Update (more pictures here from 2008). Also, click here to see a panoramic shot of Rushoon. It is still not the entire community but it will give you an idea of how the community looks from a different hilltop. Be sure to click the picture to enlarge it.
The town of Rushoon. The picture shows much of the place but the older part near the harbour is hidden behind the right hill. The name may have come from the French word "ruisseau", meaning stream. The river runs parallel to the road winding through the community.
First settled around 1830 by a couple of fishermen from England, it gradually grew in size. By 1921 the population was 130, and swelled to 232 by 1945, a good reflection of healthy fish stocks, and source of reliable work. With the help of resettlement transplants in the 1960's from other Placentia Bay places, the population was over 500 in the 1970s. But in 1991, the population had declined to 482, 442 by 1996, and 359 by 2001. Last year, 2006, the number of "Rushoonites" was 319, an 11% drop from five years previous. (Here's a link to compare NL community population for 1991, 1996, and 2001 (NL Stats)).
For most of the 2oth century Placentia Bay was a thriving multi-lane seaway as fishermen from Rushoon and every other community traveled to their fishing grounds. People risked their lives at sea, worked hard in fish stages, farming, cutting firewood, and lumber, basically surviving. Young people also made huge contributions to family chores. One 90 year old woman recalls as a "tween" going to the frozen well and chopping through ice to get water for the household. It was expected. To name a few, other regular chores included gathering firewood, helping with fish by cleaning, carrying, salting, and spreading for drying, and planting/harvesting vegetables. For many years in the early 1900s, the nearby community of Baine Harbour had the school. Students walked a round trip of approximately 5-6 miles daily for schooling and they were often expected to bring junks of firewood for the pot belly stove.
Like many fishing communities, there were tragedies at sea. Having just swept through the Maritimes, and leaving 86 dead, and communications lines down, The August Gale of 1927 gave no warning to people on Newfoundland's South coast. Of the 23 fishermen lost in Placentia Bay alone, three were from the tiny settlement of Rushoon.
(Rushoon harbour meeting Placentia Bay)
It was decades away from getting electricity. In fact, the first switch was pulled in 1967, and thus, the lantern was no longer a necessity, but more a museum piece. From the 1960s and 70s especially, more and more people left the island for work, usually to the mainland, and out West, working with the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1980, another major tragedy rocked Rushoon. Seven young workers who worked with the CPR near Swift Current, SK were being transported on a bus back from a days work, when a collision occurred between the bus and a tanker carrying hot tar. Four of the seven were killed, including two brothers. Sudden grief devastated not only Rushoon but other surrounding communities.
In years since, fewer people were going away to work with the CPR. More and more people sought trades, certified skills, and university, and is has been a continuing trend for many years now.
Despite the life threatening work on the water, uninsulated homes, high infant mortality, and many other daily hardships of life, the community survived and even grew. Unfortunately the population trend is downward nowadays. Leaving home is a necessity for work, income and experience. Depending on the individual it may be ideal, or not. Though compared to leaving home for work on the sea, the risk is minimal.
Looking back at how communities came to be, it makes one appreciate the hard work ethic, the unbreakable spirit, the determination of generations gone by, and brings to mind the saying, where there's a will, there's a way.