Don Wellman is well known as a singer-songwriter throughout the eastern sector of the Lower North Shore. A native of Old Fort Bay, Don fished and took on odd jobs to earn a living. Now semi-retired, he's able to devote more time to making music. He taught himself to play accordion as a little boy and guitar as a young adult.
A resident of Bradore Bay, Don enjoys composing songs about people close to his heart. “Turpentine,” for example, commemorates his grandmother, Caroline “Carrie” (Fequet) Buckle. She was a local midwife who delivered a reputed 500 babies, including Don. She was also a traditional healer.
With only intermittent and limited medical services, people on the Lower North Shore historically had to rely on home remedies. Today, there are clinics—staffed by nurses—in communities like St. Paul's River as well as a hospital in Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon.
“Joe Ben's Song” honours Don's father, Joseph Ben Wellman, a legendary local trapper.
Liveyeres, or permanent white settlers, on the Lower North Shore began to trap fur-bearing animals in the mid-nineteenth century, following the example of neighbouring Montagnais, or Innu, and undoubtedly with their assistance. They made long treks into the interior to reach their traplines, typically travelling by canoe and snowshoe. They carried basic foodstuffs, such as flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, lard, molasses, and tea. They stayed in tents or log cabins.
By the end of the nineteenth century, residents in virtually every settlement on the coast had taken up trapping to supplement their income from cod fishing. They sold their furs, including beaver, fox, marten, mink, muskrat, otter, and rabbit, to companies like the Hudson's Bay Company or to independent fur buyers who travelled along the coast.
Although fur prices have plummeted in recent years, some residents of St. Paul's River continue to trap on a small scale.