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James Ward - able seaman on the Third Voyage


James Ward, who sailed on Cook's Third Voyage on the Resolution as an able seaman, has remained something of a shadowy individual. We only know a little about his time with Cook. He remained an able seaman until 1st November 1777 when he became a midshipman and stayed one until 2nd November 1779. For the last part of the voyage he reverted to being an able seaman. He emerged from obscurity during the voyage by being was the first to see the Hawaiian Islands when he sighted O'ahu on the morning of 18 January 1778.

A discovery in late 2005 has allowed us to piece together some background for Ward. His grave was located at St. Michael's Church, Berechurch on the southern edge of Colchester in Essex, UK. The inscription on the gravestone provided valuable further information: that he was the son of Ralph and Mary Ward and the grandson of Knox Ward. More research showed that there was a connection with other persons linked to James Cook.

Clifford Thornton has written about Ralph and George Jackson from Cleveland [see Cooks' Log, page 1357, vol. 20, no. 1 (1997)]. Ralph and George were the sons of George Jackson and his wife Hannah, who was herself the daughter of William and Mary Ward. William and Mary had at least twelve children, including, as well as Hannah, two sons, Joshua and John. Joshua (1686-1761) would become rich and notorious as an inventor and vendor of quack medicines. He invented the medicines known as Ward's Pill and Ward's Drop.

Ward's brother, John (1675-1755), would become a notorious businessman and politician and was even knighted. Sir John Ward was an M.P. and even Lord Mayor of London in 1718. In 1725, Ward was a defendant in an action brought by the widow of the first duke of Buckingham and Normanby, concerning alum works he had leased from the duke. It emerged that Ward had cheated the duke out of £70,000 and he was convicted of fraud and forgery.

Knox Ward was the son of Sir John and he was Clarenceux King of Arms from 1726 to 1741. In 1736, Knox Ward acquired the property of West Donyland outside Colchester. Knox Ward married Eliza Nettleton and together they had two sons and two daughters. At Knox's death in 1746, West Donyland passed to his son, Ralph Ward. The reason for Knox Ward moving to Essex may rest with one of his aunts. Margaret Ward, another of William and Mary's daughters, married David Gansell in 1714 and lived at the Gansell home, East Donyland, southeast of Colchester. It is probable that Knox Ward became aware of property near Colchester through his Aunt Margaret.

Ralph Ward, the elder son of Knox and Eliza, was a lawyer in London. He and his wife Ann had two daughters, Maria and Elizabeth and one son, James. It is this James Ward, born in 1761, who sailed with Cook.

James Ward's great great grandfather, William Ward of Cleveland, was also the grandfather of George Jackson, who from 1766 was Second Secretary to the Admiralty. Different strands of the family were in contact and it was probably on George Jackson's recommendation that the young James entered the Naval Academy at Portsmouth in 1772. He remained there until 1775 and during this time became a very close friend of James Trevenen. Ward and Trevenen, together with a third Portsmouth graduate, William Charlton joined Cook for the Third Voyage. Ward's appointment with Cook once again probably owed much to George Jackson. After sailing with Cook, Trevenen and Ward corresponded and stayed with each other.

James Ward became a lieutenant in August 1782 and saw service in the East Indies under James Burney from 1782 until 1786. His subsequent naval record is thin, though he is mentioned in May 1793 as being in charge of the Sandwich cutter at the Scilly Isles with two captured French privateers.

James Ward died on 28 September 1806 aged 45 and was buried at St. Michael's, Berechurch. There is no indication that he ever married or had children. His father, Ralph, outlived him and Ralph's will, written in 1795, mentions his son James but no wife. A codicil, dated August 1808, acknowledges James' death but mentions no dependents. Of James' sisters, Maria never married while Elizabeth married Nicholas Tomlinson (later a vice admiral) and they had two sons.

John Robson


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 24, volume 29, number 2 (2006).

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