Join the Plymouth Antiquarian Society for our 101st Annual Meeting, to be held remotely via Zoom. The program will begin with a 30-minute business meeting, featuring reports on our work in 2020 and the annual election of officers and trustees. The meeting will be followed by a special presentation, “Sometimes fortune Smiled other times a hard rub”: The Bilbao Adventures of Plymouth’s Captain Nathaniel Spooner.
As the ward of his uncle Ephraim Spooner, the Plymouth shipmaster Nathaniel Spooner (1758-1826) was raised in the house at 27 North Street now preserved by the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, whose rich historical collections include Nathaniel’s portrait and spyglass. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Spooner skippered multiple voyages from Massachusetts to Spain delivering cargoes of cod and other foodstuffs to hungry Iberian consumers on behalf of his employers, the Plymouth merchants Thomas and William Davis. Despite the disordered international situation at the time, Spooner managed to complete most of his voyages without undue incident.
In August of 1803, however, Spooner’s luck ran out. While departing the Spanish Basque port of Bilbao, his schooner the Governor Carver was intercepted on suspicion of carrying specie, a serious crime at a time when the export of gold and silver by foreign traders was generally prohibited by law.
The story of the Captain’s hair’s-breadth escape from justice and the legal machinations that followed is now being pieced together from surviving manuscript records by our speaker, independent scholar Donald C. Carleton, Jr., in collaboration with Bilbao’s Itsasmuseum (maritime museum) and Dr. Xabier Lamikiz of the University of the Basque Country. Dr. Lamikiz will be joining our Zoom session from Vittoria-Gasteiz to offer commentary on Carleton’s presentation and to share his perspectives and insights into Spooner’s Bilbao adventures.