By Angela Knight
It’s probably Safe to say that Capt. Johnston Blakeley (or Blakely) never set foot on Bainbridge Island, yet his name is all over the place. Born in Ireland in 1781, young Blakeley immigrated to America with his parents. Later, he is alleged to have taken part in a student uprising while attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Most of his adult life was spent at sea. He battled Barbary pirates and fought the British in the War of 1812. His ship, the Wasp, a sloop-of-war, was last seen on October 9, 1814. Congress awarded him a gold medal and the rank of captain, posthumously.
For a few of the original things named Blakely, we have Capt. Charles Wilkes to thank. In 1841, Wilkes, as commander of the United States Exploring Expedition (also known as the Wilkes Expedition), sailed into Puget Sound with his armada. Wilkes renamed everything he saw, even places that had perfectly good Native American names. He christened Blakely Harbor, Port Blakely and Blakely Rock in honor of Capt. Blakely (without that pesky added “e”). The name Blakely stuck and multiplied through the years. Not bad for a cheeky lad from County Down.