Other Points of Interest About John Cambridge

  • John and Mary Cambridge had nine children, but only four survived beyond the age of seven.1.
  • His willful personality may have affected more than just his business dealings, as Cambridge also had some issues within his family; daughter Lydia refers to a bitter family rift in a letter to a friend written after being involved in a shipwreck on his ship, the Mary in 1816:

…to what a situation has the conduct of my father exposed me, to shipwreck, and the borders of the grave! For had not two men at the risk of their own lives attempted to save me I should now have been beyond the shafts of envy and malice which have been so unsparingly aimed at me. Had I perished would not my Father and Mother have felt severe remorse? Would they not have felt they were the cause of my death? How has the late event affected my brother and sister? Has fraternal feelings for a moment prevailed? Or has the selfish principle which they have so strongly evinced made them indifferent to my fate? Be this as it may I doubt not the loss of the Mary will be severely felt by them.6.

  • Before coming to PEI, there is evidence that Cambridge made a detour to Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, where a large contingent of American loyalists landed after the Revolutionary War. The beginning of his letter book contains a ledger, with the names of several black loyalists, and what may be goods that he sold to them. We can only speculate as to what he was doing in Shelburne, but he may have gone there to try to recruit some loyalists to live in Robert Clark’s settlement at New London, or perhaps even to gage future interest for settling loyalists on his own property. If that was the case, he may have been successful; the first three families to settle in the Murray Harbour area were American Loyalists.1.
  • Although one of the main social beliefs of the Quakers was abolition of slavery, Cambridge wrote one of his London partners in an undated letter requesting he send some boys from St. Martin’s workhouse to be his indentured servants! This was in line with social policy in London at the time, where the poor were sent to work where they were told and were fed and housed, but not paid, in return for their work. He wrote:

Men are so exceeding scarce… …… we wish therefore we could get 6 or 8 boys from martin’s workhouse from 10 to 11 years of age the older the better…..

The lads to be bound till they are 21 years of age- the indentures must be very general to be employed in any kind of laboring business such as farming getting out of lumber, fishing or any mechanical business if I should think proper to employ any who had a turn for it either to a coffin carpenture, ship wright, cooperer, blacksmith...

they will be taken proper care of- with respect to food and raiment and their morals…1.

It’s unclear whether his associate ever sent over any boys, but the lack of labour at the time may have encouraged John in recruiting more settlers to lot 64, and he may have traded some land for labour.

  • Cambridge’s daughters both married into the well-respected Wright family, while his sons went on to continue with the business. Lemuel stayed on PEI but moved up to the area of Cascumpec Bay and continued to build ships. He was active in political life as well, serving in the legislature for four years, and was appointed sheriff when his father turned down the position due to his Quaker beliefs.1, 2.
  • One of Cambridge’s business associates, Thomas Owen,  named his son after Cambridge’s son Lemuel; Lemuel Cambridge Owen went on to become premier of the province (1873-1876), and in an ironic twist, he set up the Land Commission that would eliminate large land owners like Cambridge!
  • The Cambridge’s opened the first known store in Charlottetown, on land by the dock where they could keep an eye on their ships; the place where the store likely stood is commemorated with a plaque, across from the Delta Hotel on Queen Street.

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