The Life of Stephen Palmer Blake

From His Journals


576 pages, 6 x 9", hardcover, including a comprehensive 21 page index, 9 drawings by Stephen, 27 photographs, 11 maps, and 51 other illustrations.

Stephen Palmer Blake was born in 1822 in West Cambridge (now Arlington) MA. At the age of 15, Stephen went to sea as a cabin boy. He followed the sea for 35 years, sailing out of Boston and New York, and rising through all grades of sailors and officers to the responsible position of Captain. Throughout his travels, Stephen recorded his thoughts and experiences in journals and letters.

In 1990, when I began reading Stephen's journals and letters I found that they were extremely interesting, yet very laborious to read. He had beautiful penmanship, but with the passing of approximately 150 years, the paper had faded and some pages were torn or water stained. It was then that I decided that the journals and letters should be typed so that those interested could enjoy reading them.

I read each of Stephen's journals and letters verbatim. I felt that his spelling, grammar usage, etc. helped to form a more accurate picture of the era and the author. Unfortunately, not all of Stephen's journals have been found, thus years of his life are without records. The journals that are available begin when he was 15 years old and end with his final journal at the age of 50.

In compiling this book, my purpose was to allow Stephen's relatives and others to read his writing in an easy and interesting form that would be as accurate as possible. I have included information that I found while doing research, so that the reader might have a better understanding and knowledge of Stephen and his writings.

Recorded in this book are Stephen's first-hand accounts of his years in California during the gold rush era---goldmining, bearhunting and rattlesnake encounters. He described the society, customs, beliefs and treatment of California's Native Americans, and in 1852, he set sail for the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and recorded his impressions of the landscape and of the native Kanakas.

Within these pages, Stephen also tells a pirate's tale, his exciting story of surviving an unexpected hurricane, and of his travels to the South after the Civil War.

This book includes the text of all Stephen's known journals, as well as letters to his wife, a short genealogy of his ancestors and descendants and a biography of his brother, E. Nelson Blake, that was published in 1921 in the University of Chicago Record.

In 1853, Stephen wrote in his journal to his sister, "My journal has been kept a year and over, I thinking of giving it up. I do not think it will ever interest anyone enough to pay for the time it takes to write, neither do I think it can be read by many, it is so badly written. I never intended it for others than those that would not look at its faults, of which I know there are many."

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