In the novel Ananias, there are many references to Flathead, recorded as the place where my ancestors settled. Ever since I was a small boy, I knew that Flathead was integral to the family history, and that it was somewhere “over there” – this being a reference to standing in Salmon Cove and pointing south, up towards what we know as the Ridge.
But in truth, if my father ever specifically identified Flathead to me, I simply cannot recall it. Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind, I know it was a place where he (and my Aunt Marjorie) loved to pick blueberries. To get there you simply went around the side of Harry’s Pond (on your way down to the “Sands”) but stopped about halfway to take the trail up over the Ridge. It was the path through Aunt Somebody’s garden and it is absolutely driving me mad as I cannot recall the name of the local woman for whom the garden was named (although Jennie or Jess seems to come to mind). Unfortunately, I do believe that anyone I could ask has passed on.
So, as I wrote Ananias, I made it a point to try not to confuse Flathead with Flat Rock, the latter being a tiny village resettled in the late 50s or early 60s that has now come back to life as a cabin/cottage community.
Into my second book, in which the story is told by Ananias’ grandson, Vicory, I vowed not to be so complacent about the geography, so during the pandemic I researched some old maps and drawings only to discover that Flathead is quite a bit northeast of where I thought it was. In fact, it appears as though Flathead was the last community on the Ridge – past Flat Rock, Blow-me-Down and Otterbury. This corroborated with my father’s berry picking. Flathead was not accessed by the road that runs up over the Ridge today (and I use the term “road” loosely) but up the path along the south side of Harry’s Pond.
Last week on a cool but bright June day, I took the opportunity to walk the path with fresh eyes and a clear head. I picked up the trail at Harry’s Pond. It’s a bit rough due a washout earlier this year. It quickly leads to a gate that has always been there to keep livestock from wandering down from the Ridge to the public beach area. (If you walk this trail, be sure to close the gate behind you.)
The trail is rutted due to ATV’s – but that’s okay I suppose, as it keeps the passage far more walkable than in days gone by. The fact doesn’t seem to distract from the tranquility of the little sojourn.
As you approach the top of the Ridge, the ruts remain but instead of cobbles wild grasses take over as the southern exposure dominates.
As you begin to descend, the blue waters of Conception Bay command your attention as the path seems to peter out. This was always the case, for when I was a youngster, it was often difficult to find the path back to Salmon Cove.
Soon you will happen upon an open meadow. This is Flathead. I can only begin to imagine settling here in the early 1800s. What we may see as idyllic may have only been practical, bordering on harsh. No stone foundations are apparent. They are likely well hidden, and truthfully, I am not aware that anyone lived here except my forbears.
A community of a single family.
This explains why the Carbonear Methodist records indicate births, deaths and marriages for Flat Rock, Blow-me-Down and Otterbury but no records of anyone hailing from Flathead except in family history.
Look very carefully and you will see evidence of potato drills despite being heavily overgrown. This was the garden of Ananias and Grace.
In 1852, after Ananias had moved to Salmon Cove, his eldest son James returned to Flathead and built a house – one year prior to marrying Dorcas Judson of the adjacent community, Otterbury. This ties in well with the proven narrative of two successive Case generations never having got along…
The cart track down to Otterbury still exists.
Looking back to Flathead … as I have done ... in the story of Vicory.