Document 27: John Jewitt's Journal of His Captivity at Nootka, 1804-1805

John Jewitt, 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: Printed for the author, 1807), p. 22-27, 44-48.

Return to Document Concordance

May 1 [1804]. Natives fishing, with no success.
2. Rainy weather. Our chief [Maquinna] out whaling; returned, no success.
3. Fine and clear. Employed washing our clothes. Our chief out whaling; returned, no success.
4. Our chief whaling. Arrived six canoes from the Wickeninishes [Wickeninish was another Nuu-chah-nulth leader who lived to the south of Maquinna] with forty bags of herring spawn for our chief.
5. Rainy weather. Employed cutting fire wood. P. M. [Maquinna's son, whom Jewitt had befriended] returned. Invited to eat blubber.
6. Fine and clear weather. We begin to be very uneasy at not hearing of the arrival of some ship on the coast.
7. Sunday. Went to prayers as usual for our release.
8. Rainy weather. Our chief out whaling. P. M. struck one, but his line parted, and he returned with no success.
9. This day the natives had a meeting at the chief's house to determine what should be done with us in case a ship should arrive. The common natives were always for killing us, but the chiefs would not consent to it.
10. Employed making tampkins for the guns [tampkins are pieces of wood used to shove ammunition into front-loading muskets].
11. Fine and clear. Natives fishing. Our chief out whaling; returned with no success.
12. Rainy weather. Invited to eat dried halibut. Our chief out whaling; returned with no success.
13. Fine and clear. This day our chief was informed that three of his captains [followers of Wickeninish] intended to kill him, of which he informed us; we were ordered to keep watch over him night and day with a brace [pair] of pistols.
14. Natives fishing. This being Sunday, [we] went to prayers.
15. This day arrived two canoes from the Wickeninishes with natives who intended to kill our chief, but having intelligence of it, we were ready to receive them: it was also their intention to have killed Thompson [the only other survivor from Jewitt's ship] and myself. I will leave it to the reader to judge our situation at this time.
16. This day the natives went home without accomplishing their design. They were frightened at seeing us with a brace of pistols and a cutlass [sword] by our side.
17. Natives fishing. We walked all last night before our huts to keep watch, and at twelve o' clock fired one of the great guns [the gun had been taken from Jewitt's ship after Maquinna's people had captured it] for an alarm, in order to terrify the natives who had left us the day before, and as a signal to them that we were on our guard.
18. We constantly fire one of the great guns at twelve o'clock in the night and at four in the morning.
19. Thompson employed making a sail for our chief's canoe.
20. This day a whale drove ashore about six miles from Nootka; the natives employed cutting it up and bringing it home in their canoes; the stench of it was very disagreeable, but it does not affect the natives.
21. This day I am twenty-one years of age. I now begin to give up all hopes of ever seeing a Christian country, or a Christian face, for the season being so far advanced and not hearing of the arrival of any ship on the coast, we feel ourselves very unhappy. We have lived very well during the last week, because our chief was afraid for his life, and had Thompson and myself to guard him night and day. If we could hear of a ship being either to the northward or southward of us, we could dispatch a canoe with a letter informing of our being in captivity. We are very much cast down at the thought of spending the remainder of our days amongst these savages.
22. Fine and clear weather. Thompson employed making a whaling line for our chief. The summer season sets in very soon. We eat a pint of ripe brambleberries. Nootka being our Summer quarters till the first of September, when we go to Tasshees, which is situated on the N.E. side of the sound. On the east side the soil is very good for many miles up, low land for ten miles. Cooptee is situated on the same side. Tasshees and Cooptee rivers abound with salmon, herrings, sprats, & co.
23. Employed making a whaling line for our chief; he came into the woods where we were at work and asked us if we were hungry; we told him yes, and he sent us some dried cod fish and oil.
24. Fine and clear weather. Natives fishing. This day our chief out whaling. Finished the whaling line; took a walk to wash ourselves, about forty of the natives threw stones at us, when we asked the reason for so doing, they told us they were only playing.
25. Our chief out whaling; returned, no success.
26. Natives fishing. Chief out whaling; returned, no success.
27. Employed washing clothes, and a blanket for our chief.
28. Natives fishing. Employed cutting fire wood. Our chief out whaling; returned, no success.
29. Natives fishing. Employed making a whaling line for our chief. Natives returned with good success.
30. Employed making harpoons for our chief; he is out whaling. Arrived a canoe from the Wickeninishes with their chief, who came with an intention to purchase me; but our chief would not dispose of me.
31. The whaling season is now over.

June 1. Pleasant weather. Natives fishing. Plenty of halibut and cod fish, which the natives cut up in pieces to dry.
2. Arrived three canoes with dried salmon for our chief. This day we had a dance by our chief's son to entertain the strangers.
3. Rainy weather. Hungry times with us; nothing to eat but smoked blubber and fish oil.
4. Fine weather. This day our chief told us to buy a canoe, fish hooks, etc. and go a fishing, or else he would give us nothing to eat.
5. Employed furnishing ourselves with the necessary utensils for fishing. We were obliged to part with our great coats and other wearing apparel, which used to serve us instead of a bed. Very down hearted, for we are afraid that in a few months we shall be obliged to go naked.
6. Employed putting our fishing implements in order for fishing tomorrow.
7. This day went a fishing; returned, no success; could not so much as get one bite.
8. Foggy weather. Went a fishing; returned, no success.
9. Clear weather. We went a fishing; returned, no success. Natives fishing with good success. I told our chief that we did not understand fishing; he then told us to go no more.
10. This morning one of the natives took our canoe without asking for it, and went a fishing. I informed our chief of it; he told me I must watch for him and when he returned to let him know, which I accordingly did; when the man returned our chief went to him and took all the fish he had caught and gave them to me, told him that he must not take the canoe again without asking leave of us.
11. This day one of the natives killed a sea otter, we had it cooked at our chief's home; it was very good eating. Went to prayers as usual on Sundays.
12. The natives were engaged in fishing.
13. This day Towtuck, one of the chiefs, died. He had been sick ten months, was one of the first that spoke of destroying our ship's company, and he killed two of the people that were ashore during the scene. Two months after he was struck by the appearance of their apparitions, and during the whole time of his illness he thought they were always in his presence. It gives us great satisfaction to think that God has taken this fellow and two of this children out of existence, which very much terrified all the other natives.
14. Natives fishing; had good success—We were employed in cutting fire wood.
15. We have had nothing to eat at our chief's house for three days. I asked him for something but he told me to go upon the rocks and gather muscles [mussels] and lampreys, which was a thing almost impracticable, and I was driven to the last necessary means of procuring sustenance to give my handkerchief from off my neck for a dried salmon and a little fish oil.
16. Employed in washing our cloaths.
17. This day one of the natives struck a sea otter and brought it to our house. Employed in cutting fire wood.
18. This day being Sunday we went to prayers for our release.
19. The natives take our canoe when they please, if we say any thing to them, they tell us we are slaves and ask us where our captain is, making signs that his head was cut off, which grieves us very much.
20. This day there was a meeting at our chief's house of all the natives to determine whether they should kill us when any ship should arrive, but our chief would not consent to it. In the afternoon I bought two axes in order to cut wood with.
21. This day one of the natives shot a wild deer; it was the first I have seen since coming on shore.

. . .

[July] 12 [1804]. Cutting fire wood; natives were fishing.
13. Invited to eat seal's blubber.
14. This day finished our chief's whaling line.
15. Natives were engaged in fishing.
16. Arrived four canoes from Caruquates with herring spawn for our chief; there was a large feast of salmon at his house for the strangers, and afterwards a dance by the chief's son.
17. Natives fishing; caught plenty of cod fish.
18. This day arrived two canoes from Clar-zils, which is to the southward of Nootka about two hundred miles. The natives brought us no intelligence of any ship but the one lying at the Cheenocks, which we heard about four months ago.
19. This day arrived a canoe from Check-cliz-arts which is about one hundred and fifty miles to the north of us; the master of it told our chief that they had been to war with another tribe and had killed one hundred men and women, and that there were ships staying at the northward, which we hope will come to Nootka.
20. Fine and clear weather. We hear both from the north and the south that the natives are massacring one another for want of cloth, muskets, etc., and our chief expects to be obliged to make war with them as they have threatened him on account of destroying our ship the Boston, which they say has injured their trade very much, and that no ship will now come to their ports to trade with them.
21. Natives were fishing.
22. This day arrived a canoe from Wickeninishes with one hundred gallons of fish oil. Afternoon, our chief invited the whole of his tribe to eat dried herring and fish oil.
23. This day all the chiefs went about nine miles from Nootka, where the natives go to catch halibut, and [the chiefs] plundered them [the commoners who were there] of all their fish, bringing away with them about ninety large baskets full.
24, 25. Employed cutting fire wood. We now begin to enjoy life much better than heretofore, for we can eat the same provisions as the natives, such as sea cow's blubber, and in short the oil of those sea animals is a sauce for every thing we eat, even the strawberries and other fruit. But we still think our still think our situation is most miserable, and that we shall have to spend the remainder of our days amongst these savages.
26. This day our chief went on a visit to the Wickeninishes for the first time these seventeen months. I make no doubt that friendship exists between the two nations.
27. Pleasant weather; employed cutting fire wood.
28. Our chief returned in good humor, telling us that the Wickeninishes were very good. This is the tribe that Nootka had been much at enmity with [in previous years].
29. This day arrived a canoe from the Newcheemass, which is situated about two hundred miles to the north. Our chief was informed that there was a ship staying at the Southeast, and that the captain's name was Briggs.
30. We are very much disheartened to think we frequently hear of ships arriving on the coast, and that none will come to Nootka so as to enable us to communicate with them.

. . .

June 1 [1805]. This month comes in with fine and pleasant weather. Natives fishing. Arrived a canoe from Sarvanh with spawn.
2. Natives fishing. We entertain hopes of being rescued in a very short time.
3. Since the news got about that a ship is coming [two European ships had been seen near Nootka a few weeks earlier], the natives are very good to us, they do not now ask us to work for them. Went to prayers, hoping that a vessel will soon arrive.
4. Natives fishing. Arrived a canoe from Esquates with six hundred weight of blubber for our chief.
5. Natives fishing. Arrived a canoe from Sarvanh with three seals for our chief.
6. Employed buying all the European cloaths I can procure. Arrived a canoe from Sarvanh with herring spawn.
7. This day our chief had a meeting respecting us, to know whether we were to go away in case a ship should arrive. The common natives were for killing us as soon as a vessel should come in sight. But the chiefs were for letting us go on board.
8. Arrived a canoe from the Wickeninishes with the same information as before; we are now in hopes of seeing a christian country once more.
9. Natives fishing; invited to eat whale's blubber; arrived a canoe from Esquates with three seals for our chief.
10. Both Thompson and myself are in a good state of health at present, for which we thank our God.
11. We are employed in mending our cloaths; arrived a canoe from Clar-ah with forty salmon.
12. Invited to a feast of spawn.
13. Arrived a canoe from Sarvanh with salmon spawn; there was a large feast consisting of fresh salmon.
14. Fine clear weather; natives fishing; plenty of salmon.
15. This day one of our chief's wives ran away from him to her parents, on account of not having plenty to eat.
16. Natives were fishing; invited to eat dried clams and fish oil.
17. Arrived a canoe from Clar-zarts with information that when the chief comes to Nootka he will bring a letter for us.
18. This day arrived a canoe from Al-tiz-arts with seven skins for our chief.
19. Natives fishing; the strangers went away.
20. Arrived a canoe from Cin-u-quate with fish oil for our chief.
21. Rainy weather; natives fishing; was employed making fish hooks, etc.
22. Arrived a canoe from Check-cliz-arts with the news of six ships being at Newhetty.
23. Employed as usual; natives fishing.
24. This day arrived twenty canoes with one hundred of the natives who had their heads drest with white feathers; they came to buy our chief's neice for a wife to one of their chiefs; she is a girl about twenty years of age; they offered for her thirteen fine skins, forty fathoms [a fathom is six feet] of cloth; twenty fathoms of beads; twenty muskets, two blankets and two coats, which our chief accepted and gave up his neice. After which they obliged us with a dance and a song; when they had finished, our chief invited them to eat raw spawn and drink cold water; he then had ninety large salmon boiled for them of which they ate as long as they could stand, and then they went down upon the beach to play at jumping. Thus ended the wedding.
25. Fine and clear weather; employed washing our cloaths.
26. Our situation would not be so bad if it were not for the high prices the natives ask for their seal skins; for if we could purchase four or five skins Thompson could make jackets and trousers of them, he being a good tailor.
27. Arrived two canoes from the New-chat-laits with ten bags of herring spawn and four of dried cockles.
28. Our chief had a large feast consisting of dried cockles and fish oil; the strangers went away.
29. Our minds are very uneasy to think that we cannot get our release and there being six ships laying only two hundred miles to the northward of Nootka sound.
30. This day arrived a canoe from Ai-tiz-arts with three skins for our chief. Invited to eat dog flesh.

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.
JOSEPH MINOR, of Newburyport.
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.
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.


Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest