The History of Washington State

The History of Washington
Chapter 10

 

By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this series of books!

 

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CHAPTER X.

DESTRUCTION OF THE AMERICAN SHIP BOSTON, AND MASSACRE OF HER CREW BY THE INDIANS OF FRIENDLY COVE, ON NOOTKA SOUND, AS TOLD BY ONE OF THE ONLY TWO SURVIVORS.

"How deep the hate and passion strong
Of him who treasures up a wrong!
Who bides his time and patient waits
Till full repayment vengeance sates."

BREWERTON.

The present century, so far as maritime matters on the Northwest coast are concerned, opened with the lamentable attack (while trading at Nootka), in March, 1803, upon the American ship Boston, Captain John Salter, by natives under the lead of Maquina, their chief. The ship was destroyed, and but two of the crew escaped massacre. The survivors did not obtain their freedom until after two years of captivity.

The journal of the youngest of these "Captain John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the ship Boston," as he styles himself, is so interesting that we allot some space to his narrative of their surprise and capture, quoting as briefly as we may. After giving the particulars of the ship coming to anchor four miles to the north of the Indian village at Friendly Cove (in this instance a misnomer), he goes on to say:

"On Thursday of the next day, the 13th, several of the natives came on board from their village of Nootka with their king, called Maquina, who appeared pleased to see us, greeting us most cordially, and welcomed Captain Salter to his country. As I had never beheld a savage of any nation, I was particularly struck with the looks of their king, who was a man of dignified aspect, about six feet in height, and exceedingly straight and well proportioned; his features were in general good; his face made remarkable by a large Roman nose--a very uncommon feature among these people; his complexion of a dark copper hue, though at that time his face, legs and arms were so covered with red paint that their natural color could hardly be per-

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ceived; his eyebrows were painted black in two broad stripes, like a new moon, and his long black hair, which shone with oil, was fastened in a bunch at the top of his, and strewed or powdered all over with white down, which gave him a most curious and extraordinary appearance" (he had probably seen Europeans with powder in their hair). "His men were habited in mantles of the same cloth, which is made from the bark of a tree, and has some resemblances to straw matting; these are nearly square, and have two holes in the upper part large enough to receive the arms; they reach as low as the knees, and are fastened round their bodies with a belt about four inches broad of the same cloth.

"From having frequently visited the English and American ships that traded on the coast, Maquina had learned the signification of a number of English words, and in general could make himself pretty well understood in our own language. He was always the first to go on board such ships as came to Nootka, even when he has no trade to offer, as he always received some small present, and was in general exceedingly well treated by the commanders. He remained on board of us for some time, during which Captain Salter took him into the cabin and treated him with a glass of rum, these people being very fond of distilled spirits, and some biscuit and molasses, which they prefer to any kind of food that we can offer them.

"As there are seldom any furs to be purchased at this place, and not fully the season, Captain Salter put inhere not to trade, but to obtain a supply of wood and water, thinking it more prudent to do so at Nootka, from the generally friendly disposition of the people, than among the ferocious natives farther north. With this view we were preparing water casks, etc., during which time I kept myself busily employed" (he was the armorer of the ship) "in repairing the muskets, knives, etc., and doing such iron work a was wanted for the ship."

:Meanwhile more or less of the natives came onboard of us daily, bringing with them fresh salmon, which they supplied us within great plenty, receiving in return some trifling articles. Captain Salter was always very particular, before admitting these people onboard, to see that they had no arms about them, by obliging them indiscriminately to throw off their garments, so that he felt perfectly secure from any attack.

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"On the 15th the king came on board with several of his chiefs; he was dressed, as before, in his magnificent otter-skin robe, having his face highly painted and his hair tossed off with the white down, which looked like snow. His chiefs were dressed in mantles of country cloth of its natural color, which is a pale yellow; these were ornamented with a broad border, painted or wrought in figures of several colors, representing men's heads, various animals, etc., and secured around them is a belt like that of the king, but narrower. The dress of the common people is of he same fashion, and differs from that of the chiefs in being of a courser texture, and painted red of one uniform color.

"Captain Salter invited Maquina and his chiefs to dine with him; and it was curious to see how these people, when they ear, seat themselves (in their country fashion) upon our chairs, with their feet under them, crossed like Turks. They cannot endure the taste of salt, and the only thing they would eat with us was the ship's bread, which they were very fond of, especially when dipped in molasses' they have also a great liking for tea and coffee when well sweetened." (Had the narrator ever traveled among the Arabs, this declination to eat salt with their hosts might have put them on their guard. The Arab never will eat salt, with those whom he intends to injure.) "As iron weapons, and tools of every kind are in great request among them, whenever they came onboard they were always very attentive to me, crowding around me at the forge, as if to see in what manner I did my work, and in this way became quite familiar--a circumstance, as well be seen in the end, of the last importance to me. The salmon, which they brought us furnished a most delicious treat to men who for a long time had lived wholly on salt provision. We indeed feasted more luxuriously, little imagining the fate awaited us, or that the dainty food was to prove the lure to our destruction.

"On the 19th the King came again on board and was invited by the captain to dine with him. He had much conversation with Captain Salter, and informed him that there were plenty of wild ducks and geese near Friendly cover, on which the captain made him a present of a double-barreled fowling-piece, with which eh appeared to be greatly pleased, and soon after went on shore.

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"On the 20th we were nearly ready for our departure, having taken on all the wood and water we needed.

"The next day Maquina came on board with nine pairs of wild duck as a present; at the same time he brought with him the gun, one of the lock of which he had broken, telling the captain it was peshak--that is, bad. Captain Salter was very much offended at this observation, and considering it was a mark of contempt for his present, he called the King a lair, adding other opprobrious terms, and taking the gun from him, tossed it indignantly into the cabin, and calling me to him, said, 'John, this fellow has broken this beautiful fowling piece; see if you can mend it.' On examining it, I told him it could be done. As I have already observed, Maquina knew a number of English words, and, unfortunately, understood but too well the meaning of the reproachful terms that the captain addressed to him. He said not a word in reply, but his countenance sufficiently expressed the rage he felt, though he exerted himself to suppress it; and I observed him, while the captain was speaking, repeatedly put his hand to his throat and rub it upon his bosom, which he afterward told me was to keep down his heart, which was rising into his throat and choking him. He soon after went onshore with his men, evidently much discomposed.

"On the morning of the 22d the natives came off to us as usual with salmon, and remained on board; when about noon Maquina came alongside with a considerable number of his chiefs, and men in their canoes, who, after going through the customary examination, were admitted into the ship. He had a whistle in his hand, and over his face a very ugly mask of wood, representing the head of some wild beast. He appeared to be remarkably good-humored and gay, and while his people sang and capered about the deck, he blew his whistle to t a kind of tune which seemed to regulate their motions. As Captain Salter was walking on the quarter-deck, amusing himself with their dancing, the king came up to him and inquired when he intended to go to sea. He answered 'To-morrow.' Maquina then said, 'You love salmon" Much in Friendly Cove. Why not go there and catch some?' The captain thought that it would be very desirable to have a good supply of these fish for the voyage, and on consulting with Mr. Delouisa" (his first mate) "it was agreed to send part of the crew on shore after dinner, with the

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seine, in order to procure a quantity. Maquina and his chiefs stayed and dined onboard, and after dinner the chief mate went off with nine men in the jolly-boat and yawl to fish at Friendly Cove, having set the steward onshore at our watering place to wash the caption's clothes.

"Shortly after the departure of the boats I went down to my vise-bench in the steerage, where I was employed in cleaning muskets. I had not been there more than an hour when I heard the mend hoisting in the long boat, which in a few minutes after was succeeded by a great bustle and confusion on deck. I immediately ran up the steerage stairs, but scarcely was my head above deck when I was caught by the hair of one of the savages and lifted from my feet; fortunately for me, my hair being short, and the ribbon with which it was tied slipping, I fell from his hold into the steerage. As I was falling, he struck me with an axe, which cut a deep gash in my forehead and penetrated the skull; but in consequence of his losing his hold I luckily escaped the full force of the blow, which otherwise would have cleft my head in two. I fell stunned and senseless upon the floor. How long I continued in this situation I know not, but on recovering my senses the first thing I did was try to get up; but so weak was I from the loss of blood that I fainted and fell. I was, however, soon recalled to my recollection by three loud shouts or yells from the savages, which convinced me that they had got possession of the ship. It is impossible for me to describe my feelings at this terrible sound. My blood ran cold in my veins.

"Having at length sufficiently recovered to look about me, after wiping the blood from my eyes, I saw that the hatch of the steerage was shut. This was done, as I afterward discovered, by order of Maquina, who, on seeing the savage strike at me with the axe, told him not to hurt me, for that I was the armorer and would be useful to them in repairing their arms; he had the hatch closed. But to me this circumstance wore a very different appearance, for I thought that these barbarians had only prolonged my lie in order to deprive me of it by the most cruel tortures.

"I remained in this horrid state of suspense for a very long time, when at length the hatch was opened, and Maquina, calling me byname, ordered me to come up. I roped my way up

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as well as I was able, being almost blinded with the blood that flowed from my wound, and so weak as with difficulty to walk. The king, on perceiving my situation, ordered one of his men to bring a pot of water to wash the blood from my face, which, having done, I was able to see distinctly with one of my eyes, but the other was so swollen from my wound that it was closed. But what a terrific spectacle met my eyes! Six naked savages standing in a circle around me, covered with the blood of my murdered companions, with their daggers uplifted in their hands , prepared to strike. I now thought my last moment had come, and recommended my soul to my Maker.

"The King, who, as I have already remarked, knew enough of English to make himself understood, entered the circle, and, placing himself before me, addressed me in nearly the following words; 'John--I speak--you no say no--you say no--daggers come.' He then asked me I would be his slave during my life; if I would fight for him in his battles; if I would repair his muskets and make daggers and knives for him, with several other questions, to all of which I was careful to answer 'Yes.' He then told me he would spare my life, and ordered me to kiss his hands and feet to show my submission to him, which I did. In the mean time, his people were very clamorous to have me pout to death, so that there should be none of us left to tell our story of our countrymen, and to prevent them from coming to trade with them; but the king, in the most determined manner, opposed their wishes, and to his favor am I wholly indebted for my being yet among the living.

"As I was busy at work at the time of the attack, I was without my coat; and what with the coldness of the weather, my feebleness from loss of blood, the pain of my wound, and the extreme agitation of terror I still felt, I shook like a leaf, which the King observing, went into the cabin, and bringing up a great-coat that had belonged to the captain, threw it over my shoulders, telling me to drink some rum from a bottle which he handed me, at the same time giving me to understand that it would be good for me and keep me from trembling as I did. I took a draught of it, after which, taking me by the hand, he led me to the quarter-deck, where the most horrid sight presented itself that every my eyes witnessed. The heads of our unfortunate captain and his crew, to the number of twenty-five, were all

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arranged ina line; and Maquina, ordering one of his people to being a head, asked me whose it was. I answered, The Captain's. In like manner the others were shown me, and I told him the names, excepting a few that were so horribly mangled that I was not able to recognize them.

"I now discovered that all of our unfortunate crew had been massacred, and learned that after getting possession of the ship the savages had broken open the arm-chest and magazine, and supplying themselves with ammunition and arms, sent a party onshore to attack our men who had gone thither to fish, and, being joined by numbers of the village, without difficult overpowered and murdered then, and cutting off their heads, brought them on board, after throwing their bodies into the sea. On looking on the deck, I saw it entirely covered with blood of my poor comrades, whose throats had been cut with their own jack-knives--the savages having seized the opportunity while they were busy in hoisting in the boat to grapple with them and overpower them by their numbers. In the scuffle the captain was thrown overboard, and dispatched by those in the canoes, who immediately cut off his head.

"After I had answered his questions, Maquina took my silk handkerchief from my neck and bound it around my head. He then ordered me to get the ship under weight for Friendly Cove. This I did my cutting the cables and sending some of the natives aloft to loose the sails, which they performed in a very bungling manner; but they succeeded so far in loosing the jib and top-sails that with the advantage of fair wind, I succeeded in getting the ship into the cove, where, by order of the king, I ran her ashore on the sandy beach at eight o'clock at night."

So ends a weird and most dramatic tragedy--a true story of the cruel northern seas. How he saved his comrade--the sail-maker, by passing him off as his father, having grown into favor with the king, is to be found in that curious volume, "The Adventure and sufferings of John R,. Jewitt," which, after running through several editions in America, was reprinted in Edinburgh in 1824.

We have now done with the explorations by sea of our Northwest coast, and are about to enter it with the early settlers overland, before proceeding to trace the results of their emigration and its effects, as show in the history of Washington, upon its rise and progress to Statehood.

 

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