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In their oral history the Mi'kmaq maintain that they, before the white man came in the early 1500's, made seasonal visits to Newfoundland by travelling by sea-going canoes from Cape Breton to the south coast of the island. However there is no archaeological or other hard evidence that supports this claim. However, there is evidence in the form of a census that shows the Mi'kmaq in 1605 trading with French Basque fishermen inPlaisance(Placentia), a crown colony of France, then in 1671 another French census in Placentia Bay records the presence of Mi'kmaq who seem to be permanent settlers there. There is also written records to show that the Mi'kmaq and the Beothuck clashed in St. George's Bay in 1720's. In the 1750's there were further confrontations between the Beothuck and the Mi'kmaq this time at Grand Lake. In this confrontation the Beothuck are defeated and lose access to the west and south coasts of the island. Captain James Cook who was mapping the west coast in the 1760's reported that the Mi'kmaq who were by then permanently settled in St. Georges were very familiar with the interior of Newfoundland, being able to show how to use the rivers and lakes of the interior to travel from the west coast all the way to Bay d'Espoir.
When the Mi'kmaq settled permanently in Gambo is not known. The late Allan Saunders, an amateur historian, believed that a group of Mi'kmaq came into Freshwater Bay from Bay d' Espoir via Clode Sound in Bonavista Bay sometime before 1780. He believed that they cleared the land on Doloman's Point. He based this on stories told by the offspring of James Pritchett, the man accepted locally as the first permanent settler of European descent in Freshwater Bay who built a plantation on Doloman's Point in the early to mid 1800's. They found, when tilling the ground at Mitchell's Point at the mouth of Middle Brook River, many Mi'kmaq and Beothuck artifacts such as arrow heads, clay pipe stems, hatchets, etc. leading them to believe that both the Mi'kmaq and the Beothuck used this site extensively. First the Beothuck and then the Mi'kmaq were attracted to Freshwater Bay and Middle Brook in particular because of the resources the area had to offer them. There were herring, salmon, trout, squid, eels, and duck, geese, and other sea birds in the Bay. The rivers offered more trout and salmon along with beaver, muskrat, and otter. Inland were caribou, bear, and grouse, then there were pine, birch, spruce and fir for houses and fuel for their fires., and then there were the blueberries, partridge berries, raspberries, bakeapples, squash berries, marsh berries, blackberries, and hazel nuts, and many other vegetables and herbs no longer familiar to modern man as food sources. With such an abundance of resources it is understandable why a family of Mi'kmaq, the Joes, were settled unto a reserve of 11 acres of land on the western side of what is now Route 320 running from Middle Brook River to present-day Pond's Road.
From documentary and oral evidence we know the following about the Joes.
Madeline Joewas born in 1836 and died at the age of 70 of old age on December 21, 1906. Her death certificate was signed by a Reverent Doak of the Church of England in Middle Brook. It is believed that Madeline Joe never married. Her death certificate declares her marital status to be unknown. Madeline was regarded as a witty person and all people welcomed her company. She is quoted as saying, "I'd rather steep sticks, stumps, and goowiddy than to pay Abraham Pritchett 60 cents for a pound of tea". Madeline, like all of her people at the time, spent most of her time and her life securing animals, fish, berries, nuts, and firewood to feed and clothe herself and her people. She was also one of the last of her people to possess an intimately knowledge of plants. She knew that the beaver root (the root of water lily) could cure urinary tract infections, and alder leaves could relieve headaches. The bark of cherry and dogwood trees was used in a number of recipes for medicines for aches and pains and cuts. And Madeline would have known how to mix bear grease and myrrh to makevar,an unguent for binding a deep cut on the hand or leg and keeping it germ free. The leaves of blueberries and the tender sprigs of spruce trees she'd steep and drink the potion to ward off disease. And when she could not afford Abraham Pritchett's tea she'd just brewed up tea from manna-tea berries otherwise known as Indian Tea and of course, the "Indian banana", the root of ferns, she considered a very healthy and nutritious food.
Madeline was always on the go through the country. She left behind her name attached to a Trail, a Pond, a Mesh, and a Hole, and a kettle of hers gave name to a rock - Kettle Rock (on the shoreline of Freshwater Bay between Middle Brook and Hare Bay is a very large, flat-topped boulder, with a natural crevice on the top. Madeline Joe, when in the area at boil-up time, would build a fire in the crevice to boil her kettle and she would eat her lunch sitting on top of the rock). According to local lore Madeline Joe is buried in the Mi'kmaq Burial Ground (presently fenced and signed as the R.C. Indian Cemetery).
Elizabeth (BetsyneeJoe) Barrow(1843 -1910) was a sister to Madeline. She married Ed Barrow Sr. (1842 - 1911). The couple had at least two children, Mary Jane and Ned (1878 -1933). Ned lived in the house which stood then where it stands today, on the Middle Brook River corner of Pond's Road and Smallwood Boulevard. Called Uncle Neddy, Ned Barrow loved to go birding. However, he was unable to individual close either one of his eyes so he found it impossible to sight the gun. He solved the problem by tying a red a hankerchief over one eye and aiming his gun that way. Whether or not he was a good shot is not revealed by the anecdote. (Some time after Uncle Neddy passed away, a John Lush - a brother to Jesse (Louisa) Lush - bought his house and lanched it down to around 543-545 Smallwood Boulevard. Later on, Ed and Gertie Lane bought the house and moved it back to its original and current location. There it stands today.) Betsy's daughter, Mary Jane, married a George Abbott from Bonavista and they lived in a house located at 522 Smallwood Boulevard, at the approximate location of the present day (2009) West Tower Bakery. Mary Jane and George had a daughter, Mary Jane, in 1892 who lived but two months. They also had three sons: John (Jack) Abbott, Stephen Abbott, and Jesse Abbott. Jack Abbott married Sarah Pritchett. One of their children was Hettie who married Harrison Saunders. They had three children: Max, Wilson, and Evelyn. It is believed that Betsy, Ed, Ned, and the infant Mary Jane are all buried in the Mi'kmaq Burial Ground. (What about Ned's wife?)Mary Jane (1869 - 1953) and George (1866 - 1938) Abbott are buried in the Salvation Army Cemetery.
John Joewas born in 1844 and died on 3 September 1911. He was 67 years old. Interestingly enough, he is mentioned (albeit not by name) in an 1865 report of the Honourable Robert Carter, Royal Naval and Colonial Secretary, in which it is stated that an Indian had been hired to meet the Northern Messengerat Greenspond. That notation confirms that John Joe had been hired to carry the winter mail by dogsled (and otherwise) from Gambo to Greenspond and points in between. He shared this duty with a John Pritchett. It is reputed that John Joe carried the mail for 50 years. One story told of his experiences involved a Christmas parcel that was given to deliver to Greenspond. Somewhere along the way he stopped for a break. He removed the mail bag from his back and lodged it on the ground. When he did he heard this child's voice within his bag cry out, "Mama". John Joe was startled and frightened, presumably believing that he had heard the voice of a spirit. He abandoned the bag and returned home and told his story to the postmaster at Gambo who told him that in the bag along with everything else had been a cry baby doll. In lodging his bag on the ground the contents within must have shifted, placing force on the button setting off the cry baby. John Joe found the explanation interesting but incredible. He refused to return to retrieve the bag. Apparently his partner, John Pritchett, retrieved the bag on his next trip down through the country. It is believed that John Joe is buried in the Mi'kmaq Burial Ground.
Stephen Joewas born in 1852 and died on June 13, 1933, age 81. Stephen has the distinction of being listed in the 1898 McAlpine Directory as a lumberman living in Middle Brook. He was probably working at a George B. Pritchett's saw mill at Water Point on the Middle Brook River. Stephen had a reputation as a mean tin whistle player. He loved to sit in front of his door on a fine Sunday evening and send out the tune for the hymn, "Nothing But The Blood" to which everyone at the time knew the words: "Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus..." At his feet would be his dog, Carlo, who apparently had a musical dog ear denoted by the satisfied look on his face that his master indeed played a fine air. Stephen Joe also enjoyed a reputation as a superior woodsman and was known to take young men into the country to teach them woodcraft. He, too, is thought to be buried in the Mi'kmaq Burial Ground.
James (Jimmy) Joe, Michael Joe and Newman Joe are believed to be interred in the Mi'kmaq Burial Ground.
Jack Joe was born in 1871. He also had the distinction of being listed in the 1898 edition of McAlpine's Directory as a lumberman working in George B. Pritchett's sawmill. He, too, like his father before him, carried the mail for a time. He married at Glovertown Edith Lane of Deer Island who was born there on February 12, 1891. (Interestingly, she had a brother named Ed). Jack and his wife Edith built and lived in the house that is currently (2010) located at about 539 Smallwood Boulevard, owned by Lloyd Lush. It was built as a three story house. Jack used the third floor as a venue for drying pelts. The house was 19 feet by 23 feet, was built of pine, and insulated with birch rind and sawdust. Peter Lush bought the house and cut it down by one story and made some minor renovations but kept the original layout. So today (2012) Jack Joe's house ranks as the oldest house in Gambo believed to be about 123 years old. Jack Joe died on the 12 February 1935 at the age of 64. The locals report that Jack Joe had a saying: "Jack Joe will close the gate to the Indian Burial Ground". There is no written evidence to corroborate his prophecy. However, it is generally accepted that Jack Joe was the last full-blooded Mi'kmaq to live in Gambo. Jack Joe's widow, Edith, married Henry Granter and was buried beside him in the old United Church Cemetery in Gambo in 1946.
Jack Stevens was a full blooded Mi'kmaq living in Gambo in the very early 1900's (the 1884 census reports two male Mi'kmaq living in Gambo). Local lore indicates that he lived somewhere very close to, if not at, 205 Smallwood Boulevard. He attended the Roman Catholic Church in Gambo.