Apsey Brook

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Apsey Brook
Aspen Brook
Namesake Aspen Trees at Apsey Brook
Namesake Aspen Trees at Apsey Brook
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Location of Apsey Brook On Random Island
Country Canada
Province Newfoundland and Labrador
 • Total75.59 km2 (29.19 sq mi)
25 m (82 ft)
 • Total535
 • Density7.1/km2 (18/sq mi)
 Includes all of Random West.
Time zoneUTC-3:30 (Newfoundland Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-2:30 (Newfoundland Daylight)
Postal code span
Area code(s)709
Highways Route 231
Historical population
Apsey Brook United Church
DenominationUnited Church
Previous denominationMethodist
Founded17 March 1930 (1930-03-17)
Apsey Brook School
TypeOne Room
GradesK - 8
Building used as a community center for many years after closure

Apsey Brook is a community on the north side of Random Island, fronting on Smith Sound. Its name is derived from the abundance of aspen trees, known colloquially as `Aps` trees, and the large brook in the centre of the community. This brook was at least partially responsible for settlement in the area, as it was used to drive a waterwheel powered sawmill.


The town was founded by William and Lydia Smith in the 1870's. Originally from Hants Harbour, a number of the Smith family had settled in Elliott's Cove, with William and Lydia moving to Apsey Brook sometime later. Later, in the 1880's, David Phillips of British Harbour settled in the community in what is now known as McGrath's Cove[9]

According to oral tradition, William, after an argument with his brothers, boarded his schooner with his wife and family, sailed around the island, and beached it on the sandbar at Apsey Brook, living in it for the ensuing winter until completing a house the next year.[10]

William was awarded a land grant for much of the upper portion of Apsey Brook. For those interested, the embedded PDF contains much information about the Smith's of Apsey Brook, including the grant. This was found among documents provided to the author, who has no memory of the source. If it is yours, please get in touch to add credit.

William had 7 sons, one of which does not appear in the records of Apsey Brook. See the Smith entry for more. Again, referencing the same information that was provided by Roy Smith, the family had a watermill in the brook (remnants were still there in the 1970s when I grew up), that operated for 6 days a week, with one brother operating it each day, and no operation on Sunday.Note: While the names of those having shares in the mill noted in the cited document may be accurate, they are not all son's of William. Some are grandsons. The community name is also not as heard in other family members oral history, having always been known as Apsey Brook. [11]

The source of the brook, Dam Pond, was named as such as it was dammed in order to control water flow to the mill. Many family members related stories that as a boy they'd have to go in to the pond to let out the damn to operate the sawmill.

David Phillips also worked at saw milling, with a mill set up at Friggins Cove (Fagans Cove) Brook, and living in McGrath's Cove.[citation needed]

These families were predominated the community make up until other families moved in during Newfoundland's resettlement phase in the 1960's.

Church & School

Apsey Brook United Church

The former Methodist church at Apsey Brook was opened in 1930, with efforts to raise money beginning over a decade earlier. Wilfred B.W. Martin recorded the histories of the churches and schools on Random Island in his book Random Island and Beyond. Rather than trying to re-do his excellent work, I'll quote from the book.

A school-chapel was built at Aspen Brook in the mid 1890s. It served as both a school and a church for many years. At one point during the early 1900s, the people of Aspen Brook and Snook's Harbour planned to build one church midway between the two communities to serve both. However, such a church was not built. Instead, each community built its own church. In 1917, the president of the Ladies' Aid at Aspen Brook wrote of their efforts for a new church:

About a year and a half ago we started to raise money to build a new church. A Ladies' Aid was formed consisting of eight members, and since then we have worked faithfully and energetically and have been able to realize the sum of $105.00. We have also been helped by some of the kind friends around. On October last the men laid the foundation and are now making good progress.

— (The Methodist Monthly Greeting, June, 1917).

The people of Aspen Brook were highly praised at different times over the years while they were building their church. For example, in 1926, their minister claimed that if every community throughout Newfoundland did as well as Aspen Brook in proportion to population, the Newfoundland Conference would be an independent one. Here is a report of the opening of the church in 1930:

Among the events which make up the history of an Output in Newfoundland there are occurrences that tower in lofty superiority above all the others. One of these is the opening of the local church. It is a 'red letter day that is never forgotten. On Sunday, March 17th, the new United Church at Aspen, was dedicated by Rev. W.B. Bugden, B.A., President of Conference, assisted by Rev. H. Russell, Britannia, and Rev. William Briggs, Pastor. A splendid congregation made up of people from every appointment on the mission, and many from neighbouring places, assembled for the dedication service at 3 p.m. filling the church to its utmost capacity. Addresses were delivered by Aaron Smith of Elliott's Cove, senior lay reader, and Rev. H. Russell, superintendent minister of Britannia. Their remarks were very highly appreciated by all. Then followed a masterful and inspiring sermon from the president, upon the subject, What should a Preacher preach?"; the answer being contained in a nutshell," Preach Christ, and Him crucified. Rev. W.B. Bugden, paid a glowing tribute to the skilful workmanship displayed in the interior of the church and congratulated the community on its mighty achievement. The work of construction was seriously hampered owing to the emigration of families. However, by perseverance and cooperation, under the leadership of their energetic pastor, Rev. W. Briggs, the building committee have achieved the magnificent feat of opening a beautiful church, costing $5000., free from debt. Special features of the church are the handsome pulpit, the work of Mr. G. Leawood of Britannia, and the communion rail, made by the Horwood Lumber Co. Ltd., St. John's. The communion table was given by Mr. Luther Smith, and the chairs were the gift of Mrs. J.T. Smith. Mr. Aaron Smith of the U.S.A. kindly presented a beautiful pulpit Bible in memory of his father, John Smith, who was called to higher service some two years ago. The Bible bears the inscribing, 'In loving memory of my dear father, John Smith.' A pulpit cloth of red plush material was given by Miss Smith. Divine worship was held at 6.30 p.m. conducted by Rev. H. Russell. The church was again filled to its utmost capacity. Rev. W.B. Bugden, B.A., preached from the text, 'My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from Him.' -Ps. 62:5. At the conclusion of the evening service the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered, and this brought a most memorable and glorious day to a close. 'For the people had a mind to work. (Neh. 4.) 'We are labourers together with God.' (1 Cor. 3). Well done! Aspen.

— (The Monthly Greeting, April, 1930, pp. 9-10).
— Wilfred B.W. Martin, Random Island and Beyond (1991), Page 23-24

Apsey Brook School

A one room school was built at Apsey Brook in the 1930's, but students of the three communities of Apsey Brook, Snook's Harbour and Elliott's Cove shared buildings with each community being open for parts of the year in some years, while in others, the school at Apsey Brook did not open at all. Barbara Smith has written an excellent remembrance of her school experience in Apsey Brook. Click the linked text for more.

The building itself had at first a coal, then wood stove and no running water. An indoor toilet dumped directly into a pit underneath. A shed to store coal was located nearby.

The school was used intermittently until approximately 1967. Thereafter, students were bussed to first, Balbo Elementary at Shoal Harbour, then to the new school on Random Island in 1973.

The building remained in use for community events until approximately the mid 1980's.



Apsey Brook is in Random Island West, Division No. 7, Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to the 2016 Census[5]for all of Random Island West

  • Population: 535
  • Change% (2011–2016): 0.9
  • Dwellings: 239
  • Area (km².): 75.59
  • Density (persons per km².): 7.1

Features, Landmarks, Locations

Note: Some of these have no map representation, and are from author's memory.


  1. All of Random West
  2. All of Random West
  3. "Census Profile". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  4. "2016 Canada Census for Random Island West". Statistics Canada.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "2016 Canada Census for Random Island West". Statistics Canada.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Martin, Wilfred B.W. (1990). "Settlements and Early Industries". Random Island Pioneers. Creative Publishers. p. 36. ISBN 0-920021-72-7.
  7. "1935 Newfoundland Census for Aspen Brook".
  8. "1945 Newfoundland Census for Aspen Brook".
  9. Martin, Wilfred B.W. (1990). "Pioneers of Present Communities". Random Island Pioneers. Creative Publishers. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-920021-72-7.
  10. Pelley, Jewel. "Random Island". Hand in Hand with Our Communities (PDF). Random North Development Association. p. 19.
  11. Pelley, Jewel. "Random Island". Hand in Hand with Our Communities (PDF). Random North Development Association. p. 19.

External links