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PINSON, ANDREW, ship’s captain and merchant; b. c. 1728 in Abbotskerswell, England, eldest surviving son of Andrew Pinson and Ann Dodd; m. with at least one son; d. 20 April 1810 in Broadhempston, England.

Andrew Pinson was the son of a by-boat keeper who cleared a fishing room in St John’s, Nfld, during the 1720s. By 1750 Andrew Sr had prospered to the degree that he owned his own trading ship, which the son then commanded. By now the father was growing old and no longer undertook the annual migration across the Atlantic, thus leaving Andrew Jr with the management of the fishery. Events went well enough until 1758, when he and his vessel were captured by a French privateer on the return voyage from Newfoundland. Pinson probably spent the next four years as a prisoner and his father, unable to continue his fishery, leased the St John’s plantation to another man. The father died in 1764 and Andrew inherited little beyond the rents of the plantation. Forced to commence life anew, he chose to work for the important Bristol firm of John Noble and Company. Noble had traded to Newfoundland since about 1740, and during the Seven Years’ War had outfitted several privateers. One of them, commanded by Nicholas Darby*, found rich pickings in the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and Labrador, and also discovered the abundance of the fishing grounds in that region, which before had been almost unknown to English seamen.

Following the establishment of peace in 1763 Noble was well placed to exploit the fisheries of the northern shore, and Pinson was employed to recruit a crew in St John’s, which fished at Zealot Harbour. Between 1763 and 1770 Pinson organized annual fishing expeditions from St John’s to Conche and Cape Rouge on the Northern Peninsula. A rough-hewn man, Pinson had one of the worst reputations in the Newfoundland trade for ill treatment of his servants, which brought him into great disfavour with the governors, especially Hugh Palliser*, and he outraged other merchants by claiming exclusive rights to the salmon fishery in the northern harbours. John Noble, however, found him efficient and productive.

In 1770 Noble, probably at Pinson’s suggestion, constructed a more or less permanent fishing station at Lance Cove in Temple Bay, Labrador, and in 1772 another at nearby Pitts Harbour. By 1775 Pinson had become a partner in the firm, and his young son William came out to Labrador as a ship’s captain and summer agent. The War of American Independence proved costly for the firm since the premises they had built at L’Anse-au-Loup in Labrador and three ships were destroyed by an American privateer in 1778. However, the same privateer also destroyed George Cartwright’s establishment on Sandwich Bay. This disaster forced Cartwright into one of his periods of insolvency, and Noble and Pinson acquired the prernises.

During the war both Pinson and Noble outfitted privateers which enjoyed a modest success, and the end of the war encouraged them to expand their business quickly. There were as yet no planters operating independently on the Labrador coast, and indeed their only serious mercantile rival was John Slade* of Poole, at Battle Harbour. Thus the company, unlike those in Newfoundland, had to employ servants directly to catch the fish, and these men had to be transported from and to Britain every year. By 1793 Pinson and Noble had nine vessels in the carrying trade and were employing up to 250 men in catching cod and salmon, killing seals, and trading with the native peoples.

By now Pinson’s son William and Noble’s son John Hatt had also joined the firm as partners, and the future seemed bright. Once again, however, war intervened to interrupt expansion and in 1796 the firm was forced to destroy the premises it had rebuilt at L’Anse-au-Loup in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the French admiral Joseph de Richery. This event, and the closure of Spanish and Italian markets as a result of the war, caused a certain amount of dislocation, but the fin-n seems to have ridden it out well enough. The Treaty of Amiens in 1802 allowed the partners to re-expand quickly, and by 1804 they owned seven ships and were apparently well secured. However, human relationships dislocated this flourishing trade. It would seem that Andrew Pinson and, to a lesser extent, John Noble were living too long. By 1800 Pinson’s son William was 46 years old, and John Hatt Noble was well into manhood. The older men must have refused to give them enough responsibility, for William Pinson formed a new partnership with John Hine of Dartmouth, a brother-in-law and long agent and captain with the company, while John Hatt Noble formed one with Henry Hunt of Dartmouth. Noble and Hunt moved from the west of England to London, where they engaged in a complex set of business relationships with the numerous relatives of Henry Hunt; Pinson and Hine began a trade to Labrador on their own account. The breach must have been fairly amicable for both sets of partners had a fairly close relationship with the senior firm. The latter found its own salvation by sending out to Newfoundland William’s son Andrew, who was now of an age to take on the responsibilities of management.

Andrew Sr’s death in 1810 was rapidly followed by that of William, and both their estates fell to Andrew Jr. He severed the connection with the Noble family and traded under the name of Pinson and Hine, being an annual migrant between Dartmouth and Labrador, where he became the chief resident and a justice of the peace. John Hatt Noble inherited his father’s share of the trade, and through his partner Henry Hunt re-entered the Labrador fishery under the name of Beard and Hunt. However, he was a sleeping partner and soon moved his interests to Oporto in Portugal. Andrew Pinson had a son in 1827, but died four years later at the untimely age of 43. With his death the connection of both the Noble and the Pinson families with the Newfoundland trade came to an end.

K. Matthews

Bristol Reference Library (Bristol, Eng.), Bristol Presentments. East Devon Record Office, 73A/PO 46–87; 2659A; 2954A; 2992A; Exeter City Arch., town customs accounts. Hunt, Roope & Co. (London), Robert Newman & Co., ledgers and letterbooks (mfm. at PANL). PANL, GN 1/13/4; GN 2/1; GN 5/1/B/1, Trinity and Labrador records; P7/A/6. PRO, ADM 1/471–76; 7/317–19; BT 1; BT 5; BT 6/190–91; BT 98/3–17; CO 194; CUST 65. George Cartwright, Journal of transactions and events, during a residence of nearly sixteen years on the coast of Labrador . . . (3v., Newark, Eng., 1792). Edward Chappell, Voyage of his majestys ship Rosamond to Newfoundland and the southern coast of Labrador, of which countries no account has been published by any British traveller since the reign of Queen Elizabeth (London, 1818). Felix Farleys Bristol Journal (Bristol). Lloyds Evening Post and British Chronicle (London). Lloyds List. Newfoundland Mercantile Journal (St John’s). Public Advertiser (London). Royal Gazette (St John’s). Sherborne Mercury or the Weekly Magazine (Sherborne, Eng.). Trewmans Exeter Flying Post, or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser (Exeter). Reg. of shipping.

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Cite This Article

K. Matthews, “PINSON, ANDREW,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 26, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pinson_andrew_5E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pinson_andrew_5E.html
Author of Article:   K. Matthews
Title of Article:   PINSON, ANDREW
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   September 26, 2023