Berry, Sir John
|Culture: European - English|
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Sir John Berry was born in 1635 in North Devon, England. His father was an Anglican minister. The Berrys lost much of their money during the English Civil War. John and his older brother took jobs at sea after their father died in 1652. For John, this was to lead to a career in the Royal Navy. He died in 1689 or 1690 in Portsmouth, England.
A Job in the Navy
John Berry joined the Royal Navy in 1663. Just two years later he was commanding ships. In 1672, King Charles II of England knighted John for his bravery in battle. After this, he was known as Sir John Berry.
Settlers Ordered to Leave
Some merchants in the West Country, who were involved in the Newfoundland fishery, didn't like having settlers in Newfoundland. They said the settlers were bad for the fishery. In 1675, they convinced the English government to remove them from the Island. As Naval Commodore in Newfoundland that year, it was John's job to tell all the settlers between Bonavista and Cape Race to leave.
Sir John Berry's Report
Sir John saw the settlers as hardworking. He saw the migratory fishermen tearing down fishing stages and causing problems. He felt that making the settlers leave was wrong. In 1675, he made two reports to the British government. He told them what he saw and said that many of the settlers were too poor to afford the trip back to England. He felt that they would have to leave good wages to return to England where they would have to rely upon charity. Several of the settlers wrote reports that agreed with John.
Sir John ordered a census of Newfoundland. In 1675, the census showed that 1,655 settlers were living in about 28 settlements. Most of these lived on the coast between Bonavista and Trepassey. It was because of Sir John Berry, and other people who spoke out, that the decision to remove the settlers was changed.
Sir John had nothing to gain from helping the settlers. He did not earn money or fame from his actions but he played a very important role in saving the settlements on the English Shore. For his lifetime of good work, Sir John Berry was named a commissioner for Virginia in 1677. He later commanded forces in some major naval battles.