John Gyles

John Gyles was a young English Puritan who in 1689 was captured and enslaved at the age of 9 by the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) on a raid into his Massachusetts colony. He spent several years on the St. John River system with the Wolastoqiyik until he was traded to the French settlers near Jemseg. He eventually was given free passage back to the English settlements along the eastern seaboard.

He then lived a full and prominent life in the English colony before writing an amazing account of his capture and life among the Wolastoqiyik and French.

During his period of slavery and servitude, he describes a venture to Menagoueche (Ouigoudi), the Wolastoqiyik village on what more recently was known as Navy Island in St. John Harbour. He travelled with three French paddlers the fifty miles to collect supplies sent across the Bay of Fundy from Port Royal.

It was spring and during the trip an untypical blizzard occurred on the lower reaches of the river. The winds, combined with the remaining winter ice were treacherous. The group portaged across the Kingston Peninsula via Kingston Creek and paddle down the Kennebecasis until the storm drove them onto a large island. They were storm stayed for seven days with little supplies as they had expected a quick voyage. The island was Long Island.

Finally, on the eighth day, John Gyles wrote,

"We went forward, though we were so weak that we could scarce hear each other speak. The people at the mouth of the river were surprised to see us alive, and advised us to be cautious and absternious in eating. By this time I knew as much of fasting as they, and dieted on broth, and recovered very well, as did one of the others; but the other two would not be advised , and I never saw any persons in greater distress, till at length they had action of the bowels, when they recovered."

Next time you visit Ministers Face or actually set foot on the island, remember those who preceded you. Although he nearly met his fate there, the island was a safe haven for John Gyles and probably for many before and after him.