Keels is one of the oldest and smallest communities in Newfoundland, located about 3 kilometers from Duntara. With its small but sheltered harbour situation close to productive fishing grounds, Keels was probably the base for an intermittent summer cod fishery from France and Iberia before 1600. According to Captain Cook's map, it was one of only a handful of harbours beyond Bonavista occupied by the English "on or before" 1660 and it remained close to the northern limits of English settlement in Newfoundland into the next century.

The Catholic Irish arrived later, entering this fishery generally as servants to English planters, mainly as shoreman cutting, salting and drying the fish, managing meadows and tiny gardens. In the winter, they gathered timber inland for vessel constriction and for the wide range of wooden structures that dominated Keels' material cultural landscape. Gradually they procured properties either in physically less-favoured sites for the prosecution of a fishery, or by purchase or marriage to daughters of English planters.

Immigration had virtually ceased by 1836 when the first comprehensive census was taken. There were by then almost 300 persons living in 44 houses with 30 boats exploiting the grounds inshore. The old indentured servant class had virtually disappeared, replaced by family labour. Close to 40% of the population was under 14 and a school had been established, the only public building recorded. The cod fishery continued to dominate the economy. Agriculture was meagre and purely subsistence in nature. Each householder tended on average less than half an acre of ground, mainly for potatoes and only one in every two houses kept livestock. Two decades later Keels had 450 inhabitants, by now all but a few native Newfoundlanders. Partnership based on extended family networks began to characterize social life and work.

Like many outport villages in Newfoundland, the population in Keels has been shrinking with the collapse of the cod fishing industry. Keels has since become a tourist attraction and some of the highlights include geological features known as "the Devil's Footprints" that are found on the rocks surrounding the town, the Anglican Cemetery that dates to the beginnings of the community, the restored Orange Lodge and a natural sea-spray phenomenon known as "Clark's Chimney Hole" on the coast.

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Living Spaces: The Architecture of the Family Fishery in Keels, Newfoundland

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Intangible Cultural Heritage

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000