From Profiles of Water Street Merchants, by Keith Matthews, Maritime History Group, 1980 (possibly on file at Memorial University of Newfoundland):
The Founder of the Company, John Dunscombe, was born in Bermuda in 1777, the son of John Dunscombe (editor's note: his father's name was Edward Dunscombe) a Bermuda ship owner. He married Elizabeth Magill of the United States. His children were John William (married in London, 1840 to the daughter of Major General Durnford, Royal Engineers) and George Hoyles Dunscombe, born August 1817 in St. John's. He (George?) was educated in England (Dartmouth, Devonshire?) 1829-1834 then returned to his father's business in St. John's.
In 1840, when his father dissolved the partnership with Michael Kavanagh, he (he being George (editor) went separately into business with Kavanagh. On the death of Kavanagh in 1841, George Dunscombe entered a new partnership with Eugenius Harvey of Bermuda as Dunscombe and Harvey (by now his father was nearing retirement). George Dunscombe moved to New York whilst Harvey managed the business in St. John's (on behalf of John Dunscombe, senior). This partnership was dissolved in 1847. Harvey inherited the business of Dunscombe and Company in St. John's whilst George Dunscombe went his own way in the United States...
...The Bermuda ship owners found their fortunes in the exclusion of the United States from the carrying trade of the British colonies following the War of Independence 1775-1783.
The Bermudians tended to own fleets of small vessels by means of rather large partnerships and between 1801 and 1812, John Dunscombe owned vessels operating in the trades between North America and the Caribbean, and between the Caribbean islands, in partnership with as many as eleven other owners...
... Prominent as partners of John Dunscombe in this era were William Dunscombe, Squire Godfrey, Richard and Joseph J. Wood, John Masters, Jeremiah Leacraft, John and James Darrell, Joseph and Richard Stowe, Thomas Seon Junior and Thomas J. Burch.
However in circa 1808, John Dunscombe came to St. John's on behalf of the Bermudian traders and commenced his own business. From the outset, the Company concentrated upon that which it knew best, the import and export trades with the Caribbean region, but they also entered into the trade with the mainland British colonies, and after the relaxation of the Navigation Acts in the 1820's, developed a thriving trade with the American ports of Boston and New York.
Partners in the Company:
1815-18 he was a partner with William Bevil Thomas in the out port firm of Robert Pearce and Company at Cape Broyle. 1818 partners were John Dunscombe of St. John, Richard and Stowe Wood and Jeremiah Leacraft of Bermuda, Joseph Dill of Grenada and Thomas Seon Junior of Trinidad. Circa 1820 the company was dissolved and John Dunscombe and Richard Wood commenced business on their own account in St. John's, although Wood spent most of his time in Bermuda. Between 1820 and 1824, Dunscombe was absent from Newfoundland for most of the time, spending his time in England, the West Indies and Canada and the St. John's business was managed by an agent Benjamin William of Bermuda.
By 1836 Richard Wood had retired from the partnership and his premises on the South Side were sold. 1837 he took Michael Kavanagh into partnership. 1839 this company was liquidated in December. 1842 a new company "Dunscombe and Harvey" was formed and it was liquidated in 1847. In 1847 Eugenius Harvey formed his own company to inherit Dunscombe's trade.
John Dunscombe also had at least three daughters. Margaret married at St. John's in 1830 William Vallance, merchant of Newton Abbott, Devonshire. His eldest son Edward does not seem to have taken much, if any, part in the St. John's business. He married in Bermuda in 1832 Mary (this is incorrect - his wife's name was Ann Mary), daughter of Daniel Seon of Bermuda. His daughter Eliza married in New York 1831, Henry J. Cannon (note: should be Cammann), Esq.
Personal career of John Dunscombe:
circa 1808 came to Newfoundland
1810 On a Committee to repair roads in St. John's. Member of the Merchants Society (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce).
1810 Chairman of the St. John's (?)
1811 Member of the Hospital Management Committee
1818 Trustee of the Merchants Powder Magazine in St. John's
1822 Member of the Anglican Vestry
1823 Grand Jury Foreman
1824 A fire warden
1825 Appointed Colonial Aide de Camp to Governor Cochrane
1827 Founder member of the Beothic Institute
1828 St. John's Regatta Committee and Steward
Vice President of St. John's Chamber of Commerce
Supporter of Representative Government for Newfoundland
On the Committee of the St. John's Charity School
1831 Treasurer for the Merchants Powder Magazine
1833 A Commissioner for fire safety in St. John's
1835 An auditor to the government accounts
1838 President of the Chamber of Commerce
Commissioner for Roads and Bridges
1842 Treasurer to the Central Union School
1845 Sold his property in St. John's and moved with his wife to Montreal
1847 Moved to Liverpool, England but died there in November after but a few weeks residence.
History of the Company
1808-1820 he traded mainly from St. John's but had an important branch at Placentia (finally sold when the company re-organized in 1820). By 1816 he had entered the Canadian lumber trade, organizing the charter of vessels to go to Halifax, NB and Prince Edward Island to carry timber to the UK.
Trade by Entries and Clearances August-December, 1818:
6 Aug. rum and molasses from Demerara on the Frances Russell, Tuzo.
7 Aug. entered the Fancy, Collins from Fayal.
7 Aug. 12200 quintals cod and miscellaneous cargo to Demerara on the Frances Russell.
19 Aug. provisions from Quebec on the Good Intent. Filleul.
22 Aug. 600 quintals of cod and sundries to Fayal on the Fancy.
6 Oct. entered the Southampton, White in ballast from Trinidad.
12 Oct. general cargo from Liverpool, UK on the Helena, Browner.
12 Oct. molasses from Bermuda on the Humming Bird, Dill.
17 Oct. entered the Intermediate, Townsend from Bermuda.
19 Oct. entered the Pegasus, Coverly from Bermuda in ballast.
20 Oct. entered the Frances Russell, Tuzo form Barbados.
20 Oct. sent the Helena, Browner to Prince Edward Island in ballast.
26 Oct. 700 quintals and sundries to Jamaica on the Intermediate, Townsend.
31 Oct. 1400 quintals to Bermuda on the Humming Bird, Dill.
31 Oct. 859 quintals and sundries to Bermuda on the Southampton, White.
7 Nov. entered the Port of Spain, Watlington from Demerara.
10 Nov. 1950 quintals and sundries to Bermuda on the Southampton, White.
30 Sep. 2084 quintals and sundries to Barbados on the Princess Royal, Darrell.
19 Nov. 1177 quintals and sundries to Demerara on the Pegasus, Coverly.
12 Dec. 1751 quintals and sundries to Demerara on the Port of Spain, Watlington.
Property at time of Re-organization in 1820:
1. On the south side of St. John's: 250 foot waterfront with a warehouse 107 feet long together with a dwelling house and flake.
2. Half ownership of the premises occupied by Stabb, Preston and Co.
3. A small plantation near Governor's House occupied by Mr. Robert Dooling.
4. A house at "Castle Rennie" occupied by John Moore, Esq.
5. Two small fishing rooms at Quidi Vidi.
6. Two fishing rooms at Bauline including dwelling house, fisherman's house, cook room, three fishing boats and flakes sufficient to cure 4000 quintals of fish.
7. A small fishing room at Pouch Cove occupied by Joseph Shea.
8. "Jonathan's Cove Room" at Cape Broyle occupied by Richard Butler consisting of a house, stage, three flakes, cook room and 3 fishermen's houses.
9. Mercantile premises in Placentia (Jersey side). An unknown amount of this property was sold in that year.
1821 rented new premises on the waterfront side from Stabb, Preston and Company at a rent of 260 pounds per annum (they had become insolvent). He also speculated in land in Prince Edward Island in that year advertising for sale 1800 acres at Cape Travers and 950 acres in another lot.
1827 January two schooners launched for him in Prince Edward Island. He sold them in St. John's in December, 1828.
1837 premises on the south side lately occupied by them and their partner Richard Wood sold.
Almost alone amongst the Water Street merchants of his era, Dunscombe never entered the sealing trade (end notes from Profiles of Water Street Merchants).