With the 1814 signing of the Treaty of Ghent, the war of 1812 between Canada and the United States concluded. This pre-Confederation conflict involved British soldiers already stationed in Canada and likely fresh English replacements. John Marshall may very well have been among these as he was a British soldier, apparently a skilled carpenter by trade, who in 1815/16 came to Burin, to construct a “pre-fabricated” Roman Catholic Church, the frame of which had been cut and fitted in Nova Scotia. (Burin, 1977, p. 44) John Marshall came with the material to erect it. It was a neat, wooden structure, 50 feet long by 24 feet wide. The belfry was separate and stood about 60 feet from the church. (Burin, 1977, p. 44) 

     Now John may well have been there earlier for reasons we are not certain about, for there appears in the Dr. Keith Matthews Collection at Memorial University, a notation to the effect that on the 4th of June, 1812, a John Marshall charged a Pat Connors, who being drunk on the Sabbath, with breaking into John’s home. Being guilty, Connors was fined 40/-d. Also, John Marshall of Burin is listed as the owner and builder of the schooner, Jersey, in 1814. (Seafarers, 2014) In the Newfoundland Provincial Archives from 1815, there is a letter whereby the Catholic community in Burin arranges with Jeffrey Morris of the fish merchant firm of Jeffrey and Morris of Burin, St. John’s and Liverpool, England that the firm of James and Michael Tobin of Halifax provide material and construction for a chapel in Burin on the credit of Jeffrey and Morris. This is taken to mean that the cost of construction was to be remitted probably in codfish to Jeffrey and Morris over the next few years, not an unusual arrangement at the time. An interesting sidebar to this is that the firm of “Harrison of Poole” of Devon County, England contributed 35 pounds sterling toward the cost - quite a sum of money at the time. George Marshall, (author of this text), recalls that his father told him that their ancestors had come from Devon. Perhaps it was from Poole that they came, and it may have been in recognition of his kin in the New World that Harrison made his contribution. However, it is also interesting that John named his schooner the Jersey, did that indicate that he came from Jersey, which is the largest of the Channel Islands. 

     John Marshall remained in Burin, bought land from a Henry Butler, went into business and apparently became one of the settlement’s leading merchants, (Burin, 1977, p. 44) which might not have been too difficult given how few people were there. Perhaps an indication of his standing is that in the Heritage Museum in Burin is a most beautiful writing desk, ownership of which is attributed to John Marshall. Now a bit of license might have been taken here. Having seen a copy of John’s last will and testament (1853) in which he makes his mark “X”, indicating he couldn’t write, why he would fancy a writing desk is open to question. However perhaps we do John a disservice as in the same will he states, “that he is too weak to take up pen” and sign the documents. Perhaps in days of mostly illiterate folks, he was educated and commercially aggressive as well. Having started out as a carpenter, one also wonders if he built the desk himself. 

     Not only did John own two waterside premises, one of which was adjacent to Butler’s which was then and is now known as “Marshall’s Wharf” but he also acquired ownership of three vessels: the “Milo” and the “Nautilus” which prosecuted the seal industry for a number of years. That they were involved in the seal industry suggests that they were not inconsiderable vessels. There is a record of a John Marshall in 1825 acquiring the Mortier Bay built 36 ton “Jersey” (I assume this is the same schooner referred to earlier) rebuilt in Burin by neighbor George Butler. This is a list of the vessels attributed to John: (Seafarers, 2014) 

  1. 1814, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., farmer, planter. Schooner named Jersey, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S825047, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 64.
  2. 1820, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., trader, dealer. Schooner named William, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S837040, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 64.
  3. 1826, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., merchant. Schooner named Messenger, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S830089, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 64.
  4. 1831, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., merchant. Schooner named Jane, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S832075, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 64.
  5. 1844, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., merchant. Schooner named Reindeer, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S849011, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 64.
  6. 1844, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., merchant. Schooner named Nautilus, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S851055, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 64.
  7. 1851, owner, living in Burin, Nfld., merchant. Schooner named Milo, registered in Newfoundland. Vessel #S853047, Crew Number 1, the owner was the builder, Shares - 32. His son, Matthew Marshall, is listed as the owner of the other 32 shares and that he is Crew Number 2. 

     We see a lengthy record of John as a Justice of the Peace for the South Coast, in the Fortune Bay and Hermitage Bay areas. He is also recorded as being a “Commissioner of Roads and Bridges” for the same area in 1838 and may have been politically active in Burin in that in 1842, a John Marshall was one of a number of a group of community minded citizens who called upon Clement Benning to stand as local candidate for the Colonial Parliament to be called later that year. This and in that a number of Burin locations are prefaced with the “Marshall” name, i.e. Marshall’s Hill, Marshall’s Farm, and Marshall’s Wharf, it would seem that John firmly left his mark. 

     Most of the settlers in and about the “South Coast” of Newfoundland were of English or Irish origin with some from the Channel Islands. It is said that the English who first came and stayed were from the Southwest of England, that is Devon, Cornwall, Dorset or Somerset Counties. Indeed, much of the fish trade in that district seems to have been handled by “Spurriers of Poole” in Dorset near Bournemouth. We think then it is reasonable to conclude that it is from this area that John might have come, although this is conjecture and must be the subject of further research. 

     Shown locally on municipal maps, off Collin’s cove in Little Burin Harbour is a small island currently identified as “George’s Island”. At one time known as “Kelly’s Island” and sometimes now and in the past as “Tite’s Island, this lovely piece of ground, facing an opening to the sea, was and may still be owned by the Anglican Church and was once used as a burying ground. It is said it was also known as “Tithe’s Island”, an appropriately sounding ecclesiastical term. Here it is, on the side of a hill, that John was buried by the Anglican Faith Community on December 4th, 1853 (Church) he then being 79 years of age. The burial record indicates only the date of burial, so it is possible that John died a day earlier. George (the author) visited the site in 1996 in the company of a distant cousin, Alfred Marshall, and a local fisherman, Eugene Mayo.   On the island are many old markers, some of which Mayo, who had been born on a local island, as were his twelve brothers and sisters, said were not grave markers of local residents at all, but rather marked the final resting place of many murdered pirates, whose lives were taken by their own fellow pirates. Local lore has it that these poor chaps were killed on the spot by their fellow buccaneers and their spirits made responsible for the protection of pirate treasure buried nearby in some unknown place. That is why Mayo said people avoid the island at night, particularly if the wind is up which seems to exaggerate the unearthly howls of the floating spirits of those souls. Not withstanding his clamorous neighbors, we feel certain John rests easy. 

     That John was of the Anglican religion (Church of England) is not in doubt. It is interesting to note that a Reverend John C. A. Gathercole, the first church of England minister living in Burin was both a witness to John’s will (along with Wm. Hooper J.P.) and again with the same Mr. Hooper, an executor of his not inconsiderable estate. Rev. Gathercole also officiated at his burial service. John’s birth date is not known but we can reasonably conclude he was born in 1774, if the age at death is accurate. 

     A reliable list of Newfoundland names that we have researched, describes the MARSHALL name as being a surname of primarily England, but also of Scotland and Ireland. That reference is consistent with the text given on the Marshall Coat of Arms that claims the name to be of Norman origin. 

     When he died in 1853, John left his interest in the two schooners, the Milo and the Nautilus to his sons Matthew and Richard respectively. We know from the Marine Archives at Memorial University in St. John’s which records the transfer of registry of the Nautilus to Richard that it was a single decked schooner with two masts built in 1844 in Argentia, Newfoundland, 61 feet in length and grossing 865 tons. John also bequeathed large “stores” (fishing tackle, nets, implements, etc.) and considerable property. One section was called Marshall’s Farm and with part of Butler’s property, forms the nucleus of the present-day Penney’s Pond subdivision. Another section, the Shandy Hall Estate, included all the waterside and land known as Marshall’s Wharf. The Coady and Winter families live there now (1980’s). It is recorded that in 1831 John Marshall petitioned the King through Governor Duckworth for a grant of land. He was rewarded on the 10th of October 1835 with a grant of property at Bell’s Cove, Little Burin. From a reading of successive Marshall Wills, we believe that this property has been the site of a succession of Marshall enterprises for the past 150 years. The property is currently owned by Terrence and Mary Lou Marshall (1996). Sadly, the vessel, the Nautilus that he left to his son, Richard, was lost at Petty Harbour on New Year’s Day, 1865, with Captain Burke, his son and three of his crew. 

     As was his son, Richard, after him, John appears to have been a busy Justice of the Peace as there is a record of his performing many marriages in the District of Fortune Bay and in the unorganized territory of Hermitage Bay in the 1844-46 era. We note elsewhere that a Justice of the Peace was an unpaid, honorary position, a person selected for this situation because of his reputation, education and standing in the community. 

     Mary Houlihan (sometimes spelled Hoolihan) and John Marshall were likely married before they came to Burin in 1815. We do not know where or when this marriage actually took place. When John came to Burin, he would have been about 41 years of age and hence it is a fair assumption that he and Mary, then 33, were married earlier. Because we do not know how long he had been in Canada as a British soldier, it is even possible that they had been married in England before he was posted to Halifax. It is known that John and Mary had at least 4 children, two girls, Mary and Isabella, and two boys, Matthew and Richard (my family descends from Richard). We do not know the birth sequence, but Matthew was possibly the elder of the two boys since he is mentioned in John’s will first. Mary Houlihan died in 1848 at age 66 (five years before John) and is buried in the old Catholic Cemetery in Burin rather than on Tite’s Island with John. The inscription reads: 

Sacred to the Memory of Mary Marshall Wife of John Marshall

Who Departed This Life

August 26th 1848 A.D.

Age 66 Years 

     Frances Marshall old us that Isabella married a John Kelly and presumably stayed in Burin whereas daughter Mary appears to have married the aforesaid Mr. William Hooper and went to live in Rock Harbour, Placentia Bay. Throughout the 1833-1860 record of baptisms at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Burin, Mary Marshall appears numerous times as godmother to many children. It might well be taken that this was a sign of her esteem in the small community and in which her husband was also held. 

     This is the transcription of John’s Will, (which can be found in the Newfoundland Archives, Volume 2, Folio 165) written a few days before he died: 

"In the name of God Amen. I, John Marshall, (the elder), of Burin, Newfoundland, now suffering from great weakness of body but of sound mind and right judgment do at my death give and bequeath all my lands, tenements, fishing rooms and appurtenances thereto belonging to me in manner following, that is to say, I give to Thomas Marshall, my grandson, (son of my son, Matthew) all my premises situate on the northeast of a line drawn from the centre of the wharf, to the extreme north west side of my meadow, which will embrace the fish-store and all other buildings, erections and lands belonging to me on the north east side of said line, bounden and abutted by the property now in the possession of my son, Matthew Marshall, provided that should the said Thomas Marshall, my grandson, die before he arrives at 21 years of age, then the above bequest to revert to his father, Matthew Marshall, his heirs or assignees. 

To my grandson, John Marshall, son of Richard Marshall, I give my dwelling house and furniture thereto belonging lands, buildings and erections, situate on the Southwest side of the line before described as running from the centre of my wharf to the extreme Northwest side of my meadow -- provided that should the said, John Marshall (my grandson) die before he arrives at 21 years of age, the above bequest shall revert to his father, Richard Marshall, his heirs or assignees. 

I also give to each of my grandchildren the sum of ten pounds currency to be invested in the Savings Bank at St. John's, Newfoundland in their respective names, and to remain at interest till such time as they shall respectively attain the age of 21 years when each child shall be entitled to receive the same. Provided that should any of my grandchildren die before they arrive at the aforesaid 21 years of age, the said sums with interest, which may have arisen thereon, shall be given in equal parts to the surviving brothers and sisters of such deceased children. 

And further, I give and bequeath to my son Matthew Marshall all my interest in the Schooner "Milo" (now in his possession) together with all my right and title in the property which he now occupies and commonly known by the name as "Shandy Hall".   I also give to my son Richard Marshall, all my right and interest in the schooner "Nautilus" (now in his possession). All the residue of my property (the foregoing conditions being complied with) shall be equally divided between my two sons Matthew and Richard Marshall consisting of all monies now in my possession or anywhere invested in public securities belonging to me with all my stock in trade, chattels, goods and effects and debts due me, provided that they, my aforesaid sons, shall pay all just debts due by me. 

And lastly I appoint the Rev. J. Gathercole and William Hooper Esq., J.P, to be my true and lawful executors, to carry out the conditions of this my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my mark, being too weak of body to write my name and affix my seal this twenty-ninth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty three.                      

Signed, John Marshall (x) his mark

signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of

                       Signed, John C. Gathercole (Cl)

                               William Hooper, J.P.


Southern District


I, William Hooper of Burin, in the Southern District of Newfoundland, one of the witnesses to the foregoing will, making oath and saith, that he was personally present and did see where I shall sign by his mark, seal and deliver the said will and that he declared it to be his last will and testament.

Sworn before me at Burin the 17th day of January, 1854.

                         Signed, Edward Morris

                                 Court of Appeals

                               Burin, Newfoundland

                                 Jan 17, 1854. 

This is to certify that the matter contained on the foregoing pages of this paper is a true copy of the will of the late John Marshall, the elder, the same having been compared with the original.

                         Signed, John C.A. Gathercole

                         William Hooper, J.P.




Burin, S. C. (1977). The History of Burin (3rd ed.). Marystown: South Coast Printers Limited.

Canada, Seafarers of the Atlantic Provinces, 1789-1935. (2014). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from Ancestry.com: http://www.ancestry.com

Church, H. T. (n.d.). Burial Record. Burin, Newfoundland, Canada.


Written by George James Marshall, Jr., 1997

Updated by Patricia Balkcom, 2015