Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Communists (?) Infiltrate Newfoundland, 1949

Communists (?) Infiltrate Newfoundland, 1949

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 28, 2014

The newspaper liked big headlines:



But the truly startling story of that day – 14 August 1949 – was buried on an inside page:


Some Say – “Agents of the Devil!”

A strange, absurd report came into the Herald office this week when an indignant resident of Coley’s Point told of two alleged communists operating around that area. The resident went on to say that the men were young, somewhere between the ages of twenty and twenty-two, and that they were distributing literature. The men were supposed to receive secret messages at night in an old graveyard and, claimed our informant, the messages came from an invisible plane during the night.

However, when a reporter checked the absurd story with the Chief of Police it was learned that such was not the case. Two men were indeed there and were distributing pamphlets, but they were not communistic in any respect. The literature was of a religious nature and the men themselves were of some unknown religious denomination in the United States.

The two men asked for no money or any other reward for their services. If they are not asked by the kind residents of various Newfoundland settlements to have supper with them or lodge with them for the night, the two merely stay out and, like the old song, have the sky for their roof and the stars for their lamp. Their only interest is getting souls for the Kingdom of God, they claim, and the material things of this world mean absolutely nothing to them.

We are glad to present the true facts of the case, and to demonstrate once again how quickly people let their imaginations run away with them.



  1. As missionaries down in Central America, we regularly had people approach us in the street and accuse us of being CIA agents (this was particularly true in Nicaragua and Panama; I was actually hit by a thrown rock in Panama).

    Comment by bfwebster — February 28, 2014 @ 7:52 am

  2. I should note the time frame was 1972-74.

    Comment by bfwebster — February 28, 2014 @ 7:52 am

  3. just as an aside a few months prior to this Newfoundland joined Confederation and became a province of Canada

    Comment by cameron — February 28, 2014 @ 7:57 am

  4. Kudos to the reporter for trying to get the story straight. But “unknown religious denomination?” Either that was was one oddly incurious reporter or two really bad missionaries.

    Comment by Last Lemming — February 28, 2014 @ 7:57 am

  5. Funny.

    Speaking of funny, did anybody else notice the overline about Newfoundlanders getting excommunicated? What’s up with that?

    Comment by David Y. — February 28, 2014 @ 8:18 am

  6. An earlier version of The Onion?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — February 28, 2014 @ 8:19 am

  7. Communism–Mormonism? An easy mistake. By the way, what mission would this have been? I don’t think the Canadian Mission extended to the Maritimes in 1949. In fact, it’s a bit surprising that any missionaries had made it to Newfoundland in that year.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 28, 2014 @ 9:42 am

  8. Wondering also if the last paragraph about the “sky for their roof and the stars for their lamp” got them any more invitations to stay with someone.

    Comment by kevinf — February 28, 2014 @ 9:44 am

  9. I Googled the paper to see if perhaps it was published by a church which might not have wanted to give any other religious denomination more publicity. It wasn’t. But in 1948 it advocated union with the United States–obviously a scurrilous rag.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 28, 2014 @ 9:48 am

  10. Some potential context for the excommunication headline. In July 1949, Pope Pius XII issued a Decree on Communism, that had the effect of excommunicating any Catholics who had membership in Communist parties worldwide. According to that supernal fount of knowledge, Wikipedia, the decree stayed in place until 1983. Millions, it says, were excommunicated worldwide.

    Comment by kevinf — February 28, 2014 @ 9:56 am

  11. Mark B., this may have been the New England Mission, with S. Dilworth Young as president in 1949 — the clipping is among his papers, but it’s possible, I suppose, that these were not two of his missionaries and only something he read about. The New England Mission was famous for its revival of without-purse-or-scrip country tracting, though, so I think there’s a good chance that this was an “exploring expedition” without Newfoundland necessarily being a formally organized mission territory.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 28, 2014 @ 10:08 am

  12. And kevinf, thanks for that research. I only have the clipping (which fortuitously was printed on the back of the headlines) so don’t have the story to which it refers.

    I’m glad you’re all laughing with me on this!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 28, 2014 @ 10:09 am

  13. For a moment, I thought it must be another whacky escapade from the Police Beat Roundtable.

    Comment by Left Field — February 28, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

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