BANCROFT, John (d. 1838), sea captain and commander of the Lama [Llama], an American brig owned by Captain Eliab Grimes of Boston for sea otter hunting. Bancroft married at Honolulu in 1836, and in 1837 bought the Lama. Bancroft’s wife accompanied him on his last otter-hunting voyage to the Channel Islands in November 1838. While anchored off of Santa Cruz Island, Indians returning in their canoes from the days hunt, were confronted by Captain Bancroft aboard Lama for not having obtained the usual number of otters. In reprimanding them, a fight ensued on November 21, 1838 in which Captain Bancroft was shot and killed. His wife died of her wounds later.
» Davis, William Heath Seventy-five years in California 1889;
» Ogden, Adele The California Sea Otter Trade 1784-1848 1941.
In the News~
“On November 21st, [Captain John] Bancroft, having had an altercation with one of his hunters in the morning, received a volley of musket-balls in the back while standing at the gangway looking over the ship’s side, and fell mortally wounded. Mrs. Bancroft threw herself upon her husband's body, and was terribly wounded by a second volley from the muskets of the savages. A seaman, attempting to arm himself, was also killed; and then the Indians, seizing the tons [?] forced Robinson, the mate, to direct her course to the north. When the Kanakas reached their home, they landed in their canoes, and allowed the Llama, stripped of all they could carry away, to continue her voyage. She arrived at Honolulu January 13, 1839; and on the 27th [January 1839] Mrs. Bancroft died there from the effect of her wounds. F. D. Atherton, notifying Thomas O. Larkin from Honolulu of what had happened, adds: "Sparks may now have the run of the whole coast without interruption, as there will be no more vessels fitted out from here." On the very day of Mrs. Bancroft's death, Governor Alvarado, having become convinced somewhat tardily that Bancroft was taking otter illegally on the coast, appointed the negro Allen G. Light a 'comisano general' to put a stop to such proceedings, using force if necessary! [H. H. Bancroft. History of California, Volume 4, page 91].