The construction of what is now known locally as the old West Line (telegraph line) in 1878, and with it the coming of the telegraph, marks the beginning of King's Point as a settlement, and indeed may have been its first "raison d'etre" (reason for being).
1856 was a landmark year for communication technology in Newfoundland as the first telegraph line was constructed along the south coast from St. John's to Cape Ray (near Port aux Basques). From this begining, telegraph lines were later developed in other regions including the Bay of Islands and the mining districts of the Green Bay area.
Since the first mine in Green Bay opened at Tilt Cove in 1864, the extension to this area (and through King's Point) had to have been completed later than 1864 (Note: In 1866, the laying of the transatlantic cable, from Europe to Heart's Content, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, was completed and tied in with the existing trans-Newfoundland telegraph system).
In 1876 or 77, George Robinson R.N. (Royal Navy) led an expedition, on orders from Governor Glover, from King's Point in SW Arm, Green Bay, overland via Gold Cove, White Bay, to Bonne Bay on the west coast. In his report, he does not mention seeing any signs of habitation or development at King's Point, only trees to the water's edge and wildlife ( a bear feeding on the "bill" of the point), and no telegraph lines on his route up the valley from Shoal Pond (then Sandy Pond) to Bonne Bay. On reporting to the Royal Geographic Society , Vol 47, 1877, p. 278, he stated....."should mining adventure extend as auspiciously as it has begun, there is a great future for Newfoundland; that roads and telegraph lines will intersect the present wilderness; that the axe of the lumberer and the lowing of oxen will resound through the forests, and that smiling fields and cheerful villages will replace the desolation of the bygone years."
Even as Robinson was making his journey or shortly thereafter, wheels were being set in motion to bring the telegraph lines to the mining district of Green Bay. According to the 1877 Postmaster General's Report.... "An arrangement has been entered into with the Anglo-American Telegraph Company and contractor Alex W. McKay, for the construction of a branch line from Grand Lake to Bett's Cove and Tilt Cove. As the distance is far, King's Point, Southwest Arm, Green Bay, will be a midway repeating station to Grand Lake." It further stated that: ".... the branch line was completed in 1879, and put into operation in 1880, and built through to Bett's Cove, Tilt Cove, Little Bay, and Pilley's Island (all of which were major mining centers at that time).
In the year 1878 Sir John Henry Glover, the Governor of Newfoundland, decided to visit the interior via Hall's Bay and the Indian River.
Governor Glover and his party reached Indian Pond on the morning of September 27, 1878, and spent the night there, near a lumbering camp, where pine was being cut for the new mill at Springdale. At Indian Pond, they saw the first pole of the new telegraph line which was to connect Bay of Islands to Bett's Cove and Tilt Cove. Incedentially one of the trees they saw cut on the line measured 68 feet 4 inches long, and was cut 3 feet above the ground for a total length of 71 ft. 4 inches! (Sources: Article in Gren Bay News Nov 6, 1974 and Governor Glover's Account of his journey, 1878)
In his report, Gov. Glover states that (in 1878) the land between Green Bay and Bay of Islands was "....Untouched by the hand of man, either by road or railway, except for a telegraph line then in construction to connect the mining district of Green Bay...with Bay of Islands." (Source: Governor Glover's Journey - p. 62, Newfoundland Journey, by Adison Brown, Carlton Press, NY, 1971).
Thus, the King's Point telegraph station and the West Line, linking it to the outside world via Grand Lake and Bay of Islands, played a pivotal and key role in communications between all the mining towns in Green Bay, and the rest of the island, and indeed the world.
In the mid 1880s, a young telegraph operator named michael P. Smart from Harbour Grace, came to King's Point with his family and resided here as resident operator for approximately twenty years, leaving a profound impression on the growing community.Prior to Mr. Smart's tenure, there were several temporary operators at King's Point, but sadly their identities appear lost to history.
Two Early Linesmen
In 1886 or 87, John G. Matthews (1861-1930), who had stowed away on a ship in England and made his way to Newfoundland via New Brunswick, moved to King's Point to work on telegraph line contruction and repair work. Prior to King's Point he had resided at Western Bay, at St Carol's near St. Anthony, and at the "barrens" near Rattling Brook. He settled close to the telegraph office on what was then known as "Little Road Hill" (now "Matthews' Hill"). Matthews married a Theresa Richards (1866-1952), and raised a large family at King's point and has scores, if not hundreds, of descendants in the Green Bay area today. He later moved to Springdale. Both him and his wife are buried in the old Church of England Cemetary, near where he lived at King' s Point.
Matthews' neighbour Thomas Flynn, who was also a telegraph lineman, came from La Manche, Placentia Bay shortly before Mr. Matthews. Mr. Flynn raised his family on the land now inhabited by the Snow/Burt families on Matthews' Hill. The Flynns later moved to Corner Brook, but one landmark helps preserve their memory at King's Point, and that is "Paddy's Brook" named after Thomas Flynn's son, Patrick. They have descendants living in the Corner Brook area today.
The West Line began at what was then known as King's Cove and went up Matthews' Hill, then northwestward toward Bulley's Marsh, then turned west toward Shoal Pond.
Thus King's Point had a telegraph office and services earleir than any other settlement on the northeast coast and central Newfoundland. The telegraph did not come to Springdale until 1880, Fogo and Change Islands in 1881, and Twilllingate in 1885. The old West Line gave King's Point this distinction. It continued in use until 1907, when a new line was built from Bishop's Falls to Springdale, and then to King's Point. This new line was used, up until the contruction of the King's Point highway in the early 1950s, as the main trail linking King's Point with Springdale.
The West Line, then, was amajor contributor to, and played a crucial role in, the birth and first three decades in King's Point's existence and growth as a settled community.
Contributor: Jim Card