If you’ve ever been to Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, you’ve likely seen this house. It’s the most prominent feature in the village, although depending when you went, you may remember it as being blue, like I do. The house was built by my 2nd great grandfather, Senator Samuel Prowse (52 Ancestors #4), was passed down to his son, my great-grandfather, Albert, and then to my great-uncle, Gerald. I loved visiting Gerald and his wife Connie when I was younger, and exploring this great house!
My great grandfather, Albert Perkins Prowse, was born on December 24, 1858, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He was the 2nd child of Samuel Prowse and Eliza Willis. He had an older brother, Frederick. Soon after Albert’s birth, the family moved to Murray Harbour, where Samuel went into business. Albert’s mother died after giving birth to a baby girl, Eliza Elizabeth, in Feb 1860. Tragically, the baby only lived for a few months, and Frederick died a couple of years later. Samuel Prowse then married his late wife’s older sister, Louisa Willis, and had two more children, William H. Prowse and Samuel Willis Prowse.
Albert became a partner in his father’s business around 1879, then known as Prowse & Son. In 1884, his half-brother William joined the partnership, which then became known as Prowse & Sons. In addition to a General Store, Prowse & Sons exported dried fish, canned lobster and agricultural produce. The business included a starch factory, using local potatoes to produce starch, a lumberyard and a cannery, where employees made cans throughout the winter for use during the next canning season. Following Samuel Prowse’s death in 1902, William sold his share in the business to Albert, who continued the business alone under the same name.
On November 29, 1881, Albert married Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland at her parents’ home in Rexton, New Brunswick. The couple settled in Murray Harbour, where they raised a large family of 10 children over the next 21 years. Although their first child, Louisa, died before the age of 4, the remaining 9 children all survived.
Along with following his father into business, Albert also followed his father into politics. He first ran for the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly in 1897, where he was defeated. He was subsequently elected in 1899 in 4th Kings, the riding his father Samuel had held between 1876 and 1889. Albert held the seat from 1899 to 1900, from 1904 to 1919 and from 1923 until his death in 1925. He was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from 1918 to 1919.
We’re up to week 9 in the 52 Ancestors challenge. Over the past 8 weeks, as I have seen each prompt, I’ve thought of different ancestors I could choose, before finally settling on one. But this week was different. When I saw the prompt “Where There’s a Will”, I knew immediately who to write about – my 4th great grandfather, Richard Rider. Not only did his will give me valuable information about his children (including an explanation for something I had been curious about), it also gave me an impression of who he was as a person. And all this in about 100 words!
Richard Rider was baptized on July 18, 1766, in North Huish, Devon, England. He was the son of William Rider and Joan (Unknown). Richard married Agnes Pilditch on June 19, 1790 in South Milton, Devon. They had 8 children who were baptized in the All Saints Church, South Milton, 5 of whom survived to adulthood.
In or before 1824, Richard & Agnes Rider and at least three of their children left Devon, England to settle on Prince Edward Island. Richard and his eldest son, John, purchased lots 416 and 417 in the Royalty of Charlotte Town. They later petitioned to receive to adjacent lots of crown land, lots 415 and 437, which was granted on August 3, 1824.
PEI Public Archives and Records Office, Land Petitions, RG5, Series 4, File 36, 1824
William and Agnes (Rider) Prowse also settled in Charlottetown, though it is unclear whether they came at the same time as Agnes’s parents, or whether they followed later. One of their children, born in Devon before they emigrated, was Joseph Jarvis Prowse.
When I was researching Joseph, I came upon the baptism of one of his sons, which listed the mother’s name as Agnes Rider Prowse. Was this a mistake? Were Joseph’s wife and mother both named Agnes Rider? Further research would reveal that Rider was her middle name – her full name was Agnes Rider Jarvis!
So Joseph Jarvis Prowse, son of Agnes Rider, married Agnes Rider Jarvis. They must be related – it would be much too coincidental for them not to be.
It was Richard Rider’s will that would lead me to the answer.
To Joseph Prouse, one pound. To Richard Jarvis (son of William and Peggy Jarvis in England), one pound. To Elizabeth Grace Rider (daughter of Jane Bryenton), my bed and bedding. My son John may purchase lot 437 at a fair value decided by three or five other men. The proceeds are to be equally divided between my five children. I appoint my children John, Agnes Prouse, Peggy Jarvis of England, Grace Wise, and Jane Bryenton as Executors. All of my children are to have an equal share in my effects, after giving Jonathan Pillage Rider and Robert Herwood my watch to be valued and divided between them. Dated 1 Sept. 1837.
Early Prince Edward Island probate records, 1786-1850 / by Linda Jean Nicholson, 2005, Pg 224, Richard Rider (Estate File Will R-27. Two documents. Liber 3, Folio 150)
How very helpful to have his daughters’ married names listed! Based on this information, I was able to track down each of them. And look – one of them married a Jarvis! They had a daughter named Agnes, who later married her cousin, Joseph Jarvis Prowse.
This still doesn’t explain Joseph’s middle name of Jarvis. Could he have been named after his mother’s brother-in-law? It’s possible, but I believe instead that William Prowse’s mother was also a Jarvis, though I haven’t yet determined whether or how she was related to William Jarvis. More on this when I profile William Prowse in a later post.
The other interesting thing about Richard Rider’s will is the grandchildren that are mentioned in it. At the time of his death in on January 4, 1838, Richard had at least 14 grandchildren, only three of whom were mentioned by name in his will:
To Joseph Prouse, 1 pound. Joseph was the oldest of Richard’s grandchildren. At 13 years old at the time Richard’s will was written, one can imagine that Joseph was a help to his grandfather.
To Richard Jarvis (son of William and Peggy Jarvis in England), one pound. Richard Rider Jarvis was 9 at the time. It is unclear from the wording whether he was with his parents in England, or whether he was on Prince Edward Island with his grandfather. I suspect the latter, as he was not listed with his family on the 1841 census of England. His mother and sisters emigrated about 1845.
To Elizabeth Grace Rider (daughter of Jane Bryenton), my bed and bedding. Elizabeth was born on April 6, 1832 and was baptized 18 months later on October 30, 1833. Elizabeth’s mother, Jane Rider, married George Bryenton in 1835.
I can’t help but have kind thoughts about a 72-year-old man in 1838 leaving something as personal and practical as his bed and bedding to his 5-year-old granddaughter who was born out of wedlock. To me, it speaks of protection and safety – no matter what happens, she would always have a bed to sleep in.
The only other specific article mentioned in Richard’s will was his watch, which was given to Jonathan Pillage Rider and Robert Herwood “to be valued and divided between them”. I find that very curious – why not just give the watch to one person? The only way to divide it between the two is to sell it and share the proceeds. Usually a watch is something to be passed down, not to be sold. So while Richard’s will gave me some answers, it also left me with a question. And I’m okay with that. It’s the questions that keep me exploring my family history.
This week’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge is “Invite to Dinner”. Well, who better to invite to dinner than my 2nd great grandfather, Samuel Prowse. Not only would he be likely to bring some delicious food, what with being an exporter of fish, lobster and agricultural produce from Prince Edward Island, I’m sure he could also be counted on for some scintillating political conversation. Samuel was in politics for over 30 years, including 13 years in the Canadian Senate (and unlike a more recent senator from Prince Edward Island, he actually lived there).
Samuel Prowse was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in August 1835. He was the 6th of William Prowse and Agnes Rider‘s 7 children. William and Agnes had emigrated from Devon, England in the mid-1820s, with their son Joseph in tow (their first son, Richard, having lived only a month). They had 5 more children after they settled in Charlottetown.
Samuel married Eliza Elizabeth Willis on October 17, 1856. Eliza was born in Wiltshire, England in 1834 and had immigrated to Prince Edward Island with her family at the age of 8. Samuel and Eliza had two children in Charlottetown – Frederick in 1857 and Albert (my great-grandfather) in 1858. In 1859, the family moved to Murray Harbour, PEI, where Samuel went into business. Eliza died 3 weeks after giving birth to their first daughter, also named Eliza Elizabeth, in February 1860. Tragically, the baby only lived for a few months, and son Frederick died a couple of years later, at the age of 6.
A year after the Eliza’s death, Samuel married her older sister, Louisa Jane Willis. He had two more children with Louisa – William, b. 1862 and Samuel, b. 1869.
Samuel’s business, first Prowse and Son and later, when William joined the business, Prowse and Sons, flourished in Murray Harbour and became a major employer in the region. In addition to a operating General Store, Prowse & Sons exported dried fish, canned lobster and agricultural produce. The business included a starch factory that used local potatoes to produce starch, a lumberyard, and even a can factory, where employees made cans throughout the winter for use during the next canning season.
In addition to his successful commercial ventures, Samuel also had a long political career. He first entered politics in 1867, at the age of 32, when he was elected to the PEI Legislative Assembly. He was defeated in the 1873 election, but then was re-elected in 1876. He remained in the PEI legislature (except for a brief period in 1882 when he was defeated in the general election and then re-elected in a bye-election the same year) until Sept. 14, 1889, when he was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Sir John A. MacDonald. He remained in the Senate until his death in 1902.
He also advocated on behalf of the Lobster Packers and Fishermen Association. At a meeting on December 31, 1890, Hon. Senator Prowse was thanked for his “services in the interest of the packers and lobster fishermen of this Province in presenting our case to the Department at Ottawa, working indefatigably to have the Government recognize the reasonable demands of the packers and fishermen.” (The Guardian, Charlottetown, December 31, 1890, Pg 2)
As a symbol of his success and status, Samuel Prowse had a substantial home built in Murray Harbour around 1875. The house remains a prominent landmark in the village of Murray Harbour, and has been identified as one of Canada’s Historic Places. This house was owned by three generations of Prowses -Samuel, his son Albert (my great grandfather), and his son Gerald (my great uncle) before being sold.
Samuel died on January 14, 1902 and was buried in the Murray Harbour Old Cemetery.
Senator Samuel Prowse was the first ancestor that I got to know, and one of the easiest to research. It all started in the mid-late 1970s when my family was contacted by Vernon Hargrave, a distant cousin who was researching my 3rd great grandfather, James Willis (father of Samuel’s wives Eliza and Louisa). In 1980, we received a 180-page, typewritten, photocopied, spiral-bound history of the Willis family that included lots of information on Samuel. Almost 30 years later, I came upon it again while going through a box of photos and documents at my mother’s, and it was a great starting point for researching Samuel (and the rest of the family). I’m amazed at how much information Vernon was able to gather in a pre-internet age.
The best thing about having a politician ancestor is that they’re easy to find. How I wish I could find this much information about some of the others!