"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

1792 ❖ REAR ADMIRAL OF THE BLUE ❖ PETER PUGET


Text by historian author, Lucile McDonald writing for The Seattle Times, 24 June 1962.
      Peter John Puget, the man who in 1792 explored Puget Sound, is more revered on the Pacific Coast of North  America, where he left his mark upon the map, than in England, his native land, where his burial place is unknown.


All Saints Church
Wooley South, England
 The Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society's president, H. W. McCurdy, returned from a trip to the British Isles last fall, shocked that he had found Puget so little honored. The grave of his commander, Capt. George Vancouver, was utterly neglected and the feats of those leaders of coastal exploration were forgotten.
      Since then, McCurdy, determined to learn more of Vancouver's able lieutenant, has advertised in London newspapers for relatives or descendants of Puget, in the hope of locating a portrait of him and finding his grave.
      The present exhibit in the Joshua Green-Dwight Merrill Maritime Wing of the Museum of History and Industry contains a small and rare pamphlet McCurdy lent for display. It is one of only five copies of "The Humble Memorial of Peter Puget, Esq." printed in 1816 when Puget was resident commissioner for His Majesty's Navy at Madras, India.
      The memorial was prepared after a younger and less experienced officer superseded Puget as post captain. The latter, by then sensitive to slight, stated his position, lest he be thought deserving of censure.
      This memorial and another, written earlier when he was on half pay and desired a ship, are the principal keys to Puget's life story. Although an energetic and zealous officer, he was the victim of many misunderstandings and disappointments. He became Rear Admiral of the Blue too late to fly his flag on any vessel. Through errors of other persons he received the Order of the Bath long after the honor was to have been bestowed.
      Somehow this diligent officer and competent strategist missed being a hero except in Washington.
      Puget was a second lieutenant on Vancouver's sloop DISCOVERY and third in command of the expedition when he entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca in May, 1792. He was 27-years old and had been in the British Navy since he was 13. He was a member of a Huguenot family in comfortable circumstances, his father was a merchant and banker and his elder brother also was a banker.
      Peter started as a midshipman with experience in the North Sea in that difficult period where Britain not only was fighting the American Revolution, but was at war with France and Spain. Puget was sent to the West Indies, arriving in time to participate in the fight at St. Kitts and help repel French attempts to land on St. Lucia.
      He served briefly at Gibraltar before putting in a four year tour of duty on Jamaica station, where he met Vancouver. Among the officers he served under was Admiral James Vashon, for whom Vashon Island is named.
      Puget was in the English Channel in 1788 when he was sent on a round trip to India which occupied a year and a half. Soon after his return he was assigned to the DISCOVERY, to which Capt. Henry Roberts and Vancouver were supposed to survey the east coast of Africa.
      The expedition never sailed because another war scare and a great naval mobilization took place, the result of the Nootka Sound controversy which had its beginnings in a remote harbor on the west side of Vancouver Island. Roberts and Vancouver were given other tasks and Puget remained with the DISCOVERY, which became a receiving ship for seamen brought in by press gangs.
      Before this war became a reality, Spain, no longer having the support of France, signed an agreement promising to return the seized land at Nootka to the British. Vancouver was to go to the Pacific Coast to receive it and Puget learned he was going along too, in a new ship DISCOVERY, which the Navy just had purchased.
      The expedition consumed four and three quarter years, during all but the first year of which Puget was in command of the DISCOVERY's consort, the brig CHATHAM. He took over the vessel after Lieut. William Broughton was sent back to England with important dispatches.
      Among the first valuable microfilms acquired by the University of WA Library some years ago was a copy of Puget's journal, discovered in the Public Records Office in London. It told in detail of his work tracing the entire shore line in a small boat from Port Discovery around to Birch Bay. He commenced examination of the upper reaches of Puget Sound the latter part of May and on his successful termination of his assignment Vancouver, 'to commemorate Mr. Puget's exertion," named the Sound for him.
   
His Grave Has Been Found
Grave of Peter John Puget, (d. 1822)
All Saints Church, Woolley South, Eng.
Original photo from the archives of S. P. H. S. ©


Below text by Lucile McDonald for The Seattle Times, 26 August 1962.
Peter Puget's grave has been found. The long-unknown burial place of the first explorer of Puget Sound was discovered in remarkably quick time through an advertisement in the "agony column" of The London Times at the behest of H. W. McCurdy, a member of the Board of Trustees, and former president of the Seattle Historical Society.
      Last fall, when McCurdy visited Great Britain, he set in motion the newest search for the last resting place of Capt. George Vancouver's able lieutenant, who in 1792 examined all the inlets of the Upper Sound. In honor of his achievements, his name was given not only to local waters but to Puget Island in the Columbia River and Cape Puget in Alaska.
      Although late in life he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath, and an Admiral of the Blue, no enduring recognition was given to his work. He was mentioned only in official records and no trace was to be found of his burial place.
      Washington historians early in the twentieth century made a concentrated effort to learn more about him. Judge James Wickersham tried and failed. Edward S. Meany persisted in a thorough examination of naval records and turned up a great deal of information, but when he requested searches of burial registers of Walcot Parish and Bath Abbey, the most likely places, they revealed no Puget grave.
      McCurdy, undaunted by Meany's lack of success, discussed with his friend, J. E. "Toby" Green of Lloyd's of London the chances of tracing the burial place through an advertisement. Green agreed to have a try and inserted a query in the London Times on 2 February. He was agreeably surprised to receive a reply within a few days from Mrs. Kitty Champion of Woolley, a suburb of Bath. She wrote:
      We have a Rear Admiral Puget buried in our churchyard here 1822...I copied the name from the records of the library at Bath when we first came to Woolley."
      She said the tomb was at All Saints Church, which possessed a registry dating from 1580. As the name on the tomb was badly defaced, further proof of the identity of the buried Puget appeared desirable.
      Green wrote last May to the rector of All Saints to obtain a copy of the parish register, a photograph of the headstone and any other means of exact identification that could be furnished.
      On 9 July he sent McCurdy a copy of the 1822 burial certificate, which read: Peter Puget Esq., Walcot , age 58 years, Rear Admiral of the Blue.
      It was signed by Peter Ganning, rector.
      Meanwhile, Mrs. Champion enlisted the aid of a neighbor in obtaining photographs of the tomb.
      "Unfortunately, all the lettering has fallen off. We spent ages trying to piece the words together. Then I returned to the Bath Library to consult the reference books again", she wrote.
     Expressing curiosity as to how Americans would regard the pictures of "our poor little tomb," Mrs. Champion said "It is the shabbiest in the churchyard. Other older ones are easier to read."
      McCurdy expects to remedy that matter. He is endeavoring to learn the cost of restoring it and providing care in the name of the Seattle Historical Society.

 
Peter Puget Tablet Dedicated, February 1965.
J. E. Green, left, of London, represented 
the Seattle Historical Society, 
which had sent the tablet to England. 
Photographer unknown.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©


Grave of Admiral Peter Puget, February 1965.

Dedication of the Puget Plaque at All Saints Church.

     Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.
Presented by the Seattle Historical Society (S. H. S.) was dedicated by
 the Bishop of Bath and Wells in the churchyard of All Saints Church, 
Woolley South of England. 

L-R: Mr. J. E. Green, who attended on behalf of the S. H. S.
 
The Rev. J. G. Rowe, Rector of Bathwick with Woolley, accepted the plaque.

Rt. Rev. Edward Henderson, Bishop of Bath and Wells.

      The church, situated in the heart of the country is almost impossible to find, 
and is accessible only by winding lanes leading to the tiny village of Woolley.
 Despite traveling difficulties and the rainy weather, 
over 100 people attended the ceremony including Mr. Wilfred H. Evans from Vashon Island, in Puget Sound, who is at present living in London. 
Representatives of the Royal Navy and the USN were also present. 
      

This is a British Official Photograph with Crown Copyright from the
 Central Office of Information, London.
 
      The first book about Peter Puget, the explorer who was a contemporary of Capt. Bligh, Lord Nelson and Napoleon during a great time of exploration and war is listed here. Puget's life was filled with the excitement of unknown lands, Indian confrontations and great naval battles, yet it seemed that only his name would survive, as happens with many good people. For an engaging story, see: Peter Puget by Robert C. Wing and Gordon Newell. 1979.
Book search here.

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