Profile: Charles Davis Garland (1730-1810)

Charles Davis Garland

Silhouette of Charles Davis Garland

Born in 1730 in Musketta (Mosquito; later Bristol’s Hope), the son of George Garland (1677-1763), Charles Davis Garland was a planter with extensive holdings and properties in Conception Bay during the latter half of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. While he did participate in the fishery to some degree, he rented most of his holdings to migratory fishers and planters. These rental properties included several plantations in Harbour Grace and Musketta (Bristol’s Hope) and fishing rooms at Musketta and Devil’s Cove (later Job’s Cove). He also claimed haying and grazing privileges on Little Bell Island, Harbour Grace Island and Carbonear Island. Garland was also involved in the transatlantic mercantile trade and was part owner of several ships, including the Nancy, Friendship and Charlotte.

In 1755 Garland was appointed a magistrate for the Conception Bay area. One of his first acts, on behalf of Governor Richard Dorrill, was to investigate charges that Roman Catholic masses had been celebrated publicly in Conception Bay, contrary to the laws governing religious practices in Newfoundland. Garland’s preliminary investigation determined that a priest had performed mass at Caplin Cove, north of Carbonear, but that he had left and gone to Harbour Main. Garland was able to gather confessions from Michael Katem and Michael Landrican, two planter-priests, that they had celebrated the mass. Their properties were burned, and the two men were subsequently hit with heavy fines and exiled from Newfoundland.

In 1762 Garland helped organize the defence of Conception Bay against French invaders. In the same year he also marshalled a group of 50 volunteers to become part of Colonel William Amherst’s force, to help recapture St. John’s; he also provided boats and landing craft for the men. His service gained him an official commendation, with the London Chronicle reporting on his deeds. This same year he was given the added responsibility of Deputy Customs and Naval Officer.

As one of Newfoundland’s early peace officers in a developing civil service, Garland performed a varied role in a controversial office, during a precarious period in Newfoundland’s history. He served under many Naval Governors, whose views and interpretations of the act governing Newfoundland often differed. Also, British merchants and captains sometimes challenged his authority, conduct and integrity. Over most of his public career Garland tried to gain a livelihood from the fishery and trade, occupations that tended to draw him into a conflict of interest with his role as a peace officer. One such example was when Governor Sir Hugh Palliser temporarily relieved Garland of his duties in 1765, citing a dispute with a Devonshire merchant over an unpaid bill. Garland was eventually reappointed in 1766.

Local tradition in Harbour Grace maintains that in 1764-5 Garland gave some of his property in Harbour Grace to Rev. Laurence Coughlan, enabling the construction of Harbour Grace’s first Anglican church and parsonage.

Notably, Garland purchased a plantation at Harbour Grace in 1770 known as “The Grove,” near Bears Cove point, for which he paid 50 pounds to a Jersey merchant, Nicholas Fiott—the same Nicholas Fiott whom Coughlan chastised as “leading an immoral life” in May 1772. In 1805 “The Grove” contained two stages, three fish flakes, four dwellings, three vegetable plots and a meadow.

In 1799 he was appointed a surrogate judge with a yearly remuneration of £60. Rev. Lewis Anspach succeeded him as Surrogate Judge in Conception Bay in 1810.

Garland died at Harbour Grace on March 8, 1810, aged 79.

This post is part of the Harbour Grace Notebook series. Follow the updates on social media with the hashtag #hgnotebook.


Sources & Further Information

“Garland, Charles Davis.” Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1981, p. 478.

Hancock, W. Gordon. “Charles Garland.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Accessed 7 March 2019.

One thought on “Profile: Charles Davis Garland (1730-1810)

Leave a Reply to Marilyn Colley Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s