Following his release, John remained aboard the Lydia and essentially completed the trip he had originally signed up for, accompanying the crew on its trading ventures up the Northwest Coast and ultimately to Canton, China where they sold their supply of fur skins at a favorable profit. The Lydia eventually made its way back to Boston, Massachusetts in the Spring of 1807. Though in a sense he had made it “home,” remember this Boston was not the one in Lincolnshire where he was born. It was yet another new place where he would need to learn his way around. Although he was truly grateful for having been delivered back to Christian civilization (as he would put it), like a soldier coming home from war, the familiar ways must have in some sense seemed strange to him.
It is reported that he visited the owners of the former Boston, Francis and Thomas Amory, who were certainly grateful for what he was able to salvage off the ship, and it is likely they set him up in blacksmithing employment of some sort. No doubt he had earned a certain amount from his share of the China trading profits so that he could settle fairly comfortably.
We know from church records that on Christmas Day in 1809 he married Hester Jones who was 22. She had emigrated to America from Bristol, England just five years earlier. It isn’t clear how they met, but we do know that she was already pregnant with their first child. In contrast to his wedding day, John may well have been thinking of Christmas Day 1802 when the Boston rounded Cape Horn and his Pacific adventures began. At 26 John had already lived several lives. It may be for this reason, that he didn’t simply settle down into “happily ever after” mode.
The couple had three more children in quick succession and moved to the Hartford area of Connecticut. Rather than focusing on a steady job and raising a family, it turns out a good portion of John’s time and attention was occupied with getting his Journal published. It is likely that a large part of his mind was still immersed in his experiences with the Nootka people.
The story of John’s capture and rescue was well-known around the Boston area, and his Journal proved to be a popular publication. Much like today, it never hurts to get your book out there on the heels of a newsworthy event. When it came to the attention of Richard Alsop who reworked it into the Narrative, sales at $1 a copy took off... and so did John -- on a book tour. It seems the life of a published author hasn’t changed much in 200 years.
He traveled by horse and wagon with his books in tow, telling the story of his capture. The scar on his forehead where he had been wounded by the Indian’s axe added dramatic effect to his tale. His travels took him along the eastern seaboard as far as Maine and Nantucket, as well as New York and Philadelphia. By this time, he was rarely at home; and although he wrote to Hester, expressing how much he missed the family and occasionally sending money along, it is easy to imagine that a settled life with children and a steady job probably did not much appeal to John. He was determined that his life “would never be dull or boring.”
In fact, rather than wind up his book tour and return home, John’s creative side took over, and he set out to have his story turned into a play -- “The Armourer’s Escape” -- in which he performed the starring role. It was evident from his time in captivity that John had always to some extent had a theatrical bent. In Gilbert Sproat’s 1868 “Scenes and Studies of Savage Life” the Nootka described him as “a well-made youth with a mirthful countenance, who often recited and sang in his own language for the amusement of the ‘savages’ and whose dress latterly consisted of nothing but a mantle of cedar-bark.”
The Playbill that accompanied the performance describes the scenes... “Jewitt the Armourer Sings the Nootkian War Song... The Armourer is compelled to select a WIFE and chooses the Princess YUQUA... Dance of Young Nootkian Girls...” etc. One can only imagine what this theatrical production must have been like!
Links to Related Sites
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Rod Collins - Lincolnshire Thro' History, Life, Lens and Words
The Old Palace Lincoln - Elegant Bed and Breakfast
National Portrait Gallery - London
College of Arms
The Jewett Family of America
History and Geneaology of the Jewitts of America
Marvinas Bay Lodge
First Peoples of Canada