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‘Just like the Klondike Gold Rush’

By Mark Squibb/July 15, 2022

If you were living in Bay Roberts in 1890 and wanted to get from Bay Roberts East to Coley’s Point, you would have to cross the harbour by boat. Or simply walk around the length of the harbour.

That’s not the case nowadays. You can just zip across along The Klondyke causeway without a second thought.

A petition to raise support for the construction of that causeway was circulated by local women in the mid-1890s.

Funding was not approved, so the people took it upon themselves to do the work.

“The people had been petitioning the government to put a causeway in,” said Eric Jerrett, chairman of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society. “And then the Labrador fishery failed, and people were in dire straits. So, they started doing the work themselves. Women and children gathered the rocks…. Eventually the government came on board with, I guess you might call it a social program, and agreed to pay them with enough to buy flour and molasses, the staples.”

The logo for the modern festival, designed by Jerrett, features the bridge, a sack of flour, and a barrel of molasses, all throwbacks to the construction of the causeway.

Local legenda claims that a store owner first dubbed the name ‘Klondyke.’

“The people were in dire straits, and then all of a sudden they had money to buy the necessities,” said Jerrett. “And a store operator, a Mrs. Bursell, at the store where people were buying goods, all of a sudden said, ‘Well, this is just like the Klondike Gold Rush.’”

When folks christened the causeway, the name stuck, except, the ‘i” was switched out for a ‘y’ in the English style.

Jerrett suggests that folks, from near or from far, who wish to learn more about the town’s history should visit the Road to Yesterday Museum and Christopher Pratt Art Gallery in the Cable Building.

“The museum is well worth a visit,” said Jerrett. “We’ve had people from all over the world, and we’ve had people say, ‘I’ve been in community museums all over the world, and bigger ones, like the Louvre in Paris, but I’ve never been in a community museum as good as this one.’”

There will be a special celebration held at the Cable Building to celebrate the work of Pratt on July 24 at 2:30 p.m.

Pratt passed away this June at the age of 88.

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