CULL, HENRY, businessman, seigneur, militia officer, inventor, and jp; b. 1753 in Dorset, England; d. 8 Jan. 1833 in North Hatley, Lower Canada.
Henry Cull was the youngest in a family of ten children, several of whom had careers in the Royal Navy. He was trained for business, and for some years he worked in a London concern. He then emigrated to North America. The date of his arrival at Quebec is unknown, but in 1784 the Quebec Gazette mentions that a consignment of assorted goods (fabrics, leather trunks, etc.) had arrived for Henry Cull, a merchant on Rue Saint-Pierre. The records of the Anglican church at Quebec also indicate that he was the father of an illegitimate child, Louis, baptized on 17 June 1787. From 1788 the transactions he signed in the presence of a notary and the advertisements he placed in the Quebec Gazette furnish evidence of sustained business activity. Among other things he acted as agent for Dickinson and Lloyd, a London firm involved in the manufacture of cotton goods.
Cull seems to have fitted well into the Quebec merchant group; with others he signed several petitions to promote the group’s economic interests or to oppose various laws limiting their autonomy, while at the same time he swore fidelity to the Constitution of 1791. He also took part in the community life of Quebec, being an active member of the Fire Society, an ensign and then lieutenant in the Quebec Battalion of British Militia, and a juror, particularly in the famous trial of David McLane* for high treason in 1797. Moreover, he supported the creation there of a non-sectarian university, in which languages and sciences would be taught. Cull was also associated with the invention of a machine for hulling barley that he put into operation in his workshops in the faubourg Saint-Roch in 1796. His properties were valued that year at £1,000; they consisted of a potash factory equipped with a mill and some kilns, a workshop for producing linseed oil, and a bakery, house, and stable.
In May 1798 Cull made a will bequeathing all his belongings to one of his natural sons, George Irwin, “aged about nine months and a half” At the same time he named William Vondenvelden* his executor, rented his properties in the faubourg Saint-Roch to Moses Hart*, a merchant from Trois-Rivières, and announced that he was leaving the colony. The next month he sailed for England, along with the clerk of the Executive Council, Herman Witsius Ryland*. But during the crossing the ship encountered the French privateer Gironde, and Cull was taken prisoner by Captain E. Cazalès. On 26 August Ryland, who had reached England, requested the British authorities to exchange Cull for some of the Gironde’s junior officers. Cull was released, spent some time in Great Britain, and then returned to Lower Canada.
In 1799, after bad business transactions in the Baie des Chaleurs region, Cull tried to set up a triangular trade with the West Indies and England in order to rebuild his fortune; he planned to sell wood and flour in exchange for rum and slaves. This undertaking, however, does not seem to have met with the success he had anticipated, since in 1801 Cull was short of liquid assets and had to sell the seigneury of Bic, which he had owned since 1791. After these failures he contemplated launching into land speculation, hoping to make more in a short time “than in ten years in the common routine of business with four times the sum.”
Following the opening of the Eastern Townships to settlement in 1792, Cull saw an opportunity to carry out his plans. Together with Captain Ebenezer Hovey he formed an association of 33 members which on 25 March 1803 obtained a grant of 23,493 acres in the new township of Hatley. Cull received 1,200 acres through letters patent. In conformity with the system of township leader and associates [see Samuel Gale] he repurchased from some of his associates 1,000 of the 1,200 acres that had been granted each of them, paying the symbolic sum of 5 shillings. By 1805 he had increased his holdings to 4,200 acres. Cull thus became the owner of the fine lands along the Rivière Massawippi at its source and on Lac Tomifobi (Massawippi) at both ends, where North Hatley and Ayer’s Cliff are now located. He seems, however, to have lacked discernment in choosing the site of his farm, which he laid out on the west side of the lake. According to chronicler Benjamin F. Hubbard, “the greater part of his farm proved to be wet and cold, and was the poorest land in the township.” Clearly, Cull’s priorities were not in agriculture. The numerous transactions recorded in the minute-book of notary William Ritchie, of Sherbrooke, as well as a holograph will dated 13 Aug. 1827, reveal that the Quebec merchant had become a land speculator.
Cull, who had owned 4,200 acres in Hatley Township, left only 1,200 to his heirs; thus he had sold five-sevenths of his original property. On the other hand, the known transactions show that he speculated on at least 5,500 acres in Hatley. His speculative activity was evidently on a large scale, particularly since it extended beyond Hatley. He also bequeathed 2,800 acres in Auckland Township and 1,400 in Tring Township to his children. These lands were less valuable: in 1857 the heirs sold the British American Land Company 1,600 acres in Auckland for a mere £40, whereas in 1835 they had received £50 from the company for 400 acres in Hatley. Although Cull was not, according to Jean-Chrysostome Langelier, one of the biggest landowners in the region, the North Hatley pioneer certainly profited from the golden age of land speculation in the Eastern Townships.
Cull took an active part in the community life of Hatley Township. He supported the Anglican mission at North Hatley and was one of the founders of the parish established in 1822 at Charleston (Hatley). He gave the settlers access to his personal library, 500 volumes of English literature and ancient and modern history. From 1807 he was a justice of the peace in the District of Montreal. On 2 April 1808 he was named lieutenant-colonel of the 3rd Townships Militia Battalion, which during the War of 1812 incorporated under its command the 14 companies from the townships of Stanstead, Hatley, and Barnston.
Henry Cull had married Elizabeth McMillan, who died on 1 Dec. 1814, and he was the father of six legitimate children born between 1803 and 1813. Of the four surviving him, three lived at Fairfax, Vt. Only George, who inherited his father’s farm, ended his days in Canada. With the exception of his daughter, George’s descendants also emigrated to the United States. The family’s story thus gives some idea of the movement of people in the border regions of Canada even before the industrial era.
ANQ-E, T11-501. ANQ-Q, CN1-256, 5 avril 1788; 5 janv., 9, 11 juill. 1792; 23 mai 1796; CN1-262, 30 mai 1798. BE, Stanstead (Stanstead Plain), Reg. B, 8, nos.2942–45, 2992, 2995; 10, no.47. EEC-Q, 26–29, 30b, 53. PAC, MG 23, GIII, 13. Quebec Gazette, 1784–1822. Sherbrooke Gazette and Eastern Townships Advertiser (Sherbrooke, Que.), 1832–57. Illustrated atlas of Eastern Townships. Langelier, Liste des terrains concédés, 15–17, 1013–14. Christie, Hist. of L.C. (1848–55), 1: 183. Albert Gravel, Les Cantons de l’Est ([Sherbrooke], 1938). B. F. Hubbard, Forests and clearings; the history of Stanstead County, province of Quebec, with sketches of more than five hundred families, ed. John Lawrence (Montreal, 1874; repr. 1963), 77–78, 284–85.
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Cite This Article
Andrée Désilets, “CULL, HENRY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cull_henry_6E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Andrée Désilets|
|Title of Article:||CULL, HENRY|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1987|
|Year of revision:||1987|
|Access Date:||June 1, 2023|