John Francis Langer

24 March 1884 – 2 January 1965

by Eric Janes

John Francis Langer was born on 24 March 1884 in the little fishing village of Gooseberry Cove, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. The son of Solomon and Emma Jane (Dodge), John Francis had one brother, Thomas, who died in 1925 and four sisters; Sarah Jane who married Alfred Avery of Long Beach, Amelia who married Israel Strowbridge from Butter Cove, I have very little information on his other two sisters Jessie and Gertrude.

Gooseberry Cove with its rugged hills and protected coves not only gave it its beauty but made it an ideal protective place for any fisherman. Like most men from that era, they shared a common bond of fishing. John was a fisherman and, like all fisherman, required a section of waterfront to prepare his catch. Because most of the coastline was extremely rugged, there was limited space for John to set up his stage head. In order to avoid frequent disputes regarding possession and rights of fishing rooms, beaches, flakes and land around Newfoundland, in 1804 Governor Eramus Gower issued an order that a section of the cove would belong to the Langers. Even today this order remains in effect. John owned a small portion of the waterfront to build his stage head and flake.

John was only 21 when his father, Solomon Sr, passed away in July 1905. John was a jack of all trades; his handy work at first aid was well known in the community. On many occasions, when men would cut themselves with axes in the woods or with fishing hooks stuck in their hands, they would turn to John for help. He would use a needle and thread to stitch up many serious wounds. In the early years the closest doctor was in Clarenville. Because there were no roads into Gooseberry Cove in the early years, the only means of getting to the hospital was by motorboat. If the waters were too ruff, it was off to see “Dr. John.” According to Emma Jane (Avery) Drodge, her Uncle Johnnie Frank, as everyone in the community called him, was a very quiet, mild spoken man. He would often visited his sister Sarah Jane in Long Beach and would stay for a couple of days bringing along his accordion. Johnie Frank loved to play and sing folk songs and hymns in his beautiful soft voice. Even today Emma Jane’s cousin Gordon from next door will ask her if she remember the words of the songs. Unfortunately, she did not copy them down she said, just recently someone from Gooseberry Cove told her that the reason she could sing was that she was kin to Johnie Frank who would lead the singing in the Anglican church in Gooseberry Cove. Emma Jane said ,”a lot of contact was lost when Johnie Frank and his family moved to Old Shop” because in the early years road conditions from Gooseberry Cove to Old shop were terrible.

John Francis and Miriam (Cooper) Langer

When John was 24 he married Miriam Cooper of Northern Bight, now known today as Hillview, on the 12th of October 1908. They probably met when Miriam and her family moved to Southport, just a short walk from Gooseberry Cove. They had three children; Emma Jane, Solomon Malcolm, and Mary Florence. Around the early 1950’s the family moved to Old Shop, Trinity Bay. According to our brother Everett, Solomon sold the old house for 300 dollars. Residents of Gooseberry Cove, particularly Dan Seward and George Langer, helped them move and remembers them moving across the bay in a motorboat filled with sheep, chickens and furniture. They first moved into a shed owned by Wilson Smith. It was rough going while they began building their two-storey house on top of the hill next to the cemetery and just a stone throws away from their daughter and her family.

John loved to smoke a pipe and you could always smell the fragrance of the fine tobacco he used. Most of all he loved to read the bible, he was a devoted Christian. I remember him always reading evening prays to his family from his wicker rocking chair next to the old peacock wood stove. Our mother, Emma recalls on one particular evening, while still living in Gooseberry Cove, he was reading the Lord’s Pray to his son Solomon who was about five or six years old, John was hit by a seizure and went into a coma. There were no doctors in Gooseberry Cove, believing him to be dead, the people in the community laid him out in his coffin for his wake. The next morning, he regained consciousness, it has been said by our mother Emma Jane, when he woke up ,”he kept on reading the Lord’s pray where he left of.” John was a lay reader in the Anglican Church in Gooseberry Cove and baptized his granddaughter Evelyn Janice Janes.

As a young boy I loved going up to the house and listening to grandfather reading the evening pray. I can still smell the beautiful aroma of the smoke from his pipe. He continued this ritual as long as I can remember. John was devastated over the death of his son Solomon in October 1964, it is widely believed by family members that he went into a deep depression. On 2 January 1965, John Francis Langer passed away. He is resting next to his wife Miriam, son Solomon, and daughter Mary Florence in the Anglican cemetery of Old Shop, Trinity Bay, and at the bottom right side of the cemetery. May I say to you, rest my wonderful grandparents, uncle and aunt in perpetual peace.