Settlement in Western Newfoundland, by William C. Wonders, states that Bay St. George was probably the first permanently settled area of Western Newfoundland, with Sandy Point being the first English Settlement. In 1973 there were some English and Jersey fishermen who settled at, or near, Sandy Point. In 1813 there were about one hundred people living in that area. Around the same time, MicMac Indians crossed over in canoes to Newfoundland from the Mainland. This group tended to concentrate at Mattis Point, which is on the south side of St. George’s River.
Almost all of the first settlers in Kippens were French. The first Acadian French arrived in this area in 1844. They traveled the long distance from Margaree to Newfoundland by fishing boat. The trip across to Newfoundland must have been treacherous, with whole families travelling in small boats across the many miles of open water. One wonders why these people left their homes in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton to move to the West Coast of Newfoundland, which was still relatively unsettled. The following is an excerpt of a letter written by Mrs. Adeline Alexander, who was ninety years of age at the time the letter was written in 1977. She offers an explanation to the question of why the Acadian people immigrated to Newfoundland:
The early Acadians were said to be a very distinct and independent people. The first Acadians in Nova Scotia (or “Acadie”, as it was also called) were not just from France. Some of them were Scottish, some were Irish, and some of them were Basque. Both Catholic and Protestant religions were represented among the Acadian people.
MicMac Indians lived in Nova Scotia as well, and occasionally an Indian woman would marry an Acadian man, and in this way Indian skills would be passed on to the Acadians. The Acadians wanted primarily to settle and build a new life for themselves. They found that the fish were very abundant, and the export of fish to Europe provided them with a steady source of income.
Throughout the 17th century both France and England at different times, ruled Acadie. The colony was often in the center of disputes between the English and French governments. The Acadian people were, at one time, even exiled from their own homes by the British. Thousands of Acadians were forced to leave their homes and lives in Nova Scotia, and start a new life elsewhere. The Acadians had to be a strong people in order to rise above all the conflict, which they were involved in.
The first Acadian French settlers brought their animals, farming tools, and seed grain with them when they moved to Newfoundland. These people were able to build an economy and a life based on fishing and farming. Almost everyone fished, and a garden was able to provide the family with enough vegetables to last the year. Some people also had cows, chickens, sheep, and maybe a horse or an ox for ploughing. The supplies, which had to be bough, were shipped in by boat from Sandy Point. Sandy Point was, at the time, the center of industry, trade and fishing in Bay St. George.
People gradually moved to different parts of the West Coast, and in this way the French names, religions, and culture were spread throughout the entire area. Many of these settlements were rather isolated, and consequently some families intermarried. The French language and Roman Catholic religion were retained in this way.
In addition, men from France eventually settled in Newfoundland. During that time in France, once a young man reached the age of eighteen he had to serve two years of military service. The French government controlled the fishing in Newfoundland waters, and a young man could do his service by spending two years with the French fishing fleet. Some of these men “jumped ship” once they got to Newfoundland — “Ils n’ont pas fait leur service.” A lot of this occurred during the years 1800 to 1850. These men were considered fugitives from the law. Most of these men married girls from the Stephenville Crossing or St. George’s area.
Many of the older people in Kippens remember a time when French was the only language spoken in their parents’ homes. This all changed rapidly, as more and more people moved in and English became the language of choice, but that’s another story.