While John R. makes his way across the Atlantic, let's pause for a moment to examine the sources for these blog posts you've been reading, because they tell as much of a tale as do the actual events of John Jewitt's life.
The original record kept by John consisted of short entries he wrote in secret using ink that he had figured out how to make himself "by boiling and filtering a blend of plant and berry juices with powered coal."
He goes on to tell us:
"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.
A large clam shell furnished me with an inkstand."
The pages of a blank book he had managed to salvage from the Boston before it was burned to the waterline by the Indians, served as his tablet.
Who knows what happened to this original handwritten document. From what I can tell, it no longer exists. But what an incredible artifact that would be; by its physical presence alone, telling its own story of one of the first in-depth encounters of a white man with one of the indigeneous cultures of the Pacific North West Coast.
What we do know is that John self-published a 48-page version of his original account in 1807. By 1931 only seven copies were known to exist, worth more than $25,000 each. That year, a limited edition of 100 copies was printed by Charles E. Goodspeed & Co. of Boston. One of these was purchased by our Dad in 1975 and the frontpiece is shown below.
Now here is where it gets interesting. A few years after publication, John's journal came to the attention of Richard Alsop, a published writer and leading member of a literary society founded at Yale University known as the Connecticut, (and later) Hartford Wits. Alsop was fascinated by the story and contacted John with a proposal to write a version that would recreate the story with a little more flair. This became the Narrative, the effects of which you can see almost immediately by the comparison of the two frontpieces as shown below. Incidentally, the copy of the Narrative dates back to about 1815 and was also obtained by our Dad.
Notice the difference in the title pages. Whereas the Journal is very short and to the point, the Narrative is, as they say, embellished. For instance, in the Journal, John is one of the survivors of the Ship Boston, which is true, he was one of two; whereas in the Narrative he is now the only survivor. "A Journal Kept At Nootka Sound During A Captivity By the Indians," now becomes a "Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings During a Captivitiy of Nearly Three Years Among the Savages of Nootka Sound." You get the drift... in the world of publicity and celebrity, not much has changed in 200 years!
To be fair, the blog posts have been quoting from the Narrative, because I too would rather share the more compelling version of the story so that it brings attention to the very real adventure John was experiencing... which tends to make you realize that all history is really just storytelling. The original event gets retold from numerous points of view and often, to fulfill different purposes. But I still think the essential elements of the event always remain the same through all the interpretations and just resonate differently depending on who is telling it.
For example, my main go-to sourcebook for information on John R. is "The Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, Captive of Maquinna - Annotated and Illustrated by Hilary Stewart." Hilary Stewart (1924 - 2014) was an accomplished artist as well as archaeologist who spent a lifetime studying the Northwest Coast Indians and honoring their culture in her many publications. She reprints the narrative version adding her own explanatory notes and drawings. Her interpretation of John's story is from an archaeologist/ethnologist and artist's point of view, the material culture being as much a testament to John's story as the story itself.
Recently, another version has been published by Rebecca Goldfield, a writer and producer of documentary films who saw in the story a graphic novel, meaning a story illustrated in a comic book style for young adults. "A young appealing protagonist just starting out in life and then caught up in larger forces... and his subsequent fight for survival, struck me as something a YA graphic audience might find of great interest," she tells the Huffington Post in a recent interview. So here we have the same story, just in another translation directed to a younger crowd. Come to find out, in 1955 Doris Shannon Garst wrote a young ault novel about John, called "John Jewitt's Adventure," and in 1990 Margaret Anderson self-published a 100-page historical novel about John entitled "Cwan The Armourer."
All of these tellings of the tale may be slightly different, but in the end they all relate an event that actually did happen and they bring a certain meaning to it. It's a big source of pride to be a descendant of the brave individual who originally recorded experiences we can all learn from. In the next few blog posts we will wrap up our own interpretation of his story and then move on to more of the stories (oops, I mean history) of our amazing family.
The Boston was a brigantine, which in the industry is defined as a two-masted square-rigged vessel. This drawing shows us exactly what that means.
The last true brigantine in the world still sailing, is the Eye of the Wind. You can see a collection of videos of the ship in action here.
It now operates as a charter vessel for passengers to enjoy a hands-on vacation/education experience. In some of the videos you can see how immensely labor-intensive sailing such a vessel could be with all of its complicated rigging, the heights scaled and the constant maintenance involved. Along with giving a vivid picture of the sailing ship itself, some of the videos are almost comical in the sense of showing us exactly what it was NOT like on this voyage.... no clean functioning toilets or gleaming state-of-the-art galley facilities... no fancy navigation electronics and no one serving hors d'oeuvres on the deck at sunset! But other than that it is the last glimpse we have of this particular kind of ship and it gives us a vivid picture of what it might have been like for John R Jewitt.
The brigantine was larger than a sloop, which was generally the more popular ship design of the time, but the brigantine could handle more cargo and was more easily maneuvered even with the added weight. This design was the result of advancements in the intensely competitve technology that enabled faster more efficient transportation of goods around the world, and meant untold wealth for those who achieved success. Not unlike the entrepreneurs of today's tech industry, these adventurers were disrupting the merchants of the slow Old World and creating new, and daring ways to "push the envelope," bypassing the old limitations in order to make everything in the world more quickly and easily connected. Then as today, there were many benefits and many consequences to follow.
It is interesting that this model of ship with its utility, along with speed and flexibility, was popular with both the merchants and pirates of the day... which begs the question: was there a difference? We will have to save that debate for some other time should we ever get around to discusssing the effects of the 19th century merchant trade industry on the environment and indigeneous populations -- among other things... but let's not put a moralistic damper on the excitement of this particular moment in time when indeed for John R. Jewitt and his fellow voyagers to the New World, everything seemed possible.
Once established in Hull, John tells us that most of the customers for his father's blacksmithing trade were American sea captains...
"from whose conversation, my father as well as myself formed the most favourable
opinon of that country, as affording an excellent field for the exertions of industry,
and a flattering prospect for the establishment of a young man in life."
There was one American in particular, Capt. John Salter of the ship Boston out of Boston, Massachusetts who had arrived in Hull and employed the services of Jewitt's shop to prepare his ship for an extended voyage to the North West coast of America.
(And here, can't help but remark on the coincidence of all these "Boston's" --
the ship, the American city and of course John R. Jewitt's hometown.)
When the Boston arrived at Hull in 1802, it was during the height of a very lucrative merchant trading industry that encompassed a vast and sophisticated network of participants including London, New England, Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands), Canada, Alaska and China. The network centered largely on the thriving sea otter fur trade on the North West coast of the Americas at Nootka Sound off Vancouver Island -- exactly where Capt. Salter was headed. While at Hull he intended to load up the Boston with a cargo of what was said to be the finest and most varied assortment of trading goods at the time. These included English cloths, Dutch blankets, looking glasses, beads, knives, sugar, molasses, cutlasses, pistols, muskets and about twenty hogsheads of rum which comes out to about 1,480 gallons -- yes, to be traded to the Indians, and not to be enjoyed by the crew!
The Jewitts struck up a friendship with Capt. Salter over the summer while the work was being done on his ship, and eventually the captain -- noticing John's interest -- proposed that he join the crew and offered him a job as armourer (or blacksmith). The voyage would proceed to the North West Coast trading goods for furs and from there to China where the furs would be traded for Chinese luxury items, finally ending up in Boston, Massachusetts where Capt. Salter promised John he would help him get started in a trade or business in America. Needless to say, his father was reluctant, but excited, recognizing the immense opportunity for his son, and John's eagerness to set out on an adventure with the chance to make his fortune, Edward finally (once again) gave in to John's entreaties.
The enormity of such a journey for a nineteen-year-old young man is just amazing when you stop to think about it.... and John's father had a few solemn prophetic words for him, upon his departure:
"The ship being loaded and ready for sea, as I was preparing for my departure,
my father came to me, and taking me aside, said to me with much emotion,
John, I am now going to part with you, and heaven only knows if we shall
ever again meet. But in whatever part of the world you are, always bear it
in mind that on your own conduct will depend your success in life."
In 1798, about a year after John had begun his blacksmithing apprenticeship with his father, Edward Jewitt moved his family to Hull in order to take advantage of the work available in the busy harbor town. Ideally situated just inland from the coast of the North Sea, it was well known as an important hub for the merchant trading and fishing & whaling industries going back to at least the 13th century. Here is how John tells it:
About a year after I had commenced this apprenticeship, my father finding that he could carry on his business to more advantage in Hull, removed thither with his family. An event of no little importance to me, as it in a great measure influenced my destiny. Hull being one of the best ports in England, and a place of great trade, my father had there full employment for his numerous workmen, particularly in vessel work. This naturally leading me to an acquaintance with the sailors on board some of the ships, the many remarkable stories they told me of their voyages and adventures, and of the manners and customs of the nations they had seen, excited a strong wish in me to visit foreign countries.
Kingston Upon Hull was only about 70 miles North of Boston and incidentally, only about 40 miles from Grimsby. Like Grimsby, today's city of Hull apparently suffers from an image problem, but as Lonely Planet guidebook kindly puts it: "the city has a gritty appeal for those who appreciate Britain's industrial past." Other less polite commentators have mocked Hull's official designation as "UK City of Culture 2017." But the city with its museums and as home of England's "other poet laureate," Phillip Larkin, has its appeal to ambitious independent artists who are renovating abandoned old buildings and turning them into studios... carrying on the tradition of ambitious craftsmen of the early 19th century who were drawn to Hull -- like John R. Jewitt and his father.
In his narrative, John R. informs us that his father had the greatest hopes for him to become a surgeon. He explains just how it came about that at age twelve his father sent him off to an academy in nearby Donington, about ten miles away:
"My brother, who was four years older than myself, and of a more hardy constitution,
he destined for his own trade, but to me he had resolved to give an education superior
to that which is to be obtained in a common school, it being his intention that I should
adopt one of the learned professions."
Credit: Hilary Stewart from her Annotated and Illustrated "The Adventures and
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