Lester, son of Rachael Taverner of Bay de Verde by her marriage to
Francis Lester became the most influential individual in Trinity.
Towards the end of the 18th century he was the most powerful and
wealthiest merchant in the Newfoundland trade both in England and
Newfoundland. His advice was sought and heeded by Newfoundland
Governors and occasionally Prime Ministers of England. He dominated
Poole politics serving as Mayor, 1781-83 and Member of Parliament,
Until 1776, Lester spent his summers in Trinity and occasionally
overwintered. He married Susannah, daughter of Jacob Taverner.
Benjamin's children - a son and four daughters - were born in
Newfoundland but later taken to Poole for education and upbringing.
Lester left Trinity for good in 1776 after the Americans offered a
bounty for his capture however agents kept his business in operation
until he died in 1802. At the time of his death he owned the largest
mercantile establishment and trade in Newfoundland and was the
wealthiest active merchant in the Newfoundland trade. In Trinity he
owned five plantations or fishing rooms and twenty-three dwelling
houses. He owned nineteen other fishing rooms and twenty dwellings
in twelve other settlements in Trinity Bay and other capital assets
in Bonavista Bay.
In Trinity, he served as Justice of the Peace and Naval Officer. He
was also the Chief Inhabitant when Trinity was captured and occupied
by the French in the summer of 1762.
Trinity twice before had been captured and burnt by the French
forces that were based in Placentia during the Anglo-French Wars
(1689-1713) however the occupation of 1762 was somewhat different
from these two previous engagements. Trinity by this time had become
a principal port in the English-Newfoundland fishery and hosted
summer populations of 2,000 people.
In 1762 the French did not take any prisoners and kept good order
among the inhabitants. They permitted them to carry on fishing and
confined destruction to the burning of ships and boats, fishing
properties (flakes, stages and wharves) and military installations.
Lester kept a daily diary while he was a merchant in Trinity and
recanted the daily occurrences that took place during the French
occupation in Trinity.
Kelson, agent for the Slade merchant firm in Trinity, assisted with
the establishment of the Loyal Trinity Volunteer Rangers (LTVR) in
anticipation that during the war of 1812 that there could be an
attack from American privateers. During the Revolutionary War
(1775-1783) American privateers captured many vessels off the
Newfoundland coast and attacked places like Bay Bulls and Catalina.
He headed up a committee with Thomas Jenkins, William Brett, Capt.
Richard Ash and Joseph Gover as members. Kelson supervised the
reconstruction of the fort and also organized and commanded a local
volunteer force known as the Loyal Trinity Volunteer Rangers
consisting of 50 men. They sometimes drilled and trained on Nuddick
Hill, sometimes at Fort Point. In September 1812, they were joined
by a company of British marines who helped the volunteers practise
A signal system was established by Kelson whereby watchmen at the
Fort could alert the LTVR in Trinity should enemy ships be observed
approaching. On such an occasion the watchmen were to fire a cannon.
A story is told that one Sunday morning while Morning Prayer was
being said in the Parish Church a shot was heard from the Fort.
Kelson jumped up in the midst of the worshippers and shouted "To
Arms. To Arms. The enemy is on us." The congregation panicked. The
volunteers were mustered only to discover a false alarm. Two
mischievous youths had crossed to Fort Point, and while one
distracted the watchman, the other fired a gun.
Another story is told that a zealous Kelson on another occasion,
ordered shots be fired on an approaching ship which failed to show
her colours. The first shot took away her jib stay, the captain
quickly ran up the Union Jack and the House flag of Robert Slade &
Co. the Poole firm that employed Kelson.
This was the last recorded episodes that took place at Fort Point as
To read William
diary please visit