Job Kean Collection

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The Job Kean Collection
In 1997 Janet Davis and Duke Kelloway, from Wesleyville, became the new owners of the old Job Kean premises in Brookfield, Bonavista Bay. Among the items purchased with the house were hundreds of Christmas cards dating from 1905 to 1926. The following year Ms Davis donated this wonderful collection to the Archives and Special Collections division of the Queen Elizabeth II Library.

Job Kean's family moved from Flower's Island, Bonavista Bay, to Norton's Cove in 1878. The Keans were seafaring people. Job's uncle, the famous Captain Abram Kean, (who subsequently renamed Norton's Cove to Brookfield) was the most successful sealing captain in Newfoundland history. Like his uncles and brothers, Job participated in the seal fishery in the spring of the year and in the cod fishery on the Labrador coast during the summer. He served as captain of the sealing ship the S.S. Erik for 12 years and was captain of the S.S. Leopard during the Greenland disaster of 1898.

Captain Job Kean (1863-1945) married Virtue Maria Hann (1858-1929) of Cape Cove. They built a three-storey Mansard-roofed house in Norton's Cove in 1884, and around 1890 opened a shop that supplied ships' provisions - groceries, clothing, salt - in essence, everything from "a needle to an anchor". Job and Virtue had eleven children: five sons: Hedley Walter (d.1892, 7 mos.) Baxter Wesley (1895-1976) who was to remain a bachelor and inherit the family property: Alexander Smith (d. 1905, 10 mos.) and Charles (1901-1975) who married Lydia Parsons of cat Harbour, and six daughters: Maggie Marcilla Hann (b.1884) who married Baxter Barbour from Newtown; Sophie who moved to New York and subsequently married there; Gladys Murray (d. 1891, 7 mos.); Mary Jane (d. 1897, 5 mos.); Daisy, who married Job Wornell of Greenspond and later Joseph Bartlett; and Carrie who graduated from the Friends Hospital in Philadelphia as a nurse. The Kean shop was the centre of commerce in the Brookfield area. Located near the harbour front, Kean's ships had easy access to the shop when they arrived in port for supplies and merchandise. Kean's also supplied other local sailing vessels. According to residents, Aunt Virtue and her son Baxter would usually be found behind the counter. In addition, Virtue ran the telegraph and post office from these premises.

Virtue Kean also became famous as a poet and a songwriter. According to tradition, she wrote the folk song "Lukey's Boat" and performed it one night at the Methodist Church Hall as a way of poking fun at local resident Luke Gaulton. As she sang verse after verse ridiculing both him and his boat, the audience roared with laughter. Gaulton later added a verse of his own, making fun of Virtue's well-known hypochondria.

Virtue died in 1929 and in 1945, after Job's death, Baxter was left to carry on alone. At his death, the business passed to his nephew Job Kean, son of Charlie Kean, who eventually closed up shop in the 1970s and moved to St. John's.

Today there is a new and thriving enterprise on the old Kean property. Janet Davis, after lovingly restoring the shop to its former glory, operates the Norton's Cove Studio from there in the award-winning heritage structure.