Want to know something fun about me? You do?! Terrific – I had a feeling you would. So here it is: I love, love, LOVE (yes, all caps) receiving parcels in the mail. Absolutely, unabashedly, unequivocally love it. I haven’t a clue why, just do. Anyway, I’d been going through a bit of a dry spell on the mail front recently, a dry spell that ended last Wednesday when what to my wondering eyes should appear, under my name at the post office, all the way from East Sussex in jolly ol’ England, but this stunning specimen of the Island’s photographic history. (Yes, I bought myself something to end my drought. Don’t judge me.)
Isn’t it a beauty? I’m positively thrilled to be adding it to my collection.
What you’re looking at, in very nearly its actual size, is a studio portrait of Thomas Heath Haviland, Sr. (seated, obviously). Born in Circencester, England in April 1795 (or 1796), Haviland came to the Island in 1816, and it wasn’t long before a driving ambition took him into the colony’s political arena. He very quickly established himself as what you would call a mover and a shaker – to the preeminenth degree – especially in the days before the dawn of responsible government. In a career that spanned three decades, from 1823 to 1858, he held a whole host of positions at various levels within government, had his hands in a number of pies, and was even involved in a couple of scandals – all par for the course, really, for someone of his stature during that period.
You’re probably wondering when this photograph was taken, and on that I can’t give you anything concrete; however, I’d hazard that it was captured sometime around 1860, possibly as early as the late 1850s. I found it on eBay, and according to the listing it purportedly came from an album belonging to the Haviland family. At the moment, that’s all I really know of its provenance, but when time permits I plan on digging a bit deeper. What I can tell you, though, is that at the time this portrait was taken, Haviland was serving as the second mayor of Charlottetown, which became an incorporated city in 1855. He’d been elected to the post in 1857, and served in said capacity until his death, of kidney disease, ten years later in 1867.
Standing next to Haviland in the photograph is his second wife, widow Amelia Janetta Emslie (née Boyd). The two were wed in January 1848. It was by his first wife, Jane Rebecca Brecken (d.1839) that he fathered his children, one of whom, his only son and namesake, wouldn’t do too shabby for himself, either. Thomas Heath Haviland, Jr. (1822-1895) was truly a chip off the old block. He would follow his father into politics, likewise serving as mayor of Charlottetown (1886-1893), in addition to sitting in the legislative assembly, the Canadian senate, and as the Island’s sixteenth Lieutenant Governor (1879-1884). He also ranks among the Fathers of Confederation. Now I don’t know about you, but I just made myself a cup of tea, popped some toast, and posted this, so I’m also doing pretty well for myself I think…
Anyway, for a concisely detailed account of Haviland Sr.’s life (is that an oxymoron?), check out his entry in the Canadian Dictionary of Biography courtesy of Ian Ross Robertson.
PEI History Guy
P.S. – A prominent man needs a prominent house, and if you’re at all familiar with Charlottetown, no doubt you’ve marvelled at Haviland’s abode. Fairholm, a Picturesque-style villa, was constructed in 1838/39 and sits at the corner of Prince and Fitzroy. Today it’s an inn, and as of 1992 a National Historic Site.