Cupers Cove ? Early English Settlement


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In 1610, merchants from London and Bristol in England started a company so that they could settle Newfoundland. Most people call this company either the London and Bristol Company or the Newfoundland Company. The merchants were issued a charter by King James I. In August 1610 the first settlers arrived in Newfoundland. They settled at a place they called Cupers Cove. Today we call this place Cupids. The colony's first governor was a Bristol merchant named John Guy.

Crest of London and Bristol Company. (The Society of Merchant Venturers. Used with permission.)
Crest of London and Bristol Company. (The Society of Merchant Venturers. Used with permission.)

The Colonists Arrive

Thirty-nine men spent the first winter at Cupers Cove. Many of the things that people had in Europe did not exist in Newfoundland. John Guy and his men had to build almost everything for themselves. John was given very detailed instructions about how to set up the new colony. His instructions included fortifying the settlement, carrying out experimental farming, making salt, potash and glass, collecting samples of ore, fishing, and trading.

The settlers started cutting trees and clearing the land as soon as they arrived. They sent a load of logs back to England in the ship that brought them. They used the rest of the logs to build houses and other buildings. By December 1 they had built a dwelling house to live in and a storehouse for their supplies. They built an enclosure around these two buildings. It was one hundred and twenty feet (35 metres) long and ninety feet (27 metres) wide.

Building the Settlement

Clearing the Land.  (Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures, 2005)
Clearing the Land. (Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures, 2005)

The first winter was a good one without too much snow. The colonists worked outdoors most of the time. Some of them explored the countryside. They traveled up to 15 miles (24 km) through the woods from Cupers Cove. They also kept busy building.

John Guy wrote a letter back to England nine months after the colony started. In it, he said the settlers had cleared ground for farming and cut wood to make charcoal. They built a work house so they could work indoors when it rained, a fort and a black smith's shop. They also built a 12 ton bark, the Indeavour, for exploring the island, and six smaller fishing boats. While he was writing the letter, John's men were working on another dwelling house that was almost finished.

More Settlers

John went back to England in 1611. Before he left he issued eight laws for the settlers and the migratory fishermen to obey. He came back to Cupers Cove the next spring and brought 16 women settlers with him. More settlers arrived over the spring and summer and work on building the settlement went on. John and his men built a saw mill, a grist mill and other buildings in the summer of 1612. They even built a brew house to make their own beer.

Arrival of Pirates

Pigs for Pirates. (Prepared for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures by Baccalieu Consulting, ©2005.)
Pigs for Pirates. (Prepared for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures by Baccalieu Consulting, ©2005.)

Newfoundland could be a dangerous place in the 17th century. One of the greatest dangers came from pirates. The Peter Easton, came to Newfoundland in the spring of 1612. He built a fort at Harbour Grace. Over the next few months he attacked many ships. He took provisions from the fishermen and forced many of them to join his band.

That year the settlers at Cupers Cove had started another colony at Renews. They moved people, animals and supplies there in the spring. In July 1612, John was sailing from Cupers Cove to Renews when one of his men was shot and wounded by the pirates. Later the settlers at Renews gave Peter Easton two of their four pigs. They hoped that if they did this he would leave them alone.

Looking for the Beothuk

Beothuk home. (Prepared for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures. Image by Ben Lewis, ©2005.)
Beothuk home. (Prepared for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures. Image by Ben Lewis, ©2005.)

When Peter Easton left, it was safe for the settlers to explore the island. John and the other colonists wanted to meet the Beothuk and set up a fur trade with them. In September, the colonists cut a trail all the way from Cupers Cove to Trinity Bay to contact the Beothuk. (Today the trail they built has been cut again, and it is called Crout's Way.)

In October, John and a group of settlers sailed into Trinity Bay to meet the Beothuk. On November 6, John's men met a group of Beothuk somewhere in Bull Arm. The settlers and Beothuk exchanged presents and shared a meal.

By this time, the weather was getting bad. The settlers left to sail home. It took them 19 days to get back to Cupers Cove.

First Child Born

17th Century Baby Crib. (Prepared for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures by Baccalieu Consulting, © 2005.)
17th Century Baby Crib. (Prepared for Baccalieu: Crossroads for Cultures by Baccalieu Consulting, © 2005.)

Sixty-two people spent the winter of 1613 at Cupers Cove. It was a rough one. There was a lot of snow and half of the colonists were sick with scurvy. Eight of them died before they found out that it could be cured by eating raw turnips that had been left in the ground. Not enough land had been cleared to grow all the hay and other crops that the settler's animals needed to eat. Many of the animals died over the winter.

Fortunately, there was some good news. On March 27, Nicholas Guy's wife gave birth to a son. He was the first English child born in Canada.

A New Governor

John Guy left Newfoundland in April 1613. As far as we know he never came back. Later, he became a Member of Parliament in England. He fought hard for the rights of Newfoundland settlers.

In 1615, John Mason became the new governor of the Newfoundland colony. He was a good governor and spent a lot of his time exploring the island. He had experience fighting pirates in Scotland and he battled pirates in Newfoundland too. In 1620, the King of England gave him a commission and a ship so that he could drive the pirates out of Newfoundland. John was governor until 1621. Later he was involved in starting colonies in Maine and New Hampshire.

Settlement Continued

We don't know if there was another governor after John Mason. We do know that people still lived at Cupers Cove after he left. In 1624, Mason's friend, William Alexander, wrote a book. In it he said people were still living at Cupers Cove and they were doing well â??both for pleasure and profitâ??.