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Very Early Red Knot Shorebird
John Capen Hewins (1805-1895)
Dorchester / Orleans, MA c.1830's


Exceptionally early Massachusetts shorebird.  Possibly the only surviving example known.  Pictured on page 91 in George Ross Starr's 'Decoys of the Atlantic Flyway', Ross states,

"In the Summer of 1957, I was directed to a Mr. Lyman Hewins in Orleans on the Cape, since it was known he had some stick-ups.  He was most charming and we had a fine talk about decoys, although it turned out that he had never done much of anything in the way of hunting.  A carton containing about fifteen stick-ups was brought out and we looked them over.  They had been claimed by one of the women in the family and he did not feel free to part with the whole lot, as I would have liked.  However, he was kind enough to make me a present of the knot in the center in figure 37, which he knew had been used by his father (John Foster Hewins) and by his grandfather before that, which would date it to about 1860.  The design is simple and easy.  The nail bill is original.  The plumage is brownish black on top and pink-buff on the undersides."


Unlike Starr at the time of writing, we now know John C. Hewins was born in 1805.  It would be highly unlikely that John would wait until his mid-50's to begin shorebird hunting.  It's far more probable that the decoy was made sometime in John's twenties, putting the shorebird closer to a circa 1830's at the latest.

According to research done by the Dorchester Historical Society (Dorchester, MA), John is a direct decendent of the Capen family which migrated to the colony in 1633.  Their original home, built in 1637 at the corner of what is now Washington & Dunlap Streets, is referred to as the Barnard Capen House.  It is 'considered to be the second oldest house in New England'.  In 1833, John acquired his old family homestead and built additions including a shed.  Like many New England carvers, it's almost certain he carved this shorebird in his new shed.

Starr collection stamp on underside


Condition: 100% original, small spots of crazing



George Ross Starr collection


Literature: George Ross Starr Jr., M.D., "Decoys of the Atlantic Flyway," New York, NY, 1974, Exact decoy discussed p.89, exact decoy pictured p. 91, fig. 37, center

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Red Knot Decoy - John Capen Hewins


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