Spotlight on Hillveiw

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photographs from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on images to enlarge)

Hillview

Hillview was originally known as North (or Northern) Bight, and was settled in the mid-1800s by families from Conception Bay because of substantial stands of timber. The community was named Hillview because of the beautiful late summer and fall views of the surrounding hills. Several local residents still comment on this, and Doreen Avery proudly refers to the view as the best in all of Newfoundland.

The first settlers were probably seasonal, summering in Labrador. The first arrivals were James Stoyles and David Benson from Grates Cove. The Churchill and Frost families arrived next. These early settlers were engaged in lumbering, shipbuilding, the Labrador fishery and some inshore fishing. As many as 20 schooners left the community at one time, with the first being owned by James Stoyles. His son-in-law, Israel Cooper, was another of the early settlers. Israel’s son, George Cooper, could remember fish in sufficient quantities to catch 30 quintals by handline and jigger in a few hours. The early settlers also walked 60 miles along woods trails to Mount Sylvester to hunt caribou.

Hillview United Church

The actual date of the first settlement is unknown because early census reports included a number of communities under the general heading of Random Sound or Southwest Random. By 1884, North Bight was already an important community with 162 Wesleyan and Church of England residents. By this time, each denomination had a church and school in the community. The first Hillview Church of England church was built around 1874. About half the population was directly engaged in the fishery, with the community’s 27 boats, 19 nets and seines and 9 cod traps landing fish to the value of $1,819. North Bight was apparently the commercial and farming centre of the region with a clergyman, two merchants, five office workers and 58 acres of cleared land.

By 1891, the population had increased to 212, and local logging operations prospered because of railway construction and the 1893 construction of a road to the railroad at Northern Bight station, where the only motor-driven vehicle, a Model T Ford, provided the taxi service to both Northern Bight and communities on the south side of Southwest Arm. Fewer residents were fishing and only four schooners went to Labrador. Lumbering provided a new economic activity and involved 15 households.

McAlpines 1894 Newfoundland Directory lists 44 fishermen, including most of the family names from the early days of settlement—Avery, Benson (4), Brewer (2), Baker, Churchill (5), Cooper, Drodge, Duffett, Dodge (2), Frost (5), Green (3), House, Hyde (2), Jackson, Janes, Loader, Martin (2), Mesh, Price, Styles (5), Seward (2), Sansford—plus a trader—Nehemiah Frost. The Averys came from Grates Cove, and the Bensons were in Random Sound by 1871, as were Absolom and John Cooper and Alfred Stoyl(e)s. Another family—Churchill—is descended from one of three brothers who arrived in Newfoundland from Devon in the 1850s. Drodge is the Wiltshire variant of Dredge—George and Solomon Drodge were listed for Random Sound in 1871. The House family named House Cove on the Southport peninsula. The Hydes probably came from Ireland by way of Bay de Verde in the 1840s, and Loader comes from the Dorset name, Loder, with Silas Loder a planter at Ireland’s Eye in 1848.

Hillview Anglican Church

The community name was changed to Hillview in 1913, but Northern Bight and Dark Hole were still listed separately in the 1935 census. Older residents still refer to the southern section of the community as Dark Hole. Churchill’s Cove was to the north, but was often missed in the census. Nicky Avery can remember seeing schooners everywhere when he was growing up in Hillview. Albert Stoyles reports there were at least 22 schooners leaving Southwest Arm for Labrador. By 1921, the population had increased to 230, but the inshore fishery had declined in the 1900s to a point where no fishermen were listed in 1904. Four vessels continued to fish off Labrador, but more and more residents were turning to lumbering, and there were at least four local sawmills. Unlike neighboring Hatchet Cove, the Wesleyan and Church of England congregations built separate churches, the main builders being Allan Tucker and Guy King.

A slight decline took place before 1935, when there were 219 residents in 46 mostly United Church families. Three vessels with a combined weight of 173 tons still fished off Labrador, and local fishermen landed cod, herring and caplin to a value of $16,080 from 8 cod traps and 16 nets and seines. Nearly all the community’s men were engaged in lumbering, going into the woods in the fall after returning from Labrador. Nicky Avery can remember six family sawmills in Hillview alone. More lucrative jobs in construction, carpentry and transmission lines almost wiped out lumbering, which was for a while the major activity. The Northern Bight railroad station was the most active place in the region in the early to mid-1900s. Any freight carried on the railway was unloaded at Northern Bight and carried to Hillview where it was picked up by boat. Transportation to all communities was by coastal steamer until the road was completed in 1957.

The population gradually increased over the next 35 years, although local sawmilling and the Labrador fishery ceased in the 1950s. Increasing numbers of residents were employed in Clarenville service industries and in road construction, with a typical high emigration of young people. By 1981, Hillview’s population was 293 in 85 families. The residents include a high number of welders and carpenters. Most employment is in Clarenville or on provincial construction projects. After completing their elementary education locally, high school students are bused to Clarenville. The short road distance enables most Hillview students to take part in after-school activities, unlike students from some other communities in the region.

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See also the community history under Communities

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