News Release

Oregon researcher to explore boyhood home of John Paul Jones

Archaeology work underway in Scotland at family home of early American naval hero

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Oregon

University of Oregon archaeologist Julie M. Schablitsky is off to Scotland to lead an exploratory excavation of the grounds on the boyhood home of John Paul Jones, while her husband continues his North Sea search for the lost ship of one of the fathers of the U.S. Navy.

Schablitsky’s new project -- launched with a $23,000 grant from the Virginia-based First Landing Foundation –- will involve remote sensing to identify possible locations of outbuildings, wells, gardens, fence lines and cisterns. Archaeological probes also will be dug into select areas of the landscaping around the renovated cottage where Jones grew in Kirkbean, Scotland.

Her project was born after her husband, Robert Neyland, head of underwater archaeology for the U.S. Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C., visited Kirkbean and discovered the site had never been explored by archaeologists. Neyland has searched the North Sea area for the last two years for Jones’ ship, the “Bonhomme Richard” [BOHN-uhm REE-shar], with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The ship was sunk in battle on Sept. 25, 1779.

Jones served from 1775 to 1786 in both the American Continental Navy during the American Revolution and the Imperial Russian Navy. In response to a British officer’s surrender demand, Jones famously proclaimed, “I have not yet begun to fight!” during a battle with the HMS Serapis. Jones won the renowned battle, boarding the “Serapis” with his crew as his own ship sank from damages. He died in 1792, was buried unceremoniously in France and more than 100 years later re-interred at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

He was born in 1747, growing up in a tiny cottage on the Arbigland House Estate where his gardener father, John Paul Sr., was employed. The young Jones – a surname he later adopted – left home in 1761 at the age of 13. After his father’s death in 1767, the cottage was vacant for more than 60 years, then restored for other families. In the late 20th century, the cottage was restored as a museum celebrating the famous American naval commander.

“The integrity of the site could be excellent,” said Schablitsky, a historical archaeologist with the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. “Anything that we find from the 18th century will be unequivocally linked to the John Paul family. Many people see the life of John Paul Jones as a romanticized ‘rags-to-riches’ story.”

“In reality,” she said, “he came from a comfortable working-class background where education and career attainment were likely encouraged. Archaeology will be able to verify the family’s class status through the study of artifacts left behind by the family more than 250 years ago.”


Source: Julie M. Schablitsky, 503-319-5777,

Links: First Landing Foundation:

UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History:

Julie Schablitsky home page:

John Paul Jones Cottage Museum:

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