The sadd face of wynter upon all this land

Archival Moment

April 7, 1623

The Charter of Avalon was granted to George Calvert by King James I on (7 April 1623). The charter created the Province of Avalon on the island of Newfoundland and gave George Calvert (later known as Lord Baltimore) complete authority over all matters in the territory. The charter extended from Ferryland to Petty Harbour, bound to the northwest by Conception Bay and to the west by Placentia Bay. Lord Baltimore chose Ferryland as the principle area of settlement.

In 1625 Sir George Calvert resigned as Secretary of State and declared himself privately to be a Roman Catholic. He was given the Irish title of Baron Baltimore of Longford, a pension of 2,000 pounds per annum, and was now free to devote himself to the flourishing little colony of 100 settlers at Ferryland.

It was not until 23 July 1627 that Lord Baltimore, accompanied by two Catholic priests, Fathers Anthony Smith and Longville, finally set eyes on Ferryland. He was so encouraged by what he saw he returned the following year with his wife, Lady Joan, and all his children except his eldest son, Cecil, who remained behind to look after family affairs in England. He was also accompanied by a third priest, Father Hackett.

Besides problems with French privateers who raided the colony Lord Baltimore was soon involved in a religious dispute. On his arrival in Newfoundland on July 23, 1627 the two Roman Catholic priests he brought with him offered the first mass in British North America at Ferryland in thanksgiving for a safe voyage.

Rev. Erasmus Stourton, the first Church of England Clergyman in Newfoundland, made it his business to check out the rumors of Popish (Roman Catholic) practices at Ferryland. Back in England, Reverend Stourton lost no time in spreading the news that new convert to Catholicism, Lord Baltimore, was encouraging Popery among English subjects at Ferryland. No one apparently took any action about the complaint.

Despite living comfortably in a stone mansion with his family, Calvert (Lord Baltimore) became disheartened over the next year as he had to sustain attacks from French privateers, including the pirate de la Rade (or de la Ralde), and to endure a harsh winter and a food shortage that claimed the lives of 10 settlers and inflicted many others with scurvy.

“The sadd face of wynter upon all this land”

By 1629 Calvert had decided that he did not like his Newfoundland province. He blamed this change of heart on the miserable weather he and his wife endured in 1628 -1629. He complained to his friend Sir Francis Cottington that he had suffered much

“in this wofull country, (Newfoundland) where with one intolerable wynter [winter] we were almost undone. It is not to be expressed with my pen what wee have endured.”

And he told King Charles I:

that from the middest [middle] of October, to the middest of May there is a sadd face of wynter (winter) upon all this land …. “

The winter of 1629 must have been much like this winter.

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