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The Rock Walls of Grates Cove

The ingenuity of the early settlers in being able to make the most of the landscape is clearly evident in Grates Cove. The area is barren and devoid of trees, but there are rocks in abundance – all shapes and sizes. The wood needed for building homes and fishing properties, such as stages and fish flakes, was brought in by schooner from the bottom of Trinity Bay or as the people would say “up in the Arm.”

There was a need to mark the property boundaries and to enclose vegetable gardens. Unlike other communities, where wooden fences were built, the settlers used the rocks to build rock walls to serve these purposes. Whatever the size of the property, there were rock walls built to mark it off as being owned by one family or another.

In order to build the rock wall fences, the people of the community had to work very hard. They made use of their horses and carts to pull the rocks out of the ground and to carry them to the edges of the garden where they were stacked on top of one another – sometimes to great heights, depending on the purpose of the enclosure.

All members of the family took part in this work. In addition, many of the fishing enterprises hired men to work in the stages and to haul the traps during the fishing season. They were referred to as “shipped men” and as well as working in the fishery, there was an expectation that they would also work on any other jobs that needed to be completed, whether it was building a rock wall, planting or harvesting vegetables, or mowing hay, for example.

The evidence of rock walls in Grates Cove is not unique in the world. There are thousands of miles of walls of this type in Ireland. One can conclude that the settlers brought this idea for building fences in this manner with them when the crossed the Atlantic Ocean to make the home on the top of the cliffs surrounding the cove.

The ownership of the gardens surrounded by rock walls was portrayed by names of the owners or the location. For example, the vegetable garden belonging to Thomas Martin was known as Uncle Tommy’s Garden. Georgie’s Garden was owned by George Martin, the Farm was owned by the Benson family, and Mrs. Avery’s Garden was owned by Mrs. Isaac Avery. Burrage’s Hill Garden is located on the top of the hill to the north of the United Church Cemetery, These are but a few of the names given to these remnants of the past that remain today.

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1 Comment

  1. Jane Delbene - nee Oliver on February 22, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks for the informative article, enjoyed reading it. I played here as a little girl, spending my summers in my grandmother’s house, Elizabeth (Floss) Snelgrove. I’m now living in London, UK and rock walls are in abundance throughout England as well.

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