Matthew Morry II

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. 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.


Early Years

As stated above, Matthew Morry II was born in 1791, on April 8th to be precise, in Dartmouth, Devon. Thus he was one of several children who were taken to Newfoundland by their father, Matthew Morry I, after the death of his first wife, Mary Graham, on October 29th 1796. As far as we know, the permanent move took place sometime after 1800. The exact date is not known. Matthew Morry I had been coming to Newfoundland seasonally since the 1770s, if not earlier, first as an ordinary seaman, then as a mate, then as a captain and finally as a ship owner and the principle of Matthew Morry & Company. It seems that the death of his wife may have spurred his decision to make the move permanent, or it may have been a result of an opportunity to make a better living for himself and his sons by filling the void of merchants from Dartmouth like the Holdsworth family who were at that very time severing their business ties to Newfoundland.

In any event, following the death of Mary, Matthew found himself with several underage children to care for. While his older children, such as John (1776-1807) and Priscilla (1783-1820) chose to stay behind in England, the younger ones, including Matthew II could not. Moreover, of those who did initially emigrate with their father, a number eventually returned to England to marry, for example Mary (1789-1851), or in the case of the spinster Esther Graham (1795-1866) presumably simply to enjoy the simpler life and society of England. Matthew II remained, as did his brother Thomas Graham and they formed the core of the Matthew Morry and Company enterprise as their father aged.

Matthew Morry II shows up each year in the Voters Lists for Caplin Bay 1840 – 1859 (for every year until his death in 1856) variously listed as Esq., Sr. and JP, to distinguish between him and his son who also appears in all these years from 1844-1852. The senior Matthew has “Rocky Park”, “Athlone” and “North Side” variously shown as his specific domicile area but it is possible he never moved during this period because the designations alternate back and forth from year to year and may have represented the same location. It seems unlikely that he ever moved to Ferryland, as did his father and several of his siblings.


Matthew Morry and Company

The family business, known as Matthew Morry and Company, came into being originally in Dartmouth prior to the final move to Newfoundland and was instituted by the first Matthew Morry, the immigrant. It is clear from business records in Newfoundland, however, that as the older Matthew got on in years, more and more of the business enterprise in shipping, trading and fishing was being managed by his sons. The name of the company was never changed, in large measure because his son Matthew was apparently the principal in the firm eventually and hence there was no need for a name change.

Many of the schooners and other fishing and shipping vessels owned by the company over the years were registered in the name of Matthew Morry, making it impossible to certain whether this was the father or son. But later in Matthew senior’s life it  became obvious that it was his son who was the energy behind the company and who was in fact the owner or co-owner of the vessels they had built or purchased. The shipping registers that are most easily available are those compiled for the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project by students at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) on behalf of the Maritime History Archive (MHA) at MUN. Unfortunately, this project was cut short before it reached its natural completion due to a funding shortfall and only a small portion of the shipping registers were digitised and committed to the CD available from the MHA.

From what these limited records show, Matthew Morry II was the registered owner or co-owner (often with his brother-in-law, William Sweetland, or William’s brother Benjamin, of several vessels, including the SNIPE FISH, the IRIS and the ECLIPSE. All these vessels were purpose built for them right in Caplin Bay.

J.P. Andrieux, in his book “Marine Disasters and Shipwrecks (of Newfoundland) Volume 1″ records this event:


On July 21, 1842, the American Steamer BRITANNIA, which was on a voyage from Liverpool, England, to New York, was on the fourth week of her voyage when she encountered thick fog while close to the Newfoundland coast, She struck land at Cape Ballard. All of her 200 passengers were saved. Two schooners from neighbouring Ferryland conveyed the passengers to St. John’s, where they were looked after by the government.”

This tantalizing, brief account fails to give details of the rescue, which must have been heroic if all 200 passengers were saved. It also fails to identify those from Ferryland who were involved unfortunately. However, there is a good possibility that Matthew Morry and his partners were the owners of the schooners that brought the passengers to safety. There were only a few owners of schooners in Ferryland in those days and the Morrys owned or co-owned most of those vessels.

Apart from his role as a merchant in the village, Matthew took on roles in the courts and on various appointed boards. Frank Galgay, in his book “A Pilgrimage of Faith”, records that Matthew Morry sat on the Board of Education for Ferryland from 1836 to 1841 when it was non-denominational and then on the Protestant School Board in 1845. By 1862, after Matthew had died, his son John was a Board Member. Other relations serving during these years included Robert Carter, H.M. Customs, Robert Carter, R.N., James Carter, Benjamin Sweetland, and Peter Windsor, MHA.

Kevin Reddigan has done a masterful job of summarising the court records of the southern shore for his personal website ( Family Names of Calvert – Caplin Bay – Newfoundland The same information has been generously shared with other websites dedicated to the family histories of Newfoundland, such as the excellent Newfoundland’s Grand Banks website ( ). It is therefore unnecessary to repeat here the lengthy and detailed history of court cases involving the Morrys during these years. Many of these court records pertain to land acquisitions and sales, mainly from Cape Broyle to Aquaforte, but focussing in the Caplin Bay-Ferryland area.

Thus the increasing wealth of the family that was signaled by increasing land holdings and finery like the portraits of Matthew II and his sons was in large part due to the energies and enterprise of Matthew II himself and not simply a matter of inheritance from his father.


Links to the Slave Trade ?

There is a possible dark side to the business enterprises of Matthew Morry and Company at this time. There is a hint of evidence that Matthew Morry (either this Matthew or his son) was implicated in the slave trade for a period of time. This revelation came as a result of Google Books project to digitise all sorts of antiquated documents. One of these was “Slave Trade: Three Volumes, Session 21, November 1826 to 2 July 1827” recording matters related to slave trade in the colonies. In the final appendix to this document a listing is given of all appeals to the Privy Council of Britain concerning outstanding debts. One of these was an action by Matthew Morry of Newfoundland against “John Square & another”. The action was brought on 2 June 1814 but was not settled until 10 Mar 1824 and the “Judgement was affirmed on regular hearing” presumably meaning Matthew got the money to which he was entitled for whatever service he had provided. This brief reference gives no indication of whether Matthew was himself carrying slaves in one of his journeys, whether one of the vessels he owned was chartered for that purpose by someone else or whatever the action may have been that led to the unresolved debt. No other records of this potential involvement in the Slave Trade have emerged and one hopes that it was an incidental, and unrelated event that somehow showed up in this register of matters before the Privy Council.


The Will of Matthew Morry II

In an email from Enid O’Brien in 1999 she explained:

“When Matthew Morry (married to Ann) was sick and knew he was dying he made a will and left everything to his wife, Ann, and daughter Priscilla, who wasn’t married at the time but later Married Wm. LeMessurier. He doesn’t bequeath anything to the rest of his children. I presume because the rest were all independent at the time.

When Ann (Saunders) Morry died she was buried from the home of Wm. W. LeMessurier (i.e. Priscilla’s house) and I guess she went to live with them when Matthew died and would explain why she was buried in St. John’s.”

While it is true that Matthew’s sons all found their own places in the business life of Newfoundland and abroad, from what is known about their various enterprises (some of which are covered in pages dedicated to them), it would appear that the heyday of Matthew Morry and Company was during the lifetime of Matthew II.


Esther Graham Morry (1837-1849)

A number of the children of Matthew Morry III did not figure in his will (above) because they did not survive to adulthood. This was not at all uncommon in those days, and was at least one reason why families tended to be so large, in order to ensure that some would survive to take care of their parents in their old age. The Priscilla named in the will was actually the third child of that name in this family, the otehr two having died in infancy. There was also George Morry, who was the twin of the second Priscilla and both died shortly after birth, also not uncommon for twin births in those days.

The other child who did not survive to adulthood was Esther Graham Morry, who was named after her great aunt, the daughter of Matthew Morry the immigrant, who never came to Newfoundland and remained in Dartmouth until her death in 1866. This Esther Graham Morry was born on April 7, 1837 and died on November 25 1849 of unknown causes but almost certainly of one of several childhood illnesses that proved fatal as often as not in those days.

We have no portrait of her, as we do of her father (or grandfather as the case may be). But we do have one remembrance of her.

The year before she died, on May 25, 1848, she was presented with a book on home economics. This would have been a typical form of reading for a young girl or woman in those days in preparation of a future marriage. The role of women was largely limited to managing the home. The book was presented to her by Anne H. Morry (or Annie as she signed the dedication in the flyleaf). Through the process of elimination, the only Anne or Annie Morry that this could be was her cousin (daughter of Thomas Graham Morry II), Annie Hutchings Morry. But the curious thing about this is that Annie was only five years old at the time. Either she was a very precocious five year old to be able to write this dedication in the book, or possibly one of her parents wrote it in her name.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the oldest remaining heirloom of the Morry family. It is now in the possession and safekeeping of Howie Morry, the second great grandnephew of Esther.



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You are visiting the website of the Morry family of Newfoundland, ex Devon

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We hope that this site will serve as a link and a gathering place for the scattered remnants of the Morry Family, whose ancestor, Matthew Morry, came from Stoke Gabriel via Dartmouth Devon, England, to Newfoundland to make a living in the fishing trade some time before Sept. 1784. At that time we know he was granted land for a fishing room in Caplin Bay (now Calvert) near Ferryland, a tiny fishing village on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore that we, his descendants, think of as our family seat.

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