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Patagonia Bookshelf

Two American missionaries visit the Tehuelche Indians at Gregory's Bay, 1833-1834
The Daily Journal of Rev. Titus Coan [extract]

Titus Coan: Guest of the Horse Indians

Entry from Titus Coan's journal, 17-XI-1833

In 1833, two young missionaries, William Arms and Titus Coan, were sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) with instructions to study the feasibility of establishing a mission station on the Pacific Coast of Patagonia. Finding themselves unable to obtain sea transportation to that remote area, they made their initial base of operations at Gregory Bay, on the north shore of the Strait of Magellan. After two months living with nomadic natives (the Aónikenk), they became convinced that overland travel would also be impossible, and, shortly thereafter, in early 1834, began their return voyage to their native land.

Two accounts of this visit have appeared in print: the first, a serialized set of short extracts from both their journals in «The Missionary Herald» (1834-35), online at this same website; the second by Coan, published in book form 46 years later, entitled «Adventures in Patagonia: a Missionary's Exploring Trip», accesible online here.

In 2006, while visiting the US Library of Congress, we found Titus Coan's Patagonia journal. Given the importance of such an early historical source, we decided to photograph it. Subsequent examination of the manuscript revealed significant differences from the published accounts mentioned above.

In our opinion, Coan's Journal, written from immediate, direct observation, is more trustworthy than the later publications, which were undoubtedly coloured by 19th century moral and literary considerations.

We are pleased to announce that the photographed pages have now (2013) been transcribed and published here, in full, to facilitate their study and comparison with the other works.

Duncan S. Campbell
August 2013

Source: Original documents at Library of Congress, Washington DC: finding aid
Illustration: Fragment of Titus Coan's journal
Transcription: Duncan S. Campbell, VIII-2013. Occasionally, spelling has been modernized. A few biblical quotations are identified; several archaic terms are explained by editorial notes.