Friday, August 10, 2007

A Snapshot of Rushoon, Newfoundland

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.


phyllis heath said...

Looks like a nice quiet place to retire. A friend from Ottawa Ontario--Phyllis

Charles Cheeseman said...

Thanks for your comment Phyllis. It is a pretty place especially in summer. It is probably still fairly quiet too, haven't lived there for years.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful write up Charlie,
You have a great work on here.

Lynn Marie

Charles Cheeseman said...

Thank you very much Lynn Marie, I am glad you enjoyed it. I hope to get out again during this summer (2008) to get a few more snaps from one or two hilltops, on a sunny day, and will post it to this blog later this summer.

Anonymous said...

HI Charles.

Just now found your great Blog.

Love Rushoon been there often in the past.
My late mother Elizabeth Cheeseman was born There. Are you from That area too.
Keep up the great work.
France Duruthy.

Charles Cheeseman said...

Hi France, and thank you for your comment. I know your dear mom's sister who still lives there - a sweet woman. I may be posting another picture of two of Rushoon. It's a beautiful place, particularly in summer.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Thanks Charles. Yes my aunt is the last one of the original Cheeseman family. She looks a lot like my mother did.
Keep up the great work and thanks for the Rushoon pictures.


Debbie Hilchey said...

Charlie, I love the story. It's really nice to read about the history of my favourite place in the world. I remember when we used to visit there in the summer time and stay with my Grandmother and Grandfather. Oh the times we used to have. I loved it then and I always will. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful picture of Rushoon. Havent been there yet, but my family is from there. My grandfather, Samuel Joseph Cheeseman (1913-2007)was from there. His father, Philip Cheeseman (who married Eliza White) lived in Rushoon. I would like to visit and possibly meet maybe some distant relatives-Jen Cheeseman USA

Charlie said...

Thanks for your comment Jen. A couple of those names I've heard before from older relatives. It's a beautiful looking community, especially in summer. There are lots of hills in case you are inclined to hike. From hilltops you can look out to see islands in Placentia Bay. I hope to get out to the community in the months to come, and will be sure to get many more photos.

Best wishes to you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Charlie

I just came across your blog while doing some genealogy research. Wondering if you might have heard of William and Elizabeth Cheeseman (married around 1912) From what I understand they were both in there 70's at the time they wed. Elizabeth (Lake) Picco before she married William ( we think) was my husband's great great grandmother. We've been trying to trace her for a number of years. If you have any information about the family I would greatly appreciate it. Your photos are amazing by the way.

Roxanne Hancock

Anonymous said...

Our great grandmother, Elizabeth Lake, widow of William Lake,our great grandfather married William Cheeseman b. 1838, Rushoon, NF, (Source: Roman Catholic Church Records of Burin, Cheeseman baptism records-Roman Catholic Church.); William Cheeseman died April 01, 1927, Rushoon, NF, CA;
married(1)THERESA WELSH, born 1843; died August 10, 1912, Rushoon, NF;
married(2)ELIZABETH LAKE, November 13,1912,Rushoon,NF (Source: Peter Oliver, Newfoundland marriages- vital statistics,(NFld Archives Vital Statistics),RC,Reel 20,vol 6 #108-7.); born January 1844, St. Joseph's, PB.
William Cheeseman 74 n/a Rushoon
Elizabeth Lake 68 n/a St. Joseph's
married Nov 13, 1912 at Rushoon

Elizabeth Cheeseman died in 1923.

We are looking for info. on Elizabeth Lake before she married a Cheeseman.

RyaKun said...

I grew up in Rushoon, My grandparents still live there.
Anne and Frank, It was a amazing place to grow up..few quarrels here and there but you get that anywhere.
If I get the chance when i'm older, I'll retire there.

Love the Pictures by the way, The one overlooking the harbour had to have been a nice hike.

Anonymous said...

Hi, was there for a month in 1978. I was on a school trip learning about the fisheries, met quite a few people there when I was there. great hospitality, Came to know the Hickeys while there. Going back to visit here soon. Haven't been back to Newfoundland since 1980.Miss it. Robert Schultz

blaine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blaine said...

I have been to Rushhoon in 1976, 1977, and 1978. My grandmother and I stayed at the home of Nora and George Cheeseman's. John Joseph Cheeseman (Johnny Joe) and Mary Agnes Traverse are my great grandparents. They had six children, one of them is Elizabeth Cheeseman. I would like to hear from France Duruthy if she reads this. I believe I was introduced to Mr. Leo Cheeseman in 1976 by George Cheeseman. I guess they were neighbors, not sure. I know Leo Cheeseman was born July 9th, 1909 and passed away in 1984. Do you know the exact date Leo passed away? I was in Grade 9 and Grade 10 in 1984.

Blaine Tobin
Vancouver, British Columbia.