Twillingate History

History of Twillingate

The first human inhabitation of Twillingate is known to have been around 1500 B.C. Artifacts uncovered at Back Harbour in 1965 showed that the area was used by the Archaic Maritime Indians, a pre-Beothuk People. The French Fishing Fleet used the waters around the island between 1650 – 1690. It is these fishermen who are said to have given the islands the name of “Toulinguet” because of the similarity to a group of islands off the French Coast, near Brest. The first settlers arrived around 1700 and Toulinquet became anglicised to Twillingate.

Records show that twelve families were settled by 1738, and that fourteen fishermen, with the help of 114 fishing servants from England, caught and dried 8,000 barrels of fish. By 1760 the two main merchants, the Noble family and John Slade were bringing in over a thousand pounds worth of business during the year.

At this time the islands were heavily wooded and occupied by bands of Beothuk Indians. The settlers disregarded the Beothuk’s aboriginal rights to their traditional fishing and hunting grounds and the Indians responded to this by petty thieving. After many years of dispute between the two parties, attempts were made to gain the co-operation of the Indians. In 1818 John Peyton, a fisherman and a business man, came upon an Indian encampment while trying to track down his stolen property. One young Indian woman was captured and placed in charge of Rev. Leigh, the first Church minister in the community. Demasuit, or Mary March as she was later called, was to be returned to her people but contracted Tuberculosis and died before this could be accomplished.

Miss Georgina Stirling, the seventh child of Dr. William Stirling, was born in Twillingate in 1867. Showing early promise of excellent soprano voice, she was sent to Italy for operatic training. She made her debut at La Scala Opera House, Milan, and later toured America. She worked with the Boston Harmony Orchestral Society with great success until she developed a throat ailment and was forced to end her career. Miss Stirling returned to Twillingate doing much voluntary work until her death in 1935.

The Twillingate Sun, the first Twillingate newspaper, was published from 1884 – 1953.

The Great Seal Hunt of 1862 saw men and women walk out from Twillingate over a mile of frozen sea to a large pack of harp seals trapped on the ice. In gratitude for their rich harvest the hunters had a bell cast for St. Peter’s Anglican Church. Inscribed in the bell are the words: “In Memory of the Great Haul of Seals of 1862.”

Twillingate is now a thriving community with a population of approximately 3,000 people. It has been linked to the mainland of Newfoundland by a causeway since 1973. Still mainly a fishing community, Twillingate provides numerous attractions for the tourist. There are museums, historic churches, fine examples of early architecture, municipal parks, rare flora, numerous beaches and hiking trails. Giant icebergs drift pass the shores and whales break the surface of the great Atlantic Ocean that surrounds Twillingate. The old Lighthouse at Long Point offers a wonderful view of Twillingate’s natural beauty. For the history buff, Twillingate is an excellent place to study; for the photographer, artist, or rock-hond, a paradise; for those just wanting to “get away from it all”, a place of relaxation.

Come visit us!