History of the Colony of Avalon

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Ferryland names





Documents relating to Ferryland: 1597 to 1726

27 November, 1667; Thomas Cruse
Deposition [taken at Totnes, before commissioners appointed by the Privy Council]

West Devon Record Office, Plymouth W360/74; another copy is in Great Britain, PRO, State Papers, SP 29/223 (126).
MHA 16-C-1-026.
Abstract published in J.J. Beckerlegge ,ed., "Plymouth Muniments and Newfoundland," in Annual Reports and Transactions of the Plymouth Institution 18 (©1945) 2-23. Transcribed by P.E. Pope.

Subjects: fish, rooms, stages, planters, taverns, wine, govern, tax, fortification, salt, commerce, religion.


Thomas Cruse of Ashprington in the said County of Devon, merchant, aged 68 years or thereabouts, produced, sworn, and examined before us, deposeth that above 50 years last past [before 1617] he went to the Newfoundland in a ship of Topsham, in a fishing voyage. At which time there was no governor there or above 2 or 3 poor people that inhabited there. And such salt, boats, stages, and other materials for the fishing trade left by the ships the former year, they usually found in the like condition, without any diminution, the following year.

And, about 32 years past [about 1635] he went from London to the Newfoundland and arrived there in the harbour of Bay of Bulls [Bay Bulls] where he inhabited 18 years, which was about 4 years before Sir David Kirke, the first governor that came there after the Lord Baltimore [Sir George Calvert], who was there only one winter and then left the country, saying it was an unfit place for man or beast to live in.

During all which time of this deponent's abode there, no nation did ever in the least attempt to molest or trouble the English there in their fishery, neither were there any fortifications erected, until the coming there of Sir David Kirke, who planted some few guns at Ferryland and 2 or 3 other places. And, that before Sir David Kirke came there no one paid any customs or tax concerning the said fishery or otherwise but all was free. But after Sir David Kirke arrived there (who brought with him about 30 servants), he imposed taxes on all the inhabitants to pay a great fine and yearly rents for their houses and ground by the water side, in several harbors and fishing places, as this deponent did for a house and some ground granted to him by the said Sir David Kirke, as by a writing made in the year 1640 for which he paid the yearly rent of £ 3. 6s. 8d and a fat hog or 20 shillings in lieu thereof. And, the said Sir David Kirke did summon the inhabitants of several harbours in the Newfoundland to repair at Ferryland and compelled them to take estates in land in several harbours for erecting of houses and fishing places by the water side and to pay great fines and rents for the same, and in case of refusal threatened to expel them out of the Land [Newfoundland]. And also enticed them to take licenses of him for the selling of wine and other liquors and made them pay great rents yearly for the same - And made this deponent take and pay for such a license £ 15 per annum. And the said Sir David Kirke himself did keep a common tavern in his own house, which did draw and keep ship masters, fishermen, and others from their fishing employments, to the great prejudice and hindrance of their voyages. And this deponent further saith that the country of Newfoundland is so barren that it never did nor never can be made able to produce any considerable quantities of provisions of any sort but the inhabitants have ever had and must have their supply from the fishing ships and others that come there yearly. And in the summer season the fishing ships' companies, with their guns and ammunition brought with them, can sufficiently secure themselves and the several harbours, if in case an enemy should attempt to annoy them or invade it - without the burthensome charge of a governor or any fortifications. And, in the winter time, the sea and all the harbours are so blocked up with ice that no ships can approach.

And it so continueth often times, after the fishing supplies arrive thither in the spring of the year, that in some weeks time they cannot enter the harbour. And the harbours used for fishing lie on the water side about 70 leagues in length and every of them at least four leagues distant, and some twenty-one from the other. [One league = 6 nautical miles = about 4 km] And all ways and passages by land from the one to the other are inaccessible. And Sir David Kirke's constant practice was to engross salt and other necessary provisions brought thither for sale, for supply of the fishing ships, which he sold again unto the ships' masters and others at excessive rates, which, when no governor was there, was sold to all that stood in need thereof at reasonable rates, to the great benefit of that fishing employments [sic]. And, that during the abode of this deponent in the Newfoundland there was not any church erected there. And, if one should be built, the harbours are so far distant each from other and the ways so impassable through the woods, that its impossible for people to come to the church from any of the harbours, were the people more than they are, whereas, in most of which harbours, were not above 2 or 3 poor families.

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