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Record No: mha00000249
Title: Lester-Garland family fonds
Dates: Microfilmed 1962 (originally created 1761-1833)
Location: MHA microfilm cabinet
Provenance: Lester-Garland (family)
Extent: 5 reels of microfilm
Source of Supplied Title: Title is based on the contents of the fonds
Restrictions: No restrictions.
Adm. Hist/Bio. Sketch: The Lesters were one of the most successful of the Poole merchant families involved in the Newfoundland trade in the second half of the eighteenth century. They established at Trinity in the 1750s and built up a lucrative business with establishments in a number of communities in Trinity Bay, buying Newfoundland codfish from planters and fishermen and providing settlers with supplies and provisions.
    Benjamin Lester (1724-1802) was born in Poole, Dorset, the son of Rachael (Taverner) Lester and Francis Lester, cooper and merchant. He married his cousin Susannah, daughter of Jacob Taverner of Trinity. Lester came to Newfoundland in 1737 and was employed by John Masters, a Poole-Newfoundland merchant and Lester's uncle. Lester became an agent for Masters at Trinity and, by 1748, was himself a leading planter and merchant. By the early 1760s, Lester and his brother Isaac (1718-1778) were in partnership. Isaac managed the Poole end of the business by dispatching ships to Newfoundland with supplies and manpower and receiving incoming cargoes.
    Although Benjamin Lester removed his family to Poole in 1767, he continued to visit Trinity to direct shipbuilding, fish processing, vessel loading and unloading, and trade with the inhabitants. By the early 1770s, the Lesters owned an ocean-going fleet of 12 vessels and had mercantile premises at Trinity, Bonavista, Greenspond, and Tilting. They built ships at Trinity and New Harbour, Trinity Bay, and became involved in the offshore fishery on the Grand Banks, the salmon fishery, and the cod fishery along the French Shore and the coast of Labrador. They also had large numbers of people employed in cutting wood, trapping furs, and sealing.
    After the death of Isaac Lester in 1778, Benjamin Lester continued the Poole-Newfoundland operations. By 1793, he owned 20 ships, the largest fleet operated by an English-Newfoundland merchant in the eighteenth century.
    One of Benjamin Lester's main concerns was the prospect that the family business would be broken up or that it would not carry the Lester name. Fortunately, his daughter Amy had married George Garland (1753-1825), who had been employed as Lester's counting-house manager in Poole. As Lester became increasingly involved in British politics in the 1780s and 1790s, Garland assumed more direct responsibility for the trade.
    By his will, Benjamin Lester left the Newfoundland trade in half shares to his only son John Lester and to George Garland, to be operated as Benjamin Lester and Company. He also arranged that much of his Poole property should go to his eldest grandson, Benjamin Lester Garland (1779-1839), on condition that he would take the Lester surname. The firm Benjamin Lester and Company continued until the death of John Lester in 1805, when it fell into the hands of George Garland. After 1819, the firm became George Garland and Sons.
    George Garland's son, Benjamin Lester Garland changed his surname to Lester and received his inheritance, but took no interest in the Newfoundland trade. In 1819, he was replaced in the firm by his brothers, George Jr. and John Bingley Garland (fl. 1820-1849), first Speaker for the Newfoundland House of Assembly
Scope and Content: Fonds consists of papers of the merchant families of Lester and Garland, including the daily diaries of Benjamin and Isaac Lester. These contain information on the daily activities of their business in Poole and Newfoundland, including information on ships, the fishery, weather, other merchants, and the political climate, giving an unparalleled account of the operation of a Newfoundland business establishment of the time.
    The records also include an account of the French occupation of Trinity (July 1762) by Benjamin Lester, as well as the specifications for the construction of naval vessels and the proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly (1834).
    Fonds is arranged as follows: Diaries of Benjamin and Isaac Lester, 1761-1796 and 1765-1789; Accounts of the estate of Sir John Lester, 1808; Estate of George Garland, 1826; Benjamin Lester Garland, commissions in the militia, 1803-1831; Letterbooks of George Garland, 1794-1826; John Bingley Garland, appointment, 1833; and Captains' letterbook, 1827-1832
Reproduction Note: Microfilm obtained from the National Archives of Canada and the Dorset Record Office.
Terms Governing Use: Copyright is held by the creator or his/her heirs.
Associated Material: Keith Matthews Collection, Series 4. Typed extracts of the diaries of Benjamin and Isaac Lester
Finding Aids: MHA finding aid 52
Local Note: Microfilm copies of the Lester-Garland papers were acquired by the Maritime History Archive in two separate accessions. One reel was purchased in 1962 from the National Archives of Canada and consists of selections microfilmed by the National Archives through permission of Rev. G. H. Lester-Garland of Bath, Somerset. The other reel was purchased from the Dorset Record Office.
Subject: Merchants Newfoundland.
Subject: Merchants England Dorset.
Subject: Trinity (N.L.)
Subject: Poole (England).
Subject: Letterbooks.
Subject: Diaries.
Authors_Personal Name: Lester, Benjamin, 1724-1802.
Authors_Personal Name: Garland, George, 1753-1825.
Authors_Personal Name: Garland, John Bingley, 1791-1825.
Authors_Personal Name: Garland, George Vallis, 1824-1893.
Authors_Personal Name: Lester, Francis, 1688-1737.
Authors_Personal Name: Garland, Lester.
Authors_Personal Name: Lester, John Sir, 1754-1805.
Online Material: http://collections.mun.ca/cdm4/description.php?phpReturn=typeListing.php&id=65 (Diaries only)


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