I have recorded here only the papers that have an indexed reference to the early generations of Morrys in Newfoundland, in their dealings as Commissioners of Roads, Honorary and Stipendiary Magistrates and Post Masters and other sundry activities that caught the attention of the House of Assembly. Even a casual perusal of these files will show that there is much more to be gained from a careful study as time permits but this material is provided as a teaser for now.
Commissioners and Builders of Roads, Bridges and other Public Works
Until reviewing the Journal of the House of Assembly the role that various Morrys played in the building of public works in Newfoundland had not been well known. In fact, during the years from 1838 to 1867, several Morrys (Matthew Morry II and III, Benjamin Sweetland Morry, John Henry Morry) and their close business associates and relatives through marriage (e.g. Robert Carter, William Sweetland) are shown to have played a substantial role as Commissioners responsible for the construction of roads and bridges on the Southern Shore and even in Bonavista Bay. In fact, in the latter case, John Morry was involved to a minor degree in the construction of the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse.
These records are a virtual “Who’s who” of the Southern shore in the day, since almost everyone played a role in the construction of roads, either as a supplier of materials or labour. The files make fascinating reading for this reason alone. They also reveal the many difficulties encountered in constructing a road through essentially virgin country over and around obstructions like “Hell Hill” and the one in Cape Broyle that became known as Morry’s Hill as a result of their involvement in this work.
One interesting, though sad, fact revealed through a reading of these government records was that part of this work was accomplished through labour on relief in years (see 1848) when the fishery was down. Since other work for pay was not available, many men were forced to work for Indian meal to feed themselves and their families.
John Henry Morry began a tradition that remained in the Morry family for the following three generations. He was the first of the Morrys in Ferryland to occupy the position of Post Master. The position was not solely an honorary one and carried with it a worthwhile stipend for the day, though it is hard to imagine that the workload would have been very onerous.
An interesting fact in Newfoundland history recorded here is the change-over from Pounds to Dollars. In 1863 John Morry received £15 as his stipend and in 1865 the amount was a very precise $69.24, obviously representing the exchange as it existed at the time of the change-over. By 1866 the amount had been rounded to $70.
Magistrates and Legal Matters
There are countless records of the Morrys’ involvement in court cases and lawsuits over the years, as plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses and jurors and also as Magistrates. The first Morry to be appointed as a Magistrate was evidently Matthew II (son of the emigrant). Morrys served as Magistrates in the Ferryland area right up to the present generation (Bill Morry).
A more complete list of the court cases in which the Morrys found themselves embroiled has been prepared by Kevin Reddigan and can be viewed on his website:
Agent for Newman’s Port, Thomas Graham Morry II
Thomas Graham Morry II was one of the first Morrys to abandon the Southern Shore to take up employment in town. He was employed in a position of responsibility with Sir R. Newman and T. Newman, the owners of Newman and Co., the purveyors of Newman’s Famous Port.
In some documents he is referred to as their Attorney but this is more than likely not a learned designation but merely reference to the fact that he represented the company in legal matters.
These accounts note his involvement in:
- acquiring Treasury Bills for his employers;
- requesting that fireplugs be relocated to the curb on Water St. from the centre of the road (an altogether sensible suggestion, it would seem!);
- seeking increased enforcement of Customs so that honest importers like Newman’s weren’t placed at a disadvantage;
- recovering the costs of surveys in Fortune Bay.
Rescue of the crew of the Heather
The history of Ferryland and the Southern Shore is rife with stories of ship wrecks, daring rescues and tragic loss of life. Elsewhere on this site I will be compiling an inventory of events of this kind that involved Morrys down through the years. But for now, one event stands out because of the fact that the deed was recorded in the Journal of the Assembly of Newfoundland along with the commissioning of a financial reward for those involved.
The official record of this event in the Journal of the Assembly mentions two Morrys who were involved — William and Henry (William is mistakenly referred to as William Meany in one of the official records). These would have been William Sweetland Morry and Henry Sweetland Morry. There were two others among the ten rescuers who are also associated with the Morry Family, and indeed with each other — John Costello and Richard Sullivan. John Costello was from the famous family of lightkeepers in Ferryland and his daughter, Mary Ellen, married John Joseph Sullivan, the nephew of his fellow rescuer, Richard Sullivan. Richard’s sister was known as Catherine O’Sullivan (their father was an O’Sullivan whose name was gradually abbreviated to Sullivan in the next generation). Catherine was my G. G. Grandmother.
The unofficial account of the rescue found above was borrowed from the Ferryland Community Access Programme website a number of years ago. This site no longer exists as such, or at least the content has been removed, so it is hoped the anonymous author will forgive this unauthorised use.
H. F. Shortis was a prolific recorder of Newfoundland’s historic events and volumes of his notes are found in what are described as the Shortis Papers in the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador at The Rooms with a copy at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University. This version of the story includes a transcript of the newspaper article by the rescued crew giving thanks to their rescuers.
The final account was transcribed from an article in the Newfoundlander on April 1, 1856 which included a brief summary of the heroic events as these were covered in the House of Assembly and of the debate on the subject leading to a monetary award for the rescuers.
Other Known Morrys
Arthur Kemp Morry had the good sense to marry Mary Oxenham Carter. They were childless but the wealth demonstrated by the Treasury Bills he acquired in 1867 didn’t originate from the fact that he had no family to support. According to McAlpine’s Directory, Arthur was a fisherman and, if an ordinary one, would never have amassed such a fortune. More likely it was his wife’s fortune since she was a member of the much wealthier Carter clan.
Other Unknown Morrys
In the days when these Journals were recorded, privacy laws weren’t what they are today by a long shot. One curious set of records that would never be publicised today was the record of releases from the Hospital for Mental Disease. In the record for the previous year (1855) a Mrs. Morry from Portugal Cove was noted as having been released after a successful treatment for “mania”. It isn’t clear who this person was as there were no known Morrys of the Ferryland family living in Portugal Cove in those days. One would hope that this broadcasting of her condition did not result in her being a social pariah and thus condemned to a recurrence of her mental problems!
It seems there were Morrys living in Bonavista about this time. Whether they went there along with the Sweetlands, who were related to the Morrys by business connections and marriage and who left Ferryland for Bonavista about this time, is not known. The person mentioned here (E. Morry) is completely unknown. Presumably it is the same Edward Morry involved in a lawsuit as Plaintiff in 1559.
Another set of legal records refers to a Richard Morry in the Carbonear area about this time. His relationship, if any, to the Ferryland Morrys is also unknown. It is quite likely that these two were really Moreys whose surnames names were misspelled, since their Christian names never appear in the Morry family records but do appear among the common names of Moreys in Newfoundland.
The repeated references to landmarks named after the Morrys in Torbay in this article is clearly another example of a spelling error in the official record. There never were any Morrys living in Torbay, but there were many Moreys.