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Historical Data

Notre Dame Bay ~ The Slade Ledgers


Transcribed by DON BENNETT, July 2000. While I have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be typographical errors.

The Slade Ledgers

There has been a European association with Fogo, Newfoundland since the eighteenth century, but not many documents survive from the period before 1820. The one exception is a collection of business records and letters of the Slades and their successors, the Earles, which is kept at the Newfoundland Archives. Part of the collection, that being presented here, is a summary of information contained in the Ledgers of John Slade & Co. for the ten years 1783 to 1792.

This was an interesting period in the history of the Notre Dame Bay . On September 3, 1783, Britain and France signed the Treaty of Versailles. The Versailles treaty gave the British exclusive rights to the fishery as far north as Cape St. John. It made legal what had been, in fact, happening for the past three quarters of a century: the exploitation of the fishery and the settling of the area by fishermen from England and Ireland.

Within forty years of the signing of the treaty most of the coast had been settled , the fishery had changed from a ship-based one operated from England to one operated by merchants and fishermen resident in the area, and the native Beothucks had become extinct as a result of disease and conflict with the settlers.

One of the early traders was John Slade, a ship owner from Poole, Dorset, England. The late Mr. N.C. Crewe , research officer at the Newfoundland archives, wrote in the Newfoundland Quarterly, Fall 1963 edition:

By 1750 a member or members of the Slade family of Poole, Dorset, England, had established at Fogo, then about thirty years settled, a mercantile business for the importation and retailing of food and general goods , the production , purchase and export of fish, sealskins, furs and fish oils and the building purchasing and running of ships in connection therewith: in short, a historically familiar ‘ fishery supply business’ of Newfoundland, of the large and diversified sort that numerously existed in St. John’s and other principal settlements, from say 1700 to 1940 and that includes a number existing today [of either historic or more recent foundation]. The firm was soon afterwards established at Twillingate. By 1820 there were Slade establishments at several places between Sop’s Island, in White Bay and Greenspond, in Bonavista Bay, and at least two places on the coast of Labrador, namely Battle harbour and Venison Islands. The parent house or houses were always at Poole, the Newfoundland establishments being branches thereof, the principal local one of which [at Fogo] would in turn control smaller coastal branches - although of course, merchandise would often be sent from Poole direct to a coastal branch, and its fishery produce shipped away direct to market.

This group of Slade establishments may be called the “Northern Slades”. These establishments continued active, at all or most of the places where they had been founded, until the 1860’s when the proprietors sold out and closed up - this was not an insolvent closing up.

The Slades were succeeded by John Owen and finally by the Earle family who operated the business until 1968. The ledgers give us a glimpse into what life was like at Fogo at the time of its founding, that period of transition from summer fishing station to town.

Don Bennett - Oct 2000

My thanks to Mr. Burnham Gill, Newfoundland Provincial Archivist, retired, and Ms. Elinor Ratcliffe, whose help made this project possible.

Most of the work on these ledgers was done by archives personnel back in the 1970's. Mr. Burnham Gill thought a Mr. Horvath had done most of the organizing, after the material had been donated by Brian Earle when the Company shut down. Most of my work was tidying it up and typing it in .When I started I knew what I was looking for, then had the good luck of knowing the person who could find it. Mr. Burn Gill was at the archives in its early years and was responsible for acquiring a lot of the collection. He now lives in a retirement home in Kingston . He is 87 years old and his health is failing somewhat but his mind is as good or better than anyone's. I visit with him every couple of weeks or so and always learn something. He loves to talk about NFLD history.

© Don Bennett and NL GenWeb
Fogo District