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BOOK - Ferryland: The Colony of Avalonia
By B. D. Fardy
Published by Flanker Press Ltd, St. John's, 2005
Ferryland is one of the oldest settlements in Newfoundland and Labrador. Established in 1620 as Newfoundland’s second successful colony by Sir George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, Ferryland was first recorded on maps as early as 1550 with the French name Forillon, meaning cape or point. Both the French and Portuguese used its safe harbour as a fishing station until the early seventeenth century, when the English became dominant in the fishery off the east coast of Newfoundland and Lord Baltimore established his Colony of Avalonia there.
During the next three centuries, the English dominated the fishery on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and steadily expanded their grip on Britain’s oldest colony. The bountiful cod fishery brought thousands of Irish “youngsters” out to Talonvanish, “the far-off island of fish,” and most of them settled along the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula, from St. John’s to St. Mary’s Bay.
Ferryland’s long history of almost 500 years has been a colourful and at times difficult one, but the community survived all hardships and remains today the vibrant and historical “Capital” of the “Shore.”
5.5 x 8.5
Softcover - perfect bound
Photos - B&W
Published by Flanker Press Ltd, St. John's, 2005
An excerp from Ferryland: The Colony of Avalonia:
More than 100 years before Sir George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, established his Colony of Avalonia, Bristol merchants had been trading from the New-founde-lande. They had competition. The French, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch were all interested in exploring and exploiting the fish rich waters off Newfoundland’s coasts.
The Bristol merchants had already sponsored a half-dozen voyages to the west, and only partially to find a northwest passage to the spice-rich lands of the Orient. They had been trading with the Icelanders for their “stock fish,” dried and salted north Atlantic cod, and were paying dearly for it. The Icelanders knew the route to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland as their ancestors, the Vikings, had already discovered Newfoundland 500 years before Cabot.
The Bristol traders wanted to know the location of, and route to the cod fish grounds so they could send their own ships there and thus eliminate the middlemen of the trade - the Icelanders. From their trading missions to Iceland and the Scandinavian countries they learned of the Viking voyages to “Vinland” and of their northern route to the New World.
By 1496 they had convinced King Henry VII of England that they could find a route to the far east by way of a northwest passage, rather than by the elusive southwest one sought by Columbus and the Spaniards. King Henry sanctioned the voyage since it did not interfere with the ventures of the Spanish in the Caribbean or the Portuguese who were looking for a southeast passage through Africa. By the early 1500s the Spanish had already laid claim to everything in the western hemisphere, including Newfoundland. The Portuguese also laid claim to the island by virtue of the voyages of the Corte Reals, and the French after the voyages of Cartier in the 1530s. The French were to prove to be the real contenders.
In the 1530s, the political and religious maps of Europe had changed drastically. The squabbling Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms had been declared a dual kingdom by the Pope in Rome and their claims in the New World divided by a linea divisionis, an arbitrary line of longitude in the mid-Atlantic which saw everything west of the line belong to Spain and everything east of it to Portugal. The New-founde-lande of the north was not included in the papal bull so the French considered they had just as much right to claim it as their Catholic cousins in England. By the turn of the 17th century the French had established themselves on the North American continent in a “New France” and considered the south, west, and northeast coasts of the island of Newfoundland to be their territory.
The French didn’t recognize the English claim to sovereignty over the island as proclaimed by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583. They were satisfied to allow the English to fish from Cape Race to Cape Bonavista on the east coast, but in no other areas. In 1608 the French announced that they had established a New France on the continent of North America at Quebec, far up the St. Lawrence River in the heart of the mainland near the island of New-founde-lande.
France had recently become the dominant power in Europe following the failure of the Spanish to invade England in 1588 and the destruction of its great Armada by the Royal Navy and savage storms. The English now feared that the French colonization of continental America would lead to their claiming their cod-rich “island of fish” - the New-found-land.
To counter the French threat, the English merchants prevailed on the king to relent on the more than 100-year-old policy of not allowing any settlement on the island. In 1610, King James I granted the London and Bristol Company of merchants a Charter to “inhabite and establishe a Colony or Colonies in the Southerne and Easterne pies of the country and islande commonlie called Newfoundland...” The first attempt was made by one of the Company’s native sons of Bristol, John Guy, who came out to Newfoundland with forty prospective colonizers that same year and settled at a site in Conception Bay they named Cupids. After three years of harsh winters, pirate raids, and an unyielding land, Guy quit his attempt and returned to England.
The London and Bristol Company then looked for others to continue their efforts. In 1617 Sir William Vaughan, a Welsh gentleman, romantic, and writer of some renown, received a grant to a tract of land on the southern end of the Avalon Peninsula. Vaughan had dreams of establishing a New Wales in America and sent out a party of Welsh colonizers to begin a plantation at what would become the community of Renews. But it seems the Welsh proved to be not very good colonizers, and within two years Vaughan had abandoned his attempt at establishing a plantation in Newfoundland. With his failure, Vaughan was compelled to sell off much of his huge land grant. One buyer was Sir George Calvert, later to become Lord Baltimore.
Calvert was born at Kipling in Yorkshire, England probably in 1580 (some sources say 1578/79), the son of a well-to-do family. His father Leonard, thought to have been Flemish, married into an old Yorkshire family, the Croslands (or Crosslands) whose history dated back in that area to 1366.
Calvert was well-educated, entering Trinity College at Oxford around the age of fourteen in 1594. A Latin scholar, he acquired a Bachelor’s degree in three years and an honorary Arts degree by 1604. On November 22 of that year he married Anne Mynne, daughter of a prominent family of Hertfordshire, at St. Peter’s, Cornhill, London. During the next eighteen years the Calverts had eleven children, six sons and five daughters.
He travelled Europe extensively in his early years and learned several languages, including French, Spanish and Italian. By 1606 he had come to the attention of Sir Robert Cecil, England’s Secretary of State and King James I’s chief advisor and policy maker. Cecil prevailed on Calvert to become his personal secretary and Calvert continued in that position until Cecil’s death in 1612. In Cecil’s employ he advanced in the Civil Service increasing his position and influence and soon became a trusted confidant of the King himself. During these years Calvert held several positions of importance and influence and was also elected a member of Parliament for Bossiny in Cornwall. He did special envoy missions for the king to both France and Spain and was appointed clerk of the Privy Council which gave him the ear of the king. He also served on three commissions of inquiry into the state of affairs in Ireland, which at the time was in religious upheaval.
In 1617 he was knighted and two years later elevated to the position of Secretary of State. In this capacity he defended the king in Parliament in his unpopular efforts to forge an alliance with either of the Catholic nations of France or Spain. France was steadily growing in power since the decline of Spain after the defeat of its Armada, and James was concerned about his claims in the New World and France’s competition with him there. He was looking for an ally and believed Spain, since they also had interests there that could be threatened by the French, would be a likely partner. Young Calvert agreed with him believing the Spanish could be the “better friend or more formidable foe.”
It became Calvert’s task then for the next several years to try to forge this alliance by arranging a royal marriage between James’s son Prince Charles and the Spanish Princess Infanta Maria, daughter of King Philip III. The English Parliament opposed the alliance but Calvert supported the king both as his advisor and as a member of Parliament. For his loyalty Calvert won great rewards.
In 1621 the king granted him a manor estate in Longford County, Ireland with land holdings of some 2,300 acres. By now Calvert was becoming a wealthy man, partly due to the king having granted him special favour in the silk trade, and he built his own family estate which he called Kilpin Hall at Boulton-on-Swale in Yorkshire very near his childhood home. At the same time James also granted him title to that part of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland where he would attempt to establish his Colony of Avalonia.
He acquired a large tract of the area of the Avalon Peninsula that had been sold to Vaughan by the London and Bristol Company after Guy had abandoned his attempt at colonization there in 1613. Calvert’s grant included all the land of the Avalon Peninsula south of “the Plantacion [sic] of St. John’s and John Guy’s colony of Bristol’s Hope (Cupids), south to Ferryland Harbour and west to Placentia Bay.” Vaughan was reluctant to sell off all his grant as he still believed he could establish a New Wales in the New World. King James would not part with the colony of St. John’s which had been established by Gilbert’s claim.
It has long been debated why Calvert undertook his venture of colonization. Some suggest it was purely a mercenary adventure, and given his investments in the Virginia and East India Companies it probably was. Others believe he was a philanthropist, humanitarian, and religious zealot who truly believed he could establish a safe haven for persecuted and impoverished Irish Catholics from Ireland, and those already economically and spiritually deprived on the island of Newfoundland.
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