Peter Seward (1871-1953)

written by his grandson, Joseph Seward, 2016


My grandfather Peter Seward was born in Gooseberry Cove, Trinity Bay, NL in 1871. He was the second of seven children of Joseph and Louisa (Hobbs) Seward. Not much is known about his early life, we can assume he fished with his father Joseph.

In 1901 he married Amelia Dodge of Hearts Ease, they raised a family of seven children.

In 1901 he became a mail carrier delivering mail to the Southwest Arm and Random, with a salary of one hundred and seventy two dollars per year. This covered maintenance of the boat and the salary of one crew member. In 1913 his wife, my grandmother, died.

In 1916 he married Beatrice Marion [Coombs] James, widow of Lemuel Thomas James, who died on the Southern Cross while returning from the seal hunt on March 31,1914 leaving four small children. Grandfather and his second wife had eight children making an extended family of nineteen children.

Unlike my close relationship with my grandfather Ivany, my memories of grandfather Seward in my early years are few. At the age seventy one he moved with his family to the much larger community of Clarenville, about two and half hours away by boat. At an age when most would be nearing the end of their work life grandfather started a new career. Being an excellent boat builder, he quickly found work at the Clarenville shipyards. At the same time he purchased property to build a new home. This property was bound on three sides by private residences and on the fourth side by railway tracks which was his only access to his building lot. The closest delivery point was a road that led to a private company owned reservoir about two hundred yards away. It was to this point that he had his building supplies delivered, which he carried on his back to his lot after work on evening and Saturday afternoons. He worked five and half days per week at the shipyards.

During this time grandfather and grandmother lived in what can best be described as a shed located on the property. Grandmother took in laundry (done by hand, with water carried from the reservoir) from the shipyard workers to supplement their income. [Old age pensions in the country of Newfoundland was sixteen dollars per quarter paid at age seventy five and only if you passed a means test, for a total of sixty four dollars per year. In Canada at that time old age pensions were thirty dollars per months payable at age seventy.]

After completing his house, dad and I would visit him and grandmother overnight several times each year. He was a great story-teller with a keen sense of humour many times we were up till the late hours listening as he regaled us with stories and jokes. Dad would try to encourage me to go to bed early, some chance of that happening, so long as grandfather was entertaining us with his stories and jokes. It was during those visits I got to know, love and respect him.

After several years of hard work at the shipyards carrying timbers and planks, and in his advancing years he resigned.
At about this time dad and mom, with their three remaining children, moved from Southport to Clarenville [for reasons I will explain in a later story]. Dad obtained work at the shipyard caulking i.e. pounding okum in the seams of boats to make them watertight.

Clarenville had been incorporated and one of it’s first endeavors was to widen the main road through town. Grandfather worked at moving the fences back and where necessary building new ones. I later joined him as his helper. This lasted for about two months, when I left to join the Canadian Army. On my first leave home eight months later I visited him and grandmother on many occasions. On my last evening home I spent the last two hours with them before boarding the train for my return trip to Annapolis Valley NS.

Grandfather spent most of his time in his workshop building a Rodney [a small rowboat] for dad. One day at noon dad was walking home for lunch when grandfather called out to him. He explained he needed help attaching the final planks [called filler planks, especially shaped and difficult for one person to attach]. After making arrangements to help him dad continued on his way. Grandfather, as was his custom went up and lay on his couch to rest while grandmother prepared his lunch.

Dad was sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window when he saw his youngest sister Gertie running down the tracks he ran out to meet her. The old Warrior had taken his final rest. He was eighty two years old, and had never been to a hospital and to my knowledge had never been to a doctor. I loved him and still miss him and his many stories.