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40 - Ferryland



from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

Fifty miles from St. John's on the southern shore of the Avalon peninsula is a settlement called Ferryland that has no resemblance whatever to the Maryland metropolis of Baltimore.

Yet both were founded by members of the Calvert family and their histories are firmly linked.

Big George Calvert, who became Lord Baltimore before his death, pioneered the colony in Newfoundland. And when his dreams for Ferryland did not materialize, he obtained another land grant which enabled his son, Cecil, who succeeded to the title, to make good in Maryland.

The story of Ferryland plantation forms an engrossing chapter in the history of England's oldest Colony.

It began in September 1621 when Captain Edward Wynne and a party of 12, chiefly from Wales, arrived under Calvert's auspices. A letter by Captain Wynne describes the erection of the dwellings, store-rooms and other buildings, the cultivation of wheat, barley, oats and peas and vegetables. also the digging of a well.

In July of 1622 another party of 22 arrived under Daniel Powell, a west countryman, who wrote as follows:

"The land whereon our governor hath planted is so good and commodious that for the quantity I think there no better land in many parts of England."

Calvert himself, who had been created a baron in 1625, did not visit the colony until 1627. He stayed but a few weeks. Returning in the following year, however, he brought with him his wife and children and his son-in-law, Sir R. Talbert.

At Ferryland, Prouse says, they lived in a substantial stone house only a quoit's throw from the shore: and it was an interesting part of the coast at that, having previously served as a hideout for the notorious pirate, Peter Easton.

The tiny settlement did not remain long in isolation. Baltimore had scarcely arrived when the neighbouring settlement of Cape Broyle was attacked by three French ships and 400 men under De La Rade. the French boasted of a victory but Baltimore sent out two ships and there was little trouble from them afterwards.

The coldness of the climate and the privations that no pioneer may avoid, however, soon took toll on health and morale. Many of the original settlers died.

In August of 1629 Baltimore complained to King James of the plight of Ferryland, accusing Charles I of treachery and ingratitude in persuading him to take over the colony. He prayed then for a precinct of land in Virginia on which he might place some 40 persons and redeem his reputation and fortunes as a colonizer.

As a result Baltimore's Newfoundland holdings were transferred to Sir David Kirke, Duke of Hamilton, and others. Sir David brought his wife and children and 100 men. By force of arms they turned Captain William Hill, Baltimore's deputy, out of the mansion house "where the said Lord Baltimore had at the time divers things of good value" as well as "divers cattle and horses."

An old sea dog who had distinguished himself at Quebec, Sir David proved a tyrant. He tried by every means to exploit not only the colonists but the visiting seamen in various settlements. He charged rent for stage room, issued tavern licenses, and, says, Prouse, made every Frenchman and foreigner pay him a commission on catches of fish. Naturally charges were made against him and his regime was of short duration. He was supplanted in 1640 by John Downing, a London merchant.

For 54 years the settlement followed a rugged but peaceful existence. Then several prisoners of war, held by the French at Placentia, escaped and warned Captain William Halman that an attack was being planned.

The captain lost no time in mounting all available guns on the headlands. When a superior French fleet appeared it was pounded so roughly that it fled, leaving anchors and cables behind. A French attack in 1705 by Montigny destroyed much property but another in 1708 was repulsed by batteries on the Isle of Buoys.

Lieut. Chappel, Royal Navy, who visited the settlement in 1813 gave this description: "The inner part of this port is as secure from winds and waves as a harbor or dock, and is therefore called by the inhabitants, the poul; the harbor mouth is narrow, but not dangerous. The tides rise three, four sometimes five feet.

"There is sufficient depth of water for large merchant vessels, and even ships of war. The settlement is fairly prosperous, with fine homes, churches and business establishments. The residents are descendants of hardy Irish and French settlers who remained long after Baltimore and Kirke and other had abandoned the place.

"In natural beauty Ferryland is not as appealing to the eye as other settlements along the shore. But a walk along the downs to see the trees planted by Baltimore and the house and the piece of cobblestone road, probably the oldest of its kind in the new world, will well repay the visitor."

Dr. Stanley Truman Brooks of Pittsburg, an admirer of Ferryland once wrote:

"On the beach of the Howard Morry premises you may see the old granite markers of the Holdsworth estate. The first Holdsworth in Newfoundland was an admiral of the port of St. John's. His descendants held the Calvert house before it was torn down.

"It would be well worth your time to visit this shore. Stand on the same land on the same rock with Calvert, Easton, Kirke and Treworgil. Feel the fresh breeze from the Isle of Buoys and the thundering surf. Perhaps you would like to get just a little bit pixilated with some of the pixies I know you will find along Hangman's Hill."



Back to: The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Menu

This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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