Batteau and Battle

Archival photos from 1920 showcase the changing times.

Batteau in 1920. This image was used as part of a curriculum set at the Labrador East Integrated School Board.  The photograph was originally courtesy of Newton B. Morgan, and captioned as "Batteau 1920 - Boys from Brigus."  It is now in the Labrador Institute Archive's Labrador School Board Collection, Display Print #192.
Batteau in 1920. This image was used as part of a curriculum set at the Labrador East Integrated School Board (Display Print #192), Labrador Institute Archive. Photographer unknown.

Above is a 1920 snapshot of Batteau, a former fishing community not far south of Black Tickle, on the Island of Ponds.  At the time of the photograph, Batteau was on the upswing.  Though the harbour had been known as “Batteau” since at least the 1770s, and was frequented long, long before that by Indigenous cultures, the earliest census of the Labrador coast, in 1857, recorded a population of just three. Even in 1893, Eliot Curwen noted only one “livyer” family, not counting the annual population explosion brought by the schooners every summer, as pictured above.  (Here you can see another photo of the community taken by Curwen, as uploaded by archaeologist Laura Kelvin and included in her 2011 thesis.)

By 1921, however, Batteau had a population of 33 people (according to the census records), and a postal station and Anglican Church (see page 145 of the Encylopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, via Memorial’s Digital Archives Initiative).

Nonetheless, no one lives year-round at Batteau now.  The population would ultimately peak at 95 in 1966, the very year that the community was resettled.


Battle Harbour, 25 July 1920.  Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Collection. Labrador Institute Archive Image #658.
Battle Harbour, 25 July 1920. Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Collection. Labrador Institute Archive Image #658.

Our second image is of Battle Harbour, the very nearest community to Batteau (alphabetically speaking, anyway!), also one hundred years ago. There are many more spectacular shots out there of Battle Harbour’s land- and seascapes; but this historical image has a special interest too.  Take a look at that wheelbarrow in the centre.  These men have been offloading coal!  That is certainly not a common sight these days, even in the beautifully restored properties (which I can personally recommend as absolutely worth a visit).

Battle Harbour, 25 July 1920. Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Collection. Labrador Institute Archive Image #661.

Finally, as a companion-piece to the previous image, here is another, more often-recorded historical Battle Harbour sight: dried cod being loaded, perhaps onto the very ship that brought the coal.  Both photographs were taken on the same day: July 25, 1920.

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