Little Heart’s Ease and Surrounding

Nestled along the shores of South West Arm, Random are two small enclosed rounded harbours. One is known locally as Little Harbour and the other as Little Heart’s Ease. Both are well protected from all major storms and lie close to fishing grounds. The harbour contained land that was easily cleared and fertile enough to grow basic food supplements. Also, the abundance of trees supplied a bountiful resource for living quarters, stages and wharves.

Interestingly, records indicate that most of the early settlers chose not to live within these harbours but rather to live on more open coastline of South West Arm to be closer to the fishing grounds and beaches that could be used to dry cod fish. These areas known as Clay Pitts and Batt’s Cove (see map of South West Arm) became home to the Bensons, Vardys, Shaws and Martins.

Clay Pitts

The exact date this area was settled will always remain a mystery in the history of this region. Research of early church records and other historical documents seems to indicate sometime between 1852 and 1855. George Vardy and Isaac Benson both appear at Clay Pitts on the 1855 voters list but they are not listed on the 1852 voters list. Clay Pitts first recorded births were found in Volume 62 of the Newfoundland Vital Statistics which contain the baptism records for New Harbour, where Lydia Benson was born to Levi and Jane (nee Martin) Benson. It appears that Levi and Jane Benson did not remain at Clay Pitts but settled at Hickman’s Harbour. Isaac Benson, a brother or step-brother of Isaac, is listed in Lovell’s Province of Newfoundland Directory for 1871 under Random Sound. The recorded birth of John Vardy, child of James and Magdalene (nee Bussey) Vardy in 1869, along with the listing of George Vardy in Lovell’s Province of Newfoundland Directory for 1871, indicates that the Vardys were established at Clay Pitts by the early 1870s.

In the 1884 census, Clay Pitts is listed as having a population of twelve which included Mary Vardy (a widow), her sons James and his wife Magdelene (nee Bussey), and Moses and his wife Mary Jane (nee Blundell), along with their families. The other family present at this time was Isaac and Eleanor (nee Pelley) Benson and their children Mary Ann, Alexander, Elizabeth, and Adam. Census taken in 1891 and 1911 indicates the population remained around 12.

By 1921, according to the census, Clay Pitts is listed as having a population of nine. One household consisted of Adam and Drucilla (Goobie) Benson, along with their children Levi and Newman. The second household contained Adam’s brother Alexander Benson, his wife, Susannah (Spurrell), and their children Isaac, David, and George. 

Adam died in 1928 and Drucilla died in 1926 in Clay Pitts and are both buried there. Their son Levi died in St. John’s in 1923 and was buried in Clay Pitts. Newman moved to St. John’s.

Alexander died in 1933 and Susannah died in 1932 in Clay Pitts and they are also both buried in Clay Pitts. Their three sons, the last residents of Clay Pitts, left in 1933 and moved to Little Heart’s Ease. 

None of George Vardy’s children remained at Clay Pitts. James Vardy and family moved to Hickman’s Harbour around mid-1880s. Moses Vardy and family moved to the Clarenville area by 1895. George’s daughter Sarah Anne married and moved to Trinity, where she died in 1912, and his daughter Eliza Jane moved to Clarenville and died there in 1942.

Batt’s Cove

Batt’s Cove was home to the Shaws and Martins. George and John Shaw first appear at Batt’s Cove on the 1855 voters’ list. The old Roman Catholic cemetery at Batt’s Cove indicates the Shaws were present around the 1870s – 1880s because of the deaths of two George Shaws: George Shaw (1809-1889) and George Shaw (1844-1875). Another headstone contains an inscription that reads:


Wife of George Shaw

Jan 21, 179

Age 63


Reference is also made to Shaws living at Batt’s Cove in the Harbour Grace Standard & Conception Bay Advertiser, 12 May 1888 – Death Announcement:


At Little Hearts Ease, on April 9th, after a short but painful illness, Mary,

                    beloved wife of James SHAW, and daughter of the late Michael and Sarah

                    WALSH, of Turks Cove, Trinity South, aged 42 years. She leaves a husband

                    and 7 children to mourn their sad loss.


Mary’s headstone can also be found in this cemetery and reads:


Mary Shaw

Wife of James

April 11, 1888



Oral tradition among the Martins, also speak of John Martin being buried at Batts Cove on March 20, 1880.

Little Harbour

Little Harbour appears to have been settled before Little Heart’s Ease. Research of early church records and other historical documents seems to indicate the 1850s to 1860s as a possible date for settlement. One such record, which is the earliest history of the Jacobs family at Little Harbour, is the burial record for the son of John and Mary Jacobs, William Henry Jacobs (baptized on July 9, 1854), found in the Bay de Verde Anglican Church records:

Buried December 27, 1860: William Henry Jacobs, Clay Pitts. 8 years. Buried May 5, 1861. Note: body was disinterred and brought hither by his father.

Another record references the baptism of James Jacobs on September 1866. We can conclude that somewhere between 1860 and 1870 Little Harbour was settled by John Jacobs and his brother Thomas. Thomas, however, returned to Bay de Verde but his sons, Thomas, William, and James, settled at the South West Arm area. The surname Dodge appears at Little Harbour with the marriage of Mathias Dodge to John Jacobs’ daughter Susanna on September 17, 1870. By 1945, the surnames of Jacobs and Dodge are established and joined by the surnames of Norris, Price, Strong and King. Little Harbour residents are listed as part of Little Heart’s Ease but the residents identify themselves as being born at Little Harbour.

Little Heart’s Ease

McAlpine’s Newfoundland Directory 1870-1871 under South West Arm lists the surnames Martins, Drodges, Jacobs and Shaws. Lovell’s Province of Newfoundland Directory 1871 lists the same surnames along with the addition of the Stringer surname. Throughout the history of Little Heart’s Ease, descendants of these surnames can be found in a variety of records. The McAlpine’s Newfoundland Directory 1894-97 under South West Arm lists Butt, Drodge, Dodge, Jacobs, Martin, Norris, Stringer, Shaw and Strong. Church records also indicate the surname Peddle was established at Little Heart’s Ease circa 1870s. The communities of House Cove and Clay Pitts are listed separate from Little Heart’s Ease in the McAlpine’s Newfoundland Directory 1898. We can assume from these records that the communities of House Cove, Little Heart’s Ease, Little Harbour and Clay Pitts were well established with permanent settlers by the late 1800s. It is interesting to note that the community of Batt’s Cove ceased to exist by the early 1900s and the families that occupied Batt’s Cove resettled at Little Heart’s Ease. The region continued to grow and by 1921, according to the census records, had reached a total population for all four communities of 324 people. The completion of the 1935 census showed the community of Clay Pitts had been abandoned and the families moved to Little Harbour. The population for this region had grown to 355 people. The 1945 census showed an increase in population to 411 people.

House Cove

House Cove was a community that was located on the south side of the Little Heart’s Ease harbour. The community consisted of a rocky beach that was open to easterly and northerly winds. The community appears to have been settled between 1890 and 1900. The community’s initial settlers were William Henry Jacobs and Henry Soper. On the 1928 voters’ list are the names of Nicholas Avery, William Jacobs, Arthur Jacobs, Benjamin Price, Jonah Soper, Samuel Soper, and Cleophas Soper. In the 1911 census House Cove was listed with a population of 20 and by 1945 it had grown to 40 people. By the early 1960s, the community was abandoned. The families moved to Little Heart’s Ease and Northwest Brook.

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


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