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In Attics And Archives

Volume 4-Issue 8, page 3

By Lara Maynard

Haunted by Howletts?

It is hardly unusual for roads, coves, or other pieces of geography to be named after the people who inhabit them. Mahon's Lane, Quigly's Lane, Fleming's Hill, Manning's Hill, and Mascarin Place are examples of just a few in Torbay alone. We often know that people by these names live in those places at present, but sometimes a road sign is th eonly readily visible indictation of the people who once lived there. Howlett's Avenue, looking towards Gallows Gove in my neighbourhood on the north side of Torbay, is one of those places. Today it is populated by the Bradbury, Downton, Edmunds, Mathani  and Tapper families, some having long histories in the area, and others being the first of their lines to call it home. As I noted with some confusion and curiousity as a child, there are no Howletts living on Howlett's Avenue.

I was eventually told that the remains of the Howlett's abode could be viewed around the area of the Bradbury property, and even more intriguing, Howletts were said to be buried in Gallows Cove and haunt there. This was great material for the imagination, and my friends and I would walk down there and wonder if the mounds that we identified in meadows could actually be the final resting places of Howlett family members.

When I was working on a project about the history and folklore of the north side of Torbay about five years ago, I tried to lean about the Howlett family. I asked several senior residents of the area if they had known the family or if they were familiar with the strange story about them. one man told be that Phil Howlett wouldn't go to Mass, so when he died his remains could not be laid to rest in consecrated cemetery ground. This explains why he was buried in Gallows Cove.

Another man remembered the story a little differently. He said that Phil was a church-goer, but stayed home one week day to care for his young daughter while his wife went to Mass. While Phil was preoccupied with some work he was doing, the daughter was fatally burned in the home's open fireplace. When Phil died, his body was buried in Gallows Cove instead of the Catholic graveyard as atonement for his negligence. It was said that his ghost could be heard moaning there, along with that of his wife wailing with grief over the loss of her daughter.

The tragic story left me more curious than ever, and so I went off to the Provincial Archives in the Colonial Building on Military Road in search of Catholic Parish records that might tell me something about the Howlett family, and possibly confirm or dispute the tale. The Howlett name appears in the records in various spellings: Howlet, Howlette, and Howlett. What follow is my attempt - likely imperfect - to piece together some of their history based on what I was told by residents and found in the written documents.

Tommy Howlett (Phil Howlett's brother, uncle or father?) had a house on what is now Howlett's Avenue. Phil Howlett was married to Ellen Pouden, and it is possible that th eland that they lived on in the Gallows Cove area was given to them by Ellen's father. I have not yet and record of Phil's and Ellen's young daughter's death. The records do indicate that they had other children: John Howlett was baptized on April 2, 1849, Patrick Howlett was baptized on April 8, 1858; Margaret was baptized on January 29, 1859; and James (known as Jimmy) was baptized on May 13, 1860. There may have also been a daughter named Mary and a son known as Mickey, It is possible that one or two of the sons, John and/or Mickey, was deaf, and that Jimmy had a lame foot.

There was another Howlett couple, James (Phil's brother perhaps_ and Betty, who had a son named Nicholas baptized on June 19, 1857. It is also possible to determine by looking at these parish record who the Howlett's friends, neighbours and relatives were. Doody Tapper, Cody (Coady), McGuire, Pounden, Cullen, Phelons, Lacy, Rogers, Snelgrove, Baulfir, and Quiley are some of the names that appear as sponsors (godparents) for Howlett children, or as the parents or other sponsors for children for whom one of the Howletts was a godparent. For instance, Stephen Rogers's and Jane Snelgrove's daughter, Susannah, was baptized on April 16, 1879, with Patrick Howlette (Howlett) and Alice Baulfir as sponsors.

I am not entirely certain what became of the Howletts. One man thinks that Phil's family moved into Tommy's house at some point and that one of his sons eventually moved to the south side of Torbay, and another went to St. John's. I would love to receive and information about the family from any reader. In the meantime, I'm hoping to get back to the Provincial Archives soon to see if I can dig up some more references to them. I still haven't found out if either of the versions of how Phil cam to be buried in Gallows Cove are true, or even if he really was. But I do know this: there are presently no headstones in either of Torbay's Catholic cemeteries bearing the Howlett name.

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