Deer Harbour

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Vol. 5, No. 5
October 1976

According to records the first person to settle in Deer Harbour on Random Island was a James King from Bradley’s Cove in Conception Bay. He apparently moved to Deer Harbour about 1866 and he and his family were to figure prominently in the history of the community. He was a leading citizen and as the community grew, he acted as the doctor in emergencies. His son, William, owned 5 schooners in the 1900’s and his wife was the local midwife.

The first school was built in 1868. A one room school, it remained that way until 1955 when a second room was added.

Although most of the people were fishermen, there was some woods work done. In the early days the sawmills were water driven but later on gas engines kept the mills going. In 1947 alone, 14,000 board feet were cut.

In 1952 there were 85 fishermen who mainly went after cod, mackerel and some herring, averaging 70-75 quintals each. All fish was sold to E. J. Green of Winterton or S.W. Mifflin of Catalina. Mr. Green built a store in the community of Thoroughfare which was 5 miles away, but in the 1960’s he built a store in Deer Harbour.

It has been said that Deer Harbour was the only community in Newfoundland where a man worked a cod trap singlehandedly.

Always a good farming community, there was a time when people kept cows, pigs, sheep and goats as well as grew the traditional crops of potatoes, cabbage and turnip.

Deer Harbour over the years grew and eventually became the second largest community on Random Island. But despite its size, services were still lacking. Wrote Lloyd King in 1971, “Deer Harbour has been inhabited for 125-130 years and we still haven’t gotten a road out of it yet.” Nor had they gotten water, despite the fact that the first in a long series of ponds was only 900 feet from the community and 50 feet above sea level which would be ample for a water supply system.

In the early 1960’s, there were over 200 people living in the community and over 55 houses were standing strong. But by the time the people had moved in the early 1970’s the population had dropped back.

In a cost benefit analysis report written in the early 1970’s by Robb and Robb on resettlement in Newfoundland, Deer Harbour was the only community in the sample taken where the heads of household decreased their earnings after resettlement. Over 50 percent of the people moved indicated that they did not want to move but would have preferred to stay in Deer Harbour. Part of the problem lay in the fact that they moved to communities, such as Hickman’s Harbour and Lower Lance Cove, which were without community services at the time and where there was very little employment available. Today several fishermen and their families fish out of Deer Harbour during the fishing season. They still have their stages and often tie up at the Government wharf which is in good repair. But 40 or more houses lie in ruin, torn up by casual visitors and vandals.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, February 2018

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.