Surrogate Court – Southern District

Matters Dealt With Before the Surrogate Court, Southern District

It should be noted that there are court records from the Southern District (Ferryland and surrounding areas) held in two collections: those of the Southern District Court at the Registry of Deeds; and those of the Surrogate Court, Southern District, held at The Rooms. This apparent duplication by the two organisations has to do with two distinctions: the first a matter of timing, the second a matter of content. The records at The Rooms are those of the “Surrogate Court, Southern District”. Surrogate Courts, presided over by local appointees with no training in law, predated the existence of the more formal court system for the regions of the colony which was adopted in the early 1820s as subsidiaries of the Central Court in St. John’s. The Stipendiary Magistrates who presided over the latter were also seldom trained in law at the outset, though that changed over time. Secondly, the Surrogate Court Records held at The Rooms covered many more legal issues than the wills, indentures and land transactions that form the focus of the collections at the Registry of Deeds.

The following documents registered with the Surrogate Court, Southern District, are all in some way related to the people of interest to this website, largely the Morrys and Carters and their relatives by marriage and business associates, such as the Sweetlands. The files of the Surrogate Court, Southern District retained at The Rooms are by no means as extensive as those of the Southern District Court held at the Registry of Deeds, nor do they cover a period in history as long as the latter. These records are from the period between roughly 1806 and 1818 (a few documents of earlier vintage show up, but were clearly entered into the court record at this time to settle some dispute). Which is not to say that this was the extent of the duration of the Surrogate Court in Ferryland. I am not sure how long that court system existed. All I do know is that this is the duration of files that have survived and that are available at The Rooms. So collectively they form a fairly narrow snapshot in time of the legal affairs of that district.

GN 5-4-C-1 – Surrogate Court – Southern District Box 196

There was only one record found (so far) in this box that has any relevance to my area of research. It pertains to a dispute between Henry Coryear and Patrick Magee, who had been contracted to work in the fishery the following summer but then refused, leaving Henry short-handed. It is interesting to note that Magee had worked for Coryear the previous summer on the same terms. By refusing to work he left Coryear holding the bag for the cost of shipping him to Newfoundland and in need of an extra hand, which would be very difficult for him to find at this late date. Magee refused in court to serve his contract and was jailed accordingly, though for how long is not stipulated. It may have been a short enough duration that he could still contract with someone else for the summer fishery and possibly on better terms.

GN-5-4-C-1 Box 196 Henry Coryear v Patk Magee Mar 15 1797

GN 5-1-C-1 – Surrogate Court – Southern District Box 20

The cases included below were collected in two different years and then merged (June 2018). It was noted in so doing that the numbering of the cases initially used was not consistent in that on the dockets themselves there were sometimes page numbers at the top middle of the page and sometimes numbers at the top left or right, depending on the position of the page in the bound volume on the left or right. Frequently there were both. Since these numbers were applied by the court clerk(s) presumably in the order in which the record was entered into the court register of minutes, and not necessarily in the chronological order of that case being heard in court, there is some inconsistency in the ordering below. Nevertheless I have decided to stay with the numbers as written on the original court record rather than reorder the cases chronologically. This only becomes a problem in a few instances where the numbers on the original pages are duplicated due to this idiosyncrasy in the original numbering applied by the court clerk, possibly because it seems that more than one ledger was being maintained. Some of the pages are in near pristine condition whilst others are badly degraded, indicating they came from different books. I apologise if this leads to any confusion.

GN 5 1 C 1 5 Indenture Richard Power to Matthew Morry 21 Nov 1806                     Transcript

This is the earliest contemporary document amongst the Surrogate Court, Southern District records at The Rooms that is of interest to my area of family history research. Although it appears on the face of it to be an actual bill of sale of Richard Power’s property to cover a debt owed to Matthew Morry, I interpret this simple one paragraph entry to be a simpler version of later Indentures wherein a security is offered against a debt in hopes of repayment of that debt before the property actually changes hands.

GN 5 1 C 1 8 Will of Robert Carter (ca 1752-1810) 3 June 1810                    Transcript

A copy of this document is also included on the Wills page.

The original of the document is found amongst the Carter Papers (MG 31) and is almost exactly identical to this transcribed version in the official records.

According to Carter family lore, Robert was evidently on his death bed when he made this will and it was necessary to have it declared valid by the court before the two appointed executors could execute it, though it is doubtful that he had a large enough fortune that his will would have been contested by a non family member. His wife and all of his children were included equally in the will, after his debt to his mother in law, Elizabeth [Harris] Howe had been settled, so no complaints from family members were likely.

GN-5-1-C-1 1 Indenture John Aylward to Francis Tree 5 Dec 1807

This is one of the files I discovered in Box 20 in 2016. Each page of this series was enclosed within an acetate sleeve to protect it from further deterioration but in many cases the pages were already partly missing or illegible.

This file appears to be a standard bill of sale in which John Aylward sells his sloop to Francis Tree for £50. However, at the end it adds that Francis Tree is to provision John Aylward and his family to the sum of £50 to be repaid in the fall of the year. So I think it more likely that this was actually a deal between fisherman and merchant for the provisioning of his fishery with his sloop as collateral and not meant to actual change hands.

Francis Tree was an American who came to Newfoundland during the War of Independence. He is not related to the Morrys or their kin so far as I know. Similarly, although there are several connections to the Aylwards in the family tree, there is no evidence at this time that this John Aylward was an ancestor of ours.

GN 5 1 C 1 12 Indenture Michael Bryan to Nicholas Brand 29 Dec. 1811                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 13 Indenture Michael Bryan to Nicholas Brand 29 Dec. 1811

One of a typical sort of indenture used to provide a degree of security to a merchant supplying fishermen for the fishing season that he would be repaid for this debt in due course. A copy of his indenture is also found on the Indentures page. Note that this is a multi-year agreement. Normally indentures like these are intended to be repaid the same year at the end of the season but the extent of the indebtedness in this case, which must have taken several years to build up, could not practically be repaid with the proceeds of a single season’s fishing.

GN-5-1-C-1 14 Grant to Francis Tree Caplin Bay 16 Sep 1773 Photo

Here we have another of those damaged pages contained in acetate to protect against further deterioration. And again the person involved is the same Francis Tree as above. I include this file here because it represents an early grant in Caplin Bay and much of the property was initially granted to a person in this manner, conditional upon continuing use in the fishery, and later passed on when they died or left the area. Few copies of the original grants still exist so tracing the ownership of parcels of land has always been difficult.

GN-5-1-C-1 14 Sale Henry Holdsworth to Matthew Walsh Fermeuse Plantation 25 Dec 1812 Photo Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 15 Sale Henry Holdsworth to Matthew Walsh Fermeuse Plantation 25 Dec 1812 Photo Pg 2

Once again, neither the buyer nor the seller in this transaction is directly related to the Morrys and their kind but the transaction is of interest nevertheless because it demonstrates how widely spread out the properties that were at one time owned by the Holdsworths, who sold their interests in Ferryland to the Morrys a couple of decades later.

NOTE: This is one example of the situation referred to in the introduction whereby cases are numbered the same but are from different pages, evidently indicating the existence of more than one Court record book during this period. It may be that a new book was started because the original became water damaged as the pages of one set are clearly in better condition than the other.

GN 5 1 C 1 14 Civil Lawsuit John Tobin vs Matthew Morey [sic] & Michael Power ca 1802                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 15 Civil Lawsuit John Tobin vs Matthew Morey [sic] & Michael Power ca 1802

GN 5 1 C 1 16 Civil Lawsuit John Tobin vs Matthew Morey [sic] & Michael Power ca 1802

This is an actually lawsuit, which makes it different than almost all of the other documents found in the Surrogate Court, Southern District, records. It is also out of place in the records chronologically (though the exact date of the trial is not included). It perhaps should have been filed elsewhere with other more complex legal cases and was left in this collection of mainly indentures by accident. Matthew Morry and his servant, Michael Power, were convicted and fined.

GN-5-1-C-1 16 Power of Attorney Caleb Hodge to Nicholas Brand – Wm Gregory Estate Dec 8 1805 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 19 Power of Attorney Caleb Hodge to Nicholas Brand – Wm Gregory Estate Dec 8 1805 Pg 2


GN-5-1-C-1 20 Power of Attorney Caleb Hodge to Nicholas Brand – Wm Gregory Estate Dec 8 1805 Pg 3

Note that there are really two documents here but they are closely related and so I have named them as one. What has happened is that Caleb Hodge, who was appointed the executor for William Gregory’s will and related financial matters, has fallen too ill to complete his duties, has returned to England, and has transferred these responsibilities to Dr. Nicholas Brand, who was at the time living in Ferryland. Judge William Carter and Philip Tree (Deputy Sheriff) witness this transfer of responsibility. The other two pages are the actual will of William Gregory which is to be administered by Nicholas Brand.

Although, once again, none of the persons named (with the exception of William Carter) is kin of the Morrys and their associated families, Nicholas Brand was the “next friend” who represented John Foale Morry, then a minor, in his court actions in England to recover his inheritance squandered (defrauded?) by his grandfather, Matthew Morry and Matthew’s business partner at the time, Walter Prideaux. So, even though he was nominally a surgeon, Nicholas Brand was more often seen acting as a legal representative, a member of a jury or some other authority, both in Newfoundland and when he returned to Devon.

GN 5 1 C 1 21 Indenture Richard Grant et all to Matthew Morry & Co 13 Dec. 1813                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 22 Indenture Richard Grant et all to Matthew Morry & Co 13 Dec. 1813

Another similar indenture to that of Michael Bryan and Nicholas Brand above. In this case, however, not only is the amount owed considerably larger, but the debt is shared amongst multiple men of the same name, apparently a father and four of his sons, and the debt is to be repaid in a single year. This seems on the face of it to be highly unlikely, even though there are five fishermen to share in the burden of repayment. The collateral includes not only their house and plantation but their two skiffs and all of their fishing gear. This is putting a lot on the line but, considering the depth into which they have fallen in debt, they perhaps had no other option. Note also that the name of the lender is Matthew Morry & Co. of Dartmouth, not Caplin Bay. Clearly, Matthew was still holding open the door to his connection to Dartmouth at this stage.

GN 5 1 C 1 23 Indenture James Hayly to Wm Sweetland 11 Aug. 1814                    Transcript

Nothing too remarkable or different about this indenture between James Hayly (likely Healey) and William Sweetland. It is the standard fare, being for the one fishing season. One thing of interest is the name of the witness, Thomas Graham. This is almost certainly Matthew Morry’s brother-in-law but I had not known that he was a mariner sailing to Newfoundland regularly, and I would not have thought that he spent enough time on land in Caplin Bay to be able to witness a legal document of this kind.

GN 5 1 C 1 27 Petition of John Benger for Beach at Aquaforte 28 Sep 1788                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 27 Petition of John Benger for Beach at Aquaforte 28 Sep 1788

Disputes over the ownership of John Benger’s lands after his demise, or at least after he had left the area, form the focus of a large series of documents at The Rooms, with the Morrys and Carters implicated. This document, once again out of place chronologically, more than likely was registered with the Surrogate Court at this time as a part of the process of determining rightful title to some of these lands at least.

It does, however, provide an interesting glimpse into settlement patterns in Aquaforte in the mid-1700s since the testimony of the ancient residents of the area goes back well into that period and shows that the area in question was never previously used for fishing purposes of any kind. The names of those giving such testimony form a who’s who of the early settlers of Aquaforte.

GN 5 1 C 1 30 Sale of Patt Kelley Property by Philip Tree 18 Mar 1816                    Transcript

This document is a bit unusual in that it represents a foreclosure and sale of lands by the Court, Philip Tree, the Deputy Sheriff, being responsible for the sale. It is possible that this too was a formality and that Patt Kelley came forward with the amount demanded to recover his property. But there is no indenture to show that he borrowed money in order to do so. It is also interesting that the Court record does not indicate to whom Patt was in debt and therefore on whose behalf this sale was being conducted. Perhaps I am misreading this and in fact the Court is merely putting up for sale the property of a resident now deceased without heirs or having left the area permanently.

Henry Coryear Division of Property Prior to Death

Here are three documents filed at more or less the same time which all pertain to Henry Coryear doing the smart thing and distributing his property to his children individually prior to his death. This potentially served two purposes: first, it minimised disputes amongst his children and heirs after his death; and second, and this may have been more to the point, it made his property immune to lawsuits over debts since it would no longer he “his” property any more. Similar de facto transfers of property were not uncommon in Newfoundland. During the latter part of the 1800s, after the disastrous bank crash of 1894 which left Thomas Graham Morry bankrupt, he went through a similar process of transferring his property (to Alexander J. W. McNeily) in trust for his wife Kate for this very reason.

GN 5 1 C 1 31 Henry Coryear Gift to Daughters Eleanor, Ann & Sarah 5 Mar 1817                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 32 Henry Coryear Gift to Son John Coryear 5 Mar 1817                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 33 Henry Coryear Gift to Daughters Elizabeth & Mary 5 Mar 1817                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 34 Division of Robert Carter Plantation 9 Jan 1816                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 35 Division of Robert Carter Plantation 9 Jan 1816

Robert Carter (1722-1800) made no mention whatsoever of his daughter Mary amongst his heirs in his will. However, somehow Mary [Carter] Sanders, evidently did come into ownership of a part of his estate if this agreement has any meaning at all. Perhaps it was a gift to her during his lifetime.

With two living heirs (which implies the third, William, was then deceased; I had previously thought he survived until at least 1840), the question of what to do with the property Mary had received from her father evidently became a contentious issue. This “amicable” resolution describes how the two remaining heirs dealt with the matter.

In this case, it is interesting to note how Matthew Morry II (Junior) who married Ann Sanders, one of the heirs who should have been a party to this agreement, has essentially assumed responsibility and ownership of her share and accordingly is the signing party for that share. Women commonly did inherit property in their own right in those days, so this was not custom but rather an assumption on Matthew’s part that he, and not she, should benefit from this agreement.

GN-5-1-C-1 35 Indenture John Baker for David Sweetland and James Walsh Lease of Room at Caplin Bay 10 Apr 1805

I enclose this document here, even though the connection to my area of research is tangential, because it pertains to David Sweetland, the brother of Capt. Henry Sweetland, who was the second husband of Anne Carter (later to be the second wife of Matthew Morry). So no direct familial relationship but close enough to be of interest. Also the subject matter is of interest because it relates to a historically well known local grant referred to as Audley’s Plantation. The annual rent is very curious – one quintal of merchantable cod fish. This is a trifling amount of product and essentially means that David Sweetland is allowing James Walsh and Patt Evoy the use of the plantation for nothing. The reason is not known.

Robert Sanders Division of Property Prior to Death

NOTE:  This case and the next one are an instance in which the page numbering in the original ledgers overlap. This seems to have been because there were at least two ledgers and the clerk(s) failed to ensure that the numbering remained consistent between the two so that no such overlap in numbering came into being. If The Rooms should ever index these records they will have to come to grips with such overlaps and devise a unique numbering system for each case to avoid confusion.

GN 5 1 C 1 50 Robert Sanders Gift to Children 10 Nov 1818                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 51 Robert Sanders Gift to Children 10 Nov 1818

GN 5 1 C 1 52 Robert Sanders Gift to Children 10 Nov 1818

GN 5 1 C 1 53 Robert Sanders Gift to Children 10 Nov 1818

This is an even more transparent example of a person conveying the ownership of his property to other family members for the sole purpose of ensuring that it is no longer vulnerable to being claimed in payment of debts. Though it is worded as it to imply that the purpose of this “gift” is rather to ensure that the wishes of Richard Sander’s grandfather, Robert Carter, in ensuring that his property never leaves the family is strictly adhered to. Richard’s children are all minors at this time and have no use for his plantation. If his intentions were to ensure that one of them did not give up their part of the plantation, he could have waited until they were adults before having this document entered into the court record. As minors, they would not have been able to sell, barter or exchange their share of the plantation even had they wanted to.

GN 5 1 C 1 52 John Square vs Matthew Morry & Co 30 Sep 1818                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 53 John Square vs Matthew Morry & Co 30 Sep 1818

GN 5 1 C 1 54 John Square vs Matthew Morry & Co 30 Sep 1818

Here we have a very interesting twist in the convoluted story of the demise of the partnership of Matthew Morry and Walter Prideaux. This document is essentially an injunction obtained by Matthew Morry’s representative delaying the seizing of the assets of Matthew Morry & Co. in Newfoundland by John Square. Square had obtained a judgement from the Justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland allowing him to seize the property of Matthew Morry and Company in Newfoundland ostensibly to cover amounts owing to him for bills he picked up for the company at the request of his banking and law partner, Walter Prideaux. The Justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland expressed in his judgement doubts about the facts in the case, but felt he had no option but to find for the complainant, because the defendants had not adequately answered or countered the charges against them. Matthew was away in England fighting other related court cases at the time the case was being heard in Newfoundland. And of course Walter Prideaux had no intention of countering the evidence given by Square since it was evidently he who put Square up to this in the first place.

This injunction effectively halted, for the time being at least, the auctioning off of the property of Matthew Morry and Company in Newfoundland pending an ostensible appeal to the King in Council by Matthew Morry. But we know from his testimony in the High Court of Chancery that this option was not available to him, because the Crown never heard appeals of matters settled in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland, presumably not wanting to interfere in the affairs of the Colony. So it would appear that this injunction was won on false pretences.

We do not know the outcome in this case in Newfoundland any more than we know the final denouement of all of the related High Court of Chancery and Court of King’s Bench cases in England. I suspect that the whole thing simply went away after the partnership was finally dissolved and the two partners kept what assets they had managed to sneak away with before the thing wound up in the courts.

GN 5 1 C 1 59 Agreement between Merchants and Boatkeepers of Ferryland District 15 Apr. 1816 Transcript

This is a very unusual document to find amongst court records. It does not pertain to the usual type of civil or criminal matter in which a court might be asked to intercede. Instead there is nothing in dispute but rather a sort of gentlemen’s agreement amongst merchants and boatkeepers intended to avoid disputes. IN that sense, the court is being used more a registry of this agreement and not being asked to adjudicate in the matter. It also serves as a sort of informal census of the principal merchants and boatkeepers operating in the Ferryland area at the time.

Matthew Morry’s Debts to His Grandson, John Foale Morry

GN 5 1 C 1 73 Mortgage/Loan – John Morry to Matthew Morry & Co – 17 Jan. 1817                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 74 Mortgage/Loan – John Morry to Matthew Morry & Co – 17 Jan. 1817

This document represents one small part of a very complicated, convoluted and sordid affair involving Matthew Morry and his partner, Walter Prideaux, colluding to a greater or lesser extent (we will never know for sure who was the most guilty party) in the illegal cooption of the inheritance of Matthew’s grandson and ward, John Foale Luke, for their own business and personal purposes. It requires a complete read of many related cases before the High Court of Chancery and the Court of King’s Bench in England, and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland, and the Surrogate Court, Southern District (Newfoundland) to begin to get even a small sense of this affair, it is that complicated and the testimony of the parties that contradictory.

In this one document, which is replicated in the Morry Papers at The Rooms (MG237 Box 2 File 13 Deed of Loan to Matthew Morry & Co. (Dartmouth Caplin Bay) by John Morry (Dartmouth) 20 Aug 1816, Pg. 1 and 2) and which was previously transcribed by Kevin Reddigan (, we are only getting a glimpse at one aspect of the affair, Matthew Morry’s “borrowing” of a large portion of John Foale Morry’s inheritance in order to shore up his failing business partnership. Within a year that partnership had fallen apart and the business more or less had gone bankrupt, despite this belated infusion of funds. It took John Foale Luke another seven years to be given justice by the High Court of Chancery in England, though it is not at all clear that he ever did recover his entire inheritance.

The transcript which appears here is a slightly modified version of that prepared by Kevin Reddigan, the changes made solely to reflect how the document actually appears in the records of the Surrogate Court as opposed to the Morry Papers.

GN 5 1 C 1 74 Indenture – Matthew Morry to John Morry – 11 Dec 1816                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 75 Indenture – Matthew Morry to John Morry – 11 Dec 1816

This document is sequentially in order but chronologically out of order and must be read in context with the previous one to understand what seems to be happening here. This Indenture actually preceded in time the “mortgage” above but they both relate to the same incident. Matthew Morry, acting as the trustee for his grandson, John Foale Morry, had taken some of the latter’s inheritance money to prop up his failing partnership with Walter Prideaux. Anticipating the judgement day when he would be called to account for this dubiously legal use of these funds, Matthew made it seem that the funds were secured on the value of his properties in Newfoundland. In this case, having “borrowed” £100 pounds, he was committing as security his two fishing rooms in Brigus South, currently rented out to John Badcock and John Jordan. In the case above, which actually occurred one month later, Matthew uses his own fishing rooms at the head of Caplin Bay as collateral on a “loan” of Six Hundred & Fifty nine Pounds Eighteen Shillings and two Pence. Coincidentally, this latter amount is what Matthew was accused of having received from the sale of John Foale Morry’s inherited £3 per cent Annual Annuities — monies Matthew was supposed to have invested in securities.

As mentioned above, John Foale Morry did win his case against his grandfather and Walter Prideaux in the courts in England, albeit seven years later, but it is not known whether he ever recovered all of his inheritance plus interest from Walter Prideaux and Matthew Morry, as the court had ruled he should. It is also not known if he ever got back the £100 his grandfather “borrowed” from him in this indenture.

GN 5 1 C 1 76 Indenture Jeffrey Malone to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co – 21 Sept 1816                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 77 Indenture Jeffrey Malone to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co – 21 Sept 1816

This and several of the remaining indentures in this volume pertain to debts owed to Samuel Gormand Carter and Company. They seem to have had many local fishermen and planters deeply indebted to them at this time, perhaps indicative of a downturn in the fishery, making it impossible for the fishermen to pay back the merchants at the end of the fishing season.

GN 5 1 C 1 81 Indenture John William Sanders to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co – 24 Oct 1816                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 82 Indenture John William Sanders to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co – 24 Oct 1816

Another example similar to the above. There are several more mentioned in the Summary Table at the end of the Volume (see below)

GN 5 1 C 1 82 Elizabeth Foran Gift to Patrick Foran – 25 Mar 1816                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 83 Elizabeth Foran Gift to Patrick Foran – 25 Mar 1816

NOTE: This case resumes on the same page as the previous case is completed. This is not an instance of duplicated page numbers.

A case of a cashless transfer, in this case between a widowed mother to her son, with the anticipation that he would continue to look after her for the rest of her life. Since she had no come back in law by virtue of this indenture, if he did not provide her with continued support she may very well have been in great difficulty.

GN-5-1-C-1 97 Indenture Philip Tree to John Teague 29 Nov 1823 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 98 Indenture Philip Tree to John Teague 29 Nov 1823 Pg 2

Philip Tree was one of the sons of the American immigrant, Francis Tree, mentioned previously. The family was not wealthy, though they did hold positions of responsibility in the area, including acting as sheriffs. They were fishermen, like everyone else, and moreover, as this indenture indicates, Philip did not even own his own fishing rooms, he rented them. And when he needed financing to outfit himself for the seasonal fishery, he had to put up his interest in these rented rooms as collateral against the loan of £50 and 16 Shillings which he received from John Teague, a Dartmouth Merchant whose name appeared regularly in regard to fishing and shipping activities in the Ferryland area.

GN 5 1 C 1 100 Indenture Thomas Payne to Peter Winsor – 5 Apr 1825                    Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 101 Indenture Thomas Payne to Peter Winsor – 5 Apr 1825

The Payne and Windsor (Winsor/Winser) families of Aquaforte were amongst the earliest settlers there and of course wound up being related to one another through both marriage and business ties. However, it seems that the Winsors were the more affluent and in this case an indenture shows that the Paynes were dependent upon them for financing their season at the fishery. However, despite this kinship, differences did occur, as the sad case which follows demonstrates.

GN 5 1 C 1 105 Catherine Payne vs Peter Winsor – 18 May 1819 Transcript

The last case in this Volume which concerns relatives of the Morry clan, and a sad case it is. It is one of the few civil cases heard in the Surrogate Court, Southern Division, judging by the record s above, and really it borders on a criminal case and would have been dealt with as such had it occurred today. Peter Winsor was a merchant and it appears the case was handled deferentially in view of his status. Even though he was convicted, the fines levied were small and the plaintiff received no compensation for the unforgivable attack upon her person.

Summary Table — Surrogate Court, Southern Division

At the end of the loose bundle of documents that constitute the file on the cases presented and enrolled in the register of the Surrogate Court, Southern Division, there is a summary table entitled: “Assignments, Mortgages, & other Conveyances Inrolld [sic] in the Surrogate Court at Ferryland”. This table begins immediately after the last recorded case and is numbered sequentially from there, starting with Page 106, but also number “1” to indicate that the relative order of the pages of the Summary Table.

I have not bothered to photograph or transcribe the page in the Summary Table corresponding to all of the cases above which involved the exchange of monies (these are the only cases found in the Summary Table), but a few examples follow. In some cases the simply repeat what was found in the case record itself in brief form. But in some cases new light is shed on the case and I have made not of these differences.

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 106 Mortgage – Matthew Morry to John Morry – 11 Dec 1816                     Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 107 Mortgage – Matthew Morry to John Morry – 20 Aug 1816                    Transcript

Note the date of this Mortgage, Loan or Indenture: It precedes the date of the related case above (GN 5 1 C 73-74) by five months. In effect, the loan had been given/taken predicated upon its being repaid before the end of 1816. When this did not occur, the “loan” was essentially extended indefinitely by the Mortgage above. Keep in mind that, despite the name of John Foale Morry appearing on these documents as the “mortgager”, in effect Matthew Morry is his own banker, lending with one hand and receiving with the other.

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 108 Mortgage – John W Sanders to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co – 24 Nov 1816            Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 109 Mortgage – Patrick Foran, Richard Power & Jeffrey Malone to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co – Sept-Dec 1816                    Transcript

From the above two pages of accounts and Page 111 below, it is clear that Samuel Gormand Carter and Company were involved in financing the fishery, not prosecuting it on their own account. This was a much more profitable and secure undertaking.

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 111 Mortgage James Gregory to William& Benjamin Sweetland – 1 Nov 1815                   Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 111 Mortgages – John Carney & John Madden to Samuel Gormand Carter & Co. – 18 Jan 1816                     Transcript

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 111 Property Transfer – Henry to John Coryear & Elizabeth to Elizabeth & Mary Coryear – 15 May 1816                     Transcript

It isn’t clear why this account appears in the summary table, since no money changed hands. But there is another difference between the summary table and the case above (GN 5 1 C 1 31); in the summary table it would appear that Henry’s wife Elizabeth is giving property to the daughters of the family when the property belonged to Henry, not her. It isn’t clear why this change appears in the Summary Table.

GN 5 1 C 1 Summary Table 112 Mortgages – Multiple Parties to Matthew Morry & Co – Nov 1815                     Transcript

It may be that Matthew Morry & Co. was behind in its own payments because it could not collect on the money it had loaned to a number of other bye-boat keepers or fishermen in the Ferryland area. This seems to have been a very prevalent problem during the period covered by these accounts in the Surrogate Court, Southern Division. Perhaps there had been a bad series of fishing seasons at that time, with these consequences.

Doodle on the Inside Cover of Pleas Volume

Pleas in the Surrogate Court and Court of Sessions at Ferryland

In 2016 I re-examined Box 20 containing the records of the Surrogate Court, Southern Division and discovered another record book I had not previously seen which was labelled on the top of each page “Pleas in the Surrogate Court and Court of Sessions at Ferryland”. I cannot say why I had failed to find this before. At first I thought that it may have been removed for restoration work and later put back but the poor condition of the volume shows that cannot be the case. This record book contained quite a few court cases of interest to my research and images of the relevant pages and a brief description of the case are included below. I have not yet transcribed these cases as I did for all of those above.The cases commence in 1817 and the last was heard in 1822 but at the end of the volume there is an eclectic group of completely unrelated transcripts of letters and documents dating as late as 1847. It seems that for some reason a court clerk took advantage of the empty pages at the back of the volume to record these later observations and documents.

One thing of particular note is the extremely large number of cases involving one person, or at least one company, Samuel Gorman or Gormand Carter & Co. There were two people of this name in Ferryland, an uncle and his nephew, and by coincidence both died in 1822. But there is no uncertainty as to which of the two was the principal in this company as the younger person died in infancy. The litigator in these cases was the elder man, who was the son of Judge William Carter. Whether that helps to explain why he was so litigious or not I cannot say.

In 2018, I revisited this book one more time and copied more of the documents that seemed of lesser interest on my first detailed perusal two years prior. I have now added these below though, as I have said, they are, for the most part, of little import. These “new” documents are inserted into the existing numbering scheme and do not indicate the year in which they were collected as this is irrelevant.

I also inadvertently copied some of the same documents photographed or scanned in 2016 which turned out to be fortuitous as these new copies are in some cases clearer than the old ones. The clearer version is substituted below where appropriate.

Box 20 is variously referred to as Surrogate Court Records or Surrogate Court Minutes. The reason for the latter designation is that some items found in these volumes do not pertain to an actual court case being heard but rather are items of legal note being recorded in the ledger for public information. Two such items were found in this category that are of interest. In neither case was the page on which they appeared numbered, as was normal for the pages on which court cases were recorded.

 GN-5-1-C-1 Letter to Robert Carter from Gov Francis Pickmore re Maintaining the Peace in Winter 1816 – 16 Oct 1817

The first of these two memoranda is a copy of a letter from the Governor to Robert Carter dated October 16, 1817. As usual, this leads to the inevitable question, “which Robert Carter?” since there were several alive in Ferryland at any given time, all related to one another. The answer lies in the fact that the Governor addresses his letter to Robert Carter, Esq., Surrogate. Robert Carter, the original immigrant to Newfoundland, died in 1800. By 1817 he had two grown grandsons, cousins of each other, bearing his name. One was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and sometime Member of the Legislative Assembly; the other was a businessman heavily involved in the fishing trade, but also a Surrogate and later a Justice of the Peace who kept a diary of his observations between 1832 and 1852. He was born in 1790 and therefore would have been twenty-seven in the year that the Governor commended him for the report on the good conduct of the residents in Ferryland the previous winter and the role he played in keeping the peace. This was not always the case in the winter months, when lawlessness was not uncommon due to the absence of the military garrison in the form of the Royal Navy.

GN-5-1-C-1 Lt. Carter RN Receipts 4 Oct 1827

I’m not sure what to make of this other document which appears in the minutes but does not directly pertain to a specific court case. It is a list of dates, or rather periods of time, and the caption beneath suggests that Lt. Robert Carter, RN (the second grandson of Robert Carter the immigrant bearing his name) from time to time made available Surrogate Court records pertaining to these periods. I can only assume that he was going through the records of his father, Judge William Carter, and extracting from his papers the court records for these various periods so that they could be transcribed into the ledger. There is also mention made of the cost per page, whether this was paid to Lt. Carter or was the cost of having the documents transcribed is not clear.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 1 Richard Sullivan v Joseph Codner 16 Oct 1817 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 2 Richard Sullivan v Joseph Codner 16 Oct 1817 Pg 2


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 3 Richard Sullivan v Joseph Codner 16 Oct 1817 Pg 3


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 4 Richard Sullivan v Joseph Codner 16 Oct 1817 Pg 4


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 5 Richard Sullivan v Joseph Codner 16 Oct 1817 Pg 5

This is the first of the “Pleas”  that pertain to people of interest to my family history research. Richard Sullivan was the immigrant ancestor of his line in the Ferryland area and is my 3rd Great Grandfather (via the maternal line of Catherine [White] Morry, my great grandmother). Unfortunately, the photograph of the first page on which this suit appears is badly blurred. But it is legible enough to be able to tell that Richard was suing Joseph Codner for £10 “for running foul of his boat.” The case itself seems rather trivial, yet it occupies five pages in this record book and, judging by the number of witnesses and the length of their testimony, it must have occupied a good deal of the court’s time. I suspect that anything that dealt with a topic as intimate to the well-being of the fishery as this would have been treated with an inordinate amount of concern and attention in those days. In the end, Codner insisted on having the matter decided by a trial of his peers, which may have worked in his favour, because even though the verdict was in favour of the Plaintiff, the award was only 40 Shillings plus costs.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 9 Hannon et al v Peter Winsor 5 Nov 1817

Peter Winsor of Aquaforte, whose name is more typically seen as Winser, was my 5th great grandfather. He was another of those small scale west country merchants like Matthew Morry who came from Devon in the late 1700s and set up shop in one of the outports on the Southern Shore, becoming pretty much a one man government unto himself (Morry had competition from the Carters and Sweetlands and hence was held to closer account for his actions). In this instance he was charge by three employees brought out from England for the seasonal fishery for withholding a letter they required stipulating that he had withheld from their wages the forty shillings needed to pay for their homeward journey at the end of the fishing season. The charge was proved and Winser had to provide the letters demanded.

Had he not done so, these men would have wound up being amongst the hundreds of “dieters” to whom merchants wood literally provide a diet (and a roof over their head) to keep them from starving and freezing to death over the winter, in exchange for which they would become essentially indentured unpaid labour to do work for him until the new fishing season commenced. And in some instances, even then they were put upon by unscrupulous merchants from whom they would be forced to obtain the provisioning they needed to get back into the fishery at prices the monopoly holding merchant controlled. Little wonder merchants such as these have had their names blackened in almost all of the history books, though some latter-day revisionist historians have tried to paint a more gentle picture of how these relationships worked. Not all merchants behaved badly. But they should not all have their reputations whitewashed after the fact either.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 18 Neil Shannan v Thomas Codner Sen 16 Nov 1817

Although Neil Shannan (note the spelling of the name, this is correct) does not play a dominant role in my family history research, this case is presented here mainly for the interest of the details of the case. Thomas Codner (I know nothing of the familial relationship, if any, to the Joseph Codner whose vessel collided with that of Richard Sullivan, above), took the unusual initiative of threatening in writing Neil Shannan, a small scale merchant from Greenock, Scotland who is buried in the Forge Hill cemetery in Ferryland along with most of the Morry ancestors. The case was called before the surrogate court and Codner admitted his guilt. Of course he could hardly do otherwise since he put the threat in writing! He was bound over to the peace on a £30 bond, the securities of which were provided by Surrogate Robert Carter and his cousin and business partner Samuel Gormand Carter, two other well to do Ferryland businessmen. Evidently this was not seen as a conflict of interest, although Robert Carter was himself an officer of the court at the time. Shannan died the following June, only 8 months after this incident. I have no idea if his death was in any way related to these threats. He was only thirty two years old at the time of his death but the stone gives no indication of the cause of death.

Neil Shannan’s Gravestone in Forge Hill Cemetery, Ferryland

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 19 Stephen Burris & Edmond Flaherty v Robert & James Carter Nov 1817

Here we have another one of those cases where merchant suppliers to the fishery are a law unto themselves. Robert Carter this time is being charged with his brother and partner, James, with refusing to provision to fishermen. The way the court saw it, the season was over, it being November, and the contract between supplier and customer was not null and void and the Carter’s were no longer obligated to provide provisions to these two men, who undoubtedly needed these provisions to make it through the winter. Once again, their refusal to provision them would have put them in a position where they would have been forced to let themselves out as dieters for the winter season, either to the Carters or to one of the other merchants operating in Ferryland and area at the time, including the Morrys

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 20 Michael Farrell v Francis Tree Nov 1817

I only include this case here, despite the fact, as stated above, that Francis Tree does not figure in the Morry Tree (pun intended!) because the case forms part of a pattern seen in these pleadings concerning the relationship between merchants and fishermen in this era, a subject much written about in the history books. As already discussed above, Francis Tree was an American who left New England for Newfoundland during or after the American War of Independence. He was not a United Empire Loyalist. Indeed he was considered to be an American Nationalist or Patriot, as the Americans have chosen to call such rebels against the legal government of the time. History is written by the victor as they say.

In any event, Tree and his sons played a minor role as merchants and functionaries in the Ferryland area and, in the former guise, Francis Tree was charged with a sort of breach of contract with one of his servants. The contract was for a year’s service but when that year was almost completed, for reasons not found in the court record, they parted company. Following which Tree presented Michael Farrell with a bill for £2.5.3 ostensibly for articles Farrell claimed not to have received, overcharging on articles he did receive and “neglect of time” which he claimed not to have committed. In the end the case was thrown out because Farrell had departed the scene, presumably without paying the bill. No doubt disputes like this were a commonplace, in an environment where the merchant was the sole arbiter of prices and could raise them at his whim.

Cases Involving Samuel Gormand Carter & Co.

I am going to depart here from my usual practice of presenting these Pleas in strict numerical order in favour of instead presenting as a group a collection of cases in all of which but one Samuel Gormand Carter is the Plaintiff, and in the last of which he is the Defendant.

Samuel Gormand Carter was an enterprise unto himself. As far as is known, he had no business partners, either in the Carter family, as was the case with brothers Robert and James Carter, or with other merchants, as was the case with Matthew Morry and Benjamin Sweetland. Whether this going it alone nature of his business dealings had anything to do with it or not is hard to say, but his standard business practice seemed to entail using the Surrogate Court to settle all of his outstanding debts rather than resolving the matters on his own. The majority of these cases concerned trifling amounts and one would assume that the Courts had better things to do than to serve as Samuel Gormand Carter’s bookkeeper, but nevertheless that was the way things turned out.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 21 Samuel G Carter & Co v Multiple Parties 12 Jan 1818

On this one page Samuel Gormand Carter figures in three different cases but I have separated out the last of the three and presented it below because it is a bit more substantive. The other two cases involving respectively Michael Barry and James Gregory are nothing more than a disagreement between a supplier and a customer over goods delivered or not. The amounts are relatively small: £3 and £7. Carter & Co. were successful in recovering the debts plus costs.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 22 Samuel G Carter & Co v David Maxey Jan 16 1818 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 22 Samuel G Carter & Co v David Maxey Jan 16 1818 Pg 2

This sad case actually begins at the bottom of the page above on which Samuel G. Carer & Co. are presenting multiple Pleas and then carries on in the next two pages with much more detailed legal presentations. The reason for this greater attention is the amount owed and the cause. David Maxey, a Boat Keeper, apparently ran up a debt of £400 with Carter and Company before declaring himself insolvent and unable to repay this debt. It is hard to fathom why a good businessman like Carter would allow an unpaid debt to build to this magnitude before finally attempting the settle the matter. To the best of my knowledge there was no personal relationship between Maxey and Carter that would have caused the latter to be more lenient about collecting what he was due at the end of each season, and it must have taken many seasons of less than anticipated fishing revenues to run up such a large debt.

As noted, at the bottom of the previous page Maxey is declared insolvent and unable to pay the minimum allowable 20 Pence in a Pound to avoid a declaration of insolvency.

Then on the first full page evidence is presented to amplify on the indebtedness to Samuel G. Carter & Co. Carter, being the principal creditor, was named as Trustee and Maxey was ordered to present the Trustee with a full and correct assessment of his assets, to be liquidated to cover his debts as much as possible.

On the second full page, Maxey has done as ordered. The remainder of the record indicates the necessary next steps to hold a meeting of the creditors and decide upon an equitable division of the value of the assets, whatever they were. Since the final outcome is not recovered here, we are left in suspense as to whether Samuel G. Carter & Co. ever recovered a reasonable portion of what they were owed.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 24 Samuel G Carter & Co v John Kelly Jan 19 1818

A more typical case involving a smaller debt, £30, which was admitted by the Defendant, who was ordered by the court to pay the debt and costs, but who was also made to provide a surety of unnamed nature to the Plaintiff, who obviously expected he would not be paid despite the court case going in his favour.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 24 Samuel G Carter & Co v William Coleman Jan 19 1818 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 25 Samuel G Carter & Co v William Coleman Jan 19 1818 Pg 2


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 26 Samuel G Carter & Co v William Coleman Jan 19 1818 Pg 3

Here is another more complex case which begins on the same page as the previous one but carries on to a second full page. Part of the reason for the case occupying so much of the court’s time and attention, despite the paltry some in dispute (£3 15 Shilling) is that the case involves another prominent personage from the area, William Coleman (or Coulman as it is more often seen). William Coulman is my 4th great grandfather and is believed to have been born in Ferryland around 1787, but that is pure speculation and his actual birth date and place are unknown, as is anything else to do with his heritage.

It transpires that William Coulman was involved with Carter to some extent in his business, though not as a partner. He obtained goods from Carter for later resale. In this instance it is alleged that he was supplied with a blanket, which was delivered to him by his then house servant, Margaret Moody. Both Coulman and his wife Elizabeth Ann [Hill] denied ever receiving this blanket. The even took place three years prior and was still a matter of contention between the parties. Meantime, the servant was no longer in their employ and was working in St. John’s. The case was deferred until she could be brought to testify and by consent of the Plaintiff and the Defendant, the case would then be heard before a Jury. Much ado about nothing really! The outcome is recorded on the top of the next page. The Jury found that Carter’s shopkeeper was a credible witness and awarded Carter the amount owed plus costs.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 26 Samuel G Carter & Co v John Power Jan 19 1818

This is a rather laughable suit. John Power married Margaret Neile, but before they married she owed Samuel G. Carter & Co. £3, 5 Shillings and 3 Pence for sundry goods. The Court found in favour of the Plaintiff and awarded him the amount of the debt plus court costs, but the Defendant, being unable to provide a surety pending payment of this amount, the Court ordered that a feather bed belonging to his wife prior to their marriage be held as a surety. It would seem that this marriage got off to a sorry start without even a feather bed in which to sort out their differences!

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 26 Samuel G Carter & Co v Richard Costelloe 19 Jan 1818


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 50 Samuel G Carter & Co v Richard Costelloe 6 Oct 1818

This Plea is presented on the same page as the previous one. The amount in question is considerably larger in this case: £124, 12 Shillings and 1 Pence. The matter was heard and the Court found in favour of the Plaintiff. However, the amount being so large, the Defendant was not able to cover the debt. A surety in the form of a piece of ground on which he had begun to build the frame of a house was to have been accepted but the Defendant’s mother challenged his ownership of that spot of ground. The Court deferred the matter until the Letter of Administration of the estate of Nicholas Burke, by which the Defendant claimed to have right to the property, was provided. The outcome is not recorded here. The following October the case was again heard and proof had still not been obtained that Costelloe [sic] was legally entitled to the land on which he had begun to build his house, which was to be used as surety against his debt so a further deferment was granted until proof could be presented.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 27 Samuel G Carter & Co v James McDaniel 23 Jan 1818

This was a Plea to settle an old debt of £13, 4 Shillings and 3 Pence owed to Samuel G. Carter & Co. when the father of the Defendant died four years previously. A writ had been obtained at that time against the estate but never honoured. The Court found in favour of the Plaintiff and ordered that the matter be settled before the estate could be further distributed.

But the story does not end there. A following Plea by Thomas Norris was heard:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 28 Thomas Norris v Samuel G Carter & Co re James McDaniel Verdict 23 Jan 1818

Thomas Norris believed that he had a prior claim on the premises being held for liquidation of the debt to Samuel G. Carter & Co. He claimed that James McDaniel had been given a lease to the premises he occupied by his father, Matthew McDaniel, in February 1814 and that he did not therefore own it outright, being only one of several children to inherit the intestate estate of Matthew McDaniel. Norris claimed a debt of £23, 10 Shillings owed by James McDaniel for outfitting him for the fishery in 1815 which should be settled before any other debts. The Court pointed out that Norris was fully aware of the encumbrances against the property occupied by James McDaniel and that therefore he could not claim it was used as collateral against the loan that he gave to James McDaniel to prosecute the fishery in 1815. In the terminology of the Law, this was a loan given “at risque of the fishing voyage”. Therefore the Court upheld the original award to Samuel G. Carter & Co. and indicated that other creditors would have a right to place their claims after the debt to that company was first settled.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 67 Samuel G Carter & Co v Multiple Parties 30 Nov 1818

Another instance in which a single page of the Court record contains multiple Pleas lodged by Samuel G. Carter & Co. by their attorney, Thomas Congdon [sic], which was the common spelling of Condon in those day. In fact, on this one page, eight cases were recorded, several of them not at all for trivial amounts. The names of the Defendants and the outcomes of the Pleas were as follows:

John Madden; Defendant not appearing in Court, Execution ordered to pay the debt of £222 6 Shillings and 11 Pence

Laurence Carney; Defendant not appearing in Court, Execution ordered to pay bond and mortgage of property of £105

Jeffrey Mahone; Defendant “not to be found”; Francis Tree also presented a Plea for £20 15 Shillings and 1 Pence against the Defendant and the Court therefore held the matter over until he could be found and made to answer to the charges. There is a note below this report entered later in a different hand that in March 1823 the Defendant was found and the Court judged in favour of the Plaintiff but no mention is made of the countervailing charge by Francis Tree.

Patt Foran; Defendant not to be found, Execution ordered to pay bond and mortgage of property in the amount of £350

Thomas Sweeney; Defendant declared himself unable to pay any part of his bond and mortgage of property totalling £100 1 Shilling and 9 Pence, the Court ordered the Execution of the debt, meaning his property would have been sold to cover whatever part of the debt that it could fetch.

Richard Power; Defendant not to be found, the Court ordered Execution of order for repayment of bond and mortgage amounting to £46 10 Shillings and 1 Pence

John Carney, Sen., Deceased; Deceased’s Administrator not to be found, Execution was ordered to cover debt on bond and mortgage of £179 1 Shilling and 8 Pence

William Wade; Plea to recover £4 rent of Jeffrey Malone House, Judgement for Plaintiff, with costs

It is impossible to ignore the reality that almost all of the debtors who were clearly over their head in debt and unable to pay were Irish, while Carter was of the English moneyed class. On can only imagine the resentment this would have created in the tiny village of Ferryland and its surrounding areas between the large Irish Catholic population of mainly fishermen and the dwindling English Protestant population of mainly merchants. Most of the debtors lost their entire holdings and left the area evidently.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 69 Samuel G Carter & Co v Henry Holdsworth 18 Jan 1819

This Plea stands out from the others above in that  it is a case of one English merchant seeking compensation from a claimed debt of another English merchant, in fact one of the largest and oldest English merchant family concerns in Ferryland. The details of the Plea are interesting as well. Samuel Gormand Carter & Co. evidently contracted many fishermen to act as their supplier for the outfit of the fishery in 1815. But later those fishermen chose to move their business to Henry Holdsworth and Co. Seeing the effect of dealing with Samuel G. Carter and Co. as demonstrated by the numerous cases above where fishermen wound up bankrupt, it appears that many local fishermen felt that it was better to deal with the “devil you know”, the old and well established firm of Henry Holdsworth and Co., than the “new” usurper on the scene, Samuel G. Carter and Co. So the question arises, would the Court support old money or new in such a confrontation? Clearly it would not support the underdog fishermen in either case. We are not enlightened here because John Steer, Holdsworth’s agent at the time the case was heard, claimed no knowledge of what had transpired and referred the Court to William Teague of Cape Broyle who was Holdsworth’s agent during the fishing season in question. Therefore the Court held the matter over until Teague could appear.

Finally in this long litany of Pleas which universally found in favour of Samuel G. Carter & Co. to the tune of thousands of pounds cumulatively, we have three Pleas brought against this company by other English merchants, one of them by a close relative.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 45 Patrick Flahavan v Samuel G Carter & Co. 11 May 1818

Here is a case that suggests that it doesn’t do to bring a Plea against Samuel G. Carter & Co. because judgement will be in their favour and you will wind up owing even more than you disputed. Patrick Flahavan disagreed with his account with Samuel G. Carter & Co. The books were examined in Court and the Court found in favour of the Defendant ordering Flahavan to pay the sum of £48, 19 Shillings, 5 Pence and 2 Farthings, right down to the Farthing! No doubt, this princely sum was beyond his means to pay and this would result in another Plea of attachment by Samuel G. Carter & Co. in a future sitting of the Court.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 100 Robert Carter v Samuel G Carter 3 Dec 1819

The matter in this Plea is so petty as to be laughable, yet these two major merchants (first cousins) felt it justified wasting the Court’s time to settle. Robert Carter claimed that he was owed £5 on account by Samuel G. Carter & Co. The latter refused to pay because they claimed that James Power, a servant of Robert Carter, owed them a like amount and had demanded that Robert Carter take the settlement of the £5 owing out of the wages of Power. Robert Carter refused to do so, saying the matter would be settled at the end of the season when James Power’s account was settled. One can easily see what was going on here. Robert Carter had reason to believe that James Power would finish the season not with an amount owning to Power but rather with him still in debt to Robert Carter, as was more often the case judging from the Pleas above. Thus, if he paid Samuel G. Carter the debt owed to him by James Power, he, Robert Carter, would wind up out of pocket the 5 Pounds. In any event, this was how the matter was left to be allowed to sort itself out in the fullness of time. In other words, the Court’s time was wasted to no avail over this petty dispute between cousins.

And here is another Plea against Samuel G. Carter & Co.:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 132 Nicholas Brand by Benjamin Sweetland v Samuel G Carter & Co 11 Nov 1820 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 133 Nicholas Brand by Benjamin Sweetland v Samuel G Carter & Co 11 Nov 1820 Pg 2

Here we have two well-to-do merchants fighting over the bones of one of their victims, Michael Bryan. In an earlier case (not found in this volume), apparently Samuel G. Carter and Co. secured a writ against the property of Michael Bryan to cover a debt. Here we find Nicholas Brand claiming, through his local attorney, Benjamin Sweetland, that this writ must be held in abeyance because of a prior debt owed by Michael Bryan to Nicholas Brand. Either way, Michael Bryan is on the losing end of this proposition so it is solely a matter of which of these two wealthy English businessmen gets to claim the spoils.

What seems to have happened was that in 1811 Bryan offered Brand his two houses and property in surety against a debt of £47 8 Shillings and 9 Pence, to be paid off in annual instalments. Before the debt was repaid, Nicholas Brand returned to England and was not therefore able to enforce the terms of the written and registered mortgage. Then Bryan used the same properties as collateral against a debt to Samuel G. Carter and Co as if he owned these properties free and clear.

Carter claims that because Brand did not enforce his right to possess these properties when the debt went unpaid, he relinquished any claim upon them. The Court went over the precedents, as this was not something that hadn’t happened frequently in the past in other jurisdictions. The Plaintiff had not proven that he either took possession of the properties or that the Defendant had prior knowledge of this encumbrance on the properties he was accepting as collateral. Therefore the Court ruled in favour of the Defendant. So the spoils went to Carter and not Brand.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 146 Samuel G Carter & Co. v Henry Holdsworth 25 Nov 1820

Another example showing that the Surrogate Court was not only utilised to settle disputes between merchants and their employees but also between two wealthy merchants who should have been able to resolve such matters amicably with availing of the Courts. However underlying this dispute was indeed a debt owed by an employee to a merchant.

Earlier, Samuel G. Carter & Co. had secured a judgement against Michael Power for £5 being part of a much larger debt of £60, a considerable sum of money that an ordinary fisherman would probably never be able to repay. Then Henry Holdsworth employed Power for the season and, in contravention of the Statute 15 George 3, mentioned in several other Pleas, paid him out in equipment for the season more than 50% of his wages. The problem with this was that, in so doing, it was almost certain that by the end of the season Power would be left with little or no cash with which to repay earlier debts.

The Court ruled that Holdsworth was in violation of the Statute but there is no mention of a fine (£10 being the normal penalty) nor how Holdsworth was held accountable to rectify Power’s debt to Carter & Co.

And here is the last of the many proceedings involving Samuel G. Carter & Co.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 146 Samuel G Carter v John Sanders Jr 28 Nov 1820

It isn’t clear who John Sanders Junior is, but what is clear from the amount to which he is indebted to Samuel Gorman Carter & Co. is that he is no ordinary fisherman. More likely he was a bye-boat keeper employing fishermen to work on his account. In this case he ran up a bill of £264 in 1818 and 1819 to outfit him for the fishing season. This was a huge amount of money in those days. The Plea was only seeking a payment of £10, so it would seem agreement between the parties had already been reached to allow this large debt to be paid off over a lengthy period of time but even then Sanders was unable to keep up the payments. The Court recommended arbitration and the parties agreed to submit their dispute to the Supreme Court.

Cases Involving Robert and James Carter

Although these brothers, grandsons of the original Robert Carter to come to Ferryland), were clearly involved in business together as partners of a sort, their joint enterprise is not normally seen as “Robert and James Carter and Company” or any variation thereof. The partnership seems to have been a matter of mutual assistance and cooperation rather than a formal one. They jointly brought a number of Pleas before the Surrogate Court pertaining to collection of debts from servants in the fishery and also, as in the case of their cousin Samuel Gorman Carter, had cases brought against them for the withholding of wages, whether rightly or wrongly. Here are a number of such cases:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 26 Robert & James Carter v Estate of P Madigan 21 Jan 1818

A very minor issue. Philip Madigan has died and for reasons not explained (presumably he was their servant) Henry Holdsworth is acting as the Trustee of the estate. Robert and James Carter are here simply submitting their claim for a small debt of £8 9 Shillings to be settled out of the estate when it is finally closed.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 27 Jeffrey Goss v Robert & James Carter & Samuel G Carter & Co 21 Jan 1818

Even though Samuel G. Carter & Co. is one of the defendants named in this Plea I have not included it above amongst the many Pleas involving this company because there are other Defendants named as well, all Carters.

Robert and James Carter withheld money owed to Jeffrey Goss to cover a debt of £8 16 Shillings incurred by Jane Dullanty [sic, now spelled Delahunty] prior to her marriage to Jeffrey Goss. The Court ruled that, in it’s judgement, the Defendants, Robert and James Carter, were within their rights to withhold these funds from Jeffrey Goss. But, even though the amount was below the usual minimum permitting an Appeal, the Court gave leave to Appeal this determination before the Chief Justice in St. John’s.

Then, in typical form, having seen the consequential judgement against Jane Dullanty and Jeffrey Goss’s Plea in regard to the same, Samuel G. Carter & Co. submitted their own claim against the amount granted to Robert and James Carter as being theirs by entitlement to settle the debt of Jane Dullanty prior to her marriage to Jeffrey Goss. This company also had a claim of a considerable amount, though not specified, not so much against Jane Dullanty herself as against the estate of her late former husband, Samuel Dullanty. The Court wasn’t buying it and rejected this counterclaim.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 110 Andy Morison v Robert & James Carter 5 May 1820

This was a plea to recover the cost of doctoring crew members employed by Robert and James Carter. Secondly it also dealt with the Statute 15 George 3 that required fish merchants contracting fishermen from England or Ireland to withhold 40 Shillings from their wages to cover the cost of shipping them home again at the end of their contract, usually two summers and the winter between. It isn’t clear why Andy Morison, who was presumably the doctor to administered to the crew members, was also seeking compensation for their passage home unless he paid that amount himself out of pocket.

Unfortunately it appears the decision was carried over onto the next page, which I did not copy, so for now we do not know how it all turned out. Except that in a related plea pertaining to the doctoring of one of the servants of Robert and James Carter the matter was heard again in December (see below).

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 120 Robert and James Carter v Thomas Fling 2 Nov 1820

The two Carter brothers and business partners (Robert is the same gentleman responsible for collection the Greenwich Hospital fees below) are here continuing their attempt to collect on their business debts of fishermen under their employ. Thomas Fling had been employed the previous year to serve “on the cuttails” fishing for squid in Conception Bay. The meaning of this unusual term, which has been seen elsewhere previously in these Pleas, is not known for certain. It would appear to be a class of fishing craft. In any event, Fling abandoned his post (“eloped”) and the Carters were attempting to obtain £9 19 Shillings owed by Fling on account. He admitted the debt but claimed that it should be reduced by the value of his clothing and other possessions left in the boat when he quit. The case could not be decided because other merchants also had claims of a similar nature against Fling that needed to be heard.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 121 Robert and James Carter v James Byrne 4 Nov 1820

This is a somewhat unusual plea in that it apparently does not relate directly to the fishery. Robert and James Carter had contracted with the defendant, who owed them a sum of money, to instead deliver to Matthew Morry in Caplin Bay a large quantity of shingles to be then turned over to them in compensation for the debt. Testimony showed that the defendant delivered the shingles to Caplin Bay but instead of turning over the quantity agreed to Matthew Morry sold some to Walter Shelly, who swore he was not aware they were the property of the Carters, and the remainder to Thomas Norris. The Defendant did not appear to the summons and hence the case was found in favour of the Plaintiffs.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 122 Robt and James Carter v Thomas Fling 6 Nov 1820

This is the denouement of the case against Thomas Fling mentioned above. Four days after the first hearing, the Court again took up the case. This time Fling admitted that he had been drunk and missed the sailing of the vessel the previous year. But he contended that the Carters kept his gear and even sold some of it. When he asked them to compensate him for this lost gear they would not and he had to buy more at an increased price. The court ordered the Carters to make restitution for the sold boots and other goods, and turn over the remainder of his kit, but the remainder of the money owing to them, £7 12 Shillings and  6 Pence, was to be paid by the Defendant. However, this would not be as simple as that as it was also found that he owed money to Samuel Gorman Carter and the Court ordered them all to meet and sort out these accounts.

In this litany of cases involving James and Robert Carter and also Samuel Gorman Carter, there is this one:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 144 Robt and James Carter v the Estate of Daniel Donovan 25 Nov 1820

Samuel Gorman Carter and Co. had already obtained a judgement to take possession of the house and lands of the deceased, Daniel Donovan, in payment of a debt to the company. James and Robert Carter sought a stay of this decision in view of the fact that they too were indebted by Daniel Donovan and hence claimed his house and lands in payment of their debt.

The Court ruled that these competing claims could not be resolved in this manner and that, since the amount of the claim by the two Carter brothers was small (though not given in the record), it could otherwise be resolved without the sale of the property.

Finally, here is another element of the case brought by Doctor [?] Andy Morison against Robert and James Carter pertaining to the cost of doctoring one of their fishing servants, David Welsh [sic]:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 147 Andy Morison v Robert & James Carter 2 Dec 1820

This is a tricky one in that the action stems from an unclear point of law. Under the Statute 15 George 3 Chap. 35 Sect 14 anyone found guilty of advancing a fishing servant more than fifty percent of his contract in goods and services can be fined £10. Dr. Morison, unable to get the Carters to pay the medical bills of Welsh, and he apparently not having sufficient funds to do so himself, Morison decided to take it upon himself to claim this £10 fine. The adjudication in the case is questionable because logic would dictate that the fine would go to the Crown, not to the informant. But nevertheless this was the judgement given. However, since the Magistrate (unnamed) was unclear on the authority of his interpretation, he held over the case until if could be reviewed by the Chief Justice which, under the circumstances, seems to have been the wise thing to do.

Other Pleas and Matters Before the Surrogate Court, Southern Division

Aside from these many cases which involved Samuel G. Carter & Co. and Robert and James Carter, as Plaintiff or infrequently as Defendant, there were a few more articles appearing in this volume of interest.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 45 Kearin Malloney v Henry Coryear ca May 1818

A curious case, the outcome of which is unknown at the moment since it was laid over for a subsequent date and I failed to make a photograph of the subsequent page in 2016. I will endeavour to do so this summer (2018) and amend this note afterwards.

In brief, Kearin Malloney [sic] was engaged by Henry Coryear as a teacher for one session from 5 May to 1 November, 2017. Part way through his service he had a falling out with Mrs. Coryear (Eleanor Morrissey) and quit his service. He had contracted for £15 for the session and was asking to be paid £5 for the time served but Henry Coryear submitted that he owed nothing since Malloney quit his employ without his employer’s agreement. Both sides claimed to have witnesses to back up their side of the story so the matter was held over until those witnesses could be heard the following Friday.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 59 William & Benjamin Sweetland v John Macguire 21 Oct 1818

The Sweetland brothers were still operating out of Caplin Bay in 1818 but their enterprise was not lucrative and they were already seeking alternative means of earning a living which would eventually lead to both of them being appointed as Magistrates in Central Newfoundland.

Like all merchants in the fish trade, their mode of operation was to bankroll the fishermen who sold them the results of their labour and then settle up at the end of the season. The practice, known as the Truck System, often resulted in the fisherman owing more than the value of the harvest that he sold to the merchant, especially if he was a profligate or a drinker and took out from the merchant’s stores more than he could ever hope to repay at the end of the season. Of course, many observers blamed the merchants for this situation since they set the price of the goods they sold to the fisherman and the price of the fish when they bought them from him.

In this instance the fisherman, John Macguire  (probably McGuire) admitted his debt for the 1816 season and the court ruled that the Sweetlands should be reimbursed by him when he finished the current season in a few days time (he was then working for a different enterprise), less an amount needed to send him on his homeward journey, lest he become a burden and a nuisance to the community over the winter.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 60 Henry Coryear v John MacNamara 21 Oct 1818

A similar case to the above. In a previous season John MacNamara [sic] had worked for Henry Coryear and still owed him a relatively small amount (£2-8-11). But he was now in the employ of William Teague and this late in the season it would not have been possible for him to make good on his debt so the court ordered that Coryear wait until the termination of his present employment before receiving the money due him.

Of course there was every likelihood that there would not be sufficient funds remaining for MacNamara to make good on his debt and they all knew this. But you cannot get blood out of a stone, as they say, so there was no alternative but to wait until the end of the season and see how things panned out. Coryear was simply staking his claim at this time against the eventuality that MacNamara would end the season in the black.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 79 Henry Holdsworth v Estate of Neil Shannan 9 Mar 1819 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 80 Henry Holdsworth v Estate of Neil Shannan 9 Mar 1819 Pg 2

A rather complicate case involving an attempt to collect £25, 11 Shillings and 6 Pence from the estate of Neil Shannan for a protested Bill issued by him ostensibly on behalf of his employer Still Bros. & Co., endorsed by Shannan and used to rent a property from William Carter on the northside of Ferryland. From the description of the premises below, I believe that this was the Henry Holdsworth estate later purchased by John Henry Morry and Peter Paint Le Messurier.

Holdsworth claimed this property was let solely to Shannan and occupied by him and had nothing whatever to do with his employer, Still Bros. & Co. Hence the amount of the protested Bill should be paid by the Estate of Shannan and not by his employer. The Administrator of Shannon’s estate, James Clift disagreed, saying that the lease was for the benefit of Shannan’s employer and the debt was theirs, not Shannan’s. Clift was called to appear in Court but did not. James Benning, Shannan’s partner, was present in Court but evidently did not give evidence.

Then the Court heard from our old friend Samuel Gormand Carter. He told the Court that the house, shop and retail store, and a right to use part of the water lot, was leased in 1817 for the remainder of that year for £25 to Shannan by his father, William Carter, on behalf of the Plaintiff, Henry Holdsworth, and that the property was leased to Shannan in his own right, not for his employer, Still Bros. & Co. He went on to say that the following year Shannan, once again in his own right, was given a 14 year lease on the entire premises for the sum of £60 a year. This same testimony was parroted by Andrew Morrison, whose association with the situation was not given. He also said that when Shannan issued the Bill to cover the first year’s rent he gave Morrison to understand that he did not have the wherewithal at the moment to cover the rent personally and that the Bill he was writing against Still Bros. & Co. might be protested, but that if it was he would make good on it at that time. Holdsworth’s attorney (not named) claimed to not know the company of Stills Bros. & Co. and had no reason to believe that they had any interest in the renting of this property.

This all seems contrived. What possible use would Neil Shannan have for such a substantial property for his own use rather than that of his employer. It seems like after his death his employer simply decided not to honour its debts incurred by Shannan. The Court nevertheless found for the Plaintiff and ordered that the Bill and unspecified Court costs to be settled out of the Estate of Neil Shannan.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 90 Henry Coryear v Timothy Dullanty 1 Nov 1819

In this case we learn how tightly managed the fishery was in Newfoundland in these days and how little discretion was left to the fishermen and boat masters in regard to how they spent their time and pursued their trade. Henry Coryear ordered his boat master, Timothy Dullanty (most likely Delahunty) to fish a specific fishing ground for a period of time. During that time other fishing crews brought back substantial catches of fish in that area. But Dullanty had tried fishing that ground with little success and took it upon himself to fish another location to the westward. Upon his return he had managed to catch much less fish than the other boat crews.

It wasn’t a case of his neglecting his duties. He had done what he had thought right, but in the end it did not pay off. So the court ordered him to pay Coryear an amount not really equal to the value of the anticipated catch and also pay a fine to the court for causing so much trouble.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 101 Brien Cashin v Matthew Morry & Co 11 Dec 1819

Brien [sic] Cashin worked for William and Benjamin Sweetland. At the request of Matthew Morry & Co. (who were in any event pretty well running the business of the Sweetlands by this time) £12, 16 Shillings was withheld from his wages to settle a debt with Matthew Morry & Co. According to testimony from Matthew Morry Jr., the Plaintiff and his partner, William Broderick, were advance the sum of £24 by Matthew Morry & Co. to supply themselves for the fishery in 1814. The Plaintiff made an effort to pay back this debt but Broderick did not and hence Morry held Cashin accountable for the full amount and withheld wages owed to him by the Sweetlands.

From there the sad tale is taken up by Broderick in his testimony. He and Cashin “fell back” on their fishery in the year in question by £25 and 12 Shillings. After that, Broderick worked for William and Benjamin Sweetland at Toad’s Cove (Tors Cove) every year but 1815. In 1815 he shipped with James Keef [sic] and fell in debt a further £60 to the Sweetlands and they took Keef’s boat in partial payment of the debt and sold it to Winser (presumably Peter) for £35. In 1818 and 1819 he paid the Sweetlands £11 as partial payment of his debt to them. He says he is certain the debt to Matthew Morry & Co. was never demanded of him.

Matthew Morry Jr. again took the stand and said that, as of 1815, he had been conducting the business on behalf of William and Benjamin Sweetland. He is one of the partners of William and Benjamin Sweetland & Co. and can have recourse to their books. Broderick was employed on their Room every year since he incurred the debt with Matthew Morry & Co. with the exception of 1816 at which time he was on the Cuttails (a type of vessel?). He cannot swear that he knew that there was money owed to Broderick on their books in 1818 but whatever he may have been due would have been stopped to cover a part of his debt William and Benjamin Sweetland & Co. The period Cashin paid £12 of the debt that they owed was in 1815 stopped out of his wages at William and Benjamin Sweetland & Co. which he believed was put on the books as a credit against their debt to the Defendant.

The matter was so confusing due to the mixing of the accounts of the two companies that the Court put it over pending presentation of the books. Unfortunately, I did not find the remainder of this Plea in this volume if it exists there.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 107 John Power v Henry Coryear 18 January 1820

Henry Coryear is on the receiving end of this Plea. His contracted fisherman, John Power, contended and was able to persuade the court that Henry had overcharged him for clothing and liquor and that he was entitled to half of the wages that he had earned the previous year (total earned £16-10). The court agreed to the extent that he should receive half wages less the legitimate amounts of his expenditures leaving £8-14-3. Henry Coryear apparently was not in court and when asked by the plaintiff to make good he refused so Power returned to the Court to obtain a court order for Coryear to comply.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 108 Peter Gallivan v Francis Tree 21 January 1820 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 109 Peter Gallivan v Francis Tree 21 January 1820 Pg 2

The Plea was another case of a contracted fishermen seeking unpaid wages. But this case was a more complicated one necessitating the convening of a Jury to decide the verdict. As it turns out, the plaintiff, Gallivan, was on watch one night when he allowed the vessel, a Western boat, to run aground, causing the loss of the cargo of fish and salt, considerable damage to the boat and a loss of income due to inability to use the vessel in the height of the fishery. Witnesses were called from among the other crew members and all were in agreement that it was a clear night and there was not cause for the boat to have run aground unless the watch fell asleep. He did not appear to be drunk.

The jury, comprised largely of other fish merchants including William and Benjamin Sweetland and Matthew Morry Jr., returned a verdict for the defendant and stated that the plaintiff had forfeited any claim to his wages due to dereliction of duty. Of course a jury so comprised could hardly have been expected to come to any other conclusion.

Greenwich Hospital Dues

The following three cases involving Robert Carter (grandson of the first Robert Carter to come to Ferryland) as Plaintiff all pertain to one of his many public duties, in this instance as the Collector at Ferryland for the Greenwich Hospital Dues. This is quite apart from his involvement as a fish merchant along with his brother James, as seen above.

We are left with the impression by most histories of the cod fishery as it was conducted in Newfoundland in the 18th and 19th centuries that it was pretty much an unregulated free-for-all with the merchants running the show. But the reality was that there were laws that had to be observed including, as we have seen above, the stopping of a portion of fishermen’s wages so that they could be returned to England or Ireland once their contract was terminated. But also in those days fishermen were required to pay a head tax to cover the possible need for hospitalization at the Greenwich Hospital in England in the event of a serious injury on the job. Most fishermen refused to do so and, when faced with the demand, suggested that they would authorize the merchant by whom they were employed to stop their wages for the amount (40 Shillings once again). Needless to say, the merchants did not take kindly to such a request and often refused to make good the payment on behalf of their servants. It was then left to the local Collector, Robert Carter for the Southern District in this instance, to appeal to the Surrogate Court for an order to collect the dues from the delinquents.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 113 Robert Carter – Greenwich Hospital Dues 10 Oct 1820

Here we see Robert Carter presenting this grievance in general and making mention of several delinquent employers, including amongst others Henry Holdsworth, whose family made a fortune from the Newfoundland fishery, and Robert’s own brother, Arthur Carter.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 113 Robert Carter v Michael Carrigan & James McDaniel 21 Oct 1820 Pg 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 114 Robert Carter v Michael Carrigan & James McDaniel 21 Oct 1820 Pg 2

Two of many fishermen defaulting on their dues to the Greenwich Hospital are named in this Plea. These two men claimed that they were exempt from the collection of dues because the boats in which they were employed were open boats and did not have covered holds. Such smaller boats were exempt from the statute. However, Francis Tree, called as an expert witness, went to considerable length describing to the Court the main types of vessels employed at that time in the fishery on the Southern Shore and this is of great interest historically.

He named these as “Gallopers”, “Shallops” and “Jacks”, and stated that he had never heard any of these referred to as open boats. He went on to explain that Jacks are known as “Shore Boats” and the other two are categorized as “Western Boats”. He stated that “Gallopers and Shallops sometime in the month of August went on the Grand Banks to fish. Gallopers and Shallops have of late years been stated to answer the purpose of a deck with fixed Beams and a Closure from Stem to Stern when the Hatches are laid over and prevent water from passing thro’. Jacks are divided into different parts having in general two Cuddys fixed from four to seven [?] feet in length – sufficient in most Cases to contain their product and two at [sic] three men. Some have three fishing Rooms astern [?] fish Rooms – the fish Rooms covered with boards laid over to foresave the fish and enable the men to pass on them to do their duty on Board. These Boards are generally 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. He do not know the term of open Boat applied to any of those Boats.”

Another man called as a witness to corroborate this testimony was William Harris. “Saith he is twenty years in this Country, is intimately acquainted with the fishery. The general terms or names of fishing Boats are Gallopers, Shallops and Jacks. Many of those Jacks go frequently on the new Bank in August and September to fish. The distance from the shore about Cape Bollard to the New Bank is reckoned four or five Leagues. In his opinion none of these Boats can … [?] open Boats – open Boats is applied only to serving Skiffs with [?] no covering as substitute for a deck.”

The outcome of this Plea is not found here as the case was carried over until the following Tuesday (October 24, 1820).

A month later, one of the two fishermen named in the plea above, James McDaniel, was again the subject of another Plea to the Court by Robert Carter:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 140 Robert Carter v James McDaniel 23 Nov 1820

It actually isn’t clear from the wording of the summary of this Plea if this is the same issue as the one the previous month since the other defendant’s name does not appear. But the amount being sought is the same – 2 Shillings and 6 pence and the reasoning for his refusal to pay is the same. In the end, the Court does not decide against the defendant based upon the description of the type of boat in which he was employed, as was his contention, but rather simply states that it has been the custom in that fishery for “fifty years and upwards” for ALL fishermen to pay the Greenwich Hospital dues, seemingly implying that this was regardless of the type of boat in which they performed their duties. In other words, the Court was overruling this exemption in the Statute, though it probably had no authority to do so.

Returning to the more mundane of the Pleas found in this collection, the next in numerical order of folio number is:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 130 Garret Flood v Michael Devereaux 9 Nov 1820

In recent years in Western Society attempts have been made to use drunkenness as a defence against all manner of criminal charges. But here is a unique turn on the same idea from 1820. Garrett Flood was supplied alcohol by Michael Devereaux as advances against the wages for the seasons fishery and insisted that, on account of this, his catch for the season suffered and he was now unable to repay money owed to Devereaux. He was essentially suing Devereaux to prevent him from garnishing his wages for money he owed to Devereaux. The Court did not buy the argument and found in favour of the Defendant, ordering the Plaintiff to pay his debt to the Defendant. Unfortunately courts today do sometimes fall for this lame excuse.

The next case is much more complex than the norm and took three full pages in the Court record to describe:

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 144 Richard Dullanty v Peter Winsor 25 Nov 1820, Page 1


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 145 Richard Dullanty v Peter Winsor 25 Nov 1820, Page 2


GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 146 Richard Dullanty v Peter Winsor 25 Nov 1820, Page 3

Richard Dullanty (how they spelled Delahunty in those days) was employed as boat skipper by Peter Winsor. He quarreled with a crewman named Murphy (Forename not given) and the latter left the ship in Trepassey. In view of their being shorthanded now, Winsor claimed that the catch was reduced by nine quintals based upon what the rest of the crew were able to catch and withheld £5 from Dullanty’s wages, blaming him for the incident.

James Meagher, one of the other crewmen essentially corroborated Dullanty’s story that Murphy was an indigent and poor fisherman and insolent and abusive to boot and that Dullanty spoke to him harshly but never abused him physically.

John Shea, another crewman, stood up for Dullanty as well.

The Court ruled that Dullanty was doing his duty diligently and denied Winsor’s right to withhold salary.

And in an immediately following Plea involving the same Plaintiff and Defendant, in which Winsor again withheld part of Dullanty’s wages in an unrelated dispute pertaining to the size of catch in the same voyage, again the Court held in favour of the Plaintiff and Winsor agreed not to withhold his wages.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 164 James Jordan v Francis Tree 5 Apr 1821

This case only took four lines to describe but essentially summarises the plight of the fishermen bound to work for wages from the same merchant supplying their equipment.

Francis Tree had obtained a writ against Jordan in the amount of £10 12 Shillings and 4 Pence. Jordan was claiming wages worth £10 5 Shillings and 9 Pence and requesting this be set against the debt claimed by Tree. Thus, in the end, Jordan would still be out of pocket 6 Shillings and 5 Pence at the end of the season.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 164 William Armstrong v Arthur H Carter 2 Apr 1821

Here we have another of the Carter clan, Arthur Hunt O’Brien Carter to be precise. He was the brother of Samuel Gorman Carter, who figures in by far the most of these Surrogate Court proceedings, and a first cousin of Robert and James Carter, who take second place in that competition.

I am not sure who William Armstrong is but there was a small matter of £10 in dispute between him and Carter and after wasting the Court’s time over it they agreed to settle the matter privately.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 165 William Lawlor v Henry Coryear 30 Apr 1821

This case is slightly different than others above. The Plaintiff was not paid his wages, But this was not because of his negligence as much as his lack of any ability as a fisherman or boat hand according to the ship’s Master, Martin Cullinan, supported by one of the crew, John Magee. Lawlor contended that another crew member named Furlong could stand in his defence against these criticisms and the matter was held over until Furlong could be heard.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 169 Garnet Daulton v Peter Winsor 8 May 1821

We have heard before mention made of the Statute 15 George 3 which is the primary law governing Master-Servant relationships in the fishery. Here is a new twist on how that law applies in a situation in which labour is in short supply and two merchants compete for the services of the same man.

Peter Winsor entered into a verbal agreement with John Ryan to work with him for the season as a header. But he failed to put that agreement into writing until several days later. In the interim, for reasons unexplained, Ryan instead signed a contract with Garnet Daulton. The Court upheld this written contract as preceding the one that Ryan, again for reasons not explained, signed with Winsor days later. But the Court did give Winsor the right to take action against Ryan for breach of contract, even though that contract had not been signed right away. A curious decision to say the least, putting the person with the least power, the fisherman employee, in the breach for any penalty that might be exacted. This almost certainly was not the intent of the Statute, which simply put said that a verbal contract is not worth the paper it is written on!

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas 171 George W Handcock v William & Benjamin Sweetland 15 Aug 1821

This is the very last Plea recorded in the register and the record of the case was not completed, leaving off in mid-sentence for no accountable reason. So we will never know the cause of the complaint or the outcome.

Finally, just for the record, I am including a page listing the names of the members of the Grand Jury selected during the 1847 session of this court. This entry was found at the back of the volume and is clearly out of context with the dates of all of the cases presented above so I think that it may have been entered in error here and should have been written into a much later volume.

GN-5-1-C-1 Pleas Grand Jury for Session 21 Oct 1847

There are quite a few familiar names on this list of worthy gentlemen:

James H. [Howe] Carter, Foreman

Matt Morry Esq. [this would be Matthew Morry II, my third great grandfather]

A. O’B. Carter {Arthur O’Brien Carter]

Robt. Carter Jnr. [this would most likely be the son of Robert Carter, JP, the diarist]

John White [most probably John William White, my second great grandfather]

Michael Devereaux [ brother of Mary, the wife of Henry Sweetland Morry]

Henry Morry [ my second great grandfather]

Matthew Morry Jr. [ son of the Matthew Morry above]

John Winser [one of the Aquaforte Winsers; there were several of that name alive at this time]

Peter Winser, Jr. [son of the famous Capt. Peter Winsor; he would have spelled his name Windsor)

Henry Winser [another situation where there was more than one man alive of this name at the time]

Jacob Winser [similarly, possibly one of several men from Aquaforte, but most likely Capt. Jacob Winsor]

And these are just the ones to whom I am related!

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