Author Tags: 1700-1800, Haida Gwaii
One of the most obscure documents pertaining to fur trading on the B.C. coast in the 18th century is the journal of Andrew Bracey Taylor, third mate on the Prince of Wales during William Colnett’s first voyage to the Northwest Coast, 1786–1788.
As the only member of the expedition, other than Colnett, who held a commission in the Royal Navy, Taylor maintained a separate journal that now serves as a slightly more literate counterpoint to official records kept by Colnett. Taylor’s account represented in Robert M. Galois’ A Voyage to the North West Side of America: The Journals of James Colnett, 1786-89.
“Taylor was also more aware of, or paid more attention to, the world of the seamen,” Galois wrote. “Although shaped by the paternalism of command, and embodying the distinctions of class, his comments were closer to empathy than condescension.” Galois has provided frequent samples of Taylor’s hitherto unpublished journal, including the long poem of expectation that Taylor wrote about their journey to “Albions Coast.” Upon their arrival at Nootka Sound, Taylor described the visit of the first canoes and several “troublesome elderly Men,” one of whom was “a sourly fellow” who stood up and “harangued the Natives along side for near an hour without ceasing.” After some afternoon trading for “Otter and other skins,” Taylor described how many of the crew, extremely ill with scurvy, went ashore and fortified themselves with fresh air and the collecting of “a Vegetable similar to Spinach, known by the Name of fat hen!” Possibly writing with an eye towards eventual publication, Taylor records matters beyond his personal welfare.
“This evening I was Eye witness to the humanity of one of the Natives in assisting the sick over the Rocks into our Boat. He was an Elderly man and Father of a Family who had his house and occupied a small spot close to the Ship, his business was to attend the weakest of the Seamen one after the other, with great care and fellow feeling using all the tenderness and concern of a Brother or a Father to such as were able to walk without Aid. I rewarded his humanity in the best manner I was able. During my evening ramble He and his family requested me to fire a Pistol, and afterwards with permission fired one himself with great timidity & not without causing general fear for his safety throughout his Family. His Hut was filthy in extreme and everything within it, nothing can appear more wretched than a Hut containing a Nutka family. They offered me Fish, which was boiling at a wood fire, and were quite civil to all the Seamen.”
During their stay at “Barclay’s Cove,” another name for Friendly Cove or Yuquot, Taylor observed the superiority of “Maquilla” [Maquinna] who “speaks some English, and is very ready in learning he has a very good notion of singing after the English manner.” He also credits the preceding visit of Captain Barclay [Barkley] for establishing civil relations with the people of “Maquillas Village.”
The Prince of Wales proceeded to the “Charlotte Isles” and onto Alaskan waters prior to wintering in Hawaii. It returned to the B.C. coast in 1788, reaching Macao to sell its accumulation of furs on November 11, 1788. The crew proceeded to Canton before the Prince of Wales returned to London with Taylor aboard, without Captain Colnett in charge. Over-qualified for the position he held aboard the Prince of Wales, Taylor was sometimes critical of both Captain Colnett and Captain Duncan of the Princess Royal, both of whom had embarked from London in late September of 1786 for their two-vessel commercial enterprise on behalf of Richard Cadman Etches & Co.
Taylor was born sometime in the 1760s, into a naval family, and served at a young age during the American war of independence and during the siege of Gibraltar, then later in the West Indies. After the Prince of Wales reached Canton, he was appointed second mate for the final leg back to London. He was married in his hometown of Great Yarmouth on September 22, 1789. He continued to rise in rank during a varied naval career, including stints carrying British mail and passengers to Holland and the West Indies. He was briefly captured by a French privateer in March of 1799 but soon returned to service at St. Kitts in May. He died in Port Royal, Jamaica in January of 1800.
Galois, Robert M.; A Voyage to the North West Side of America: The Journals of James Colnett, 1786-89 (UBC Press, 2004).
[BCBW 2004] "1700-1800" "QCI"