Perley, Moses Henry (DNB00)

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PERLEY, MOSES HENRY (1804–1862), Canadian commercial pioneer and man of science, was son of Moses and Mary Perley, who were cousins. They came of an old Welsh family which settled in 1630 in Massachusetts. This son, born in Mauger Ville, New Brunswick, on 31 Dec. 1804, was educated at St. John. In 1828 he became an attorney, and in 1830 was called to the bar; but his tastes took him to outdoor life, and he went into the milling and lumbering (i.e. timber-cutting) business. Active in efforts for attracting capital into New Brunswick, and in advertising the capabilities of the province, he was appointed commissioner of Indian affairs and emigration officer. In this capacity he made several tours among the Indians, the first of which began in June 1841, and took him through the territory of the Melicete and Micmac Indians. The Micmacs at Burnt Creek Point elected him head chief. In 1846 Perley was chosen to report on the capabilities of the country along a projected line of railway. In 1847 he was sent on a mission to England in connection with this proposal. On his return he commenced that series of explorations among the fisheries of New Brunswick with which his name is chiefly associated. In 1849 he reported on those of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; in August 1850 he was appointed to inquire into the sea and river fisheries of New Brunswick, and devoted two months to the work, covering nine hundred miles, of which five hundred were accomplished in canoe. A year later he examined the fisheries of the Bay of Fundy. From notes made in these missions he compiled his ‘Catalogue of Fishes of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,’ 1851.

During the next two or three years he compiled the trade statistics in aid of the negotiations for a reciprocity treaty between Canada and the United States, and when, in 1854, the treaty was concluded, he was appointed a commissioner to carry out its terms.

Perley died at Forteau, Labrador, on 17 Aug. 1862, on board H.M.S. Desperate, while on an official tour. He married, in September 1829, Jane, daughter of Isaac Ketchum, and had eight children, the only survivor of whom, Henry Fullerton Perley, is now chief engineer to the Canadian government.

Perley contributed articles to many English and American periodicals, and his various reports are well written. He was a good public lecturer, was interested in literature and science, and founded the Natural History Society of New Brunswick. He was also an ardent sportsman.

His chief reports were published separately, at Frederickton, and are: 1. ‘Report on Condition of Indians of New Brunswick,’ 1846. 2. ‘Report on Forest Trees of New Brunswick,’ 1847. 3. ‘Report on Fisheries of the Bay of St. Lawrence,’ 1849. 4. ‘Report on Fisheries of Bay of Fundy,’ 1851, to which is appended the ‘Descriptive Catalogue of Fishes.’ 5. ‘Reports on the Sea and River Fisheries of New Brunswick,’ 1852. 6. ‘Handbook of Information for Emigrants to New Brunswick,’ 1856.

[Morgan's Bibliotheca Canadensis, Ottawa, 1867; Perley's works; private information.]

C. A. H.