After visiting Heart’s Content and getting ready to head back to town, locals always remind me to, “Be careful on the Barrens!” The Heart’s Content Barrens hold a narrow stretch of road that lies on a stark landscape, exposed on all sides. Despite its possible dangers, this road is an important throughway that links Heart’s Content and Carbonear. The Barrens are a place where you wouldn’t want to get stranded for any length of time, particularly in a blizzard, or in the cold of night.
Below is a list of mid-19th century casualties that occurred along the Heart’s Content Barrens during winter. It was compiled by Ted Rowe for his book Heroes and Rogues and the Story of Heart’s Content (2011). This list of lives lost is a reminder that even those who are most familiar with an area can be susceptible to the extreme conditions we sometimes have in this province.
Lives Lost on the Road to Carbonear 1844-1860
January 26, 1844, William Hanrahan, M.D. of Carbonear found dead after attempting to make his way home in a snowstorm from a picnic on the Barrens. The Sentinel and Conception Bay Advisor February 1, 1844.
January 3, 1850, James Broders of Heart’s Content, a ”quite inoffensive old man” and “a teetotaler for upwards of five years” found dead near the side of the road after a severe blizzard. Broders had guided travelers across the Barrens for more than 30 years. Weekly Herald and Conception Bay Advertiser, January 16, 1854
March 22, 1854, Two poor men named Scott and Grant perished in a “terrific smothering storm” about five miles from Heart’s Content. They had gone to Harbour Grace for relief and were returning home each with a bag of meal. The Harbour Grace Herald, March 29, 1854
March 21, 1860, The body of Eliza Underhay, widow of Richard Underhay and daughter of William Hanrahan, found afloat in Powell’s Brook about a mile inland from the bridge. She had left Harbour Grace “in a low desponding state of mind” to walk across the Barrens on January 20 and was not seen after. The Harbour Grace Standard and Conception Bay Advertiser, March 28, 1860.
Accompanying photograph depicts Newfoundland barrens in winter from the Rooms Provincial Archives, VA93-89.
Contributed by Lisa Wilson