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"Extracts from Journal of Aaron Thomas"
Relating to Ferryland

Transcribed from the 1968 book titled
....edited by Jean M. Murray




page 77-79

SHIP Log:[The log of June 26th-29th--"Moored in Capelin Bay"}

"About a mile from Caplin Bay is FERRYLAND where there is a considerable Settlement. Near two hundred Houses and Hutts constitutes the place. Here are some good Stores and much Trade is carry'd on in Fish. There is a Harbour of difficult access; before it lyes FERRYLAND HEAD and the Isle of BOISE."

page 78...

"In Queen Anne's reign the Fishermen and Planters of this the the neighbouring Bays sent home to England complaints of a want or protection, as the French had, at that period, settlements on the Southern Shores of Newfoundland. To these complaints the then Ministry in England paid attention. Colonel Charles LILLY, and Engineer, was dispatch'd to survey this part of the Coast and he arriv'd in Caplin Bay in Her Majesty's Ship "Burlington" the 1st September, in the year 1771. He went to work, finished his Survey, return'd to England and reported that Her Majesty's subjects at FERRYLAND had not the share of protection which was enjoy'd by the Harbours and Bays in the environs of St. John's; that the population and the quantity of Fish cured at FERRYLAND entitl'd them to look to Her Majesty for the means of defense and protection. In consequence of these representations a Fort was order'd to be built, according to the opinion and Plan of Colonel LILLY, on the Isle of Boise, which would command the entrance into Capelin Bay, Ferryland Harbour, Aquafort and Crow Sound. This Fort was completed, and mounted seven Guns. From it was never fired an angry shot. It is now in Ruins, and the Guns cover'd with rubbish and weeds.

1968 note: [ Parts of cannon and ruins of fortifications are still to be seen on the Isle of Bois which has been variously spelt Buoys, Buoyes, or Boise in older books. In one case it was referred to as Little Bog Island. There are records of it having been unsuccessfully attacked by the French in 1708. In 1753 it was granted to Robert CARTER of Ferryland who later maintained the garrison there.]

page 78 cont'd ....

"I was walking one day on FERRYLAND Head, looking towards the Sea. I saw a thick vapor or mist rise in a narrow compass out of the Ocean near the shore. I thought it was the smoke which issued from a Gun when fired, only it rose in a larger column. I instantly pointed it out to the person who was with me who immediately said "It is a Whale blowing". This is the first time I ever saw a motion of one of those creatures.".....lghr note: Mr. Thomas continues to write about his knowledge of Whales and Capelin.

page 79....

"In FERRYLAND Harbour on a calm day when there is no Surf or swell, the water being only gently agitated, every little roll left a number of Capelin on the sand to perish. The shores, wherever these fish viset, are strew'd with their bodys. In Coves, Creeks and places which are desolate or uninhabited the Bears, Wolves, Foxes and other wild Animals come out of the woods and feast on dead Capelin."

page 98....

"Placentia was the spot where the French had footing for the last time by Treaty. They had a Settlement and carry'd on a large Traffic in Fish. They gave much uneasyness to the British Settlements in St. Mary's Bay, FERRYLAND etc., from which places remonstrances were sent Home to England in the years 1709 and 1710, praying that whenever Peace was concluded with France the French might be excluded from having any Settlement in Newfoundland."

page 109-116...

"While our Frigate lay at Anchor in the Harbour I avail'd myself of going through the woods to FERRYLAND. I had occasion to call on business on Mrs. KEENE who lived in a place called the Grove. She is now a Widdow, is left in good circumstances having fourteen Cows, which in Newfoundland puts the proprietor on a par with JOB in point of Riches. Her Husband came over from England about Fifty-Five years ago as an Adventurer---what is called here a green man, which means a man that has never been in a Fishing Boat on this Coast before. By dint of Industry and Perservance he became the most affluent Fisherman in FERRYLAND; but four years ago he quit'd FERRYLAND and took a Voyage for the Elyssian Fields. Others say he was ferry'd across the River Styx, but without truth as there is no man free from error. But be that circumstance as it may be, true it is that Mrs. KEENE did not waste much after his death by pining for I fully believe she weigh'd at least Seventeen Stone. Her corpulency was larger in proportion to the height so you may judge the taperness of her Body. The reason of my being thus particular on Mrs. KEENE (concerning whom I have nothing ill to say) is to introduce a remark which occur'd at her House. After I had been within her Dwelling some time and was going away---"Sir," says she, "I am sorry I have got nothing, I never was so empty before." By which se meant that whe had got no Gin or Rum to give to me. Well, thinks I, if your are empty now!--looking at her Bulky Frame--what must you be when full! "My Dear Old Soul," says I, "Pray put no apologys, for if you had a Butt of Gin, with a Spiggot and Posset in it, not a Thimblefull of the Spirits for me!" I bid her Adieu, and with my good wishes and acknowledgements left, assuring her that I would speak and think of she when my eyes could not have the Pleasure of beholding her. I now leave Mrs. KEENE; God Bless her, says I, for as the Almighty has given her plenty in this life, so I hope he will be mercifull to her in the next. From the little I saw of her I am confident her hopes are great and her pretensions well founded.

In FERRYLAND is a kind of House of Entertainment called the London Inn. It is now kept by the Widdow of Captain TREE, an American Loyalist, who lost a considerable Property when the British Troops abandoned Boston. They came and settled herd. Mrs. TREE is in a very comfortable situation, has a large and roomy House and Genteel Furniture. A Gentleman may have as good a Dinner and Rest at this House as nay in Newfoundland. I Din'd here the day I made the Tour on Four Covers, Viz. a Boiled Leg of Pork, Fowls, Lamb, Ducks, Pudings, Green Pease and other Vegitables, served up with Sauces and Gravys. Had an Epicure been one of the Guests he could not a found fault with a single Dish. Mrs TREE is about fifty, rather corpulent, but in possession of one of those faces which is the Frontispiece to Good Nature and the Emblem to Sociability and calm serenity. She related to me the History of the American War and the fatal consequence of its effects to her Family, the Terror of her mind when she heard the Cannon roar at the Battle of Bunker Hill, which produced on her understanding a continuous torpenscenty that she could not get rid of until she had made her escape from the Country which was then the Seat of War. She told me that she had, at this time, a Son on board the British Ship the 'Royal George' of 100 Guns, who was born in America, serv'd under General Washington in the American Army, and was at this time a Citizen of the States of America; that he belonged to an American Ship from New York to London, that when the Ship arriv'd in London he being ashore one evening was press'd and Forc'd on board an English Ship of War. She said that if the American Minister was to apply to the Court of St. James for the Enfranchisement of an American Citizen detain'd on board a British Ship, the English Government dar'd not refuse his enlargement. I told her that England was a Country of Resources and Riches that gave her such weight in the Political World as to make her displeasure dread'd, therefore no Power on earth would be permitt'd to deliver their Credentials if the word Dare was part of the prologue to the preliminary. To say more on this controversy between Mrs. TREE and myself---I cannot but admit but what it wrote a consideration on the subject in my mind, and the following is the fruit of my Reflection:

It is held unlawful for our Offspring to resist the will of the Parent. It is likewise deem'd un-natural in a Native to fight against his Country, which has foster'd him, whose Laws have protected him in the enjoyment of his Property and in the Freedom of his person. So fully doth the Constitution of England set up this principle that on our engaging in War we instantly issue a Proclamation telling all our Subjects to quit the Service of that Power against whom our Arms are directed, on pain of death, which punishment can be inflicted by the antient Law of the Land. Now if one Kingdom or State says that this Law has Equity and Justice for its basis it surely must be confess'd that the other Countries have a right to enact the same Laws in regard to their own Subjects. America is acknowledged by all the Powers of Europe a Free and Independent Republic, and the instant that instrument was signed, that very moment, all her Citizens or the persons born in the Land became free, and were absolv'd from their Allegiance to any other Power.

To illustrate the Business it is only necessary to suppose an American is a Castaway on the Island of Sardinia. America shortly after goes to War with the King of Sardinia. She first passeth a Law making Death for any of her Citizens to be found in the Service of any Foreign Prince. The American left on the Island is forc'd into the Service of the King of Sardinia, in which Service he is actually taken by the success of the American Arms. This man, by being taken in Arms against his Country has fell (altho not intentionally) under the Rod of the Law; nothing but death can expiate his Crime.

So explored and admitted are the foregoing Hypothesis in regard to England that in the late War if a Naval Officer wanted to take a Spanish Boy on his Ship as his Servant and for the benefit of learning the Language from him, he could not be receiv'd on board untill leave had first been obtained from the Admiralty. The same objection was also against Holland and France; and in the present War two instances have come to my knowledge, where two Gentlemen of the "Suffolk" of 74 Guns each wanted a French Servant from amongst the Prisoners in Forton Prison, but no Liberation could be admitted untill leave had been obtain'd from the Admiralty.

In the American States some anxiety has been given in regard to American Sailors being detain'd on board British Ships of War. Very much difficulty has arose in the English Service on this head between the American and the English Sailor. There is no external marks for discrimination, and it is easy for a man who wishes to evade the English Naval Service to say that he is an American. The most serious circumstance of the kind which has fallen in my knowledge has occur'd at Newport in Rhode Island, where acts of violence were committed on the Captain of His Majesty's Ship "Nautilus" and his First Lieutenant as the people said that there were American Sailors detain'd on board the "Nautilus".

Mrs. TREE having let me into a digression which I never intended to volunteer in I must be pardon'd for discanting on the Rights of Nations. I shall return to my domestic seat on an old, broken Chair in Mrs. TREE's Parlour. Opposite to my Chair hung two stuffed Newfoundland Wild Ducks of beautiful Plumage. I had a design of begging or buying one of them. I made some remarks to Mrs. TREE on their size and the colour of their feathers. Learning that there were numbers of them killed on the Ice in Winter I presum'd to ask if she would sell me one of them to take to England as a curiosity. "Most readily," says she, "I will not let you have one, but I will give you both of the," at the same time rising from her Chair she unhooked both Birds and laid them on the Table by my side. "There," says she, "such Birds as them are not to be met with in England or Wales, many a good Dish do I make with them in the Winter." I return'd her at least a Boatfull of Thanks. But on my eye ranging round the Room I saw as many Punch Bowls as would rise a Chinese Temple as high as that of the Royal Garden at Kew. "Now my Dear Soul, Mrs TREE," says I -- at the same time gently playing with the flap of her Handkerchiefe which was hanging loose--"cannot you oblige me further by selling me one of those Punch Bowls?" She told me to select one out, which I did. She put a very moderate price on it and I paid her for it. I told her that on my arrival in England that Bowl would be filled with good Punch, when me and my Friends would drink to the Health of Mrs TREE of the London Inn in Ferryland, Newfoundland. "So, Sir," says shee, "You have Friends, have you?" "Most undoubted Madame, a number in England." "I should like to go to Britain with you for the sight of a Friend would be very entertaining to me, having never yet seen one." Then she asked me if I would like to drink a Glass of Punch with a Party of her Friends, and of course her Friends would be my Friends. I reply'd I had no objections. "But," says she, "my Friends are my Irish Fishing Servants now in the Kitchen who, I am confident, will be as noisy and as merry and as friendly with you as your best Friends in England, providing you pay for the Liquor." This, certainly, was no bad sally of Wit of the good Lady's, and was a home stroke, for I confess on searching the Catalogue to see the names of all which I have been acquaint'd with, I cannot put a mark against the name of a single individual, at this moment, to say for certain---That is my Friend. And yet I have had as many persons as most that would walke and talke and Drink with me, and shall again if ever I return to England. In addition to the Ducks which she gave me, and the Bowl which I bought, I also purchas'd of her some Fowls and a whole Lamb, which a man killed and Dress'd, and I sent the carcase on board in a Boat. Before my departure Mrs TREE told me, in a good humour, that I was an acquisititive Viseter. She wished me well, as she hop'd I was a good man. I told her I was like a Magpye, given to chatter. "Magpye" says she, "What's that?" "Why, an English Magpye, to be sure. Did you never hear of one?" "No" says she. Then I gave her an account of an English Magpye, the description of which pleas'd her much. She said she would like to have a Stuffed one brought over. I promised to do all in my power towards satisfying her curiosity, and if the "Boston" sails again for the Newfoundland Station I will, most assur'dly endeavour to bring or send her some.

Mrs. TREE not having it in her power to supply me with the number of Fowls I wanted I was obliged to perambulate the Settlement in search of them. Amidst the rugged Barren and Houses I met a Boy of the name of Thomas GOSECOAT, a Devonshire Lad, and Servant to the Revd Mr. COLE, who is Pastor to the flock at FERRYLAND. This Lad I knew before, when the "Boston" laid in Capelin Bay. Of his Master I will have something to say later.

page 114...

This Lad pilot'd me to a House where his Master, the day before, had bought some Fowls at 2/6 the Couple. There was some of the same Brood left. There was no person at home except a Weoman, the Mother of the Family, and she was ill in Bed. After thumping for some time at the door I herar a voice in the adjacent place (I cannot call it a Chamber). I went into it and beheld the Woeman in Bed, apparently very ill. I told her my business. She said she had some Fowls and the price was 2/6 per Couple. Having seen them, I told her I should not give more than 2/- the Couple. I now began to ask her concerning the state of her disorder, the Symptoms etc... She related, at large, how many weeks she had been in Bed, how old she was, how many Children she had got, the ageo of her Husband, the part of Ireland she came from, how hard the times was, how slow the Fish bite at present and that there was nothing to be got but Flint Biscuits in Newfoundland. I thought this was a singular relation of her diseases.

"But the Fowl, Madame, will you not sell me the Fowls for less then 2/6 the Couple?"

"No, by St. Patrick, I will not, no, not a single Farthen."

I thought I must work on the sympathetic! --so approaching her Bedside with diffidence, and a look which symbolis'd Faith and Compassion--"My dear Weoman, I do not wonder at your illness, for the very name of your complaints is enough to give you the Hydrocephalus, without being in possession of them. But Hope--Hope--my dear Creature, is the chain by which our life is linked. You certainly are, at this moment, in Trouble and great Tribulation. But you and I, and all sufferers, have this certain and positive Fact--that there is, in this life, and end to Pain as well as to Pleasure. But my good Female, the Fowls. Come let me have them for 2/- per Couple."

"No," says she, "not if I was sure I should be forc'd to eat them myself."

"Well," says I, " You are very uncharitable to a Sojourner like myself."

I happen'd this day to be dressed all in Black, my hair curl'd close to my head, as I generally wear it. With this dress and grave demeanour I have more than once been taken for a Clergyman. When I was at St. Pierres the French called me "the Boston's Priest".

I now reassume my position at the Bedside. "My Fair Creature, we have talked so much about the Sorrow of this life, dear and cheap Fowls, Plagues and Distempers, Ireland and Whale Oil!--But not a word has yet transpir'd about the Faith! Not a sentence on Religion. What Religion are you of?" "A Catholic, Sir," ---to which I subjoin'd "And so am I too!" She hastyly added "I am glad of it."

I offer'd my desires to say Vespers, which she seemed glad in her Heart to accept and join in. It is a most extraordinary circumstance, but I had in my Pocket, at that time, a Pyx containing the Host which I had been given by the Wife of an old French Baker at St. Pierres. At the sight of this Pyx, having such a Relick about my person, she could have no doubt but what I was a Roman Catholic!

I kneeled down by her Bedside, repeated the Paternoster and other Ritual solemnitys, according to the Church of Rome, with due decorum, fitness, order, and as she said, dignify'd Grace. This much I will say of myself---that during the ceremony my mind was fervent in the cause of God and my heart glowed in the opportunity of rendering my thanks to the Almighty for the daily Blessings and nourishment which I receiv'd from His Divine hands.

This Religious Scene being over I press'd the Woeman to rise and to take the air, the day being fine. She promiz'd me she would and begged me to retire. I retreated, and soon after she made her appearance, Pale and Dejected. I now began on the old Lyne--the Fowls, and hoped I should have them for 2/- the Couple. "Yes," says she, "You shall have them for Two Shillings a pair, for your Religion's sake."

page 116...

I thanked her and was sorry we could not live in the same Village together. She went to the Door and called the Fowls in, tyed their Legs, and sent them, by a little Girl which she beckon'd from a Neighbours door, to my General Depot at the London Inn. Parson COLE's Boy made his appearance before I gave her the money for the Poultry. His Master having paid 2/6 for the same Brood, she was fearful it would come to his ears of her selling them to me for less money. She spoke to the Boy on the Subject, to keep it from his Master's knowledge. We had some conversation as to the Sin of this matter in selling her Fowls cheaper to one Clergyman then another. She said that se had committed a crime because she ought to treat her Neighbour best, besides Mr. COLE was always ready to lend her any spiritual aid she needed. I told her that the argument she used ponderated in my favour by reason I used the Sea and had few opportunitys of pertaking of the good things on Shore, therefore it was a Charity to relieve the wants of the Buffited Mariner. I now take my Farewell of FERRYLAND for, with my live and dead Stock, I got on board the 'Boston' the same night.

page 155...

[St.John's Harbour, October 3rd,1794]

We arrived in this harbour yesterday with our consort the 'Amphion' Frigate. On Thursday the 25th September, on the Banks, we met a tremendous Gale of Wind which made us seek for shelter. We arrived off AQUAFORT Harbour the next day but the Wind being against us we could not get in, but we had better success at CAPELIN BAY, into which Harbour we got the same afternoon. The 'Boston' had been at anchor in this Harbour once before this summer so that the environs of this place are now well known to me. However on Saturday the 27th of September I had a cruize to myself around this Bay. In my preambulations I met with a few Mushrooms on the borders of a Bog, which was an article I had been told was never found in Newfoundland. The only scene I met with worth mentioning occur'd at a House in the Woods, kept by an Irishman of the name of POOR, a man of about 40, who had marry'd a young wife, very fair and beautiful. They had four children, were tolerably well-to-do in the world and seemed a happy Couple. In this House I domesticated myself for some hours. The chiefe complaint of the Weoman was that her Fowls and Ducks laid their Eggs in the woods, then sat upon them, and before the Young Brood had sufficient strength to travel home after the old ones, they all died of fatigue in the march, or else the Wild Catts found their nest and destroy'd old and young together. So heavy were her complaints on this head that she said her Geese, Cows, Horses, Ducks, Goats, and Chickens would all get into the woods for a week and she would never be able to find one. She said that a few days ago she sent her eldest children after them and they got themselves lost and were a whole night in the Woods exposed to the Foggs. In the morning they were brought home in a Boat from Cape Broyle Harbour, to the head of which place they had straggled. It is a common thing at this season of the year for Horses, Cows etc. to stray into the Woods for they meet a continual feast of the most luxurious Berrys and will eat them eagerly and live entirely on them. Partridges and Deer or any Wild Bird or Animal that is taken at this season of the year are fat and plump by reason that they all live on Berrys. During our stay at Capelin Bay I was at FERRYLAND. I viset'd my old acquaintances there but have nothing new to relate, only that I poked my Nose into a Hutt, a good Weoman of which told me that in her early days she had been much used to the Bon Ton, altho now the Wife of a Newfoundland Codd Hauler, having lived with a family of Rank in HANOVER Square. Changing the East End of the Town for the West she there became acquainted with a Sailor, who she marry'd and came to this land of Frost and Fish, prefering the society of the man she loved to the company of the Man of Fashion who would lead her to pertake of the pleasures of the Opera House and taste the fragrance of Kensington Gardens, amidst the Promenade there in Summer time. She told me that about a month ago she lost Four Sheep, which was all her stock, and she suppos'd at the time that they had stray'd into the Woods. A few days ago a person in FERRYLAND had opened a Potato Cellar, the door of which was only pushed to, and there found her four Sheep starved to death. This Cellar had for some time been empty and the door was left to play with the Wind. When it was open the Sheep went in, accident shut the door and enclos'd them in the Tomb of death." end of quotes

lghr note:

D.W. Prowse's 1894 History of Newfoundland records a portion of Mr. Thomas' 1794 Diary on page 574 concerning events at St. Pierres....quote "we left CABLING BAY, on Monday 30th June and Anchor'd in the Road, before the Town, in the Island of St. Pierres, or at St. Peters, this afternoon..."



Contributed and Transcribed by Lloyd Rowsell

Revised by Craig Peterman (Wednesday, 06-Mar-2013 10:09:50 AST)

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