NASH, a surname of England and Ireland - (dweller) at the ash tree. Traced by Guppy in Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire and Surrey, by Spiegelhalter in Devon, and by MacLysaght in Cos. Limerick and Kerry.



At St. John's: Colonial Secretary's Letterbook, September 25, 1773, - Thomas Nash and Roger McGraugh (sic) were granted fishery property at Caplin Bay, by the Colonial Governor, Molyneaux Shuldham. This property ran along the shoreline "from the North Side of Deep Cove to the Quay".
At Ferryland: Ferryland Surrogate Court Records - October 9, 1774 - Nash, Thomas - claimed he was overcharged for a cod seine by William Shapley.
  Letter of Father Thomas Ewer to Archbishop Troy in Ireland - November 30th, 1789. Father Ewer informed Troy he had excommunicated Father Patrick Power, the rebellious priest at Ferryland, and would do the same to anyone else who was "supporting him against the Church or have any communication with him in spirituals." In the same letter, Father Ewer noted, concerning Father Power, "I am told that he is to winter in the house of his cousin Thomas Nash, an old planter in this place & has great influence over those of his country (sic), Kilkenny; but being now much reduced expects to live on what assistance they can mutually afford."
  Ferryland District Court Records - September 15, 1790 - Nash, Thomas - This planter in Capelin Bay claimed he was owed money by the executors of this Capelin Bay resident: Fitzgerald, David.
  Ferryland District Court Records - September 15, 1790 - Nash, Tobias - This resident of Capelin Bay said he was owed money by this fisherman from Briguais (sic): Morey(Money?), Andrew.
  Ferryland District Court Records - September 13, 1797 - Murphy, James - sued this person to recover a debt owed: Nash, Walter.
  Ferryland District Court Records - January 1, 1806 - Nash, ???? sued: Bryan, ????
  Ferryland District Court Records - October 17, 1812 - Wallice, Walter sued: Nash, Walter.
  Ferryland District Court Records - October 17, 1812 - Goff, William - This merchant employed both Wallice and Nash.
Family History: Thomas Nash was one of the earliest Irish settlers at Caplin Bay. Most information about him and his presence there is folklore, of which there are several versions. One version claims that Thomas Nash arrived at Caplin Bay, about 1765, to work in the cod fishery. This version says that when it came time to return to Ireland, Thomas (and other individuals) decided they would overwinter at Caplin Bay instead, contrary to some of the prevailing British laws. Based on various colonial documents, the settlement impediments stated in Nash folklore were likely more representative of earlier years of the eighteenth century. By the 1770s, settlement restrictions were few, and those still in effect were not enforced. The folklore relates that during the winter Thomas (and his fellow countrymen ) cleared land and built a boat at Caplin Bay. Although a fishing admiral discovered their activities the following spring, they were allowed to stay as a reward for their initiative. They later established a fishing enterprise on the south side of Caplin Bay. Folklore also relates that authorities granted Thomas Nash use of all of the Caplin Bay shoreline, from headland to headland.

While most West Country England merchants of that era still preferred to retain the migratory fishery, their petitions requesting the English Parliament's support for a non-residency only fishery was, for the most part, falling on deaf ears. The fishing admiral's traditional seasonal right to select prime fishing rooms in coastal settlements in early spring had waned, as gradually resident fishing rooms occupied tracts of coastal property. In 1773, several men of diverse origins decided to petition for land at Caplin Bay. These properties would allow them to build fishing premises where the codfish they caught could be fully processed and made ready for shipment to North American and overseas markets. The first land petition at Caplin Bay to receive a favourable outcome was from Francis Tree, a New Englander, headquartered in Boston. He had likely fished in the Caplin Bay/Ferryland area since the 1750s. In 1760, he was married in Boston. Later records identify his wife as Bridget Murphy, from Ferryland, Newfoundland. The second petition, referred to the Governor for final approval, was from migrant Irish fishers named Thomas Nash and Roger McGraugh (sic). While Francis Tree's property at the head of the bay was relatively small, Thomas and Roger requested the use of all of the coastal property on the south side of Caplin Bay, from Deep Cove to The Quay, abutting with Francis Tree's granted property. It is unknown what became of Thomas Nash's fishing partner, Roger McGraugh, but later references to their property usually recorded it only as Nash's/Nashes Plantation.

Thomas Nash appears to have been an industrious settler. The only mention of him in any early court records was in one case in 1774 in which he sued a merchant named William Shapely, alleging that Shapley had overcharged him for a cod seine. However, in 1787, Thomas had conflict thrust upon him by his cousin, a Roman Catholic priest named Father Patrick Power. The pages of Cyril J. Byrne's book, Gentlemen-Bishops and Faction Fighters, outline, in detail, the long-drawn-out story of some unrest that accompanied religious freedom in Newfoundland, particularly in St. John's, Ferryland, and indirectly, Caplin Bay. On October 28, 1784, Governor John Campbell issued a proclamation to the magistrates of Newfoundland proclaiming religious freedom to all of its citizens "provided they be contented with a quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the same, not giving offence or scandal to Government." Shortly afterwards, two Irish Roman Catholic priests, Father James Louis O'Donel and Father Patrick Phelan arrived in Newfoundland. Father O'Donel, as the senior priest, immediately established two parishes, one at St. John's and another at Harbour Grace. Since Newfoundland was a bit of a wild frontier in 1784, Father O'Donel's first task was to clear Newfoundland of "unauthorized clergy." He also set about to select clergy from Ireland to administer to his far-flung congregation, who lived throughout the many fishing villages along the island's coastline. Over the next few years, O'Donel strived to expand his parishes while trying to select clergy who would conduct themselves well in an atmosphere where the granting of religious freedom was regarded by some Protestants as a sellout to the Church of Rome.

By 1787, O'Donel and his fellow priests had acquitted themselves well and, the ruling Governors of that era soon recognized O'Donel for his cooperation and efforts towards law and order. However, in that year, Father Patrick Power, a Franciscan priest from Co. Kilkenny, Ireland showed up, unannounced, on O'Donel's doorstep. Although Father O'Donel was apprehensive, given Power's lack of supporting credentials, he decided to evaluate Father Power's conduct and temperament for a few months. Although O'Donel doesn't detail Father Power's shortcomings, he decided Power was not a 'good fit' for his religiously sensitive mission. Father O'Donel first tried to persuade Father Power to return to Ireland, then to go to Spain. Eventually, Father Power left St. John's, pretending he was going back to Ireland, but he only went as far as Ferryland. There he defiantly started performing his priestly functions, claiming he did not need permission from Father O'Donel. The verbal feud continued between the two clergymen until their differences escalated into a riot, at Ferryland, in early 1788. This bloody confrontation was fought between two Irish factions, each supporting the priest of their choice. The backlash from this riot led to 111 boys/men being charged and tried for rioting court at Ferryland in the fall of 1788. Those convicted received various fines, lashings, and banishment, depending on the part they had taken in the affray. Although the Protestant residents of Ferryland were not threatened or harmed, they were afraid that any reoccurrences could involve actions against them or lead to the destruction of their homes and properties. As a measure of extra security for the concerned citizens of the area, the British Government stationed marines at Ferryland over the winter of 1788/1789, with standing orders to quell any further violence.

Despite all of this court work and Crown warnings, the feud continued at a somewhat lower pitch, with Father Power again trying to urge his supporters to 'rise' and support him. To counter Power's actions, Father O'Donel brought over a new priest from Ireland, Father Thomas Ewer (aka Yore) and stationed him as the resident priest at Ferryland, creating a new parish there in 1789. This move again fanned the fires of unrest, and via letters between Ireland and Newfoundland, senior clergy of the Roman Catholic Church (officially) stripped Father Power of his clerical standing. In a letter sent from Ferryland, written on November 30, 1789, Father Thomas Ewer stated that Father Power was to overwinter in 1789/1790 in the house of his cousin, Thomas Nash, an old planter who lived at Caplin Bay. Ewer went on to declare that, either Nash or Power, "has great influence over those of his country (sic), Kilkenny." From this ambiguous statement, it is unclear which of the two men Father Ewer was referencing in his letter. Some researchers concluded that Kilkenny was Thomas' home county, which may or may not be correct. Others have carried their deduction a little farther by declaring that Thomas' hometown was Callan in that Irish county. Even if Kilkenny was Thomas' home county, I could not find any primary evidence that Callan was his actual hometown.

As mentioned above, some statements from these official letters, though ambiguous, seem to indicate that Thomas Nash, his family, and any other supporters of Father Power were all placed under threat of excommunication. The wording in one of the letters implies that Thomas Nash's enterprise at Caplin Bay likely became financially compromised. I suspect that the official Roman Catholic clergy may have 'warned' off' all individuals or businesses who were, directly or indirectly, supporting Father Patrick Power's cause, thereby defying the Roman Catholic Church. Although in the latter part of 1789, Father Patrick Power wrote some conciliatory letters to Archbishop Troy in Ireland, there was no reprieve offered to him by the Archbishop. Based on the Ferryland court records of 1790/1791, members of the Nash family collected outstanding debts likely in preparation for their move from Caplin Bay. It is not clear when the Nash family left there, but in December 1791, Father O'Donel notified Archbishop Troy that Father Power had finally left Newfoundland. He did so only after receiving an agreement that the Roman Catholic Church would cover all of the debts he had accrued in the Ferryland area.

There is no clear picture of the overall structure of the Nash family. Some Nash researchers stated that Thomas Nash had several brothers who settled with him at Caplin Bay. While possible, I find it strange that only Thomas Nash and Roger McGraugh's names appear on the 1773 land grant. I reasoned that if Thomas had brothers involved in the fishing enterprise at Caplin Bay, they too would have been recorded as co-owners, either individually or collectively under a title such as Nash &Co. or Nash Bros. etc. Several online Nash family trees suggest that Thomas Nash and his purported wife, ???? Ryan had seven children - five sons - Walter, Andrew, Thomas Jr., Tobias (Toby), and Paddy and two daughters, Nellie and Nora. I had no success in locating any records to support this folklore. However, in the Ferryland court records, there is mention of Tobias Nash and Walter Nash. Walter was still at Ferryland decades after the Nash family had moved on. There is no way to determine his age or if he was from this Nash family. Even if Walter came from this family, there is no way to determine if he was the son, or the grandson, of Thomas Nash Sr.

In Nash family lore/folklore, the reason given for the family's departure from Caplin Bay was that they had become interested in pursuing the salmon fishery in the Placentia Bay and St. Mary's Bay area. However, I am inclined to believe that Thomas's fishing enterprise may have became forced into insolvency because he supported his cousin, Father Patrick Power. Folklore says that after leaving Caplin Bay, Thomas Nash Sr. first moved his family to Mosquito Island in Placentia Bay before they moved to St. Mary's Bay, where they founded the settlement of Branch. Thomas Nash's land, at Caplin Bay, eventually came into possession of the wealthy Holdsworth family of Devon, England. For decades, the Holdsworths leased part of it to fishing enterprises operated by the Morry and Sweetland families. Over time, Government Crown Lands also reallotted several portions of the original Nash grant to other families who had settled in the area.
Local Place Names: Nash's/Nashes Plantation. Although, before the 1970s, some residents were aware of the former name of this area of Calvert, in everyday conversation, it was not widely known. A renewed awareness of this area along the south side of Calvert bay was brought to light in the book "A Place to Belong - Community Order and Everyday Space in Calvert, Newfoundland" written by Dr. Gerald L. Pocius. Dr. Pocius was a Research Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he taught from 1977 until 2016.

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