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LEWELLIN, JOHN LEWELLIN, farmer, land agent, politician, and author; b. c. 1781 in Wales; m. Mary Woodley, and they had four sons and two daughters; d. 16 April 1857 in Murray Harbour, P.E.I.

John Lewellin Lewellin had farmed for 16 years in England before he immigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1824 from Wiltshire. He was a friend of John Cambridge*, who had returned to Britain some ten years previously and who was the largest landowner on the Island. Before Lewellin left England, Cambridge and another proprietor, Laurence Sulivan, named him as their agent in the colony. The two proprietors owned a total of 13 lots of some 20,000 acres each, most of which were in the eastern part of the Island. Lewellin established himself at a farm on Lot 61 that he called Woodley Grove, and travelled extensively throughout the district in the course of his duties.

Lewellin ran for the House of Assembly in a by-election for Georgetown in 1827 against James Bardin Palmer*, a lawyer from Charlottetown, but lost by one vote. When the assembly met the following year, however, Palmer was prevented from taking his seat by the other members because of allegations that he had illegally oppressed a group of tenants through his activities in the Court of Chancery, and another by-election was called for June. Palmer contested the seat once again, and although Lewellin was reluctant to run against someone he saw as a promoter of the colony’s agricultural interests, he finally agreed to oppose him and won by eight votes to seven. Lewellin sat for the two remaining sessions of the assembly and exhibited a concern for the commerce and industry of the Island, but he did not offer at the next election in 1830.

During a trip to England in December 1826 Lewellin had begun work on a pamphlet for emigrants concerning agriculture on the Island. His wish to have the work published in England before he left the following spring went unfulfilled. In 1828, when Lieutenant Governor John Ready* offered a prize for a “Manual of Agriculture,” Lewellin solicited suggestions and additional information for a revised version of his manuscript, but there is no indication he submitted it for the prize. The competition was put into the hands of the Central Agricultural Society in 1832, and at the general meeting that year Lewellin presented the manuscript which was considered by a committee with a view towards publication. But when the work appeared later the same year under the title Emigration; Prince Edward Island: a brief but faithful account of this fine colony, it was not with the society’s assistance, but by subscription. The volume was unfavourably reviewed in the British American, and the inability of the society to publish a “Husbandman’s Manual” was noted in James Douglas Haszard*’s Royal Gazette as being a “miserable failure.”

Lewellin’s pamphlet contains the usual elements of an emigration tract of the period. He stresses the advantages of the colony – “Verily, this is a good poor man’s country!” – but is critical of the lack of industry shown by its residents. Indeed, Emigration has a moralizing tone throughout. Even though two English editions followed the initial publication on the Island in 1832, Lewellin was better known during the period for his other contribution to the agricultural literature of the colony.

Almost from the time of his arrival he was an active contributor to the local press. Over his pen-name, Rusticus, appeared lengthy and detailed articles and letters on agricultural topics ranging from the cultivation of flax to the establishment of a “farm seminary.” Lewellin’s early writings coincided with Ready’s efforts to promote agricultural societies. The lieutenant governor suggested the advantages they would bring in his throne speech in 1827, and Lewellin attempted to form one in Three Rivers (the region around Georgetown) within the year, but it was not until 1831 that the Eastern Agricultural Society was founded. The Central Agricultural Society in Charlottetown also benefited from his efforts. In 1837 the society’s secretary, Peter Macgowan, cited Lewellin as “the only person in the Colony capable of discharging the duties of a leading member of an Agricultural Society,” and stated that he had been instrumental in the success of the organization. As a result the society made Lewellin an assistant vice-president and honorary correspondent.

Lewellin’s writings, both Emigration and the newspaper articles, reflect his enthusiasm and optimism for the future of the colony. He was, however, far from being an ordinary farmer. As an agent he was placed in a superior position and probably carried on his own farming efforts as a supplement to his income. He was thus free to experiment in agriculture and no doubt used some of the improved methods of farming and stock-raising that he advocated in his writings. Although it is difficult to quantify the contributions made by Lewellin, his activity, at a time when agriculture on the Island changed from subsistence farming to the major industry, probably had a significant effect. He was also interested in the development of the colony’s fisheries, but in spite of his promotion they continued to be neglected by the Islanders, and left to the Americans who flocked to the area each summer.

H. T. Holman and Basil Greenhill

John Lewellin Lewellin is the author of Emigration; Prince Edward Island: a brief but faithful account of this fine colony . . . ; published first in Charlottetown in 1832 by James Douglas Haszard, it was reissued in London in 1833 and again in 1834. The original Charlottetown edition was republished with an introduction by D. C. Harvey* in his collection Journeys to the Island of St. John or Prince Edward Island, 1755–1832 (Toronto, 1955), 175–213.

PAPEI, RG 16, Land registry records, conveyance reg., liber 31: f.250; liber 33: f.653; RG 18, 1841, Lot 61. P.E.I. Museum, File information concerning J. L. Lewellin. British American (Charlottetown), 9, 30 March 1833 (available at PAPEI). Examiner (Charlottetown), 4 May 1857. Islander, 22 Jan. 1847, 1 May 1857. Prince Edward Island Register, 29 May 1824; 15 July 1825; 21 Aug. 1827; 5, 12, 19 Feb., 2, 10, 24 June 1828; 24 Nov. 1829. Royal Gazette (Charlottetown), 12 Oct. 1830, 6 March 1832, 21 Jan. 1834, 17 Jan. 1837, 1l March 1845, 25 March 1846. Elinor Vass, “The agricultural societies of Prince Edward Island,” Island Magazine (Charlottetown), no.7 (fall–winter 1979): 31–37.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

H. T. Holman and Basil Greenhill, “LEWELLIN, JOHN LEWELLIN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 21, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lewellin_john_lewellin_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lewellin_john_lewellin_8E.html
Author of Article: H. T. Holman and Basil Greenhill
Title of Article: LEWELLIN, JOHN LEWELLIN
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: October 21, 2014