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No. 748.

REPORT OF COLONEL GIBSON ON NEWFOUNDLAND AFFAIRS.



CALENDAR OF STATE PAPERS, AMERICA & W. INDIES, 1696-1697, p. 522.

         1,115.   Colonel Gibson to Council of Trade and Plantations. We sailed from St. Helens on Saturday, 17 April, and all arrived here on 7 June, except the hospital-ship and a small French banker, her price, which have since arrived. We were very uneasy for some time at hearing nothing of our store-ships and provision-ship, but they came in here yesterday at last under convoy of the Portland and a fire-ship. H.M.S. Bonadventure, which came with them to Trinity Bay, has put into Trinity Harbour to make good defects, and I have been much concerned to hear that the masters of the three ordnance-store ships have been obliged to serve out full allowance of provisions from the time they went on board till their arrival here, so that their three months' full provisions, which ought to have lasted four months and a half, are already expended. The want of materials at our first arrival was very prejudicial to us. We could command neither spade, shovel nor pickaxe, so that it was with much ado that, with the help of the grenadiers' hatchets, we made huts to shelter the men ; but now that the store-ships are come, all hands shall be set to work. Several of the inhabitants have been to us from Conception Bay, Trinity Bay and Bonavista, but we hear of nothing but destruction from them all, for nothing escaped the barbarous fury of the enemy but Bonavista and the little island of Carbonere. The last defended themselves bravely, which, in my opinion, was partly the reason why the enemy did not go so far as Bonavista. To southward of this there is not an inhabitant left but two or three in the Bay of Bulls, and two at Brigos by South and from there to Trepasse, which is the southmost of the English Plantations. There is not a living soul left, yea not at Ferryland, which was always looked upon (as I am told) as the best harbour and the pleasantest place in the whole Island. However, when we have secured this, I mean to go to Ferryland with a part of my regiment and secure that also, which may possibly encourage the people to settle there again. There are several other places to southward of that which in my humble opinion ought to be secured, for if we do not I fear the enemy will, before next spring, if a happy peace does not prevent it. I am afraid that, the summer being so far spent and our provisions like to fall short, I shall not have time to do what I would for the security of the harbours formerly possessed by the English ; and it were ten thousand pities but that care were taken of them. For



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though the continual fogs make approach to the island difficult, there are not better harbours in the world. All that I heard in England as to the advantage of the country is not comparable to what I have seen during my three weeks ashore here. I see little difference in the climate, nor do I believe that what grows in England will not grow here, for such a quantity of strawberries I never saw nor heard of. The few meadows within two miles of this place are full of them and of currants, both red and white, and raspberries growing wild in the wood. But all this has not sufficed to make the inhabitants cultivate the ground, for they apply themselves wholly to fishing, which gives them vast advantage, and far more than they could make by labouring the ground. You know how many debates there have been for and against a Governor here, nor shall I concern myself therein, but it is too evident that the want of a good Governor has been the ruin of a great many families in the country who were in a very flourishing condition. Let the King do what he may, unless there be some government settled— I do not mean a military government but the civil and Church government also, for in the little time that I have been arming them, the people have lived more like heathens than Christians— (he will accomplish nothing). I shall write further by next opportunity and indeed was unwilling to write by this, only as a ship was going to Bristol I thought I could not do less than give you this account. I believe that the Commodore has written to the Admiralty about the fleet. Signed, J. Gibson. P.S.—Commodore Norris goes cruising to-morrow for twenty-one days, by which time we shall be ready for Ferryland. I begin to fear the want of provisions. We are now at half allowance of bread and short allowance of all other. 2¼ pp. Endorsed, Recd. Read, 4 Aug. 1697. (Board of Trade, Newfoundland, 3. No. 81 ; and 25. pp. 123-127).

[1927lab]


 

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