Jersey Kitty - Mrs Catherine Pike

On this page I am presenting pretty much everything that I have been able to find about Mrs Catherine Pike of Carbonear, who was locally known as "Jersey Kitty."

As a brief aside, there was a Mrs Catherine Pike who is known to have died in Carbonear on 4 August 1845 at the age of 74. Her death was reported in the newspapers "The Sentinel" and "The Morning Courier" (this latter paper being published in St. John's), but the details published are pretty much just her name, age, and date of death. It is not clear if this is the same Catherine known as "Jersey Kitty."

If you should happen to come across any additional information about Catherine or her family, please contact me at

If you came to this page directly, then you might want to know that I have additional information about the Pike families of Newfoundland on my website.

Claudius Watts' Letter

In an undated letter, Claudius Watts wrote:
There was another Thomas Pike - south side of Carbonear who lived to great age - his wife had the sobricat of "Jersey Kitty" - she was rather clever - taught school for several years - but was quite eccentric at intervals- They were the parents of Moses, John & Henry-- perhaps of one or more daughters - but I know of none - Who were the parents this last named Thomas Pike I do not know.
If you wish, you can view the full text of Claudius' letter.

Henry Pike is my forefather. He was married in 1830, and was likely born around 1809.

1909 Shortis address ?

At the MUN Centre for Nfld Studies is a 12 page typescript for an address that seems to have been made in Carbonear, possibly in 1909, and possibly by H.F. Shortis. The CNS call number is FF 1036 C343 C343 1909. On page 5 is the following:
There are a number of old stories I have heard but no doubt they are familiar to many. Did you ever hear of Catherine Pike or better known as Jersey Kitty? A very clever old lady from Jersey that taught school, which in all probability was the very first school established in Nfld. She had a great appreciation of the Pikes and tried to instil the martial spirit into her young scholars, she used to tell them "you are a race of heroes, you are Pike by name and Pike by nature".
Claudius Watts is mentioned as an information source on page 4, so it's plausible that Claudius Watts is the source of this information. Note that this typescript states that Claudius is in his 79th year. I have found 2 other typescripts at PANL, which appear to be much older than the one held by CNS; these earlier typescripts state 97. The typescripts at PANL are in the Shortis Collection (MG 282, Box 1, File 1).

If you want, you can see the entire document held at CNS, but be forewarned that this is a large file (it's a scan of my photocopy).

The staff at CNS told me that this typescript came into their hands from a collection of papers, etc, from Smallwood.

May 2009 update: it appears that Shortis likely gave his talk in Carbonear on 15 Dec 1908, as this is the date stated in this document which is a photocopy of a newspaper page. I don't yet know which newspaper, or the precise date of publication.

1939 Newfoundland Quarterly

In Volume XXXIX, Number 2 (October 1939) of the Newfoundland Quarterly, W.A. Munn publishes Chapter 23 of his "Harbour Grace History." Beginning towards the end of page 9 is the following text:
Tradition states that the first school in Newfoundland was carried on by Mrs. Catherine Pike at Carbonear. A very intelligent woman and better known as "Jersey Kitty." She instilled the martial spirit in her young scholars, some of her sayings are still remembered--

"You come from a race of heroes,"

"You are Pike by name and pikes by nature."

Admiral Benbow was one of her famous heroes and an example to them all.

No sources are provided.

1979: "The Pike Genealogy" by John Babb

At MUN's Maritime History Archive, under location number 103-B-2-32, is a paper written for History 3120 at MUN by John Mortimer Pike Babb in April 1979. It largely concentrates on the descendants of Captain Woodbine Pike of Carbonear, but on page 3 is the following:
It must be said that many families of Pikes came to Newfoundland from "the Old Country", however, it is beyond the scope of our analysis to interrelate these families at present. For instance, there was the firm of Pike and Green, one of many companies in 1750 as historians have considered the town of Carbonear the principal commercial town in Conception Bay from the period 1750 to 1840. We could not determine whether we were directly related to the co-partner of Pike and Green nor could we trace our ancestry to Catherine Pike, a very clever lady from Jersey, (one of the Channel Islands) who taught school in Carbonear. It is said Catherine Pike had a great appreciation of the Pikes and tried to instill the martial spirit into her young scholars by telling them that "You are a race of heros; you are Pikes by name and Pikes by nature".2
Footnote 2 cites: H.F. Shortis. "Carbonear and Its Island" (paper presented under the auspices of the Newfoundland Historical Society of Methodist Hall in Carbonear) December 15, 1908.

1990: B.V. Manning's "Education in Carbonear..."

Brian Vincent Manning wrote on page 40 of his 1990 Bishop's University M.Ed. thesis "Education in Carbonear to 1875: A Historic and Religious Perspective":
Local tradition states that the first school in Newfoundland may have been carried on by a Mrs. Catherine Pike at Carbonear in the 1600s. She was a "very intelligent woman and better known as Jersey Kitty. She instilled the martial spirit in her young scholars and some of her sayings are still remembered: You are from a race of heroes. You are Pike by name and pikes by nature."[57] Her memory still lingers on in the town of Carbonear.
Footnote [57] cites: William A. Munn, "Harbour Grace History," The Newfoundland Quarterly, Vol. XXXIX, No. 2, October, 1939, p. 9.

1992: Turk's "Quiet Adventurers..."

I have in my possession a 1992 edition of the book "The Quiet Adventurers in Canada" by Marion Turk. The book is dedicated to citing references to the people of Jersey in Canada. On page 466, Turk presents the following quote:
The name of the schoolmistress, who should be remembered in our histories, was Mrs. Catherine PIKE... 'Jersey Kitty.' She was one of those martial dames, who inspired the spirit of war and adventure amongst her young pupils. Here are some of her sayings still repeated today. 'Ye sprang from a race of heroes, be slaves to nobody!' She was married into the well-known Pike fam of that town and it was likely to her own crowd she told, 'Ye are Pikes by name and Pikes by nature.' The old lady would get warmed-up and stamp her feet like a war-horse anxious for the charge, as she told her young heroes how their forefathers fought at the Crusades...How they carried all before them at Cressey and Agincourt. Richard Strongbow was one of her favourites that she liked to tell about, and she always ended up with 'the blood of these heroes flows in your veins.' She lived to the ...age of 97 and left many descendants, one of which was Claudius Watts. Another was Capt. Frank Taylor of sealing renown, and if you wish to know more about her, ask the genial Capt. Jimmy Pike, now living in Carbonear.
Note the contradiction with Claudius Watts' letter, in which Claudius describes his own Pike ancestry.

Turk lists the following as the bibliographic information for the source. However, as yet I have been unable to find this document:

     SHORTIS, H.F., with W.A. MUNN, JERSEYMEN IN NEWFOUNDLAND, typescript, ca 1915.
Capt. Jimmy Pike died in Carbonear in April 1925. His 3 surviving sons (Frank, James Hayward, and Frederick Richard) were then resident in western Canada.

Turk's book also credits the Shortis and Munn typescript as the source of the following:

The Batten fam came from J and still own property in the central part of the Harbor of Port de Grave, Nfld. There is a tradition in the family that when their forefathers first built their fishing stages there was an encampment of Red Indians where their garden is now. This is one of the most interesting traditions that I know of, as the mention of Red Indians must have taken that original settlement back four hundred years or more. John Guy arrived at Port de Grave in 1610, before erecting his castle at Cupids. We know from his records that there were no Red Indians in Conception Bay at that time, and he had to go right up to the bottom of Trinity Bay before he met them. It shows how long these Jersey families have been continuous residents in that one spot, and they may well lay claim to the oldest inhabitants of our Island, and the Plymouth Rock aristocracy of the United States are not in it with the Jersey Batten family in Nfld.
On 16 October 2011, I finally found a copy of Shortis' manuscript. It appears as a 4-part newspaper article in the Evening Telegram issues of 20,21,23,24 November 1914. Here are direct links:
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