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From the Thomas R. Cole Collection

Notes on the Society for Propagating the Gospel 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.


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         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.


This is Akerman's letter which accompanied this 1792 petition 
from the inhabitants of Bonavista.


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



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
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


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?



To The Reverend William Morice DD.
Gower Street.
Bedford Square.

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.



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          J          ames
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.


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
G              FORD
WM             COLE
WM             PORTER
JOHN           ROLLS
JOHN           and
JOHN           WARREN
HUGH           ABBOTT
WM             SANDER
RICH           PINDER
JOHN           HIX
THOMAS         HIX
M              HICKS?
STEP           HOOPER
JOHN           MAYNE
GEO            BEAMISTER
WM             BROWN

Bonavista, Newfoundland
8th October 1795


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
John Bland


From The Church of England Archives C/CAN/NFL3 425:

Dated 22 Dec 1795:

Re Mr. Smith
Bona Vista

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


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.





Contributed by Thomas R. Cole (February 2000)

Page Revised: February - 2003 (Don Tate)

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