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DEVAU, Retor, CLAUDE – Volume IV (1771-1800)

d. 14 April 1784 at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade (La Pérade, Que.)


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LUCAS, FRANCIS, naval officer, merchant trader; b. c. 1741 at Clontibret, Co. Monaghan (Republic of Ireland); d. 1770, at sea.

Francis Lucas began his naval career as an able seaman, then master’s mate, serving from 1764 to 1766 in hms Niger (commander Sir Thomas Adams), which patrolled the fisheries on the northern coast of Newfoundland and southern coast of Labrador. In 1765 the Niger brought to Chateau Bay, the chief port on the southern Labrador coast, four Moravian missionaries seeking a suitable place along the almost unknown shore for a mission to the Eskimos. Two of them, Jens Haven* and Christian Andrew Schloezer, were transferred to the schooner Hope for a reconnaissance. Governor Hugh Palliser*, who was at Chateau Bay that summer, sent Lucas along to help make “the needful observations.” During August the schooner explored Davis Inlet and adjacent coasts, as well as the surrounding country, where the men observed much timber and wildlife, but no Eskimos. Lucas’ report to Palliser in St John’s left the governor more than ever sure that the Labrador coast, “under proper regulations,” would prove valuable for its fisheries and trade.

Lucas transferred to Palliser’s flagship, hms Guernsey, in March 1767 and again spent the summer at Chateau Baork Fort had been built at Chateau the previous year to protect English fishing ships from the Eskimos and the “far more mischievous plundering crews from the [New England] plantations”; Palliser now made Lucas second in command of the year-round garrison, with special responsibility for the fort’s boats. In November 1767 an Eskimo band attacked Nicholas Darby’s fishing premises at Cape Charles, northeast of Chateau, stealing boats and killing three men. The Eskimos seem to have been seeking revenge for harsh treatment by some New England whalers. Lucas pursued the Eskimos, killed 20 or more, and captured some women and children. He was able to establish friendly relations with the prisoners, especially with an intelligent woman called Mikak*, and, during the long winter, learned something of the Eskimo language. Palliser decided to bring some Eskimos to England to impress them with the greatness of his nation, and Lucas escorted Mikak and two of the children to London in the fall of 1768. The following spring Lucas, now a lieutenant, was charged with returning Mikak. Early in August he landed her and the other Eskimos who had survived captivity on an island northwest of Byron Bay (north of Hamilton Inlet). Back at Portsmouth, England, in November, he wrote the secretary of state, Lord Hillsborough, reporting the success of the voyage, and promising to call at his London home in a few days.

Lucas now decided to go into business for himself on the Labrador coast, and apparently left active naval service. On 30 March 1770 he entered into a partnership with Thomas Perkins and Jeremiah Coghlan, merchants of Bristol, England, and Fogo, Newfoundland, and George Cartwright*, a former army captain with private means. Cartwright was to oversee trade in fish and fur on the Labrador; Lucas, put in command of a schooner, the Enterprize, was to trade with the Eskimos. They did not reach Chateau Bay until almost the end of July; Cartwright settled then at Charles River and Lucas went north in the Enterprize in quest of the Eskimos and Mikak in particular.

The Moravians, however, had also been looking for Mikak, hoping that she would help them set up a mission post. They had taken the precaution of leaving England early in the season, and found her in Byron Bay on 16 July. Having no news of Lucas, she and her husband agreed to travel with the missionary ship to northern Labrador to find a site. Thus Mikak and most of the Eskimos were far to the north when Lucas searched the coast in August. He was able to purchase only a little whalebone and a few seal skins before returning to Cape Charles in early October. However he had persuaded an Eskimo family to return with him to pass the winter at Cartwright’s post. Lucas went next to Fogo, and late in October set out for Portugal with a cargo of dry fish. According to the Moravians, he was in some haste and “gave out that he had great business to do with the King, . . . but probably he will scarce know how to pass the winter without Mikak.” The Enterprize, however, foundered at sea. Cartwright continued to fish, seal, and trade with the Eskimos at Cape Charles.

Lucas contributed to the security of English enterprises in southern Labrador by fostering friendly relations with the natives. The missionaries distrusted him as being rash in temperament and “fleshly” in his tastes, but he was regarded as a “man of honour” by his partner Jeremiah Coghlan. Given positions of responsibility by Governor Palliser, he was obviously capable and enterprising. He seems to have been reasonably well educated and certainly was intelligent and quick-witted enough to learn the rudiments of the Eskimo language and to try to profit from his knowledge of the Labrador coast. By 1769 he was doubtless regarded as something of an authority on the Eskimos and had the ear of even the secretary of state. Whatever his plans for the future, however, they vanished with him into an Atlantic grave.

William H. Whiteley

PANL, Nfld., Dept. of Colonial Secretary, Letter books, IV. PAC, MG 17, Dl. PRO, Adm. 36/7104, 36/738485, 36/744647, 50/19, 51/629, 51/636, 51/4210, 51/4220, 52/1288; CO 194/16, 194/27, 194/28. George Cartwright, A journal of transactions and events, during a residence of nearly sixteen years (on the coast of Labrador); containing many interesting particulars, both of the country and its inhabitants, not hitherto known (3v., Newark, Eng., 1792). Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1766, ed. A. M. Lysaght (London, 1971). London Chronicle, 6 June 1769. W. G. Gosling, Labrador: its discovery, exploration and development (London, 1910). J. K. Hiller, “The foundation and the early years of the Moravian mission in Labrador, 17521805” (unpublished ma thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1967). H. W. Jannasch, “Reunion with Mikak,” Canadian Geographical Journal (Ottawa), LVII (1958), 8485.

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Cite This Article

William H. Whiteley, “LUCAS, FRANCIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 14, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lucas_francis_3E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lucas_francis_3E.html
Author of Article:   William H. Whiteley
Title of Article:   LUCAS, FRANCIS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1974
Year of revision:   1974
Access Date:   April 14, 2024