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By the early 1800s Trinity had become the main trade center on the northeast coast of Newfoundland where the Poole merchants had transformed the trans-Atlantic fishery into an industry with Trinity Harbour as its base.

Trinity had grown to become a place which supported a population which included several social classes based upon status. There were the small social elite, the upper class, which came from the chief agents of the merchant firms, the doctor and clergyman, customs and naval officers and Justices of the Peace; the middle class which consisted of clerks, specialized tradesmen (blacksmiths, coopers and shipwrights etc.), master mariners, schooner skippers and independent planters with the third class being the largest and consisting of lower paid merchant servants and dependent planters and shoremen. These people were often tied to a single merchant firm usually by being in debt and were disadvantaged by having to accept advances of food, clothing and fishing gear by promising to provide future payment in kind through their catches at prices that were established by the merchants.

The majority of people that resided in Trinity were of the upper and middle class with most of the lower class citizens residing in the surrounding communities. Trinity was like a modern day service centre where people came to purchase/trade their goods or seek out a professional service such as seeing the clergy or doctor. Most of the people who settled in these communities were brought out by the fish merchants such as the Whites, Lester, Jeffrey and Street, Sladeís and others. Examples of those brought out by the Sladeís for their various establishments around the province can be seen throughout this virtual exhibit which will provide you with an idea of the size of their establishments and the wages being paid. Those that came would sign on for a couple of years work and would often remain in Newfoundland after the period of their servitude thus contributing to the growth of the permanent settlement. 

Trinity being the main trade center on the northeast coast they were then distributed to smaller trade centers where the merchants were established such as at Heartís Content, Catalina, New Perlican, Bonavista and Greenspond and where much of the fish, oil, seal skins, lumber and other products produced on the north east coast were collected for transhipment.

In the early 1830s Trinity reached plateaus in both population size and commercial activity which were not significantly changed for the next several decades, indeed perhaps not until the late 19th century.

The censuses taken between 1836 and 1891 indicates that the population of Trinity Harbour reached a level of about 1250 persons in 1836 and remained at virtually the same figure until the 1860s when it went slightly over the 1400 mark, and then remained at this level until the end of the century.

In the 1830s Trinity remained a relatively busy port, and apart from the movement of boats and schooners within the bay and on fishing and sealing voyages normally had 70 to 100 vessels entering and clearing annually on coasting voyages. Links with St. Johnís had become especially important and during the main sailing season schooners, brigs, yachts and cutters were arriving from or going to the capital almost daily. In fact many ocean going vessels employed by Garlandís and Sladeís whether inbound or outbound normally now touched at St. Johnís, whereas in previous times most foreign sailings came directly into and went directly out of Trinity. Among the ports to which fish collected by the Garlandís and Sladeís was being dispatched in the 1830s were Lisbon, Valencia, Cadiz, Bilboa, Leghorn, Gibraltor, Naples, and Civitavecchia. West Indian fish was marketed mainly through St. Johnís. Some fish, but mostly salmon, seal skins and oil went to Poole and London. Meanwhile salt was imported from Spain, Portugal and Liverpool. Dry goods and fishing gear came in from Poole and St. Johnís. St. Johnís also supplied West Indian goods and foodstuffs though flour, pork and butter came from Hamburg in Germany and Cork in Ireland.

By 1850 the trend towards the centralization in St. Johnís was well advanced. In Trinity the Sladeís survived but their share of trade was declining and they finally went insolvent in 1861. Robinson and Brooking operated the Garland premises, but they also reduced the volume of trade and allowed the wharves and stores to fall into a state of disrepair. By 1869 both the Garland and Slade estates in Trinity had fallen into the hands of one firm, Walter Grieve & Co., of St. Johnís. Grieve purchased the Slade premises at an auction and installed Alexander Warren Bremner his partner as agent. In 1869 Grieve also took a lease on the Garland estate. Under new owners a large part of the Slade estate was allowed to go to ruin. Grieve and Bremner apparently used it mainly for landing seal pelts and the processing of seal oil. Meanwhile the Garland property was used for fish storage, retail trade and the residence of the local manager, and buildings which had previously been used for the same purposes on the Slade plantation were abandoned.

The Slade family was one of the predominant families in Newfoundland and Labrador that were involved in the fishing trade and it is through this virtual exhibit that their business and family history will be explored. Details of their business, the daily happenings at the headquartered business in Trinity, weather and other tidbits of information will be revealed through the diaries that were kept by their company agent, William Kelson.

Source: The Origin and Development of Trinity up to 1900 by Dr. Gordon Handcock, Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, May 1981 pgs 49-51, 80-82 and 92.

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