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CAPTAIN AMBROSE CROFTON'S REPORT TO GOVERNOR WALDEGRAVE.
RECORD BOOK, ST. JOHN'S NEWFOUNDLAND. Volume 14, page 122.
During my continuance in Temple Bay a large Shallop arrived from the Northward, with and belonging to a Tribe of Esquimaux Indians, consisting of six men, five women, and seven children, they were on their passage to the Harbour of Bradore, where it was their intention to remain the Winter with the English Fishermen, and to be employed in the Seal Fishery. They had been so provident as to bring with them some Oil and Whalebone, to barter for English Provisions and necessaries, which they are now very partial to, preferring European Cloathing to the Seal Skin dresses they formerly appear'd in, and are now so much civilised as to abhor raw meat and always dress their victuals in a very decent manner, having several cooking utensils with them. They have likewise laid aside the Bow and Arrow for Musquets & are excellent Marksmen.
The devastation committed by the French Ships in this Place, I suppose has discouraged the original Proprieters, Messrs. Pynsant and Noble, from carrying on Trade with any Spirit, having only one Shallop fishing here this Summer, which has discouraged the Indian Trade, as those People now require cloathing, Biscuit, Powder & Shot, &c. and from their present deportment, it's most probable that in future they will become a very great acquisition to our Commerce. I am sorry to observe that want of knowledge of their language, and their short stay, prevented my obtaining all the information respecting them that I wish'd, but am confident they are Numerous, being not less than Four Thousand along the Coast to the Southward of the Moravian or Unitas Fratrum Settlement, of whom they seem not to have any knowledge. Mr. Noble's Agent who resided here the three last winters, has not seen more than twenty Esquimaux Indians at one time at that Place. He says they form themselves into small Tribes under the Control of a Chief of their own choosing, to whom the most implicit obedience is paid, and are strictly honest and well behaved, which I had an opportunity of observing, having the whole Tribe to visit me twice on Board the Pluto, and sent them on Shore much pleased with their reception.
I likewise beg leave to make known to you that the Esquimaux Indians are more inclined to pursue Commerce at a greater distance than any others that I have met with, not being particularly partial to their own Country, as the first object is to obtain a large Shallop sufficient to transport not less than six men with their Wives and Children. The one that I met with had six Canoes hoisted in, and for those Shallops they pay a considerable amount in Oil, Whalebone and Furs. A Merchant from Quebec who has a small settlement about seventy leagues to the Northward of Temple Bay, has
hitherto been the principal supplyer but from the great alteration I have observed in the Esquimaux Indians since I met them twenty years ago, it's probable in a short time they will navigate the Coast in Vessels of their own construction, as I discovered in their Shallop, Carpenter and Shipwrights Tools of all discriptions. Before I conclude my observations respecting the Coast of Labradore, I think it proper to acquaint you that Vessels from the United States of America have arrived here every Year since the Treaty of Peace, with that country and as there has been no Ship hitherto appointed to attend their Motions, it's most probable they take every opportunity of Trading with the Indians. I have likewise heard that they have interrupted the British in the Salmon Fishery, having placed their Nets in Rivers which our Fishermen consider contrary to Treaty, Harbours, Bays and Creeks being particularly specifyed, Rivers not being mentioned.
It will therefore be satisfactory to have the Right of Fishing in Rivers more fully explain'd as reference will be made to the first Officer that happens to be on the spot during the time of catching Salmon, which was finish'd before my arrival on the Coast of Labradore, and the American vessels departed.
Having caused the British Colours to be hoisted and formally retaken possession of the Coast in His Majesty's Name, and obtained every information in my power respecting the state of the fishery's along the Coast of Labradore (Viz No. 3 which I had the honor of sending you at St. John's) I took advantage of the first Easterly wind on the 25th August, and passed through the Streights of Bellisle close along the Labradore Shore, as far as the Esquimaux Islands, without meeting any particular circumstance & then cross'd over to Point Rich on the Island of Newfoundland, look'd into the Bay of Ingornactroix & from thence close along shore to the Bay of Isles, without meeting any appearance of Inhabitants.
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The 5th Article which relates to the Americans fishing at Newfoundland, seems not perfectly understood with respect to the Salmon Fishery, as on the Coast of Labradore and most parts of Newfoundland those Fish are caught in Rivers, where I have been informed the Americans have placed their Nets, although Coasts and Bays and Creeks are particularly mentioned which excludes them from the Salmon Fishery, therefore the Officer that may be employed on that Coast must expect reference made to him.
Having mentioned the state of the Magdaline Islands in the preceding part of this Narrative, it will be unnecessary saying anything on that head.
The 6th Article particularly specifying the Coast of Labradore, has been in a great measure reply'd to, have only to observe that from its great extent there are sufficient and convenient situations for many adventurers, and I hope that the state of the Esquimaux Indians may be greater inducement to trade on that Coast than formerly. I am sorry to observe that the British have not attempted a Whale Fishery, although the Americans constantly send Vessels to Hermitage Bay, Newfoundland, and this year two small Schooners from Boston between the 11th May and 7th of August, killed
nineteen Whales which produced 374 Barrels of Oil. The Crew did not receive Wages, were on shares, and provided their own Provisions.
My reply to the 19th Article is, that it has been a constant practice, for the last four years, and I believe long before that time to sell, Mortgage and Lease Houses, Lands, &c. in all parts of Newfoundland, particularly at St. John's, where Public Notice is frequently given of such proceedings, and even from the Supreme Court of Judicature, the High Sherriff has received Instructions to sell Houses &c. when the defendant was not otherways able to pay. In short landed Property in Newfoundland is now considered as valuable there, as in any part of England, and the Rents are no where now regularly paid, but should an investigation take place with respect to the landed property & Houses, it would be very difficult for many of the Proprietors to prove a Title.
When I was at the Coast of Labradore, I made enquiry concerning the Society of Unitas Fratram, but could not receive any information respecting them, therefore conclude their Settlement is farther North, than were Messrs. Noble & Pynsant have any trade, but apprehend information respecting them may be obtained in London.
Having reply'd to the several Articles of Instructions in succession, it only remains for me to speak more fully to the latter part of the 17th Article, which require that I should consider and make report of such measures as it may be proper to pursue for the prosperity of the Trade and Fishery, which in my opinion now becomes a very difficult task.
The Island of Newfoundland having more the appearance of a Colony than a Fishery, from the great number of People that have annually imperceptibly remain'd the Winter, who now have Houses, land and Families, it's true those people are employed in the Fishery, but so much attach'd to Newfoundland, that it's with the greatest difficulty a few of them can be persuaded to make a voyage to Market, even in a Vessel belonging to the Island, and the population of this Island has rapidly increased, that in a few years an entensive Fishery may be carried on there by the Inhabitants alone, without receiving annual supplies of Men from England and Ireland, as heretofore. This Idea certainly makes landed property so desireable, and consequently the great object of being a Nursery for Seamen, and having an opportunity of making use of those Men during War, is totally frustrated by the fishermen remaining at Newfoundland the Winter, who are now so numerous, that it would be a serious and difficult task to dispossess them. This great evil has arisen from the land being cultivated and Houses suffered to be built.
Your most obedient and most humble Servant,
To (Signed) AMB. CROFTON.
The Hon. Wm. Waldegrave,
Vice Admiral of the Blue,
Commander in Chief, &c., &c.,