Forteau Nursing Station
During the summer of 1907 a nurse from Johns Hopkins Hospital was stationed at Forteau, where she reportedly did very good work and endeared herself to the people of the village. After she left the men of the village petitioned the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to have a hospital and a nurse at Forteau. In return they pledged to prepare the ground for building and each of them to give one week of work each year for maintenance. Grenfell agreed and Denison Cottage, the first Grenfell Nursing Station at Forteau, was opened in 1908.
Denison Cottage was named for the Rev John Henry Denison of Massachusetts, who made a sizeable contribution to Grenfell for its construction. Grenfell met Denison forty years after having a rather harrowing experience in southern Labrador. Denison had sustained some injuries during the American Civil War and his doctor suggested a sea voyage to help him recuperate.
Denison came to Labrador on a fishing schooner out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. To his detriment, the Captain was a southern sympathizer, and one day when Denison was walking on shore he weighed anchor and left him behind. As Denison walked along the Labrador coast in pursuit of his ship the local people helped him as much as they could. He finally caught up with his ship in Red Bay.
Denison Cottage was run almost single-handedly for the next 15 years by Nurse Florence E. Bailey. Known to those she served as Sister Bailey, she was an English nurse who first came to Battle Harbour with Grenfell and the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen in 1905. Under her direction Denison Cottage evolved from a small house when she first arrived to a neat and well-run hospital with a sick-ward and dispensary when she retired in 1923.
Sister Bailey was noted for her dedication to the people of Forteau and the surrounding area. She ministered to the families scattered along the coast for 50 miles to each side of Forteau. In addition to her medical work she was dedicated to improving the lives of the people, both spiritually and physically, as was the goal of Dr. Grenfell himself. She travelled to communities in the region to make house visits, led classes in Bible study and First Aid, started a soup kitchen and distributed used clothing.
Grenfell at one point also asked her to learn the art of flower making so that she could teach it to the local women to allow them to earn a little extra for their families. For about a decade the women of Forteau made silk flowers that were sold by the Industrial Department of the Grenfell Mission.
Denison Cottage continued to be used until 1946. By that time the elements had taken their toll: the roof leaked, the building was heaved out of shape by frost and wind and it was very hard to heat in winter. Just before the outbreak of World War II Miss Louie A. Hall, a philanthropist and long-time friend of the IGA from Rochester, NY, made a large donation for the construction of a new nursing station at Forteau.
Construction was delayed by a shortage of building material and rising cost of labour related to the war, but by 1946 it could be delayed no longer. A crew of workmen from St. Anthony started building in June and completed the new Louie A. Hall Nursing Station in September. The Louie A. Hall Nursing Station was the centre of medical service in the Labrador Straits until the present Labrador South Health Centre opened in 1983.
Helping the Sick - an interview with Elizabeth Mary Taylor
Elizabeth Mary Taylor was a nurse at Louis A. Hall nursing station for 30 years. Here she tells the story of the time she walked to Pinware (some 50 km) to help a sick woman. (CHE Collection, CHE-ID #1017).
Early Days of the Nursing Station - an interview with Peggy Hancock
A life-long resident of Forteau, Peggy Hancock operates the former Louis A. Hall nursing station as a B&B and strives to preserve its Grenfell legacy. She talks about the station's early days here. (CHE Collection, CHE-ID #1179).
The petition from the men of Forteau asking for a hospital and a nurse can be found on page 1 of Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 5(4), January 1908.
The story of Denison Cottage and how it got its name can be found on pages 129-30 in an article called "Leaves from Dr. Grenfell's Diary," Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 23(3), Oct 1925. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/4365/rec/89
A tribute to Sister Florence Bailey can be found in Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 50(1), April 1952, page 30. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/4924/rec/195
An account of the winter of 1913 at Forteau by Dr. Arthur Wakefield can be found in Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 12(2), July 1914, pp. 45-49.
A description of industrial work at Forteau can be found in Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 12(2), July 1914, pp. 49-50. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/1903/rec/45
The work of Vivia Belle Appleton, MD at Forteau can be found in Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 17(4), Jan 1920, page 121. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/338/rec/67
and, Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 18(3), Oct 1920, pp. 108-09.
The story of the Louie A. Hall Nursing Station can be found in an article written by Charles S. Curtis, MD in Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 44(4), Jan 1947, page 101.
Nurse Iris F Michener was in charge of the Louis A. Hall Nursing Station at Forteau from 1946-49. She wrote of her experiences there and they appear in several issues of Among the Deep Sea Fishers:
- "Forteau Facts," Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 45(3), October 1947, pp. 68-71. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/2487/rec/9
- "The Louis Hall Nursing Station, Forteau, Labrador." Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 46(1), April 1948, pp. 3-6. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/10538/rec/1
- "Forteau in Retrospect," Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 47(4), Jan 1950, pp.107-09. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/3647/rec/3
Anne C Thompson wrote of holding a nativity play at Forteau during Christmas of 1949 in "The Nativity at Forteau," Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 47(2), July 1949, pp.41-42.
Ella Hewitt was Nurse in Charge at Forteau during the mid-1940s, when the new Louie A. Hall Nursing Station was built to replace Denison Cottage. Some of her experiences at Forteau can be found in "Call By Sea" on page 17 and "Eight Months at Forteau" on page 20 of Among the Deep Sea Fishers, Vol 43(1), April 1945. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/compoundobject/collection/hs_fisher/id/10131/rec/12
Mapping the Self in the "Utmost Purple Rim": Published Labrador Memoirs of Four Grenfell Nurses, a PhD Thesis by Iona Bulgin examines the published biographies of several Grenfell nurse, including Lesley Diack who was stationed for a time at Forteau. The paper also includes information on the writings of Sister Florence Bailey. The paper can be downloaded at https://research.library.mun.ca/9245/