Sandy Point in Bay St. George lost its last two permanent
residents in 1973 -- just over two hundred years after it began as a community of white
Europeans around 1780. The only evidence today that people once lived there are concrete
foundations and a walkway; scattered pieces of iron, lumber and bricks and, three
The community became part of the French Shore with The Treaty of Versailles
in 1783 which shifted the Treaty Shore boundaries to include the West Coast of
Newfoundland. Although it acquired a unique multilingual and multicultural mix of mainly
English, Jersey Island and French settlers, as well as of Mi'k Maq aboriginals; it was never
a totally secure place to live. The population fluctuated over two centuries and the
attrition which began after a population peak in 1855, continued for more than a hundred
years. The Mi'k Maq, who preceded the Europeans as permanent settlers by about two decades,
arrived from Nova Scotia around 1760. They very quickly assimilated into the predominantly
white European culture and are now only beginning to reclaim their past.
During August 1855, at its peak population of 750 people, Sandy
Point bustled and clanged with men on wharves and in the fish stages and sheds along the
waterfront. In a flurry of motion and noise fishing boats and schooners came and went in
St. George's Harbour, women worked in vegetable and flower gardens and called to children
playing around the wharves and the roads and older people talked while they made hay in
the flat fields.
Sandy Point for more than sixty years, from around 1840 to 1900,
was the centre of religion and commerce for the whole of the West Coast of Newfoundland.
It began to lose its permanent population soon after 1855 but it retained a look of
prosperity into the 1940s and 1950s, with less than a quarter of its peak population.
During the 1960s with the closing of the Anglican school, several other families left.
The community got its first school and church in thev
Others, including medical, postal, customs, ferry, magistrate and
police services, all came during the next fifty until the beginning of the twentieth
century. The arrival of the railway in 1898 at St. George's, coupled with storm losses
along the flat sand spit, signaled the end of the community. Within a short time the
convent and the seat of the Roman Catholic Church Roman Catholic Church were moved to St. George's, a doctor was
lost, the Roman Catholic school closed and several other public services ceased. The drain
of people, like blood from an open wound, accelerated the ultimate demise of the
community. The last straw came in 1951 when a vicious storm carved out 'The Gap' in the
peninsula which joined the community to Flat Bay; this severed the road link to the
'mainland'. The Gap, which could never be repaired, became another major factor
influencing the final resettlement.
From the end of the First to the beginning of the Second World
War, British naval ships on patrol in the Western Atlantic visited Sandy Point over
several days during the summer months. There sailors and officers relaxed, caught salmon
on Harry's River, played golf and rugby on the flat sandy land, entertained the children
with games of 'paper chase', enjoyed dances and times in the church hall and rowed in
regattas staged between the sailors and the locals.
Older 'Sand Scratchers', the real Sandy Point residents, recall
that as children they swam in ocean water and lay on the fine sandy beaches, caught the
ferry boat run by Priam Power to St. George's, hauled wood over harbour ice from Flat Bay
and Barachois Brook, walked to Black Bank over the frozen harbour and helped harvest
bumper crops of potatoes and hay from the sandy soil. They remember too the ice boats
which reached speeds of up to forty miles an hour and the two-story fish sheds along the
waterfront built by visiting Codroy fishing families who lived in the upper stories. They
know they have been part of a unique community and culture, once of major importance on
the West Coast of Newfoundland, and a way of life which is rapidly disappearing.
Don Downer - 1997