One Old Name

In One Old Place

Cupids - Port de Grave

Prepared For

Newfoundland and Labrador Genealogical Society

Copyright 1997-2002

All rights reserved

November 1997


Arthur Melvin Butler        2288

c/o 308 Colborne St. E.,

Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

L1G 1M5



Butler: One Old Name In One Old Place

Cupids - Port de Grave


     The celebration of the arrival of John Cabot in the Matthew from Bristol five hundred years ago has reawakened interest in the history of the New-Founde-Lande” and also in the genealogy of its people.

      In this review the focus is on one old place, Cupids, Conception Bay, and on one old surname, Butler, of which in the seventeenth century there are two instances. One is Samuel Butler, who may be English, possibly, from either Nottingham or Bristol. The second is Thomas Butler, who may be Irish. If Irish, then he may belong to the family of Butlers, known in Ireland since the twelfth century.

     Cupids, as Cuppers Cove, we are told by the historians, was a known place before 1610 when official settlement began. It may, therefore, be suspected that well before the dawn of the seventeenth century a rough trail had been worn along the entire length of the shoreline. That shoreline we can be sure John Guy had explored not long after his arrival in the above year.

     Information about John Guy who, like Cabot a hundred or so years earlier, also sailed from Bristol, is readily available from the standard works of history and, indeed, from the evidence of recent archaeological digs. In a word we learn that the first habitation in the actual cove of Cupids consisted of lodging, storehouse, sheltered workplace, sawmill, most of which appears to have been enclosed within a fortified protective shell, or palisade.

     I was told by a relative of the existence of an old iron ring that had been embedded in rock along a stream, or brook, leading from Cupids Pond into Cupids Cove. This ring, now removed, served, presumably, as part of an apparatus to facilitate the movement of timber to the mill.

     The cove of Cupids is without doubt the site of the first official settlement in Newfoundland, when from 1610-1613 John Guy was governor and Manager. In addition to the enclosed area in the cove I include for the purpose of this article references to two other structures and where, I have come to believe, they stood.

     The first of these was begun during the first winter which we are told was unusually mild. Gillian Cell refers briefly to work begun “on a new and larger house.” D. Prowse in his monumental history quotes John Guy from a letter, which he had written to John Slaney, the treasurer of the chartered London-Bristol Company to which Guy was responsible: “(We) worked toward the making (of) the frame of timber of a far greater and fairer house than that which is as yet we dwell in which is almost finished.”

     Since, like Sir Percival Willoughby, Guy expected to receive a grant of land from the Company, it is conceivable in the height of enthusiasm for a new home in Newfoundland that Guy had this house in mind for himself and large family still living in Bristol - a house he would call Seaforest.

     The second structure, a fort, also noted by Gillian Cell, was begun in the summer of 1612 to ward off any attack from enemies, notably, Peter Easton, who earlier that year had thwarted Guy’s attempt to establish a second settlement for the Newfoundland Company a place called Renewse, south of St. John’s.

     These two structures appear to be outside the actual Cove of Cupids only further along the same shoreline toward Burnt Head, and may have formed a unit throughout the seventeenth century, as I hope to show. I offer here for perspective a description of the seafront of Cupids as I remember it from boyhood visits and later. It begins where a stream (not the one already alluded to) empties into the cove from the west, a place called Riverhead.

     A walk or drive along a road now paved takes one past a monument, recently erected to the memory of John Guy and his workers, who had built on the site their first habitation so long ago. The road continues eastward past the United Church of Canada (formerly Methodist) and its school and cemetery to Smith’s Hill where it meets the entrance road to the village from Brigus station and beyond. All along the way are many adjacent residences and places of business.

     The Cove of Cupids proper extends to a place called “the point”, referred to sometimes as Bartlett’s Point. Here a branch of the old Dawe Family of Port de Grave have lived from about the turn of the nineteenth century. Because of a rise in elevation the road veers to the right up over Connolly’s Hill through Shark’s Cove (pronounced Shock’s Cove in English fashion) on past a tree-lined area and historic site (to which we shall return).

     The road forks near a brook to form together what has been called the Burnt Head Loop, that is, one can go on a back road to Burnt Head and return by the front one. Both these roads pass through an old property of the Butler family. At Burnt Head there are residences, the Anglican Church of St. Augustine, school and cemetery. Beyond one may stroll to Deep Gulch and Greenland.

     You will see that I have been trying to describe the Cupids of John Guy, albeit a modern version of his most primitive one.

     The historic property to which I have referred , adjacent to that of the Butlers was owned for a time by the late Donald Butler, whose family and mine lived nearby. The information is that at one time the two properties ran side by side from the seashore to a trail leading to a flat area on a ridge between Cupids and neighbouring Brigus Bay. Along the trail a walk takes one along two familiar mounds of flat stones, erected in the distant past, called for some reason “the American Men.”

     From the lower part of these two adjacent properties there is a scenic view of the opposite shore of the Peninsula of Port de Grave and from the upper part on the ridge a panoramic view of the distant entrance to Conception Bay and of the approach of any vessel that might present itself a threat to the community of Cupids.

     On the western section of the Butler property (of William Butler) two schools were built. On the lower part a Methodist school to serve the Butlers and others; and on the upper part later sold to the Roman Catholic Church to serve newcomers with Irish names to the area, who probably arrived by way of Brigus.

     The area where the Butlers lived came to be known as Southside because they owned property on both sides of the narrow inlet, that is, at Sandy Cove and also on the eastern edge of the small harbour of Port de Grave. There they shared property with two other branches of the family. Adjacent to the Butlers on the east was Ship Cove, probably so called because it was the preserve of the annual fishermen. From this area later families moved to Cupids.

     On the property that I have identified as that of Donald Butler there was another mound of flat stones. I am indebted for information about this to the uncle of Donald Butler, the late Robert Harold Butler. In correspondence between 1970 and 1972 he wrote these words of great interest:

      “Just outside my boundary --------there was always a mound of stone exactly like a collapsed rock chimney -----I could even trace out the form of a house foundation -----In my boyhood (that is, before 1910) there was a huge tree----- growing directly in the centre of this mound of flat stones so that it must have been in the late 1600's or early 1700's that this house or castle stood there, as it takes about two hundred years or more for a tree, especially of white spruce, to grow to such an enormous size-----I often wonder could it be the site of Guy’s Seaforest house? One thing is certain. There is the sea and also plenty of forest.

     Harold Butler’s curiosity remained throughout his lifetime. In his senior years, glad to have someone with a similar historical interest in Cupids, he hoped that I would be able to confirm his tentative answer to his perennial question: “What mean ye by these stones?” (Words from the Book of Joshua 4:16 in the Bible). “Bearing in mind,” he added, “these mysterious stones of which I have written.

     It is my opinion , based on the evidence, that Harold Butler was right. The remains of the old residence are indeed the remains of John Guy’s Seaforest House. It is also, my opinion, though not discussed with Harold Butler, that the two mounds on the ridge just to the south are remains of Guy’s fort, which he started to build in the summer of 1612 to protect the Cupids settlement. The two structures then, along with the habitation in the cove, may be accepted as the main building activities of the original pioneers.

     It is not known how much Samuel Butler participated in these building projects, but we do know that he had a part in a voyage of exploration during the fall of 1612 along the coasts of Conception and Trinity Bays, including the allotment which Sir Percival Willoughby expected to receive. On the expedition a pinnace and shallop were used.

     Samuel Butler, mentioned in John Guy’s journal of 1612, describing the voyage, traveled in the shallop with four others, including Willoughby’s agent, Bartholomew Pearson. On the return voyage a violent storm arose when the shallop was destroyed. The five men had to make their way on foot on Willoughby’s lot to Carbonear, probably along an old trail. At Carbonear they found an abandoned fisherman’s boat, and thus made their way to home base at Cupids, actually arriving there before Guy in the pinnace, which had been severely driven off course.

 Samuel Butler may have returned to England as did Guy. He may have been one of Willoughbys men with particular interest in Willoughby’s lot. Or, he may have been one of Guy’s men with particular interest in Cupids. He was certainly involved in the first stage of settlement at Cupids.

     We know that Guy retained an active interest in his allotment, being involved in Bristol politics and Newfoundland concerns until he died in 1628, shortly after he made his will. In his 1626 will he left his Seaforest lands, divided into four equal parts to his sons. There is reason to believe, as I have noted, that Guy’s lands included Cupids, which he knew best. It also reached to the beginning of the Finger Coast, near Holyrood, where it joined the boundary of Lord Baltimore’s grant in 1623, as described in Newfoundland Discovered, pp 250 and 259, Gillian Cell.

     Though no more is heard of Samuel Butler, who was active at Cupids during the first quarter of the seventeenth century, we do hear of another Butler later on in the century.

     In 1675 when Sir John Berry made a list of Newfoundland residents it was noted that at Cupids Stephen Atkins was the “keeper of Mr. Butler’s castle.” It was also noted that at Port de Grave, the next settlement across the narrow inlet, Thomas Butler was one of three planters. Though we are not told, Mr. Butler appears to be Thomas Butler, working at Port de Grave, the better site for a fishing operation, and living at Cupids during the winter months.

     It may be thought that Thomas Butler, having become prosperous, either built or acquired a substantial home at Cupids, where the soil was better for gardens and hay production.

     The evidence is that there has been a continuous Butler family in direct descent from Thomas, as I shall attempt to show, living at Southside, that is, the south side of Port de Grave, adjacent to the site of the old collapsed chimney, about which I have already written. The impression I have after much reflection, following the information once given me by Harold Butler, first cousin of my father, is that Mr. Butler’s castle is indeed John Guy’s Seaforest House on a site, which includes his fort on the ridge toward the south.

     Thomas Butler, we may conjecture, was born before 1640, probably, in Ireland, according to a widely held belief among the Butlers. As a young man he left the homeland, possibly from Waterford, to join the Newfoundland fishing fleet.

     Soon after he allied himself with the Edwards family of Bristol and Carbonear, Newfoundland. Edwards and Butler became involved in the export of fish, voyaging back and forth across the Atlantic, probably, in a triangular trade, that is, with the Iberian Peninsula and then with the import into England of Mediterranean products.

     On one occasion in particular, Peter Edwards and Thomas Butler are on record as having arrived in Bristol at Michaelmas (September 29th, 1672) and as having stayed the winter there. A question had arisen that they might have contravened certain navigation laws regarding foreign trade. However, when the two had asked for permission to depart they were licensed to leave and to collect an adequate crew to transport themselves and provisions for “their family” in Newfoundland. A residence in Newfoundland was, therefore, admitted by the authorities.

     A residence in Bristol may also be indicated in that the two men owned their own vessel, a ship called the Little John of one hundred tons of Bristol registry. The wording in the relevant document “their family” suggests a family relationship. Edwards and Butler were not only business partners, but possibly brothers-in-law as well.

     It may be important to note as well that in Berry’s 1675 census there is reference to another ship at Port de Grave called the Thomas and Elizabeth, suggesting a business partnership between husband and wife. Would they be Thomas Butler and Elizabeth (nee Edwards)? The ship in question is said to be of London, bound for Lisbon, and the ships master is Stephen Tideman. There may have been a London Business connection as well as a Bristol one.

     Further information in later documents reveals that Thomas Butler had land extending westward from the small harbour of Port de Grave, an ideal spot for the fishery, to Sandy Cove, including an area called “the meadows” which was better for cattle grazing. This wide property he may have shared with the two other planters, mentioned in 1675, who themselves may have been associated with Butler at an earlier date, for the cattle that are at Port de Grave are all lumped together in the listing.

     Thomas Butler is also said by Berry to have a wife and three sons unnamed, but probably minors born from about 1660 on. By 1677 he is said to have three sons and a daughter, and by 1680, a year when his operation had declined, only one child is at home.

     One of Butler’s sons may be the Charles of St. John’s who in 1699 signed a petition, requesting the Bishop of London (Anglican) to appoint a clergyman to serve in Newfoundland. A second son may be Edward, whose name appears in the 1706 Board of Trade and Plantations records. No more is heard of these, though their names recur, especially, Charles, soon after, among the Port de Grave Butlers.

     John is most certainly one of the sons of Thomas Butler, as we shall see. He and Edward Baker appear to have succeeded Thomas at Port de Grave, carrying on with the export of fish.

     John, born by 1660 may be in fact the John Butler, whose name is mentioned as an importer in the 1684 Exeter port books. The estuary-like port of Exeter would include smaller harbours such as Teignmouth, where one of the descending branches of John did have business connections.

     In 1700 when Sir Stafford Fairborne was “commander-in-chief of the Newfoundland convoy” there is reference in his report for the years 1699 and 1700 to the ship Rebeckah of Teignmouth and Topsham moored at Port de Grave. Stephen Tucker is named as master. There is a known later connection between the Tucker and Butler families of Teignmouth. It may be significant, too, that the ship, Thomas and Elizabeth, is also mentioned in 1700 as an added note. The ship is of one hundred and fifty tons and of London. John Fell is named as master.

     Then again in 1704 we read about a ship of one hundred tons of Bristol called the Little John. In the record we are told that the ship with a cargo of tobacco from Virginia by way of Newfoundland - along with others- was captured as a prize, and brought to a French port.

     On inquiry at the Public Records office in London, I found unfortunately, that no names of personnel were given. Might it be, however, that we are thinking about the same ship belonging to Peter Edwards and Thomas Butler and that the latter had named it after his son, John, a child at that time?

     There is little information about the fishery in the records during John’s career, though the years 1697 to 1713 were to prove troublesome. During those years there were attacks and threat of attack by the French, when the prolonged war between England and France had spread to Newfoundland.

     Using the diary of Abbé Baudoin, the French chaplain, D. Prowse wrote about the distruction in January, 1697 of the English settlements in Conception Bay. (P.219) Alan F. Williams of Memorial University has provided, also, a narrative of the events based on the same diary, Father Baudoin’s War. (Pp.59-72). We learn from both accounts that during the winter of 1697 places such as Port de Grave, Brigus and surrounding area were burnt, so that local operations were temporarily disrupted. At some point the Butlers and others resorted to Little Bell Isle and to nearby Kelly’s Island for protection while they carried on with the fishery.

     There is one last reference to John Butler. In the 1706 records of the Board of Trade and Plantations he is mentioned among others, including Edward Butler and James Butler. These are all of Conception Bay and are named as people in favour  of Lloyd, the commander at St. Johns.

     I have been told that at Port de Grave there was in existence at one time a headstone in the Butler cemetery, erected in memory of a John Butler. He died in 1714, it is said, but I have not seen it. Still, with the passage of time it may have fallen down and gradually covered over.

     John had in turn a son, John, and another son, James, who appears to be elder of the two. Born between 1680 and 1685 they were still in their youth when the French under d’Iberville arrived in 1697 in Conception Bay. Stories of a semi-legendary character that have come down in both the Earl and Butler families reflect the frantic but clever attempt to survive until help was provided by the mother country.

     In 1706 there is mention of James Butler of Conception Bay, as already noted. Then in 1708 he is said to have a fishing operation at Little Belle Isle, to have a wife and one child, neither name, nor age, nor sex indicated. There is, however, reason to believe that the child is another James and that later he would have a brother, George. In 1708, the same year, John Butler is said to be at neighbouring Kelly’s Island, where he and others had begun a fishery. At that time John is a single man, but he would marry and have at least one son.

     In 1709, when there was danger of further French hostility, James Butler was given command as governor at little Belle Isle by Captain Taylor of the Royal Navy, stores of ammunition being provided. Subordinate officers, including John Butler, “Junior”, first lieutenant were also commissioned. In 1711 we find that the isle was still on use for the defence of that part of Conception Bay.

     When peace was again restored in 1713 the Butlers returned to Port de Grave, where the family had a prior history in the seventeenth century. 

     John Butler, Junior, brother of James, had at least one son, Thomas, “son of John”, in the record. Thomas lived to be an elderly man, and was buried in 1791 on his own inherited property at Hussey’s Cove, as it came to be known, just west of the harbour of Port de Grave. On his headstone these quaint words were inscribed: “Ancient and respectable planter of Port de Grave.” Descendants have lived on this property for generations though one at least going to Brigus and another at a later date to British Columbia.

     John may well have had a second son, Charles, who in turn had a son, John (1734-1784) buried at Port de Grave, and yet another son. In 1736 to Charles Edward Baker deeded his property, which early in the century had separated two Butler properties from each other in the harbour of Port de Grave. Charles had descendants, some of whom went eventually to St. John’s.

     John may have had a third son, of unknown name, who inherited the western section of the threefold Butler property in the harbour, one of whose descendants, William, claimed property at Salmon Cove (area of Clarke’s Beach), and another who later went to Montreal and Alberta.

     John and his wife of unknown name may have both died not long after their return to Port de Grave from Little Belle Isle. Their early deaths may account for the fact that Thomas Butler, their son, was brought up in the family of Thomas Snow on a neighbouring property and for the fact that Edward Baker in 1736 deeded his property to Charles (a second son?)

     James, the elder brother of John, is said by a descendent to have returned to Port de Grave where he built a “comfortable home.” His inherited property formed the eastern section of the threefold property in the harbour already referred to and another at Sandy Cove just west of that of Thomas Butler.

     James, who may have had a predecessor by the same name, has the honour of being the first in a known direct succession of seven generations of James Butlers, living at Port de Grave and Cupids and six in another. Inevitably, it is on this branch of the family that attention has been focused in this article.

     It should, perhaps, be noted that James and his wife, of unknown name, both died sometime before 1743 when a property dispute had emerged between two cousins, namely, Thomas, “son of John” and James son of James of Little Belle Isle. The dispute was finally resolved.

     The family of James, it seems, maintained an interest in Cupids, Southside, carrying on their work at Port de Grave and using Cupids for gardens and the production of hay. I was told by a descendent at Cupids that at one point in history it took seven mowers to cut the grass in the haying season.

     James, the second, appears to be the child living with his father, James, and mother in 1708 at Little Belle Isle. A later record shows that he would have a brother, George. He may be the George, who went to live at Gastors, a place farther down on the northern coast of Conception Bay, and who on March 25th, 1797 deeded this property to Robert Anthony, witnessed by John Mahany. There was once a Mahany property at Cupids.

James, the second, born about 1702, was still a minor, when his family returned to Port de Grave after the cessation of hostilities. At Port de Grave, where the Butlers had a prior history in the seventeenth century, the family of James built a “comfortable home,” according to Philip Butler, whose branch of the family afterwards want to live at Kelligrews, nearly opposite Little Belle Isle and Kelly’s Island. The property of James the first at Port de Grave, Sandy Cove and Little Belle Isle would eventually devolve upon James, the second.

     It is said that James, the second, married an Irish Newfoundlander. If she  belonged to St. John’s the marriage may account for his going to live there early in his career. He appears to have owned property on both sides of the harbour of St. John’s and to have continued in the export business, having connections with Teignmouth. His descendants did do so. He died in 1773 in Teignmouth according to a funeral entry in the records of the parish church of St. James-the-less.

     James had had a continuing interest at Port de Grave during his time in St. John’s. For example, in the Newfoundland Colonial Records for the period 1743-1763 we read of a long lasting property dispute between him and, his cousin, Thomas “son of John”, a dispute between these two Butlers which was eventually resolved. Thomas from the evidence retained one property - the larger - in - the vicinity of Hussey’s Cove, a recent name, and James - the smaller one - at Sandy Cove a little farther to the west.

     We learn, also, in these documents that in 1752 James had asked for permission to go on cutting grass on Little Belle Isle. In a formal grant in 1757 and an indenture in 1807 half of Little Belle Isle was given to James and his brother, George, and the other half to Mercer and Garland with a reference to John Butler, grandson of James. The 1807 indenture confirms that James and George were brothers.

     James, the second, appears to have had three identifiable sons and possibly a daughter. One of these, James, the third, who maybe the eldest continued to live on the inherited property on the east end of the threefold property extending from Back Cove on Bay Roberts to the front, “the Sand”, on Bay de Grave. More about him below.

     There was Charles, who went to live at Kelligrews, nearly across from Little Belle Isle and Kelly’s Island. The family of Charles were boat builders at Port de Grave, but took up farming on their new property. Charles had a son, John (d. 1853) who was buried in a “free stone vault” at Kelligrews. He is said to be a grandson of Butler of Little Belle Isle. Descendants have gone to live in St. John’s, northern and western Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Ontario. The family have had a strong belief in an Irish ancestry, one member being prompted early in her life to visit Kilkenny, where she saw the Butler tombs.

     Then there was John, who lived and worked with his father, James, in St. John’s, having a residence in west Teignmouth. It is possible that all three sons of James worked together for a time to supply fish for export from St. John’s. To son, John, and his family we shall return.

     During the second half of the eighteenth century the property of James Butler, the first, became divided into three sections, one belonging to James Butler, the third, on the south, one belonging to John Tucker in the centre and one belonging to Charles and John Butler on the north. The arrangement suggests a family relationship among all three, just as does the wider threefold property in the harbour of Port de Grave. Charles and John appear to be sons of Charles, “son of James.”

     If James, the second, did in fact have a daughter as well as three sons, then, she may have married John Tucker. (Was he, perhaps, related to Lieut. Governor John Tucker, who was commissioned in 1709 for service in the area of St. John’s, when James, the first, was commissioned at Little Belle Isle for service in that part of Conception Bay? The younger John Tucker was born in 1740 in Teignmouth and died in 1828, an elderly man, according to his headstone at Port de Grave. He went to Port de Grave as a school master and preacher of the Gospel.”

     A later chart of Port de Grave shows that Tucker had a right of way through the property of John and James Butler to the sea. In 1763 he bought a property in neighbouring Ship Cove, witnessed by John Butler (his brother-in-law?). Then in 1781 he drew up the will of James Butler, the third, witnessed by John Butler, and in 1814 at the request of John Butler (probably one of the sons mentioned in the will) he confirmed it.

     What we know about James, the third, we learn from his illuminating will of March 24th 1781, drawn up not long before his death the same year. A number of names are mentioned in the will.

     The basic plantation of James is left to his “beloved sons, James and John”, including “dwelling house, equipment, “boats and craft” related to the fishery. James and John are to care for Thomas as best they can and to maintain his daughter, Frances, for as long as she remains at home. James and John are to cast lots to find which part of the dwelling house is to fall to whom. (Would this be the “comfortable home” to which Philip Butler of Kelligrew once referred?)

     James Butler in his will also bequeaths to Richard Lamb and John Wells (we may guess to be sons-in-law) the “eastern most fishing room from the rock” (which I have seen) down as far as my right goes. Later information indicates a boundary shared on the east by Mugford, and another by  Mugford on the west separating the two properties of James Butler at Sandy Cove from that of Thomas Butler at Hussey’s Cove, already referred to.

     Other names mentioned in the will are, presumably, four granddaughters and one grandson, minor children of either John Wells, or Richard and “Anne Lamb”, for her son, “William.”

     At the time of James Butler’s funeral the missionary at Harbour Grace could not attend because of a storm, and was likely taken by John Tucker, the local lay  reader.

      The wife of James Butler is not mentioned in the will. She having died on July 21st, 1777 (Mary Butler wife of James Butler of Port de Grave, according to the Harbour Grace entry) Sometime after 1773, the date of death of his father, James deeded his Sandy Cove property to his sons James and John.

     James Butler, the fourth, and his brother, John, carried on the Butler name in their branch of the family. They would each have descendants of their own living in various places.

     John appears to be the John who had property at the tip of the Peninsula of Port de Grave, that is, at Bay Roberts Point, known as Johnnie Butler’s Stage. As well as his inherited piece in the harbour of Port de Grave he seems to be the John of 1804 of Salmon Cove at the foot of Bay de Grave.

     John and his immediate descendants lived on property in the harbour, and had mining interests on Bell Island. Descendants later lived at Topsail, across from Bell Island, Little Belle Isle and Kelly’s Island. Jabez, John and Esau, grandsons of John had a trading business in Conception Bay. Once they narrowly escaped losing their lives when their vessel was damaged in a storm. Driven off course, they were rescued by a passing ship, and ended up in Liverpool. It is said that the brothers afterwards turned to other interests. Esau retired in Montreal, Quebec (Verdun), where he died an elderly man. Other descendants have gone to live in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Montreal, Quebec.

James Butler, the fourth, maintained the ancestral link with Cupids (Southside). In 1804 James Butler “Junior claimed property there appealing to the 1699 Newfoundland Act of King William III, intended to accommodate the right of residents and the annual fishermen. Though his father had died in 1781 his use of the descriptive term, “Junior”, suggests that his father before him had been active, or been known there.

     James Butler was born in 1762 and died in 1851, an elderly man. His wife, Mary, nee Patton was born in 1763, and died in 1848 according to their headstone at the United Church (Methodist) Cemetery at Port de Grave. They had been Married on May 16th, 1783 by J. Balfour, the Anglican Clergyman, who served both Harbour Grace and Port de Grave. They would have six known children, one of them a daughter, and they would live at both Port de Grave and Cupids.

     A son, James, the fifth in the series, was born in 1786 and died in 1847, according to the inscription almost obliterated, on the headstone near that of his parents. He had a wife, whose name was Grace, mentioned in the will of 1851 of father-in-law, James Butler. They lived on part of the property, which James would leave to James (the sixth), son of his son, George.

     George, a second son, died in 1855 (July 6th), sixty-five years of age, according to his headstone in the same cemetery at Port de Grave. He appears to be the George, baptized in 1794 as stated in the Carbonear Methodist Baptismal records. He was married to Mary, and had four sons: James (the sixth), Abraham, Samuel and Absalom. James inherited at Port de Grave and may be the James who died in 1907 in St. John’s. Abraham had descendants who went to St. John’s. Samuel’s family went to Verdun, adjacent to Montreal, Quebec, while Absalom’s family went to Connecticut, U.S.A.

     Edward another son of James born at an unknown date died accidentally in 1830 from a fall from his boat off his own place at Southside returning from a business appointment in Cupids proper. He was married to Rebecca Mugford, a Port de Grave name, and had seven sons: James(another sixth), cousin of James, son of George, son of James the fourth; William, aged fifteen at the time of his father’s death, whom he was accompanying home; Edward Hickson, called after his father and James Hickson, the Methodist minister and friend of the family, who baptized him; Gideon, who would inherit a piece of the Sandy Cove property as mentioned in the 1851 codicil of the will of his grandfather; Jonathan, whose son, James the seventh, would have property deeded to him when still a child by his great grandfather, James, the fourth; Joseph, a young single man who died away from home at the fishery; and Nathan who would eventually inherit the home and piece of land from his father, Edward, after the death of his mother, a noted mid-wife much in demand.

     James, the fourth, also had a son, Joseph. He died in 1846 on the Southern shore, leaving two daughters. On May 24th, 1850, his widow, Rebecca, married William Taylor.

     William was the fifth son of James. He inherited part of his father’s property in the harbour of Port de Grave. He had two daughters, Hannah, who married William Brown and who appear to have lived on part of the Sandy Cove property, while Grace who married her cousin, Gideon, inherited another part.

     Virtue, James’ daughter, was born on February 14th, 1800, married in 1818 Christopher Vey, teacher and son of the well-known Methodist lay minister, George Vey. She died on Sunday, September 4th, 1842 according to a memorial tribute written by her husband. (Methodist Magazine 1845). Virtue and Christopher had children. He later re-married.

     Three of Edward’s children have descendants still living at Southside, that is Cupids and vicinity, namely, Edward Hickson, James and William. Some now live in Montreal, Quebec, and places near Toronto, Ontario, and in Ipswich in England.

     The property of James, the fourth, at Southside appears to have extended from an old Mahaney property, later Morgan, to a Thomas Dunn property, later Walter Whalen, the latter being the site of the old collapsed Chimney.

     James left his Southside property to three of his sons: to Joseph on the east, to George in the centre and to Edward in the west. When Joseph’s widow re-married that piece passed into another name. George’s descendants all moved away. Those who remain are descendants of Edward.

     I have left to the end an account of some length of one branch of the Butlers of Cupids - Port de Grave and Little Belle Isle because of its importance in tracing an Irish ancestry.

     The following narrative I have been able to compose from an examination, mainly, of three sources of information; one, items of family interest contributed by two sisters, Misses Florence Ellen and Kathleen Brockelbank, elderly ladies of Hampshire, England, who in the 1950's, sent it to Lord Dunboyne, genealogical assistant of the Butler Society, who later gave it to me; two, a chart included in a book, John Job’s Family, written by the honourable John Job which I consulted many years ago at the Gosling Library in St. John’s; and, three, the parish records of the Church at St. James - the less in West Teignmouth, Devon, for the years between 1680-1895 as provided by Mr. A. O’Connor Birch, Verger, who also told me ; “Prior to 1753, as far back as 1680, the name Butler does not appear in any respect.”

     I begin with John Butler, who appears from the evidence to be son of James (the second). On March 6th, 1753 John married Jane Giles, daughter of Samuel Giles, merchant of Teignmouth, who made his will in 1737 when a widower, and Catherine Nee Tucker, who had sisters, Mary and Grace. There appears to be a relationship of long standing between people by the name of Tucker and Butler. In 1763 John Tucker bought a property at Ship Cove, adjacent to Port de Grave. It was witnessed by John Butler. (brother-in-law?)

     Since Jane Butler, nee Giles, was baptized on January 24th, 1731 in Teignmouth, it may be supposed that John was born by that date but in Newfoundland, for it has been said that the father of John married an Irish Newfoundlander. (See references to John Butler earlier).

     John and Jane had at least four children (possibly five, even six). There was James (fourth in this line of succession), who was baptized on October 8th, 1754; Samuel Giles, who was baptized on September 22nd, 1760;  Jane, who was baptized in 1765; and John S. baptized December 1st, 1771, the first two called, it seems, after their two grandfathers and the last two after their parents. If there were five children, then, Joseph may have been his name. If there were six, then, Elizabeth may have been her name.

     John of 1771, an orphan by 1778, his father having died earlier, grew up to carry on the family business from St. John’s, while retaining an interest in Little Belle Isle that had been formally granted in part in 1757 to his grandfather, James (the second) and to his brother, George, claiming a previous family connection.

     On January 15th, 1796, he, “John of St. John’s” married in Teignmouth Elizabeth Bulley, daughter of Samuel Bulley (born about 1730 d.1810) and of Johanna Wood (1747-1826), witnessed by John Job, Mary Bulley, Rich Medland, probably, priest. John Butler’s sister, Jane, appears to have married someone in the Bulley family, and had a son, John Butler Bulley.

     John and Elizabeth became the parents of a number of children, one of them James Henry Butler, who was baptized in Teignmouth on November 2nd, 1812 (another fifth in the line of succession), had a son, James (another sixth) and had a nephew, James Butler Knill Kelly (also sixth), who became third Anglican bishop of Newfoundland and later primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. The latter died in 1907, aged 74 years. John and Elizabeth, also, had a son, John - Samuel born in 1802, and who was killed in 1819 on a wharf in St. John’s.

     James Henry Butler (the fifth), son of John and Elizabeth, married in 1838 Elizabeth Edgecombe Ferris of Bristol, and had grandchildren, among them the Misses Brockelbank, who provided Lord Dunboyne with her interesting family information. These were children of Isabel Edgecombe Butler, who married in 1868 Stanley Brockelbank. The sons of James Henry Butler all predeceased him.

     Among the inherited papers of the Brockelbank sisters were the grant and indenture relating to the family possession of part of Little Belle Isle and a bookplate belonging to their grandfather of special interest in tracing  ancestry. I Include a copy here along with an illuminating chart of the Chief Butlers of Ireland prepared by Lord Dunboyne, taken from his work, “Butlers of Kilkenny Castle; Their Kith and Kin”, centre pages, and used here with his permission for publication. (See page 25 under sources.)

     Of the bookplate Lord Dunboyne has written to me the following: “Miss F.E. Brockelbank sent me James Henry Butler’s bookplate, which contained the family motto, ‘Soyez Ferme’, as well as the shield of the Irish Butlers. This is the motto of the Carrick branch of the Irish Butlers as opposed to the Ormondes or Dunboynes etc.

     Short of actual documentation the bookplate showing the heraldic device and motto of the Ikerrin - Carrick branch of the Butlers, appears to provide evidence for research beyond Thomas Butler of 1675 of Newfoundland. Born, it may be conjectured with good reason, before 1640, he would be a younger contemporary of Pierce Butler (d.1661), First Viscount Ikerrin.

     The preponderance of the name James (not to overlook John and Thomas, Charles and Edward) in the one instance in a series of seven successive generations and in another six generations, suggests an ancestor and by that name beyond Thomas among the Ikerrin group of Butlers. If so, then, Thomas of Newfoundland may be in direct descent from John (d.1330), second son of Edmund, Earl of “Karryk” (d.1321), who was father of James, first Earl of Ormond (d.1338), all in descent from Theobald (d.1205), First Chief Butler of Ireland. (Please, refer to chart of the Butlers of Ireland as prepared by Lord Dunboyne).

     It should be noted, finally, that James Butler, First Duke of Ormonde, brought up in the English court, was, subsequently, caught up in the political turmoil of his time. Known for his deep piety and high character, his loyalty to the crown was steadfast. In Newfoundland, which I know best, he was revered among the Butlers there as a kind of family folk hero. A lingering memory of him among my people reached me during childhood visits to Cupids when school was out in the summer-time, strong enough to stimulate a life-long interest in ancestry as a hobby, and, at last, to write this article about one old name in one old place.



Bookplate of James Henry Butler (baptized in 1812 in West Teignmouth, Devon, England). Evidence indicates a descent from Thomas Butler of 1675 Cupids - Port de Grave, and his belief in a link with the Ikerrin group of Butlers, in particular, of the Butlers of Ireland. For greater detail see relevant material in article, and, also, chart prepared by Lord Dunboyne, used here with his permission.


Among many helpful sources consulted

Journal of John Guy 1612. Lambeth Palace, London, England.

Will of John Guy 1626. Archives, Bristol, England.

John Guy. Address. Raymond W. Guy Newfoundland Historical Society 1972

The Willoughby Story. Cecil Reynolds.

Butlers of Kilkenny Castle: Their Kith and Kin. Revised Edition 1981 by Lord Dunboyne. This is a later edition of a work the first edition of which was published in 1968 (the current edition of which is the ninth) entitled, Butler Family History.

A History of Newfoundland 1895. D.W. Prowse MacMillan.

English Enterprise in Newfoundland 1577-1660. Gillian T. Cell. 1969 University of Toronto Press.

Newfoundland Discovered 1610-1630. Gillian T. Cell. 1982 Hakluyt Society London, England.

Father Baudoin’s War, Diary of French chaplain 1697. Alan F. Williams Memorial University.

Life and Labour in Newfoundland. Charles R. Fay. 1956 University of Toronto Press.

A Faithful Narrative ---1699-1700. Sir Stafford Fairborne. Public Library Boston.

Collection of Newfoundland Names. Keith Matthews. 1970. Memorial University St. John’s.

Kelligrews by the Sea. Philip Butler 1960. Guardian Press St. John’s.                                 Records Colonial Office c/o 1:35, 1:38, 1:44, List of Nfld. Plantations c/o 199:18. PRO London; Archives, St. John’s.

 St. John’s Board of Trade and Plantations Early 18th Century.

St. John’s Calendar State Papers, America and West Indies 1709.

Nfld. Colonial Records 1743-1763. Archives St. John’s.                                                           Records of Supreme Court 1780. Archives St. John’s.

Grant Little Belle Isle 1757, Indenture 1807. Registry Deeds, etc. Vol 4 St. John’s.

Wills of James Butler 1781 and Son James 1851. Deeds Vol 17.                                               John Job’s Family. Honourable John Job. Gosling Library, St. John’s.

Parish Records. Anglican. Harbour Grace - Port de Grave 18th Century.

Parish Records. Anglican. St. James-the-Less West Teignmouth, Devon 18th and 19th Century.

Methodist Church Records, Cupids 19th Century.

Andrews Family of Port de Grave. 1989 Gerald W. Andrews.

Butler Canada. Herb Taylor for Butler Rally June 1990 at University of Toronto.


Earlier Articles. A.M. Butler.

The Family of Butler in the New-Founde-Lande, Butler Journal Vol 1, No.5, Kilkenny, Ireland, 1973-4; Reprinted in Newfoundland Quarterly Fall 1975.

Canadian Butlers. Address to Butler Society, St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, England, August 1979.

Thomas Butler of Seventeenth Century Newfoundland.

Address to Butler Society, Wilkes College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania June 1981.



Postscript and Charts


Prepared by


Arthur Melvin Butler


November 27th, 2000


The following charts indicate from the evidence the likely relationship of the family of Thomas Butler of 17th century Newfoundland to the Butlers of Ireland through Pierce Butler (1587-1661), 1st Viscount Ikerrin, and of his wife, Ellen Butler, daughter of Walter, 11th Earl of Ormond (d. 1632). Thomas of Newfoundland, a great grandfather during the first decade of the 18th century, may have been born about 1620, a date earlier than first believed.


Many thanks to Michael, my son, for the meticulous work of committing the prepared charts to print.


Charts: These are large files


Chart 2


Chart 3