HMS Sparrowhawk
The Sparrowhawk, a 613-tonne gunvessel launched in 1856, saw considerable action as a police vessel in the Pacific Northwest from 1865 to 1872.1 Among the notable cases in which the Sparrowhawk was involved were the Kincolith Murders and the John Bright Affair.
In 1868, hostilities between the Nisga’a and Tsimshian First Nations resulted in several deaths, including three members of the Kincolith Christian mission.2 In May 1869, Governor Seymour, aboard the Sparrowhawk, arrived at Kincolith, and oversaw traditional negotiations of peace between the two First Nations groups on the vessel’s deck.3 Before the vessel departed, Seymour assured the chiefs that if any further violence ensued, the matters would be dealt with in accordance with British law.4 Upon the return trip to Esquimalt, Governor Seymour suddenly took ill and died near Bella Coola.5
The crew of the Sparrowhawk also investigated the alleged murder of those aboard the vessel John Bright, and the pillage of the vessel’s wreck by individuals from the Hesquiat First Nation. Katkinna, a chief who confessed to the crime, and John Anietsachist were tried and executed for the crime.6
The Sparrowhawk sold in 1872, and the new owners then sold its engines and converted it to a sailing vessel. The Sparrowhawk made several voyages to China before it was lost in the China Sea during a typhoon. The vessel’s engines served in the Moodyville sawmill well into the 20th century.7
  • 1. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 559.
  • 2. Barry M. Gough, Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-1890, (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984), 195-196.
  • 3. Ibid., 197.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names, 559.
  • 6. Gough, Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-1890, 127.
  • 7. John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1971), 467.
Mentions of this vessel in the documents
The Colonial Despatches Team. HMS Sparrowhawk. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/sparrowhawk.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)