Prince Edward Island: the Brehauts and Joseph Avard

12th March 2015

Prince Edward Island off the Canadian coast of Newfoundland has strong links to Guernsey that are very much alive today. A question was put by a visitor to the staff in the Library, enquiring as to the reason for an emigration to the island that took place in 1806. 

Born a Brehaut herself, though not from Canada, this lady is a relative of the Brehaut family still resident there, who were an integral part of that early colonization. She explained that the Prince Edward Islanders knew a great deal about their history on the island, and brought some documentation with her, but that they were curious as to why their relatives had made that voyage into the (relatively) unknown all that time ago.

Usually we would not be able to point to any specific circumstance other than probable dissatisfaction with the conditions here at the time of emigration. In this case, 1806 was right in the middle of the French Wars and Guernsey was suffering economically, especially since 1805 when measures to prevent smuggling were imposed by the British government¹. In this case, however, there was more detail than usual available to us. Invaluable for our explorations were the St Peter Port Church records, The Brehaut Family, by Roger Brehaut, The Quiet Adventurers in Canada, by Marion Turk, the Gazettes de l'Isle de Guernesey, all from the Library collection, and many websites, particularly the Prince Edward Island genealogy site and the island's Archives.

In 1792 the Gazettes of both Guernsey and Jersey printed an advertisement from Christie’s Auction House for the sale of a large estate called 'Stukely' in 'the Island of St John', part of which was eventually bought by Robert Shuttleworth FRS, and sold by him in 1804 to a Barbados planter, John Worrell. In 1792 it was being sold by Major George Burns, who was given the land in 1758 after the expulsion of the French. Channel Islanders had long been associated with the island, originally settled by French Acadians as 'Ile St-Jean'; the main town of Louisbourg, afterwards called Charlottetown, was said before the British invasion in 1758 to be inhabited by Frenchmen and frequented only by Guernsey and Jersey fishermen and traders.² Most of the Acadians were eventually deported as prisoners, and tragically many drowned on the voyage back to England.³ The British Government was keen to consolidate its hold on its Canadian possessions and began handing out grants of land, including some to a Jean Brehaut, who had served with Wolfe and whom Roger Brehaut in his book discusses at length. Soon many more colonists arrived in what was now known as Prince Edward Island, many from Scotland.

The Gazette de L’Isle de Guernesey of February 1806 published several letters on the subject of a planned emigration to Prince Edward Island, as well as a leaflet advertising the Island to prospective colonists. Those interested were to apply to a Joseph Avard, horloger ('watchmaker'), of the Pollet. Earlier, in the edition of 6th February, 1806, we read:

Henry Brehaut gives notice, that he has two houses, and a cooper-shop, situated at the Beauregard, to give to rent, at reasonable price, as he intends to quit the island. And the next week, 15th February: To be sold or let, for a term; the dwelling house and garden, with a house fit for a good stable or workshop, belonging to Joseph Avard, pleasantly situated in the Cornish [the house is also referred to as being in the Canichers, for which Cornish Lane was the unofficial name, but the Cornicherie proper was near La Couperderie], possession may be had at Easter next.—As the said Avard is about to leave the Island, the said house will be disposed of at a very moderate price; and Henry Brehaut gives notice, that on Wednesday next, the 19th inst., he will sell to the highest bidder, his two houses and shop, situated at the Beauregard.*

Joseph Avard was born in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1761, was apprenticed at a young age to a clockmaker, and by 1789 had based himself in Bristol. Several watches of his making are apparently in existence. While he was still in St Austell, he married Frances Ivey in 1782 and met in 1784 the Methodist pioneer Adam Clarke.

In St. Austell, the heavenly flame broke out in an extraordinary manner; and great numbers were there gathered into the heavenly fold. Among those whom Mr Clarke joined to the Methodists’ Society was ... Joseph Avard, becoming a class leader in 1789.4

In that year he was one of nine charter members of the Clarke’s Strangers' Friend Society, the object of which was the relief of distressed families in Bristol.  He was intimately acquainted with Mr. Wesley, and attended his funeral, at which there was said to be thirty thousand people present. He also heard Charles Wesley preach his last sermon, 1788. At some point he lived in London, where one of his daughters was buried.

In 1786 Adam Clarke had arrived in the Channel Islands and evangelized them with great success, with 105 members in Guernsey alone upon his departure in 1788, Marthe Le Marchant, wife of Admiral James Saumarez, seemingly a supporter. From the records we see that another Avard family were also living in St Peter Port at that time; Sampson Avard and his wife Ann Jehan. When his son Sampson (more of him later) was baptised in 1803, Adam Avard was a godfather. Adam Clarke Avard, son of Joseph, became a Methodist minister in Canada in 1817 and died in 1821, but as he was born around 1800 he was probably too young to be a godfather in 1803. Although from her name Ann Jehan must have been a Channel Islander, a search of the Library’s marriage records drew a blank, and it is possible that she was originally from Jersey, where the Methodist ministry to the 'Norman Isles' was based.

Joseph Avard is said to have been an agent for Lady Fanning, who owned land at Pisquid in PEI. Jean LeLacheur in his website (no longer active) about his family in Price Edward Island, however, states that Lady Fanning, the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of the island and daughter of the Major Burns who first owned 'Stukely,' herself visited Guernsey and sold her land to the would-be emigrants.

She sold them shore farms.  In May of 1806, the families arrived on PEI, but found their farms were next inland to the shore farms.  This displeased them very much and in complaining to Lady Fanning’s agent, he doubled the quantity of land for each family.  They were still dissatisfied, although some of them among whom was Jean LeLacheur, who now owned 800 acres of land.  Jean LeLacheur was head of the LeLacheur family, whose wife was Elizabeth Windsor.  They both had been born in St. Peter Port, Jean on November 25, 1771, and Elizabeth on February 4, 1774.  They were married on April 19, 1794.  Before they left St. Peter Port, they had six children, although one had died (Elizabeth) and was buried on Guernsey.

The immigrants had come in company with a convoy, as it was the time of the War between England and France.  At this time, land proprietor, John Cambridge, owned Lots 63 and 64 and had a lumber mill at Murray River.  He heard of those families coming out and being dissatisfied, he went to them and induced the men to make a trip down to Murray Harbour South and see the country there.  In a boat which he furnished, they went down along the southern shore of PEI, landing at Guernsey cove (named by them) to prepare a meal.  They continued their journey and arriving in Murray Harbour South were delighted with the country. Their families were soon removed, and these pioneers began the task of clearing away the forest.

Mr. Cambridge furnished them with food and seed for one year, on condition that they would repay him in lumber.  The LeLacheur family settled on the south shore of the South River and remained there for some years. [From the LeLacheur website]

Jean LeLacheur apparently had traded two properties in Guernsey for some of Lady Fanning’s farmland. Versions of the stories of these early settlers, who included Machons and Taudvins as well as Brehauts, can also be found in Marion Turk’s The Quiet Adventurers in Canada and Roger Brehaut’s The Brehaut Family. The Brehauts had intended to use the trees they had expected to find on their land as material for their coopering business.

The settlers’ disappointment in what they were presented with upon their arrival must have brought uncomfortably to mind an exchange of letters in the Gazette of February 1806. The writer of the first letter is unknown, simply signing himself 'Amicus' ('A Friend').

To the Editor of the Guernsey GAZETTE.5

Sir,
Permit me through the medium of your paper, to offer a few remarks, for the consideration of those misguided Persons, who intend leaving their native Island for that of St John’s. In the first place, I would advise them to consider maturely, the advantages they here enjoy:—advantages exclusively pertaining to this favoured island:- here, we are exempted from all Taxation, while our Mother-country labours under an accumulated load there; we have mild laws; enlightened Magistrates; a philanthropic Governor; a Climate perfectly salubrious:—here, the Calamities of war, and its concomitant evils are unknown; this happy Island, from its situation, is peculiarly adapted to commercial Pursuits:—Its inhabitants greatly habited to trade, and, for the greater part, possessing considerable property, might easily turn their attention to pursuits of a more productive nature.—The enlightened part are by no means dejected at this temporary stop to trade; nay, on the contrary, it is by many supposed that it will be the means of extending it to all parts of the Globe.

What are the advantages these infatuated people expect by removing to St John’s?

I will venture to assure them, that the pleasing Picture so artfully portrayed, has no truth for its basis; and when they have abandoned all the Comforts they now may experience, they will find on the other side of the Atlantic,—instead of a 'Land flowing with Milk and Honey,'—a premature Grave—occasioned by a deprivation of all comforts, a Climate to them intensely severe, Land principally steril[e], and uncultivated.—Eight month’s Winter will be found by them insupportable, —having hitherto experienced one so very contrary.—Those who persist in going to this supposed golden Chersonese, I would advise to take plentifully of the good thing of this island for they will find to their sorrow, much need of them, and but little means, of procuring even the necessaries of life.

The Proprietor of these Lands, happily for some of the Inhabitants of our neighbouring island of Jersey, has found but few dupes to so chimerical a speculation. AMICUS.

The next week6 came the reply:

To the Editor of the Guernsey GAZETTE

Sir,
As I sat down Saturday last to read your Guernsey Gazette, was much astonished of the description Mr Amicus gave of the Island of St John’s. He certainly must have been much misinformed, and therefore know nothing of the place, and I suppose mistake St John’s of Newfound land for St John’s of America. Not that I fear that his unfounded argument can Influence any that know the real situation of the Island, but may intimidate, and by that means misguide that Industrious Class who would wish to preserve what their Industry have procured them in happier days (je dirai en passant), that incultivated Lands of course must be steril[e].  But, Mr Amicus, I can inform you, from the Authority of the Earl of Selkirk, where of 800 In habitants of Scotland Emigrated under His Excellency’s protection in the year 1803, wherein they have made a great progress in the said Island, now called Prince Edward’s, that the Soil is in general equal to that of England, and as to the Climate it is likewise equal to that of the Netherlands (ou autrement comme celui des Pays Bas), as to the good things of which you mention, Mr Infatuated, it is evident the manufactured goods must be imported in the said Island. But one great advantage. The Workmen [h]as no need to oppose each other as they do in this Country, which is a great encouragement to the Mechanic. But as to provision, I say it is a Land flowing with “Milk and Honey” and not subject to pay for Rents for one year, 14 and the next 28 livres,—So good bie [sic] Mr. Amicus, you will hear no more from me.

AMICUS.

And:

It has been found, in the Printer’s entry, No. 328, Fountain-street, a paper addressed to Mr Chevalier in answer to Mr Amicus’ remarks on the persons who are going to leave this island. – Those who have lost it are desired to claim it, without fear of being named.

They were nevertheless determined to proceed and set off in the Neptune, whose Captain was Jean Messervy:7

Gazette de Guernesey 8th March, 1806

FOR PRINCE EDWARDS ISLAND
The ship NEPTUNE, just arrived from Jersey, Captain MESSERVY, and now in the Pier loading for Prince Edward’s Island, will sail, wind and weather permitting, in a fortnight, from the date hereof, for freight and passengers apply to Captain Nicolas Falla.

There were 65 passengers from Guernsey.8 These included Henry Brehaut and his wife Elizabeth Pullem (Pulham) and his children; Daniel Machon and his wife Francoise Pullem with their children Daniel (b. 1797, married another emigrant, Betsy Taudvin), Henry (b. 1799 ,m. Anne Le Lacheur), Elizabeth (b. 1804 married Jean Nicolle in PEI), and William (b. 1803); Joseph Avard, Frances Ivey and three children, including the 6-year old Adam Clarke Avard, and members of the Le Lacheur, Roberts, Marquand, and de Jersey families, and Nicholas Falla. They arrived on 16th May 1806. They have left behind them in Prince Edward Island a great many descendants and memories of 'the old country' in the place names—Machon’s Point, Guernsey Cove, Carey Point, and Amherst Cove, for example. Joseph Avard moved on in 1813 to Point de Bute, Nova Scotia, where he is well remembered as a pioneer clergyman. He has many Avard descendants in the New World. Henry Brehaut Junior, back in Guernsey Cove, married Frances Avard Thorne, who had come over with her mother and brother. Could her mother have been the daughter of Joseph Avard and Frances Ivey? Perhaps someone can tell us.

In the Gazette of November 14th, 1807, we find the following piece of good news:

It appears that the rumour circulating some time ago, about the awful situation in which the families who left to go to live in St John find themselves, is incorrect. A couple of letters that reached us this week contradict the rumour; they agree in saying that the land is very fertile, and supports all types of grain; that there are fine fields; that the island has plentiful game, and the fishing is abundant in all types of fish. There is a good harbour and Charlotte's Town is growing; that living expenses are two-thirds cheaper than in Guernsey and that, in fact, all they need to make their home a paradise on earth are hard-working labourers and workers of all sorts. [From the French].

After the apparent success of the emigration in 1806, a further advertisement for land in PEI was placed in the Gazette in January 1807, for an April departure.

And what about Guernsey-born Sampson Avard Jr., whose relative Adam seems to have been a Methodist minister? He was a physician and by 1835 was in the US, where he was baptised a member of the Mormon Church. He became leader of a secretive sect known as the Danites8 and in 1838 was involved in the 'Missouri Wars.' in which Mormon settlers were driven out of Missouri with a great deal of violence on both sides; he was captured and accused Joseph Smith, whom he claimed (probably falsely) was responsible for all the trouble. This was just what the authorities wanted to hear and they imprisoned Joseph Smith in the notorious Liberty Jail. Sampson Avard was excommunicated by Smith in 1839 and continued his life as a doctor in Edwardsville, Illinois, where he died in 1869, having never tried to return to the Mormon Church.


1 Stevens Cox, Gregory, St Peter Port, 1680-1830: the history of an international entrepôt, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999, p. 40.

2 See Turk, Marion G., The Quiet Adventurers in Canada, Detroit: Harlo, 1979, pp. 72-75.

The history of the Acadians.

4 Clarke, Revd J. B. B., ed., An account of the infancy, religious and literary life of Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.A.S. &c., &c., &c., written by one who was intimately acquainted with him from his boyhood to the sixtieth year of his age, London printed and published by T. S. Clarke, 45, St. John-Square, 1833. 

5 Gazette 1 March 1806, discussing the Gazette of 22 February 1806 (with which edition was enclosed Joseph Avard's advertisment, Propositions).

6 Gazette de Guernesey, 8th March 1806.

7 For the Messervys and their trading businesses see The Quiet Adventurers. 'Collector of Customs Inward: 16 May, 1806 'Neptune' of 160 tons Capt. Jno. Messervy from Guernsey with 84 passengers & baggage' (from the Ship Database). 

The Danites were the subject of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles' first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, published in 1887. See Gazette de Guernesey, September, 1806 p. 143: 'The Creditors of Mr Sampson Avard, are requested to meet, on Monday next at 6 o'clock in the evening, at Thomas Trachy's, in the Canichers, Attorney to the said Avard, with these Accompts, that the exact amount of the respective claims may be known, in order to make a dividend out of the produce of the sale of the said Avard's Household Goods; and also, for the purpose of hearing of proposals from him.'

* Gazette de Guernesey, 5 May 1810; 'To be let to the highest bidder ... for a term of one or two years, the house, out-house, and garden, belonging to Mr. Joseph Avard, situated in the Cornish, now occupied by Mr. John Press; and 6 October 1810; The house and premises belonging to Joseph Avard, conveniently situated at the Canichers, No, 1618 [cadastre no.], at present occupied by Mr Press, will be sold to the highest bidder, on Friday next 12th instant, at 12 o'clock precisely, on the premises. For particulars apply to John Angel. Earlier in the Gazette of 24 September 1808, Angel, 'attorney to Joseph Avard, absent from this Island,' had announced he was to sell by auction 'the House, Yard, Pleasure Garden beyond, and Kitchen Garden behind the said house,' belonging to Avard. 'The said House consists of seven Apartments, besides a Wash-House, Copper, and many other conveniences; the Pleasure-Garden before the said House contains about two perches of ground, is surrounded with walls, and planted with a Vine, all the length of one of the walls, now full of fruit, and other fruitful trees and shrubs; the garden behind contains from 25 to 30 perches of ground, and a stable fit for four horses. And the whole borders two roads, and commands one of the pleasantest prospects in the neighbourhood of the Town.'


Two articles on Channel Islanders' involvement in the Newfoundland fisheries: Transactions of the Societe Guernesiaise 1933 XII (1) pp. 42 ff., Newfoundland and the Channel Islands; and 1955 XVI (1), pp. 76 ff., H.W. Le Messurier and C. R. Fay, Newfoundland and the Channel Islands.