How Bitter Ann’s Cove got its name

Dale
Dale Jarvis
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Bitter Ann’s Cove is located east of Garden Cove, near the head of Placentia Bay. The origin of the name has a dramatic story associated with it, which also incorporates a ghost story.

According to legend, the cove is named after a woman by the name of Ann Power. Ann and her husband John Power moved to the cove one winter in the early 1800s. John had been drawn to the cove due to the rich timber grounds. It was his plan to spend the winter cutting lumber for use the following year.

Everything went smoothly as the couple settled into their new winter home. As the year drew to a close, the isolation began to wear on the couple, particularly John.

John’s sister was expecting a child, and as the Christmas season fell upon them, John’s desire to see his family grew.

Eventually, John decided that he had to leave the cove to make a day trip to call upon his family. Ann stayed behind to mind their house, and John promised her he would be home soon. Before he left, the woodcutter said to his wife, “If I am a living man, I’ll be home tonight.”

John’s sister was living on Bar Haven Island, situated on the northern part of the west side of Placentia Bay. By the 1830s, around the time of John’s visit, the island was quite populous, boasting a population of 130, a justice of the peace, a constable, a school and a church.

The brother arrived safely, and was warmly received by his sister. Whether it was the reunion that was cause for some celebration, or whether it was simply the nature of the festive holiday season, John made merry. As he did, the weather started to turn ugly.

Before long, a blizzard was raging. His good judgement clouded by one too many glasses of rum, John decided that he would set out. He buttoned up his coat, and set off in his small boat back towards the cove.

In the cove, Ann stared out into the growing blizzard, fearful for her husband’s safety. She left the house and went out into the storm, hoping to catch a glimpse of John’s boat. There was no sign of him. She returned to the house to warm herself, and then went out a second time. She could see no boat.

The wind howled, and the snow continued to fall. Hours passed, and sick with worry, Ann went out a third time to search for her missing husband. She fought her way down to the seashore, and nearing the strand, tripped against an object half buried in the snow.

Brushing the snow aside, she discovered with mounting horror that she had tripped over John’s frozen corpse.

John had been close to the cove when his boat had overturned in the waves. The boat was quickly lost in the blizzard. The man fought his way to shore, but his immersion in the frigid December waters was too much for his system. Hypothermia overtook him, and he froze to death before reaching the warmth and safety of his house.

Ann found herself stranded in the cove, without a boat and with no way of contacting another soul. She was lost and beside herself, without a clue of what to do.

Just when things seemed hopeless, the spirit of her dead mother appeared before her. The helpful ghost gave instructions on how to prepare John’s corpse for burial. The spectre then offered the following words of advice, saying,

“Go to the point, light a fire and stay there.”

The ghost then faded away.

Not one to argue with a ghost, Ann obeyed, and spent three days and three nights tending a fire on the point. Eventually, a passing boat saw the light and came to her rescue. From that point on, the cove has been named Bitter Ann’s Cove.

 

Storyteller and author Dale Jarvis can be reached at dale@dalejarvis.ca.

Geographic location: Placentia Bay

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