History 1497-1805

European Discovery to the Plantation Book of 1805

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This section is a continuation of the overview discussion of Bareneed (see main Menu of this site). That section provided an overview of Geography, Population, Religion, Education and Economy. This section focuses on the History of Bareneed and is organized chronologically from first settlement through to the 1950s. This first section covers the period from the arrival of Cabot in 1497 to the first survey of the community of Bareneed in 1805 (The Plantation Book)

Pre History

Prior to the arrival of the European fishermen at the end of the 15th century the coast of Newfoundland was the home of the Indigenous Beothuk people who were Algonkian-speaking hunter-gatherers. It is unlikely that the Beothuk lived in the area of Port de Grave or Bareneed since the outer tip of the Port de Grave peninsula had little to offer except perhaps as a seasonal camp for hunting seals and birds. However, the area around Northern Gut at the head of the Bay would have been much more attractive to the Beothuk. This area was a more sheltered location, with forest, a salmon river, capelin beaches, sea shore, seals, beaver and a route to the interior via North River.

First Europeans

Image result for newfoundland stamp cod

When the first European fishermen arrived from England, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal they were not looking for a place to settle but simply a place to catch fish. Locations like Port de Grave were basically seasonal factories intended for the production of salt cod to supply the European Market. The outer Port de Grave peninsula was a barren exposed rock that had virtually no arable land, limited forest that was cut or burnt soon after the fishermen arrived and no rivers. However, it was close to the cod fishing grounds (more towards the outer Bays) and had a few relatively sheltered anchorages. These fish factories relied on salt and labor (brought from Europe) to catch, land, gut, split, salt and dry cod. Apart from some fish the operations relied on supplies brought from Europe including beer and cider. These supplies were later supplemented with Rum and Molasses from the Caribbean sugar factories.

It is almost certain that these first European fishermen visited Bay de Grave and fished from locations like Bareneed. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the bays in this area are shown on the earliest maps of Newfoundland. These first fishermen would have built flakes (wooden platforms for drying fish) using local wood, set up vats for rendering oil (from cod livers, seals and whales) and perhaps cook houses for workers. They likely had some contact with the local Beothuk, perhaps trading for furs. For the Beothuk , the initial contacts with European fishermen in the early 16th century might have been advantages but disease and conflicts decimated their population and by the end of the 16th century they were no longer living in this area.

First Settlers

The first attempt at settlement in Newfoundland was the English Colony established at Cupers Cove (now Cupids) in 1610. Cupers Cove was on the south shore of Bay de Grave 2.5 km across from Bareneed. This colony was established by a partnership of Merchants from London and Bristol ( The Newfoundland Company).

Image result for newfoundland stamp kyle

In less than a decade after the founding of the colony at Cupers Cove the two groups of merchants involved in it’s formation had a falling out and the Bristol Merchants founded a separate colony (Bristol’s Hope) at Harbour Grace. Prior to this Harbour Grace was the base for the pirate Peter Easton. When the merchant Richard Newall visited Conception Bay in 1623 there was an established settlement at Harbour Grace (see my research on Richard). There were several other colonies established in southeast Newfoundland in this period including one established at Ferryland in 1621 by Sir George Calvert, later Lord Baltimore, who went on to establish another colony in Maryland.

While these colonies eventually failed as commercial ventures some of the colonist continued to live in Conception Bay and along with the migrant fishermen that were starting to establish permanent bases they were the first permanent settlers. Port de Grave families like Dawe and Butler all claim descent from people who settled during this period.

For the remainder of the 17th Century English Government policy was focused on preserving the migratory fishery and discouraging settlement. These policies reflected the views of the well connected West Country Merchant houses that controlled the Newfoundland fishery. One exception was an Act put forward in 1698 (King William III) to encourage the trade to Newfoundland. Section 7 of the Act states “Provided always that all such persons as since the 25th of March 1685 have built houses and stages that did not belong to fishing ships since 1685 shall peaceably enjoy the same without any disturbance from any person whatever” (Prowse, 1895, p. 233). Hancock (1989) states: though the inhabitants gained concessions and limited rights to possess property [through this Act], immigration and settlement were never encouraged, and after the seventeenth century the official policy toward settlers tended to be one of indifference or, at worst, as in Palliser’s time in the 1760s, one of discouraging inhabitants or reducing existing population levels.

English / French Wars during the 17th and 18 centuries frequently resulted in attacks on towns and shipping in Newfoundland. St. John’s was destroyed by the French in 1696, 1705 and 1708. The last major battle fought in Newfoundland was in 1762 when the French raided Conception Bay and briefly occupied St. John’s. During these attacks the fishermen in Conception Bay either sailed away or retreated to fortified strong points like Harbour Grace Island and Bell Island. Even when the French destroyed houses and stages they were easily rebuilt.

Planters 1755 – 1805

Despite Wars and government indifference, by the mid 18th Century fishermen living on the Port de Grave peninsula had started to establish rights of ownership to land with defined boundaries and permanent infrastructure (houses, fishing stages, improved land). Most of these resident fishermen were former migratory fishermen and as a result the migratory fishery started to decline. By 1800 , nine out of ten people in most parts of Newfoundland were permanent residents, and the remaining ten percent were the crews of supply and sack ships, not migratory fishermen.

Plantation Book 1805

On August 21, 1804, in an effort to help avoid frequent disputes regarding possession and rights of Fishing Rooms, Beaches, Flakes and land, Governor Erasmus Gower issued an order directing his surrogates around the Island of Newfoundland to take an exact account of all Fishing Rooms, Wharves, Beaches, Flakes, etc… within 200 yards from the High Water Mark and register them in a book. The claims of every Merchant, Planter, and Boat Keeper to the land he occupied were to be clearly defined. This official Register of Fishing Rooms was to be admitted as evidence in all land claim disputes. The resulting report Return of Possession held in Conception Bay 1805 (later known as the Plantation Book since most of the people recorded were planters) provides the first complete picture of settlement in this area.

The Plantation Book is organized by settlement with all properties on the Port de Grave Peninsula listed under Port de Grave. The first property (Plantation) listed for Port de Grave was owned by Samuel Daw.

Description of Samuel Daw’s property 1805

The transcription posted on the Web is missing the first 6 entries including the one for my ancestor Philip Noel. This entry was added in 1966 based on an 1820 copy from my family records. I have supplemented this with information from Keith Matthews Name Files and I have used the numbering system used by the Keith Matthews files which start at #1 for Samuel Daw. Based on later documents we know that Samuel Daw lived at the western end of Bareneed (the Dock).

The Plantation Book appears to document properties in Bareneed from west to east then extending into the village of Port de Grave. Plantation #35 (John Mugford) was in Sandy Cove, Port de Grave. Based on other more recent sources and descriptions in the Keith Matthews files I have identified property #30 (Morgan Cavanaugh) as the eastern most property in Bareneed. This is a somewhat arbitrary cutoff since in the 19th century there were some Fishing Rooms in the area between the two towns.

Planters 1805

The following Table list the Rooms/ Plantations in Bareneed with the name of the person living there c 1804 (owner or lessee) and the year the property was acquired (cleared, inherited, bought). Since many family names were misspelled or changed over time I have added the most recent spelling (Also Known As). Property #29 which was leased at the time of the survey was listed twice, once for the original owner and once for the lessee.

#NameSurnameAKAYearHow Aquired
5John CurneuCurlew1784Cleared
8JamesStevens1770Gift from his Mother
9 Elias JrFilleulFillier1790From his Father
10 Elias SrFilleulFillier1760Cleared
11 SamuelFilleulFillier1763From his Father
12 RichardFilleulFillier1793From his Father
13 JonMooreMoores1804Cleared
14 Wm.Richards1782From his Father
15 AbrahamRichards1782From his Father
16 John Richards1782From his Father
17 Isaac Richards1772From his father
18 Thomas Bartlett1778From Father in Law
19 AbrahmBoone1784From his Father
20ThomasBoone1784From his Father
21JohnBoone1784From his Father
22 William Preautx Priaulx/Picco1785Bought from Anthony
23 John Jr. or WilliamBattonBatten1782Originally Anthony> Picco>Lately occupied by Batton
24 William & JohnSnow1793From his father
25 Edward SnowSnow1793From his father
26 ThomasSnow1793From his father
27 EliasPicco1784Bought from LeViscounte
28 JohnSnow1777From his father Jacob to Hunter & Co in 1807
29 Morgan Cavanaugh Kavanagh1783Leased from T. Norman
29 Thomas (&Sons)Norman1783Cleared now leased
30 Morgan Cavanaugh Kavanagh1785Bought from J. Hodge

Overall the general pattern is one where the Rooms/ Plantations in the Dock (1-4), westernmost Bareneed (5 &6) and eastern most Bareneed (29 & 30) were the last areas to be developed (these were cleared between 1769 and 1802) . This is not surprising since these did not have easily accessible beach front. The area in central Bareneed (between the hills) and especially the Cove (see Photo below) were settled earlier. These properties were inherited in the 1770s and 1780s suggesting that they were settled at least one generation earlier.

Bareneed Cove c 1949, looking east from the top of Shop Hill.

In the above photo property #19 would have been near the Wharf at the base of the hill, the location where the photograph was taken was near property number 17, and property #30 would have been at the top of the hill in the distance. The area at the top of this hill (eastern end of Bareneed) was called Jorsey. This was likely a reference to Jersey since many of the settlers in this area (Batten, Snow, Preautx /Picco, LeViscounte, Norman) had roots in the Channel Islands.

Economy 1805

The Plantation Book of 1805 also provided information on each Plantation including, number of: houses, gardens, flakes (used for drying fish), stages (used for landing and processing fish) and meadows (for grazing and hay for animals). The following Table summaries this info:

5John Curneu2221
9 Elias JrFilleul2111
10 Elias SrFilleul22111
11 SamuelFilleul12
12 RichardFilleul12
13 JonMoore1211
14 Wm.Richards22211
15 AbrahamRichards00000
16 John Richards00000
17 Isaac Richards22211
18 Thomas Bartlett?3211
19 AbrahmBoone1111
22 William Preautx 4132
23 John Jr. Batton
24 WilliamSnow1211
25 Edward SnowSnow1211
26 ThomasSnow0000
27 EliasPicco1211
28 JohnSnow
29 Morgan Cavanaugh 2
29 Thomas (&Sons)Norman12
30 Morgan Cavanaugh 00001

This list includes some properties (e.g. 15, 16 & 28) that were acquired by inheritance but were not developed at the time of the survey. Overall, the list gives the impression of a developed community (houses) where people are catching and processing fish (stages and flakes) but also growing crops and raising cattle (gardens and pastures).

The story of the History of Bareneed continues in the next Chapter History 1805-1818 which covers the economic disruptions following the end of the Napoleonic Wars  and the environmental fallout from the Year with a Summer.