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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New Jersey State Documents Increment 14: Who Are the Naval Bonnells?


This next set of documents partially answers one of the questions I posed after my visit to the State Library of Virginia:  what was the identity of the naval Bonnells (Captain Bonnell in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography and the William Bonnell, ship's master, paid for Revolutionary service in Virginia.  

The two excerpts from New Jersey newspaper entries clearly correspond with the story in Franklin's biography (timeframe and type of ship).  These excerpts identify the individual as John Dod Bonnell, Captain of the ship Harriot.  John Dod Bonnell appears to have been captain of this vessel between 1756 and 1762.  

I've searched exhaustively and can't find any other information about this individual.  Does anyone have any other leads?  Was John Dod Bonnell based in America or England?

This discovery actually surprised me, as I expected that Franklin's Bonnell was going to be the same as the Virginia Bonnell, and it wasn't.  

This still leaves open the question of who was the William Bonnell, ship's master, who served Virginia in the Revolutionary War.  We have no other indication that our Virginia/Kentucky William Bonnell had any maritime connection.  Nonetheless, this is still an intriguing disconnected piece to the Bonnell/Bunnell puzzle.

John Bunnell

John attached an 80-page listing of British Packet sailings between Falmouth and North America 1755-1826compiled by John S. Olenkiewicz. It shows the following trips by the ship Harriot captained by John Dod Bonnell:

      1756 2 sailings
      1757 2 sailings
      1758 1 sailing
      1759 2 sailings
      1760 1 sailing (probably 2, since one reported The Harriot captained by John Braily)
      1761 2 sailings 
      1762 2 sailings (0ne captained by “Robinson : Bonnell”)
      From 1763 on the Harriot was captained by Thomas Robinson)

George Farris reports:

From some English newspaper excerpts, John Dod Bonnell died January 15, 1776 at Bury, Suffolk.

"January 15 at Bury died at his home near this town John Dod Bonnell, esq., captain of one of his Majesty's packet boats at Falmouth."

The Ipswich Journal Suffolk, England
13 Jan 1776

AUCTION, By JOHN ROPER, On Tuesday, Jan, 23, and Three following Days, ALL the Genuine HOUSHOLD FURNITURE, a large quantity of fine old useful and ornamental china, and glass curiously cut and gilt, valuable pictures, and other effects, of JOHN DOD BONNELL
Bury is about 20 miles inland from Ipswich on the east coast of England.

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