The letters below I either have in my collection or have been able to view and copy from another collection. I have indicated in each case where the original is to be found, though in some cases, for letters over which I am not the actual custodian, the holder may have changed since I made my copy.
Other assorted Letters and Postcards:
Henry Holdsworth and Matthew Morry Jr. were both friends and business associates, as this letter dated February 4, 1838 reveals. With the exception of a brief note, treated as a last will and testament, written by Matthew Morry’s grandson John shortly before he embarked on a voyage in 1827, this is the earliest personal correspondence related to the Morrys and their business affairs that is still in existence.
The original of this letter is in the possession of my cousin, Dr. Peter Morry. A photocopy is found in the Morry archive at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies (MUN) – MF-070 along with two or three other photocopied documents (none originals) contributed by Dad Morry some years before he passed away.
William Sweetland Morry served in WWI as a Sapper In the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force (Formerly the 50Th Gordon’s) with regimental number #103241. His letter home to his mother makes light of the situation he and the Canadian Forces found themselves in, no doubt in an attempt to save his mother much worry. The terrible reality of trench warfare in France in WWI was far from how he described it. But then the censors would not have allowed a more graphic description to leave France. This copy was provided to me by his son Mike, who holds the original.
There is a curious and interesting denouement to the story of William Sweetland Morry’s time in France. Somewhere along the line he lost his copper identity tag. In 2015, a French farmer named Nicolas Groudefroye found this tiny object while checking his fields near Hazebrouck, France with a metal detector, looking for just such war mementos. He made it his quest to track down the descendants of William to return the tag. Using online resources, including my own website information, he was able to find Mike Morry and eventually return the tag to him.
The lost name tag and the man who found and returned it to the son of William Sweetland Morry
Postcard from Aunty May to Baby Phyllis Morry, April 1917
This postcard presents a bit of a conundrum. Aunty May would normally be presumed to be the sister of Fredris Minty, Mary (or May). But Mary had married and moved to the US in 1913 and this postcard, though not postmarked or addressed, was apparently sent from Edinburgh, given the scene and the reference to a present from Scotland being sent for Phyllis’s first birthday. Therefore, I think it is plausible, but not certain, that the person referring to herself as “Aunty May” was in actual fact the second wife of Phyllis’s grandfather, James Minty, Mary Strain Hamilton. The couple did not marry until September 1917, and thus she was not a granny (not even a step-granny) to Phyllis at the time the card was written. Unfortunately the second page of this letter is missing. It might have clarified the matter.
This post card was found amongst the papers of Aunt Phyl and is now retained by her daughter Fredi.
This letter from Thomas Graham Morry in Victoria to his granddaughter Phyllis in Ferryland was the last letter he ever wrote. Six days later he died. Though he mentions a recent illness in the letter, his expectation of travel to the lake (Shawnigan Lake?) the following week and an impending election makes clear that he anticipated being around for much longer. Here is a transcript of the letter. A few words are not entirely clear but the main topics come through fine. The letter is presently found in a little red makeup case that belonged to Aunt Phyl and that now her daughter Fredi is safe-guarding.
Letters to and from Howard Morry
Two postcards from Trix to Howard Morry in Brookdale, Carberry District, Manitoba, Sept-Oct 1906
From Aunt Phyl’s memorabilia in possession of Fredi, July 2016. In 1906, Dad Morry and his brother Bert and possibly Graham as well, went to the Prairies to work in the fields to make some money, the fishery not providing a good income at the time. These two comical postcards from their sister Trix were sent to Dad Morry in September and October of that year to Manitoba
Letters from Emily Frances Victoria Morry (Aunt Frances/Fanny) to Howard Leopold Morry, 1934
Howard Morry’s Aunt Frances was one of two maiden aunts alive at this time, the other being Florence B. Morry (no one knows what the B. stood for). They, along with their two married sisters, Jane Josephine (married to William Nicholas Gray) and Alice Wylly (married to Charles Archer Ellis) had received an entitlement to the use of the Morry lands in Ferryland from their grandmother, Anne Coulman Windsor. Anne held the rights to the land by virtue of having mortgaged them from her son-in-laws, John Henry Morry and Peter Paint Le Messurier. Evidently they never reimbursed her. But before she died she decided to turn back ownership of the house and lands to her grandson, Thomas Graham Morry, on condition that her four named granddaughters should have use of it as long as they remained single. Thus, with two of them remaining spinsters until their death, Thomas never realised the full benefit of her generosity. The ladies stuck to their rights and, even though they never occupied it thereafter, they did not turn over the Holdsworth House to their brother until it had deteriorated so badly it had to be torn down after WWI. From the first of these two letters, we see that they were still charging land rent on the lands during the time of their occupation by Howard and his brother John. Two other sisters of Thomas are not mentioned in Anne Windsor’s indenture because they were already married at the time it was written. The first of these two letters by Aunt Frances mentions having received her land rent from Howard and asks that he remind his brother John of his duties in this regard. She also takes the occasion of writing this letter to retell some of the old family lore she has told many times before, none of which is accurate or true. One additional piece of information she adds here is that Dad Morry received the name Howard in honour of an ancestor who was a great philanthropist. So far as I know, Dad Morry was the first family member to ever bear the name Howard. The original of this letter is presently in my possession. I received it from my father, who in turn received it from Dad Morry himself.
The second letter bears no address or signature and for years it was a mystery as to who had written it. This photocopy of the original (the whereabouts of the actual original is unknown) was found by Enid O’Brien in the Morry Archives (MF-070) at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies where I later viewed it in 2010. There are four small pages with the first page where the addressee’s name and the date and place of posting would have appeared, and the last page, where the author’s name would have appeared, missing. Several theories were bandied about as to who could have written it based on clues in the letter. It was only after the letter above was compared to this one that it became immediately obvious that both were written by the same hand and probably at more or less the same time. In this letter Aunt Frances carries on with her attempt to enlighten Howard about the illustrious history of the Morry line and their relatives by marriage, the Windsors. Unfortunately her grasp of the family history was not that great and there are many points of misinformation in this and her previous letter. Transcripts of these same four pages are found in several of Dad Morry’s scrapbooks and diaries but no sign of the original has been found.
Many Newfoundland Morrys emigrated to British Columbia over the generations. The first went out in the mid 1800s but the trend continued through every subsequent generation to this day. Dad Morry (Howard Leopold Morry) went to BC with his brothers Bert (Albert Graham Morry) and Graham (Thomas Graham Morry) when they were young men and they had many adventures together in the lumber camps, fish plants and the rough and tumble coastal communities. Dad Morry has recorded some of the details of their adventures in his memoirs.
After returning from the War, Dad Morry would have liked to return to BC but he had a young family and his father asked him to stay and run the fish business. This letter is written to one of his second cousins in BC, whom he knew from his earlier visit, William Sweetland Morry. The text was transcribed from the original by Bridget Davies Smith, Bill’s Grand niece, in 2003. By coincidence, a transcript of the same letter, only with an additional paragraph at the end, was provided to me five years later by Bridget’s cousin, Donna [Morry] Baspaly.
The Whites were one of the merchant class families in Ferryland for generations as were the Morrys. So it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later a marriage would take place to join the fortunes of the two families. Class structure in Newfoundland was as strong as it was anywhere in those days and marriage “beneath one’s station” was frowned upon. Thus on June 1, 1880, Catherine Frances White married Thomas Graham Morry III. Catherine (known as Kate), my G. Grandmother, was the daughter of an English merchant, John William White, who was born in Dodbrooke, Kingsbridge, Devon. Though born in England, he emigrated to Newfoundland and settled in Ferryland where, among other things, he was the owner of the general store and a Justice of the Peace.
But times were tough for merchants in those days, as they were for everyone else. The Black Monday bank crash on December 10, 1894 wiped out the fortunes of many of the wealthier families in Newfoundland and many of them never really recovered. The Morrys and the Whites were not immune and Thomas Graham Morry lost his fortune and spent the rest of his life attempting to pay back his debtors. The Whites were in a similar predicament and by the second generation after John William White, they were still struggling to make ends meet.
John’s son Alfred inherited his father’s house (see Will), lands and business interests, but also his debts. His children left one by one to try and make their fortunes in the more promising economic conditions available in the US. After his death in 1920, only his wife Frances and two sons, Gordon and William, were still trying to hang on in Ferryland. John Stanislaus was the first to move to the US, followed by Lulu (Louisa). By 1922, only Gordon remained and then he too left. The legend has it that he left with food still on the table and the door left open as if he intended to return but never did.
This letter from Dad Morry was written to Lulu White in 1946 urging her to take legal action to claim the lands belonging to her family that were by that time being occupied by others in the village. With the passage of over two decades since the lands and more importantly the water side premises had been occupied and made use of by the rightful owners, as one might imagine others began to use these valuable assets. In the case of the person mentioned, Paddy Ryan, he had in some ways more right to do so than others in the village. His grandfather, William Ryan, had rented some of the White property, a house and garden near the Pool, for 20 years from John William in 1892. More than likely this arrangement had been renewed over the years. Nevertheless, evidently title to the land was never conveyed and it changed hands by no more formal process than “squatters rights”, as was often the case in those days. Thus the Whites lost their claim to land in Newfoundland, though indeed none of them or their descendants ever returned to their former home.
The letter was formerly in the hands of Cal White, a son of John Stanislaus White. I began communicating with him about family history in 2002 and subsequently in 2003 he generously agreed to send me the original of this letter which is now in my collection.
Letters from Father to Son
Here are no doubt many letters written between Dad Morry and my parents over the years. Letter writing for expatriate Newfoundlanders in those days was the only practical way to stay in touch. Long distance telephone calls were extremely expensive and only used in cases of emergencies or to announce a death in the family.
Of all those letters that must have changed hands, only a small number of letters written by Dad Morry to my father and mother have come down to me. The one written in 1971, may well have been the last letter Dad Morry wrote in his lifetime.
This is Dad Morry’s transcription of part of a letter sent to him by his Aunt Frances in 1938. It purports to give information on the Scottish roots of Matthew Morry’s wife, Mary Graham and hence their descendants. But it has been disproved through simple analysis of the many generations missing in the so-called “family tree”. I believe that this handwritten transcription was included in one of the letters below but do not know which one for sure, though the folds match those of the first letter sent on March 11, 1959. Dad Morry copied this same misinformation into several of his memoirs and also gave a copy to the Centre for Newfoundland Studies (Morry Archive MF-070) so obviously believed that it was true.
In this letter in the heart of winter Dad Morry reminisces about the good times they had when Dad and Uncle Reg were boys and went into the country with him in the dead of winter. He also tells of a recent scare he had which sounds as if he had a minor heart attack or stroke but it apparently did him no last harm.
Here is a copy of the original letter:
Another news update including continuing complaints about rheumatism despite the fact that this should be summer. The way Dad Morry put it, they had summer — for two days last week! He is also planning ahead for a visit to California and the mainland the following winter.
Here is a copy of the original letter:
A decade has passed and Dad Morry is all the lonelier for the loss of old friends to keep him company. He looks forward to a summer visit by Uncle Reg and family and hopes that Dad and Mom can make it down at the same time. In fact they did. And so did I, though not with them. I was working doing lake surveys with Mike Dadswell for the new Gros Morne National Park and took the opportunity to nip over to the Avalon for a few days. In fact the Fugates were down from the US too and a wonderful time was had by all.
One interesting thing to note. Dad Morry has changed allegiances politically in the last decade and now blames Joey Smallwood for much of Newfoundland’s woes!
Dad Morry mentions the modernization efforts being made by Uncle Bill and says that Uncle Bill does not want to have to take down the old red store. This is sadly an ominous foretelling of what did in fact happen soon afterwards.
Here is a copy of the original letter:
As mentioned above, this is more than likely the last letter that Dad Morry ever wrote to Mom and Dad. He is very shaky by this late stage in his life. Despite this he could not resist making one last trip to the Scotland that he loved. Five months later he was gone.
Here is a copy of the original letter:
Letter from Mother to Son
While few of Dad Morry’s letters to Mom and Dad have been preserved, regrettably only one of Mom Morry’s letters has come to light. It was written on January 25th 1947, a month and a year after Lanny was born and almost a year before Tom’s birth. In this letter various minor health issues are mentioned but no premonition that Mom Morry was herself to die within just over a year. It is also mentioned that Aunt Jean is expecting and putting on too much weight. She also mentions that they expect a girl. I never knew it was possible to determine the gender of a child that long ago. Karen was born on May 7 later that year.
Finally, it is noteworthy that Mom Morry was pleased that Lanny was given her name (Lanette Fredris) and commented that she was the first grandchild so named (though there were several more later). The explanation for this comment is that when Fredris Marion [Mercer] Caines was born she was named Paula. But when Aunt Pat chose to also name her first child Paula in 1946, Aunt Phyl decided to change her daughter’s name to avoid confusion and re-named her Fredris Marion, though whether that name was ever officially registered or not is not known.
Here is a digital image of the letter:
Letter from Sister to Brother
This is also the only letter I have from any of Dad’s siblings to him. I’m sure there were many others but this, for some reason, is the only one that he saved. It comes after the visit of the Funkhouser family to Ontario and Newfoundland for Come Home Year, 1966. I remember their visit to the Ottawa area because I was working at Camp Echon at the time and they came to visit me there. I think I was the envy of all the counsellors and campers for having these good looking California people to visit me!
Another important tidbit of information is the fact that Dad had loaned to Aunt Jean the old letters that years later he gave to me. This would be primarily the Athlone letters above. Aunt Jean copied them and returned them to him, which is why I am fortunate enough to have them now.
Here is a digital image of the letter:
Dad Morry’s status as one of the foremost sources of Oral History on the Southern Shore was called upon frequently by many writers and journalists over the years to assist them in putting together articles for Newspapers and Magazines primarily.
Michael Murphy was a well-known Newfoundland reporter and freelance writer in the 1950s and 1960s. At some stage in 1957 he evidently reached out to Dad Morry by letter asking him for some background on what we now refer to as the Holdsworth House, the massive stone edifice built to house members of the Holdsworth during their seasonal stays in Ferryland during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. The house and all the outbuildings, lands and waterside premises associated it were eventually sold (in 1847) By Arthur William Olive Holdsworth to two brothers-in-law and business partners, my second great grandfather, John Henry Morry, and Peter Paint Le Messurier.
In this letter responding to Murphy’s enquiry, Dad Morry gives some history on the house to the extent that it was known to him at that time. There is a bit of misinformation in his remembrances, as is almost always the case with oral history over several generations, but for the most part it was useful information and formed the basis of an article by Murphy in the Atlantic Guardian, Volume 48 (11) in 1958. Unfortunately, that edition is not one of those that has been digitised and put on the web by the Memorial University Digital Archive Initiative. But copies of the paper version are available at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies and I will make a digital copy to post here when I am able to do so.
Meantime, by clicking on the title above you will see a slightly updated version of the transcript of Dad Morry’s letter by Enid O’Brien which appeared in the Newfoundland Ancestor 15:1, Spring 1999. Enid had approached Michael Murphy years later to enquire if he had any old documents of interest to the family history of the Southern Shore and he gave her Dad Morry’s letter amongst other material. Enid was kind enough to dig it out of her vast collection of papers and send it to me on June 8, 2019. Here is a digital image of the actual letter from Dad Morry to Michael Murphy:
Correspondence between Nimshi Crewe and Howard Morry and Jean Funkhouser
For several years, at least from 1957 to 1967, Howard Morry kept up correspondence and met frequently with Nimshi Crewe, an archivist with the Provincial Government, who had previously been an auditor working with my father in the Revenue Department of the Commission of Government prior to Confederation. Their common interest was the history of Ferryland, but that translated into Nimshi giving a great deal of assistance to Dad Morry and Aunt Jean in finding details on the Morry family history. Such assistance would never be afforded to members of the public by Archives staff today. A professional researcher would have to be hired for this purpose. But Nimshi got as good as he gave, and it was a matter of mutual benefit that they kept up this dialogue, because Dad Morry was able to give him details of Newfoundland history that had been passed down orally to him through the generations and never previously recorded in writing.
This is possibly the first letter ever written by Dad Morry to Nimshi Crewe, though it is clearly responding to an initial request by Nimshi for information pertaining to the Clowe family of Ferryland. He often picked Dad Morry’s brain on issued other than those pertaining to the Morrys and considered him a font of knowledge on Ferryland history.
In this letter we see that Dad Morry identified the person who was responsible for copying the epitaphs from gravestones in Dartmouth. We had previously struggled with this question, making guesses at various other possibilities, but here the matter is laid to rest.
We also see that Dad Morry’s grandfather, John Henry Morry, was at least one of the people responsible for spreading misinformation about the origins of the Morrys being in Scotland. This mistaken belief was hard to shake after several generations of repetition and Dad Morry firmly believed it, as did his son Bill, despite all evidence to pointing to an ancient origin in southern England. People tend to believe what they want to believe for whatever reason. In this case, the mistaken spelling of the Morry name on a gravestone as Moray only added to Dad Morry’s preconceived notion that we must be from the area of the Moray Firth.
Covering Letter from Howard Morry to Nimshi Crewe containing letter from Jean Funkhouser, 15 May 1959
This is a particularly interesting letter because it shows how Aunt Jean was picking her way through the various records and piecing them together, sometimes somewhat speculatively at first because of the uncertainty at the time of relationships amongst the various Morrys in the Petty Harbour burial records. The former minister of Petty Harbour, Rev. Yoder, is finding these records for her, for some small remuneration evidently.
She has correctly determined the relationship of the first two Matthews, father and son, and the fact that both had a wife named Anne, though she obviously did not know their surnames at that time. She is struggling with the third Matthew burial she came upon and did not have enough information to realist that his was the grandson of Matthew, the immigrant, by his now deceased son, John.
She struggles with the same problem we all have of fitting George Morry into the puzzle. I have concluded that he is not part of the immediate family, though he may be a distant cousin. Aunt Jean was trying to make him a son of the first Matthew and his second wife Anne but soon realises she would be too old to be his mother.
She has also correctly discovered that the reason that several of the second Matthew’s children are not found in the Petty Harbour register is that the register did not begin early enough but she has not yet discovered that at least some of them are found in the register of the Anglican Cathedral in St. John’s.
The letter concludes with another copy of the epitaphs taken down by Jane Morry Gray in Dartmouth.
In this letter, two topics are discussed: first, the over-wintering of the HMS HAZARD in the Pool in Ferryland in the early 1800s; and second, the existence of a Diary kept by “Judge” or Robert Carter, as well as other papers of historical significance, that had been collected by the RC parish priest in Ferryland, Fr. Alfred Maher, but then lost when he moved to Torbay.
The existence of a Royal Naval vessel known as the HMS HAZARD was denied by Mr. Frazer, the Director of the Newfoundland Museum at the time, based on enquiries he had made at the Admiralty Office in London. But this oral history was later proven true when Nimshi discovered a brief article in the Royal Gazette in May 1812 giving notice that the HAZARD was due to sail as protector of a convoy of merchant vessels heading to England the following July. Nowadays the existence of the Hazard, and the fact that it spent time in Newfoundland during the War of 1812 are matters of public record and easily discovered by an internet search. In fact, it is known that on the very voyage in question, she captured two American Prizes en route to England. But back then, had it not been for Dad Morry’s memory of oral history, this interesting piece of Newfoundland’s history would have never come to light.
The second subject is a little more perplexing. When I first read this letter I assumed that the diary of which Dad Morry spoke was the one comprised of many annual day books kept by Robert Carter, a son of Robert Carter, JP, who was in turn a son of the original Robert Carter to come to Newfoundland. It is now well known, thanks to the transcript of these diaries prepared first by Jean Carter Stirling, that these diaries existed, though they were unknown in Dad Morry’s day. But as I read this letter now, he is not talking about a series of diaries, but rather one diary, and it may be he is referring to a diary by the original Robert Carter, since the writer talks of travelling to Halifax to alert British forces to a French invasion, which took place in 1762, long before the famous Robert Carter, the diarist was born. If indeed such a diary existed and was lost or destroyed, that would be a terrible tragedy. I am initiating enquiries at this time (April 26, 2016) to see if anything is known or can be found out about the possible existence of such a diary.
This letter briefly notifies Dad Morry of a discovery made by this well known Newfoundland archivist concerning a lawsuit taken out against Morry and Prideaux in England in 1819.