Having a Ball at Butter Cove

Reprinted with permission from The Packet, August 18, 2008
by Paula Bugden

The past and present reunite

Woodrow and Thomas Spurrell

Woodrow and Thomas Spurrell accept a flag for the family at the unveiling of Pte. Richard James Spurrells plaque. Pte. Spurrell died as a result of wounds suffered in World War I. He was the only man from the area who never returned home from that conflict.


Who knew a small community would spark so much interest.

The Butter Cove reunion, held Aug. 8-10, turned out to be a huge hit, but it certainly wasn’t a spur of the moment idea.

After writing A Brief History of Butter Cove and its People in 2001, Elaine Spurrell noticed many people were interested in their heritage.

Who knew a small community would spark so much interest.

The Butter Cove reunion, held Aug. 8-10, turned out to be a huge hit, but it certainly wasn’t a spur of the moment idea.

After writing A Brief History of Butter Cove and its People in 2001, Elaine Spurrell noticed many people were interested in their heritage.

Two years ago, she and Janet Smith got together and considered having a reunion. A committee was formed and, along with Donna Smith and Pearl Spurrell, Elaine and Janet began planning.

There were no doubts about the importance of this reunion.

“It was a way of bringing everybody together who had any connection with Butter Cove in the past, like parents or grandparents,” Elaine says. “Last summer we knew we wanted to make it a reality; we booked this summer, picked the date and that was it!”


Sounds easy enough, but don’t think there wasn’t plenty of hard work involved. Elaine says there was a tremendous amount that had to be done, because it wasn’t a typical event.

Before the celebrations took place the committee needed to find space for the visitors. Finally, they found a solution.

“There’s a community centre in Butter Cove…and we finally got into the building a month or so ago. But there was a lot of work to get it up and running,” notes Elaine. “We actually got four summer students to do all the painting on the inside, which was great. Eric Spurrell also did the water system for us.”

Busy weekend

Their hard work over a year of planning paid off. Friday started off with a bang of fireworks and a bonfire for everyone. On Saturday, there was a special moment when the memorial plaque for Pte. Richard James Spurrell was unveiled.

The committee made sure this event went off without a hitch. Elaine says they had to do research on the First World War soldier, order the plaque, choose the right place for it, as well as make sure the setting looked natural.

Even though the weather wasn’t the best, she says the children still had plenty of games, and there were pony rides as well. But adults had their fun too, with a catered banquet and concert.

“It was like two or three weeks before, and we were trying to put some plans together for this concert. So we put some skits together…and that was kind of done on a spur of the moment,” Elaine adds. “But everybody involved was willing to do it. I wrote a song for Pte. Spurrell and Rick Baker sang it. It all went over really well.”

On Sunday people attended a church service in Gooseberry Cove to celebrate the church’s 80th anniversary.

Spreading the word

When it came to tracking down former residents, she says word got around through families…and the Internet was a wonderful tool.

While she jokingly admits she’s not very computer savvy, she started a Butter Cove celebrations group on the Facebook website to spread the news. She got quite a surprise when over 200 people joined.

Lo and behold, close to 250 actually showed up to the Butter Cove celebrations. And if you’re wondering who provided the food for so many people, Elaine says community members pitched in and did it all.

History lessons

As far as Elaine Spurrell knows, the history of Butter Cove can be dated back to 1845. According to records, Moses and Honor Spurrell, along with their children, were the first to settle in the little community. With the current population around 15, it hasn’t exactly boomed since then. That doesn’t mean there isn’t much history to tell. Relying on her research, Elaine notes that the 1950s saw the highest population.

Facts are fine when you’re trying to learn about the population. But when you ask where Butter Cove gets its name from, one can only depend on old stories.

“It’s been passed on that an old man came into Butter Cove one time, and he was fishing. He pulled up to some boys who were also fishing, and they had what you call a ‘mug-up.’ And when they pulled off, they discovered they left their butter behind,” says Elaine. Others say the town was named for Mr. Butter who lived here long ago.

While she has spent a lot of time going through records, she’s not the only one who has an interest in Butter Cove’s heritage.

Don Tate started learning about the community’s history in 1999, in an attempt to retrace his wife’s family tree. Since then, he’s created a genealogy website (http://ngb.chebucto.org/) for anyone interested in Newfoundland’s past.

“A good part of the records I use come from the LDS microfilm reels. They’ve got an excellent collection of records. And of course, the provincial archives have excellent records in St. John’s,” says Tate. “It’s all tied together. You get bits and pieces here and there, so it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You have all these pieces lying around and you hope you can tie them together.”

He spends a lot of time helping other researchers with information. Tate says the main purpose of his website is to provide them with original records, rather than just opinions and stories.

After spending so much time on genealogy, he’s learned several reasons why people are so interested in their ancestry. Curiosity is one of them, he notes.

“People want to feel they’re part of the family. And there’s also a lot of medical research done today regarding illnesses and things that have happened within the family history. It can help you better understand where you and your children are going to be.”

He adds that a lot of interest also comes from people who have been adopted, and people who wonder if they have native backgrounds.

Don was one of the visitors at the Butter Cove celebrations and had nothing but high praise for those who organized the event.

Turns out that history is a big hit for lots of people, and it certainly wasn’t left in the past.


Transcribed by Lester Green, April 2015

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