Eleanor’s Odyssey by Joan Druett

Eleanor’s Odyssey: Journal of the Captain’s Wife on the East Indiaman Friendship, 1799-1801

It was 1799, and French privateers lurked in the Atlantic and the Bay of Bengal. Yet Eleanor Reid, newly married and just twentyone years old, made up her mind to sail with her husband, Captain Hugh Reid, to the penal colony of New South Wales, the Spice Islands and India. Danger threatened not just from the barely charted seas they would be sailing, yet, confident in her love and her husband’s seamanship, Eleanor insisted on going along.  Joan Druett, writer of many books about the sea, including the bestseller Island of the Lost and the groundbreaking story of women under sail, Hen Frigates, embellishes Eleanor’s journal with a commentary that illuminates the strange story of a remarkable young woman. ISBN 978-0-9941152-1-8


Eleanor’s Odyssey by Joan Druett — 2 Comments

  1. I’m sorry that this comment does not have anything to do with this particular book. This has to to with The Elephant Voyage. My cousin and I were both a little perplexed at some statements in that book and we began to question our knowledge of the man, Alexander Henderson. When I once again found the original letter written to the consulate I again became convinced that Alexander Henderson is my great-great uncle and twin brother of my grandmother, Jane Henderson Garrood.

    The discrepancies that I found unsettling were the statements made by you in the book, and by Alex himself saying in court that he was born in Germany. He and his twin sister Jane were born in Richibucto, New Brunswick, Canada in 1855. This information in in the 1861 and the 1871 census in Canada. Then there is a letter written to the consulate and received in the period of March and was answered to her on April 19th by the American Consul. It was written perhaps by his twin, Jane, or maybe their mother, Catherine.

    I wonder why it took until after they were put on a ship at Sydney bound for San Francisco for an answer to be written back? Why were they never to be heard from again? Did the government have them quieted? Did they meet with some accident? All 6 of them? Were they paid to keep quiet? Did they make it there and what was the name of the ship they were put on? My cousin Cathy and I can’t find answers to these questions.

    In any case, Alex was not born in Germany as he stated in court. As I said, he was born in Canada. His father, Donald Henderson and his mother, Catherine Gunn, were both born in Scotland, but had moved to New Brunswick, Canada before 1855. Alex and Jane were Scottish. This set of twins were their first children. His mother, Catherine, died in a home for the insane in Boston. (If I have my family history correct.)

    I truly enjoyed the book. I started out feeling sorry for the six, then I felt indignant for all my family when Alex lied under oath. The ruckus they caused was unnecessary but it seems that the government of that time and in that region needed a change. That situation sure snowballed once one person dropped the ball. To be honest, I still have a few pages to read. I put it down after I read about the court sessions and refusals to go back out. I now want to finish reading it and look forward to the ending.

    If you have any other information I would like to known where to look.

    Colette Merrill

    • Good morning Colette — Apologies that this has taken so long, but I have only just seen your comment. The Old Salt Press site is run by WordPress, and I am still finding my way around it. How strange that Alex Henderson lied about his origin. I did find it strange that he had a Scottish name, yet reckoned he had been born in Germany. He had declared his German origin on the shipping papers when he was signed on board the Sarah W. Hunt, so had to keep the deception going when he testified to the consular agent. His state of mind at the time must have been interesting, to say the very least! Why Germany? I do not have a clue. Bismarck had instigated the draft, so if he had “returned” to Germany, he would have been forced to join the army. This was the reason the ones who were German signed on the sealer, to avoid going back. Perhaps he was influenced by one of the others. Ludwig, though Swiss, was a strong influence, or so I thought. What date was the letter he wrote the the consulate? You didn’t give the year. As for whether he got to San Francisco, the answer is yes, on the Zealandia. Men landed there and simply disappeared from the records. They went into the hills, and many did not return. Others drifted into the silver mines, as they started up. If you want to look up the newspapers, google Californian newspapers/Veridian. It is an easy site to search. You have to remember, though, that many, many records were lost in the 1908 earthquake and the fires that followed. Do let me know if you find out more. My email is druettjo@yahoo.com.au Good luck, Joan

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