Home Floriculture - John Henry Gates

John Henry Gates


John Henry Gates (1825-1918)

John Henry Gates was born in London, England on 4 January 1825. He was baptised in St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street, and was the son of John Gates, a harness maker, and Margaret Thomas.

UPEI’s Provenance copy of Home Floriculture. A Practical Guide to the treatment of Flowering and Other Ornamental Plants in the House and Garden by Eben E. Rexford, and published in 1903, includes a rather detailed description of John’s origins:

John Henry Gates
Born at Water Street
Blackfriars Street
City of London
Jany 4th 1825

In 1830, John, Margaret, and 5 year old John Henry, immigrated to Canada. They settled in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

John Henry married Martha Ann Chappelle, daughter of Theophilus Chappelle and Dorothea Bovyer of Charlottetown. They were wed on 19 August 1847, in St. Paul’s Church in Charlottetown.

Two years later, after the birth of his first child, Sophia (b. 11 March 1949), John Henry decided to take a leap towards fortune by heading to California to take advantage of the Gold Rush. He joined the forty-six Islanders who sailed on the Brig “Fanny” which departed from the Pownal Wharf, Charlottetown, on 12 November 1849.

For John Henry’s wife, Martha Ann, it must have been an emotional day. She was a new mother to 8 month old Sophia and would have watched the sailing of the Fanny with some trepidation. Both her husband and her brother (Theophilus Chappell) were on the ship.

John Henry and Theophilus were two of forty investors who purchased the Brig Fanny for 4000 pounds from James Peake. They would have paid 100 pounds each to join the California Association.

In the 1964 Charlottetown Guardian article by Neil A. Matheson, reference is made to the diary of one of the Brig Fanny passengers, Edward Bright Love:

Extensive preparations, the old diary said, included houses, “framed to take with us”, tin for tinsmiths, iron and coal for the blacksmiths, tools for the tradesmen and 5000 feet of pine boards. Food included a great quantitiy of “very stale, tasteless bread, plenty of inferior beef, pork, potatoes, butter, rice, tea, sugar, coffee, raisins, meal, lime juice, and two bottles of ‘so called’ brandy”. There was an instrument for pulling teeth- there was no freezing of gums in those days- spears, harpoons, and hooks to catch dolphins and sharks.

The diary of investor, Edward Love, gives an account of Christmas day, 1849, on the ship:

25. Tuesday. Christmas very warm and calm; saw a school of porpoises, and they came down upon us like race-horses and surrounded the brig in no time. We were trying to harpoon some of them but could not. Shortly after caught a young shark; we had him for our dinner. The galley took fire but was soon put out.

John Henry got involved in the preparation of Christmas dinner that warm and calm Christmas day. One of the ship-mates, Stephen McCallum, wrote his memories of the voyage which was published in the Evening Patriot as a serial in 1892. Excerpts from that account can be found in the 1978 Spring-Summer edition of The Island Magazine. According to McCallum’s account:

One day our cooks served up for dinner some pieces of a small shark, of whose eating qualities we thought very little. We had a very different opinion of several cans of preserved milk brought out by Mr. John H. Gates to help make sauce for our Christmas pudding.

They stopped at Bahai, on their way to California, in search of fruit and provisions but according to Stephen MacCallum’s account they spent only one night before making haste to leave: “[We] had been warned by the British Consul of the great risk we ran by remaining in the Bay, as people were dying by hundreds of Yellow Fever”.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, California in June 1850, 7 ½ months after their departure, they sold the Brig and remaining cargo. The funds were divvied up amongst the investors and each went their own way. San Francisco was struck with cholera, at the time, and the Captain of the Fanny, Captain A. Campbell Irving, died as a result. Many, who survived, opted not to stay. Some headed to Australia, where rumours of gold were prevalent. One those to head to Australia, was John’s brother-in-law Theophilus Chappell.

Of the forty-six that left PEI, it is said only eight returned. John Henry was one of those men. Seven others are known to us: Malcolm Duncan McGowan/McGougan, Edward Bright Love, James Colledge Pope, Edward Moore, George Moore, Stephen Bovyer and John Hawkins (who returned 27 years after leaving). In the years that followed, the men who returned where locally known as “fortyniners”.

John Henry returned to his wife and daughter in PEI around 1852, and subsequently six more children were born to the family. After Sophia Caroline (b.1849), came Henry Sylvanus (b.1853), Margaret Alma (b.1855), John Theophilus (b.1856), Benjamin Franklin (b.1858), Frederick William (b.1860), and Arthur (b.1862).

Eventually, Gates settled in West Royalty and his name is connected closely to the grist/flour mill located on Lower Malpeque Road. The mill was called Mayflower Mill, but locally was often referred to as Gates Mill. A house was built on the property in 1870, and it still stands today at 110 Lower Malpeque Road. In 1883, John Henry placed a for sale notice regarding the property in the Examiner, but it appears not to have sold as it is still in the family hands by 1906. That year, the Examiner noted that Frank Gates (John Henry’s son) purchased a modern milling roller system from Pennsylvania to be used in the mill. You can read more about it in the Historic Places website.

John's wife, Martha Anne Chappell Gates, died on 16 May 1893. On 30 October 1895 widower John (age 70) married widower Jane Rebecca Currie (maiden name Hodgson).

In 1911, John, age 87, and Jane, age 72, were living at 28 Longworth Avenue in Charlottetown, PEI with their servant John Hugher.

John Henry Gates died at the age of 94 on 2 August 1918. His wife, Jane, died six years later on 10 May 1924.

In an article, after his death, it is mentioned that John Henry was the last survivor of the “good ship Fanny”.


110 Lower Malpeque Road. Canada’s Historical Places. Accessed 23 November 2016.

1911 Census of Canada. Census Place: 62 - Charlottetown, Queens, Prince Edward Island; Page: 16; Family No: 178

“Centenary of Memorable Voyage of the “Fanny”. Charlottetown Guardian, 12 November 1949, p.4,14. Accessed from Islandora.ca on 15 November 2016.

England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

Island Voices… Lloyd Gates interview.

“Laid to Rest”, Charlottetown Guardian, 6 August 1918, p.5. Accessed from Island Newspapers on 14 November 2016.

Master Name Card Index, PARO PEI, CHAPPELL, Sherwood, Lot No 33, Cemetery No 4, Stone No 818.

Matheson, Neil A. “Old Voyage Recalled Round Horn in 1869” [typo title should have read: 1849]. Charlottetown Guardian, 8 May 1964, p.2. Accessed from Islandora on 15 November 2016.

Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Offices. RG19, Series 3, Subseries 4: Marriage Licenses, 1895

Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Offices. RG19/s2/ss6: Death Registration Books, 1913-1919, p.323, entry number 13023.

Prince Edward Island Public Archives and Record Offices. RG19/s2/ss6: Death Registration Books, 1924, entry number 688.

The Descendants of John Gates and Margaret Thomas Accessed on 14 November 2016.

“The Voyage of the Fanny”, The Island Magazine, Spring-Summer 1978, No.4, p.9-14.

“The Voyage of the Brig Fanny: Extracts from the Diary of the late E. Love”, Charlottetown Guardian, 10 March 1906. Accessed from Island Newspapers on 21 November 2016.


Some information was provided by Dennis Taylor, second great nephew of Martha Anne Chappell.

Subscribe to John Henry Gates RSS feed