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O'Brien Family

  • Family

Thomas O'Brien was the first O'Brien to arrive at L'anse au Loup, Labrador from Bonavista, Bonavista Bay in the late 1850's. He married Margaret Hogan from St. John's and had four children. Following Margaret's death, Thomas married Elizabeth Ann Barney of L'anse au Loup and they had five children. The O'Brien family has since continued for many generations.

O'Mara family

  • Family
  • 1835-1925

John O'Mara (1806-1867), merchant, office holder, was born in Waterford, Ireland, in 1806 and settled in Newfoundland. On 3 November 1831, he married Mary Allen (1813-1854), daughter of Mary (Shannon) and Michael Allen, who owned the St. John's farm known as Allen Dale. The O'Maras had twelve children. He died on 28 July 1867, and was buried in Belvedere cemetery.

O'Mara's business interests were diverse, and included general merchandise, shipping and the seal fishery. O'Mara was active in the Liberal party, and held several offices, including commissioner of roads for St. John's (1847), health warden (1847), and Roman Catholic Central Board of Education trustee(1853). O'Mara was also active in the Benevolent Irish Society (BIS).

David William O'Mara (1846-1884), magistrate, was born in St. John's in July 1846, son of Mary (Allen) and John O'Mara. He married Mary Elizabeth Geddes in 1875; they had seven children. He died at Ferryland on 31 August 1884.

After completing his education in St. John's, O'Mara studied law in Dublin, Ireland. He was appointed justice of the peace for Ferryland District in 1873, and served as justice and stipendiary magistrate for Ferryland, where he resided until his death. O'Mara also served as the returning officer for the 1878 general election.

John Thomas O'Mara (1851-1893), pharmacist, was born in St. John's, son of Mary (Allen) and John O'Mara. He married Mary Josephine Murphy (1808-1879); they had eleven children. John O'Mara died on 26 May 1893.

O'Mara apprenticed under the Scottish pharmacist, Thomas McMurdo. In 1874, he established his own pharmacy on east Water Street, St. John's, reportedly the first pharmacy opened by a native Newfoundlander. The pharmacy was lost in the Great Fire of 1892. O'Mara immediately reopened his business in his wholesale warehouse on King's Road; he later relocated to Rawlin's Cross. O'Mara was active in the BIS and was the first native Newfoundlander to be elected president of the Society.

Peter Alban O'Mara (1881-1964), pharmacist, was born in St. John's, son of Mary Elizabeth (Geddes) and David William O'Mara. He married Margaret Feehan Cooney; they had ten children. He died on 30 December 1964.

In 1906, O'Mara acquired the West End Drugstore, located on Water Street West, St. John's, and expanded the premises in 1908. The building is now a pharmacy museum, Apothecary Hall, which also houses the Newfoundland Pharmaceutical Association Archives. O'Mara was a member of the Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, City Club and BIS.

Oke (family)

  • Family
  • 1833-1968

The Oke family documented in the fonds are the descendents of lighthouse builder and inspector Robert Oke, an English immigrant who had initially been employed at Burin by the Slade mercantile firm. The Oke family established several family businesses in Harbour Grace and in St. John's.

William Robert Oke (1833-1894), son of Robert Oake, established Oke's Carriage Factory and Undertaking Rooms in Harbour Grace in 1856; the business was relocated to Duckworth Street, St. John's. Four of Oke's sons were involved in the business: Robert Kammay, John Carnell, William Carnell, and Edward Landgon; the name of the firm was changed to William R. Oke & Sons, Builders (1885) to reflect their involvement. William R. Oke & Sons constructed carraiges, wheelbarrows, cartwheels and caskets.

Following the St. John's Great Fire (1892), the factory, which was uninsured, was completely destroyed. A son, John Carnell Oke, reestablished the business on Prescott Street as John C. Oke & Sons, later renamed Oke's Carriage Factory (ca. 1900). Gordon Jeans Oke, son of J.C. Oke, entered the business as a partner in 1906 and assumed full control of the firm in 1931.

After World War II, the Oke family phased out carriage production, although the coffin factory remained in operation until 1968. In 1968, following 62 years in the trade, Gordon Oke retired and the business closed.

Peyton (family)

  • Family
  • 1749-

The Peyton family played a prominent role in the early European settlement of Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland, and particularly within the bay and river of Exploits. Three generations of the Peyton family are represented in the fonds: John Sr. (1749-1829), John Jr. (1793-1879), and Thomas (1828-1912).

John Peyton Sr., fisherman, trapper and trader, was born in Christchurch, Hampshire in 1749. He married Anne Galton of Wimborne Minster, Dorset and they had two children, John and Susan. He died in Newfoundland in 1829 and was buried on Exploits Burnt Island.

Peyton arrived in Newfoundland in 1770 with Captain George Cartwright. He established himself as a furrier and salmonier in the Exploits bay and River region, but these activities brought him into conflict with the aboriginal Beothuk. Peyton is alleged to have behaved brutally toward the then dwindling tribe, taking violent reprisals against them for pilfering his salmon stations and fishing premises. In 1812 he brought his nineteen year old son John to Newfoundland and took him into his partnership.

John Peyton Jr., civic official, trader and magistrate, was born in Christchurch, Hampshire, in 1793, the son of John and Anne (Galton) Peyton. He married Eleanor Mahoney of Exploits Burnt Island (formerly of Carbonear) on 21 February 1823 and they had six children: Ann, John Henry, Thomas, Elias, James, and a child who died in infancy. John Jr. died on 25 July 1879 and was interred in the family plot on Exploits Burnt Island.

John Jr. was raised and educated in Wimborne Minster, Dorset. He was employed for three years as a clerk at Somerset House, London. In 1812 his father brought him to Newfoundland where he became established in managing the salmon and furring business along the Exploits River, and in cod fishing and shipbuilding in the Bay of Exploits.

In 1818 John Jr.was appointed the first justice of the peace for northern Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador. In 1832 he was commissioned to conduct the first recorded census of the Twillingate and Fogo district. He conducted another census in 1836. That year he was also made a stipendiary magistrate for the region. At this stage he moved with his family to reside in Twillingate, while maintaining his salmon fishing rights on the Exploits River.

In marked contrast to his father, John Peyton Jr. is noted for his efforts to establish friendly relations with the Beothuks. He is especially remembered for sheltering and protecting Shawnadithit, the last known survivor of the Beothuk, at his home in Exploits Burnt Island. He is also renowned for his long service as a justice, magistrate and prominent public servant in Notre Dame Bay.

Thomas Peyton, fisherman, civil servant, magistrate and member of the House of Assembly, was born at Exploits Burnt Island, Notre Dame Bay in 1828, the second son of John Jr. and Eleanor (Mahoney) Peyton. He married Ann Pearce of Twillingate. He died in 1912 at Twillingate.

As a young man Thomas managed the family salmon fishery on the Exploits River. He was later employed as deputy land surveyor in the geological survey of Newfoundland by Alexander Murray and was subsequently appointed as a fishery warden on rivers in Notre Dame Bay. He served as a justice of the peace and as a magistrate. Thomas Peyton became the Liberal member in the House of Assembly (MHA) for Twillingate 1889-93.

Like his father, Thomas Peyton was a distinguished public servant in the Twillingate district. He was credited with the discovery in 1875 of copper deposits in Green Bay which became the Hall's Bay Mines at Springdale. Peyton has also been recognized for his efforts to conserve salmon stocks.

Rennie family

  • Family
  • 1812-

William Frederick Rennie (1812-1902), miller and civil servant, was born in Scotland in 1812, son of David Stuart Rennie, merchant and senior partner with Rennie, Stuart & Co. (located at St. John's). Rennie was the stepbrother of William Epps Cormack (1796-1868), who made the first journey across Newfoundland. He married Caroline Broom Williams (d. Circa 1840) in 1835; they had three children: David, Mary, Caroline; he married Catherine Thorburn McNab in 1842; they had eleven children: Helen (1843-1922), Frederick W. (1845-1932), James Gower (b. 1847), Emma Hoyles (b.1850), Jean Catherine (b. 1852), Archibald McNab (d. 1920), Robert John (b. 1856), Jessie McNab (b. 1858), John Bowring (b. 1861), Hugh William Hoyles (1863-1932), Andrew Bogle (b. 1865). Rennie died at St. John's 5 February 1902.

Rennie was educated at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities. In 1832, Rennie, along with his brother James, relocated to Newfoundland and established a flour mill on Rennie's River, St. John's. In 1848, the mill was leased to a local Scottish farmer, and Rennie entered the civil service.

Saunders-Sweetman (family)

  • Family
  • 1744-

Saunders & Sweetman, an Irish-based mercantile company, was involved primarily in the Newfoundland fish trade, with headquarters in Poole, Waterford, and Placentia, Newfoundland. Like many businesses of its time, the corporate ties in the Saunders & Sweetman firm were reflected in marriages between heirs.

Saunders & Sweetman originated in a business established at Placentia, Newfoundland circa 1753 by Richard Welsh, New Ross, Ireland. William Saunders (17? -1788), a resident of Bideford, Devon, became involved with the Newfoundland trade as a clerk in the employ of Welsh. By 1744 Saunders was living in Newfoundland, where he leased pasture at Point Verde. Saunders eventually became managing agent for Welsh's firm at Placentia. Saunders also married one of Welsh's daughters.

Following the death of Welsh and his son, Saunders, as son-in-law, received a partial inheritance. By 1772, he had established his own firm, William Saunders and Co., with premises at Poole and Placentia. By 1786, William Saunders and Co. had become one of the most prosperous businesses in the Newfoundland trade and the leading mercantile house in Poole, with several ocean-going vessels, a presence in a dozen southern European fish markets, and Newfoundland premises at Great and Little Placentia, Point Verde, Paradise, and Marticott Island. Saunders also had a farm at Brule. The firm traded for provisions with Qu‚bec merchants and with New England merchants via Marmaduke Hart, St. John's.

After William Saunders' death (1788), his younger brother Thomas entered into partnership with Pierce Sweetman (fl. 1770-1841), formerly employed by William Saunders as agent at Placentia. Pierce Sweetman, a Catholic, was the son of Roger Sweetman, who had married one of Richard Welsh's three daughters. The firm became known as Saunders and Sweetman. The business expanded its connections to the markets of southern Europe, especially Bilboa and Oporto, facilitated by the close cultural and religious links between Catholic Iberia and Ireland. The company hired hundreds of men yearly from southeastern Irish ports to work in the Newfoundland fishery. Many families living in the Placentia area today attribute their presence to the firm's recruitment activities.

When Thomas Saunders died (1808), the business dissolved and the firm's holdings were advertised for sale. The Sweetmans acquired the property and continued operations on their own. By now, Pierce's brother Michael was in charge at Placentia. Pierce Sweetman settled in Waterford, but continued to direct company affairs from there. In 1813, Pierce sent his son Roger to Placentia to revitalize operations.

In the 1820s, Pierce Sweetman began outfitting vessels for the annual seal hunt, an enterprise hitherto prosecuted mostly by St. John's concerns and firms on the northeast coast in closer proximity to the seal herds. In 1841, Pierce Sweetman died and the business passed to son Roger.

Roger Sweetman continued the trade, despite increasing competition from local firms. The firm remained a major mercantile presence on the south coast and parts of the southern Avalon peninsula, although the migratory fishery was replaced by the resident fishery and few servants from Ireland were required at Placentia. The firm finally terminated operations in 1862, with the death of Roger F. Sweetman.

The Saunders and Sweetman family were an extremely successful family business, outlasting most of their English and Irish contemporaries in the trade. Their activities also illustrated a religious cooperation unusual among interest groups involved in the Newfoundland trade, as the Sweetmans were prominent Catholics and the Saunders, respected Anglicans.

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