Abyssinian Jack

A sketch of pirate Black Jack Anderson which appeared in the Perth Gazette in 1842.

Artist unknown - Perth Gazette, 1842 https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/in-search-of-pirate-black-jack-ng-ya-324811

There are at least two individuals by the name of John Anderson who are associated with the early history of Kangaroo Island: John "Abyssinian Jack" Anderson, and John William "Black Jack" Anderson . Their paths never crossed.

"Abyssinian Jack" (c. 1786+- 5 years) was an Englishman and lived/worked in Kangaroo Island (c.1813-1829) before shifting to eastern Bass Strait (c.1830), where he was living in 1845. Abyssinian, perhaps coined from "I'll be seeing ya", confuses him with "Black Jack".

"Black Jack " (c.1806-c.1836) was an African American man, was a crewman on the whaler Frances Henrietta on her 1829-33 voyage to the Pacific. - see https://stors.tas.gov.au/NS6670-1-9

1818 John Anderson Abyssinian Jack an American [sic] free man from the Archduke Charles. He had two Aboriginal women, Emma and Poll, the former had 10 children by him, 5 of whom were still alive in 1831.[144] It was reported in 1834 that two "black men" Anderson and Bathurst arrived at KI from the wreck of the Defiance.[145] Presumably the former was Jack.

The Mysteries of Karta (Alias Kangaroo Island): Creation, Colonisers and Crusoes, Gordon Copland. Flinders University. http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/projects/counterpoints/Proc_2002/A9.htm

See also: Grauer, Robert; Revised Notes on the Timeline of John (Abyssinia Jack) Anderson, https://www.wikitree.com/photo.php/7/75/Anderson-62981.pdf

See also Kaurna in Tasmania: A case of mistaken identity, by Rob Amery. ANU Press.


See also Journies of G. A. Robinson, University of Tasmania, Extract From: N. J. B. Plomley ed. 'Friendly Mission, the Tasmanian journals and papers of George Augustus Robinson', Halstead Press for Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Hobart, 1966.


See also Bass Strait people 1790-1850: Aborigines, sealers and others, Biographies and bibliography of the people of Bass Strait, Tasmanian waters to 1850


Sealer - reportedly assisted by "Aboriginal wives", reportedly Emma and Poll.

Reference: Plomley, B. & Henley, K.A. “The sealers of Bass Strait and the Cape Barren Island community’ 1990;

Reported as living on KI for 14 years in J.S. Cumpstan, "Kangaroo Island 1800-1836”, 1970, pages 85, and 180 - refers to Perth Gazette 7 October 1842 re his dealings throughout Bass Strait.

One, a black [sic] American [sic] nicknamed “Abyssinian Jack”, used his lubras as slaves to scrape salt from the island’s two principal salt lagoons which he traded to visiting skippers who used it to preserve animal hides.


At the time of Baxter’s visit, the island was virtually run by a sealer by the name of John Anderson, better known as Abyssinian Jack. Apparently a man of commanding physical proportions and cast in the brutality of the day, he particularly ruled a critical proportion of the island near present day Kingscote. According to Edith Wells in her book “Cradle of the Colony”, Abyssinian Jack had been there since 1818, no doubt lured by the possibility of control of salt production, so important to the sealing trade and fetching 10 pound a ton in Sydney.

R Grandison, “William Baxter, Botanist, with particular reference to Kangaroo Island in the 1820’s.” Pioneers’ Association of South Australia, transcript of an audio cassette 24/8/1989.

See also HISTORIES OF SEALING IN AUSTRALIA No. 9. JOHN WILLIAM ANDERSON, a 'Blackman' and ROBERT GAMBLE, from England, sealing in the 1830s among the islands of the Recherche Archipelago, south-western Australia. https://stors.tas.gov.au/NS6670-1-9

c.1820 John Abyssinia Jack Anderson and his S.A. mainland Ramindjeri wife Emma/Emmu parented on K.I., Catherine, and in 1821, Frances.

– Hallett Shueard, The Forgotten Men, p.245.

See also https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Anderson-63524 "Black Jack"

See also https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Anderson-63032 "Abyssinia Jack"