Making the most of time

Baccileu Trail history unveilings to coincide with Julian calendar

Lillian Simmons
Published on October 3, 2012

In October 1612 John Guy and a crew of 13 headed out from Cupids to Trinity Bay in the vessel “Indeavour.” Alongside them was a smaller vessel, a shallop, with five more men. The expedition’s aim was to establish friendly relations with the Beothuk Indians and thereby hopefully set up a profitable fur trade.

The Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corp. (BTHC) is undertaking several projects to mark the 400th anniversary of the voyage. One of them will be to erect history boards at certain sites to coincide as closely as possible with the dates the Indeavour dropped anchor there.

Guy’s first stop was at Harbour Grace Oct. 8, 1612, where a history board will be unveiled Oct. 22.

And while there appears to be a fair discrepancy between the anniversary dates, there isn’t.

Times a-changin’

Since 1995, Bill Gilbert has been chief archeologist at the provincial historic site in Cupids, Canada’s first and North America’s second-oldest English colony, where Governor John Guy set up his plantation in 1610. Guy and his crew stopped at a number of sites during that 1612 voyage into Trinity Bay and did eventually establish contact with the Beothuk. The BTHC will erect history boards at 10 of them.

Gilbert says the anniversary dates “pose an interesting problem because the calendar we use today is not the same as the one used by John Guy and Henry Crout in 1612.”

In 1752 the English switched from the old Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.), to the Gregorian calendar. The former was so out of whack with the equinox that when it was changed 11 days were lost.

“It was 11 days off the solstice at that time. But at this point, it’s 13 days out,” Gilbert explains. “Good Friday and Easter and Christmas weren’t falling right, so to bring it back into shape, they adopted the Gregorian calendar.”

“The history boards are going up on, or as close as possible to, the exact 400th anniversary,” he says. (See sidebar)

Because it was so well documented, Guy’s voyage has provided the first written accounts of many of the places on the route and some of the earliest and most detailed descriptions of the Beothuk. But it was 350 years before much of the information was discovered.


Documents found

Prior to the 1960s it would have been impossible for Gilbert to determine the route Guy took on his expedition into Trinity Bay in 1612. There just wasn’t enough information available. An abbreviated version of Guy’s journal of the Indeavour voyage had originally been published in 1625 and was reprinted by James P. Howley in 1915. It was the only version of the journal available to most researchers for many years.

“The original, complete version was housed at the Lambeth Palace Library in London,” Gilbert says.

But few had read it.

“Then in the 1950s some other very important documents came to light. These were the Willoughby Papers, a number of documents written by John Guy, Henry Crout, Thomas Rowley and other colonists who lived in Cupids and were involved in the voyage.”

(Sir Percival Willoughby was a member of the London and Bristol Company, set up to establish English settlements in Newfoundland. Crout was Willoughby’s agent.)

“The first letter that John Guy wrote back (to England) from Cupids in 1610 — we didn’t know that existed until the 1960s, it was part of The Willoughby Papers.”

In 1979, David Beers Quinn, a famous specialist in early documents of discovery and exploration in North America, published an important document from the Willoughby papers — Henry Crout’s Journal, kept at Cupids from Sept. 1, 1612 to May 13, 1613.

Then in 1982 Gillian Cell published a complete version of Guy’s journal, titled Newfoundland Discovered, along with a letter by Henry Crout dated April 10, 1613.

Gilbert says it was those documents, “Guy’s journal, Crout’s journal and Crout’s April 10, 1613 letter that allowed us to retrace the route of the Indeavour.”

In their own words

Since Sept. 1 the BTHC has been posting Henry Crout’s journal entries on its website. A new entry will be posted every day until May 13, the date of Crout’s last entry.

Beginning Oct. 7, Guy’s story will also be told through his journal writings, which will be posted daily on the site. The journals will be set up on the website so they can be easily cross-referenced.

“So you’ve got two different accounts of what happened on any particular day up until the 25th of November.”

Gilbert is unsure if a journal was kept the first year, 1610-1611.

“John Guy wrote a long detailed letter that might have been a summary of a journal. William Colston (a Bristol merchant) kept a journal for 1611-12, but that one hasn’t survived. However we do have a short summation of it that was written in 1625.”

Gilbert has transcribed a number of documents himself, some of which are published on the BTHC website ( But, he says, there are still many documents that haven’t been published.


Storyboard Dates

The BTHC will unveil storyboards at 10 of the sites where John Guy’s expedition stopped in Trinity Bay in the fall of 1612. The dates for unveiling (which may be subject to change) are scheduled to coincide as closely as possible with the actual Julian calendar dates. An account of the voyage is available in the colonists’ journal entries posted on the BTHC website daily.

Oct. 22, Harbour Grace unveiling: After anchoring off the deserted pirate fort in Harbour Grace, Oct. 8, 1612 (Julian calendar), it was Oct. 17 before the Indeavour picked up anchor again. The crew had discovered a French ship loaded with salt, captured by Peter Easton, and left in the harbour. They hauled the ship ashore and unloaded and stored it for use in the following summer’s fishery.

Oct 30, Bay de Verde: The Indeavour and the shallop arrived in Green Bay (Bay de Verde) Oct. 17. Due to unfavourable weather, it was two days before the Indeavour could round The Grates at the tip of the peninsula.

Nov. 5, Hopeall: Sailing all through the night of Oct. 21, Guy arrived at Mount Eagle Bay, (Hopeall) Oct. 22. The accompanying shallop, forced to wait out the storm in Heart’s Content, caught up with the Indeavour in Hopeall that same day. The colonists had already cut an overland trail (Crout’s Way) between Cupids and Mount Eagle Bay in September. In 1997 Bill Gilbert and an archeology crew retraced the trail, which today makes for an overnight hike.

Nov. 6, Dildo Arm: Leaving Hopeall Oct. 24, Guy and his expedition arrived at Dildo Arm that afternoon. The following day they found their first Beothuk encampment. Delayed by winds they followed a Beothuk path to a freshwater lake, Blaketown Pond, where they saw two or three Beothuk fires and during the night they left some biscuits and bracelets at a Beothuk encampment at Russell’s Point.

Nov. 12, Dildo Island: After spending five days in what Guy called “Savage Bay” the boats made it only as far as Chapel Head, then anchored for the night of Oct. 30 at Dildo Island.

Nov. 13, Collier Bay: Oct. 31 found the Indeavour at the entrance to Collier Bay, which Guy named “Alhallows” after the day they had arrived. It appears they were trying to find a sea passage through into the Bay of Pleasance (Placentia.)

Nov. 16, Come by Chance: Sailing northward on Nov. 4 they reached the bottom of Bull Arm, where the town of Sunnyside is today. Here they found eight or nine Beothuk houses and a trail the Beothuk had cut through the woods. The trail led them two miles west to the Come By Chance River where they saw another Beothuk camp. Two days later Guy’s party met and shared a meal with a group of Beothuk somewhere near Sunnyside.

Nov. 23, Heart’s Content: They crossed the bay and arrived at Heart’s Content Nov. 10. The shallop had towed a Beothuk canoe from Bull Arm. In his journal, Crout says they spent some time in Heart’s Content mending the canoe.

Nov. 30, North Shore: On the return voyage the shallop sunk at Bay de Verde Nov. 14. All five men got ashore and “in great distress” walked to Carbonear.

Dec. 5, Carbonear: The shipwrecked men arrived in Carbonear Nov. 22 and sailed back to Cupids, arriving there Nov. 23. The Indeavour headed out to sea Nov. 14, but got lost in a fog and was eventually blown back to Bay de Verde, then moored off Bell Island before arriving home to Cupids Nov. 25.