Several historical maps exist that have special relevance to the history of the Morry family in Newfoundland. Some of these pre-date their settlement in Caplin Bay and Ferryland but give an excellent view of the country as they found it when they arrived. These maps also help to clarify why it was that the family would have chosen initially to set up in Caplin Bay, where there was far less developed land and therefore more room for settlement and expansion than in Ferryland. Later, mainly through marriage into the merchant class families of the southern shore, it was possible for the Morrys to move into the main stream, so to speak, and to become established in Ferryland proper.
John Thornton Map of the Avalon Peninsula – 1675
John Thornton (1641-1708), a major representative of the “Thames School”, for a time was in the service of the East India Company as a hydrographer. The author of numerous handwritten charts, he was among the first prolific engravers and publishers of printed charts, and produced The third book Describing the Sea Coasts in the Oriental navigation of the English Pilot started by John Seller. In addition, he was responsible for the production of a number of early maps of British colonies in New England and Newfoundland intended to promote the safe navigation of the English fishing fleet to that other lucrative destination of English trade.
This map is relevant not only because it gives a much more accurate representation of the coast of the Avalon Peninsula that most other early explorers’, but also because it may be the first map that shows the names of the three main islands in the entrance to Ferryland/Caplin Bay more or less as they are known today. Stone Island and Goose Island still retain their names. Buoy Island has become Isle au Bois over the years. Although the current name may in some ways make sense historically, in that the island was a constant target of French attack from the early days of the founding of Ferryland in 1624 until 1762, in reality it makes no real sense since it was never a heavily wooded island. Thus in reality the current name is the reverse of many names in Newfoundland, a French corruption of an earlier English name rather than vice-versa.
Edmond Scott Hylton Admiralty Map – 1752
In 1750-1752 Edmond Scott Hylton, sometimes in partnership with another Engineer, J. Bramham prepared plans of several strategically important areas of Newfoundland, including St. John’s and Ferryland. It would seem that they were prepared on behalf of the British Admiralty as they bear the Arrow and “B. O.” imprint that stands for Bureau of Ordinance and that marks all things pertaining to the admiralty including charts, weaponry, buildings, fortifications, etc. This was a quieter period amidst the almost constant warring in that century between France and England over their new world possessions. Nevertheless, the British Admiralty had no intention of allowing themselves to be caught by surprise again and therefore set about to provide themselves with useful maps of the terrain of greatest importance to defence of the colony. There is some indication that Edmond Scott Hylton may have been from the American colonies as there was a printer in New England at the time named John Scott Hylton who may have been related.
One such map, prepared by Edmond Scott Hylton on his own in 1752, was entitled A Plan of Cape Broil [sic], Capling Bay [sic] & Ferryland Harbour, survey’d September 28th, 1752 by Edmond Scott Hylton, Engr.
Until recently, the only copy of this important map that I had was one that had been digitised by Steve Barnable while he was employed with the Provincial Crown Lands Division. Unfortunately that map was only a partial copy, focussing on Ferryland, due to Steve’s personal interest in that area alone. Although I expressed an interest in having a copy of the full plan and especially that part covering Caplin Bay, where the Morrys settled, Steve had left his position with the Department by then and the opportunity no longer existed.
In the summer of 2005, while exploring papers at the new Provincial Archives facilities (The Rooms), I discovered that copies of sections of the Scott Hylton plan were available there for copying upon request. I secured paper copies of these three sections and found a way to add them to what Steve had prepared. Utilising the services of a local engineering firm to digitise these copies and the fantastic programme called PhotoStitch which comes as free software with Canon digital cameras, to piece them together, I have been able to prepare this complete copy of the original plan. Note that, despite the name, there is no part of Cape Broyle in this chart. It may be that he was referring to the locale rather than the actual harbour. Or it may be that the original chart, which resides in the British Archives contains another segment showing Cape Broyle. But if so, this segment is not to be found in the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador. Another regrettable omission, which may well appear on the original plan in London, is the far end of the Ferryland Downs. This figures clearly in the following map by DesBarres because of its extreme strategic importance so it would be curious to say the least if it was deliberately omitted by Scott Hylton when he prepared his chart for the Admiralty.
Of note on the Caplin Bay portion of the Hylton map, in addition to the sparse indications of settlement at the time, is the location of one small embayment or cove across from Lance’s Cove. Though the cove in question is referred to as Cuckolds Cove, along with at least one other in the same bay, later it was to become known as Morrys Cove and the anchor rock in its centre was known then and still is known as Long Tom in honour of the first Thomas Graham Morry born in Newfoundland, whose physical stature has been matched by most men of that name since his time. There is evidence of some habitation just above this cove, but this would not be the residence that was later known as Athlone and that was acquired by the Morrys, since it was more than likely not yet built at that time. It is also of interest that there was virtually no habitation at the head of the bay in those days. Obviously it was preferable to closer to the fishing grounds and, in the absence of roads, there was no advantage in being further inland.
When one examines, by contrast, the north side of Ferryland, where the Morrys would eventually move in the early 1800s, it is obvious why they did not set up station there to begin with. As this map indicates, virtually every square inch of this peninsula was occupied by this time. Some of this occupation was military – the fortifications of the battery there are mentioned in the description accompanying the DesBarres map below. But most was related to the prosecution of the fishery and related enterprises. One can imagine the envy that the Morrys felt for the Holdsworths and the Culletons and others occupying that valuable real estate so close to the protection of the military.
If you wish to download a larger scale version of this fascinating map, right click here, but be aware that it is over 2.5 MB in size and will take an appreciable amount of time and bandwidth to receive.
Lieutenant Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres Map – 1762
Soon after the preparation of the Scott Hylton map above, war once again broke out between the English and French in 1756. The Seven Years War (1756-1763) was about to come to its final fateful conclusion with the Treaty of Paris at the time that Colonel William Amherst ordered his engineer, Lieutenant Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres to prepare for him a detailed map of the existing fortifications of Ferryland. St John’s had just been retaken from the French for what would be the final time, though one may forgive Colonel Amherst for not believing that at the time and for taking the precaution of ensuring that he had detailed knowledge of all strategic locations in the area in the event of a further outbreak of hostilities.
It didn’t take a brilliant tactician to deduce that this well-fortified and strategically important location would attract the attention of the French. It had already attracted their attention on many occasions in the past, along with that of the Dutch and also privateers and pirates like the dreaded Peter Easton, later to be known as “The Marquis of Savoy” due to the vast wealth he plundered while operating out of Ferryland. In fact, the French had stormed and taken Ferryland en route to St; John’s in January of 1762, which was the early warning Sir Jeffrey Amherst, William’s brother and the British Commander-in-chief for America, received that St. John’s was once again about to be taken.
Thus after the French were driven out of St. John’s it was only logical that a detailed and up-to-date account of the preparedness of St. John’s and Ferryland should be undertaken in order to understand the weaknesses that permitted their being taken by the French in the first place.
An interesting side note about DesBarres is that it is believed he was responsible for tutoring Captain James Cook in the art of map-making, which he perfected during his time on the coast of Newfoundland prior to his exploration of the Pacific Ocean. An interesting biography of DesBarres has been prepared by Peter Landry of Halifax.
A full-scale copy of DesBarres map is on file in the Provincial Archives in St. John’s. Once again, the original is to be found in London. The version on file in St. John’s is actually a copy of a copy, since it bears annotation that it was “Copied by C. Pettigrew at P. R. O. Dec. 1926”. A further annotation added by H. P. Biggar (?) in 1927 attests to the fact that it is an “Accurate copy”. This seems to be true, since it is accurate enough that only a hand-writing expert could discern the difference between the “forged” signature of J. F. W. DesBarres seen at the bottom of the map and others on documents signed by the man himself. C. Pettigrew evidently saw his role as being an early non-mechanical version of the photocopy machine!
Being intended for principally military purposes, this map is extremely faithful in regard to fortifications but less so in regard to habitations and human use. The Downs and the North Side, which were clearly both seen as developed for agriculture on the Scott Hylton map appear almost devoid of human settlement on the DesBarres map, with the exception of wharves and buildings adjacent to the water that might serve some military purpose.
One notable remark by DesBarres bears note. He calls Colonel Amherst’s attention to the ease with which Ferryland Head could be fortified as a stronghold and storage area to the advantage of both the military and the local merchants. This observation was evidently never followed up as that part of Ferryland was not subsequently occupied as such, perhaps because hostilities never affected this stretch of coast again until the 2nd World War.
A higher resolution copy of this interesting map (883 K) can be downloaded by clicking here.
Map of Ferryland Northside – circa 1779
The date and authorship of this map are not certain. At least two “originals” exist in Newfoundland, one in the Archives and the other in the Ferryland Museum. Both are hand-tinted. The Archives also holds a modern reproduction of the one on display in Ferryland museum but it is in black and white only. The one in Ferryland, which is more ornate and somewhat less legible, is apparently the true original. I believe that it was donated to the museum by Dad Morry (Howard Leopold Morry) or by his son Bill. The clearer version (above) appears to have been a copy made soon after the original for one of the landowners of the properties depicted. In all likelihood one of these versions belonged to the Holdsworth family as they were the principal property owners in the are at the time. Unfortunately the copies made for me by the Archives are in monochrome. They would not permit me to photograph them and the one in the Ferryland museum is behind glass and does not photograph well.
Dating these maps is somewhat difficult. However they are likely dated between 1757 and 1779, because these are the dates when the HMS ROSE sailed. It is mentioned in the notation on the clearer (newer?) copy that part of the lands near Cold East Point formed a grant “from A. Hunt to Captain Walter, Surrogate of the HMS Rose”. Interestingly, a replica of the HMS ROSE, built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and subsequently renamed the SURPRISE, was featured in the Russell Crowe movie Master and Commander and now welcomes tourists on board in San Diego. Because of this I was able to find out a fair bit about the ROSE.
The original HMS ROSE was built in Hull, England in 1757. At that period in naval history ships were divided by “rates,” first rate being the largest with 100-110 guns carried on three individual gundecks. The original ROSE was a sixth rate ship, the smallest class of ship that would be commanded by someone holding the rank of Captain. In size, she was about the modern day equivalent of a destroyer. She would not have participated in major fleet engagements except perhaps to relay messages. The job of the frigate was to operate as a scout ship for the fleet or to patrol the coasts of any belligerent country.
I have reason to believe that the notation on the clearer (newer) copy of this map was actually a mistaken version of what was written on the original. I believe that the land grant was made to a Captain Wallace, not Captain Walter. In 1774 the ROSE, under the command of James Wallace, was sent to Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island to put an end to the lucrative smuggling which had made Newport the fourth wealthiest city in America. In July of 1776 the ROSE played a large part in the British invasion of New York, shelling the land-based fortification and making forays far up the Hudson. James Wallace was knighted for his actions in helping to drive Washington and his troops from the city. ROSE finally met her end in 1779 in Savannah, Georgia. At that time the British occupied the city and the French, who were now fighting on the side of the Americans, sent a fleet up the Savannah River to attack the British from the riverfront while Americans aided by Poles and other allies continued an assault from the rear. The British scuttled the Rose in a narrow part of the channel, effectively turning her into an aquatic roadblock. Consequently, the French fleet was unable to approach to within Range and Savannah remained in British hands until the war’s end. After the war ROSE was destroyed to clear the channel. Only a few artefacts, brought up in dredging operations over the years, remain from what was once the British frigate HMS ROSE.
Assuming that the land grant in Ferryland was in part a reward to Sir James Wallace, there is no evidence to prove that he ever took advantage of this reward. Certainly there are no records of a person by that name occupying property in Ferryland. Further, assuming that the map was made soon after the grant was issued, it may even be that the map was originally commissioned by the Admiralty primarily to inform Captain Wallace of the location of his grant. Either way, it seems likely that the map dates from about 1779 or shortly afterwards because of this reference to HMS ROSE.
Regardless of these other details, the important thing about these maps from the point of view of the Morrys is that they set out in fine detail the bounds of the lands of Arthur Holdsworth that John Morry and Peter Paint LeMessurier acquired in 1844 for 400 pounds Sterling. Other prominent landholders in the area at the time were Arthur’s brother, Robert, the Culethans (or Culletans), the Maddigans and the Gates.
To see higher resolution versions of these two similar maps choose below:
I owe a debt of gratitude to the late Ray Curran of Ferryland for bringing this map to my attention originally through Steve Barnable. Steve and he did a swap of files with Steve providing a high resolution version of the Scott Hylton map in exchange for a good copy of the Northside map provided by Ray. I was the lucky beneficiary of both finds. This twigged my curiosity, but it was only in the summer of 2005 that I was able to secure full size copies from the archives to compare the two side by side and come to the conclusions above.
Modern land surveys and aerial photos
I must say that my curiosity about land transactions more or less peters out at the beginning of the last century. I guess future generations will consider these of historical merit but for me they are too recent to be of interest. Nevertheless for those younger researchers I will provide a glimpse of the land use of the North side in the past few decades. Here are a fairly recent land ownership survey and two aerial photos, one of the Northside and one of the Southside. Better quality versions of both can easily be obtained from the Crown lands Division in St. John’s.