eight were Smiths. By 1945 the population of Butter Cove had reached 95 residents in 16 families. The population peaked in the 1950s but began to decline in the 1960s.

All of the residents of Butter Cove were of the Church of England (Anglican) faith. Since Butter Cove did not have its own church, the parishioners walked to Gooseberry Cove to attend services at St. Alban’s. Because of the vast area of the parish and the difficulty of travel, a clergyman was not always available. Many of the baptisms and burials were performed by lay readers. One such lay reader was Alexander Spurrell (Uncle Sandy) from Butter Cove. The first record of Uncle Sandy performing a burial is on December 25, 1930 when he buried Samuel Lambert, aged 76, of Southport. The first record of him layreading in church is on Good Friday, March 25, 1933. His last layreading service was on December 28, 1970, just three years before he died. His services as a lay reader spanned 40 years.

It is likely that the first children to live at Butter Cove did not receive any schooling after they moved there. By 1859, a schoolhouse had been built at Heart’s Ease Beach and the children may have traveled there for their schooling before 1880 when a school was built at ‘the crossroads’ in Gooseberry Cove. In the early 1900s a one room school was built in Butter Cove and for the first time the children of Butter Cove attended school in their own community. A teacher was provided for only three months of the year. The teacher then moved on to provide schooling in another community. In these days many of the children of Butter Cove attended school in their own community for three months and then walked to Gooseberry Cove to attend school for another three months. The teacher, who was usually no more than 16 or 17 years of age, taught all grades and subjects. Subject areas were reading, arithmetic, grammar, spelling, geography and hygiene. Books were not provided free and had to be bought by parents. Up until 1932, the students were divided into primary, preliminary, intermediate, junior matriculation and senior matriculation. As in most outports at this time, very few children took junior matriculation and senior matriculation. By the time they were 12 or 13 years of age most children were taken out of school, the boys to work with their fathers at the fishery and the girls to be hired in service (domestic help).


Note: This article is subject to further correction and revision.


NOTE: See also information from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6, November-December 1986