SALVAGE, N.L. – Thanks to the work of one come from away who settled in the area, Salvage has put its history back on display.
The Salvage Fishermen’s Museum is the oldest original home still standing in the area – first built in 1862.
Nancy Murphy moved from Ontario and purchased the property neighbouring the museum several years ago. After seeing the museum go unused for her first two summers there, Murphy decided to take a lead role in bringing it back into operation.
“I was appalled that all this history was locked away,” Murphy said. “There was no committee in place, no push to bring it back.”
With little money available and a front bridge rotted and fallen apart like an old dilapidated wharf, Murphy began working with then-mayor Gordon Janes and others in the town to begin restoring the property.
Through entirely volunteer efforts of the Salvage community, the museum was reopened to the public on July 1, 2016. With Murphy’s initiating passion and, she adds with a laugh, her nagging, Salvage’s history now no longer hides away behind closed doors.
“It meant a lot to all of us to save it,” she said. “The history in Salvage goes back to the 1600s. It’s a very worthwhile cause to save that.”
The museum stands as a venue for historical artifacts from genealogies throughout the Salvage community, though the house itself has a rich history of its own.
The Lane family built the home and generations of Lane’s remained at the property up until the 1960s. In fact, Charles Maxwell Lane, a member of Joey Smallwood’s cabinet when the province joined Canada, was born in the house in 1905.
“That peaked the interest of the province,” Murphy said. “There’s a huge political history to this house, as well as the history of the families in this area.”
The family that took over the home after the Lane’s was the Heffern’s, a family line that first came to Salvage from Belfast, Ireland in 1771. The Heffern’s were the first to turn the property into a museum, and there are still generations of the Heffern’s living in Salvage today.
Lined along the shelves, tables, and walls of the museum are old lanterns, spectacles, postcards, compasses and a variety of fishing gear. Sashes and rusted swords used in ceremonies by members of the Royal Orange Lodge are hung against the wallpaper, along with many other memorabilia of the Orangemen.
Grocery store receipts are stowed away on one shelf, one from 1954 detailing the price of 19 cents for a pound of lobster. Church records of baptisms, marriages and burials are also kept on display, and Murphy says many people have come in to look through these records and trace their own genealogy.
Much of the artifacts collected at the museum come from the Lane and Heffern families. Many items were donated by other families in Salvage when the house was first turned into a museum in the 1970s.
An old family organ, guitar, fire stove and even an ice cream maker and water filter dating from the early 1900s rest in the former living room — in a similar fashion to when the Heffern’s and Lane’s lived in the property.
A child’s seal skin coat, made for Art Heffern by his mother, hangs against the wall as another of many unique items.
One of the museum’s most prominent displays is the model of the Crystal Stream schooner. The large vessel was first launched in 1936, mainly used for transporting goods between Bonavista Bay and St. John’s. The Crystal Stream was sold to Theophilus Hunter of Salvage in 1944 and was used by Hunter and his sons for fishing and coastal freighting.
Known for its beautifully crafted sails and immense power, the ship garnished a strong reputation in harbours across the island. Because the home port of the Crystal Stream was mostly in Salvage, the model was donated to the town and subsequently placed in the museum.
Murphy volunteers her time running the museum, and while it is open to the public with free admission, donations are encouraged.
The building was restored with no government funding, though Murphy says they are now hoping for future funds for some needed work fixing up the structure of the house itself.
“We need the support of government now to save the structural portions of this building,” Murphy said of the antique home. “We met with (Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation) Chris Mitchelmore last year and it sounds promising.”
She may have only settled into the area in recent years, but through her leading role in restoring the museum and preserving its history, Murphy has created a permanent legacy with the Salvage community.
“It feels great to see it kept open,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to share all this history.”