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GARLAND, CHARLES, office holder, planter, merchant, and judge; b. 1730 in Mosquito (Bristol’s Hope), Nfld, son of George Garland; married, with one son; d. 8 March 1810 in Harbour Grace, Nfld.

Charles Garland was born into one of the oldest established families in Conception Bay. In the 1670s his grandfather John Garland resided at Mosquito, a small cove between Carbonear and Harbour Grace, and was a typical 17th-century fisherman-planter. Charles’s father, George, was evidently the only son of John, and he became prominent enough to be appointed, in 1732, one of the first justices of the peace for Conception Bay. Charles himself was made a justice in 1755, a position he held until 1792, when he also acquired the offices of deputy customs collector and naval officer. In 1799 he became a judge of the surrogate court of Newfoundland with an annual stipend of £60, and retained this appointment until his death. Throughout most of his public career Garland also tried to gain a livelihood from trade and the fishery.

As one of Newfoundland’s pioneer peace officers, Garland performed a varied role in a controversial office during a period of extreme uncertainty, instability, and change. He served under many different naval governors, whose views and interpretations of the acts governing the island varied. His authority was frequently challenged by British merchants and sea captains and his conduct and integrity were occasionally questioned. While his principal duties were the settlement of criminal cases (involving personal assaults and drunkenness) and the arbitration of civil cases (particularly those arising from property disputes or involving charges of debt between merchants and fishermen or between fishermen and their servants), he was also frequently required to enforce decrees of the governors and to provide them with information. Perhaps one of the more notable episodes of his magistracy happened in 1755, when he was ordered by Governor Richard Dorrill* to investigate a complaint that, contrary to law, a Roman Catholic priest had celebrated a public mass in Conception Bay. Garland’s preliminary inquiry determined that a priest had held mass at Caplin Cove, north of Carbonear, but that he had left and gone to Harbour Main. Together with the other justice of the peace for Conception Bay, Garland went to Harbour Main and elicited a confession from one Michael Katem, a planter, that a priest had celebrated a public mass in one of his storehouses. Katem was fined £50, the building was demolished, and he was ordered to sell all his possessions in Newfoundland before 25 November. The same expedition also uncovered another Catholic sympathizer in Harbour Main named Michael Landrican, who suffered much the same punishment.

More praiseworthy were Garland’s efforts in organizing resistance to the French invasion of Newfoundland in 1762 [see Charles-Henri-Louis d’Arsac* de Ternay]. He recruited 50 volunteers in Conception Bay to serve with Lieutenant-Colonel William Amherst’s expedition to recapture St John’s, and provided boats and small vessels to assist in the landing of troops. These activities, in addition to his supplying the British garrison in St John’s with provisions after the French were routed, earned him an official commendation and were reported in the London Chronicle, or Universal Evening Post.

Although Garland apparently took an active part in the cod fishery and in the passenger and provisions trade, he seems to have supported his family mainly by renting out fishing rooms and other properties to migratory fishermen and planters. He owned and leased properties in Mosquito, Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and Devil’s (Job’s) Cove, and asserted hay-cutting and grazing rights to land on Little Bell Island, the Harbour Grace islands, and Carbonear Island. Much of the conflict between migratory fishermen and settlers during the 18th century, and more particularly between English ship’s captains and local magistrates, focused on the possession of fishing rooms. In 1763, for example, Garland’s rights to two rooms in Harbour Grace were challenged by ship’s captains, but he was able to prove to the governor’s satisfaction that both properties had been inherited from his father. There seems little doubt that the Garlands, like other settlers in Newfoundland and English merchants who established fixed premises on the island, could have acquired their holdings only by encroaching on and converting to private property fishing rooms formerly used as ship’s rooms by migratory fishermen, aided in this practice by the indifference of the governors or their inability to enforce the acts respecting property possession. Ironically, as a magistrate Garland on at least one occasion acted to prevent encroachment on a ship’s room when in 1755 he ordered the structures built on one by a Jersey merchant in Harbour Grace to be burned while the merchant was in Jersey for the winter.

Garland’s close association with the governors appears to have been a major factor in his having property disputes settled in his favour, but he did fall from grace, at least temporarily, with Governor Hugh Palliser*, who suspended him from office in 1765 for failing to settle a trade account with a Devon merchant. The latter had consigned some goods for Garland to retail late in 1762, and three years later he claimed that no account had been rendered. The following year, however, Garland was reappointed a justice of the peace.

Few details are available on Garland’s role in the fishery and trade, but he apparently was closely connected with several merchant traders and during the 1780s owned shares in a number of ships. In addition, documents related to the bankruptcy of John Thomey and Company of Bristol and Harbour Grace in 1792 suggest that Garland had been involved in the Irish passenger traffic to Newfoundland on Thomey’s account. In his later years, especially from 1792 until his death, Garland was able to live comfortably off his pay as a customs and naval officer and as a surrogate judge. He had additional income from his rented properties, but withdrew from commerce and trade.

Such individuals as Charles Garland and his father were not only the first pillars of civil government in Newfoundland but were also the intermediaries between the British governors and the Newfoundland settlers in the transition of the island from a base for an English fishery to a settled colony. When Charles Garland was born, Conception Bay had only a few hundred permanent settlers, was dominated by the migratory fishermen, and was ruled by the fishing admirals. When he died, it was the most populous district in Newfoundland, with over 5,000 inhabitants. Chaotic and contentious conditions still prevailed in the courts and in the general administration of justice, but the offices and institutions that were needed for future improvements had at least been founded.

W. Gordon Handcock

Dorset Record Office, D365. Hunt, Roope & Co. (London), Robert Newman & Co., Newfoundland letterbook, 1844–50 (mfm. at PANL). Maritime Hist. Group Arch., Garland, Charles; Garland, George, name files. PANL, GN 2/1, 2/2; P7/A/53. Supreme Court of Nfld. (St John’s), Registry. administration of Charles Garland estate, granted to Elizabeth Garland, 3 May 1834. PRO, CO 1/35, 1/38, 1/41, 1/47, 1/55; CO 41/7; CO 194/4, 194/24, 194/41; CO 199/18; CO 324/7. St Paul’s Anglican Church (Harbour Grace, Nfld.), Reg. of burials (mfm. at PANL). G.B., PRO, Calendar of state papers, colonial series, America and West Indies (44v. to date, London, 1860– ), 36: 283, 375–79. W. G. Handcock, “An historical geography of the origins of English settlement in Newfoundland: a study of the migration process” (phd thesis, Univ. of Birmingham, Eng., 1979), 16–18, 40–41. McLintock, Establishment of constitutional government in Nfld., 59. Prowse, Hist. of Nfld. (1895), 222, 293–94.

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Cite This Article

W. Gordon Handcock, “GARLAND, CHARLES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 20, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/garland_charles_5E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/garland_charles_5E.html
Author of Article:   W. Gordon Handcock
Title of Article:   GARLAND, CHARLES
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   May 20, 2024