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August 24 Joseph Chapman joins Bouchard’s crew!

EUREKA! It’s the smoking gun!

It comes from the ship’s log of¬† American Captain Reynolds. He was anchored at Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawaii at King Kamehameha’s royal compound. The captain wrote on this day that he paid off Joseph Chapman for some work he’d done on his ship out of Boston, the Sultan. Who knows, maybe Joseph had helped build it in the shipyards there during his apprentice years. The captain needed to pay him because Joseph had signed on to crew with the “patriot” Bouchard. Just a simple notation… but the implications! Thanks to the researchers in Argentina — and I had to read this entry in Spanish, as they translated this info from English into Spanish for their book — one of the most popular myths of California history is blown apart!

This unremarkable entry completely demolishes the myth that Joseph was shanghaied from Hawaii and forced aboard Hipolito Bouchard’s ship against his will. T’ain’t true, folks! All the captains who were anchored in HI would have written about such an event. They were excellent diarists, recording their daily events — which often were exceedingly boring weeks at sea. Often the only thing they might have to note would be their longitude/ latitude coordinates. So it would have been a big deal if an American had been hustled by a foreign captain. It didn’t happen.

Instead, the Hawaiian king was encouraging Bouchard to take away as many unemployed sailors as he could — and he needed a couple of hundred. Now, we don’t know why Joseph perpetuated this myth later in California. But maybe we’ll uncover it as we go along.

But this information is stunning! And it’s buried in Spanish in a book that we don’t even have in CA! I had to order the reference book through an inter-library system via the Glendale Library from Harvard’s special collections. It was worth the $25.00 to get it for three weeks. I sure relied on Google Translate for every other word.

Now, we know some sailors were indeed forced aboard — and those Argentinians who were the original mutineers of the Santa Rosa. Although we don’t know how or when Joseph got to Hawaii, I don’t think he was one of those hijackers. A couple of writers have suggested he was. But he obviously was already working for the Hawaiian king rehabbing the stolen ship, and freelancing to repair the American captain’s frigate, according to this entry. ¬†Repairing a ship was a laborious task. It took weeks reshaping wood by hand to fit perfectly to prevent leaks or support heavy sails.

Anyway, when Bouchard first showed up, Joseph had torn apart La Rosa for refitting after the king bought it from the mutineers. So after a number of conversations, I wonder what Bouchard promised Joseph. After all, he could have sailed off with the mutineers, settled across seven islands. If Joseph had been in a hurry to get home to Boston, he could have crewed any time on a fur trade ship heading to China, and then sailed home. At any time, he could have joined a crew heading to the west coast — a shipbuilder/master carpenter was in demand on every ship. The safety of the crew depended on him holding the ship together. The few Russian ships were in pretty bad shape. So given his many choices and his talent, and that he hadn’t signed up to leave the island in either direction, why this privateer ship?

Why did Joseph sign up with the brusque Frenchman on August 24, 1818? Certainly the captain’s reputation preceded him among the mutineers who had been hanging around Kealakekua Bay. They would have a lot to say about the type of man Hippolyte was. Those who were privy to the negotiations with the king while Bouchard bargained for the return of Argentinian property would have observed his brash foreign ways.

What would Joseph get out of this venture? What was the appeal? He wasn’t heading home, unless he planned to stay with the crew around the dreaded Horn, then catch a ship heading north from Buenos Ayres. Maybe Joseph Chapman was indeed seeking adventure on the high seas, though he wouldn’t admit it later. His motive remains a mystery, though now there’s proof the 25-year-old (or 35-year-old) joined up of his own free will!

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