Matthew Morry (II or III?)
Jamie’s Notes on the Mysterious Portrait
The Haunted Portrait
The portrait above is shown here because I for one am uncertain as to whether or not this is Matthew Morry II (1791-1856) or his son Matthew Morry III (1813-1854). The original of the portrait, a painting in fact, is presently in the possession of Howie Morry Jr. in the Goulds/Kilbride. It had hung for years in the house of Thomas Graham Morry (1849-1935), which eventually became the family home of his son John Henry Morry (1896-1960). There are many stories told about this portrait. I was alleged to be haunted. John Henry Morry’s children speak of it giving them the creeps, believing that the eyes followed them wherever they were in the room. And there is an apocryphal story that the husband of Catherine Morry Kay, Seymour Kay, during a visit to Ferryland when he stayed at the nearby house of Dad Morry (Howard Leopold Morry) saw a man come down over the stairs late at night dressed in old fashioned garb and bid him good evening before leaving the house. The following day, when Sey was taken over to visit with the family of John Henry Morry at their house, he was shocked to see this portrait hanging in the parlour because he swore it was a picture of the man he had seen the night before. About this time, Jean Morry Funkhouser also paid a visit. Being the family historian of her generation, she expressed an interest in the portrait and was given it by John Henry’s wife, Lizzie, because she said the children could not bear the sight of it. It remained in Aunt Jean’s possession in California and later Utah until she was paid a visit by my late cousin, Uncle Howard’s son Jamie. At that time, Aunt Jean felt that the portrait should be returned to Newfoundland where it properly belonged and selflessly gave it over to Jamie for his care and preservation. After his untimely death in 1999 it was transferred to the care of his brother, Howie. But Howie’s wife, Jackie also feels the mysterious chill from the portrait and will not allow it to be displayed in their living room. Instead, it resides in the family room in the basement.
All of this could be total nonsense of course. But the fact remains that the family believed that this was a portrait of their direct ancestor, Matthew Morry. The problem arises because of the fact that there have been so many Matthew Morrys over the years. It is somewhat possible that it is in fact a portrait of Matthew Morry I (1750-1836), our immigrant ancestor. I reject this possibility because there was little pretense to wealth in the family in his day. They were all business. It is more likely the likeness of his son or grandson by the same name. Most relatives believe it is of his grandson, Matthew Morry III (1813-1854), largely because there are still in existence portraits of that man’s brothers, John Henry (1818-1897), Robert (1829-1898) and Frederick Clift Morry (1827-ca 1858). It seems to form a pattern of disposable wealth, being able to afford frivolities like portraits, in that generation that did not exist before or afterwards. Also, as shown in the notes taken by Jamie when he received the painting from Aunt Jean, she was convinced that it was a portrait of Matthew III. Having been involved in researching the family history for two decades or more by that time, her opinion carries much weight. But for my part, careful examination of the garb worn in those portraits versus this one tells me that the person shown was a young man at about the turn of the 19th century, not in mid century, as was the case of these others. It would take an expert in period clothing to be sure.
In July 2017, with the cooperation and assistance of Howie, this painting was taken out of its frame for the first time in perhaps a century or more. The purpose we had in mind was to see if by any chance there were notes or other indications of the vintage or subject of the portrait written on the back. Much to my surprise, the back of the frame, which I had thought was a cardboard backing placed there to protect the painting itself, turned out to be the back of the painting itself. It had become convex over the years taking the contour of the convex cover glass. Thus it could have been determined, had we known this, that there were no notations on the back of the painting, which appears now to be a water colour on cardboard, slightly water damaged over the years in the lower quarter. So for now I am reserving judgment and simply stating that this is a portrait of either Matthew Morry II or his son Matthew Morry III.
One of the supporting factors in declaring the above portrait to be that of Matthew Morry III is the rakish look of the man depicted. That and the red hair. Matthew Morry was known as “Red Matt”, partly because of his hair colour and partly because of his temper, apparently.
Family lore, with the support of a number of letters written at the time, support the belief that Matthew was a bit of a terror and a lady’s man in his youth before marrying Elizabeth Coulman in 1844.
Here is a transcript of a letter from his brother William imploring him to return to Caplin Bay from one tear he was on in Harbour Grace after his return from Labrador that year:
“Mr. Matthew Morry Harbor Grace Care of Mr. T. Skinner St. John’s 20th Nov. 1841.
My Dear Matt
The order you sent me on Mr. Rendell he would not pay it until you advised it, if you do not come over in the next Packet you had better advise it. Thos. says you had better come over here and settle with your men, even if you had to go back again. Thos. says he is half a fraid [sic] that the men have been vexing you and you are taking a little drop too much. However it is there must be something or other the matter with you. All the folks at Caplin Bay are well. Doctor Bryan was lost about a week ago and there is no account of him since. As I have nothing more to write at present I conclude this epistle wishing you to come a crop by return of the boats. I remain my dear Matt Your affectionate brother Wm. Morry”
But he did have his tender-hearted side. According to an account written by Dad Morry, Elizabeth Chafe of Petty Harbour was dying with tuberculosis and she said she would die happy if Matthew Morry would marry her. Matthew came down from Ferryland and they were married (but they never lived together as husband and wife) and Elizabeth died two days later and was waked in her wedding dress. Although this marriage was really only a marriage in name alone, the Chafe family so appreciated this kind gesture that a generation later a child of the family was named Matthew Morey [sic] Chafe in his honour. Here is a letter written by Elizabeth’s sister, Sarah, to Matt shortly after the death of Elizabeth in 1838.
Enid O’Brien notes that “Matthew was then married to Eliza Coleman on Feb 18, 1844 (Petty Hr. C of E Records). This would be why Matthew was listed as bachelor at this marriage because his first marriage was never consummated.”
As alluded to above, in 1841, Matthew travelled to Labrador, one presumes to take advantage of the summer fishery there, which was always a draw for fishermen from the island. He would have left the island some time in June or July, as his brother William wrote him a letter addressed to Harbour Grace in June. In addition to that letter, Matthew also received letters from his sister Mary and brother William while he was in Grady Harbour, Labrador, giving him the news from home. Note that these letters offer no reproaches for his behaviour at that time, as the letter in November did, but the allusion to his cousin William Saunders Morry’s fondness for the bottle in the letter from his sister Mary may have been a cautionary note to Matthew. It isn’t known if he travelled to Labrador often or if this was a one time only experiment.
Matthew seems to have lived his entire life in Caplin Bay, never moving to Ferryland, as did many in the family. He shows up each year in the Voters List for Caplin Bay 1840 – 1859 listed as Jr. to distinguish between him and his father, who also appears in all these years from 1844-1855 (he died in 1856). The Junior Matthew has “Athlone”, “Stone Island” or “North Side” variously shown as his specific domicile area.
The designation “Athlone” has special significance because it was this Matthew Morry and not his father or grandfather of the same name who actually purchased the house and lands referred to as Athlone on the north side of Caplin Bay (now Calvert). It isn’t known for certain who the original owner of Athlone would have been but we can speculate that person was Irish, or at least Anglo-Irish, and not English per se, since Athlone is the name of a place in Ireland.
Matthew Morry III’s Home on the North Side of Caplin Bay known as Athlone
Note that this photograph appeared in Gerald Pocius’ book : “A Place to Belong”
Len Canning, mentioned in the caption on the photo, was the son of Alfred Canning, who had been informally adopted by Matthew and his wife Elizabeth Coulman. This was rather typical in Newfoundland outports in those days and even for generations afterwards. Parents who could not afford to look after all of their children for one reason or another put them out with other families, sometimes as in this case not even relatives, for them to be looked after. Later, Leonard Canning inherited the house and lands from Miss Lizzie Morry, Matthew’s daughter, in 1930. The whole story behind this is found on the page dedicated to Caplin Bay.
Because of the use of the name Matthew in every generation right up to today, it is sometimes difficult to know which person is being referenced in certain documents. For example, whilst I have attributed appointments as Justice of the Peace and to the Board of Road Commissioner and the Board of Education to Matthew II, given the overlap in their active adult lives, it is possible that some of these appointments pertained to Matthew III. Similarly there are transfers of land on record in Caplin Bay that could easily have been the father or the son. Where they did not indicate “Senior” or “Junior”, we will probably never know for sure. Any documents bearing a date of 1824, when Matthew Junior turned 21, until 1854 when he died (two years before his father) could easily pertain to one or the other of them.