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Forward family fonds and Forward ledgers

Forward family fonds, 1750-1928

8 centimetres of textual records

Administrative history

George Forward and his brother Charles registered their first vessel, a 59 ton schooner in 1825 and gradually built up a small fleet of vessels for the Labrador cod fishery and the seal hunt. In 1831, he registered the William the Fourth, a 122 ton brigantine, a vessel large enough to engage in the trans Atlantic trades. Besides his vessel operation there is little known about George Forward's activities between 1825 and 1834.

Forward acquired a sizeable property at Burnt Head from the estate of merchant William Gillespie, who had died without a will and in debt to George Forward. This property provided Forward with a plantation with a waterside fishing stage from which he was able to build up his business and establish himself as a major property owner.

By 1835, Forward was acquiring vessels on his own, continuing to add to his fleet. In 1839, he supplied five vessels for the seal hunt, four of which he owned. In 1840, in partnership with William Willis Bemister, he purchased the premises of the bankrupt firm of Slade, Biddle and Company, a prime piece of property known collectively as "the dock", situated in the heart of Carbonear. The premises consisted of a carpenter's shop, a fish store, a retail store, a salt store, a pork store, a counting house, a wharf and a section of a beach plus access to a common long wharf and a crane wharf which were also utilized by Nicholas Nicholls, John Rorke and Edward Walmsley. This purchase established Forward as one of the major merchants operating in the district. He sold large quantities of provisions, dry goods and supplies for outfitting the fishery and purchased quantities of fish, seals and other commodities.

In 1842, Forward purchased shares in a speculative venture named the Newfoundland Steam Navigation Company, with merchant John Rorke, and in 1843 both he and W.W. Bemister were members of the administrative committee of the Mutual Insurance Company of Conception Bay. Bemister's role in the business is uncertain, but he is not listed as owning any shares of the vessels. He did however, register vessels on his own and reportedly sent them to the seal hunt. Between 1825 and 1857, a total of sixteen vessels were registered to George Forward.

George Forward immigrated to Carbonear from Dorset, England, sometime between 1807 and 1815 when his marriage to Susannah Taylor is recorded at the Anglican Church. The couple had three children, Mark, Henry and Ambrose. Forward operated a successful business until his death on March 2, 1857 at the age of 71. He accumulated considerable wealth and property, and enjoyed an active life in the community. From 1849 onwards, he was Justice of the Peace for the district. On his death, his estate was divided among his three sons. Ambrose was the son chosen to manage the firm, but its success did not continue and the business was sold in the 1860s to William Penney.

Sources: Registry of Newfoundland Vessels, Maritime History Archive; Forward Family fonds

Scope and content

This fonds contains deeds, conveyances and other legal documents, 1750-1866, Captain's log books, 1842-1872 (Samuel, 1842, William the Fourth, 1852, Briton, 1853, Harriet Ridley, 1863-1865, Six Brothers, 1872), and a Furness Line sailing schedule, 1928. The legal documents provide evidence of the acquisition, transfer and subsequent loss of the family's property in Carbonear from 1834 to the 1860s. They also provide evidence of the business activities and associations of the firm of George Forward. The Captain's log books detail the voyages of five of the Forward's fleet of foreign going vessels.

Also included in the fonds is one mail bag and five small metal mail tins.

The material is arranged in three series: Series 1. Legal documents, 1750-1866; Series 2. Log books, 1842-1872; Series 3. Other material, 1928.

Custodial history

James Rorke's mother was a Forward. The documents were passed to James through his mother's family.


Supplied title based on the contents of the fonds.
Purchased from Mr. James Rorke of Carbonear in 1996.
Copyright is held by the creator or his/her heirs.
Finding aid 116 MHA.
Location Bank 71 Shelf 4
Accession number 1996-0012 and 1996-0023
Related material can be found in George Forward Ledgers, 1842-1858, Maritime History Archive (see description below); John Munn and Co. (Harbour Grace) fonds, 1770-1918, Maritime History Archive, finding aid 75, R95-23/23A.

Series 1: Legal documents, 1750-1866

1.1 Conveyance and bill of sale of property at Carbonear, from Thomas Whidler to Henry Abbott, 1750.

1.2 Notice given by Nicholas Stabb, Sheriff of Carbonear, of the transfer of the rights to a plantation etc. at Burnt Head, Carbonear, previously owned by William Gillespie to George Forward for payment of a debt, 3 June 1834

1.3 Indenture between John McCarthy and William Rendell and George Forward and William Willis Bemister assigning to GF and WWB their premises at Carbonear, 1839

1.4 Receipt to John McCarthy and William Rendell from George Forward and William Willis Bemister, 10 June 1840

1.5 Order of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland granting Henry F. Forward, Administrator, the authority to administer the estate of George Forward of Carbonear, deceased, 21 June 1858. Enclosures: Will of George Forward, 10 July 1848; Affidavit of Henry F. Forward regarding the value of the estate of George Forward, 4 June 1858

1.6 Agreement by Henry Knight Senior for sale of property called Burnt Head Premises, to Mark Forward, Henry Forward and Ambrose Forward, 6 Oct. 1843

1.7 Affidavit by Edward White respecting the salvage on a vessel owned by George Forward. Witnessed by Thomas P. Keough, 10 July 1846; Grant of extension re the above matter, signed by John B. Bulley, Robert Prowse, Ralph Triningham, 13 July 1833

1.8 Indenture agreement between Mark Forward and John Bemister transferring one third of Mark Forward's property at Burnt Head, to be held in trust by John Bemister, Nov. 1857

1.9 Mutual Marine Insurance Club of Conception Bay. Insurance certificate for the SIX BROTHERS, owned by Forward Brothers and Co., 10 Mar. 1858

1.10 Indenture agreement between Mark Forward and Frederick J. Bemister assigning the property of Mark Forward at Main Street, Carbonear to Frederick J. Bemister, to be held in trust for his wife, Mary Forward and his children, 11 May, 1866

Series 2: Log books, 1842-1872

Captain's Log book for the schooner SAMUEL, Captain Mark William Forward, 1842

Captain's Log book for the brig WILLIAM THE FOURTH, Captain George Ladd, 1852

Captain's Log book for the brig BRITON, 1853. - cut out illustrations have been glued over some of the entries

Captain's Log book for the HARRIET RIDLEY, Captain William Joyce, 1863-1865

Captain's Log book for the brig SIX BROTHERS, Captain M.W. Forward, 1872

Series 3: Other material, 1928

Furness line sailing schedule, Nov. 1928, with annotations

Mail bag and five small metal mail tins

George Forward ledgers, 1842-1858

2 reels of microfilm

Scope and content

These ledgers record customer accounts with George Forward at Carbonear, 1842-1858. Partial indexes are included with some of the ledgers.


Supplied title based on the contents of the microfilm.
Previously listed as Oates Ledgers.
Location Microfilm 1-1-1-1/2

File list - George Forward ledgers

Ledgers for 1842-33, 1845-46, 1854-55, microfilm 1-2-1-2

Ledgers for 1856-1858, microfilm 1-2-1-1

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