Following ‘contact,’ trade between the northwest coast of America and China began in 1785 or in the spring of 1786. Ships began to call at the islands for fresh supplies and water. In some cases they came to spend the winter where the climate was not as severe as on the northwest coast of America.
Members of the crews of these early visitors were left at the islands either as agents for their ships or their owners, with instructions to learn the language and to collect cargoes of sandalwood, supplies, etc., or as deserters.
Simon Metcalfe (sometimes spelled Metcalf) (1735-1794) was an American fur trader. Reportedly, Simon Metcalfe was the first American captain to take sea otters on the Northwest Coast and the first American to trade those skins in China.
In 1789, Simon Metcalf (captaining the Eleanora) and his son Thomas Metcalf (also a trader, captaining the Fair American); their plan was to meet and spend winter in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Eleanora arrived at the Big Island; Captain Simon Metcalf sent his boatswain, John Young, ashore to see the country. That evening, as Young attempted to return to his ship, Kamehameha’s forces detained him (Kamehameha had placed a kapu on anyone going on the ship.)
Young was captured and Metcalf, unaware, was puzzled why Young did not return. Metcalf waited two days for Young to return; finally, sensing danger or becoming frustrated, Metcalf departed and set sail for China (abandoning Young,) not knowing that his son had been killed not far away.
On March 22, 1790 wrote a letter to four foreigners, residents on the Islands, SI Thomas, I Ridler, Js Mackey and John Young (an apparently different John Young than his boatswain). These may have been the first foreigners who stayed (at least for a while) in the Islands. Simon Metcalf wrote a letter to them:
“Sirs, As my Boatswain landed by your invitation, if he is not returned to the Vessel, consequences of an unpleasant nature may follow (to distress a Vessel in these Seas is an affair of no small magnitude.”
“If your Word be the Law of Owhyhee as you have repeatedly told me, there can be no difficulty in doing me justice in this Business, otherwise I am possessed of sufficient powers to take ample revenge which it is your duty to make the head Chief acquainted with.”
SI Thomas, one of those residing at Kailua to whom Captain Metcalf addressed his letter, was probably an American. He arrived in either the Columbia or the Lady Washington in the fall of 1788 and landed at Kailua, Hawaii. The length of his residence in Hawaii is not known.
I. Ridler was Carpenter’s Mate on the Columbia and was left in the fall of 1788 to collect sandalwood. In 1791 Captain Joseph Ingraham in the brig Hope, while cruising off Maui, was hailed by a double canoe in which were three white men, besides natives.
These men were dressed in malos (loin cloths), being otherwise naked. They were so tanned that they resembled the natives. They told Captain Ingraham that they had deserted Kamehameha, who had maltreated them, after the arrival at Kailua of the boatswain of the Eleanora.
These men were Ridler, James Cox and John Young. They went to China with Ingraham, which he did in the summer of 1791. Ridler, however, returned with Ingraham to Hawaii in October, 1791, and accompanied him back to New England on the same voyage. He resided in Hawaii about four years.
J. Mackey (also identified as M’Key) probably arrived in September, 1787, in the Imperial Eagle, Captain Barclay. (Cartwright) “John M’Key was born in Ireland and went to Bombay in the East India Company’s service.”
“Two vessels, the Captain Cook, under Captain Lowrie, and the Experiment, under Captain Guise, were fitted out in 1785 to go to the American coast. M’Key engaged on the Captain Cook as surgeon.” (Dixon)
In August, 1787, M’Key sailed the Imperial Eagle, bound for China. She touched at Hawaii, where they took aboard a Hawaiian woman named ‘Winee’ as a maid for the captain’s wife, who had accompanied her husband on this voyage.
It is not known whether M’Key stayed in Hawaii or not. It is quite possible that he did so and was the Mackey to whom Captain Metcalf addressed the letter above referred to. (Cartwright)
The nationality of John Young (the one noted in the letter) has not been definitely established – it is suggested he was American. He was a resident of Kailua, Hawaii, when Captain Metcalf called there, and it was to him that the letter above referred to was addressed.
This John Young and the boatswain of the Eleanora were different persons. The Boatswain of the Eleanora always claimed he was an Englishman from Liverpool. (Cartwright)