The View From Fogo Island

Josiah Waterman

Benson Hewitt
Published on June 17, 2009

Like most people these days, who have computers, I spend a lot of time 'browsing the net' as they say, but in particular I like reading old newspapers, often foreign ones.

Like most people these days, who have computers, I spend a lot of time 'browsing the net' as they say, but in particular I like reading old newspapers, often foreign ones.

I am particularly interested in news item about Newfoundland, and in particular anything about Fogo Island. The other day I was browsing a weekly newspaper called the Weekly Sentinal, published in the State of Indiana, USA. The date of the paper was for January, 1910. I chanced upon an obituary for a man whose name was Waterman, and was surprised to find that he was a resident of Fogo, Newfoundland.

The obituary went on to say that he had died at the home of his son Walter from a complication of the disease, cancer, and that he had lived in the town of Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a few years. He was survived by his widow, his son, and a daughter and that at that time they all lived in Fort Wayne. The obit mentioned the church, the officiant of the burial service, and the time of the service. Of particular interest was the fact that the remains, instead of being buried there, was placed in a receiving vault at a place called Lindenwood, and that they would rest there until the latter part of May when they would be shipped for interment at Fogo, Newfoundland. I wondered who this gentleman was, and thought I would do a little research.

Meanwhile, for no particular reason, I kept browsing other copies of this newspaper. Again, I chanced upon the copy for the 7th of June for the same year. In that edition I found this rather substantial headline Starts Long Trip with Remains of Father. A lesser headline read Body of Josiah Waterman to Be Interred at Fogo, Newfoundland. The article went on to say that Walter Waterman of Lakeside, Indiana, would be accompanying the remains of his father, Josiah, who had died on January 10, 1910, on a journey of 2,700 miles in order that the body might have internment at the old home in Fogo, Newfoundland. The article went on to say that since the funeral services in January, the remains had been in a receiving vault at Lindenwood awaiting the opening of navigation to the north, when the son, Walter, would place the remains of his father aboard the first vessel to make the trip this season.

The write-up said that the older Waterman had been a fish merchant at Fogo and had come to the U.S.A. to consult specialists in Boston. There the doctors had informed him that he was suffering from cancer of the stomach and was beyond human aid. Then at the solicitation of his son Mr. Waterman, instead of returning to Fogo, came to Fort Wayne on a visit and that his death had occurred in January. The paper reported that the journey to Newfoundland would initially be by railway to New York, and thence by steamer to Nova Scotia. At Nova Scotia another steamer would take the body to St. John's, Newfoundland. From there it reported that a system of railroads would then be used to its terminal, and that the final stage of the journey would be made by stage to the town of Fogo, in the northernmost part of the island. It also said that many weeks would be required for this trip.

The article concluded by stating that the remains were encased in a hermetically sealed casket and wrapped in a winding sheet made by members of the family and that had been fashioned after the custom prevailing in Newfoundland. I have never heard of this before, except of reading of in Biblical times. I wondered what this must have cost, and so I went online again to search for his will, and I was lucky, as it was recorded on the Newfoundland's Grand Banks Site. I give it verbatim as recorded in Volume 9 pages 132-133, probate year 1910, Newfoundland Will Books:

Will of Josiah Waterman, deceased:

The last will and Testament of Josiah Waterman of Fogo in the northern District of the Island of Newfoundland. I, Josiah Waterman, considering the uncertainty of this mortal life, and being of sound mind and memory, do make and publish this my last will and testament, in manner and form following, that is to say:

First, after all my just debts are duly paid, I will and bequeath to my wife the interest on nine thousand dollars for her sole use and benefit as long as she remains unmarried; in case of her marriage or death, the principal to be divided between my son Walter and daughter Elizabeth, equally, or in case of their death, to their children on coming of age.

Secondly, whatever other money I may die possessed of, I will to my son Walter and daughter equally, and in case of their death to their children on coming of age.

Thirdly, I wish my wife to have the use of my house, furniture, and gardens, for her sole use and benefit as long as she lives, but in case of her death or marriage, the house to revert to my son, Walter, together with all landed property, but with the furniture, I wish that be equally divided between my son, Walter and daughter, Elizabeth. I further request that should my wife decide to leave the house, to reside elsewhere, she is to give to my son, Walter, due notice, and should he at any time wish to live on the premises he shall be at liberty to do, and build and occupy as he may desire.

Lastly, I constitute and appoint my son Walter and Walter Gard as my executers to carry out the provisions of this my last will and testament, and I request that they shall invest the principal, viz nine thousands dollars for my wife's benefit in the bank of Montreal, Nova Scotia, or in approved debentures as their judgment dictates.