John DeWolf – (September 6, 1779- March 8, 1872) was a member of the famous and wealthy clan of Bristol merchants. Although Captain Robert Gray of Tiverton (see Rhode Island Founders) became the first American to circumnavigate the globe in 1790 aboard his ship Columbia, John DeWolf became the first American (and probably the first human) to travel around the world by crossing Asia overland, a remarkable journey detailed in his published diary, A Voyage to the North Pacific and a Journey Through Siberia More Than Half-a-Century Ago (1861). In this narrative, “Northwest John” (as he was called) describes his voyage aboard DeWolf’s ship Juno, which departed Bristol on August 13, 1804, to sail around Cape Horn to acquire furs along the north Pacific Coast. After accumulating a full cargo of pelts, DeWolf reached Russian Alaska in May 1805. Here he sold the Juno to the Russian American Company and sent a quantity of furs back to Bristol in a sister ship. After spending two years among the Russian traders and trappers, John crossed the Bering Strait and set off across Siberia via foot, sled, boat and horseback, reaching St. Petersburg on October 21, 1807. After leaving Russia, he encountered in Denmark the ship Mary out of Portland, Maine, and sailed on it back to America after a stopover in Liverpool, England. DeWolf finally arrived in Bristol on April Fool’s Day 1808, almost forty-four months after he had departed on the Juno. Thereafter, John DeWolf lived a relatively unspectacular life and died at the home of his daughter in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on March 8, 1872.
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