John Kendrick (American sea captain)
John Kendrick (born John Kenrick, c. 1740–1794) was an American sea captain, both during the American Revolutionary War and the exploration and maritime fur trading of the Pacific Northwest alongside his subordinate Robert Gray.
Kendrick was born about 1740 in what was then part of the Town of Harwich, Massachusetts (now Orleans, Massachusetts), according to official town records in Orleans, his last name was originally Kenrick, but later adopted the "d". John Kendrick came from a long family line of seamen. Solomon Kenrick, 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 the age of 20 he joined a whaling crew, working on a schooner owned by Captain Bangs.
John Kendrick later joined Captain Jabez Snow's company during the French and Indian War in 1762. Like most Cape Codders of the time, 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 Huldah Pease of Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.
Kendrick was reputed to have participated in the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. He was an ardent Patriot, going on to serve as commander of the privateer Fanny, the first ship of what became the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. He was commissioned May 26, 1777.
The Fanny had 18 guns and a crew of 100 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[clarification needed] Kendrick's house in Wareham, Massachusetts. HMS Brutus and HMS Little Brutus captured Kendrick 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, Kendrick 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 included were the ship Columbia Rediviva and the sloop Lady Washington.
The command of the larger Columbia was given to Captain Kendrick, then 47 years old, and 32-year-old one-eyed Robert Gray was given Washington. Overall command of expedition was given to Kendrick. The combined crews of the two ships numbered about 40 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 came to dislike Kendrick. Second Officer of Columbia was 25-year-old Joseph Ingraham, a veteran of the Massachusetts State Navy and POW during the Revolution, later captain of the Hope that sailed in 1790 to compete in the fur trade, 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 Harbor on the morning of October 1, 1787, after a brief party with family and friends. The vessels 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. While at sea, an argument between Kendrick and Haswell, the 2nd Officer, a friend of the dismissed Woodruff, had arisen over the disciplining of a seaman. He was apparently demoted, but attributed it to Kendrick's wish to hasten the ascent of his own son, John Kendrick, Jr., who was serving as Fourth Officer of Columbia. Haswell also claimed that Captain Kendrick gave the young man permission to take passage on a European- or American-bound ship at the Falklands. But finding none there, Haswell agreed to transfer to the Washington. Kendrick considered wintering in the Atlantic, but was convinced to leave the islands on February 28, heading around Cape Horn instead of through the Strait of Magellan, and into the Pacific Ocean. On April 1, after Kendrick gave the order to at last turn Columbia from a southwesterly course toward Antarctica and to the north, signaling a successful passage around the Horn, the two vessels lost sight of each other, to the relief of Captain Gray.
Kendrick 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 Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound. The Washington had arrived at Nootka Sound a few weeks before Kendrick. Gray found himself again under Kendrick's command. The Americans found two British ships anchored in Nootka Sound. They were part of a fur trading venture under John Meares—the Iphigenia, under William Douglas, and the North West America, under Robert Funter. Meares had left with his command ship, the Felice Adventurer, after Gray had arrived but before Kendrick had. On October 26, 1788, the British ships left for Hawaii and China.
Once they were gone Kendrick announced that he had decided the expedition would spend the winter in Nootka Sound. They would befriend the native Nuu-chah-nulth people and gain an advantage in the fur trade over the competing British ships. During the winter Kendrick met and established friendly relations with the Nuu-chah-nulth chiefs Maquinna and Wickaninnish.
Kendrick sent the Washington under Gray out on a short trading voyage on March 16, 1789. Gray was to visit Wickaninnish in Clayoquot Sound and cruise south to look for the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He collected many sea otter pelts in Clayoquot Sound and found the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca before returning to Nootka Sound on April 22. Gray found the Iphigenia under William Douglas anchored at Friendly Cove. Kendrick had moved the Columbia to a cove known as Mawina (today called Kendrick Inlet), six miles deeper into Nootka Sound. He had fortified a small island and built an outpost on it, with a house, gun battery, blacksmith forge, and outbuildings. Kendrick called it Fort Washington. He had decided that the Columbia was too unwieldy for close sailing on the Pacific Northwest coast. The smaller, more maneuverable Washington was better suited for trading.
Immediately upon arrival the Washington was readied for another voyage. On May 2, days after the British ship Iphigenia set off northward to trade for furs, Gray took the Washington north as well. On the way out of Nootka Sound Gray encountered the Princesa, under Spanish naval officer Esteban José Martínez, who had come to take possession of Nootka Sound for Spain. Martínez informed the officers of the Washington that they were trespassing in Spanish waters and demanded to know their business. Gray and his officers showed him a passport and made weak excuses for being on the Northwest Coast. Martínez knew they were dissembling but let them go, knowing that the command ship Columbia was trapped in Nootka Sound.
Gray returned to Nootka Sound on June 17 to find the Spanish in control, Fort San Miguel built, and the British ships Iphigenia and North West America captured. Martínez had let the Iphigenia leave but kept the North West America. A third British ship, the Princess Royal had arrived and was being detained by the Spanish. The British command ship Argonaut under James Colnett would soon arrive, triggering the Nootka Crisis. The situation on the Northwest Coast was changing rapidly.
On July 15 the Columbia and Washington, under Kendrick and Gray, left Nootka Sound. They sailed south to Clayoquot Sound, where they stayed for two weeks. There, switching vessels, Kendrick ordered Gray to take the Columbia to China, and Kendrick would take the Washington north. Kendrick recognized that with the British driven off out of the trade due to the Nootka Crisis the Americans had a window of opportunity on the Northwest Coast. All the furs in the Washington were transferred to the Columbia and the crews were divided so Kendrick would have a full complement of experienced sailors on the Washington. On July 30 Gray sailed the Columbia out of Clayoquot Sound, making for Hawaii and China.
The reason for this exchange of ships remains unknown, but one reason could be that Kenrick thought the Washington was easier to handle because she was smaller. Whatever the reason, Gray returned to Boston via Canton, later taking a second expedition in the Columbia that would enter the Columbia River on the modern Washington-Oregon border, and result in its naming for the ship.
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 Haida 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 Kenrick 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.:63
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 William Douglas, formerly captain of the Iphigenia but now of an American ship called 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, 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 Washington. It was when Kenrick had a fight with a crew member that Coyah’s grudge against Kenrick 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 children. 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. Kenrick 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 and death
Kendrick arrived in Honolulu (then called Fair Haven) on December 3, 1794. There were also two other British vessels: the Jackal under Captain William Brown and the Prince Lee Boo under a Captain Gordon.
This was coincidentally when Kaeokulani, the chief of Kauai, invaded Oahu, meeting little resistance from his nephew Kalanikūpule. Brown sent eight men and a mate to aid Kalanikūpule'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 Honolulu. They finally retreated into a little ravine. Kaeo tried to escape, but Brown’s men and Kendrick’s men saw his ʻahuʻula, his feather cloak, and fired at the enemy chief from their boats in the harbor to show his position to Kalanikūpule's men. The Oahu warriors killed Kaeo along with his wives and chiefs. The battle ended with Kalanikūpule as the victor.
At 10:00 the next morning, December 12, 1794, Kendrick’s brig 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 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 ship's prayer book for the captain’s funeral.
The Captain John Kenrick House is a full Cape Cod style house located on Route 28 in South Orleans. Built in the late 1700s, this is the oldest house in good condition in Orleans.
The Kenrick Woods Conservation Area and John Kenrick Road also exist in the town of Orleans, Massachusetts.
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- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kendrick Bay
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kendrick Islands