Fade Goff, Ch'town to Messrs. Birnie & Son, Great St. Helen St., London, Mar 27 1815.

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From the collection of T. W. Stewart

We regret to inform you that Tom passed away in Ottawa, Ont. Monday, October 16, 2006 at the age of 84.

Fade Goff, Charlottetown to Messrs. Birnie & Son, Great St. Helen St., London, March 27, 1815.


Fade Goff had been employed by John Stewart who was a deputy paymaster of H.M.Forces in Newfoundland. John then sent him over to Charlottetown to look after Stewart's interests there. Goff then would do some work for George Birnie, John Stewart's son-in-law. George Birnie returned to England in 1813 & several years later Fade Goff was made George's agent in Charlottetown

What follows is a handwritten letter addressed. to Messers Alexander Birnie & Son, Great St. Helen Street, London from Fade Goff and dated at Charlotte Town on March 27, 1815.


I have been applied to by your Agent Mr. Pleace, through the Attorney General for a settlement of the demand of your House here, against me, stated at upwards of 800 pounds, which induces me to respectfully to lay before you, the following circumstances relative to this unfortunate matter, hoping that they may induce your consideration.

In the first place, the Goods which I received from your establishment were all charged to me at your Store retail prices; upon which, I was promised a deduction at the rate of 15 perCent, which deduction would amount to between 120 to 130 pounds, and I regulated the selling price at which I disposed of the Goods accordingly, I was at the time settled up the Hillsbro river, about 20 Miles from this place, in a good situation for collecting country produce, but this was the only return I found I could obtain in payment of my accounts with the farmers, and it became necessary to make some exertion to endeavour to realize this, to answer the purpose of payment to you, which I found could only be done by having the constant command of a suitable vessel, and shipping it to the Newfoundland and Halifax Markets. To effect this purpose, I with the concurrence of Mr. Birnie, laid down a Schooner of 75 Tons which after much struggling I was enabled to launch in Sept. 1813, but from not being able to procure supplies of rigging, sails and other materials to send her to sea, I was induced to enter into an arrangement with my Neighbour, Mr. James Jackson, by which I was to finish the hull of the vessel compleat, and he was to find all other materials to fit her for sea - each of us then to hold a half concern. This being completed, we further agreed to load her jointly, and he was to proceed in her to Newfoundland, there to dispose of the Cargo, take a freight from thence to Ireland, and to return to St. John's with Passengers for the fishing in the following Spring; from thence here, and to commence a similar round for the ensuing year. Her Cargo consisted of roots, Grain, Beef in Casks, shingles and plank, and the amount of my proportion of the vessel and Cargo cost me here the sum of 743 pounds, 8 shillings and one penny currency. From the uninterrupted success that all our Island vessels had met with, in trading safely between this and Newfoundland - as well as the unreasonable rate of Insurance demanded in Halifax for the supposed risque of capture on such a voyage, & from supposing that in consequence of the advanced state of the season that risque was much diminished, we concluded not to insure to Newfoundland, but decidedly to Insure for the other intended voyages, and I flattered myself that on the return of the vessel here that the plan proposed would have proved fortunate, and have enabled me to render you the returns which I hoped and wished.

The vessel sailed from this place on the 25th Nov. 1813. The following is a copy of a letter I received from Mr. Jackson, dated Plymouth, the 30 Jany, which I beg leave to lay before you. It will show you how compleatly my hopes in this respect have been destroyed - but at the same time I trust it will convince you that exertions were not wanting:

Plymouth 30 Jany. 1814.

My Dear Sir

Here we are poor unfortunates, our Cargo all destroyed and the vessel almost a wreck. We had very good weather and fair winds until the sixth day when we made Cape Chapeau Rouge. Next day we tried to get into Burin, when the wind proved adverse and blew a heavy gale which lasted 42 hours and we drifted 120 Miles off the Land. We then bore up again about the fourth day and made Cape Chapeau Rouge a second time. Again the wind proved as before and drove us off. This gale lasted three days. When the weather moderated we stood for St. John's and got as far as Cape Broyle, when the wind headed us again and blew a heavy Gale which lasted 74 Hours during which time we shipt a heavy sea in our balanced reefed mainsail which brought the vessel on her beam ends, where she lay for twenty minutes, all the time expecting another sea to strike her which would have upset us, having shifted her cargo four feet from one side to the other, and the Puncheons of Beef loose, as well as the boat, all leaning on one side. We now thought ourselves lost. However, we were not idle. The mainsail gave way and let out the water, and by stowing the puncheons and heaving the Plank, shingles etc. over board and getting the boat over to the other side, she righted again. At this time the weather was very bad blowing heavy with snow and expecting every minute to be drove on the rocks as the wind was dead on shore and the Helm lashed hard down, laying too at the mercy of the wind and waves, we all expected this our last, but Providence preserved us for fresh trials. When the weather moderated we again bore up for Saint John's but on making the Land found ourselves off the Island of St. Pierre, 120 Miles west of Burin. We now tried Burin a third time but to no purpose. This brought us to about the 18th day. We then made for St. John's a second time and a second time made Cape Broyle. In the morning early 18th December snowing and blowing very hard just before day break we discovered a high cliff about twice the length of the vessel from us which we were going on and must in two minutes more have been dashed to pieces upon it. This was our second narrow escape. By mere accident this proved to be close to Cape Broyle Harbour and as the wind was on the shore we had no choice - so the vessel found herself a Harbour. We stood in and found Hemming's Schooner (lately Cowan's) wrecked, which no doubt you have learnt ere this, and I dare say you thought us gone the same way. But to proceed - we lay in Cape Broyle and refitted as well as the weather would admit, which was very stormy with frost and snow blowing a hurricane. This harbour is full of rocks and we dragged our anchor 1 1/2 Miles, not having a second to let go. We passed some very dangerous rocks in drifting and the Cable being so stiff and froze that before we could give her scope enough she was close to those rocks. Luckily we passed by safe and escaped a third time. On the 24th we towed out of this Harbour, it being calm and made sail for St. John's being only about 35 Miles, having first taken on board two of the small casks of water and two Gallons of Spirits. We also took the Captain and one of the hands (old Capt. Young's son) of Hemming's schooner as passengers to St. John's and two more inhabitants of the place who were going to St. John's. We now expected to there before night. We had fair winds until we were off St. John's Harbour when it again headed us and we were obliged once more to bear away. We lay too all night and on next day and Sunday the 26th came on a dreadful gale. Our cargo once more shifted and shipping a heavy sea brought us again on our beam ends. We were now strong handed, having the four passengers, but all we could do we could not get her up again. There was nothing now to be done but cutting away the main mast, heaving over the remains of her deck timber etc. etc. She was now so loaded with Ice that we despaired of ever getting her up, having 5 or 6 feet of Ice about her bows, but Providence kindly interfered and she once more righted. The Gale still continued blowing ha

Tomorrow I must begin to get the remains of our rotten Cargo out - but how to get her new sails, masts etc. I know not. I can only pay for them on our arrival at St. John's and whether I shall be able to do this I know not.

I am etc.etc,

J. J.

After a good deal of difficulty at Plymouth, Mr. Jackson procured tradesmen to undertake the repairs of the vessel, which with wages etc. amounted to upwards of 500 pounds. This sum Mr. John Cobley, Welsford, paid by his acceptance at 12 Month from April last but not until he obtained a bill of sale of 2/3 rds of the vessel, redeemable, if the money and insurances were paid him in time, to put him in cash, to provide for his acceptance so given. This subsequent misfortune has rendered impracticable. From Plymouth Mr. Jackson obtained a good freight of Barley which he landed at Bourdeaux, and from thence took onboard a Cargo of Salt for St. John's, Newfoundland, and unfortunately a few British goods on freight, consisting of Sadlery, Shoes, Boots etc. which had been sent to France from London for the use of our Army, but after Peace, would not be allowed to be landed. Their whole value was about 100 pounds, and the freight they were to pay was 4 pounds, 10 shillings. On arrival at St. John's these Goods were reported with the Salt at the Custom House, and the Collector on receiving the information instantly sent out and seized the vessel and Cargo from those trifling goods having come round by a foreign Port which rendered them Contraband. However, after a trial in the Vice Admiralty Court, and it being evident that no fraud whatever was intended, the vessel after near two months delay was liberated. The Salt on its arrival could have been sold at 35/ per Hhd of which she had near four hundred Hhd on board, but on her being liberated it could not be sold for 10/ per Hhd. Mr. Jackson then thought it better to proceed with it to Fox Island at the entrance of the Gut of Canso, to barter it for Mackerel for which purpose he entered Manchester or Chedabucto Bay when a Gale of Wind coming on with Fog he was driven on shore, bilged the vessel and lost the whole of the Salt (which would have obtained as good a price there, as when it arrived at St. John's), and the repairs of the vessel came to upwards of 200 pounds - worse than all, no Insurance could be recovered, as by running into this Bay he deviated from the Policy. At length the vessel arrived here (the middle of December) when she was frozen up and now lays - but beside her first cost and the cargo there put aboard her she is more than 300 pounds in debt above her present value!

Such a continued scene of calamity is rare, and indeed it has required the exercise of no small degree of fortitude to bear up against it. This Gentlemen is the unfortunate result of my endeavours to realize the property I received from your Establishment here. It has been totally lost in the manner above stated, and more beside, and I have nothing now to look to for the support of a Wife and four little babes but my personal exertions. However, if Providence favours me with health I shall endeavour to do all I can, and as the matter has turned out so extremely unfortunate to me - the proposal which I beg leave to submit to your consideration is:- that you will so far favour me as to divide the loss and accept my personal security payable with Interest till discharged for 350 pounds which, deducting the percentage agreed upon, as before stated, will in such case be about my proportion, and I trust no exertions shall on my part be wanting to discharge the obligation.

If I had derived any advantage from your advances, I should not presume to make such a proposal - but having lost the whole, and an increasing young family to provide for will I trust plead my excuse and induce your favourable consideration of the Case.

Hoping for your reply as speedily as opportunity will admit and requestion permission to refer to Mr. George Birnie for information on such points as he is acquainted with

I am Gentlemen

very respectfully

Your Obedient Servant


P.S. Since writing the above Mr. Pleace has thought to take out a writ against me, without having had even the common civility to make any application to me whatever for a settlement prior to his putting the account into the hands of the Attorney General thereby needlessly adding expence to the unfortunate transaction and altho' I wrote him immediately after the Atty. General spoke to me that I intended writing you on the subject and proposing an arrangement by this Mail. I do not know by what means I have incurred the displeasure of this Gentleman, but I believe that he considers that I have endeavoured to undermine him in your good opinion for the justice of which I beg leave to appeal to yourselves, from the above circumstance I must request you to forward me your determination without delay - as by the regular course of Law to the rigor of which I have every reason to expect I shall be held immured in our Prison, which is not one of the most healthful prior to the receipt. I have been informed from the authority of those who came out lately from London that Mr. Pleace has written you circumstances relative to me which are untrue. I beg the favour of your informing me the particulars as it is fair that I should have an opportunity of justifying myself against the misrepresentations of such a character.

I am very respectfully, Gentlemen

Your ob.Serv.



In the CD ROM Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada prepared by the Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of St. John's Newfoundland there is a registration of a schooner owned by James Jackson called the Governor Smith built at Hillsborough River in 1813. Jackson lived at Hillsborough River. The vessel was sold in London in 1816. This vessel was in all likelihood the schooner described in the letter.

From PAPEI RG9, Collector of Customs Outwards: "20 Nov., 1813 - "Governor Smith" of 75 tons, Capt. John Lewis, for St. John's, with 15 turkeys." Governor Smith was a schooner of 76 tons, 54' long 18'4" broad, 9'1" deep; master John Lewis; built at Hillsborough River by James Jackson, farmer.

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