Heron Island's Last Human Birth
The Legend Of The Phantom Ship Of The Baie
Some LaPointe Ancestry
The Mercier Connection
Beginning A New Life
Some Strange Occurances
The Day To Day Realities
The Five Dresses
The Family Grows Larger
The LeBlanc Fortune
The Last Son
The War Ends It All
Heron Island Today - a footnote
Last Word - The Legacy
Another Update On The Island and Some Photos
The Legend of The Phantom Ship
Of The Baie Des Chaleurs
Here is a Poem about the Phanthom Ship,
written by Bart Firth, a Dawsonville photographer,
who is kindly letting me use it on the site.
Visit Bart's site and see his excellent work
The Phanthom Ship of the Baie Des Chaleurs
You will never get close
To the ship that's a ghost
That sails on the Baie des Chaleur
You may see her at night
Or catch a glimpse by daylight
But you will never get close to the phantom
Now me and my friends
We were out on a bend
Twas the night of our graduation
We were down on the beach
As drunk as a leech
There was a full moon on the horizon
When out of nowhere
A ship did appear
As crimson as the hereafter
With Masts torched high
And a siren of cries
There were men jumping into the water
Well we found an old boat
And put her afloat
To try and save some of the sailors
But I will be skunked
Even though we were drunk
There was no way to get close to this phantom
Then up came a gale
and I remembered a tale
My grandfather had told before me
He said," You'll never get close
To the Ship that's a ghost
That sails on the Baie Des Chaleur "
Heron Island stands empty and deserted now, and with an air of mystery
when visited, especially at night.
Once it was a small vital community with families carrying on their lives
happily and busily.
Perhaps I should be writing about the Indians who were there before the
white families arrived, but they had left the island so long before, that
no one really knows for certain what drove them out.
Legend has it that they left because of the flaming phantom ship that
appears from time to time in the Baie. A flaming ship that produces heat
for those who try to get near, complete with the sound of men screaming
in terror. A ship that has been seen and a story that has been related
by many sober, rational people.
The Micmacs were supposedly responsible for the burning of that mysterious
ship, as well as the death of it's captain, a Portuguese adventurer named
Gaspar Corte-Real and his brother, Miguel. Miguel and his crew members
are said to have placed a curse on that area of the Baie des Chaleurs
with their dying breath.
According to legend, in 1500 Gaspar Corte-Real took a trip to the Gaspe
coast across from Heron Island. After spending some time there, he gained
the confidence of the indians by plying them with gifts and friendship.
One night, he and his men shared their alcohol with them, and when they
were drunk, he invited the Chief and several other young Micmacs to board
his ship. His intentions were far from friendly. When they were too drunk
to know what was happening, they were locked below deck and kept prisoner
as the ship sailed for England.
There most of them were put on display like some kind of freaks in side
shows. Some of them he sold into slavery. The people of England had only
heard of the redmen of the colonies, but had never seen one. They lined
up and paid their money to get a glimpse of what they considered to be
mysterious savages from so far away.
Upon Corte-Real's return the following summer, he did not return to the
Gaspe coast. He went instead to Heron Island, which lay about six miles
from the coast, between it and the mainland of New Brunswick. There the
indians showed no signs of knowing nor caring about what he had done the
previous summer on the Gaspe coast. Corte-Real and his men were thus soothed
into believing that they were friendly and, over time, they relaxed their
The indians, however, were well aware of what had transpired the previous
summer, and were not about to forget it.
One night, while the Portuguese captain and his men slept, the indians
stole into their shelter and killed all but Corte-Real. They had reserved
special plans for him.
They took him to the shore and, once there, they tied him to a large rock,
a rock that did not submerge until high tide. No doubt he must have had
the time to reflect on his life as the tide inevitably rose and covered
his last pleas for mercy.
The next summer, (1502) Gaspar Corte-Real's brother, Miguel, wondering
what had happened to him, came to the island looking for his missing brother.
Seeing the caravel moored and empty, he sailed closer and boarded his
Before he and his men could react, many canoes filled with Micmacs came
gliding quickly from the shore. The indians boarded the ship and a massacre
followed as the ship drifted out. Corte-Real and some of his men barricaded
themselves below, but they knew that they were outnumbered and would be
killed there, so they preferred to come up on deck and face their attackers.
Before trying a last time to rush the indians on the deck, the Portuguese
are said to have gotten down on their knees and prayed to be spared. But
if they died died at the hands of the Micmacs, they promised that they
they would return to haunt the Baie des Chaleurs, and they would continue
to haunt it for a thousand years.
During the fighting the ship somehow caught fire. The caravel, now all
aflame, sank beneath the waters of the Baie, with the Portuguese and Indians
alike aboard. One Indian managed to swim away from the ship and lived
long enough to tell the story.
As time passed, the ship, in flames, kept appearing, as it sailed through
the waters beside Heron Island. The Indians claimed to see it regularly,
and particularly before a fierce storm. Finally, the Micmacs were too
frightened to stay, so they left Heron Island forever.
Stella, when still a young girl, had caught a glimpse of the upper sails
of the phantom ship, all aflame, from her view of the island from New
Mills. The ship was on the north side of the island, with the sails and
flames visible above the land, throwing a red glow into the sky. She tells
how she ran home to get the "spy glass", but by the time she returned,
it had either disappeared or sank beneath the waves.
Her father, Jim Mercier, along with Harry MacMullan, a resident of Heron
Island, were, at a later time, fishing off the island, and as they were
ready to take their boat onto the beach, there suddenly appeared a large
flaming ship. They had heard the legend of the flaming phantom caravel,
but they were not men who believed in spirits and the like, and they had
no firsthand account from anyone who had actually witnessed the appearance
of the Phantom Ship. They got back into their boat and rowed out to get
a closer look. As they neared the ship, they say that they could hear
the anguished cries of men. As they got nearer, they began to feel an
intense heat. They were finally forced to abandon their undertaking because
of this. They returned to the shore and watched the ship go down. It was
a sight that no one could ever forget, and it would continue to be experienced
by many over the years.
So the Indians were long gone before Stella, George and their little daughter,
Beatrice, arrived on Heron Island in the early 1920's. Stella spoke, however,
of a Mr. Bernard, an indian man who would come to the island in the summer.
He would bring with him his wife and several other native women. They
would camp on the island for the summer and cut young ash branches to
weave beautiful baskets. They would dye them with various plants and berries
and when they were done, they would take them over to the mainland by
boat and sell them.
Stella was once given a beautiful basket by Mr. Bernard's wife. She studied
it carefully, and later in life when she took a course in artificial flower
making (she learned to make 72 varieties), she used their methods of weaving
to make her own baskets out of paper covered wire. This is a skill which
she used later in life when they moved off the island. She made floral
arrangements for the department stores in Campbellton, the town that she
and the children moved to when George went off to World War II.
Mr. Bernard, the native basket weaver, would often return in the fall,
where he was a guest in the LaPointe home. He would return to the island
with Father Trudell, who was the parish priest in Jacket River, and a
close friend of George and Stella.
They would hunt geese and ducks. One fall, they bagged a goose that weighed
28 pounds. Stella cooked it outside in a little metal oven that they had
built to be placed over an open fire. She described it as "quite a feast".
George and Stella never saw these men after they left the island, and
they longed to see Father Trudell. He had been a fairly frequent visitor,
and visitors were pretty rare. When he came over for a few days, the three
of them would usually play cards and talk late into the night.
Many years later, we were driving through the area on our way to Bathurst
to check out the new KMart store that we had heard so much about. We were
all living in Campbellton at the time and KMart hadn't yet ventured into
our fair town. When we came to Father Trudell's rectory. Stella decided
she would enquire about the priest. The housekeeper advised her with regret
that Father Trudell had passed away just a few months prior to our visit.
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