Dr. John L. Fox served aboard the Vincennes as part of the Wilkes
Expedition (1838-1842), then later served as Surgeon General of the
Wilkes Expedition was authorized by Congress in 1836 and was the first
ever funded for exploration and survey. It was a wide-ranging voyage,
starting in August, 1838 at Hampton Roads, VA and continuing to South
America, Samoa, New South Wales, along the Antarctic, Fiji, Hawaii and
in 1841 along the west coast of the U.S.
Charles Wilkes' surveys and naming of the U.S. Northwest were
influential in debates with Great Britain over ownership of the Oregon
Territory (including the current state of Washington). However,
Wilkes was notorious for his strict discipline and is said to have
been the model for Captain Ahab in Melville's novel, "Moby Dick."
John L. Fox, of Narragansett, MA, was on board one of the six ships in
the expedition, as this note in the Fox Island Historical Society
Newsletter (January, 2002) indicates:
There is an excellent description of the expedition, including some
good source documents at HistoryLink, a Seattle-King County on-line
encyclopedia under "Wilkes, Charles" (Sept. 1998):
It appears that in 1859, he was part of the group that opened the
first American Embassy in China, attached to the ship Powhaten. This
account, "China and Japan," was written originally by Lt. James D.
Johnston, U.S.N. (1860) and is reprinted on the Internet here:
There are excellent resources on Dr. Fox and his trip in several
libraries. The National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, MD, has Dr.
Fox's papers from 1838-1840, as their web page, "Source on U.S. Naval
History" (May 11, 2002) indicates:
This one volume (from before their arrival in the Puget Sound) covers
collecting of scientific specimens, conducting of anthropological
studies, medical observations on the health of sailors and of native
populations. It also has a description of the preparation and cooking
of the human body by cannibals in the South Pacific. There's no
indication of what became of his papers from the latter period, when
he would have been in the Pacific Northwest.
As you'd alluded, this account notes that his sextant is in the Naval
Academy Museum at Annapolis (December, 1997). It notes that his son
was Rear Admiral Charles E. Fox and also lists two grandsons:
Information from the Wilkes Expedition, officially called the "United
States Exploring Expedition," is in 27 reels of microfilm at the
American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Their web reference
is "Naval History Manuscript Collections" (2000):
Here are some references to historical documents that you may find
"Western America, Including California and Oregon," 1849, Charles
"Voyage Around the World," 1849, Charles Wilkes
"The Diary of Wilkes in the Northwest," E.S. Meany in Washington
Historical Quarterly, vol. 16-17 (1925-26)
"Puget's Sound", Murray Morgan, University of Washington Press, 1979
"History of King County, Washington," Clarence Bagley, S.J. Clarke
Publishing Co., 1929.
"The Wilkes Expedition on the Pacific Coast," Herman Viola, Pacific
Northwest Quarterly, January 1989
The Washington Historical Society had no on-line information
concerning Dr. Fox.
I could find no pictures of Dr. Fox on the Internet, nor even what
happened to him later in life. I have put a query in to the Fox
Island Historical Society and will let you know if there is any
additional information available.
Google search strategy:
"Fox Island" + Washington + history
Fox + "Charles Wilkes" + Washington
"John Fox" + Navy + "surgeon general"
"John L. Fox"
Clarification of Answer by
09 Nov 2002 02:52 PST
Some additional information about John Fox from Amherst College:
Fox, John Lawrence. S. of Ebenezer and Susannah (Patterson), b.
Salem, Jan. 8, 1811. M. D., Harvard, 1835.
Prepared Salem Latin School. Studied med. Philadelphia, Penn. and
with Dr. A. L. Pierson, Salem; taught, 1835-37; Asst. Surgeon U. S.
N., 1837-47; Surgeon, 1847-64; Fleet Surgeon No. Atlantic blockading
squadron, 1864; had charge Naval Hospital Chelsea and Brooklyn; asst.
Med. Bureau, Washington, D. C. D. Roxbury, D. 17, 1864.
Married Je. 15, 1847, Elizabeth A., daughter of Commodore Charles
Morris, U. S. N., Washington, D. C. Ch. Helen L., Charles E.,
Elizabeth M.; William H.