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John Kendrick (c. 1740 – 12 December 1794) was an American sea captain, both during the American Revolutionary War and the exploration of the Pacific Northwest alongside his partner Robert Gray.

Contents

Early life

He was born around 1740 or 1745 in Harwich, Massachusetts, John Kendrick came from a long family line of seamen. Solomon Kendrick, his father, was a humble seaman and this fact gave young John the ambition of becoming a sea captain. He had a common education, like most people at the time. At age 20, he ran off to join a whaling crew, working on a schooner owned by Captain Bangs.

John later joined Captain Jabez Snow's company during the French and Indian War in 1762. He was probably bored with the military, because he served for only eight months and did not re-enlist. All that is known about him between 1762 and the 1770s is that he owned a few merchant ships and married a woman named Huldah Pease.

American Revolution

John was one of the men who participated in the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. John was an ardent Patriot, going on to serve as Commander of a privateer called the Fanny, the beginning of what became the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. He was commissioned May 26, 1777.

The Fanny had a crew of 100 and 18 guns on her as she captured a few British ships, gaining some money on the side and taking possession of items needed by the Americans defending themselves from the British. Some items also helped build Kendrick's house in Wareham, Massachusetts. HMS Brutus and HMS Little Brutus captured John in November, 1779. He was soon traded in a prisoner exchange. Upon release, he commanded a sixteen-gun-armed, hundred-man-crewed brigantine named the Count d’Estang in 1780. Then, he commanded another brigantine called the Marianne later that same year.

When the war ended in 1783, he returned to whaling and coastal shipping until he became commander of the first American ships of discovery.

The Columbia Expedition

Not much is known about what happened to John Kendrick between the Revolution’s end and his voyage to the Pacific Northwest. A syndicate led by Boston merchant Joseph Barrell financed the Columbia Expedition in 1787. The vessels that were to sail there were the Columbia Rediviva and the Lady Washington.

The command of the larger Columbia was given to Captain Kendrick, then 47 years old. The command of the Lady Washington was given to 32-year-old one-eyed Robert Gray. The combined crews of both ships numbered about 50 men, one of them being 19-year-old Robert Haswell, the only one in the crew who kept an account of the voyage that survives today and who disliked Kendrick. Another crew member was 25-year-old Joseph Ingraham, a claimed navy veteran of the Revolution, later Captain of the Hope that sailed in 1790 to compete in the fur trade,[1] and admirer of Kendrick. The oldest man on the voyage was Simeon Woodruff, who had sailed with James Cook aboard the HMS Resolution on his famous third voyage around the world.

The Columbia Expedition set sail from Boston on the morning of October 1, 1787, after a brief party with family and friends. The ships reached the Cape Verde Islands on November 9, where Simeon Woodruff, after a fight with Kendrick, left the Columbia and went onto the islands with all his baggage. A Spanish captain passing by the islands offered to take Woodruff to Madeira and the old man, bitter at Kendrick’s treatment of him, accepted. He eventually returned to America and lived in Connecticut most of the remainder of his life.

Kendrick continued the journey on December 21 and reached Brett's Harbor on the western side of the Falkland Islands on February 16, 1788. Haswell had an argument with Kendrick about either's irritating behavior and Haswell transferred to Lady Washington. Kendrick left the islands on February 28 and kept going south instead of through the Strait of Magellan and went around to the Pacific Ocean the long way: by Cape Horn. On April 1, or April Fool's Day, the two ships were separated by a storm, but the men aboard the Lady Washington revelled at having finally gotten rid of Kendrick.

Kendrick had survived the storm and stopped at the Juan Fernández Islands with two men dead and some others sick with scurvy. The Columbia continued sailing north and eventually settled down at Marvinas Bay. Kendrick decided to stay there for the winter on October 1, 1788, one year to the day since the two Bostonian ships left on their maiden voyage. The ships were eventually reunited, but not one man on either ship celebrated.

Gray set out to trade furs in May 1789. On June 24, Kendrick made an odd choice: he gave Gray command of the Columbia and he took command of the Lady Washington. It was as though Kendrick was giving Gray full command. The reason for this exchange remains unknown, but one reason could be that Kendrick thought the Lady Washington was easier to handle because she was smaller. Whatever the reason, and even though it remains a mystery, Kendrick unknowingly set the stage for Gray's eventual naming of the river on the modern Washington-Oregon border.

Kendrick sailed up the coast of Vancouver Island at the end of June. He traded with the Haida and their chief, Coyah, on the Queen Charlotte Islands. One day, some clothes were stolen from the ship. Kendrick had Coyah locked up until the clothes were returned. Coyah was released at the stolen clothes’ return, but he was deeply bitter about the incident. This incident has been cited as the basis for the hatred of the Indians of the "Boston Men" as all American traders were then called. An account of the incident has it that Kendrick had clamped two chiefs to the base of a cannon and threatened to kill them both unless the Indians let him have all of their skins for the price that Kendrick set on the pretext that laundry had been stolen. Two years later, when Kendrick returned, the Haida had not forgotten this treatment and a battle ensued. The natives captured the arms chest of the Washington. Kendrick and his crew had to retreat below decks. He and his officers fought off the attack. Kendrick, seeking revenge, killed a native woman who had encouraged the attack in the water after her arm had been severed by a cutlass and killed many other natives with cannon and small arms fire as they retreated. [2]:63

Kendrick met with Esteban José Martínez, who he and Gray had met with earlier that June, in a Spanish fort on San Miguel Island. Martínez had asked both captains when they first met why they were there and the captains did not say anything about trading furs, but rather said that they were looking for barrel staves, telling of their loss of fifteen water casks previously. Gray also told Martínez that they were only guests there. Their meeting ended in a friendship.

Trading in East Asia

Kendrick went to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) and then he reached Macau in January, 1790. He eventually left Macau in March, 1791, along with Captain William Douglas’ ship, the Grace. Kendrick and Douglas reached Japan on May 6, probably becoming the first official Americans to meet the Japanese. The next day a typhoon came and forced Kendrick’s ship northeast to Kashinoura Harbor. Kendrick soon ran into trouble with the Japanese xenophobes, who kept some samurai to make sure things did not get out of hand. Kendrick finally left on May 17. He and Douglas parted ways at a group of islands that they called the Water Islands.

Kendrick landed on the shores of the Haida village, Ce-uda’o Inagai, again on June 13. Kendrick began trading with about 50 Haida aboard his ship, half of whom were women, and another 100 in canoes alongside the Lady Washington. It was when Kendrick had a fight with a crew member that Coyah’s grudge against Kendrick that had smoldered for two years was revealed.

The Haida seized the arms chests and overran the decks of the ship. One of Coyah’s men held a fierce-looking weapon at Kendrick’s face, ready to kill when the order was given. As the men were taken to the hold, they quietly and secretly grabbed any weapons left in unnoticeable places. Kendrick found an iron bar and when Coyah came into sight, he leaped on top of the Haida chief, who non-fatally slashed the captain’s belly with his knife. The chief fled when he saw the other Americans armed as well. Kendrick and his men charged the Haida, shooting at them and grabbing whatever weapons were around. One Haida woman tried to urge the fight on, even though she had lost an arm and had a few other wounds. She was the last one to retreat, jumping into the water and trying to swim away. A crewman shot her as she swam towards the shore. About 40 Haida were killed that day, including Coyah’s wife and two kids. Coyah was wounded as well as his two brothers and another chief named Schulkinanse.

Coyah was soon removed from chief to ahliko. The Haida decreased in numbers and they became dirty, their faces painted black and their hair cut short. They would, in later months or years, have some successful ship captures along with human slaughters.

Kendrick left immediately and arrived in Marvinas Bay on July 12. Martínez had been replaced by Francisco de Eliza, but that didn’t cause any real problems. Kendrick built a small fort called Fort Washington in Clayoquot Sound in late August. By this time Gray had returned to the Northwest Coast, and built his own winter quarters on the sound, Fort Defiance. He continued trading furs, returning to Macau in December. The Chinese refused to buy his furs that year because of a quarrel with the Russians. Kendrick eventually found someone who would buy his furs in March 1792. Problems with the weather forced him to remain in Macau until the Spring of 1793. He sailed back and forth between the Sandwich Islands and Clayoquot Sound until October, 1794, after a brief reunion with his son John Kendrick, Jr., who commanded a Spanish ship called the Aranzazú.

The Sandwich Islands & Death

Kendrick arrived in Fairhaven (now Honolulu) on December 3. Two other ships were there also, British vessels: the Jackal under Captain William Brown and the Prince Lee Boo under a Captain Gordon.

This was coincidentally when a Hawaiian chief named Kaeo invaded Oahu, meeting little resistance from Chief Kalanikupule. Brown sent eight men and a mate to aid Kalanikupule’s forces. Kendrick also probably sent some of his men to help the Hawaiian chief in what was later called the Battle of Kalauao. The muskets of the sailors drove Kaeo’s warriors into some hills that overshadowed Fairhaven. They finally retreated into a little ravine. Kaeo tried to escape, but Brown’s men and Kendrick’s men saw his ahuula, his scarlet coat with yellow feathers, and fired at the enemy chief from their boats in the harbor to show his position to Kalanikupule’s men. The Oahu warriors killed Kaeo along with his wives and chiefs. The battle ended with Kalanikupule as the victor.

At 10:00 the next morning, December 12, 1794, Kendrick’s ship fired a thirteen-gun salute, to which the Jackal answered with a salute back. One of the cannons was loaded with real grapeshot, though, and the shot smashed into the Lady Washington, killing Captain Kendrick at his table on deck along with several other men. Kendrick’s body and the bodies of his dead men were taken ashore and buried on the beach in a hidden grove of palm trees. John Howel, Kendrick’s clerk, read the prayer book for the captain’s funeral. The Hawaiians thought it an act of sorcery and stole Kendrick’s winding-sheet (Shroud that the body is wrapped in) that night. He was 55 years old.

References

  1. ^ Hittell, Theodore Henry (1885). History of California. Occidental publishing co: v. 3-4:.  
  2. ^ Akrigg, G.P.V.; Akrigg, Helen B. (1975), British Columbia, Chronicle, 1778-1846, Vancouver: Discovery Press, ISBN 0-919624-02-2  
  • John Scofield. Hail, Columbia: Robert Gray, John Kendrick and the Pacific Fur Trade. Oregon History Society Press, 1993; ISBN 0-87595-234-8.

External links

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