H.M. Dawe Photograph Collection

Scope and Content

The H. M. Dawe Collection consists of textual material, photographs, lantern slides, 35 mm slides, and 16 mm films – all related to life in Newfoundland and Labrador in the mid-Twentieth Century. Available here are high-resolution scans of nearly 900 photographs from the collection, most of which were taken by H.M. Dawe throughout his missionary travels across the province between 1938 and 1959. These images provide rare photographic depictions of life and work in Newfoundland during this era, including many unique shots of communities, churches, boats, and people. The physical photographs, as well as the remainder of the collection, are currently housed in the United Church Archives in St. John’s.


Herven Maxwell Dawe was born to parents Robert and Julia Dawe on December 12, 1906 in Cupids, Conception Bay, where he also completed his early schooling. After two years of working as a school teacher, he became a candidate for ministry in the United Church in 1925 and moved to Montreal to further his education. He graduated with a B.A. from McGill University in 1932, and went on to complete a Bachelor of Divinity from Montreal’s United Theological College in 1934. Over the course of his education he served pastoral charges in Manitoba for three summers as a student, and it was here that he became interested in the Church’s missionary work. This is also where he met his wife, Iris Windross, with whom he had three children – Ruth (Whelan), Ross, and Ryerson. The family also included foster son, Morris Haug.

Dawe was ordained in the Newfoundland Conference of the United Church of Canada in June 1934 at George Street United Church in St. John’s. His initial calling was to the pastoral charge of Britannia and Foster’s Point, on Random Island, where he spent his first year as minister. He then move to the Heart’s Content charge, and spent the next two years at this post. In February 1938, Dawe moved to St. John’s to assume the position of Superintendent of Missions and Field Secretary of Christian Education for the Newfoundland Conference – a position which had previously been held by Rev. Oliver Jackson, who died tragically in November of the previous year when his boat was wrecked during a mission on the southwest coast.

As Superintendent, Dawe was required to visit all pastoral charges in the province to carry out home visits and other missionary work. He travelled mostly in one of the four mission boats supplied by the Board of Home Missions – the Chalmers, the Pioneer, the Ryerson, and the William Swann – visiting the many small, fishing communities along the coast to provide spiritual and practical advice during troubled economic times. The position also included responsibility for establishing the Church’s summer school program, which was a large undertaking. Summer schools were established in such areas as Western Bay, Britannia, Musgravetown and Springdale; each school had 50 to 100 students who were billeted with people from the local area. Local United Church school teachers, nurses, and social workers were enlisted to help run the programs, with the assistance of trained Presbytery workers.

The majority of the still images in this collection, including the digitized photographs that can be viewed here, come from Dawe’s time in the ministry. He converted some of the pictures to 35 mm lantern slides which became part of his lecture series on the missionary efforts of the United Church.

Over the course of his career, Dawe garnered a great deal of respect from the United Church community. He was elected President of the Newfoundland Conference for 1944-45, and in 1950 an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity was bestowed on him by the Pine Hill Divinity School in Halifax. In 1959, he transferred to the Maritime Conference and moved with his family to Amherst, Nova Scotia. In the Maritime Conference he served as Field Secretary of Missions and Maintenance for the Atlantic Provinces and Bermuda and Superintendent of Home Missions until his retirement in 1973. He had moved to Sackville, New Brunswick in 1964, where he spent the remainder of his life with his wife and family until his death on December 11, 1988.

Background on the United Church

The United Church of Canada is the largest Protestant denomination in Canada with close to 3 million people in over 3500 congregations across the country. The United Church was inaugurated on June 10, 1925 in Toronto, Ontario, when the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada, and 70 per cent of the Presbyterian Church in Canada entered into a union. Joining as well was the small General Council of Union Churches, centred largely in Western Canada. It was the first union of churches in the world to cross historical denominational lines and hence received international acclaim. Impetus for the union arose out of the concerns for serving the vast Canadian northwest and in the desire for better overseas mission. Each of the uniting churches, however, had a long history prior to 1925.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Conference is one of 13 United Church conferences across Canada. The oversight of the life and work of the approximately 200 congregations is exercised by the East and West Districts, while Conference co-ordinates and oversees matters that effect the combined interests of the two Districts.
To view the photographs of the HM Dawe Collection, click here

The Water Lily

Officially registered on January 14, 1892, The Water Lily was described by its editor Jessie Murray Ohman as “a Monthly Journal, devoted to the Interest of Temperance and Moral Reform.” It is widely considered to be Newfoundland’s first ever women’s journal and was launched during the women’s rights movement that emerged on the island near the end of the Nineteenth Century. Though closely affiliated with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the paper was not officially connected with any society or supplemented by any funds. Its content was eclectic, ranging from news bits and politically-charged editorials advocating women’s suffrage to romantic fiction and household hints. However, its main focus was on temperance, which was a popular cause – particularly for many women – in a time when alcohol was seen as the cause of a great number of social problems that affected the well-being of women and their families. The Water Lily was a short-lived publication – there are only 17 extant original issues. Despite its rarity, its influence and legacy can be seen nearly 100 years later in the feminist bulletin Waterlily, a project of East Coast Women and Words that ran in the province from 1989-1991.

The original issues are housed in the Archives at the Newfoundland and Labrador Conference office, United Church of Canada, St. John’s.
To view the Waterlily, click here

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