I recently (November 2017) was reminded by my friend and research associate, Kevin Reddigan, that the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador (FHSNL), of which we are both members, had microfilmed and made available online, for the benefit of its members only, the collection now residing at The Rooms known by them as GN 169 – Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills. This collection was formerly being retained at the Registry of Deeds evidently but had to be transferred to the Provincial Archives Division for preservation and conservation purposes, many of the volumes being very old indeed. In fact, the first entry in the collection is an Indenture between William Roberts and his son-in-law, Dr. John Monier, dated March 22, 1748.
This collection consists of 22 Volumes containing hundreds of deeds, wills, indentures and similar documents that were filed with the colonial government of Newfoundland from 1744 to 1859. The documents are actually Supreme Court transcripts of originals which were registered with the court in Newfoundland but were, in some cases, originally filed with courts in Britain, the reason being that they pertained to individuals or properties in Newfoundland.
I have scanned the index, which appears on the first microfilm roll, and which has been transcribed and made available on the Newfoundland’s Grand Banks website without copies of the documents themselves. This page was contributed by Barbara McGrath and transcribed by Ivy F. Benoit (March, 2001) and the page was revised by Ivy F. Benoit (February 20, 2013). We owe these tireless contributors a huge debt of gratitude.
I will post here any documents relevant to the Morry family history. But it should be noted that these documents are primarily focussed on people and events in St. John’s, especially after the regional court system of Central, Southern and Northern District subsidiaries of the Supreme Court in St. John’s was instituted in the early 1800s. Therefore, since few Morrys were resident in St. John’s in those years, the majority of the documents found to be relevant pertained to other families of interest to the Morry Family History line of research.
For those non-members of the FHSNL who are interested in obtaining copies of documents I do not make available as PDFs or transcribe here, the microfilms are also available at The Rooms, though the original documents cannot be viewed because of their fragile condition. The Provincial Archives Division no longer has conservation staff to stabilise old documents and it may be years or even decades before these original documents will be properly stabilised for conservation purposes.
Here is the summary of these microfilms found on the FHSNL website:
Collection GN 169 at the Provincial Archives Division of The Rooms Corporation of
Newfoundland and Labrador is a collection of Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills for the
period 1744 to 1859. These documents were once housed within the province’s
Registry of Deeds. Although the original documents are not generally available (they
are being conserved), they have been microfilmed, and the microfilm copies are
available for public use at The Rooms. The microfilm contents are listed below:
Reel 1: Index
Volume 1: 1744 – 1810
Volume 2: 1798 – 1804
Wills Volume 2
Volume 3: 1804 – 1807
Reel 2: Volume 4: 1807 – 1810
Volume 5: 1808 – 1810
Volume 6: 1810 – 1812
Volume 7: 1811 – 1818
Volume 8: 1813 – 1815
Volume 9: 1815 – 1817
Reel 3: Volume 10: 1816 – 1817
Volume 11: 1817 – 1819 (up to page 374)
Reel 4: Volume 11: (pages 366 and upwards)
Volume 12: 1818 – 1825
Volume 13: Conception Bay Plantation Book (typescript copy)
Volume 14: 1798 – 1808
Reel 5: Volume 15: 1791 – 1809
Volume 16: 1786 – 1805
Volume 17: 1808 – 1816
Volume 18: 1824 – 1826
Reel 6: Volume 19: 1816 – 1824
Volume 20: 1845 – 1856
Volume 21: 1851 – 1860
Volume 22: 1851 – 1859
These microfilms were digitally scanned in 2016 and 2017 in order to make them
available via the website of the Family History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
(FHSNL) at www.fhsnl.ca
Copyright of these images rests with FHSNL. These images may be freely used for the
purposes of research and private study. When using the images, credit should be given
to each of FHSNL and the Provincial Archives, and citation information should also be
clearly stated. Permission should be requested from FHSNL before using any of these
images for other purposes.
The documents relevant to the individuals in my family tree are found mainly in the first couple of Volumes with a smattering, mainly related to activities in St. John’s, in later Volumes. I suspect that, after some point in history, documents of this nature pertaining to the Southern Shore in particular were lodged instead in the similar volumes held at the Registry of Deeds on behalf of the Southern District Court. See the relevant page for these documents.
Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills Relevant to the Morry Family History
The surname “Monier” has been used as an honorific forename or middle name by a number of individuals in the Morry family tree, mainly those in the Le Messurier and Williams part of the line. I discovered years ago that the person so honoured was a man named Dr. John Monier, a physician in St. John’s in the mid-1700s. Doctors were few and far between in Newfoundland in those days and good doctors were rare birds indeed. So it stands to reason that this person would be highly esteemed by the community at large, and even more so by those in some way related to him.
Vol. 1 Page 1
The very first entry in Volume 1 of the Miscellaneous Wills and Deeds collection is an Indenture transferring ownership of land at the far west end of the settled area of St. John’s to Dr. Monier from his father-in-law, William Roberts, a mariner formerly working out of St. John’s but since returned to his native Dartmouth in Devon at the time that the Indenture was filed with the High Court of Chancery in England, and subsequently registered with the Colonial Government in St. John’s.
Vol. 1 Page 5
The second entry in Volume 1 of the Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills is an almost identical Indenture between the same two men dated a day later (March 8, 1748). I have attempted to find any substantive difference between the two and the only thing I can find is that the amount of this second Indenture is higher – £12 versus the token amount of five Shillings in the Indenture dated March 7, 1748. Also, the wording seems to imply that, whereas the token amount was not a yearly rent but only needed to be paid once, the £12 would have had to paid annually. I can only conclude that his father-in-law must have had second thoughts and concluded that the good doctor could well afford to pay him the higher annual amount. There is no explanation for this seeming change of heart. In the index to these Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills, the first Indenture is listed as a lease and the second as a B/S or Bill of Sale, but this doesn’t really shed any light on the confusion unfortunately.
Vol. 1 Page 10
The third Indenture in Volume 1 is a similar one to the first two only this time the principals are a man named Thomas Roberts and Dr. John Monier. There is a third party named Elizabeth Clode, who assents to the land transfer detailed in the Indenture as the only child of Thomas Roberts. The transfer of land, dated August 17, 1749, is permanent and for a reasonable amount of money (£1 and 1 Shilling) paid only once, and pertains to the sale of a small piece of the land owned by Thomas Roberts to John Monier. This little square of land is adjacent to the Store built by Monier that year. It is difficult to say if that Store is built on the property transferred or rented to Monier by his father in law the previous year, which is apparently in the far west end of St. John’s as it existed at the time, or is located in Quidi Vidi (spelled Quitivity in the Indenture), where Thomas Roberts himself resides. I also do not know what the relationship between Thomas and William Roberts may be, whether father and son or brothers.
Vol. 1 Page 12
The fourth Indenture in this Volume is once again between William Roberts and his son-in-law, Dr. John Monier, but is out of sequence chronologically, as it predates the previous three Indentures. It is dated 10 November, 1744 and it pertains to a garden, known as Collin’s’ garden, adjacent to a house Monier just built. Research should be able to indicate where exactly this is located but by memory I believe it is on the north bank of Quidi Vidi Lake. No money changed hands and the transfer is permanent.
Vol.1 Page 16 (Missing)
Finally, there is supposed to be one more document on record that pertains to Dr. John Monier. According to the Index, the next document in Volume 1 is supposed to be the Will of William Roberts, dated, Sept. 15, 1746. Unfortunately it is not. This document is missing or is elsewhere in this set of volumes not recorded correctly in the index. The Will that appears in its place immediately after the four above Indentures is that of a Robert Hutchings, not William Roberts, and is not relevant to this discussion, though it is relevant to later related discussions. If I ever find the actual Will of Dr. John Monier I will add it here with a note as to its actual location in the Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills.
Meantime, I discovered that there is a Will belonging to Dr. John Monier himself which was deposited with the registry at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and I ordered a digital copy of this from the National Archives in the UK. He apparently died a man of limited means despite the properties deeded to him by his father-in-law and Thomas Roberts (his brother-in-law?). All of this he leaves to his wife Hannah and at her death to his four children, John, Betty, Roberta and Mary. Here is the original image of the Will from the National Archives and a Transcript made by me with the assistance of Kevin Reddigan.
Vol. 1 Page 21
This is the Will of Robert Hutchings, mentioned above. He is a Bye Boat Keeper with two fully equipped Fishing Rooms. And as alluded to above, he has apparently no connection with Dr. Monier or William Roberts. However, as it turns out from reading the Will, he is the brother of George Hutchings, who is the father of Capt. George Hutchings of the Royal Engineers, who is married to none other than Mary Monier Williams. So everything comes full circle. And he leaves all of his belongings to the Captain, once his father George dies, with the exception of a small clothing allowance of £5 per year for 10 years to his brother Arthur.
Vol. 1 Page 23
Here we find the will of Hannah Langman, a name we have not seen before and that is apparently not connected to the above documents or the Morry family tree. But of course, there is a connection. Hannah is the sister of Jane Adams, the wife of George Hutchings (see below). Her husband, Edward, predeceased her and they apparently had no children, as she is now leaving all of her (i.e. his) worldly possessions to her sister (note: not to her sister’s husband).
Vol. 1 Page 26
Following this path of kinship, the next item of interest is the will of the brother of the above Robert Hutchings, George Hutchings. George gives his calling as Planter, which is considered somewhat more substantial than a Bye Boat Keeper, his brothers professed status. George leaves his earthly belongings to his beloved wife Jane (née Adams), not forgetting however, his brother’s bequest to his son, George.
A second document is found which relates to George Hutchings. Apparently, in addition to being a Planter, he was a merchant, and whether in that capacity or otherwise, he acted as an agent for several absentee landlords in England who issued him a Power of Attorney to act on their behalf in the management of their properties. After his death, his widow, Jane, wrote to these absentee landlords and requested that they turn over these properties to her. Oddly enough, they agreed to do so. It seems there must have been some confusion over the eventual ownership of the properties in question. Also, the correspondent (a lawyer?) who wrote to Jane confirming the agreement of the two couples who had been represented by her late husband to relinquish their claim on the properties, mentioned that her children in England were all well but that some of them had expressed a wish that they had seen a copy of their father’s will. There appears to have been some concern on their part that, in their absence from Newfoundland, their mother may have been taking advantage and claiming all of their father’s assets.
Vol. 1 Page 140
Finally, in Volume 1 we find a document that strikes much closer to home; the will of Robert Carter. But not Surrogate Carter, married to Anne Wylly. Their son, whom we might call Robert Carter II, or Robert Carter, JP, to distinguish him. He was married to Elizabeth Harris Howe. As death approached (in the same year the will was made out), he recognised his indebtedness to his mother-in-law and made sure that she was reimbursed before any other bequests. The remainder of his estate he divided equally amongst his wife and three children. This is unusual, Normally a man would leave his entire estate to his spouse and let her decide how to deal with the children in her will. The children were in their 20s and, though none of them were married at this time, one would imagine they were able to look after themselves, at least the two young men. This is the copy of the will that Robert sent to William Carter and Thomas Stabb in St. John’s to have registered in the court there. Another more or less identical copy had already been lodged with the Southern District Court, so he was taking no chances. I am at a loss to explain these unusual aspects of this will.
There were only three documents found in the index of Volume 2 that seemed to have any important bearing on individuals in the Morry family tree. They are presented below in the order that they appear in the Volume, which is not necessarily chronological.
Vol. 2, Page 53
The first is is a curious and interesting document for a number of reasons. It is initially an Indenture by which Judge William Carter and evidently a fellow jurist named D’Ewes Coke purchased the extensive properties of Robert Bulley in St. John’s and Outer Cove. There is a detailed inventory of the properties being purchased but without a map and in insufficient detail to make out their actual locations or size, typical of such documents in Newfoundland in those days.
D’Ewes Coke is an interesting fellow. He was the son of a man by the same name who was a well known English rector of Pinxton and South Normanton in Derbyshire, a colliery owner and philanthropist. According to “Coke of Trusley: In the County of Derby, and Branches Therefrom: a Family …“, he spent most of his life in Newfoundland, where he served in the Customs and Judicature and married late in life but bore no heirs. He retired to England and died there. The association with William Carter would most likely have come from them both serving at the same time in the judicature.
After Robert Bulley died, Carter and Coke apparently were concerned that his widow and children might lose all benefits from the properties that they had acquired and therefore agreed to return them to them on condition of payment of £1000 spread over five years, £100 each per year for each of them. This was not exactly a philanthropic gesture, however, since they had only paid Bulley £500 in the first place, thus making a tidy profit of £500 pounds in a few years.
As an aside, it seems quite likely that this Robert Bulley was the father of the George Bulley who married William Carter’s niece, Eliza Howe Carter. I am not aware of his father’s Christian name but suspect this is he.
Vol. 2, Page 88
Judge William Carter appears again in the cast of characters in the next document. He has another partner in this foreclosure sale, Nathaniel Phillips, of whom I know nothing. The two of them go together to acquire from Sheriff Henry Phillips (related to one of the purchasers perhaps?) the three plantations of John Teague in Bay Bulls for the piddling sum of £32 15 Shillings. A “fire sale” indeed! It must have been in this manner that William Carter assembled such a massive group of properties in his lifetime, that caused his heirs so much grief to defend after his death.
Vol. 2, Page 123 and 131
Lt. Col. Thomas Skinner is known as one of the fathers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. He was in Newfoundland for a number of years as a part of the Royal Engineers building fortifications against possible renewed hostilities with the French, or more imminently, as it turned out, the Americans. During his brief stay in Newfoundland from 1799 to 1804, he recruited four companies, called the Royal Newfoundland Volunteers, to bolster the defence of St John’s. Later recruited and took command of the Royal Newfoundland Fencible Regiment which was disbanded with the peace of 1802.
The Skinner family was closely associated through marriage with both the Morrys and the Carters, as well as the Williams and Hutchings families, through both military and marital associations. It was not always a completely amicable association, as the document found in Volume 7 below indicates.
During his time in Newfoundland he did like many other British officers assigned to England’s far flung colonies and acquired much property and, in the process, ran up much debt. Both before and after his retirement to England in 1804, there were many forced sales of his property to cover unpaid debts.
His son, Col. William Thomas Skinner of the Royal Artillery, was also in Newfoundland during his father’s stay and married there to Anne Williams. Here is the first of several documents pertaining to the elder Thomas Skinner and to his son which are found in the Miscellaneous Deeds and Wills. In this document, Thomas Skinner Senior and George Williams jointly commit to providing £100 a year to Col. William Thomas Skinner and his wife to be, Anne Williams, their respective children. Thomas Skinner Sr. commits to the lion’s share of £70 a year.
Of the six documents found in Volume 3 that have bearing on individuals found in the Morry family tree, four pertain to the Skinners.
Vol. 3, Page 8
This first document is an indenture involving both Skinners, father and son. It is an indenture in which the son, herein referred to as Lieut. Thomas Skinner (without the William, just to confuse matters) of the Royal Artillery (which clears things up) and another man, William Ellmes Esq., Merchant, are acting as the agents for Col. Thomas Skinner in a matter involving Thomas George William Eaststaff, Royal Military Surveyor and Draughter. They are essentially acting as estate agents in the rental of the properties of Col. Thomas Skinner Senior to various other military officers, including Eaststaff. The terms and conditions of the rental are laid out. The property being rented in this case is apparently the house and surrounding lands that were occupied by Col. Thomas Skinner Senior when he was in St. John’s at the head of Quidi Vidi Lake.
Vol. 3, Page 135 and 146
Another document involving Col. Thomas Skinner. In this case, the Colonel and his wife are in the throes of moving back to England so initially he confers a power of attorney on her to conduct business in Newfoundland on his behalf and then ultimately as she is leaving she passes on those powers to Thomas Coote. Note that the day and month of the original power of attorney were not entered but the second power of attorney was signed on 18 December 1805.
Vol. 3, Page 178
Again we see the affairs of the Skinner family being tidied up in the next document. In 1806, the year after their departure, their agent, Thomas Coote grants an indenture to William Carter for a debt of £100 owed to him by Col. Thomas Skinner. This indenture binds the premises on Kings Rd. owned by Skinner and occupied by fellow officer Lieut. Col. John Murray and tenants Patrick Catsey (?), John Leary and John Burrows. Unfortunately we may never know if the debt was paid off or if William Carter took permanent possession of this valuable property for only £100.
Vol. 3, Page 287
The next document does not involve the Skinners but does, once again, involve William Carter in another property transaction. Apparently Robert Boland owed £100 to William Carter and John Williams (son of Lt. Col. George Williams and Mary Monier – a daughter of Dr. John Monier) and put his property (not clearly defined in the indenture) on the line as a security until payment plus 5% interest was paid.
Vol. 3, Page 372
These sheriff sales are always sad. In this case, James Shortall lost possession of his plantation, known as Scoggings, for the paltry sum of £10 to Thomas Ewer. Sheriff Francis Tree was only doing his duty of course but nevertheless it is tragic.
Vol. 3, Page 415
Here we have another example of Lt. Col. Thomas Skinner having apparently skipped town owing money to a number of people, in this case a Merchant named James Macbraine. The latter obtained an injunction for the repayment of the debt of £200 plus interest by attaching the home and properties of Skinner on the north side of Quidi Vidi lake known as the Cottage Farm. Again, we do not know if Skinner eventually paid off these debts or simply allowed his property to fall into the hands of his debtors.
There are a decreasing number of items relevant to the Morry Family History project the further one gets into these volumes. I surmise that this is because the majority of the documents filed here pertain to St. John’s whilst the Morrys and their kin were based on the Southern Shore and documents of this kind for that area were lodged by this time in the annals of the Southern District Court. Only two documents of relevance were found in this volume.
Vol. 4, Page 312
Tree’s Room was the plantation or fishing room of Francis Tree in Petty Harbour. Francis Tree was an American who fled to Newfoundland, where it is believed he had been previously conducting a seasonal fishing trade out of New England, after the War of Independence. Though he was initially on the side of the rebellion against Britain, it appears he may have switched loyalties during the hostilities and was more or less forced to flee as a United Empire Loyalist. He had interests along the Southern Shore from Ferryland to Petty Harbour. This indenture pertained only to the Room in Petty Harbour, which was being let on his behalf to the firm of Chafes and Hopkins, the former being the major fishing family then and afterwards in Petty Harbour.
Vol. 4, Page 356
This document pertains to another of the many indentures involving a Col. Thomas Skinner, this time the son (it says he is in the Royal Artillery), in the form of a rental agreement by him to a house, stable, garden and meadow at the west end of Quidi Vidi Lake. What makes this indenture particularly interesting is that location and the identity of the person to whom the indenture is being granted – Burrell Rutledge. This property would be where Rutledge Manor is now located, suggesting that eventually the rental agreement was converted into an outright purchase and sale.
In Volume 6, once again there are only two documents of relevance to this line of research and both involve, not surprisingly, Judge William Carter. The wily old judge had his fingers in many pies when it came to acquiring property – a fact that caused no end of trouble and consternation for his heirs after his death, as many of the tenants refused to vacate these properties and claimed them as their own by squatters rights once the judge was not around to intimidate them into paying their annual rents. Many of these cases wound up in court or were at least initially filed in court and possibly settled out of court later on.
Vol. 6, Page 53
Here we have a document in which Judge Carter and Capt. George Hutchings, another prominent gentleman of the day, are acting as the attorneys for Capt. John Stiles, RN and his wife Jane, who have returned to their home in England at Shirley Cottage in Southampton. Jane is a daughter of another George Hutchings, who was also the father of one of the men representing her and her husband in this case, that is, her brother George Jr., who was also a Captain in the Royal Navy stationed in St. John’s. The other parties to the indenture are William McCarthy, a shopkeeper in St. John’s, and his wife Catherine. The property in question is a part of the extensive waterside premises in St. John’s that had belonged to George Hutchings Sr. and was subdivided amongst his heirs.
Vol. 6, Pages 115, 119 and 121
This document is actually three related indentures. They are of particular interest because they involve two of the people who figure prominently in these papers – Judge William Carter and Col. Thomas Skinner. Although these two well known gentlemen were contemporaries, they were not related to one another by blood, but the Judge’s son, Arthur Hunt O’Brien Carter, was married to Harriet Maria Skinner, the daughter of Lt. Col. William Thomas Skinner, the Colonel’s son. Like most officers of the Royal Navy and British Army stationed in St. John’s, Skinner accumulated much property during his stay. He also accumulated much debt. And the two wound up being exchanged for one another through many such transactions before and after his return to England. In this case he is effectively mortgaging for £500 to cover his debts and expenses a 100 acre property on the south side of Quidi Vidi Lake to Thomas Stabb and William Carter and then giving them his Power of Attorney to rent out that property in his name.
Vol. 7, Page 196
Family tensions existed between the Williams and Skinner families when Col. Skinner’s son, Lt. Col. William Thomas Skinner, married Anne Williams, daughter of Lt. Col. George Williams and Mary Monier, a daughter of Dr. John Monier. These distinguished families of early gentry in Newfoundland were for the most part initially associated by their common connection to military service in the British Army or Royal Navy, which inevitably led to intermarriages. Lt. Col. William Thomas Skinner was evidently as profligate with his money as his well known father had been. His unfortunate wife wound up dying young (around 26 years of age), but not before giving the Lt. Col. four children, the last of whom evidently cost her her life in childbirth (though that child afterwards wound up earning great honours as Sir Major Thomas Bridges Boucher Skinner, CMG, J.P.). But the document here indicates that the Williams family held a grudge against the Lt. Col. and wanted to make sure that none of the inheritance that would have come to their late sister from their father and mother fell into his hands and that it was secured for the benefit of her children only.
Volume 8 turned out to contain a veritable gold mine of documentation pertaining to people of interest to the Morry family history, in total nine deeds, indentures, bills of sale, and one receipt and one arbitration.
Vol. 8, Page 163
First we have another indenture involving Thomas Skinner, but which Thomas Skinner? No rank is given and he is referred to not as a member of the military garrison, just Esq. It is probably Col. Thomas Skinner Sr. I am of that opinion because an earlier indenture pertaining to the property known as “The Cottage” on Quidi Vidi Lake, which was known to be the property of Col. Thomas Skinner, refers to him only as Thomas Skinner. It seems that once he left Newfoundland and retired to private life in England he was no longer accorded the epithet “Col.”
In this instance the other party being Hunt, Stabb, Preston and Company, a prominent firm involved in the fish trade and commerce in general in Newfoundland and closely associated with the Newman interests. Thomas Skinner is ceding to Hunt, Stabb, Preston and Company for one year his lease to Striplings Plantation between Fort William and Kingsbridge Rd. bordering on what was later known as Rennie’s Mill River for the paltry sum of 5 Shillings for the first year and one peppercorn each year thereafter if he did not reclaim the property in the meantime. What this may in fact constitute is a means of repaying debts, though no sum is mentioned, with the company to whom the money was owed having the right to use this land but not actually take over the fifty year lease given to Skinner by Mrs. Stripling. Presumably Skinner hoped to clear his debt later on and reacquire custody and full tenure of the property.
Of note here is that one of the partners of Hunt, Stabb, Preston and Company is named as Thomas Stabb of Torquay and it is said that it was he who brought in the documents to the Court Registry Office. I had not known previously that he, the father of Ewen Stabb and his other brothers who had emigrated to, and remained in Newfoundland sometimes came there himself, though it seems clear that he never emigrated. He is buried in Torquay.
Vol. 8, Page 202
The next document is different from those preceding in that it is not an indenture of any kind but rather a receipt. But what is much more remarkable is the sum for which the receipt is granted: £23,450 13 Shillings and 7 Pence! This would have been worth a king’s ransom in those days. It was being paid by Christopher J. Broom, a prominent St. John’s merchant, to Peter Weston Carter as Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court, but the reason for the payment is not made clear. If this was a form of payment of duty on goods imported then the value of those goods must have been staggering indeed. It is hard to imagine that the entire annual budget for the colony could have been much more than this amount at the time.
Vol. 8, Page 203
From the sublime to the ridiculous. In this Bill of Sale our old friend, Col. Thomas Skinner, is securing for the rather paltry sum of £110 paid to John Bulger a farm in St. John’s known as Gaden’s Marsh, which Bulger had acquired by grant from then Governor William Waldegrave on October 13, 1797. Because the property was fully described in the original grant, unfortunately we do not learn its location from this document. Note that this document was lodged with the Supreme Court on the 18th of February 1814 by a person named Graham Little but that the Bill of Sale itself was dated the 6th April 1802. I assume that Graham Little was a later owner establishing the chronology of prior ownership. The next two documents are a part of that chronology as well.
Vol. 8, Page 205
We now learn what the above Bill of Sale was all about. In this instance at least, Col. Skinner was not simply amassing property in his own right but, by this Deed of Gift, he was transferring the Gaden’s Marsh Farm to his daughter, Jane Hester Allen. Notably, the gift is to her in her own right and not to her husband, which was common enough in those days, women not being equal in most respects to men in the eyes of the law.
Vol. 8, Page 206
On the very next entry page, we see that this gift was not intended as a domicile for Skinner’s daughter and her husband, John Carter Allen, but rather as a transfer for the purpose of sale. The sale price was £188, so really only a small profit was made in the sale to Graham Little. Whether this sale was indeed to their own benefit or to their mutual benefit with Thomas Skinner is unknown. Considering his rather seemingly rather shaky financial status, this “gift” to his daughter may have been a thinly disguised way of selling property that might otherwise be claimed by his debtors. It is also a notable feature of this Bill of Sale that the names of both husband and wife are given whereas the Deed of Gift named only her as the person receiving this property. In other words, to make sure that there were no legal loopholes obstructing the sale, the husband’s name had to be added to the Bill of Sale. So while a woman might acquire property by gift or bequest, if she was married she was still considered her husband’s chattel and any property she chose to dispose of would have to be done with his concurrence.
Vol. 8, Page 226
This next document is a change of pace. It is referred to as an “Arbitration” and involves new names not seen before in this collection, James Clift, Merchant, and Nicholas Power, Planter. The dispute in question had to do with the carriage of fish by Clift’s schooners, the ADVENTURE and SWALLOW and the alleged deterioration of quality of the fish as a result of the handling or duration in which they were transported. The arbitrators chosen by the two parties were Alexander Boucher and Newman Wright Hoyles, two St. John’s Merchants. They found in favour of the complainant, Nicholas Power and awarded him damages of £40 5 Shillings and 11 Pence but the costs of the arbitration, assessed as £6 pounds 6 Shillings was to be paid equally by both parties to the dispute.
Vol. 8, Page 376
Having given him a rest while dealing with other persons’ disputes, we now return to Col. Skinner once again. This is a particularly interesting document, however, because it entails Skinner’s leasing of all of Little Bell Island from the then owners, Stephen Woolcock & Co. There is no plausible explanation for this purchase as the island was inaccessible and not of much value for farming or settling. Another curiosity is the term of the lease – 15 years, 4 months and 9 days. Why such precision? The rent was a modest £42 per annum, but still, if one had no economic interest in developing the island such an amount was wasted money. If there were any question of the island being used for fishing purposes that was dispelled by a notation after the text which removes the words “Flakes and Stages” from the description of the premises and leaves only mention of fences that are obliged to be kept in repair by Skinner. So it seems as if the island may have been intended primarily for grazing animals.
Vol. 8, Page 380
And now for the rest of the story! In this Bill of Sale Col. Skinner is disposing of his interest in the lease of Little Bell Island to Richard Langley to cover a debt owed to him of only £42, plus a cash payment back to Skinner of £4. Thus it would appear that Skinner had possession or occupancy of Little Bell Island for only about 18 months from 11 June 1813 until 26 December 1814.
Vol. 8, Page 499
Back to Judge William Carter. This is an extremely complicated five page transaction, made complicated no doubt deliberately by the Justice of the Vice-Admiralty Court (Carter) to cover up what is in reality an unconscionable profit he is making from this series of purchases and sales. What transpired in as brief terms as are possible is that two women, Elizabeth and Ann Williams of Woolwich, Kent, England, sold a property and buildings that they owned on Kings Road in St. John’s to Johnathan Ogden, Chief Justice of Newfoundland for £170 in June 1803. Ogden in turn sold the same property to William Carter for the same amount of money six months later (i.e. no profit made by Ogden). Now, in 1814, John Williams (relationship to the two ladies not stated) agrees to buy back the property from Carter for £500! A tidy profit of £330 in 11 years during a period of zero inflation. And lest anyone get the idea that this is a huge piece of real estate, it is described as having a frontage of 92′ and a depth varying between 52′ and 62′ — in other words a small building lot by today’s standards. There were no flies on the wily Judge Carter!
There were only three documents found in Volume 9 pertaining to figures featured in the Morry Family History.
Vol. 9, Page 62
We continue with another sale of land, once again involving three of the figures seen above, Col. Thomas Skinner, Thomas Stabb and Judge William Carter. What has happened is that Lt. Col. Thomas Skinner, who has apparently quit Newfoundland by this time and returned to England, left owing a large sum of money jointly to William Carter and Thomas Stabb (£2,216 8 Shillings and 7 Pence) in the form of mortgages on properties he occupied in St. John’s as well as the aforementioned “Cottage Farm” on the north side of Quidi Vidi Lake. In order to recover the funds owed to them, these properties were auctioned and sold to Graham Little for the amount owed and this was returned to Carter and Stabb. This document is of particular interest because, in order to establish the legitimacy of the land transaction, there are appended transcripts of the grants from the Governors in power at the times at which Skinner originally occupied these properties.
Vol. 9, Page 90
This is a slightly different form of transaction than those seen previously. It pertains to the distribution of the estate of the late George and Jane Hutchings. Can there be anything more acrimonious than the settling of ownership of lands and property after the death of a parent who is negligent enough to not stipulate in his or her will (if indeed one was written) the distribution of these prized assets amongst their children. This situation generally breaks families apart and makes worst enemies out of siblings who should be best friends. In this case, the heirs tried everything in their power to reason with the person (George Hutchings Jr.) who apparently initially seized all of the assets after the death of the father and then the mother, but to no avail, so an umpire was appointed to make sense of the whole mess. And it was a huge estate comprised of extremely valuable waterside promises in the prime real estate part of St. John’s. There was more than enough property to go around. But greed is a common trait of humans unfortunately. In the end, what appears to be a reasonably resolution was recommended by the umpire and accepted by most, but apparently not all of the heirs. I suspect the war went on in this family and may have lead to an inter-generational feud the bad blood of which may exist to this day.
A second document is found which relates to George Hutchings. Apparently, in addition to being a Planter, he was a merchant, and whether in that capacity or otherwise, he acted as an agent for several absentee landlords in England who issued him a Power of Attorney to act on their behalf in the management of their properties. After his death, his widow, Jane, wrote to these absentee landlords and requested that they turn over these properties to her. Oddly enough, they agreed to do so. It seems there must have been some confusion over the eventual ownership of the properties in question. Also, the correspondent (a lawyer?) who wrote to Jane confirming the agreement of the two couples who had been represented by her late husband to relinquish their claim on the properties, mentioned that her children in England were all well but that some of them had expressed a wish that they had seen a copy of their father’s will. There appears to have been some concern on their part that, in their absence from Newfoundland, their mother may have been taking advantage of and claiming all of their father’s assets. This explains how Jane wound up with a goodly portion of the prime waterfront properties in St. John’s.
One interesting side note is that the acquisitive Judge William Carter involved himself in the settlement. This may have been because one of his daughters married a grandson of George and Jane Hutchings. Any excuse, I suspect, to potentially get his hands on another valuable piece of real estate.
The parties accepting the proposed division were:
William Carter Esq. attorney to Capt. Stiles (Husband of daughter Jane Hutchings)
Major Wm. Haly for himself (i.e. he was the husband of daughter Ann Hutchings)
John Stewart Esq. Attr. to W. Bruere (relationship unknown but believed to be the husband of Mary Adams Hutchings)
Jno. Williams Esq. attr. for Lieut. McKillop (Husband of daughter Hannah Hutchings)
George Hutchings Esq. attr. for Thos. Hutchings and others
Mrs. Elias Rowe for herself (Most likely Elizabeth Hutchings who married Capt. Penson but may have remarried)
Capt. Thomas Skinner’s name (the son of Col. Thomas Skinner seen often in other documents here) appears at the end of the list for reasons unknown. He does not share in the distribution and was not married to any of the daughters. Note that all of the female heirs but one are not mentioned. Their husband’s are assumed to be the heirs on their behalf, typical of the time. Mrs. Elias Rowe, whoever she was, must have been a widow.
Another interesting side note is the mention of a “Mrs. Morey” as an adjacent landowner to property eventually ceded by mutual agreement to George Hutchings Jr. I believe this spelling is correct and this person was in fact not a Morry from Ferryland. There was a gentleman of that name in St. John’s who was a coal merchant for many years. By pure coincidence his Christian name was Matthew. He was in no way related to the Morrys of Ferryland.
One final note. While the original document itself was dated 21 Oct. 1809, it was not registered in the Supreme Court Records until 8 Nov. 1815. I suspect that it had been registered previously but that the record of that registration was being renewed because of an ongoing dispute.
Vol. 9, Page 503
Now we come to what has to be the prize find in this collection — an Indenture between Walter Prideaux and John Square submitted to registration at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on 12 Aug. 1916 as a part of the ongoing legal battle being waged on both sides of the Atlantic by that wily old Quaker, Walter Prideaux, against his former partner, Matthew Morry (my immigrant ancestor).
This registration in Newfoundland of a document originally submitted to the courts in Britain was intended to convince the Supreme Court Justice in Newfoundland of the validity of the claim by John Square to the assets of Matthew Morry and Company in Newfoundland. The ploy worked and the case before the Supreme Court of Newfoundland went in favour of Square, partly on the strength of this document and partly due to the failure of Matthew Morry Jr. to mount a plausible defence on behalf of his father who was then in England fighting related legal battles on that front over there. This was also a part of Prideaux’s strategy to ruin his former partner by waging war on two fronts simultaneously so that Matthew could not mount a meaningful defence in both venues. The gambit may have failed however, since another case was heard in the Southern District Court and a restraining order was placed on the seizing of the possessions by Square pending the outcome of the court proceedings in Britain. There is no record of the final outcome of this sad affair.
In Volume 10 (1816-1817) only one document was found of relevance.
Vol. 10, Page 268
This document is a departure from the norm, not being an indenture of any kind but rather a “Certificate” of creditors at the time of the bankruptcy of James Clift. There were scores of creditors, though many of them were only owed a few pounds, but cumulatively the total debt was in the tens of thousands of pounds. There is no indication given of the value of the remaining assets and to what extent these debts could be satisfied with the sale of the assets.
It is worth noting that James Clift had been a prosperous merchant engaged in the salt cod trade and that he was far from alone in suffering financial ruin at this time. Indeed, this was the same time during which Matthew Morry and Company became insolvent. I have not studied the state of the fishery during the early decades of the 19th century but I believe that this was indicative of a serious decline in landings as well as market impacts echoing from the War of 1812 and other conflicts between European nations. But additional evidence shows that it was one of the first great fires in St. John’s, either in 1816 or 1817, that destroyed any chance of James Clift making a financial comeback and led to the company declaring bankruptcy.
Volume 11 provided three documents including two rather routine indentures but also one fascinating document that was essentially a prenuptial agreement, something seldom seen in those days.
Vol. 11, Page 254
Peter Weston Carter was the son of Judge William Carter and was by no means a poor man. He held positions of responsibility, including as the Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court and as a Commissioner of the Court of Oyer and Terminer. So this document suggests that his spouse to be, Sidney Spear Livingstone, must have been wealthy indeed for there to have been a perceived need for what was essentially a prenuptial agreement, although it was phrased as just another Indenture. I know nothing concerning her father John Livingstone, except that he was deceased at this time and she was co-heiress of his estate along with her brother, Charles, and this may have been the reason for this precaution being taken. The manner in which her fortune is secured is via her turning it all over to a trustee in the person of John Williams. It was the trustees responsibility to mange the rental of all properties left to Sidney in her father’s estate, to maximize the rents obtained and invest the proceeds and, at his discretion, to sell any of the assets if that seemed more propitious at the time. But unlike prenuptial agreements today, the husband was to be entitled to lay claim to the interest accrued on the trust, presumably for the benefit and upkeep of his wife. But if Peter should predecease her, the entire fortune was to revert to her at that time. The reason this indenture was necessary at this time was that only a man could make substantial decisions on the acquisition or sale of property and hence John Williams had to have this indenture in hand to allow him to accept direction on the management of the fortune from Peter Weston Carter.
Vol. 11, Page 448
The next indenture is more typical and prosaic. I only include it here because of the mention of Henry Holdsworth, the person from whom John Henry Morry and Peter Paint Le Messurier acquired the Holdsworth house and fishing room and premises in Ferryland in 1844. This shows that as late as 1811 at least Henry Holdsworth was actively involved in functioning as the provider of financing for the fishery, in this case a small three year loan secured on the premises of Edmund Murphy on the south side of Ferryland. The Holdsworth family had made a fortune from their association with the salt cod fishery in this area since before 1700 but by 1800 they had already begun to withdraw from active involvement. It appears that this was one more indication that the glory days of that fishery were coming to an end by then, just at the time that Matthew Morry was making the decision to put all of his eggs in this basket.
Vol. 11, Page 509
And here we have what appeared at first to be another indenture involving a Col. Thomas Skinner, father or son. But on closer examination, the document is actually a lease to a property on Water St. to a shoemaker named Thomas Skinner. This may be pure coincidence. It seems hard to believe that Col. Skinner would have had a relative in a trade as lowly as shoe-making. His own son of a similar name was also a Lieut. Col. in the British military stationed in St. John’s for a period of time. Yet Skinner was not a common name then or afterwards in Newfoundland. If there is a kinship, the exact nature of it is unknown.
For reasons unknown this volume seems to have reverted to recording documents of past years, 1791-1809. The two documents found which pertain to Judge William Carter both date back to that time. The explanation may lie in a notation dated 13 Aug. 1937 by the Registrar of Deeds inside the cover of the volume. It states that the book was deteriorated and had to be rebound, so it seems likely that when this was done the Volume was numbered out of chronological sequence with the other volumes in the series. Indeed, it seems all of Volumes 14 to 17 cover periods much earlier than they should if the series were in strict chronological order and overlap with some of the earlier numbered volumes.
Vol. 15, Page 192
A brief half page notation is found here which records the appointment of William Carter as Commissary and Judge of the Court of Vice Admiralty dated 20 June 1787.
Vol. 15, Page 197
This appears to be, on the face of it, another of many indentures involving Col. Thomas Skinner, or more precisely in this case his wife, Jane Frances. The amount involved is £100 and the security is a property known as Mannix’s on the King’s Road, then occupied by Lieut. Col. John Murray and others.
This Volume comes well into the reign of Queen Victoria, the documents dating from 1851 to 1860. Only one document of interest was found.
Vol. 21, Pages 21-28
The reason that Benjamin Sweetland is associated with a document in this series is that he had left Ferryland for an appointment as Stipendiary Magistrate and Justice of the Peace in the Northern District at Trinity by this time. The indenture involves the ceding of rights to waterfront in Trinity for the purpose of building a public wharf and Benjamin Sweetland as the local JP was the party paying the £3 consideration to the previous owner, John Garland, who had before this time quit Newfoundland and returned to Dorset and had no further use of his waterside premises.
Volume 22 contains two documents of interest, both of which pertain to William Sweetland, formerly of Ferryland, but then, like his brother Benjamin, appointed as a Stipendiary Magistrate in the Northern District, in William’s case to Bonavista.
Vol. 22, Page 29
This document is of particular interest because it has direct bearing on family lore which says that, after William’s wife, Priscilla Anne Morry, the daughter of our immigrant ancestor, Matthew Morry, died in 1820, William effectively abandoned his children to the care of others and never really gave them much of his time or consideration after that. He remarried when he moved to Bonavista (ca 1838). His second wife was Elizabeth Newell. And this indenture is intended to ensure that in the event of his demise she would get all of his worldly possessions leaving nothing for his children by Priscilla. In effect, it was actually a living will, because even were he not to die but if any of the children were to make a claim on any of his possessions, this indenture would effectively prevent them from being successful, or at leas render the effort a matter for the courts to decide. At the time that this indenture was written, all six of his children were still alive and must have posed a perceived threat to his new wife.
And lastly, here is another document pertaining to William Sweetland, here we have what would appear to be essentially a sale or transfer of property from William Sweetland to Reverend Earnest [sic] Augustus Sall. The consideration is extremely little (£3) considering that the property is over 2 acres in size. I wonder if the land was actually not the property of Sweetland but that rather he was conveying it from the local community to the Reverend who served them. There is no indication of this in the indenture but the Sweetlands, and in particular this Sweetland, were not known for their generosity, to the church or to anyone else for that matter.