Name: Frederick Wordsworth WARD
Birth: 16 MAR 1833 in Wilberforce, NSW
Burial: 29 MAY 1870 Uralla Lawn Cemetery, NSW
ALIA: /Captain Thunderbolt/
Death: 1903 in Ottawa, Canada
Birth: 16 MAY 1833 in Windsor, NSW
The Legend of Captain Thunderbolt - Frederick Wordsworth Ward.
(The official story. Researched & written by Arnold Goode, URALLA)
The Thunderbolt legend lives on most strongly in the New England district of northern Now South Wales and especially around Uralla. Of all the bushrangers who engaged in their illegal and often colourful careers in Australia during the first 100 years of white settlement, Thunderbolt, hero or horse thief, was at large for probably the longest period.
For almost six years and six month he was pursued by regular mounted Police, especially commissioned bounty hunters and enlisted Aboriginal trackers.
Bushrangers were regarded as heroes by the battling small land holders who also recognised their common enemy as the Government and the Law. They considered Thunderbolt to be a victim of circumstance and they sympathised and identified with him. The Police force was over governed by Parliament and grossly underpaid, under trained and overworked and supplied with horses of dubious breeding,
It is believed that Fred Ward finally met his match on the afternoon of 25th May, 1870. He "bailed up" firstly John and Liza Blanche near their Inn, then Coghlan and an Italian hawker, Giovani Cappusotto. Resenting this action, Cappusotto alerted the Uralla Police Officers Mulhall and Walker. The Police exchanged shots with Thunderbolt and Constable Walker, gave chase. Thunderbolt was fatally cornered in a water hole in Kentucky Creek some 4 kilometers distant. A coroner's inquest was held on the body at Blanch's Inn and he was buried in the Uralla cemetery.
Defiant Scoundrel? Or Gentleman Bushranger?
Thunderbolt began his life as Frederick Ward at Wilberforce near Windsor, NSW, in either 1835 or another reference states 16th May 1836. The birth date is not recorded however Marina Emily's birth certificate claims it to be 1833. His father was a convict, Michael Ward, transported to the colony in the "Indefatigable" in May 1815 and his mother Sophia arrived two months later in the "Northampton". About 1846, upon Michael gaining his convict freedom, the whole family moved to the Maitland area.
Fred Ward as a youth, became well known for breaking and training horses. When he was about 20 years of age he fell foul of the Law. Helped by James Garbutt, they drove stolen horses from his brother William "Harry" Ward and Michael Blake's farm at Lambs Valley for sale at the Windsor sale yards. Several of the horses were recognised as being Messrs. Zuill and Reynolds' property. Others were marked with the famous Tocal brand. (i).
Fred Ward and James Garbutt were sentenced to ten years each with hard labour to the infamous Cockatoo Island prison in -Sydney Harbour.(ii) On the 1st July 1860 Fred Ward was released on a ticket-of-leave to work in the Mudgee district. While working near Mudgee, he made acquaintance of Mary Ann Baker (nee Bugg), a well educated half-cast aboriginal girl who had been recently widowed. When she returned to the Hunter Valley to take up work at Dungog, Ward Followed her. They married some time in September I861, possibly at Stroud. (iii) After their marriage he borrowed a horse to report the Mudgee Police for muster, but on arriving late he found his ticket-of-leave revoked for failure to "attend muster". In addition he was charged with stealing the horse and was sent to serve the remainder of his original sentence. Two weeks after Fred Ward's return to prison , Mary Anne Bugg gave birth to their first child, Marina Emily Ward .(iv)
Mary Anne Bugg followed Fred Ward to Sydney and assisted him and another prisoner, Fred Britten, to escape from Cockatoo Island. They swam through shark infested water to the mainland on the night of 11th September 1863. The two men were hidden in disused boilers in the Balmain region until the police stopped searching the area for them. The two men then headed for New England and stole a double barrelled gun and some pork from a widow on Gostwyck run, near Uralla. Several days later, Sergeant Grainger came upon the escapees attempting to hold up a mail coach at the "Split Rocks" (soon to become known as "Thunderbolt Rock") south of Uralla. Fred Ward was shot through the knee
but managed to escape. (v)
The two men separated and Ward alone robbed the tollbar at Campbell's Hill near Maitland. He proceeded to pound on the wall of the office and demanded the surrender of the toll money. It was this act which earned him the name "Thunderbolt".(vi)
Thus began the bushranging legend of Fred Ward, also known as Captain Thunderbolt.
The following list records crimes perported to have been enacted by Thunderbolt and his gang over the following years:
- 25 mail coach robberies
- 16 hotels and stores
- 16 stations and residence
- 6 hawkers
- I tollbar gate
- 80 thefts of horses
- 1 escape from lawful custody
and numerous firing on Police in their line of duty.
Fred Ward relied on his ability to outwit and out distance the mounted Police and he would only resort to gunfire to hasten proceedings or when being fired upon. He was frequently joined by other outaws, but at times they became a liability. This brief account is typical of a Bushranger's life, "Fred Ward has again made his appearance in these parts by sticking up the mail man and rifling the mail bags. The mailman, after crossing a creek and on gaining the further bank, heard a horseman ride up behind him and order, 'Bail up'. He was ordered about 80 metres away while Thunderbolt opened and rifled anything of value, including an amount of gold from the pouch of the saddle". William Monckton (a compatriot of Ward), who narrated the book, "Three Years with Thunderbolt" gives many similar accounts. In addition numerous plays, films, books, poems and television mini series have villanised his numerous outrages on Her Magesty's Mail and dramatised spectacular "bail ups" of passengers in mail coaches or wayside inns. Thunderbolt had endured the worst of the Colony's barbaric convict system being twice imprisoned on Cockatoo Island. Several times he suffered solitary confinement in its dungeons. His escape from this prison fortress embarrassed both the Government and its penal system. Fred Ward now became a bushranger by circumstance and for the following six years be defeated every attempt at recapture. During his freedom Fred Ward displayed great courage and at times compassion and humour. He was a champion horseman and a wonderful judge of a well bred horse. Using these two characteristics, Ward continually evaded capture.
His attachment to Mary Ann Bugg in his early career and his attempt to settle as a family was greatly admired. The Police continually harrassed his endeavours, which kept him on the move, at times leaving Mary Ann and children to fend for themselves. Twice "Mrs Captain Thunderbolt' was arrested and imprisoned and twice the N.S.W. Parliament debated her situation. Both times the N.S.W. Governor, Sir John, Young-intervened and ordered her release.(vii)
Over a period of time Mary Bugg's health became critical through being constantly compelled to be on the look out for Police patrols. Fred Ward nursed her, but he was forced to seek help. Making her comfortable, he rode to Mrs Bradford's home on the Goulburn River. Ward described her condition and the site of their hide-out. Mrs Bradford and Rev White found the shelter and brought back in a cart. Dr Brown and Constable Boon were sent for, arriving a few minutes after Mary breathed her last. Thunderbolt indicated to Mrs Bradford that he was leaving there and going north. Within several weeks he had visited Goonoo Goonoo station and he now, possessed the thoroughbred racehorse "Combo". Thunderbolt's bushranging escapades have now become history. It was his skill as a horseman his love of horse racing, that the 'selectors' in the bush greatly admired. He acquired famous racehorses and either used them as common mounts to outpace the mediocre Police horses or he traded them for profit. Among his annexations were Beeswing, Combo, The Barb, Eucalyptus, Come-by-Chance, Toy Boy, Talleyrand and Kerosene.
Thunderbolt attended the Tenterfield races on 17th and I8th March 1868. He mixed freely with the patrons and saw Minstrel win the Maiden Plate of 40 sovereigns. He determined to acquire this racehorse as it returned to the Warwick district. Ward established himself at the spectacular Boonoo Boonoo gap to await Minstrel's arrival. To fill time Ward stopped a German Band following their season in Tenterfield. He obtained sixteen pounds which was all of the band's takings, Considering this amount to be paltry, Ward had them perform their acts and play their musical instruments on the roadside. This delighted Ward and as the Band was leaving he handed Peter Wirth a small amount and asked for a forwarding address. Several weeks later Thunderbolt sent to Wirth's Band in Warwick a letter containing the full amount of purloined money. (viii)
130 years since Thunderbolt's death near Uralla have passed, but stories of his exploits still circulate in the Uralla district. How someones great-grandfather met Thunderbolt one day while mustering cattle in a lonely place and shared a yam and a billy of tea. Similarly,someones great-grandmother would hang a blanket as a signal on the clothes line if troopers were riding in the area. Other families would leave food in an outhouse or the off-chance that the bushranger would pass that way.
May these legends live forever.
Vale - Fred Ward - Captain Thunderbolt.
(i) Maitland Mercury 21/4/1856.
(ii) Maitland Mercury 14/8/1856.
(iii) "A Ghost called Thunderbolt" by Stephan Williams - page 22
(iv) Maitland Mercury 3/11/1863.
(v) Maitland Mercury 22/12/1863.
(vi) Armidale Express 12/5/1866 & Maitland Ensign 9/3/1867).
(vi) "A Ghost called Thunderbolt" by Stephan Williams - page 118
Captain Thunderbolt - Family Stories
by Barry Sinclair
Many books and stories have been written about Thunderbolt with much of the truth about those days, the best of these "on the net" is written by Gary Dean. Some writers, however, have let their imagination run riot. I do not wish to write about what has already been written & well documented. However I would like to add some of the family stories and maybe answer some of the questions about him.
Sarah Edwards (nee Ward) (husband was Edward Edwards) was born in Windsor and was the sister of Fred Ward (his date of birth is not known as his birth was not registered however he was born in the mid 1830's probably 1835 or 1836). Not long before her death Aunty Nina Phillips, on being showed the plaque to be placed on Esther's grave, stated that Sarah Ann Ward, Esther's mother, was definitely the sister of Thunderbolt, a fact she had denied all her life. This statement, so close to the time of her death, left me in no doubt as to the family connection with Frederick Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt). With more recent research, I have found that as Sarah & Edward Edwards move first to Warialda & then to Guy Fawkes (Ebor), the actives of Thunderbolt moved with them.
At the beginning of his career he operated mainly in the Gloucester/Stroud area where Mary Ann Bugg's family lived. Then as [pressure from the police mounted) he move more towards Mudgee where his sister Sarah Ann lived on Cooyal station. This is where he had first met Mary Ann. Then after Sarah Ann joined Edward Edwards & moved to Warialda, Thunderbolt spent more time in the Narrabri through to South Western Queensland area.
Sarah Ann & Edward Edwards then moved to the New England area near Ebor (Guy Fawkes) where they lived for a time, before selecting a property in the Bostobrick area near Dorrigo. During the last 30 months of his life as a bushranger and after his wife Mary Ann died he spent all of his time in the northern New England area centered around Armidale & Guyra until his career ended with the "Death of Thunderbolt" in Uralla on the 25th May, 1870.
Esther Edwards met & married William James Sinclair (my great grandfather), one of the stockmen on her father's property. Family tradition has it, I was told as a child, that when Fred Ward was being chased by the police he would go to his sister's property near Hernani, where he was hidden in a hole, covered by a wood box, in the family kitchen. Family stories told of Great Great Grandma Sarah serving the policemen tea, while sitting on the woodbox, with Thunderbolt lying underneath.
By "URALLA" folklore he was killed near Uralla in May 1870. However family tradition held that the person killed was his brother, William (Harry), who had been previously shot in the back of the knee while escaping from the police on the Moonbies. Will Monkton, a one-time colleague, used this scar to identify the body as Fred Ward. (Harry had spent several months in the Uralla area as "Thunderbolt" which explained how Thunderbolt was often seen in two different areas at approximately the same time). Three days after ?he was shot by the police at Uralla 2 policemen at a race meeting in Glen Innes saw his horse, "Combo", watching it - waiting for Thunderbolt to appear. Thunderbolt evidently saw the police & mounting his horse left before they could arrest him. The police chased him in a southeasterly direction until he managed to evade them in the deep gullies near Ward's Mistake, which was only a few miles from Guy Fawkes (now known as Ebor) & only a few miles from his sisters home. When the two policemen reported back to Armidale they were told to forget their report, as Thunderbolt was already dead. However the report was filed and has been identified recently in the police files in Sydney, very much agreeing with family tradition.
At "Thunderbolts" funeral in Uralla, a fairly tall unidentified women covered entirely in black was present. It was noted that she walked with a manly gait. Family tradition claimed that it was Fred Ward attending his brothers funeral. Family tradition also claimed that Thunderbolt remained in the area for several weeks, being seen at the local Hernani dances several times, before returning to Sydney.
On returning to Sydney he married his childhood sweetheart Miss Britten (her brother was also Fred Ward?s best mate). Fred Ward & Fred Britten had escaped from Cockatoo Island together with the assistance of Mary Ann (an educated part aboriginal girl Fred had met at Mudgee and married in Stroud). Fred Britten also spent some time in the Uralla area on the run from the law & was also calling himself Thunderbolt. The three "Thunderbolts", Fred Ward, Fred Britten and "Harry" Ward all looked & dressed alike. After Fred Britten left the Uralla area he went to the southern parts of the state, however he returned to Windsor several months before the "death of Thunderbolt" where he died from tuberculosis.
Questions and Answers
1. What happened to Fred Britten?
After Fred Ward and Fred Britten escaped together from Cockatoo Island, with the assistance of Mary Ann(an educated part aboriginal girl Fred had met at Mudgee and following her to Stroud married her there) little has been recorded of the journeys of Fred Britten, however as he was a fugitive he must have hidden out somewhere. It is believed that after Fred Britten left the Uralla area he went to the southern parts of the state, however he returned to Windsor several months before the "death of Thunderbolt" where he died from tuberculosis.
2. Records show that Thunderbolt operated over a wide area, almost at the same time. How was this
In 1868 after the death of Mary Ann, Fred Ward's older brother "Harry" Ward joined Fred Ward and operated mainly in the southern area of the New England so that Thunderbolt was able to be in two places at once . Not long after coming to the region he was shot in the back of the leg by the police near Moonbi, however he escaped. Will Monkton, a one-time colleague, to identify the body as Fred Ward, used this scar.
3. Why wasn't Thunderbolt riding his favorite horse when he was caught at Uralla?
Three days after ?he was shot? by the police at Uralla 2 policemen at a race meeting in Glen Innes saw a horse known to belong to Thunderbolt tethered at the track, watching it they waited for Thunderbolt to appear. He evidently saw the police & mounting his horse left before they could arrest him. They chased him in a south-easterly direction until he managed to evade them in the deep gullies at "Ward's Mistake", near Guy Fawkes (now known as Ebor) only a few miles from his sisters home. When the police reported back to Armidale they were told to forget their report, as Thunderbolt was already dead. However the report was filed and has been identified recently in the police files in Sydney, very much agreeing with family tradition.
Family tradition claimed that Thunderbolt remained in the area for several weeks, being seen at the local Hernani dances several times, before returning to Sydney. Around the Ebor area many elderly residents still tell stories, past on to them, about their elder aunt/mother having danced with Thunderbolt for at least 6 weeks after he was shot. It has been noted that ?Fred Britten? and his new bride left by boat for America about 3 months after the death of Thunderbolt in Uralla.
4. Who is buried in the Uralla Cemetery?
It is my personal belief that William (Harry) Ward died on the May 25, 1870 at URALLA under the name of
"Captain Thunderbolt" & because of a deliberate miss identification by Will Monkton was buried under the name of Frederick Ward. It must be noted that there are no death certificate to be found for William Ward although his mothers death certificate of 1874 does not have him listed as alive at that time.
Will Monkton was released from jail as a result of this identification although he had only served 1 year of a 4 year sentence. Following the identification both the police & the Dr added the name Frederick Ward to their records. It has been said that "over 300 local people on filing past the body, identified the body as that of Fred Ward". This is an important point as the body was not identified by them as either that of Frederick or Harry Ward but as that of Thunderbolt. "It's Thunderbolt alright", was said by those who viewed the body. Many authors have subsequently jumped to the incorrect conclusion that the body was definitely identified as that of Fred Ward, and they mistakenly state this in their books as a fact.
5. What happened to Thunderbolts loot?
Virtually none of the proceeds of Thunderbolt's escapades was ever recovered. During his career he took about 20,000 pounds, about $1,000,000 in 2002 money. Following his "death" at Uralla, as reported above, Thunderbolt remained in the New England area for at least 6 weeks. ( Personal note:- I know what I would be doing during those weeks with money hidden in various caves around the area and the police no longer searching for me!!!! This possibly explains why none of his money has ever been found.)
Significant dates in the life of Fred Ward
1788 Michael Handley Thompson Ward born in Middlesex
1788 Sophia Jane Elizabeth Ann Crolson born in Middlesex
9.3.1809 Daughter Sopia Jane born Holborn, London
1813 Michael & Sophia Married
1814 Michael convicted of stealing Liquor with Thomas Dodman
May 1815 Michael sailed on ?Indefatigable?. July Sopia sailed on ?Northampton?
1816 Sarah Ann Ward born Wilberforce near Windsor, NSW
1829 William Thompson Ward Born Wilberforce
1834 Mary Ann Bugg born at Stroud
1835 Sarah Ann married John Garbutt. Moved to Cooyal Station - Mudgee
May 1836 Ferderick Ward born at Wilberforce
1839 His sister Sarah Ann married William Shepherd
1843 Sarah Ann had married (?) Edward Edwards
1846 Family moved to Maitland after Michael gained freedom
1848 Mary Ann married Edmund Baker & moved to Cooyal, Mudgee
Early 1848 Sarah Ann & Edward Edwards moved to the Warialda Area
By 1850 Fred?s brother William owned "Lambs Valley" property near Maitland
1850 His brother George married Charlotte Nixon in Armidale NSW
1854 His brother George was drowned droving cattle from Tocal station to Maitland
21.4.1856 Sentenced for possession of stolen horses belonging to TOCAL Station -7years
1.7.1860 Released on ticket of leave to work at Mudgee on Garbutt?s Cooyal Station
1860 Mary Ann had returned to Stroud
Late 1860 Fred followed Mary Ann to Stroud & married her there, reporting back to Mudgee on a regular basis
Sept 1861 Fred reported to police in Mudgee. Being late for muster he was arrested & charged with not attending muster & having in his possession a horse which he could not prove was his. He was returned to Cockatoo Island to serve the remainder of his previous sentence plus a further 3 years for horse theft
26.10.1861 Daughter Marina Emily born Stroud
Oct 1863 Robbery of hut at GOSTWYCK RUN
21.12.63 Toll-bar robbery at RUTHERFORD. Name "Thunderbolt" began
11.9.1863 Fred Ward & Fred Britten escaped from Cockatoo Island with help of Mary Ann
2.9.1864 Daughter Elizabeth Ann born West Maitland
5.1.1865 Various robberies near BOURKE
20.2.1865 Station robbery at BOKHARA RUN
26.2.1865 Station robbery near BOURKE
17.3.1865 Robbery at MOGIL MOGIL STATION
19.3.1865 Robbery at COLLYNIMBI
21.3.1865 Dray robbery at BARWON RIVER
24.3.1865 Station robbery at BOREE RIVER
19.4.1865 Mail robbery and horse theft near MANILLA
20.4.1865 Horse theft near BARRABA
24.4.1865 Hotel robbery at BOGGY CREEK
24.4.1865 Hotel robbery at MILLIE
8.8.1865 Mail robbery at OAKEY CREEK
Nov 1865 Robberies between GUNNEDAH & MURRUNDI, particularly at BREEZA & WERRIS CREEK
8.12.1865 Hotel robbery at QUIRINDI
9.12.1865 Hotel robbery at CURRABUBULA
10.12.1865 Hotel and mail robbery at CARROLL
26.12.1865 Robbery at BURREN BURREN
27.12.1865 Hotel, store & station robberies near COLLARENEBRI
28.12.1865 Hotel robbery at MEROE
Late1860?s Sarah Ann and Edward Edwards moved to the Ebor area near Warialpa, Hernani
1866 Mary Ann Ward born Mallaley 25.8.1866 Mail robbery near MANILLA
3.2.1867 Mail robbery near MANILLA
25.2.1867 Store and hotel robberies at DENISON DIGGINGS
21.4.1867 Horse theft at MOONBI
21.4.1867 Mail robbery near BENDEMEER
5.5.1867 Hotel and store robberies at BONSHAW
22.5.1867 Mail robbery near MANILLA
30.5.1867 Mail robbery near WALLABADAH
26.6.1867 Mail robbery near MURRURUNDI
6.8.1867 Mail robbery near WYBONG CREEK
21.9.1867 Mail robbery near CHAIN OF PONDS
Mid 1867 Frederick Wordsworth Ward (Jnr) born - baptised Wesleyan Methodist Tamworth Distinct Circuit. Birth Reg in 1868. Birth probably contributed to Mary Ann?s death. 17.11.1867 Mary Anne dies of pneumonia Bells Mountain, near Muswellbrook
Jan 1868 Fred Ward joined by Will Monckton
17.1.1868 Mail robbery near FALCONER
28.1.1868 Mail robbery near TAMWORTH
30.1.1868 Mail robbery near TAMWORTH
6.2.1868 Mail robbery near GLEN INNES
17.3.1868 Mail robbery near TENTERFIELD
19.3.1868 Robbery near TENTERFIELD
21.3.1868 Robbery near TENTERFIELD
6.5.1868 Horse theft at ABINGTON
25.6.1868 Robbery at BINGARA
18.7.1868 Store robbery at ROCKY CREEK
4.9.1868 Robbery near BUNDARRA
14.10.1868 Store robbery at WELLINGROVE
5.12.1868 Robbery at OBAN
After the Oban hold-up Will Monckton left Thunderbolt & gave himself up to the police 18.12.1868 Mail robbery at BINGARA
8.6.1869 Robbery near BARRABA
14.4.1870 Robbery near MOREDUN
25.5.1870 Various robberies near URALLA
25.5.1870 Captain Thunderbolt? was shot and killed near Uralla by Constable Walker
28.5.1870 Thunderbolt? sited by 2 policeman at Glen Innes races with his famous horse Combo & chased to Wards Mistake where police abandoned the chase. On returning to Armidale they submitted their report to the Sergent in charge.
During Thunderbolt?s career it is reported that he stole approximately $20,000 approximately $1,000,000 in 2003 money.
Father: John HASWELL b: 1808 in Islington, Middlesex, England
Mother: Sarah Ann WARD b: 1816 in Wilberforce, NSW
Mary Ann BUGG b: 07 MAY 1834 in Gloucester, NSW
in Stroud, NSW. From The Birth Certificate Of Marina Emily Ward.
- Marina Emily WARD b: 26 OCT 1861 in Monkerai, Near Dungog, NSW
- Elizabeth Ann WARD b: 02 SEP 1864 in West Maitland, NSW
- Mary Ann WARD b: 1866 in Wallabadah, NSW
- Frederick Wordsworth WARD b: 1867 in Tamworth District, NSW