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Atlantic Charter National Historic Site

Ship Harbour
Ship Harbour, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland

 

Ship Harbour is best known as the site of the 1941 Atlantic Meeting between Winston Churchill and Franklin D.Roosevelt.


While the HMS Prince of Wales and the USS Augusta were secretly anchored in the entrance of the deep harbour, the two dignitaries discussed the terms of what was later to become referred to as the Atlantic Charter. Although there was no signed document produced from this meeting, it later formed the basis of the United Nations Charter.
According to Argentia.Org   the two leaders' vessels were stationed approximately 1,400 yards (1,280 meters) apart. The USS Augusta was anchored at the point described as 240° T, 700 yards off Sparrow Point, Ship Harbour; more specifically, at coordinates 47° 20' 43" N by 53° 55' 47" W. The HMS Prince of Wales was anchored at the point described as 78.5° off Cooper Head beacon and 356° off Ship Harbour Point beacon; more specifically, at coordinates 47° 20' 18" N by 53° 56' 12" W.



The following is a brief explanation of the Atlantic Charter, (although we now know that no actual charter was drawn up) :
The Atlantic Charter established a vision for a post-World War II world, despite the fact that the United States had yet to enter the war.
The participants hoped that the Soviet Union would adhere as well, after having been attacked by Nazi Germany in June 1941.
The eight points are briefly stated below:
No territorial gains were to be sought by the US or the UK.
Territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned.
All peoples had a right to self-determination. Trade barriers were to be lowered.
There was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare.
Freedom from want and fear;
Freedom of the seas;
Disarmament of aggressor nations, postwar common disarmament

 



Ship Harbour had a population in 1998 of about 200 people. It is located 140 kilometers west of St. John's and can be reached off the TransCanada Highway by exiting at the Argentia Access Road.

The fiord-type harbour is surrounded by wooded hills. Sugarloaf Hill on one side is about 800ft.asl and Lookout Hill (or as the locals like to call it 'The Lookout') on the other side is about 200ft.asl. A fairly easy hiking trail leads to the top of Sugarloaf Hill where you can see a magnificent view of Placentia Bay and the surrounding islands.

 
Peaceful Waters


Sugar Loaf Hill in Autumn


Sugar Loaf Hill in Early Spring


Sugar Loaf Hill in Summer

Sugar Loaf Hill in Winter

Sugarloaf Hill is the most scenic and most photographed hill in the area.


While visiting Ship Harbour you can't help but admire the beautiful scenery. There are colorful place names like Sugarloaf Hill, The Ice House, The Red Scrape, The Knife Box, The Blue Cliff, Big Folks Pond, Little Folks Pond, Folks's Barrens, Bakeapple Marsh and Swoile's (Seal's) Cove Pond.

 

Background Information

Records show that Ship Harbour was a separate community in the census of 1874 with 33 people living there. In 1884 it boasted 53 livyers. Before that time it was included in the census with Great Placentia.

The population grew steadily until the late sixties when people started to move away to find work. Possibly the greatest number of people lived there around the early 1960's when the population was near 300.

Early family names included Darmody, Fitzpatrick, and Bruce. Family names in Ship Harbour today (1998) include Griffiths, Griffin, Meade, Murphy, Power, Norman, Follett, Newman, Ledwell, Traverse and Brewer.

Prior to the construction of the road in 1958, transportation from the community was mainly by boat. A motorboat was used to go fishing, to go to the hospital, and to go shopping. A merchant named Charlie Upshall traveled along the coast and supplied residents with a 'winter's grub'.

Winter's grub consisted of the main food items needed to survive the hard winter months, which started in October and lasted well into May. Items included flour, butter, sugar, tea, beans, peas and molasses to name a few. Residents snared rabbits, hunted salt water birds, and butchered a sheep or lamb to supplement the winter food supply. Cellars were full of homegrown vegetables, bottled blueberries, bakeapple berries, partridgeberries and homegrown rhubarb. A good supply of dried, salted codfish was also on hand. After the opening of the gravel road residents purchased vehicles, mainly Jeeps, to travel over the rough terrain to Placentia, Argentia or St. John's to do their shopping.

Local Tragedies

Like other communities, Ship Harbour is not without its share of tragedies. In 1915 Captain Bob Sparrow, a local resident and skipper of the vessel Madonna was the victim of a sailing tragedy. He sailed to St. John's for supplies with his crew, James Dormody and James' 18-year-old son Michael. On their way back to Placentia the vessel struck Gull Rock (part of the RedRocks) and sank, but the three managed to climb onto the rock. At high tide,the rock was covered by waves and after the first day the tired and hungry men had trouble holding on. James Dormody and Robert Sparrow both died and despite young Michael's best efforts their bodies were swept out to sea. Mr. Pomeroy from Merasheen rescued Michael 72 hours after the ordeal began. His nails were said to have been worn down to the quick, because he had been clawing to hold onto the rock and trying to hold on to his father's body; Robert Sparrow's body was not recovered.

Another terrible tragedy occurred in the small community in November 1952 at a local store. A young man, grandson of the late Captain Bob Sparrow, met with foul play while visiting a favorite hangout, the local store, with the other young people of the community. The 21-year-old left behind a large family, a twin brother, a fiance and an unborn daughter.

A favorite swimming hole, for young and old alike was at Seal's Cove Pond. (To this day the locals call it Swell's Cove Pond.) In July 1969, a young man, also 21 years old, was drowned while he and some other young men tried to swim across this brackish pond. Some people say he may have had cramps or became tangled in weeds. Some of his friends tried to pull him to safety but the young man panicked and nearly pulled one of his friends under with him.

Activities and Gatherings



Each summer the community holds a garden party. Many residents as well as those from other communities come out to enjoy this day of games and fun. The women cook up many tasty dishes and sell cold plates to help with the parish expenses. An adult dance is held in the local community center. Everyone has a good time.

 

The community hall was once Little Flower School , that had been built in 1946. When the school was closed, portable classrooms were set up down the road at another site. In 1966 the first group of high school students were bussed to Fox Harbour, a community 12 kilometers away. Two years later a new high school opened in Placentia and both Ship Harbour and Fox Harbour students went to Laval High School. Presentation Sisters taught girls in one wing and Irish Christian Brothers taught boys in the other wing of Laval High School. In 1986 the portable school was permanently closed in Ship Harbour and all students, to this day are bussed to Dunville and Placentia, a half-hour ride away.

During winter months many locals would occupy themselves with dart games. For a while men and boys were involved in hockey games at the stadium in Argentia. Being a predominantly Catholic community, Sunday Mass is held in the local church. The church, which is called St.Theresa's, was built approximately 70 years ago with the local residents taking care of the renovations and the up-keep.


Businesses

For many years a local resident in a family home operated the post office in Ship Harbour. Before this the 'Burin', a coastal boat, delivered the mail once a month. Mrs. Margaret (Meade) Power (also called Aunt Mag or Mother) was the first person in Ship Harbour to have a post office in her home. She was also the midwife in the area.

In addition to a post office, which is attached to the local store today, several businesses have come and gone. P.J.Griffiths started a store in a small building beside his parent's house in the early 1950's. When the road came through he moved up the hill to a new store. His relatives carried on in his footsteps when he retired. Power's operated a store in 'the Bottom' for many years. Ledwell's operated a grocery store in their home for a time. Newman's Dry Goods was in business for 12 years. Today Ship Harbour Variety(which houses the post office), Griffiths Convenience and Dandy Dan's Fish Market are businesses owned and operated by local residents.

Employment

For many years residents of Ship Harbour worked in the fishery. When the railway came to Argentia some left their fishing boats and went to work there. Then the American Naval Base opened and others went to work there. The Long Harbour Phosphorus Plant hired on more and in time the Hibernia Project hired others. During this time fish plants were opened in Argentia and Placentia and some locals worked in those areas. In 1992 the cod fishery closed, the Long Harbour Phosphorus Plant closed, and shortly after the Americans pulled out of Argentia. With no cod the fish plants closed and the railway was already a thing of the past. Many became dependent on make-work programs to keep their families alive. This downturn in the local economy caused many young families to move away to look for work.

Today, 2009, there are less then 100 residents in Ship Harbour. Most people leave Ship Harbour to find work; others commute to work outside the area and some work up North on rotating shifts. Some residents work in St. John's or at Hibernia and some have found employment in the Placentia area. Some have moved to Alberta, BC, Ontario and Nunavut. As with everyone else in the Placentia/Argentia area residents of Ship Harbour are looking forward to the construction of the Voisey's Bay smelter in Long Harbour.


Atlantic Charter Historic Site


Atlantic Charter Monument
   


Recognition Plaque


After many years of effort by tireless residents, such as Bill Follett and Tom Murphy, among others, trying to get historical recognition for the community, a monument was finally erected in 1976 in the vacinity near where the meeting took place at Ship Harbour Point. The fiftieth anniversary was marked in 1991 with a public ceremony, which saw a visit by Franklin D. Roosevelt's granddaughter, Mrs. Laura Roosevelt and Winston Churchill's niece, Lady Mary Soames. This event was organized by the Atlantic Charter Committee and had the support of the entire community and surrounding district.

Ship Harbour Point, because of its proximity to the Argentia Naval Base, and its natural deep harbour, was chosen as an ammunition depot for the Naval Base during WW II. Remnants of concrete ramps, building foundations, gun mounts, and other structures can be seen near Ship Harbour Point. Since there was no road through the community when the Americans arrived, they immediately brought in a bullbdozer on the barge USSB Mary Ann and dozed a make-shift road towards the part of Ship Harbour that had a perfect view of Argentia and Placentia Bay. To this day locals call the road that leads to the site 'the American Road'. In order to be able to deliver goods to the barracks, a wharf was constructed in the community (seas were too rough at the point and the view was exposed).

Many lasting friendships were formed and stories are plentiful about house parties where liquor was plentiful and free. There are also stories of visits to the barracks at the Point where both liquor and food were plentiful and free! There was always a present or special treat for local children. During lobstering season, local fishermen exchanged lobsters with the Americans for alcohol. Lots of times this exchange resulted in a party and afterwards a visit back to the barracks for more refreshments and food.



Churchill on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales watching USS Mcdougal taking the President to the USS Augusta at the end of the Atlantic Meeting



British Battleship HMS Prince of Wales



USS Augusta



Research by Argentia.Org indicates that in the immediate area of the Atlantic Meeting only one motorized barge - operated by HMS Prince of Wales personnel - was permitted to move among the vessels with the US Navy Harbour Craft. Prime Minister Churchill went ashore via this motorized barge, at Joe's Cove beach, near Ship Harbour Point, on Sunday afternoon, August 10.

 

Joe's Cove Beach





                       

Scenic shots of Ship Harbour



Little Folks Pond(foreground)
 Big Folks Pond(background)

               


A Rainbow in The Bottom of Ship Harbour

                  

The Wake from a boat heading out of Ship Harbour to participate in the food fishery.



Early Morning (Volcano-like cloud)

5:30am. May 17, 2004

Fishing Stages of Ship Harbour

Ship Harbour Come Home Year



In 1997, Ship Harbour celebrated Come Home Year during August 9th, 10th, and 11th to commemorate The Cabot 500. This event coincided with the Atlantic Charter celebration.

Invitations were sent to those former residents who had gone away to live in other places all across Canada and the United States to ask them to come back and help celebrate Come Home Year.

Activities were planned and 26 local children were dressed in the clothing of the 26 founding nations. Numerous dignitaries attended as well as residents from neighboring communities. The local women worked together and prepared a feast fit for a king. A dance and good time followed.


Sunrise


Rainbow
           

Red Sky in Morning

The Rams (Iona Island)



Evening's View of The Brook



The American Wharf



The Bottom Brook



A beautiful day in Ship Harbour



Pond Garden
  Years ago this pond was a favorite skating area for local children



Anchor at the entrance to Ship Harbour



View from The Point



Six Boats tied up at the local wharf




View the Ship Harbour Guestbook
Free Guestbooks by Bravenet.com




     

Want some good cooking, then check out these traditional Newfoundland

recipes
(This will open a new page of recipes)

Contact

Some favorite links:



If you are interested in local Newfoundland art work, or traditional quilts, please visit: Griffin Paintings and Crafts and Barbara Griffin Art and Photography

A great place to stay while visiting the area is Rosedale Manor Bed and Breakfast




March 04, 2014


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