JEWITT, John (1783-1821)




Author Tags: 1800-1850, Alcohol, Essentials 2010, First Nations, Forts and Fur

“John ... be my slave. You say no, dagger come!”
—Chief Maquinna to John Jewitt, 1803

“My heart leapt for joy at the thought of getting my liberty.”
—John Jewitt, 1805

[ABOUT THE PHOTOS: John Rodgers Jewitt forged some of the earliest axes and ironworks made on the North Pacific coast. For the inaugural meeting of the descendents of Jewitt and Maquinna at the Vancouver Museum on October 29, 1987--184 years after the capture--the museum made available a dagger that was forged by Jewitt for Chief Maquinna during his captivity. Later, in 2003, John R. Jewitt (at left), a sixth-generation descendant of John Rodgers Jewitt, traveled to Yuquot on the west side of Vancouver Island to again meet Mike Maquinna (at right), a descendant of Chief Maquinna, to mark the 200th anniversary of their forefathers' meeting. Alan Twigg photo. ALSO SHOWN: Playbill of theatrical presentation in Philadelphia, 1817.]

QUICK REFERENCE VERSION:

The most famous book of pre-Confederation British Columbia recalls how one of two survivors of a massacre in 1803, John Jewitt, a 19-year-old American blacksmith or “armourer,” remained in captivity for nearly three years with the Mowachaht (Nuu-chah-nulth) on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Jewitt’s original 48-page journal from 1807 was expanded and rewritten by Richard Alsop in 1815. The enhanced version has been in print ever since, now known as The Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt.

After a voyage of six months’ duration, the Boston anchored five miles north of Friendly Cove (Nootka Sound) on March 12, 1803. The following day, Maquinna, the ‘tyee’ of the nearby Yuquot settlement, led a flotilla of canoes to visit the Boston, greeting Captain John Salter in English. It is not known whether the chief who greeted Salter was the same Maquinna (an hereditary title) who had met Captain James Cook in 1778, but he understood far more English than Salter realized. Ostensibly to avenge a verbal insult (as Jewitt contends), Maquinna revisited the Boston and invited half of Salter’s men to go ashore to catch salmon. The Mowachaht then attacked and killed 25 crewmembers of the Boston, including Salter. Jewitt was severely injured and took refuge below deck. John Thompson, a sailmaker, hid in the hold and was found the following day. Maquinna had observed Jewitt at his forge and recognized his value as a blacksmith. Jewitt had to promise to be a good slave and make Maquinna weapons and tools. Jewitt saved Thompson, twenty years his senior, by telling Maquinna that Thompson was his father. After Jewitt was asked to identify the severed heads of his former shipmates—something Alsop might have invented—the ship was ransacked and burned.

Jewitt supposedly began a journal on June 1 by boiling and filtering a blend of plant and berry juices with powdered coal. While Thompson remained estranged from their captors, Jewitt was adopted into the tribe. After a feast of herring spawn and oil, Jewitt chose a young wife, the daughter of Upquesta, a chief. According to Jewitt/Alsop, an affectionate relationship with Eu-stoch-ee-exqua ensued. Jewitt bided his time until July 19, 1805, when another trading brig, the Lydia, approached Friendly Cove. Other Nuu-chah-nulth advised Maquinna against boarding the ship; whereas Jewitt advised Maquinna it would be safe. Jewitt wrote a note to Captain Hill of the Lydia and duped Maquinna into delivering it. His message begged Hill to invite Maquinna aboard, capture him, and demand the release of Thompson and himself. Jewitt and Thompson were successfully traded for Maquinna.

A Journal Kept At Nootka Sound was printed by Jewitt soon after the Lydia returned to Boston, via China. Hartford merchant Richard Alsop overcame Jewitt’s “small capacity as an narrator” by conducting several interviews with Jewitt to embellish his rudimentary version, using Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as his literary model. Alsop’s ghost-written A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt... etc. referred to Jewitt as the lone survivor of the massacre. It was better for sales.

[John Jewitt was not the first white man to reside in British Columbia for more than a year. That distinction belongs to John MacKay, an assistant “surgeon” on the fur trading brig Captain Cook, under Captain Strange, that reached Nootka Sound in 1786. To learn the local language and therefore gain an advantage in future trading, MacKay volunteered to remain as Chief Maquinna’s guest at Yuquot and Tahsis from the summer of 1786 to the autumn of 1787. See abcbookworld.com entry for MacKay, also sometimes spelled MacKey.]


FULL VERSION OF JEWITT ENTRY

By far the most famous first-hand, written account of early relations between Euroamericans and Aboriginals in British Columbia is John Jewitt’s memoir of his nearly three years in captivity on the west coast of Vancouver Island from 1803 to 1805. Jewitt, a blacksmith, was one of two survivors of a massacre in 1803. His Robinson Crusoe-like chronicle of “white slavery” has reputedly never been out of print since he self-published a 48-page version in 1807. By 1931, only seven copies of Jewitt’s original edition were known to exist, worth more than $25,000 each. A later version that became popular was enhanced and edited by Richard Alsop.

Born on May 21, 1783, John Rodgers Jewitt was the son of Edward Jewitt, a blacksmith in Lincolnshire, England, who wanted his son to further his education and become a surgeon. When his father moved his business to the seaport of Hull, John Jewitt heard tales of the sea and signed on as the armourer on the Boston, an American sailing ship that left England and rounded Cape Horn for what was then called Vancouver’s Island to participate in the emerging China-based trade for sea otter skins.

After a favourable voyage of six months’ duration, the Boston anchored five miles north of Friendly Cove (Nootka Sound) on March 12, 1803. The following day, Maquinna, the ‘tyee’ or chief of the nearby Yuquot settlement, led a flotilla of canoes to visit the Boston, greeting Captain John Salter in English. Maquinna undoubtedly had mixed feelings about Salter’s arrival. While his tribe’s relations with Spanish Captain Martínez had proved problematic, and Captain Tawnington and his men had ransacked his village eighteen years before, Maquinna’s people had nonetheless benefitted by establishing Friendly Cove as the hub of the sea otter fur trade on the West Coast.

It is not known for certain whether the chief that greeted Salter was the same leader named Maquinna who had met Captain James Cook in 1778 (or if he was a successor who had inherited the hereditary title), but it’s certain Maquinna understood far more English than Salter realized. Salter’s under-estimation of Maquinna’s pride and intelligence would soon have lethal consequences.

At first, the two sides traded amicably, exchanging gifts in the process. Salter gave Maquinna a double-barrelled fowling piece. The following day Maquinna reciprocated with a gift of 18 wild ducks. Trouble arose only when Maquinna had difficulty with the new gun he had received. When its lock jammed, Maquinna announced it was bad and needed repair. In Maquinna’s presence, Salter spoke disparagingly about Maquinna, failing to appreciate that Maquinna fully understood the insult. The rifle was given to John Jewitt for repairs.

Jewitt later wrote, “Unfortunately he [Maquinna] understood but too well the meaning of the reproachful terms that the captain addressed to him. He said not a word in reply, but his countenance sufficiently expressed the rage he felt though he exerted himself to suppress it. I observed him, while the captain was speaking, repeatedly put his hand to his throat and rub it upon his bosom, which he afterwards told me was to keep down his heart, which was rising into his throat and choking him.”

The insult was avenged on the following day. Maquinna revisited the Boston and invited half of Salter’s men to go ashore to catch salmon. Upon Maquinna’s signal, the Mowachaht then attacked and killed 25 crewmembers of the Boston, including Salter. They accidentally spared only Jewitt, who was injured and took refuge below deck, and John Thompson, a sailmaker, who hid in the hold during the attack and was found the following day.

Maquinna had observed Jewitt at his forge and recognized his value as a blacksmith. When Jewitt was revived, he had to promise to be a good slave and to make Maquinna weapons and tools. Jewitt successfully negotiated for the life of the other survivor, Thompson, who was twenty years his senior, by telling Maquinna that Thompson was his father. After Jewitt was asked to identify the severed heads of his former shipmates, the ship was ransacked and burned.

Thompson, from Philadelphia, remained bitter and violent, but Jewitt set about to endear himself and learn the language. “I had determined from the first of my capture to adopt a conciliating conduct towards them,” Jewitt recalled, “and conform myself, as far as was in my power, to their customs, and mode of thinking, trusting that the same divine goodness that had rescued me from death, would not always suffer me to languish in captivity among these heathens.”

Jewitt, who turned twenty years old on May 21, 1803, managed to salvage a blank book from the Boston, and was encouraged by the illiterate Thompson to commence a journal. As he explained, “Thompson became very importunate for me to begin my journal, and as I had no ink, proposed to cut his finger to supply me with blood for the purpose whenever I should want it.”

Jewitt began his journal on June 1 by boiling and filtering a blend of plant and berry juices with powdered coal. “I at length succeeded in obtaining a very tolerable ink, by boiling the juice of the blackberry with a mixture of finely powdered charcoal, and filtering it through a cloth,” he wrote. “As for quills, I found no difficulty in procuring them whenever I wanted, from the crows and ravens with which the beach was almost always covered, attracted by the offal of whales, seals, etc., and which were so tame that I could easily kill them with stones, while a large clam-shell furnished me with an inkstand.”

Although his writing was extensively doctored by an editor, Jewitt’s reportage provided some of the first, extensive observations of how the Nuu-chah-nulth lived from day to day. He also provided detailed and mainly favourable impressions of his captor, Maquinna, who became his friend. By establishing himself as an intermediary or ‘wholesaler’ for the other tribes, sometimes playing the English off against the Spanish, Maquinna had become the most powerful chief in his area. Jewitt found him impressive. “He was dressed in a large mantle or cloak of the black sea-otter skin, which reached to his knees, and was fastened around his middle by a broad belt of the cloth of the country, wrought or painted with figures of several colours; this dress was by no means unbecoming, but, on the contrary, had an air of savage magnificence.”

While Thompson remained estranged from his captors, Jewitt helped Maquinna improve his facility with English, he made knives and fish hooks for other chiefs, and he gave ornaments to their wives and children. In particular, Jewitt gained the favour of Maquinna’s wife, and Maquinna’s eleven-year-old boy also doted on him. In return, Jewitt was adopted into the tribe and taken by Maquinna to select a wife of his choosing.

After a feast of herring spawn and oil, Jewitt chose “a young girl of about seventeen, the daughter of Upquesta, chief.” Her name was given by Jewitt as Eu-stoch-ee-exqua. After much speechifying and bargaining between Maquinna and Upquesta, Jewitt received his bride the following morning.

Another feast ensued at Maquinna’s village where Jewitt was instructed that no sexual intercourse could occur for the next ten days. Jewitt, Eu-stoch-ee-exqua, Thompson and Maquinna’s young son Sat-sat-sok-sis were thereafter accorded a separate apartment in part of Maquinna’s house.

It is apparent from Jewitt’s favourable description of Eu-stoch-ee-exqua that an affectionate relationship ensued. “I found my Indian princess both amiable and intelligent,” he wrote. “She would indeed have been considered as very pretty in any country, and, excepting Maquinna’s queen, was by far the handsomest of any of their women.”

Although Jewitt likely had a child by Eu-stoch-ee-exqua, he refrained from describing this relationship, likely out of deference to his New England (post-Puritan) readership, and professed some reluctance to submit to the marriage.

Jewitt was accorded four slaves after he participated in a successful surprise attack on the village of Ayshart 50 miles to the south during which approximately six hundred warriors in forty canoes obliterated their opposition, taking many slaves and ruthlessly murdering the weak, elderly and wounded. Although Maquinna was considerate of Jewitt’s health, he also advised him that he would be killed if he was ever caught trying to escape. According to Jewitt, Maquinna claimed he had killed six refugees from the American ship Manchester, ramming stones down their throats after they had tried to escape from his village.

Jewitt bided his time until July 19, 1805, when another trading brig, the Lydia, approached Friendly Cove. The captain of the Lydia, Captain Samuel Hill, had been alerted to the presence of the two English captives held by Maquinna by a friendly chief to the north. Jewitt hastily wrote a note to Captain Hill and duped Maquinna into delivering it. His message begged Hill to invite Maquinna aboard, capture him, and demand the release of Thompson and himself. When other Nuu-chah-nulth advised Maquinna against boarding the ship, Maquinna asked Jewitt for advice and he naturally suggested it would be safe. After the captain supplied Maquinna with an alcoholic drink, Maquinna was held at gunpoint. Following much agitation ashore, Jewitt and Thompson were successfully traded for Maquinna. The captain also persuaded the Mowachaht to return all items that had been taken from the Boston two years earlier. Oddly, Maquinna and Jewitt parted as friends, with Maquinna—according to Jewitt—inviting him to return.

Maquinna’s motives for his retribution against the Boston and for keeping Jewitt at his side remain a matter for conjecture. The historian Robin A. Fisher and others have suggested the waning of the fur trade at Nootka Sound had damaged Maquinna’s prestige among his people. According to Jewitt, Maquinna was sometimes criticized and threatened by his own people who resented the diminishment of trade with foreigners. Although Maquinna once held a potlatch at which he was able to distribute two hundred muskets and seven barrels of gunpowder, access to European commodities had greatly decreased. Chief Wickaninish’s offer to purchase Jewitt from Maquinna was declined partially because Maquinna wanted Jewitt available as an intermediary if another trading ship arrived.

The Lydia left for China in August and did not reach its home port of Boston until the middle of 1807. A Journal Kept At Nootka Sound by John R. Jewitt was released that same year. Having accepted an Aboriginal wife at Nootka, Jewitt married Hester Jones on Christmas Day, 1809.

Jewitt’s literary fame was not extensive until his narrative caught the attention of wealthy Hartford merchant Richard Alsop, known as one of the Connecticut Wits. Recognizing the commercial value of Jewitt’s slim tale, Alsop in 1815 overcame Jewitt’s “small capacity as an narrator” by conducting several interviews with Jewitt to embellish his rudimentary version. By using Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as his literary model, Alsop extensively rewrote Jewitt’s original account and republished it at Middletown, Connecticut, as A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt... etc. The new title of the ghost-written version refers to Jewitt as the lone survivor of the massacre of his crewmates when in fact Jewitt was one of two men spared.

As the “proprietor” of this work rather than its author, Jewitt applied for a copyright of the enhanced version, printed by Loomis & Richardson, on March 8, 1815. On that same day Jewitt copyrighted a song as its “proprietor,” printed as a broadside, entitled The Poor Armourer Boy, A Song. He or Alsop had evidently mimicked a sea song of the parlour variety for his melodramatic text with rhyming couplets.

Jewitt set out in earnest to publicize the new Alsop version of his tale, peddling copies from town to town in a one-horse wagon. Alsop’s expanded version provided “A list of words in the Nootkian Language, the most in use.” At least 20 versions of this revised journal have appeared since 1815. An 1896 edition provided notes on Vancouver Island history and some added reminiscences by explorer Robert Brown.

Alsop began to regret his partnership with Jewitt after Jewitt set about selling his book and derivative broadside as far north as Maine and as far south as Maryland. With the assistance of successful playwright James Nelson Barker of Philadelphia, Jewitt appeared in a theatrical version of his ordeal that premiered on March 21, 1817. Entitled Armourer’s Escape: Or Three Years at Nootka Sound, this ‘Melo Drama, founded on the interesting narrative of Mr. John Jewitt’, concluded with a rendition of The Song of the Armourer Boy, a song sung by and supposedly written by John Jewitt. It was performed after Jewitt had performed an Indian war song in the language of the Nootkas. Jewitt's song bemoans his woeful state, and makes few direct references to his experiences, so it might have been penned by Alsop. The tune has not survived, just the lyrics, which can be found in Philip J. Thomas' Songs of the Pacific Northwest.

No copy of this play has ever surfaced. There are no known reviews. The play ran for three successive nights, but evening revenues at the Philadelphia Theatre were less than encouraging. Jewitt continued to perform in his Nootka costume but his star flickered and his health waned. In an era when acting professionally was deemed less than respectable, his wife once wrote to him saying she would rather learn he was dead than hear he was “being at the theatre.” The itinerant showman and book salesman eventually returned to his wife and children in Middletown. He died in obscurity in Hartford, Connecticut, on January 7, 1821.

The original Jewitt journal of 1807 was reprinted in 1931 by Charles E. Goodspeed & Company in Boston. The University of British Columbia has digitized Jewitt’s 1807 A Journal Kept at Nootka Sound and the later Narrative version. The American Memory collection of the Library of Congress provides scanned pages from the original 1815 edition. Jewitt would doubtless be pleased to know a movie is forever in the works.

John Jewitt was not the first white man to reside in British Columbia for more than a year. That distinction belongs to an Irish-born, Bombay soldier who served as the assistant "surgeon" on a fur trading ship that reached Nootka Sound in 1786. After falling ill, this man, named John MacKay, volunteered to remain as Chief Maquinna’s guest at Yuquot and Tahsis from the summer of 1786 to the autumn of 1787.

[For other authors *as of 2010* with books pertaining to British Columbia published or written between 1800 and 1850, see abcbookworld entries for Banks, Charles A.; Barneby, William Henry; Belcher, Edward; Blanchet, Francis; Bowes, Gordon Emerson; Brink, Nicky L.; Burley, David; Burley, Edith I.; Corney, Peter; Cox, Ross; Cullen, Mary K.; Evans, Elwood; Fleurieu, Charles; Franchère, Gabriel; Gibson, James R.; Horetzky, Charles; Irving, Washington; Jessett, Thomas E.; Johnson-Dean, Christina B.; Langsdorff, George H. Von; Mofras, Eugene Duflot (de); Patterson, Samuel; Reynolds, Stephen; Ridley, William; Rodney, William; Roquefeuil, Camille (de); Ross, Alexander; Wallace, J.N. (James Nevin); Wilkes, Charles; Woollen, William Watson.]


BOOKS:

Jewitt, John. A Journal, Kept at Nootka Sound by John Rodgers Jewitt, One of the Surviving Crew of the Ship Boston, of Boston, John Salter, Commander, Who Was Massacred on the 22d of March, 1803; Interspersed with Some Account of the Natives, Their Manners and Customs. (Boston, Massachusetts: Printed for the author, 1807). 48 pp.

Jewitt, John. A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, Only Survivor of the Ship Boston, During A Captivity Of Nearly Three Years Among The Savages Of Nootka Sound, With An Account Of The Manners, Mode Of Living And Religious Opinions Of The Natives; Embellished With A Plate Representing The Ship In Possession Of The Savages. (Middletown, Connecticut: Loomis & Richards, 1815). 203 pp. Richard Alsop, uncredited editor.

Jewitt, John. A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, Only Survivor of the Ship Boston, During A Captivity Of Nearly Three Years Among The Savages Of Nootka Sound, With An Account Of The Manners, Mode Of Living And Religious Opinions Of The Natives; Embellished With A Plate Representing The Ship In Possession Of The Savages. (Middletown, Connecticut: S. Richards, 1815). 204 pp. Richard Alsop, uncredited editor.

Additional printings in New York (1815?, 1816), London (1816, 1820), Edinburgh (A. Constable, 1824), New York (1832?, 1835, 1837, 1840), Philadelphia (1841), New York (1849, 1851), Philadelphia (1854, 1861, 1869), London (Clement Wilson, 1896, with notes by Robert Brown), Leipzig (1928), Stuttgart (1954).

Jewitt, John. A narrative of the adventures and sufferings of John R. Jewitt: only survivor of the ship Boston during a captivity of nearly three years among the Indians of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living and religious opinions of the natives. Ed. Richard Alsop (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1816.)

Jewitt, John. The Captive of Nootka: Or The Adventures of John R. Jewett (New York: J.P. Peaslee, 1835). [As adapted by American children's author Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860)]

Jewitt, John. A Journal Kept at Nootka Sound (Boston Goodspeed Press, 1931). [A reprint of Jewitt's original 1807 version]

Jewitt, John. Narrative of the adventures and sufferings of John R. Jewitt: only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound (Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1967). Includes reproduction of t.p. of original ed., New York, [1815?] "Written by Richard Alsop after personal interviews with Jewitt." "The later life of John R. Jewitt," by Edmond S. Meany: p. [1]-[18] Includes bibliographical references.

Jewitt, John. The Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, Captive Among the Nootka, 1803-05 (McClelland & Stewart, 1974).

Jewitt, John. The Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, Captive of Maquinna (Douglas & McIntyre, 1987, 1995). [Adapted by Hilary Stewart]

ALSO:

Broadus, Eleanor Hammond. John Jewitt: The Captive of the Nootka (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1928). 32 p.

Born in 1899, Doris Shannon Garst wrote a young adult novel about the life and times of John Jewitt called John Jewitt's Adventure (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1955).

Margaret Anderson of Langley, B.C. self-published a 100-page historical novel, Cwan The Armourer (Langley: Jorgen Larsen's Bookbinding, 1990) ISBN 9694336-0-3.

[BCBW 2010] "Chinook"

John Jewitt's Escape (1805)
Excerpt



July 1. Fine and clear weather. Went to prayer hoping that some good captain would come and release us.
2. This day arrived a canoe from Cheek-ash-lizaits with the news that a tribe of Indians a great way to the northward of Nootka had attempted to cut off a ship; but the crew being apprehensive of their design prevented it with the loss of ten men. The natives told us that the captain and officers were killed, and that the ship fired upon the village and knocked down their houses. We are very much disheartened, no canoe from Clar-zarts with a letter.
3. This day a canoe set out to the northward with a letter which I hope will fall into some Christian hands.
4. Thompson employed making a sail for a canoe; myself making fish hooks.
5. Arrived a canoe from Esquates with fish oil for our chief.
6. This day arrived canoes from Clar-zarts with nine skins, three large baskets of an excellent fruit, called by the natives Quarnosse, and two hundred gallons of fish oil.
7. Our chief has now about fifty prime skins. The season is very late to what it was last year, there being but little fruit ripe at this time.
8. Went to prayers for our release.
9. Employed washing our cloathing; invited to eat dried clams and fish oil.
10. This day arrived a canoe from the New-chat-laits with beads for our chief.
11. This day returned the natives by whom I sent a letter a week ago. They returned the letter and told me they were afraid to give it to a ship.
12. This day I went a fishing with our chief in a canoe, caught four salmon and returned.
13. Employed fishing with our chief; caught five salmon.
14. We are pleased at seeing the chiefs brought so low as to be obligated themselves to go a fishing.
15. Employed as usual; arrived a canoe from Al-tiz-arts with four skins for our chief.
16. This day I was employed making harpoons for our chief as he expects that there will soon be a ship to release us; he wants a quantity of harpoons made beforehand.
17. Employed making chissels for our chief to make canoes with.
18. Fine and clear weather; natives fishing.
19. This day I was engaged in making chissels as usual. At nine o'clock A. M. the natives were alarmed at seeing a brig [a ship] in the offing. Our chief came and told me to leave my work and go with him to look at the brig. I accordingly went and saw her bearing up for Nootka; my heart leapt for joy at the thought of getting my liberty. The chief sent off a canoe on board of which I put a letter with information that there was no danger in coming into the cove. The canoe brought me an answer by which I learnt that it was the brig Lydia of Boston, Samuel Hill, commander, and that he was coming in. He arrived at twelve o'clock and came to anchor, but not running far enough into the cove drifted out again, and went down the sound to look for anchorage. All the natives endeavoured to persuade or chief not to go on board, for they said that the captain would confine him until Thompson and myself were released. I appeared to be very contented [with the natives' advice to Maquinna], being afraid that the natives would be suspicious of my anxiousness to go on board. The brig gave us a salute of three guns, which we returned from the shore. Our chief then came and asked me if he had best go on board, and told me that the whole village had been endeavouring to persuade him not to go, saying that the captain would confine him. I told him to go on board, that the captain would treat him well, and he accordingly went, taking with him three prime skins as a present, and a recommendation, which he wished me to give him.—When he got on board the captain took him into the cabin, treated him with spiritous liquor and told him that he should not go on shore until the two white men came on board.—Two of the people stood over him with a brace of pistols and a cutlass; the brig was standing off shore. The captain then sent the canoe with the news that the chief was confined, and that he wished us to come up immediately.—The natives were in very great confusion, crying and running up and down the village, saying that their chief was a slave to the whites, and that I had told the captain in my letter to confine the chief. But I knew while the chief was kept on board, I should be safe for they durst [dare] not hurt me on that account. They sent me off in a canoe, telling me that the chief must come ashore as soon as I got on board. And I promised them he should. When I got near the brig the natives in the canoe were in doubt about letting me go on board and called out for their chief. But the captain looked over the quarter[deck] and told them to come alongside or he would fire at them, for he was determined that I should not go back again. They then put us on board, and the captain was glad to see me, and I of course was very happy at being released. He took me into the cabin and showed me to our old chief, who appeared to be much pleased at seeing me. After I had acquainted the captain with every particular respecting the capture of the ship Boston, I gave him an account of every thing that was ashore in the possession of the chief, such as skins and what was saved from the ship's cargo. The captain made him send for them, and told him he should not go on shore until every thing was brought on board. After the goods were brought off, the chief was released, and the brig immediately took her departure from Nootka.

The Names of the crew of the ship Boston are as follows:
MR. JOHN SALTER, of Boston, America, Captain.
MR. B. DELOTISA, of Boston, Chief Mate.
MR. WILLIAM INGRAHAM, of New York, Second Mate.
EDWARD THOMPSON, of Blyth in the North of England, Boatswain.
ADAM SIDDLE, of Hull, Yorkshire, Carpenter.
PHILIP BROWN, of Cambridge, near Boston, Joiner.
JOHN DERTHY, of Seituate, near Boston, Blacksmith.
ABRAHAM WATERS, of Philadelphia, Steward.
FRANCIS DUFFIELD, of Penton, England, Tailor.
JOHN WILSON, (Black) of Virginia, Cook.
WILLIAM CALDWELL, of Boston.
JOSEPH MINOR, of Newburyport.
JUPITER SENEGAL, (Black).
FRANCIS MARTIN, a Portuguese.
WILLIAM ROBINSON, of Leigh, Scotland.
ANDREW KELLY, of Air, Scotland.
THOMAS WILLSON, of Air, Scotland.
ROBERT BURTON, of Isle of Man, England.
JAMES MCCLAY, of Dublin, Ireland.
THOMAS PLATTIN, of Blakeny, Norfolk, England.
THOMAS NEWTON, of Hull, Yorkshire, England.
CHARLES BATES, St. James Deeping, Lincolnshire, England.
PETER ALSTON, Norway.
SAMUEL WOOD, Glasgow, Scotland.
JOHN HALL, Newcastle, England, Seamen,
all of whom were massacred by the natives.
JOHN THOMPSON, of Philadelphia, Sailmaker and Gunner, and myself are the only persons of the crew who escaped this horrid butchery.



The Adventures and Suffering of John R. Jewitt (D&M 1995) by Hilary Stewart
Article



The most notorious account of the early relations between Europeans and Indians on the West Coast is John Jewitt’s memoir of his two years as Nuu-chah-nulth Chief Maquinna’s slave at Nootka Sound on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The Adventures and Suffering of John Jewitt has never been out of print.

Chief Maquinna was the most powerful chief known to the Europeans in the late 18th century. He met Captain Cook in 1778 and later hosted the negotiations between Captains Vancouver and Quadra who represented the interests of England and Spain in 1792.

Born on May 21, 1783, John Jewitt was the son of a Lincolnshire blacksmith who wanted his son to become a surgeon. In the seaport of Hull, John Jewitt heard tales of the sea and signed on as the armourer, or blacksmith, on the Boston, a sailing ship that arrived at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound on March 12, 1803.

Trading was undertaken amicably until Captain Salter of the Boston insulted Chief Maquinna on March 21. Salter had given Maquinna a gift of a double-barrelled rifle. When its lock jammed, Maquinna announced it was bad and needed repair. Salter, not realizing the extent to which Maquinna understood English, cursed Maquinna and gave the rifle to Jewitt for repairs.

Jewitt later recorded the incident. “I observed him, while the captain was speaking, repeatedly put his hand to his throat and rub it upon his bosom, which he afterwards told me was to keep down his heart, which was rising into his throat and choking him.”

The following day the local Nuu-chah-nulth Indians took revenge. After coming aboard the Boston for a feast, they suddenly attacked and killed 25 crewmembers. John Thompson, a sailmaker, hid during the attack and was found the following day. Jewitt was struck unconscious early in the struggle and was accidentally spared.

Maquinna had observed Jewitt at his forge and recognized his value. When Jewitt revived, he had to promise to be a good slave and to make Maquinna weapons and tools. Jewitt negotiated for the life of the other survivor, Thompson, who was 20 years his senior, by telling Maquinna that Thompson was his father.

Jewitt was asked to identify the severed heads of his 25 former shipmates. The two captives were not treated harshly. Thompson, from Philadelphia, remained bitter and violent, but Jewitt set about to endear himself and learn the language.

Jewitt forged the first axes and ironworks made on the North Pacific coast. He also kept a daily journal that provided mainly favourable impressions of his captor, Maquinna. “He was dressed in a large mantle or cloak of the black sea-otter skin, which reached to his knees, and was fastened around his middle by a broad belt of the cloth of the country, wrought or painted with figures of several colours; this dress was by no means unbecoming, but, on the contrary, had an air of savage magnificence.”

On July 19, 1805, another trading brig, Lydia, approached Friendly Cove, also known as Yuquot. Jewitt hastily wrote a note to its captain detailing the murders and his slavery, begging the captain to invite Maquinna aboard, capture him and demand the release of Thompson and himself. The Nootkas were advising Maquinna against going aboard the ship. Maquinna asked Jewitt for advice. Jewitt said it would be safe.

After the captain supplied Maquinna with an alcoholic drink, Maquinna was held at gunpoint. After much agitation ashore, Jewitt and Thompson were swapped for Maquinna. The captain also persuaded the Indians to return all items that had been taken from the Boston two years earlier.

Jewitt sailed on the Lydia to New England. The release of his journal temporarily gained him celebrity status. He died in obscurity in Hartford, Connecticut in 1821.

In 2003, John R. Jewitt, a sixth-generation descendant of John Jewitt, traveled to Yuquot on the east side of Vancouver Island to meet with Mike Maquinna, a descendant of Maquinna, to mark the 200th anniversary of their forefathers’ meeting. The two men had already met on October 29, 1987 at the Vancouver Maritime Museum, 184 years after the capture, at which time the museum made available a dagger that was made by Jewitt for Chief Maquinna during his captivity. The Adventures and Suffering of John R. Jewitt (D&M 1995) by Hilary Stewart 155054408X

[BCBW Winter 2003]