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From the Thomas R. Cole Collection

Bonavista Petitions and Letters 1791 - 1796



SPG Archives C/CAN/NFL/107


To His Grace The Right Reverend Father in God, John (by Divine Permission) Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, and President of The Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

The humble petition of the Inhabitants of Bonavista. Sheweth-- That there are at this time in the harbour of Bonavista upwards of three hundred poor children- that the parents of these children have themselves been bred on the most gross ignorance, and are not only wholly incapable of conveying instructions to their offspring, but from their extreme poverty are destitute of the means of procuring for themselves so great a blessing. Thus yearly, are multiplied, numbers who have as little sense of the ends for which providence as placed them in this world as the untutored savages of the woods. Deprived wholly of the assistance of a Missionary whose precepts and example might excite to piety and a moral life, the best cement of society; this poor people are also destitute of the most common means of attaining to that small degree of cultivation which the lowest orders possess in most civilized nations. To be able to read is among the first blessings, since it furnishes the medium of improving the mind, and learning our duty to God and our neighbours. The end Your Grace's petitioners hope for in this application, is to obtain a small salary for a Schoolmaster, to enable him to instruct gratis, poor children in reading and writing. There is at present here a person (George Bemister) who has been for some time past employed in that capacity; but those who are in a situation to pay him for this attendance are so few, that the emoluments arising from his school will not furnish the most ordinary means of support. Your Grace's petitioners therefore humbly request that you will take into consideration the unhappy circumstances of the poor children of this place, and in charity grant a small annual gratuity to a Schoolmaster, for the purpose of instructing them in reading and writing gratis. And may the blessings and prayers of those who may happily benefit from Your Grace's benevolence add to that peace and serenity of mind which can only result from doing good and which Your Grace's petitioners wish you may to the latest period of life enjoy. John Bland JP Gerrard Ford JP? William Brown JP John Rolles Giles Hosier John Mayne Joseph Pretten? Wright William Ward John Butler/ Cutler? William Coles Edw? Pudner Stephen Abbott Richard Rider Joseph Abbott Stephen Lander James Skeffington J G-thing/ Gosling? Samson Mifflen Tim Phillips Stephen Hooper Thomas Coombes Robert X Dugdale John Collins George March William X Pledwell Moses X Keel Henry X Edmonds Hugh X Abbott John Lander William X Hicks James Lovey William X Baker Bonavista Petitioners Nov 11, 1791 (rearranged in alphabetical order): Abbott Stephen Abbott Joseph Abbott X Hugh Baker X William Bland John JP Brown William JP Butler/ Cutler John Coles William Coombs Thomas Collins John Dugdale X Robert Edmonds X Henry Ford Gerrard JP Goslin? J. Hosier Giles Hooper Stephen Hicks X William Keel Moses Lander Stephen Lander John Lovey James Mayne John Mifflen Samson March George Pudner Edward Phillips Timothy Pledwell X William Pretten? Joseph Rolles John Rider Richard Skeffington James Wright William Ward Bonavista 11 Nov 1791. ************* UNITED SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL ARCHIVES C/CAN/NFL: 2. DATE OCT 31, 1792 PRESENTED BEFORE THE COMMITTEE JANUARY 1793 This is Akerman's letter which accompanied this 1792 petition from the inhabitants of Bonavista. TO REV. DR. MORICE? GOWER? STREET BEDFORD SQUARE LONDON Dear Sir. Whereas the inhabitants of this Town and District has with great satisfaction beheld my laudable exertions in doing the duty of the Church at Bonavista and supporting the Protestant Religion from a total decay for these nine years past and that their children have been baptised in the foundings? of Christ and taught the Knowledge and fear of God.-- They have thought it prudent to petition to His Lordship and the other members of the Society in granting me a small salary.-- I humbly request Your Reverance's kind aid and assistance with His Lordship and the other good members of the Society in granting their request-- and am, Reverend Sir, your most
obliging and most humble servant. Abraham Akerman BONAVISTA PETITIONERS OCT 31, 1792 USPG ARCHIVES C/CAN/NFL:2 To the Right Reverend Father in God John ( by Divine Commission ) Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and President of the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The humble petition of the inhabitants of Bonavista Sheweth: That the town of Bonavista, the Capital of this District, has been many years without a Missionary; and that your Lordship's Petitioners beheld with concern the declining state of the Protestant Religion and the rapid increase of Popery, for want of a person to instruct the ignorant, and to m----- unto the minds of the unenlightened, a knowledge of our? Religion and the Duties of Christianity, until Mr. Akerman, voluntarily, and without Reward or Emolument whatever, undertook to do the duty of the Church which he has constantly served these nine years, to the entire satisfaction of the inhabitants of this Town and District-- That our children may be brought up in the knowledge and fear of God. We, your petitioners, ---- humbly beg the sanction of your Lordship and the assistance of the Society, in granting to Mr. Abraham Akerman a small salary, to enable him the better to carry out his present laudable undertaking. Your petitioners beg leave to inform your Lordship that Mr. Abraham Akerman has been married for many years and has a wife and four children now living in Bonavista. In consideration of which and of his zeal and attachment to the Protestant Religion, we are induced to implore the aid of the Society : humbly hoping that your Lordship and the Society will take his present situation into your consideration and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. Bonavista, October 31, 1792. Petitioners names rearranged in alphabetical order: Abbott X Hugh Abbott James Abbott John,Sen. Abbott John,Jun. Abbott Stephen Brown William, ( J.P. ) Baker X Willaim Bass Thomas Batt X Joseph Bemister John Bright X Francis Brushet George Budden Joseph Burton John Burton Stephen Burton William Coles William Collins X John Cooney John Clouter X Henry Crocker X George Cross Robert Cummens? X John Curdle James Davis Benjaim? Drodge John Dunden? X Moses Dyke X Richard Edmonds Henry Etsell X William Ford Gerrard (J.P.) Fielden William, Sen. Fielden William, Jun. Fisher John Fling/FlinnX John Fling/FlinnX Thomas Gellett X John Gillingham George Goff George Gosling Edward Gould Luke Green Humber Habgood James Hailey X John (Haley) Hayward Benjamin Hayward X John Hayward Thomas Hayward? William? Hardy John Heasey Thomas Hix(Hicks) X James Hix(Hicks) X Robert Hix(Hicks) X Thomas Hix(Hicks) William Hillear(ier) John Hobbs X Robert Hooper Stephen Ingram X Benjamin Lander John Lander Stephen, Sen. Lander Stephen, Jun. Little X Giles Lovey James Lush X Edward Lush X William March George Mashfield Cornelius (Marshfield) Mifflen Samson Mifflen Soloman Miles Charles Miles William Moulam James (Mouland) Oldford X George Oldford William Pardy John Pardy William Parell X William Peckham John Phevan Robert Philpot John Pladwell William Pollett Thomas? Porter William Pottle Martin Powell Henry Powell Richard Pudner Edward Rolles John Ryder Richard Saint Charles Seaward John Shearing Richard Shearing Samuel Shearing Stephen Short Isaac Singleton Thomas Skeffington James Stagg X Edward Steeds X William Street John Somerstone?X Richard Taylor William Tilly(Telley) John X Tilly X Richard Way Philip Way X William Wheller John Wheller William White Edward White George ????? Robert ****** SLA PG 191 Charles Saint, of Wimborne Minster, originally went to Bonavista as a parish apprentice to Thomas Bass, but by 1806 was an owner occupier of a fishing room. Some three decades later, he was appointed guardian to a daughter of James Oakley "native of Wimborne Minster, now of Bonavista, Island of Newfoundland" [TC Note - Pretty certain this was a Charles Saint junior] ***** Obtained from the Anglican Church Archives, Toronto DATE NOV 17, 1792 Bonavista 17th Nov 1792 Reverend Sir, I learn from the list published by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge that they have been pleased to appoint me Schoolmaster at this place with a salary of fifteen pounds a year. Altho' I have not been officially informed of this appointment, I think it my duty to return my thanks to the Society for thier favor; And to beg you will be pleased to assure them of my endeavours to deserve their protection. I am with very great respect, Reverend Sir, Your much obliged, and Obedient servant. George Bemister. ****** Obtained from the Anglican Church Archives, Toronto DATE NOV 20, 1792 Bonavista 20th Nov 1792 Reverend Sir. Last year I had the honor to enclose to you a petition from the principal inhabitants and others of this place to the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge in Foreign Parts, praying they would grant a small salary to a schoolmaster which we understand has been conferred on the person who did then, and still continues in that capacity. I am now? to return? our sincere acknowledgement for the attention which the Society has been pleased to show to our request, and to assure them that their bounty, as far as depends on us, shall not be improperly applied. Encouraged by the success of that petition I have learnt that a second has lately been (------) thru this settlement, which has for its object to obtain a salary for one Abraham Akerman for officiating as minister , or catechist. Altho I am the Chief Magistrate of this District, no application for very obvious reasons, has been made for my concurrence, or for that of the more respectable part of the inhabitants, which to give the measure a fair appearance, ought certainly to have been done. In fact, this business seems to have been managed with some (-----) for it is only written a few days that I came to the knowledge of it. When Bonavista in respect to the community was at a very low (----) Abraham Akerman who then was, and still is, an inferior servant in the fishery, read the service from the Common Prayer Book in the best manner he could, and at the festival of Christmas, sang carols about the neighbourhood, from which performances, if I am not greatly misinformed, he now continues to draw a dear emolument of thirty pounds a year exclusive of his wages as a servant. The man may be drawing enough in the useful, but humble task where providence has placed him but the nature of things has not left it in his power to merit attention beyond it. The office of catechist made by the appointment of your Society, must, presuppose some (-----) at least. The man for whom this appointment is entrusted cannot, therefore, be recommended as a fit person. The habits of life, as may be naturally supposed from this situation, are too abject to command respect, and he is besides, so grossly illiterate as not to be able to read intelligibly. Can a man so unfortunately unmastered as to the acquirement of knowledge be possibly thought competent to discharge the trust which the petition aims to obtain for him? It might be asked (if his performances can be called officiating ) why is he suffered to officiate at all? The truth is no one else as yet offered, and the people of better mind can find no inducement to attend his performances, it is thought more proper to have some show of religion than none at all nonetheless silently to suffer this ignorant, low bred man to be placed in a permanent situation with a salary, to which assuredly, he can have no pretensions, would be to connive at abuse and to preclude the hope of having a regular clergyman settled among us. It would be, in fact, to consent that the receivers of cultivated talents be prostituted to gross ignorance- It would be to suffer a benevolent institution to be duped into an appointment which. instead of promoting, would defeat the very act proposed to be attained by it. I cannot, therefore, think that I should discharge my public trust with fidelity, were I knowingly to allow this imposition to pass on the Society, who will now be better able to inform themselves as to the merits of Akerman's petition. As Bonavista as lately much increased in respectability and population, the necessity of a public instructor in the religious and moral duties of life, becomes every year more evident and shall hope that another season will not pass on without some proposal for effecting so desirable an end. I am, with great respect Reverend Sir, Your faithful Humble servant John Bland To Pastor? Morice? ******* UNITED SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL ARCHIVES C/CAN/NFL: 2. DATE OCT 23, 1793 PRESENTED BEFORE THE COMMITTEE JANUARY 1794 To The Reverend William Morice DD. Gower Street. Bedford Square. London. Postage paid at Poole. No 3 from Mr. George Bemister- John? Bonavista (TC Note -George of John maybe?). 23 Oct 1793. Reverend Sir. The Society's printed list, last yeat inform'd me, that I was appointed Schoolmaster for this place with a salary of ,15 annually, commencing the 17th Febr. 1792. I have taken the liberty to give a short detail of my proceedings in that capacity; since my residence of three years in this place - I have had constantly attending my School upwards of forty children, but through their parent's indigence, I could not procure payment for half of them; I was obliged therefore to resolve on quitting the harbour. -After communication my intentions to the Inhabitants of the necessity I laid under of removing; they judged it proper to petition the Society's assistance, which thank God has found the desired effect. - I am teaching gratis, twenty children, but the poor things are quite destitute of books. - I have taken the liberty to draw on the Society's Treasurer (Calvert Clapham, Esq.) for twenty two pounds ten shillings, in favor of Mr. Jame Bayley of Poole;- being one year and a half salary, due unto me from the 17th February 1792. It will ever be my earnest endeavour to retain (by a ----- application to my business) the protection of the Society. I am Reverend Sir. most dutifully. Your much obliged and very Humble Servant. George Bemister. Bonavista Oct 25, 1793. We do hereby certify that George Bemister has performed the duty of the Schoolmaster in Bonavista, Newfoundland from the 17th February 1792 to the date hereof; During which time he has paid a proper attention to the Duties of his Office, and has had under his tuition near fifty children from three years old to fifteen, of whom he has taught gratis, upwards of twenty- their parents not being in circumstances to pay for instructions. J. Bland, J Peace. G Ford, J Peace. ******** UNITED SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL ARCHIVES C/CAN/NFL: DATE NOV 13, 1793 PRESENTED BEFORE THE COMMITTEE FEBRUARY 1794 Bonavista 13 Nov 1793. Reverend Sir. It is with much satisfaction that I enclose to you a petition from the principal inhabitants of this place praying for a missionary to reside among them. [NOTE- I cannot decipher the balance of this letter by John Bland- (what a terrible writer) T. Cole]. Petition Nov 5, 1793: To His Grace the most Reverend John Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and the --- of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The humble petition of the principal inhabitants of Bonavista. Sheweth: That upwards of forty years have elapsed since a minister of the gospel resided among them and during that period the Inhabitants have unhappily been deprived, not only of the blessing of a public administration of the rites of the Christian religion, but of spiritual assistance in that awful moment when worldly consideration are no longer of avail. The increase of population within the aforesaid period is a circumstance -- under the absence of an --- missionary subject of particular regret. It has been recently ascertained that no? less than five hundred children underage? are numbered in Bonavista to say nothing of its dependencies. The native inhabitants, as of necessity they must be, are too generally to be reckoned among the worst order of society; and as they have not the same advantages of moral instructions as that class in the mother country, their offspring are bred in a more lamentable ignorance of the great concerns of religion. Your petitioners are deeply impressed with a just sense of their own situation- of what they owe to God, to themsekves and their children, and they believe that it is the pure practice of religion alone that can insure to them the best enjoyment of the blessings allotted to mortality. But while they solicit for themselves the benevolence of your charitable institution, they are not unmindful of an obligation incumbent upon them. They are sensible that a missionary who devotes his time solely to the laborious duties of his office, can have nothing to spare from the customary bounty of your society, and they have not been wanting in the estimation of their own means to continue to his support so as to place him above resorting to employment which they conceive ought not to be blended with his sacred function. Your petitioners are sensible to the intention of your society in sending ministers into remote parts, is to, promote the saving knowledge of the Gospel and consequently render mankind happy: but they cannot help observing that precept must fail where example is wanting. Rather would they have to remain bereft? of the blessing they solicit- rather would they see the dark cloud of ignorance continue to hover over them, than the pious intention of your society defeated in their regard. Your petitioners are desirous to have established among them a truly christian minister- one whose life would be an example of the doctrine he taught: and on their part they promise to adopt such additional means for his support as may reasonably relieve his mind from the common solicitude of this life and -- him to attend only to the concern of a better --. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. 1793 Petitioners in Bonavista to USPG Nov 5, 1793: Bland J. JP Ford G. JP Hosier Giles Mifflen Solomon Pudner Edward Mayne John Rolles John Stephens? Thomas Phillips Timothy Lovey James Pearce Andrew Abbott Stephen Pladwell William Skeffington James Lander John Reader Richard Hicks Thomas Bass Thomas Brown William Bemister George Hooper Stephen Brown Mary Dugdale Robert Cole William Baker William Stephens? Thomas ***** October 20, 1994- from Lloyd Brown, Bonavista Petition dated 08 Oct 1795 at the Wesleyan Methodist Society (London) Archives 1791-1886 H-2705: [TC Note- This is the Pro Smith Petition, which I have referred to earlier as the Anti Akerman Petition/ There is also a letter -at The Anglican Archives- by George Welch recommending Smith]. To His Grace The Right Reverend Father in God, John by Divine Permission Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England, and President of The Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts. The humble petition of the principal Inhabitants of Bonavista. Sheweth-- That two years ago your Grace's Petitioners signed and sent to England a Petition setting forth their desire to have a Missionary established among them, to which an answer has not yet been received. Since that period your Grace's Petitioners have been happily visited by a person who came to this country under the protection of a religious Society in England. Your Grace's Petitioners have during parts of two last summers witnessed the force and efficacy of this Minister's labors and Disinterested Endeavours to promote the Good of Souls. And convinced as your Grace's Petitioners are that the Inhabitants of this place have profited much from the Zeal and Pious example of the Rev. George Smith, they beg leave to Recommend him to Your Grace's Notice as a Proper Person to be appointed Missionary of Bonavista. And your Grace's Petitioners, as in Duty bound, will ever beg. J BLAND GILES HOSIER G FORD WM COLE WM PORTER JAS SKEFFINGTON JOHN ROLLS THOMAS BASS CHARLES SAINT JOHN and TIMOTHY PHILLIPS JAMES ALLWOOD JOHN WARREN JAMES MOULAND WILLIAM HIX HUGH ABBOTT THOMAS ABBOTT? STEP ABBOTT SEN CHARLES FISHER STEPHEN ABBOTT STEPHEN LANDER STEPHEN LANDER JUN WM SANDER JOHN ABBOTT SEN RICH PINDER JOHN HIX THOMAS HIX ROBERT HICKS? M HICKS? RICHARD MARSH SEN--- [TC NOTE MESH??] STEP HOOPER JOHN MAYNE GEO BEAMISTER WM BROWN ROBT DUDGALE--- [TC NOTE DUGDALE] ******** Bonavista, Newfoundland 8th October 1795 Reverend, The? desires by the inhabitants of Bonavista to transit to you the Enclosed Petition. If it would be necessary on my part to say any thing to enforce the propriety of granting its prayer, --- --- the people here are much attached to the Minister whom they recommend. I believe that upon a former occassion --- --- to you that the bulk of the inhabitants of this District are grossly ignorant and if we consider their Relations, Situation the neccessity of some effort to check the progress of Vice and ------- will appear the greater. The Minister recommended in the Enclosed Petition is in my Opinion earnestly- calculated to promote a Reform in the People of Bonavista, of great simplicity of manners and unremitting in his labors. He is so far far from seeking to make any advantage of his labors which is too general and ---- charge that he --- shares the ------ ---- ----??. His Disposition will speak more forcibly to the heart than eloquence and learning for we all know that it is Example alone that can influence the -- conduct --- ---? in a rude and uncultured state. I will not offer any further Observations, but I will hope the Petitioners may be gratified in their wish. --- Great Respect Reverend Sir Your most Obedient Humble Serv. John Bland ***** From The Church of England Archives C/CAN/NFL3 425: Dated 22 Dec 1795: Re Mr. Smith Bona Vista Newfoundland 1795 To his grace the archbishop of Canterbury. May it please your grace. About two years ago a Merchant at Harbour Grace in Newfoundland, wrote to one of his Friends at Poole, expressing the desire of himself and others, that a Missionary might be sent to them, who could read prayers, preach and bury the dead, as they were in the greatest distress in these respects, and had made application to the higher powers without success. Some of the Merchants of Poole, who were will acquainted with Mr. George Smith, the Bearer of this letter, who was then at Poole, earnestly desired him to go over to Newfoundland on this merciful earrand. He accordingly complied; and has officiated at Harbour Grace and Carbonear, with very great profit to the people. During his residence in those parts, Mr. Thistle, the chief Churchwarden at Harbour Grace, opened the Church to him, there being no regular clergyman of the Established Church in those parts: and he continued to officiate there, almost till the arrival of Mr. Jennet? [TC Note- This was Rev. George Charles Jenner, nephew of Dr. Jenner], the Missionary lately appointed by your Grace and the other Honourable Members of the Society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts. Some time before the arrrival of Mr. Jennet [TC note - Jenner] in Harbour Grace, Mr. Smith made a visit to Bonavista, one of the most northern points of the Island, opposite the Coast of Labrador; [TC Note- Welch was not well acquainted with Newfoundland- Bonavista isn't anywhere near Labrador] where the Inhabitants have been destitute of a Clergyman or any kind of Minister for about thirty years; and too many of them are little better than heathens. The people received Mr. Smith with the utmost cordiality, and have drawn up a petition to your Grace, which has been signed by the Justice of the Peace and all the Principal Inhabitants, earnestly entreating your Grace to ordain Mr. Smith, and to appoint him, or get him appointed, their Minister and the Missionary for that place and neighbourhood: and Mr. Smith is willing to devote himself to that work in that most disagreeable and desolate part of Newfoundland. When I was last winter at Poole, I received very pleasing accounts of the success of Mr. Smith's labours, from Mr. Kemp, my nephew, who is the principal merchant in Conception Bay; and have also had letters from Poole, since the arrival of Mr. Smith in England, earnestly importuning me to do every thing in my power, to give success to Mr. Smith's design, and to the earnest wishes of the People of Bonavista. Permit me, therefore, my Lord, to recommend Mr. Smith to your Grace's notice; as I really believe, that your ordination of him and appointment of him as the Missionary of Bonavista, will tend exceedingly to the reformation and happiness of those poor People, who live in one of the most dreary regions in the British Empire. Permit me to subscribe myself with very great respect My Lord Your Grace's Very humble and obedient servant George Welch London 22 Dec 1795. ************ Church of England Archives C/CAN/NFL3 426 Bonavista 1796 To The Reverend Dr. Morrice Gower Street Lambeth House Feb 5, 1796 Mr. Smith having been with the Archbishop & by him informed of a counter petitions against his request to be sent as a Missionary to Bonavista, has expressed a wish to see these petitions which the Archbishop therefore would have Dr. Morrice show him. The Archbishop has also told Mr. Smith that he can't ordain him, and that he could not therefore propose him as a Misssionary, even if there had not been any counter petition before the Society. J. Cantnan. [IE GEORGE SMITH].



Contributed by Thomas R. Cole (February 2000)

Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)

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