Tales from the South Shore- History of Bon Portage
Local history of Shag Harbour Outer Island also known as Bon Portage, a name given to it by a French mariner and also known as Hope Island, a name given to it by the British. This appeared on the school map in 1850. In the year 1875- soon after Barrington was settled- there was a second division of land through Woods Harbour and Shag Harbour, and in that division all the islands were included in the division of the mainland. The old proprietors records at Barrington has the following record concerning Shag Harbour outermost island.
Number ten outermost Shag Harbour Island laid out for eight shares in all ye islands that was laid out in ye year of 1785. Said Island is laid out to those of ye proprietors whos names are under written as follows:
Joshua Nickerson 1shear
Solomon Smith Sr. & Theodore Harding 1 shear
Joseph Worth 1 shear
Elizha & Jonathan Coffin 1 shear
Hewben Coffoon 1 shear
Thomas Smith 1 shear
Thomas Crowell 1
Benjamin Folger 1
Isaac King 1
For ye use of proprietors ½ shares 8 shears
Ye above island is laid out by Committeeman Archelaus Smith, Stephan Nickerson, Thomas Crowell and Joseph Kendrick
In later years the shares were divided among the heirs of the shareholders and finally the late Michael Wrayton bought out the shares from the heirs and the shareholders and at that date the island came under his control. Just at what date that the island was settled the writer does not know, but it would be about the year 1840. The lowest homestead on the East Side of the island would be on the upland below the breakwater and at the edge of the wood just above the light house and was cleared by Mr. Absalom Nickerson. The next homestead would be just above the breakwater and belonged to Mr. Joshua Connell and his well was used by fisherman up until a few years ago. Just a few hundred yards to the north of the homestead was the place where an old sea duck built her nest and reared her young and that spot has always been known as the old sea ducks nest by the residents living on the island. The nest homestead was that of Mr. John Garrons and was situated the lower end of the great savannah that stretches from shore to shore of the islands. It furnished quite a crop of cranberries annually. Some years ago it was attempted to drain the Savannah and a ditch was dug across it and a trunk put in to drain water off but it did not prove successful. The next homestead at the Northern end of the Savannah belonged to Mr. Daniel Cameron. Ruins of the Cellar can still be seen but I think it was filled for safety after he left the island (the well was filled in). The next homestead a little further north would belong to Mr. Benjamin Atwood. The remains of his home can still be seen. He had quite an extensive clearing and his landing can still be seen today and boats can land there when it would be almost impossible to land anywhere else on the island. On the Eastern shore of the Island can be found the remains of the Alexander Dixon home and on a knoll of land above the savannah stood the house of George Stoddard and his wall can still be seen there today. Another clearing at the shore but a little way below the savannah in the woods was known as Cameron Place and off the shore a little way is a piece of shallow ground known as Cameron Shoal. The settlers lived on there for some years until they had families growing up and the mainland began to settle, living on the island was not as convenient. The mainland with its stores, churches and schools began the migration from the islands. The last settler to leave the island moved his off to Woods Harbour and it stood on the site where he rebuilt up to a few years ago. There were a few people who are still alive, though somewhat advanced in years that was born on the island. The outer island as always been known as a great resort for herring during herring season. The herring ground would be about a third of a mile from the shore down at the South End.
One event that has quite a historical interest to the outer island would be the days of 1812. American privateers were quite common along these shores at this time and often visited the harbours and were uninvited guests to many people. These privateers would often land and take what they pleased without asking people. One time news reached Shag Harbour that a privateer had been raiding the argyles and they were expecting the vessel to come in here. Word was circulating in the village to be ready for a call. One day a suspicious looking vessel was seen coming down the bay and word was sent out for the men to gather at Upper Shag Harbour to be ready to oppose the landing if the vessel came in the shore. A boat was manned and rowed across the sound and landed at the North End of outer island. They were probably armed with old flint and steel muskets. They marched down the shore inside the beach until they were near the south end of the island where the beach was up 10 feet above sea level. It was not long before there was a vessel rounding the south end of the island and haul up to the shore for anchorage. When at anchor a boat put off of her and made for the shore. When near shore the coxswain gave the order to pull the bow oar and that brought the boat broadside to the shore. The men were behind the beach at the beach at this point and their leader gave the order to fire. A volley was given and the men in the boat ducked below the gunwale out of sight It is supposed that some of the men were killed as the writer (Gilbert Nickerson) heard his mother say that her father killed a man. But some of the men were not killed as one man lying down managed to scull her back to the vessel with only his hand and arm exposed. When the boat rounded the vessels stern and in a few minutes was back on the boat.
Sometime later in the year of 1870 a petition was signed by the residents of Shag and Woods Harbours asking that a light house be built on the Southeast end of Bon Portage to guide vessels into the harbour. A year or so later the light house was built. There have been many keepers. The first would be a Mr. A. Wrayton who held that post until the death of his father, Michael Wrayton. A. Wrayton then went to Emerald Island. A change of government and a Mr. Leslie Hopkins was sent in order. He held the position for many years when he resigned Mr. Angus Greenwood came after him. Then came Maurice Nickerson, Mr. Israel Atkins, Mr. Barkhouse and Mr. Elbrons Wickens. He had Mr. Roy Greenwood as a keeper in the winter. Mr. Aubrey Lanthorne, a retired solider was the next keeper. Mr. Harry Greenwood liked the position until ill health forced him to resign. The next man to take over was Earl Greenwood and then Mr. Morrell Richardson. Please read “We Keep a Light” if you haven’t already. You can fill in who the next keepers are after Mr. Richardson.