Peggy Stewart and Edward Bell

Edward Bell was the clerk on board HMS Chatham during its’ voyage in 1791 – 92 in the Pacific as tender to  HMS Discovery, George Vancouver’s main expedition vessel. Bell kept a journal – an MS version is at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington (NZ) and is interesting for the light that it throws on Peggy Stewart’s love for George Stewart and their daughter Charlotte (also known as ‘Little Peggy’).

Some quotes from Bell’s journal entries:

“We were surprised today at seeing alongside in a double canoe, 3 women all dressed in white linen shirts,and having each a fine young child in their arms, perfectly white (…) they were women who had cohabited with some of the Bounty mutineers and these little ones were the offspring of their amours (…)  the women called themselves by the names of those with whom they had lived, with the addition of a Christian name …Peggy Stewart, Mary McIntosh and Mary Bockett…” (27 Dec 1791)

“Poor Peggy was not a beauty, nor had she in her appearance that I should suppose would ever tempt a man to turn Pirate  but she is possessed of much sensibility, an affable, agreeable disposition together with a sweetness of manners that upon a short acquaintance made up for the deficiency of personal beauty. She was immoderately fond of her little child and seldom without it…”  (24 Jan 1792)

“She frequently asked if Stewart would be hung and  at those times burst into a flood of tears (when told it was likely)(…) she informed us that the Pandora had been here and had taken 13 of the Bounty’s people and sailed from here about 8 months ago (…) she pleaded two midshipmen Stewart and Hayward Heywood’s part very strongly, and endeavoured to impress us with an idea that they were in no way concerned with the mutiny”(….)(folio 72)

“Peggy Stewart came today with a present and as usual brought her child with her, she was much distressed by Capt. Vancouver telling her that Stewart and Heywood would be hung on their arrival in England with the other mutineers… (folio 88)

At the time these entries were written, George Stewart was already dead, drowned during the Pandora wreck on 29th Aug 1791; however this news would not reach Tahiti for a considerable length of time, possibly Peggy was not directly informed until the arrival in 1795 of the London Missionary Society’s missionaries. It is said she died of a broken heart upon hearing this news.



  1. George E Gray says:

    I am using mDNA to try to prove that the first American child born in what is now California was born to Charlotte/Little Peggy in 1813 while the Boston ship Mercury was in Bodega Bay Spanish California unloading supplies for Russian Fort Ross.
    I have not been able to find how Charlotte/Little Peggy could get from Tahiti in 1806-1807 to the Sandwich Islands where she came on board the Boston Ship Mercury, Captain George Washington Eayrs. ]I assume that Charlotte?Little Peggy was a ward of the Eyre family of the London Missionary Society between 1797 and her leaving the Island. Yes the spelling for the two Eyre and Eayrs
    e families is correct.
    Would welcome any ideas.

    • petergesner says:

      hi George
      Thanks for your question – I suggest you follow Geo Washington Eayres’ story – 1st mate on board Mercury and perhaps later a master in his own right. He was imprisoned by the Mexican authorities to best of my knowledge for alleged smuggling activities; his ship was also impounded. There appears to be quite a lot of documentary evidence that US Govt came to his aid to sort things out with the Mexican authorities – he was eventually released and through good offices of US Govt compensated for loss of his ship- but this would have been well after Charlotte (and her daughter – Maria?) had taken up with Secundino Oliviera in Sta Barbara; Charlotte gave birth to at least 5 or 6 children, who would have been half siblings of Maria – Maria was christened as was Charlotte when she came to live with Oliviera – I’m not sure whether Oliviera formally adopted her – or what other form of ‘recognition’ his marrying Charlotte would have bestowed on her.

      I would say Charlotte and Geo Washington Eayres were in some form of common law relationship – the story is that Charlotte eloped with him from Tahiti ca 1807. I assume she accompanied him on his trading voyages and Charlotte gave birth to Maria on one of these voyages. It has never occurred to me to consider that Charlotte’s first child (Maria?) could be first with US citizenship born in California. Maria’s father was US citizen while her g/father (Geo Stewart) was British.

      best of luck with your research
      best rgds

      Peter Gesner

  2. Hi George: I have gathered quite a bit of information with sources on Little Peggy “Charlotte” Stewart, her parents, her common-law husband George Eayrs, and their daughter Maria de los Remedios Josefa Antonia Eayrs, AKA Maria Peque. During the time of Charlotte Stewart’s birth, the Sandwich Islands were known as Tahiti AKA Otaheite. Feel free to browse her information;


    J.Schwald Regan, Webmaster

    • petergesner says:

      Hi Mr Schwald
      Thanks for responding – am puzzled re your comment abt the Sandwich Iss. To the best of my knowledge Sandwich Iss referred to Hawaian Iss!

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