Digital Archives Initiative

Greenspond Letter

The Greenspond Letter - a journal dedicated to the history of Greenspond, is published four times a year. It began publication in April 1994. The magazine features articles on all aspects of Greenspond history and culture, and includes interviews, biographies, articles, stories, poetry, genealogy and photographs.

Greenspond, located on the northeast coast, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited outports in Newfoundland. Its first settlers arrived in the late 17th century, primarily from the counties of Dorset, Devon, Hampshire, and Somerset in southwest England. The community's proximity to the main shipping lanes made it one of the island's most prosperous trading centres and earned it the name "Capital of the North.' Greenspond's chief asset, however, was its closeness to bountiful inshore fishing grounds. During the 19th century, fishers not only exploited the local fishing grounds but also went further afield in search of cod - including the Labrador coast. By the mid-1800s, the community was a prominent supply centre and clearing port for the Labrador fishery, which prompted the colonial government to appoint a local collector of customs there in 1838.

The annual spring seal hunt was another important feature of Greenspond's economy. The community's advantageous location in the path of northern icefloes allowed land-based hunters to capture seals with guns and nets. By the early 19th century, the seal hunt had become an important part of the social life and economy of Greenspond.

Greenspond's role as a major trading and supply centre was central to its population growth and prosperity. The burgeoning community was home to a wide range of thriving tradesmen and artisans - carpenters, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, coopers, cobblers, and others; all were employed in maintaining the fishery, the backbone of the economy. Many major merchant houses operating in the Newfoundland fishery had branches in Greenspond, including Slades, Lester-Garlands, Fryer's, Brookings, Robinson, Cox and Co., Sleat and Read. These companies were primarily engaged in the buying and selling of codfish, but also had interests in the salmon fishery, logging industry, fur-trapping industry, and the lucrative seal fishery. Most merchants also operated general stores on their premises.

Gradually, Greenspond acquired the services and facilities needed by a bustling commercial town. By the mid-1800s, the community boasted a regular mail service and its growing population included a resident doctor, magistrate, policeman, customs officer, and postmaster, as well as teachers and clergy.

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Greenspond Historical Society