Colonial Office Records


Beginning in 1729, naval governors were selected to oversee Newfoundland's political, legal, and military affairs. They were appointed by the British government to represent its interests and enforce its authority within the colony. Initially governors only lived on the island for part of the year – usually from about July until November. It was 1817 before an appointed governor actually stayed in Newfoundland over the winter. These naval governors were officers in the Royal Navy so they also commanded the naval squadron safeguarding British fleets fishing along the Newfoundland coast and on its offshore fishing banks. To assist the Governor, a number of junior naval officers were appointed as Deputy Governors or Surrogates to oversee affairs in various Newfoundland districts. These Surrogates acted as judges to settle disputes and presided over autumn quarter sessions - termed a surrogate court - usually with the assistance of civil justices of the peace. About 1825, naval governors and surrogates were phased out and replaced by resident civil governors assisted by local magistrates, judges, and justices of the peace.

Various records pertaining to colonial government from the early 1700s onward have survived and provide a glimpse of the day to day affairs of early Newfoundland. Most of those references are contained within a primary collection which is generally referred to as The CO194 Papers supplemented by a secondary collection known as The Colonial Secretary's Letterbook. The items below have been transcribed from these collections.



Colonial Office Records.

Documented land transactions at, or pertaining to residents of, Caplin Bay.

Colonial Secretary's Letterbook (1771 - 1774) - GN2/1/A - Volume 5, Pages 180 - 181: Land Grant to Thomas Nash & Roger McGraugh
On September 25, 1773, Newfoundland Governor Molyneux Shuldham gave permission to Thomas Nash and Roger McGraugh (sic) to occupy and expand land that they had cleared the previous winter at Capling (sic) Bay extending from "the north side of Deep Cove to the Quay". Unfortunley he gives no reference to the coastal backset (i.e. depth from the shoreline) in the terse description, so the full dimensions of the original property cannot be determined. From later documents we know that the shoreline exposure at the Deep Cove end of the original Nash property was reduced by approx. 450 feet in 1848. It was re-granted to Patrick Kavanagh per his Crown Land Grant #610. From this grant we glean that the shoreline backset of the property, by then in possession of Matthew Morry, was abutted only along 100 feet of the north western boundary of the Kavanagh property whose overall length is given as being 5 chains, 90 links (about 390 feet).

Governor Shuldham stipulated that the land was to be used for their fishery works but that they were not to restrict or interfere the migratory fishermen who used Deep Cove on the south shore of Caplin Bay for access to wood and water, as well as using it as a primary location for brewing spruce beer. This local brew, high in vitamin C, was used by sailors as a preventive or cure for scurvy. There is no indication as to why the Surrogate, James Howell Jones, fowarded this petition on to the Governor, while he himself granted use of the adjacent property to Francis Tree.

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