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TREWORGIE (Treworgy, Trewerghey), JOHN, merchant, colonizer, governor of Newfoundland; b. c. 1618; fl. 1660.

He was the son of James Treworgie and his wife, Catherine, who was the daughter of Alexander Shapleigh, a Dartmouth merchant. Shapleigh had interests in Maine, New England, and John Treworgie went there as his agent about 1635. He stayed until about 1650, living at Sturgeon Creek, Kittery, and returning to England briefly in 1640. In January 1646 he married a Miss Spencer of Newberry, Mass., and a son, John, was born in 1649.

Treworgie had experience of the New England fishery and perhaps also of Newfoundland; the Shapleigh family had engaged in the Newfoundland fishery throughout the century, as the Dartmouth port books reveal. This would explain Treworgie’s nomination as one of six commissioners for Newfoundland in 1651. The commissioners were instructed to arrest the governor, Sir David Kirke, and his goods, to inquire into his alleged misdemeanours, regulate the fishery, and collect the imposition payable on fish and oil taken by foreigners. For the first time Newfoundland came directly under government control and remained so throughout the Interregnum as part of the tendency towards increasing imperial centralization. In 1651 the investigation into Kirke’s conduct began. In the following year Walter Sikes, Robert Street, William Pyle, and Nicholas Redwood were sent as commissioners to the island, their instructions being very similar to those issued in 1651.

Meanwhile Treworgie must have remained in Newfoundland, for in May 1653, when the Committee for Irish and Scottish Affairs debated whether to send a new commission to the island, it was decided to entrust affairs to Treworgie who was then living there. In June instructions were forwarded, giving him authority over both planters and fishermen and ordering him to collect impositions on aliens, to defend the island and devise means for its fortifications, to receive all complaints against Kirke, and to report to the council at the end of the fishing season. Treworgie was prevented from carrying out these duties when he, together with Sikes and Pyle, was arrested by James Kirke because of their seizure of Sir David Kirke’s estates. In vain they showed their commissions and protested that they had already returned Kirke’s property to his wife. They were found guilty but, in 1654, petitioned Cromwell for a new trial.

The outcome of the suit is not known although it may be presumed that they were pardoned. Treworgie appears to have continued as governor of the island until 1659 or 1660. In April 1660 he petitioned the Council of State for a new commission as governor and requested two or three frigates to help him collect impositions and surprise any Spanish fishermen. The reasons which he gave for his return to England were want of supplies and the fact that he was owed six years’ salary. Treworgie’s petition was referred to the secretary for foreign plantations but, with the Restoration, the controversy between Lord Baltimore [see Calvert] and the Kirkes over the proprietary right to the island was reopened and, for a time, direct governmental control lapsed.

Treworgie never received his commission and disappears from Newfoundland history. It is possible that he was the John Trewethy described in December 1663 as “his Majesties Servant . . . Assignee of Ralph, late Lord Hopton,” involved in a petition to the council concerning land in Virginia.

Treworgie seems to have been a just and able administrator who accomplished with some success the difficult task of governing the unruly planters and fishermen. With the return to proprietary rule conflict between the two groups sprang up with a new violence and rancour which came close to ruining both industry and settlement.

Gillian T. Cell

The official papers concerning Treworgie’s career in Newfoundland are in PRO, C.O. 1/12, nos. 20, 21, 1/33, no.73; 25/29, pp. 11–18, 22–24; 25/65, pp.243–44, 25/69, pp.160, 197, 204–10, 25/75, p.2/8, 25/121, p.51 (summarized in PRO, CSP, Col., 1574–1660, 1675–76). See also: BM, Egerton ms 2395, f.262. PRO, Acts of P.C., col. ser., 1613–80. Lounsbury, British fishery at Nfld. Prowse, History of Nfld.

For his connection with Maine see: PRO, H.C.A. 13/64, deposition of John Trewerghey, 19 March 1650/1. Maine Hist. Soc., Documentary history of Maine, III, IV, VI; Province and court records of Maine, I. J. Savage, A genealogical dictionary of the first settlers of New England (4v., Boston, 1860–2), IV.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gillian T. Cell, “TREWORGIE, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/treworgie_john_1E.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/treworgie_john_1E.html
Author of Article:   Gillian T. Cell
Title of Article:   TREWORGIE, JOHN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1966
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   June 23, 2024