Jim Powell of Bonavista was not a particularly religious fellow. This is an important observation to keep in mind, as it plays a key part in this story. He attended his church whenever the doors were open and he supported his clergyman anyway he could. Still, religion was largely a perfunctory affair for him; he was what is termed a “nominal” Christian.
One night, Jim dreamed a dream. Nothing unusual there. But the content of his dream was unusual and would stay with him until his dying day. He related the details of his dream to all and sundry.
In his dream, he died, thankfully ending up in heaven.
“My son,” he would say to family and friends, “you should’ve seen it!” He would then launch into an eloquent and colourful description of heaven’s splendours.
“I was met at the gate by St. Peter himself!” he exclaimed. “I walked up the golden staircase and entered this very wonderful and beautiful place.
“Then,” he continued, excitement showing in his voice, “I was taken to a long hall, where there were rows of pegs. On each peg there was a robe and a crown.”
Emotion creased his countenance. But he wasn’t yet finished describing what he had experienced.
“As we were walking down the hall,” he continued, “St. Peter stopped and pointed to a certain peg. He said to me, ‘This robe and crown are yours, and in three years I am coming for you.’ ”
By now, shivers would be running up and down the backs of Jim’s listeners, who had heard this story time and again.
Earlier, we said that Jim Powell was not a particularly religious fellow. Well, that was before his dream. After his dream, he did an about-face. So impressed upon his mind was his dream that he became a devoted Christian. Indeed, his lifestyle was completely altered.
One fall day in 1890, three years to the day from Jim’s dream, his schooner was tied up at Baine Johnston’s wharf in St. John’s. His brother-in-law’s schooner was there, too. They had sailed to the capital city with a load of dried codfish. In return, they would take back to Bonavista the full complement of supplies they needed for the winter.
Jim’s brother-in-law had been up on Water Street. On his way back to his schooner, he saw Jim Powell walking up the wharf. He was drenched and water was streaming off his clothing. His brother-in-law spoke to him, but there was no response…for Jim was no longer there!
That afternoon, the two schooners left for Bonavista. The larger one was skippered by Tom Burge; the smaller, by Jim Powell.
Because there was no wind, they put out their rowboats and rowed until they reached the outer part of the Narrows. The schooners were so close to each other that the men engaged in a bit of fun by throwing birch junks at each other.
Separating from Captain Powell, Captain Burge proceeded to Bonavista, arriving almost three days later. But Powell’s schooner was nowhere to be seen.
Meanwhile, Jim had reached Sugarloaf.
At that moment, a steamer, the Falcon, steered directly for the schooner. A Mr. Carroll, who was manning the wheel, later testified, “I tried by every means in my power to steer clear of the steamer, but I was unable to do so.
“They had lights up,” he explained. “There was no reason whatsoever for the steamer to run into our vessel, unless there was nobody on the bridge. The steamer came along so fast that I didn’t have a chance to see if there was any lookout. But I distinctly remember there was nobody on the bridge.”
The schooner was sliced in half.
Miraculously, Mr. Carroll grabbed a piece of rope which was hanging from the steamer and pulled himself aboard. Jim Powell, who had the reputation of being “a dog in the water,” was lost. His body was never found.
Jim Powell died three years to the day of his dream of heaven.