Zachary Hickes was baptised on 23 June, 1737, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, the son of Edward Hickes and Thomasin Cope, the widow of Joseph Cope. According to the records Zachary was one year old at the time of his baptism. His parents had four children (Zachary, Thomasin, George and Mary) though there is no evidence that they ever married. In his will, Edward Hickes acknowledged Thomasin Cope as the children’s mother, but referred to her as his housekeeper. At some point Edward probably fell out with her, as he effectively wrote her out of his will.
The aforesaid Thomasin Cope did refuse to make her will at my request and hath otherwise disobliged me. Therefore I make no further provision for her in this my will.1
By then, he had fathered another son, Edward, by another woman. Edward Hickes senior was referred to as Captain in documents, but this was most probably a merchant navy position as he does not appear in Royal Navy records. An Edward Hickes was master of Milford, a ship operating in the Thames in 1746. Edward Hickes was buried in Chestfield in Kent.
Few details are known of Zachary’s early life and naval career. He was probably named for his great grandfather, Zachary Browne. Browne was captain of Parliamentary sloop Hercules in 1650, and he sailed in Great Anne to Bantam in Java in 1677, with Lionel Wafer the buccaneer on board. Browne had a daughter, Judith, who married Gaspar Hickes in 1684. Gaspar Hickes was a Royal Navy captain, who was presented with a medal by King Charles II. Gaspar and his wife had eight children, including Edward Hickes, baptised on 14 September, 1696 at St. Mary, Whitechapel.
Zachary Hickes’s mother married Joseph Cope on 5 June, 1732, at St. Michael, Queenhithe. She was listed as a spinster from Limehouse. Joseph Cope died from smallpox in 1734, and Thomasin Cope went to live with and/or became housekeeper for Edward Hickes.
Zachary Hickes passed his lieutenant’s examina-tion in 1760, but did not receive his commission for another eight years. By 1760 he had had nearly four years’ experience in the Royal Navy and about five years with the East India Company. Most of his Royal Navy experience was in HMS Essex as an Abel Seaman (AB) and then midshipman under Captains John Campbell and Lucius O’Brien. He also spent a few months in HMS Royal George being present at the Battle of Quiberon in November 1759. Royal George was a 1st rate and flagship of Admiral Hawke.
Hickes served in HMS Launceston, a fifth rate of 44 guns, as an AB and midshipman during 1766-7. He transferred as acting lieutenant to HMS Hornet, a sloop of 14 guns before, on 26 May, 1768, he was appointed by commission as second lieutenant in Endeavour as Cook’s second-in-command. Hickes joined Endeavour on 3 June, 1768.
Hickes was already showing signs of tuberculosis when the voyage began, and this may have affected his ability to carry out his duties. Beaglehole describes Hickes as a steady, efficient and competent officer, but assesses him as unimagin-ative and matter-of-fact based upon the writing in his journal and log.2
Hickes was taken hostage by the Viceroy in Rio de Janeiro during the diplomatic toing-and-froing carried out when Endeavour reached Brazil.3 He later led the second Transit of Venus observation party to Motu Taaupiri on the east coast of Tahiti Nui.4 A notable moment for Hickes occurred on 19 April, 1770, when he was the first person on board to sight the Australian coast. With his health fail-ing he was sent ashore at Batavia (Jakarta) to re-cover. Instead his health worsened, and he died on 26 May, 1771, as the expedition sailed north up the Atlantic, 10˚N of the Equator.5 After his death, Cook wrote,
he died of a Consumption which he was not free from when we saild from England so that it may be truly said that he hath been dieing ever sence, tho he held tollerable well untill we got to Batavia.6
Hickes died intestate so his mother applied for, and was granted, administration of his estate.
Zachary Hickes. On the twenty seventh day, Admin. of the goods, chattels and credits of Zachry Hickes, Late [illegible] Lieutenant on His Majestys Bark Endeavour… dec’d was granted to Thomasin Hickes, Widow, the natural and lawful mother and next of kin of the said dec’ed, her having been first sworn duly to administration.7
Hickes kept a log and a journal from 27 May, 1768, until 14 March, 1771, when he was too ill to continue.8 A section of his journal has been published.9 Hicks Bay in New Zealand and Point Hicks10on the south-eastern coast of Australia are named for Hickes.
Hickes’s mother was living at Fox’s Lane when she died in 1772. She was buried on 7 August, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney. Hickes’s sister Thomasin Hickes married Philip Handcock on 3 February, 1761, at St. Michael, Cornhill. They had at least three children.
Zachary’s surname was usually, but not always, spelt Hicks in the journals of Cook and Banks. The family used the spelling Hickes, and Zachary’s commission has that spelling.
In pursuance, etc. of the 30 January, 1760, we have examined Mr. Zachary Hickes who by certificate appears to be more than 22 years of age, & find he has gone to sea more than nine years in the Ships and qualities undermentioned (viz) part whereof on service of the East India Company as appears by certificates of their paymaster.
He produceth Certificates from Captains Camp-bell, Johnstone and O'Brien of his diligence, etc. He can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc. and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman. Dated the 6 February 1760.
George Cockburn, DD., Captain Abraham North
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 16, volume 40, number 3 (2017).
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