Permanent Settlement – post Colony of Avalon
About a decade after John’s Slaughter’s deposition, there is further evidence that there was some form of settlement at Caplin Bay. About 1663/1664, 16 year-old James Yonge, a surgeon aboard a ship from Plymouth, England visited Ferryland and sketched a map of "Feryland" and "Caplen Bay" within the pages of his journal. His map shows what appears to be a dwelling and several fishing stages at the head of Caplin Bay. In 1673, the Dutch raided the east coast of Newfoundland, seized Ferryland, plundered it and everything in the immediate area. The extent of this raid is described in "An Account of the Dutch Fleet upon the Coast of Newfoundland in the year 1673" (Captain Dudley Lovelace). Although Caplin Bay is not specifically mentioned, there is an entry which states “Upon the 9th of September, the Dutch went unto William Pollard's house, 3 miles distant and plundered him of 400 quintals of fish, provisions and household stuff amounting to £400 sterling”. This unnamed location could very well have been Caplin Bay, since later documents associate the Pollard surname with that settlement.
Sir John Berry's Census of 1675 (Berry Manuscript: CO 1/35) lists a planter named Christopher Pollard, his wife, three children and fifteen servant men at Caplin Bay. In the 1673 Dutch raid account, a Christopher Pollard is listed as being at Ferryland. Although we don’t know for sure that William and Christopher were related, we can speculate that Christopher may have moved to Caplin Bay after the Dutch raid. Another census taken in December of 1676 by John Wyborne (Captain John Wyborne: CO: 1/38) indicates that the Pollards were still at Caplin Bay and now had four children and 16 servants for a total of 22 people. The following year in September 1677, Sir William Poole - Captain - H.M.S. Leopard reported that Christopher Pollard and his wife, seven children and twenty servants were living at Caplin Bay (Poole Manuscript - CO: 1/41).
The Pollards possessed property and were still fishing out of Caplin Bay when the French raided and burnt settlements on Newfoundland’s east coast in 1696. A priest accompanying the French fleet wrote in his diary (The Diary of L'Abbé Jean Beaudoin) that there were twelve servants, two residents and two boats at Caplin Bay when it was raided. The names or the fates of the inhabitants are not known, but an Internet article entitled “The Trial of the Bideford Witches” (Frank J. Gent BA. MA.) provides some insight into Christopher Pollard's origin.
Mr. Gent wrote "Christopher Pollard was a son of Bideford [Devonshire] who made his fortune in the Newfoundland trade, describing himself in his will as “an inhabitant of Caplin Bay in the Newfoundland, gentleman”. (Public Record Office, London, Will of Christopher Pollard - PRO PROB/11/413/61.) In his will, which was probated in 1693, Christopher left his son, John, his ship 'the Terrenovy’. His two other sons, Christopher Jr. and George, received only ten shillings each, while he bequeathed to his ‘trusty and well-beloved wife Ann Pollard £100.' As for his four daughters, Ann Baker was a widow; she received £50. He left the same amount to another daughter, 'Ellinor wife of John Lile in Newfoundland.' His daughters, Mary and Joan, who were married to two mariners, William Bennett and George Handford of Northam, Devon, received £10 apiece."
Colonial Office records for April 1697 show that Christopher Pollard (obviously Jr.) was petitioning the British Government to send forces to Newfoundland to take back what had been seized by the French the year before. No reply to his request was located, but when John Pollard made his will in 1702 he gave his address as “Capleling Bay in the Newfoundland” (Public Record Office, London. Will of John Pollard - PRO PROB/11/557/213). All of these records appear to indicate that the Pollards were permanent settlers at Caplin Bay for at least three decades.
I think it is safe to say that the earliest permanent settlement of Caplin Bay likely occurred at the head of the bay. Here the bay ended in a large wide beach, which in addition to providing a natural surface for drying salted codfish, served as a breakwater with an access to a salt-water pond. This pond was accessible from Caplin Bay though a narrow channel known as "The Gut", which was wide and deep enough to allow small boats access to safe anchorage within the sheltered Gut Pond (also called Caplin Bay Pond in some earlier documents). At the head of this pond, a waterfall provided an abundance of fresh drinking water. Caplin Bay also had a variety of trees, growing down to the water's edge. This resource was suitable for firewood and provided building material for fishing premises, houses, and other forms of shelter.
The beach at the head of Caplin Bay was likely a much sought after prize in the days of the fishing admirals. In the early spring, the captain of the first ship to arrive in a bay (usually from England) had the right to proclaim himself admiral. As admiral, he had exclusive rights to the best fishing room in the bay for the duration of that fishing season. He was also given the right and power to administer law and order within the bay - as he saw fit. However, this system meant that, from year to year, a fishing enterprise could only hold a piece of property until the end of the fishing season. Permanent settlement was discouraged, especially by those who knew they had the best chance of being the first arrivals in the following spring. This form of temporary possession and sporadic law and order lasted until about 1719, when a system, with a seasonal governor and resident magistrates, was introduced to try to stem the self-serving and often biased decisions of the fishing admirals. After 1729, the rule of the fishing admirals was almost completely vanquished, mainly because commodores of English naval squadrons were appointed to supervise the fishery. The appointed commodore was also given the additional titles of Governor and Commander-in-Chief, and as before, resident magistrates were given power to act in his absence.
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© Kevin Reddigan (2002 - 2018)
Page Last Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016 - 02:34:23 PM EST