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THE CITY OF MOUNT PEARL

1831 - 1880

<<The City Of Mount Pearl •Back• 1880-1928>>

Mount Pearl's First Settlers

The nature of Newfoundland's economy continued to change under the governorship of Sir Thomas Cochrane (governor from 1825-1834). Cochrane actively promoted settlement and agriculture in Newfoundland. He was also the island's first governor who was not a fishing admiral. One of Cochrane's lasting legacies was his appointment of the first Surveyor General of Newfoundland, George Holbrook. From 1831, all of the land granted on the island was carefully recorded by the surveyor and kept in a grant book in St John's. Large land grants were often given to military officers, government officials and influential businessmen. Affluent women were occasionally granted land as well. In the Mount Pearl area, a combination of both large and small estates were granted.

SETTLER OCCUPATION DATE SIZE
James Gibson Fisherman 1830s n/a
James Hood Fisherman 1830s n/a
Eunice Blamey Royal Navy Captain's Wife 1833 400 Acres
Edward Dunscomb Merchant 1831 126 Acres
Edward Carrol n/a 1830s n/a
Thomas Manning Fisherman 1830s 15 Acres
Tom McGrath Fisherman 1830s 15 Acres
Richard Hurley n/a 1830s n/a
James Shea n/a 1830s n/a
Edward Hayes Fisherman 1830s 15 Acres
Edward Cummins n/a 1830s n/a

The Waterford River splits into two tributaries, known as the North and South Rivers, which begin at the eastern section of Bowring Park. The rivers bound a triangular section of land that was referred to as the "Island" by the Surveyor General. It was this section that was first settled in Mount Pearl, with the Park Avenue area and Glendale remaining mostly undeveloped until the twentieth century.

The First Estates

One of the first large estates in the Mount Pearl area was granted to brothers William and Henry Thomas, who named their farm Brookfield. They had rented land there in the 1820s, but were not formally granted their estate until 1831 and 1833. While this area is outside of Mount Pearl's current boundaries, this farm was vital to the way the area was settled. The Thomases built roads to Brookfield as well as the eastern section of Brookfield Road. These roads provided some access to the Island and encouraged settlement in the area. Another early settler in Mount Pearl was Edward Dunscomb, who settled on the western section of Brookfield Road (which was just referred to as "the Road from Saint (sic) John's" at that time). All that we know of Dunscomb is that he was a well-to-do merchant who owned 126 acres of land. There were several others in the area as well, including fishermen who had been granted small lots of land.

Mount Pearl's Origins

The name "Mount Pearl" originates from a Royal Navy Commander who settled in the area in 1829. His name was James Pearl and he arrived in Newfoundland with his wife Anne. Pearl is thought to have been from Nova Scotia and was born in 1790. He joined the navy at age 9 and travelled the seas with the navy for 27 years until his retirement. Interestingly, Pearl's older sister Eunice was married to Royal Navy Captain George Blamey, and for the first years of James Pearl's naval career he served on the same ships as Blamey. The importance of this connection is that George and Eunice Blamey settled in St. John's in the 1820s. It is likely that James and Anne Pearl's decision to come to Newfoundland was influenced by this family connection. In addition, the Surveyor General of this period, George Holbrook, was married to Pearl's other sister Ruth Sydney. George and Ruth Holbrook lived in the west end of St. John's, which at that time was largely undeveloped.

Pearl had an illustrious, and some may argue dubious, career in the Royal Navy. He was originally granted 1000 acres in Newfoundland by the British Colonial Secretary of State, but Governor Cochrane protested that this amount of land was too much. He argued that the demand for land had increased significantly as the island's population continued to expand. While this argument may have some merit, it must be noted that Cochrane himself only possessed 600 acres, so it is possible that his protests were due to his desire to have the most land in Newfoundland. Cochrane settled on granting 500 acres of land to Pearl.

Pearl immediately began clearing land and building his homestead upon his arrival in Mount Pearl. He continued to develop Old Placentia Road further westward and built roads on the borders of his property, including what is now Commonwealth Avenue. He named his estate Mount Cochrane out of respect for, or possibly to placate, the Governor. The title "Mount" comes from a prominent hill on the estate dubbed "The Mound," which is also the highest point in the area.

During Pearl's first years on the estate, he and Governor Cochrane had a tumultuous relationship. Letters between Pearl and Cochrane have been kept at the Provincial Archives, and they reveal that the two men disagreed on many levels of issues. First, Pearl was a supporter of Responsible (or Independent) Government, while Cochrane was a staunch Loyalist of Britain. Second, Pearl continued constructing Old Placentia Road out of his own funds. While Cochrane was a supporter of road building, he refused to give Pearl any contribution to the project. Pearl eventually ceased construction on the road and it never reached further than the Mount Pearl area. Third, Pearl had many disagreements with his neighbours James Gibson and James Hood, who he argued used his roads without paying and set fires which destroyed his fields. Cochrane ignored Pearl's complaints.

When Pearl finally received his official land grant in 1834, he wrote in his will that Mount Cochrane "shall be forever named Mount Pearl." Through the language used in land grants and deeds, it seems that throughout the rest of the 1800s and into the early 1900s Pearl's estate as well as the general area around it on Old Placentia Road was referred to as Mount Pearl.

There is no record of activities at Mount Pearl in the late 1830s, but we do know that James Pearl received 100 acres of mining property in Petty Harbour in 1839. However, before the land could be developed, James Pearl died suddenly January 14, 1840. Anne remained in Newfoundland after James' death, but tragedy struck once again that same year when the homestead in Mount Pearl was destroyed by fire. It is thought that Anne lived in St. John's with friends until 1844.

Continuation of Farming

Although James and Anne did not have any children to pass their name on to, they did employ a young man named John Lester who carried on the Pearl legacy. John Lester came to Newfoundland with James Pearl in 1832. It is thought that Lester was a very skilled with both horses and farming, although this belief seems to have been passed down through the generations, as there is no existing documentation to support this. Lester must have been very close to both the Pearls and the Blameys, because Anne Pearl and Eunice Blamey both left large plots of land to him in their wills. After James' death in 1840, Anne leased the land on Mount Pearl to John Lester. It seems that he continued cultivation with success for several years after this.

In the Newfoundland Gazette in August 1845, there is a newspaper ad describing a horse race that took place at Mount Pearl and was attended by Prince Henry of the Netherlands.It is thought that the race track was just below the Mound, and the Mound itself was the viewing area for spectators. Since John Lester was leasing the land at this time and Anne was in England, we can probably assume that John was the one to create the horse track.

Many myths have been created regarding James Pearl and Mount Pearl from this period of history. For example, many reference articles about the history of the area state that Prince Edward VIII of England visited the horse track in Mount Pearl during a state visit to the island in 1860. However, newspaper articles from the Newfoundland Gazette described Edward's itinerary in detail during his three day stay in the island and there is no record of his visiting the race track.

Before Anne left for London, England in the fall of 1844, she petitioned the Governor for the remaining 400 acres of land that James was originally granted. She was given 350 acres which she named Anna Vale (it was later known as Glendale). The last 50 acres were near Eunice Blamey's granted lands.

The Death of Anne Pearl

Lady Anne's death certificate from London, England states that she died in March of 1854.Her death notice did not appear in Newfoundland newspapers until 1860, which has led many to believe that she died that year. Anne left 100 acres of Anna Vale to John Lester; the remaining 900 acres of land in her possession were bequeathed to her friends Eliza Bulley, Seline Wix Saunders, and Robert Lilly.

Change of Land Ownership

The land deeds show that the original 500 acres were in the possession of Thomas Holden in 1860 and sold to John Eales, Alexander Graham and Alexander Smith in 1863. Eales took 60 acres in the southwest corner of the original estate, and his descendents have remained on that land ever since.Graham and Smith, however, leased the land to Andrew Glendenning. Graham and Smith sold the land to Henry Studdy in 1885, who then sold it to Andrew Glendenning in 1897.That section of land remained like this until the 1920s.

Anna Vale

Anne Pearl left John Lester 100 acres of Anna Vale in her will. The land deeds show that John Lester sold his 100 acres to a John Calver, who at that time owned the remaining 250 acres at Anna Vale. It is probable that Calver purchased the land from Anne Pearl's heirs. Calver sold the land to Judge Phillip Little in 1884.

Gibson's and Hood's Orignal Land

After James Pearl's neighbours James Gibson and James Hood, the land was owned by Patrick Mullowney. Mullowney sold the land to John Bond in 1853. That same year, Bond sold the land to John Calver. John Calver retained the land until the British Admiralty (Royal Navy) purchased the land to build the Wireless Station in 1914.

The Lesters

After James Pearl's neighbours James Gibson and James Hood, the land was owned by Patrick Mullowney. Mullowney sold the land to John Bond in 1853. That same year, Bond sold the land to John Calver. John Calver retained the land until the British Admiralty (Royal Navy) purchased the land to build the Wireless Station in 1914.

<<The City Of Mount Pearl •Back• 1880-1928>>

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