Captain John Bartlett of the Panther


John “Jack” Bartlett was born in Brigus, Newfoundland, on May 6, 1843, the oldest child of Abraham Bartlett and his wife Elizabeth Wilmot. He attended school in Harbour Grace.

Capt. John "Jack" Bartlett
Capt. John “Jack” Bartlett

John’s father, whose given name was usually shortened to Abram, was a sea captain, sealer and fisherman and John and his three younger brothers followed the same professions. In the early spring the Newfoundland sealers, including the Bartlett men, would go north to hunt and in the summer they would join the cod fishery off Labrador. Capt. John Bartlett often sailed across the north Atlantic to deliver a boat load of fish to European markets.

Around 1866 Abram Bartlett became part owner of the steamship Panther and it was among of the first steamships used in the Newfoundland sealer fleet. One of John Bartlett’s obituaries stated that at age 21 he Captained the Panther on her maiden voyage to Greenock, Scotland where she was fitted for steam and that the Panther was the first steamer of the fleet. Abram continued as the commander of the Panther until he retired in about 1884 at which time William Bartlett, Abram’s third son, became her Captain. The Panther was transferred to another owner in 1896 and in 1908 her bow caved in as she was trying to plow through the ice and she was lost.

Capt. John Bartlett had two brothers in the crew of the Panther during the Bradford and Hayes expedition. Those brothers would have been Samuel Wilmot Bartlett (1849-1916) and William James Bartlett (1851-1931). Their other brother, Henry Bellamy Bartlett (1863-1894) would have been too young to have been on the crew.

Newfoundland was a self-governing British colony from 1855 until 1907. John Bartlett was the representative for Port de Grave in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly 1873-4 and 1882-6.

Capt. Bartlett spent several summers sailing north with Robert E. Peary. In 1895 John Bartlett commanded the Kite, the smallest of the Newfoundland fleet, as a relief ship for Robert E. Peary. For the next two summers, Bartlett captained the Hope to take Peary to the Arctic, and in 1898 he sailed the Windward and was iced in, not returning until the next season. That was the expedition in which Peary found Greely’s camp at Fort Conger as it had been left and in which Peary had to have several toes amputated due to frostbite. The last Peary expedition John Bartlett captained was in 1906 aboard the Roosevelt.

John’s brothers had all sailed for Peary: Samuel, William and the youngest, Henry, having been lost with the Falcon and all her crew after having dropped off Peary’s wife in Philadelphia, coaling and returning to Newfoundland. Now it was time for the next generation of Bartlett captains to assume the helm. John’s nephew, Robert Abram Bartlett, son of his brother William, who had been trained by John, would become the leading member of the family over the next few years.

Not long after his last voyage for Peary, John and his wife Louisa Emeline (Burchell) whom he had married in 1867, moved to southern Ontario or Quebec, probably to be closer to their children. In 1913 when they moved to the United States, John and Louisa had been living in Burlington, Ontario. One son, Ernest Burchell Bartlett, died in 1909 and was buried at the protestant cemetery, Mt. Hermon Cemetery in Quebec. In 1913, John and Louisa, their daughter Louisa B. Stewart, and grandson, John D. Stewart crossed the US/Canada border en route to Evanston, Illinois where Louisa’s husband, mining engineer Andrew Buchanan Stewart was working. At one time Andrew was assigned to find an abandoned Antimony mine in Newfoundland, and that is where he met Louisa. He operated a gold mine near Halifax, Nova Scotia and John Bartlett was an investor.

Following his wife Louisa’s death in Evanston in March 1926, John moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick where his son George was living. It was there John died on April 3, 1927 and he was buried beside Louisa and son Ernest at Mt. Hermon Cemetery, Quebec. Beside the three aforementioned children and three who died young, he and Louisa had two daughters: Emma Elizabeth who married Dr. John George Duncan and Susannah who married John Samuel Thistle.

Submitted by Ethelind Wright. Ethelind is a graduate student in the American and New England Studies program at the University of Southern Maine, and a genealogist.

7 thoughts on “Captain John Bartlett of the Panther

  1. This is a good piece on John Bartlett, but my understanding is that his nephew Captain Bob Bartlett was captain of the Roosevelt in 1906 for the Peary Expedition, as well as the second expedition in 1908/09.

    1. You are absolutely correct about Bob’s importance to the Peary Expedition, but for this piece I decided to limit the discussion to those members of the family who were on the Panther with a brief mention of John’s brother Henry who was not on the 1869 voyage.

      1. You said as the last sentence in paragraph 6 “The last Peary expedition John Bartlett captained was in 1906 aboard the Roosevelt.”. My understanding is that this was the first arctic voyage of the Roosevelt, and that was captained by Bob Bartlett.

        From the Bowdoin exhibition: “Under the command of Robert A. Bartlett, the Roosevelt enabled Peary’s 1906 push to 87*6 N, an international record for Farthest North. However, the ship limped home, badly damaged by ice.”

      2. This is the source of the confusion:

        From the November 24, 1906 Boston Herald (as well as several other newspapers the printed around the same time and based on the same information out of Sydney) on page one and two: “Peary Leaps Ashore to Join Waiting Wife” contains the following:

        Bartlett Would Return. Capt. John Bartlett, master of the Roosevelt, said the steamer was a good sea boat and that he would sail her to New York. He is ready to go again to the Arctic. Capt. Bartlett was in charge of one of the parties supporting Commander Peary’s advance. He said the storm which did the mischief was tremendous in violence and accompanied by blinding squalls of fine snow. The ice field was rent widely asunder and all traces of the track destroyed. First Mate Bartlett, a cousin of the captain, said the crew were well paid and well fed, and the Roosevelt was a staunch ship, but he did not think many of the Newfoundland members of the present crew would be found willing to join another expedition. It was a hard experience.

        On December 7, 1906 the Boston Herald wrote in an article headed “Peary Ship Sets Out for New York”:

        The steamer Roosevelt sailed for New York today. Of the original members of the crew of the Roosevelt leaving Sydney, July 25, 1905, for the Arctic regions, the following will deliver her to the Peary Arctic Club in New York: Capt. Robert A. Bartlett… The balance of the crew, six in number, shipped here [Sydney, NS] to go as far as New York as Capt. Bartlett is unacquainted with the coast and harbors from Sydney to New York.

        Bob captained the Roosevelt in 1905; perhaps the newspapers in November were in error about which man was Captain; John did Captain the Windward for Peary at least as late as 1902.

  2. Hi,
    I have just,recently,learned that my great grandfather sailed on the KITE.
    Is there a list of the crew members names to be found anywhere so that I can confirm?

    His brothers may have been apart of the crew also.

    Thank You,

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