THE SHIPWRECK, JOURNEY, AND JOURNAL OF JONATHAN DICKINSON
Jonathan Dickinson was born in 1663 in Jamaica. From a wealthy Quaker family, he made his success as a merchant in the very busy New World shipping port called Port Royal. The earthquake of 1692, which nearly destroyed Port Royal, caused the Dickinson family great financial losses, and he decided to immigrate to North America. He chose Philadelphia. In 1696 Jonathan Dickinson boarded on the barquentine Reformation along with his wife and infant son, and two fellow Quakers and ten slaves. The ship had a crew of nine.
A barquentine is a type of schooner sailing vessel with three or more masts; with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main, mizzen and any other masts. Although it is large, a smaller crew, good performance before the wind and the ability to sail relatively close to the wind while carrying plenty of cargo made it a popular vessel. Today, barquentines are popular with modern tall ship and sail training operators as their suite of mainly fore-and-aft sails can be operated with ease and efficiency, but the single mast of square sails offers long distance speed and dramatic appearance in port.
The Reformation travelled as part of a convoy under protection of the British HMS Hampshire, which was a 50-gun ship of the Royal Navy, but somewhere near the straits of Cuba it became separated from the group of ships. By September 23, 1696, it was along the south Florida coast when a fierce storm or hurricane wrecked the Reformation on a sand bar or small key along Jupiter Island just north of the inlet. Dickinson, who wrote a journal of his voyage, the wreck, and the aftermath, said, "We rejoiced at this our preservation from the raging seas, but at the same instant feared the sad consequences that followed."
Surprisingly, all of the passengers and crew survived the wreck. Although the two Quaker men and the infant were sick, and the ship's captain had broken his leg during the journey. Dickinson took charge, and set the crew and the slaves to salvaging what they could from the foundering ship and scouting the land for suitable shelter. Within hours, they encountered Indians which were either Jobe or Jeaga. There are varying accounts as to which tribal affiliation, but in Dickinson's journal he called the first people he met, "Hoe-bay".
"Their cacique, for so they call their king, with about thirty more came down to us in a furious manner. They rushed in among us and cried "Nickaleer"." Dickinson wrote this in his journal. The Jeaga knew the castaways were not Spanish, but English, however one of the ship's crew spoke to them in Spanish trying to calm them by making them believe the shipwrecked party was Spanish and thus inferring they should assist and not assault them. They were taken to the main town which was near the Jupiter Inlet, at what is today called "Dubois Park" where there is a large shell mound and archaeological evidence of a substantial village site.
The Cacique gave them food and water, and some shelter. His wife even nursed the Dickinson's infant, as Mary's could not produce milk. However, the tribe did burn the wreckage of the ship, and confiscated the salvaged cargo. Through the interpreter who spoke Spanish, and hand gestures, Dickinson conveyed that the party wished to head north to St. Augustine. The Cacique told them they must head south inferring that the Santaluces Indians would surely kill them. The next day, the party was provided with the launch boat from the Reformation, and allowed to leave, although the Cacique wanted to keep one of Dickinson's slaves, named Caesar.
Early on in the journey to St. Augustine, the group was "captured" by Indians who were most likely Santaluces. Dickinson's journal talks of the violent mistreatment by this group, but that ultimately, they were given food, the child was nursed, and allowed to journey on after giving up some salvaged cargo. Within a couple of days, they arrived at the territory of the Ais, and met a Cacique who he described thus; "the cacique of the town was commander of the northern part of this coast. He was an ancient man, his beard and hair gray." Dickinson said the man spoke Spanish better than any of them and was very kind. He promised to take his Spanish “comrades” to St. Augustine as soon as he could collect his share of the salvaged cargo from the Cacique down at the town of Jobe at Jupiter Inlet. The party was kept at the village for about a month with very little to eat and in constant fear.
On November 2, 1696 the old Cacique returned with a small Spanish garrison a few days later they departed for St. Augustine aboard several vessels. By November 13, they had to abandon the boats and walk along the shore during what must have been a cold front storm. Along the way five of the party died of exposure and exhaustion. After taking refuge at sentinel outposts, they finally arrived at St. Augustine on November 15. The Governor took them into his home and provided clothes, food, and supplies. At the end of the month, they group was given small boats and canoes and a few guides to take them north to Charles Town.
Jonathan Dickinson and his family arrived in Charles Town on December 26, 1696. After resting and recovering supplies, they headed on to Philadelphia on March 18, 1697 and arrived about two weeks later. Dickinson prospered in Philadelphia. He and his wife Mary had four children. He twice served as Mayor of Philadelphia, in 1712-1713 and 1717-1719.
The full title of the journal is; God’s Protecting Providence, man’s surest help and defence, in times of the greatest difficulty, and most eminent danger: evidenced in the remarkable deliverance of Robert Barrow, with divers other persons, from the devouring waves of the sea; amongst which they suffered shipwrack: and also, from the cruel, devouring jaws of the inhumane canibals of Florida. Though originally written as a report to the Spanish governor, the account was published by the members of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, who believed the narrative exemplified God’s guidance, intervention, and deliverance. His journal of the treacherous journey he and his fellow shipwreck survivors made from Jupiter Inlet north to St. Augustine was published in 1700 and reprinted and translated dozens more times since. His detailed, yet biased account of the customs of the southeast coastal Indians remains a significant reference of those cultures.
Not long after making shelter following the shipwreck, the castaways were visited by two Native American men. In his journal, Dickinson described them as "naked, except for a small piece of plaited work of straws, which just hid their private parts, and fastened behind like a horse tail in likeness, made of a sort of silk grass. They had their hair tied in a roll behind, in which stuck two bones, one shaped like an arrow, the other a spear head."
[painting: Theodore Morris]