A brief history of the Argentia parish - Defended

by Olive Power

 First of all, I thank the owner of this website, Mr. Brian Hennessey, for providing me space to outline the sources for my article, "Argentia RC Parish", and for giving me the opportunity to respond to the criticism of this article that appears on the www.argentia.org website, which, although claiming an affiliation with an organization named the "Argentia Historical Trust and Research Foundation", is actually registered to Edward Lake, as both owner and administrator.

My article, one of the 26 that Lake's website targets, is a brief history of the church at Freshwater, not Argentia, but since the parish originated at Argentia I did a brief account of the beginning of the parish for the "Freshwater – Come Home Year 2002" book.

In his introduction Lake states, "...it is a critical analysis and repudiation of the erroneous work they made public through various means for personal satisfaction or monetary gain." He defends his actions by saying "... they left themselves open to such close scrutiny when they took it upon themselves to publicly propagate false information about the history of Argentia and famous events associated with it." He also says, "If you feel any information on this website is not accurate please do not challenge it with quotes from any of the sources whose information is being repudiated in this section."

Even though Lake says he doesn't want any challenges to his information, I want to share with you the documents I used to support my article. I named my sources, but to spare the readers from boredom I did not explain in depth any of my research nor the pros and cons of it, although I did note that conflicting information was found in one of my sources. But since everything that I wrote has been called in to question by Lake, I will elaborate on my research for those who have an interest in local history, and I will include a list of my sources at the end to this document.

Lake also states in his introduction, "In referencing any non-quoted information from argentia.org, you may feel assured that it is accurate", and in his page attacking me he includes "the ensuing presentation contains the complete history of Holy Rosary Parish as it existed in Argentia and Freshwater". Neither of these claims stands up under examination.

The offending webpage is titled "Misconceptions and Fabrications Propagated by Olive Power and the Red Island Website". All information quoted from that page was there on June 1, 2007, exactly as shown here. Items in blue italics are quoted from that webpage.

Lake lists 17 "supposed" errors in my information and other "[sic]" notations. I will address those 17 points and provide the documentation that supports what I wrote.

To avoid confusion, I use Argentia instead of the original name Little Placentia, the name of the community during the time of Father Nowlan.

1. Contrary to Power's statement, documentation of the exact date of the establishment of Holy Rosary Parish does exist. Also there is plenty of evidence of Father Nowlan being in Little Placentia long before 1835. A check of parish records at Placentia, St. John's, and BIS files at Harbour Grace and Carbonear will verify that fact.

Although Lake "says" that he has a great deal of proof, he does not provide any. His references to the parish records at Placentia, St. John's, and BIS files at Harbour Grace and Carbonear are puzzling, since these records counter everything he says. A check of the parish records at Placentia shows that the first time Father P. Nowlan's name appears in a baptism record is January 19, 1852. The Harbour Grace records show Father Nowlan administered his first baptism there on August 26, 1831, which is after the date Lake states that he had already started a parish at Argentia, and the records show Father Nowlan's name appearing consistently in the Harbour Grace parish records throughout 1831, 1832, 1833, 1834 and 1835, and for the last time in a baptism record at Holyrood (part of the Harbour Grace parish at that time) on May 20, 1835. [The Argentia records begin three weeks later.] Father Nowlan is listed as one of the three priests serving the Harbour Grace district during that time period. Minutes of the Benevolent Irish Society of Harbour Grace from 1832 note Father Nowlan's presence there on March 17, 1832, as well as on other dates. Other sources indicate he also served on the Board of Health in that area in 1834. Lake seems to think, at least he portrays it that way, that these references to Father Nowlan at the BIS at Harbour Grace somehow prove he was at Argentia!

I want to add here that in 1835, as it still was in 1840, travel between Conception Bay and Argentia was more than a challenge, it was nearly impossible. "The Patriot" [a Newfoundland newspaper - 1841] details an account of Father James Walsh's "superhuman" trek from Carbonear to Placentia from December 12, 1840 to January 2, 1841, to take over as parish priest of Placentia. [Father James Walsh was parish priest at Placentia from 1841 to 1845.] The article details how "Father Walsh was determined to reach his parish as quickly as possible, especially in view of the fact that Advent was under way and Christmas was near. He set out on foot from Carbonear in what was a near superhuman endeavour of crossing the uncharted, trackless Avalon Peninsula". Describing it as "an almost impassable wilderness of thick forest undergrowth, intermixed with bog, swamp, and thick clusters of brooks, ponds and lakes." His walking was so difficult that when he reached Spaniard's Bay that evening he was exhausted. The article recounts the walk to New Harbour, Chapel Arm and across the peninsula, and says he "straggled" in to Long Harbour for a brief rest and then continued on to Placentia. It took him three weeks, and even considering the fact that it was winter, it still illustrates that there were no roads from Carbonear to Argentia. It defies logic that Father Nowlan was serving all the communities in Conception Bay, right up to Holyrood, from a parish at Argentia.

2. Holy Rosary Parish was not established in 1935, as claimed by Olive Power.

I assume that Lake means 1835, rather than 1935, for the establishment of the parish.

The Little Placentia records began in June 1835 and a "posthumous sketch" (biography) of Father Nowlan written by his relative, Thomas Freeman, in February 1, 1871, says the priest came to Newfoundland in 1831 and "officiated 4 years in Harbour Grace from thence to Placentia Bay" and it also states "...have cause to mourn his loss who for 36 years amongst them laboured". [Link to Thomas Freeman's biographical sketch of Father Nowlan]  The Harbour Grace records support the fact that Father Nowlan was at Harbour Grace until 1835. An article on the "County Wexford Priests in Newfoundland" also supports the establishment of the Little Placentia parish as 1835. Lake's claim of 1831 is not supported by credible documentation.

Indeed, there is secondary research stating that Little Placentia parish began in 1831, and this is what Lake used to support his case. In "The Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland", M. F. Howley quotes it as 1831 from a document "supposedly" written in 1832. On page 266, Howley says it is in 1832, but on page 322 says it is in 1835. In examining these passages, I (and others as well) found that Howley was referring to one source document written by Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming to de Propaganda Fide, detailing his journey around Newfoundland in 1835. [Propaganda Fide is the department of the Vatican responsible for overseeing the church in missionary countries. Newfoundland fell under its jurisdiction until early in the twentieth century. Its head, called the Prefect, was Cardinal Fransoni during the time of Bishop Fleming, and its secretary was Cardinal Mai.] Howley refers to this account of Bishop Fleming's 1835 journey, published on September 10, 1836 in letters to "The London and Dublin Orthodox Journal", with the title "Catholic Mission of Newfoundland - Letter IV". The presentation of this particular text as being from 1832 is an obvious error.

Lake sites this second paragraph of page 266 of Howley as proof of the establishment of a parish at Little Placentia. [The preceding line of this quote referring to Father Nowlan ends with "... aged eighty years."]

Vicar Apostolic Fleming, in an account of his visitation to Little Placentia in August 1832, wrote:

"Monday 23rd. We got into Little Placentia ... where we had the pleasure of meeting the Reverend Mr Nowlan, who had been lately appointed to that District and it afforded me the sincerest satisfaction to find that both here and in Great Placentia his congregation were loud in praise of his exertions to afford them the comforts of religion."

If Lake had taken the time to read the book, instead of just using two isolated quotes, he would have seen this same "word for word" account on page 322, describing the bishop's 1835 trip, the passage [being quoted from the original text] even makes the same error by saying on Monday the 23rd [really the 24th because in the preceding paragraph it says on Sunday the 23rd of August]. According to the perpetual calendar, August 23rd fell on Thursday in 1832, not Sunday or Monday, but August 23rd was a Sunday in 1835. This mention in Howley is an error repeatedly referenced as factual by many writers who use this as their only source.

Lake uses both passages as proof (one for proof of 1832 and the other for proof of 1835) without examining the source document and realising it is from one prime source. It is important to note that many of these transcripts were hand written and then likely typed by others years later. In the case of Bishop Howley, he translated the original documents from Latin, perhaps referring to these translations months later, in an effort to compile a church history, which must have taken him a number of years. Even though his book has errors, it is still one of the best sources on the early history of the Catholic Church in Newfoundland. Other secondary sources site this same quote from Bishop Howley. Monsignor Thomas (later Bishop) Flynn, a native of Placentia, wrote extensively on the Placentia parish and quoted a great deal from Howley. His articles were published in 1936 in the "Newfoundland Quarterly" and reprinted in the "St. Bride's College Yearbook" of 1940. In the 1936 publication he states that Father P. Nowlan served Placentia parish from 1834 to 1839, and in the reprint it says 1830 to 1839. Obviously these dates conflict. Monsignor Flynn was undoubtably using the only sources available to him at that time. In both of these cases, the margin for error would be fairly high. A listing of priests available at the Sacred Heart Church [Placentia] parish office reflects these dates, but primary documents do not always support all the timelines on these lists.

Lake also claims that Father Nowlan was at Placentia in 1831, but as stated above, the first time Father P. Nowlan's name appears in a baptism record of Placentia parish is January 19, 1852. The Argentia records show that Father Nowlan administered the sacraments to the people from Placentia during a five-year span from 1835 to 1840. Names such as Luke Collins, Robert/Robin Paterson [Patterson], and John Lannon appear in the marriage and baptism records of Argentia parish, and never after that time frame. These same names are listed in the Sweetman Journals of 1840 (and some prior to that date) and their addresses are noted as being of Placentia and Southeast Arm, indicating that Father Nowlan was entering the names of the people of Placentia parish in the Argentia records during the 1835 to 1840 time period.

After the death of Father Andrew Cleary in 1829 [parish priest of Placentia 1808 - 1829 and buried there], Father William Herron (also spelled Hearn) was appointed to Placentia and, according to his obituary in the "Newfoundlander" October 18, 1838, he died there in October 1838. Prior to that he was a curate at Placentia, and with Father Nicholas Devereaux, served on the Burin Peninsula and beyond, which was under Placentia parish. Bishop Fleming to de Propaganda Fide notes the state of Father Herron's mental health, saying he suffered from a "mental malady". This gives cause to reflect on a probable reason why Father Nowlan from Argentia parish was administering Placentia parish during part of Father Herron's tenure. This is also supported in a document written by Bishop Raymond Lahey, who has written five books and numerous articles on the Newfoundland Catholic church, and is considered by many to be an expert on Newfoundland church history:

"Herron seems to have remained at Burin until after the death in 1829 of Father Cleary, when he succeeded to the office of parish priest of Placentia. However, by 1830, Herron's powers were failing. Fleming described him still as "indefatigable" but noted that he lacked prudence. Later the bishop said that Herron already had been afflicted by a mental illness. This condition allowed him to fulfil his duties only rarely, and for several years he had to be assisted by a curate, Edmond Doyle. In 1833 Burin became a separate parish, and in 1835 Father Pelagius Nowlan took effective control of the Placentia area. Herron's death came three years later."

The Placentia records note a few entries by Father Herron during his tenure as curate [1822], and then nothing until Father James Walsh (his trek to Placentia recorded in the "The Patriot" as outlined above) took over the parish early in January 1841. Besides Father Nowlan, Rev. Edmund Doyle, Rev. Denis Mackin, the parish priest of Brigus, and Rev. Edward Morison, curate at St. John's in 1830 (and died at St. John's in 1831), are mentioned as helping at Placentia for brief periods after 1830, in what Monsignor Thomas Flynn called "An Uncertain Period".

3. Father Nowlan was not a curate in Harbour Grace for four years.

The Harbour Grace parish records show that Father Nowlan consistently administered the sacraments to the people of Conception Bay for four years, from August 26, 1831 to May 20, 1835 inclusive. Other historical documents identify Father Nowlan as a participant at meetings at Harbour Grace and Carbonear during that time period.

4. The term "lately" was widely used in Newfoundland for any period less than ten years, depending on the point that was being made. Even today, there are people living in the Placentia area for much more than ten years and they are still referred as "not from here" or "came here lately."

I am unaware that Mr. Lake is an expert in the vernacular, so I will leave this statement to the readers to decide on its credibility. But if documents show that Father Nowlan performed his last baptism at Holyrood on May 20, 1835 and performed his first baptism at Little Placentia on June 14, 1835, and Bishop Fleming visited him there on August 23rd of that year, it would not be necessary to explain "lately appointed", since it is clearly understood.

5. Not all of the communities that were part of Holy Rosary Parish were listed.

Holy Rosary Parish covered a vast area and was the largest parish in Newfoundland at the time. It consisted of Little Placentia, Fox Harbour, Ship Harbour, Iona (Ram's Island), Long Harbour, Isle au Valen (now "Isle Valen" on official maps of Newfoundland), Marticot Island, Mussel Harbour (later Port Royal), Oderin, and Red Island.

I said: "Red Island, Fox Harbour, Iona (Rams Island), Ship Harbour, Long Harbour, and Mussel Harbour (Port Royal) were all once part of Argentia Parish."

Lake says that Oderin was part of Holy Rosary Parish at Argentia. But Oderin was actually part of Burin parish, and Burin became a separate parish in 1833, becoming independent from Placentia parish. So Oderin was never under Argentia parish. In support of this, the parish register from Argentia has only one entry naming Oderin, and that for the baptism of a child whose father was from Oderin and whose mother was from Fox Harbour (they had been married in the Argentia church). Other than the names of McGrath and Murphy, who were originally from Argentia, the register rarely mentions any "Oderin" names, such as Abbott, Drake, Jarvis, Lake and Mullett. Isle au Valen was also served by Burin parish, and neither Marticot Island nor Isle au Valen are mentioned in the Argentia records.

The boundaries of Argentia Parish changed in 1916. In a letter dated April 24, 1916 to Father Pippy from the Bishop, on file at the Roman Catholic Archives in St. John's, the Bishop offers Father Pippy his choice of parishes - Argentia or Pouch Cove. In that letter the Bishop writes: "Argentia is being divided and a portion added to the parish of Bar Haven. The Parish of Argentia in future will consist of Argentia Proper, Fox Harbour, Ship Harbour and Red Island, with a population of 1800. I may add that there is a debt of approximately $5,000.00 on the Parish." History shows that Father Pippy did not choose Argentia Parish.

The statement that Holy Rosary covered a vast area and was the largest parish in Newfoundland, either geographically or population wise, at any time, is certainly questionable.

In the 1820s Burin was under Placentia parish and served by Father Nicholas Devereux and Father William Herron. When Father Cleary died at Placentia, Father Herron was assigned to Placentia, and Father Devereux continued on in Burin. When Father Devereux moved to the parish at King's Cove on the Bonavista peninsula, Father Michael Berney, who came to Newfoundland with Father Nowlan in 1831, took over Burin parish. The story goes that the old priest [Father Berney] liked to tell of the answer Bishop Fleming gave him when asked to define the boundaries of Burin parish: "My Dear Father Berney," said the Bishop, "you can go to Placentia Bay, take your departure from Merasheen Head, and go west as far as you like, or as far as you may be able." And according to Fleming's report to de Propaganda Fide in 1843, "Father Berney travelled yearly all over Fortune and Hermitage Bays, attended the Indian settlements, and built handsome chapels in St. Lawrence, Lawn, Beaubois and Oderin." In Bishop Fleming's 1835 account of his travels, he describes the Burin parish: "Burin is the last ecclesiastical district to the westward; it commences from Little Paradise, in Placentia Bay, and runs down southward to Cape Chapeau Rouge, which, with Cape St. Mary's to the east, forms the entrance to Placentia Bay, being there sixteen leagues and a half wide. From Cape Chapeau Rouge it strikes to the westward as far as Cape Ray, and from Cape Ray runs again north even to Belle Isle in the Straits." Burin was a very large parish geographically, covering hundreds of miles, and Harbour Grace and St. John's parishes were much larger in population than Holy Rosary Parish.

6. The gravesite at Freshwater was not initially laid out in a "cruciform arrangement."


I was quoting from eyewitness accounts. I am unaware that the graves at Freshwater were exhumed and then re-interred, again. The graves are now in a cruciform arrangement.

7. All the misconceptions in the section written by Brother Foran are repudiated in the section "Misconceptions and Fabrications of Brother Foran". Refer to that section for the correct information.

I quoted complete text and identified the author.

8. Father Dee's age at the time of death was 56 according to Brother Foran and 55 according to Olive Power. It is unusual to have one writer contradicting another in the same article without the primary writer making reference as to the reason why. Otherwise, it leaves the reader confused.

 I was quoting verbatim from two separate sources and I give my readers more credit than to be confused.

9. Father Dee was not born in 1896, and that can be verified in the Archdiocese of St. John's records and Department of Vital Statistics.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's Archives supplied the biography and I did not take it upon myself to edit or comment on their information. Besides, I had three sources for Father Dee's age: his biography, his memory card and his headstone. Although his headstone says he was born in May 1895 and died in December 1951, his memory card says he died in 1951 "in the 56th year of his age" and the "33rd year of his priesthood". We can all agree that he had not reached his 33rd anniversary of his priesthood at the time of his death, so it could certainly also imply that he had not reached his 56th birthday. Since the biography could certainly agree with the memory card, it is still an obvious choice.

Father Dee's memory card, published shortly after his death, states:

In memory of Very Reverend A. J. Dee, P.P.
who died at Freshwater, Placentia Bay, Nfld.
December 28th, 1951 in the 56th year of his age,
and the 33rd year of his priesthood.

Contrary to what Lake says, the Archdiocese of St. John’s records and the Basilica Baptism records [the single source of Vital Statistics in this case] show Adrian Joyce Dee was born on 24th May, 1896 to Jeremiah Dee and Teresa Cronan of Allen Square, St. John’s. He was baptised by Father M. J. Ryan, with James Davis and Mary Christopher as sponsors. Lake sites sources that actually support what I say, while telling his readers that they support what he says; by doing this Lake discredits his own research and shows a disregard for the truth.

10. Michael Thomas Fleming was Vicar-Apostolic of Newfoundland, not bishop, when he first went to Ireland in 1830 to recruit priests for Newfoundland.

 This statement is contradicted by numerous academic sources, including Archdiocese of St. John's, J. B. Darcy, M. F. Howley, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, etc.

Brother J. B. Darcy in "Fire Upon the Earth" says:

"Bishop Scallan's health was delicate. He seems to have suffered a series of strokes and spent long periods in Europe for the sake of his health. By 1827, his health was rapidly deteriorating. He asked Propaganda File for a coadjutor, but without success. In September of the following year, he wrote again, suggesting Father Fleming for the position. This time, he was more successful and on July 10, 1829, Father Fleming was consecrated Bishop of Carpasia and coadjutor to Bishop Scallan with the right of succession"

The following is quoted from Bishop Howley:

"On Bishop Scallan's recommendation Pope Pius VIII appointed Fleming titular Bishop of Carpasia and coadjutor to Scallan on July 10, 1829. The new bishop [Fleming] was consecrated in St John's on 28 October 1929. Scallan himself lived just seven months more, and Fleming automatically succeeded him as vicar apostolic and Bishop of Newfoundland on 28 May 1830."

[When a bishop is ordained without a diocese to govern, he is assigned a diocese which is no longer in existence, such as Carpasia, once the diocese of Cyprus. According to Howley, Bishop Fleming named his cottage and little farm, situated about a mile in the country, "Carpasia". Carpasian Road still runs through that area today. A Vicar-apostolic is a bishop appointed by the Pope to function in a territory that has not yet been established as a diocese. Fleming was already a "bishop" when he was appointed Vicar-apostolic.]

If Lake read any historical documents and accounts of "Bishop" Fleming, he would see that Michael Anthony Fleming (not Michael Thomas Fleming as Lake states), was consistently called "Bishop Fleming" after he was appointed the titular Bishop of Carpasia in 1829.

And repeating "Vicar Apostolic Fleming" over and over doesn't make it correct, but does make the writing style tedious.

11. Further proof of Pelagius Nowlan's time of ordination is located in an archdiocese entry on Reverend James McKenna. It reads "He was one of the five young men who volunteered for the North American Missions; more specifically, Newfoundland. He was one of five priests ordained by Bishop [sic] Fleming while he was on his second recruiting trip to Ireland in 1833. The first one was just after he became bishop [sic] in 1830, at which time he recruited Father Pelagius Nowlan and Father Edward Troy. [sic] Whoever recorded the preceding entry was in error by referring to Fleming as "bishop" when his title at the time was vicar apostolic.

 The above quote by Lake, about Bishop Fleming ordaining Father Nowlan, is yet another perplexing pronouncement. Lake sites this entry as "further proof of Pelagius Nowlan's time of ordination". What does he mean? This quote is referring to Bishop Fleming's recruiting trip to Ireland in 1830-31, and again in 1833. Lake says on his website that Nowlan was ordained on Friday, June 16, 1820, not in 1831, a fact that he does not substantiate, but here he seems to be saying something altogether different.

The reference sited above by Lake is about Fleming recruiting in Ireland, and comes from pages 265, 266 and 267 of "The Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland", and here Howley lists the priests who came over with Bishop Fleming in 1831. The list includes: Rev. Edward Troy, Rev. Pelagius Nowlan, Fr. Charles Dalton, O.S.F., Fr. Keilly (who returned to Ireland), Fr. Edward Murphy (who died in 1832), and Fr. Michael Berney. It does not support anything Lake says about Father Nowlan's ordination.

According to Rev. P. Birch in "St. Kieran's College Kilkenny", in the Birchfield books [Birchfield was the location of the St. Kieran's College campus from 1814-1838] "Michael Bearney and Morgan Nowlan" entered the seminary there in 1827. [See information on Father Nowlan's first name below, following the 17 points.] Since this was the final part of their seminarian study and since Father Berney was ordained in St. John's on September 24, 1831 by Fleming, it stands to reason that Father Nowlan was ordained earlier in 1831 in Ireland, as stated by Kevin Whelan [see note below], making Father Nowlan nearly forty years old if he was born in 1792, as also stated by Whelan. And this is unusually old to be ordained.

In Thomas Freeman's biographical sketch he says Father Nowlan left the farm at age 27 and studied at Tullow, at New Ross and Cashel, and at Wexford, before he went to St. Kieran's [Birchfield] to complete his theological studies [1827 - 1831]. At New Ross and Cashel he studied under the Mahar brothers, who were noted Latin teachers, so this training would have been of a pre-seminarian nature with the study of logic at Wexford perhaps part of his actual seminarian education. If he actually was born when Thomas Freeman says [and according to his headstone] Morgan Nowlan would have been 39 years old by the time he entered St. Kieran's in 1827 and 43 years old by the time he arrived in Newfoundland. This would mean he studied for 12 years after leaving the farm, and even taking into account that he needed to attend secondary school and learn Latin, and with six years in the seminary, it still brings into question if all the information included in Thomas Freeman's sketch is correct.

In any event there is considerable evidence that Father Nowlan entered Birchfield in 1827 and was ordained in 1831.

And the "whoever" Lake refers to above is Bishop Howley and he was not in error in referring to Fleming as "bishop" when his title at the time was vicar apostolic because Fleming was consecrated as bishop in 1829 and Bishop Howley would have been well aware of that fact.

[Dr. Kevin Whelan is one of Ireland's best known and widely published scholars. A native of County Wexford, Ireland, he received his doctorate from University College Dublin in 1981. He subsequently was awarded a Travelling Studentship from the National University of Ireland which he held at Memorial University, Newfoundland, where his area of study was County Wexford Priests in Newfoundland. Father Pelagius Nowlan was one of the priests profiled by Dr. Whelan, and it is that biography on Father Nowlan, published in the Wexford Historical Society Journal in the article "County Wexford Priests in Newfoundland", that I used for both the Freshwater Book and on this website in the Argentia History section.]

12. Father Pelagius Nowlan was not born in 1792.

Conflicting information exists about the date of Father Nowlan's birth. The 1792 date was stated in Kevin Whelan's biography of Father Nowlan, while Bishop Howley wrote that Father Nowlan died in 1871 at age eighty years. At the time that I wrote the article for the Freshwater book I also had two obituaries which appeared in 1871 in both the "Newfoundlander" on January 11th, and the "Morning Chronicle" on January 17th. Both obituaries read the same as follows:

"On Saturday last January 7th (1871) at Little Placentia, after a lingering illness borne with truly Christian resignation to the Divine Will, Rev. Pelagius Nowlan P. P. in his 87th year - about 40 years in Newfoundland. Deceased was a native of Killrush, County Wexford, Ireland."

With so many different dates, I used the one provided by the Archdiocese of St. John's written by Dr. Kevin Whelan, who is one of Ireland's best known and widely published scholars. I felt that the source was reliable.

In reading Thomas Freeman's letter it is now clear that the information that he says he sent to the press did not correspond with what actually appeared in the newspapers. The copy of the biography of Father Nowlan that he sent to Bishop Power clearly states he died in the 84th year of his age and on January 6th, contrary to what was published. While this information seems to rule out the 87th year of age at death, it does show what Thomas Freeman wrote also appears on the headstone "died on January 6, 1871" and states he was in his 84th year, implying he was born in either 1787 or 1788. [Link to Thomas Freeman's letter regarding the death of Father Nowlan]

As far as Lake's statement that Father Nowlan was "Born in 1787 (exact date not in records) not in 1784, 1786, 1790 or 1792." , which claim is based on Lake's information from Nowlan's original headstone [no longer in existence], stating that Nowlan died January 6,1871 "aged 84". Simple subtraction leads one to 1787 - but - only if he was actually born on January 1,2,3,4,5 or 6, otherwise he'd need to have been born in 1786. And the replacement headstone says "in his 84th year", not the same thing at all, and would probably indicate 1787 - unless he was born January 1,2,3,4,5 or 6, in which case it would be 1788. But all of this assumes that the age at death, one or the other of them, on his headstones is correct. Since Lake refers to the headstone, and the original one said "aged 84", that would almost certainly have him born in 1786 (359 chances out of 365). Lake's claim that Father Nowlan died at 84 years does not prove he was born in 1787, since as he says "(exact date not in records)", meaning he does not know the priest's date of birth. And besides that there are still two other sources that state otherwise. I have been unable to confirm the sources used by Dr. Whelan and Bishop Howley. So with sources differing in the case of Father Nowlan's date of birth, it still remains a mystery as to the exact date.

13. Father Nowlan was not "unusually old (being almost forty)" when he was ordained to the priesthood.


If Father Nowlan was born in 1787, as Lake says, and he entered the final stage of his "documented" seminarian training at Birchfield in 1827, he would have been 44 years old when he was ordained. In support of his own "theory" on Father Nowlan's date of ordination, Lake presents as factual an account of Father Nowlan's 25th anniversary and describes in detail a 50th anniversary celebration. Both are total fabrications. His story and my response are provided in the next section, following the 17 points.

14. The statement that Father Nowlan "steered well clear of the political and denominational broils in which some of his colleagues immersed themselves" is not true and there are a significant number of government and court records to prove it.


Lake quotes from "one" squabble involving Great and Little Placentia stemming from an old Irish feud. Lake makes the case that Father Nowlan was known as a "Faction Fighter", contradicting the information from his biography stating that he "... steered well clear of the political and denominational broils in which some of his colleagues immersed themselves." Clearly the case he sites does not have anything to do with either a denominational broil (since both sides were Catholics) or politics. Although the skirmish Lake lists involving Father Nowlan is well documented, there are no records of him being directly involved in the numerous political disputes in Newfoundland of that era. Father Nowlan was unlike his colleague Father Edward Troy, who came to Newfoundland with him in 1831. Father Troy was involved in public fights with Protestants, political leaders, and his own parishioners, who supported other political candidates, the so-called "Mad Dog Catholics". In November 1840 Pope Gregory XVI, yielding to pressure from the British government, ordered Bishop Fleming to banish the priest Edward Troy from the island of Newfoundland. Bishop Fleming complied by sending him off the island of Newfoundland and on to the island of Merasheen in Placentia Bay.

Father Michael Walsh (1830–1871) [sic] of Sacred Heart Parish in Great Placentia was from Mooncoin in County Kilkenny and he disliked people from County Wexford. Hogan (first name not in files) [sic] was from County Wexford, but neither of the two priests liked him because of his "tactlessness and ruthless business practices."

Lake records the year of the fight correctly as being 1845, but notes Father Michael Walsh (1830-1871), meaning he would be 15 years old at the time. The priest's name was not Michael Walsh but James Walsh. He also says Hogan (first name not in files), but the full names are in the records, Patrick Hogan and Father James Walsh.

15. Although Father Dee's appointment to Holy Rosary Parish was announced on January 1, 1922, he did not occupy the position at that time.

 The biography said he was "appointed" on January 1, 1922.

16. Father Nowlan was in Argentia more than 35 years and there is plenty of documentation to prove it.

 According to Thomas Freeman's sketch, Father Nowlan was 36 years in Little Placentia. In the last few months of his life, when he was ill, it was likely Father Dunphy had taken over his duties in the parish. The Harbour Grace parish records from 1831 to 1835 and the Little Placentia parish records from 1835 to 1871 also support this information.

The information provided on the argentia.org website about the start of the first parish is incorrect and as usual no documentation is provided. Lake's research is very narrow and lacks crediblity because he does not site any documents to support any of what he says. Actual historical documents prove his information is without substance.

17. When he tried to change the name of Freshwater, Father Dee put forth more names than "New Argentia."

 I did not say New Argentia was the only name presented, I said "The early entries of 1942 list "New Argentia" as the name of the "moved" parish - a name that did not endure." I was referring to four entries in the parish register during April of 1942, three by Father Dee noting "N Argentia" and one by Father Hunt noting "New Argentia". History shows the name did not endure.


The following points made on the argentia.org website are not in the list above but are included in Lake's commentary on the church and refer to my article.

Father Nowlan was reared at Kilrush in County Wexford, Ireland. His very religious parents gave him the unusual first name in honor of Pope Pelagius I, the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church from 556 to 561.

 An examination of early records shows that Father Nowlan's name was actually Morgan Nowlan, and he was not named in honour of any particular "Pelagius", as Lake claims. It is unclear when Father Nowlan changed to using the Latin version of his name. It may have been at his ordination, since priests, like the religious orders, often took another name in their religious life. It seems that Father Nowlan began using the Latin version of his name early in his priesthood, but he continued to use Morgan as his legal name, signing his name as M.R. Nowlan. Father Nowlan witnessed Father Ewer's will at Harbour Grace on June 23, 1833, signing Morgan Nowlan. In the Argentia records (still known as Little Placentia at that time), the baptisms of John Bradshaw on August 24, 1835, Mary Bradshaw on February 26, 1837, and Peter Murphy on June 21, 1837, have the name Morgan Nowlan appearing as a witness in all three. From June 14, 1835 through June 17, 1837, the name of the officiating clergyman on all baptisms and marriages appears as "M. Nowlan". In a letter concerning Father Nowlan's death in 1871, Thomas Freeman, Father Nowlan's cousin and fellow resident of Argentia, wrote about the priest, referring to him as Morgan. Accounts from minutes of meetings at Harbour Grace refer to him only as Father Nowlan. The Argentia parish records show that sometime during 1837 he dropped using his legal name, M. Nowlan, changing to P.Nowlan. It is interesting to note that his patron, Saint Morgan of Wales, also began using the Latin version of Morgan, "Pelagius", later in his life.

On Monday, June 16, 1845, he marked his Silver Jubilee with a high Mass and a reception that was sponsored by his parishioners. Vicar Apostolic Fleming went to Little Placentia especially for the occasion. The priest he recruited in Ireland a fifteen years earlier had become a personal friend, so he concelebrated Mass with him to mark the special occasion.


Not only are there no indications from the Argentia records that Bishop Fleming attended a 25th anniversary for Father Nowlan in 1845, as Lake claims, but information provided by Larry Dohey, archivist for the Archdiocese of St. John's, indicates that according to their records Bishop Fleming was not even in Newfoundland at that time:

– Bishop Fleming departed St. John's for Europe on December 29, 1844.

– This trip was necessitated by the state of his health. The trip is reported in the newspaper the COURIER on January 3, 1845.

– Fleming is in London - on April 26, 1845 - we have a letter to Fleming from a Thomas Murphy - addressed to Fleming in London - concerning the shipment of stone for the Cathedral.

– Fleming returned to St. John's on August 30, 1845. His return is reported in the COURIER on September 1, 1845.

– On September 5, 1845 in an address to the BIS Bishop Fleming refers to the "long and tedious absence - difficulties and inconveniences by which it has been marked ... health comparatively restored."

Father Nowlan celebrated his Golden Jubilee by concelebrating a high Mass with Father Richard Condon of Sacred Heart Parish in Great Placentia on Thursday, June 16, 1870. Normally, the bishop of St. John's Diocese would have attended the ceremony for such an important event in a priest's life, but there was no bishop in St. John's at that time. Bishop John T. Mullock had died on April 29, 1869 and his successor, Right Reverend Bishop Thomas J. Power, did not arrive in St. John's until September 9, 1870. According to stories that were passed down through Holy Rosary parishioners, Father Nowlan was weak and had to sit through much of that special Mass. His parishioners arranged a reception in the parish hall immediately after Mass so that everyone could convey his/her congratulations and best wishes.


This too is a very strange story but very typical of those told by Lake on his website. Father Edward (not Richard) Condon, parish priest of Placentia died on January 26, 1870. He is buried at Placentia cemetery in section C-1 Row 4. And Father Nowlan actually helped out at Placentia parish after Father Condon's death. He performed baptisms at Placentia parish on May 28, 1870.

Father Dee's parents were "refined" people. In those days, that meant they were educated, well dressed, and they presented themselves as being a step above the ordinary folk. They both read literature, especially the poetic genre. His mother's favorite poet was Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) who wrote under the name Joyce Kilmer. When their first son was born, they chose his middle name for his mother's favorite poet.

 This is an example of many of the statements that Lake presented as facts. Even though he notes the dates for Kilmer, he seems to ignore the fact that Joyce Kilmer was born in December of 1886, and so was only 9 or 10 years old when Father Dee was born in either 1895 or 1896. Kilmer was not a published boy poet, his first book of poetry wasn't published until 1911, and his most famous book, including the poem "Trees", didn't appear until 1914, when Adrian Joyce Dee was already a young man.

Olive Power listed eight names as being parish priests, nine as assistant priests, and five as alternate priests in Argentia.

 Lake also takes issue with my listing of names of priests. I collected this information from files provided by the owner of this site, Brian Hennessey, who extensively researched the Argentia records, recording every baptism and marriage. Mr. Hennessey produced a database that collated all the priests and the dates of every entry listed for each of them. I noted the dates and names of the priests who recorded baptisms and marriages, and assumed the dates indicated their tenure in the parish. Lake takes issue with the extra priests assigned to Argentia, ignoring my reference stating that many other clergymen showed up sporadically (one baptism or marriage) in the records. And he fails to mention several others that appear. For the sake of brevity and reader interest, I did not include them all and noted that.

Lake's list of "parish" priests includes Father John O'Rielly, Father James White, Father James McNamara and Father Joseph [J.J.] McDermott. I did not include these in my list because Father John St. John was the incumbent "parish" priest during the times that these names appear in the register. According to the parish records, Father John O'Reilly performed a total of six baptisms, two on the same day in September 1895, two in October and one in November of the same year, and one more in May of 1896. Father St. John's name appears before and after and in between these entries. Father James White's name appears by eight baptism records, two in April 1899, four in August and September of 1903, and two in February of 1904. Father James McNamara's name appears in the records from October 25, 1903 to December 12, 1903, with Father St. John's name before and after these entries. Father J.J. McDermott's name appears from February 17, 1896 to September 6, 1896. Father St. John's name again precedes and follows these entries, but since Father McDermott was at Holy Rosary for seven months, I noted him as having served there.

While adding minute details, Lake fails to mention several others who made appearances during John St. John's stewardship, including Rev. Alexander Howley CC, PP of Salmonier, who did seven baptisms, Archbishop Edward Roche who did six (two in 1899 and four in 1915), Rev. G. O'Regan, DDS who did two, Rev. H. S. Renouf who did three, Rev. Peter Sheehan who did five, Monsignor Vincent Reardon, PP Placentia, who did twenty-six baptisms and seven marriages, Rev. W. P. Finn who did two baptisms, and several others who did single baptisms or marriages. Lake also names Rev. William O'Flaherty as filling in for baptisms, marriages, and funerals. He performed one baptism and one marriage. In a section starting with "Several other priests visited Holy Rosary Parish" , he includes "Archbishop Edward P. Roche, who celebrated an ordination Mass on Sunday, July 1, 1928". In fact, Archbishop Roche had already visited the parish and performed four baptisms on Tuesday, August 10, 1915 - soon after being elevated to archbishop.

The name of Father Anton Fyme, not "Fumed" of Merasheen also appeared in Holy Rosary Parish records, but he was not assigned to Holy Rosary Parish. He went there specifically to conduct marriages, burials, and baptisms in the brief absences of both the parish priest and curate.


I challenge Mr. Lake to find anywhere in any of my work that has that in it. There are 1140 copies of the "Freshwater" book in circulation and the excerpt on this website is now, and always was, identical to that. Where did I say either "Fumed" or that Father Fyme was ever assigned to Holy Rosary Parish? I outlined the following list with the year the priests' names appeared in the records, the dates preceding the name are the year or years their names appear. Exactly as follows:

Priests from other parishes alternated at Holy Rosary Parish at times, five [of many] names of clergy that appear in the early baptism and marriage records:

1870-1872 Father Lawrence Verriker, Placentia Parish
1880-1892 Father William P. Doutney, St. Kyran's Parish
1896-1930 Father J. J. McDermott, St. Kyran's Parish
1907-1920 Father Francis Cacciola, Bar Haven Parish
1942 Father Anton Fyme, Merasheen Parish

That was my only mention of Father Fyme.

Further to this, Lake states that Red Island became part of St. Kyran's Parish, but that is also not correct. Red Island became part of St. Joseph's Parish in Merasheen in 1942. This can be readily verified by the Merasheen parish records, by former residents of both communities who still live in the Placentia area, and is illustrated by the following comments, written by a member of the Fyme family:

"In 1913 he [Father Fyme] was sent to St. Kyran's on the west side of Placentia Bay. ... Within two years he built a new church which would serve St. Kyran's; St. Leonard's; the Clattices; Presque; Big and Little Bona; Isle Valen; Darby's Harbour and a few people from nearby Merasheen Island. (He covered this extensive area alone for over 25 years, traveling by boat along the waterways of each of the communties.) ... In 1938, due to poor health, Rev. Fyme was transferred to the nearby island of Merasheen. Here a less rigorous schedule was afforded him but as he improved he took on the additional duties of the parish of Red Island as well."



When I first read the criticism of my article on the argentia.org website I was surprised, because I had thoroughly researched the topic. I obtained the information from both primary and secondary sources, all of which are considered reliable, or at least the best available at that time. The biographies of the priests were obtained from the RC Archdiocese of St. John's, I presented them as they were written, and the same applies to Brother Foran's research that I quoted verbatim. The information from the Argentia records was provided by the owner of this website and you can readily see the extent of this research. I gathered background information from the books in the list below, did interviews, and had several people, all well informed on the topic, read for historical correctness and input.

The first impression I had after skimming the information presented by Lake was that he must have found "new" information. But the more I analyzed and looked for documents to support his "stories", the more I realized that it is not "new" information - it is fabrication! He even corrupts the "old" information by changing dates without any documentation.

I did not comment on all of the errors and unsupported claims he makes. I merely want to show readers the sources I used and that what I wrote is based on documents. These documents may not be flawless and "new" information may come to light in the future, but it is not currently to be found on the argentia.org website.

Lake's attacks on others, and particularly his frequent use of "[sic]" to annotate the work of 26 other writers, would seem to suggest that he is meticulous about his own work. However, this is not the case, either in his transcriptions of historical documents or in his presenting supporting documentation for his supposed facts.

And while he applies high standards for others, his own editing is sloppy. Although I prefer not to emulate his tactics, I did edit one passage of his work to demonstrate this point. The Argentia parish baptismal register has a diary entry about the Madonna Bell, and is the primary source of this information. A transcription from the parish register is presented first, followed by his version (verbatim from his website), and then his version is presented again with notes to identify the many differences from the parish records.

It is obvious that Lake should really concentrate more on his own editing. He should also refer to original documents instead of just copying from secondary sources. And he should realize that he will be judged by the same standard that he uses for others and that his attacks on others invite criticism of himself.

And certainly he should add a 27th topic to his Misconceptions list - "Misconceptions and Fabrications Propagated by Edward Lake and the argentia.org website".

Here is the Madonna Bell story as it appears in the parish records, with one misspelling noted here.

"The ceremony commenced at 11 o'clock when a large congregation assembled to see the new bell consecrated to Divine Worship. Before blessing the Bell, the Bishop, vested in cope and mitre, and holding the crosier, delivered from the altar a discourse explaining the meaning of the elaborate ceremonial which the Ritual prescribes for the blessing of bells.

At the conclusion of his Lordship's eloquent and instructive Discourse, the clergy followed by the Bishop, proceeded in processional order to the place in the church, at the end of the nave near the front door where the great Bell suspended on its own mountings, and decorated with fowers [sic] and surrounded with a brilliant halo of wax candles, was prepared for the Blessing. A throne was erected for the Bishop in the middle towards the Altar, and seats on either side for the clergy and choristers. The elaborate ritual was carried out in all its minutest details. Several psalms and appropriate prayers were chanted or recited. The Bell was washed within and without with water especially blessed for the purpose by the Bishop. It was incensed and perfumed with sweet spices, and anointed with the holy oils of Chrism and oleum infirmorum. Two of the parishioners, Mr. Patrick Murray and Mrs. James Houlihan stood sponsors. When the Bell was thus solemnly consecrated, and given over to divine worship, it was sounded first by the Bishop, then by the clergy and afterwards by the entire Congregation. A silver salver was placed near the handle of the tolling hammer and each one in turn dropped his or her contribution on the plate, and then tolled the Bell. The sum accumulated on the plate amounted to more than a hundred dollars.

The Function terminated with Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament imparted by the Bishop, the assistant clergy helping to chant the hymns.

The Bell, which is one of the finest in Newfoundland, is three feet six inches in height, and weighs, including mountings about 2000 pounds. The diameter of the perimeter measures three feet eight inches."

Here is Lake's version of the Madonna Bell story, supposedly quoted from the parish records. Note that both of his "[sic]" are actually incorrect, as "ceremonial" is a correct word in context and "hight", although misspelled here, is spelled correctly in the parish records.

"The ceremony commenced at 11o'clock when a large congregation assembled to see the new bell consecrated to Divine Worship. Before blessing the Bell, the Bishop, vested in cope and mitre, and holding the crosier, delivered from the altar a discourse explaining the meaning of the elaborate ceremonial [sic] which the ritual  prescribes for the blessing of bells.  At the conclusion of His Lordship's eloquent instructive discourse , the clergy, followed by the Bishop, proceeded in processional order to the place in the church, at the end of the nave near the front door where the great Bell, suspended on its own mountings, and decorated with flowers  and surrounded with brilliant halo of wax candles, was prepared for the Blessing.

A throne was erected for the Bishop in the middle towards the Altar, and seats on either side for the clergy and choristers. The elaborate ritual was carried out in all its minutest details. Several psalms and appropriate prayers were chanted andrecited. The Bell was washed within and without with water especially blessed for the purpose by the Bishop. It was incensed and perfumed with sweet spices and anointed with the holy oils of Chrism and Oleum Infirmorum. Two of the parishioners, Mr. Patrick Murray and Mrs. James Houlihan stood sponsors. When the Bell was thus solemnly consecrated and given over to Divine Worship , it was sounded first by the Bishop, then by the clergy and afterwards by the entire congregation.  A silver salver was placed near the handle of the tolling hammer and each one in turn dropped his or her contribution on the plate and tolled the Bell. The sum accumulated on the plate amounted to more than a hundred dollars.

The function terminated with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament imparted by the Bishops , the assistant clergy helping to chant the hymns.

The Bells which is one of the finest in Newfoundland is three feet six inches in hight [sic], and weighs, including mountings about 2000 pounds. The diameter of the perimeter measures three feet eight inches."

Here is Lake's version again, with more than two dozen differences from the original, along with explanatory comments, noted within brackets in red.

The ceremony commenced at 11o'clock [there was a space after "11"] when a large congregation assembled to see the new bell consecrated to Divine Worship. Before blessing the Bell, the Bishop, vested in cope and mitre, and holding the crosier, delivered from the altar a discourse explaining the meaning of the elaborate ceremonial [sic] [although he flagged this, it is a correct word] which the ritual ["ritual" was capitalized] prescribes for the blessing of bells. [there was a paragraph break here] At the conclusion of His ["His" was not capitalized] Lordship's eloquent [the word "and" is missing] instructive discourse ["discourse" was capitalized], the clergy, [the comma was not there] followed by the Bishop, proceeded in processional order to the place in the church, at the end of the nave near the front door where the great Bell, [there was no comma] suspended on its own mountings, and decorated with flowers [the word was spelled "fowers"] and surrounded with [the word "a" is missing] brilliant halo of wax candles, was prepared for the Blessing. [there was not a paragraph break here]

A throne was erected for the Bishop in the middle towards the Altar, and seats on either side for the clergy and choristers. The elaborate ritual was carried out in all its minutest details. Several psalms and appropriate prayers were chanted and [the word was "or" not "and"] recited. The Bell was washed within and without with water especially blessed for the purpose by the Bishop. It was incensed and perfumed with sweet spices [a comma is missing] and anointed with the holy oils of Chrism and Oleum Infirmorum ["Oleum" and "Infirmorum" were not capitalized]. Two of the parishioners, Mr. Patrick Murray and Mrs. James Houlihan stood sponsors. When the Bell was thus solemnly consecrated [a comma is missing] and given over to Divine Worship ["Divine" and "Worship" were not capitalized], it was sounded first by the Bishop, then by the clergy and afterwards by the entire congregation ["congregation" was capitalized]. A silver salver was placed near the handle of the tolling hammer and each one in turn dropped his or her contribution on the plate [a comma is missing] and [the word "then" is missing"] tolled the Bell. The sum accumulated on the plate amounted to more than a hundred dollars.

The function ["function" was capitalized] terminated with Benediction of the Most Blessed [the word was "Holy" not "Blessed"] Sacrament imparted by the Bishops [was singular "Bishop"], the assistant clergy helping to chant the hymns.

The Bells [was singular "Bell"][a comma is missing] which is one of the finest in Newfoundland [a comma is missing] is three feet six inches in hight [was spelled correctly "height" in the original], and weighs, including mountings about 2000 pounds. The diameter of the perimeter measures three feet eight inches.



Resources used for this article include:

"Argentia Database" Brian Hennessey
Baptismal and marriage records Argentia (Little Placentia) 1835 - 1942
Baptismal and marriage records Harbour Grace parish 1831 - 1858
Baptismal and marriage records Placentia 1822 - 1873
"Between Damnation and Starvation - Priests and Merchants in Newfoundland 1745 - 1855" John P. Greene
"County Wexford Priests in Newfoundland", Journal of the Wexford Historical Society #10 1984-1985, Kevin Whelan
"The Ecclesiastical History of Newfoundland" M. F. Howley
"Fire Upon the Earth" Brother J. B. Darcy [used as a reference here but was not available for the original article]
"Gentlemen Bishops and Faction Fighters" Cyril Byrne
"History of the Irish Catholic Church" James M. Fleming, Jr.
"History of the Catholic Church in Harbour Grace" Robert J. Connelly
"The London and Dublin Orthodox Journal of Useful Knowledge"
"The Parish at Placentia" Monsignor Thomas Flynn, Newfoundland Quarterly 1936
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's Archives
"St. Kieran's College Kilkenny" Peter Birch