Captain Thunderbolt - Michael Ward & James Bugg Families Australia

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  • ID: I1
  • Name: Michael Handley Thompson WARD 1
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 1788 in Islington, Middlesex, England 1
  • Burial: 06 APR 1859 C of E, West Maitland, NSW
  • Death: 04 APR 1859 in Campbell's Hill, West Maitland, NSW 1
  • Note:
    For convict or settler the bushranger was an omnipresent fact of Australian life - indeed an institution. When in 1814 Fred Ward's grandfather, Michael, was transported, bushranging in Van Diemans Land was at its zenith.

    Ward, was a 5' 6" ruddy-complexioned labourer who in 1814 was convicted with a confederate Thomas Dodman at the Middlesex Assizes for stealing liquor. The labourer and his companion were sentenced to death. This was set aside for transportation for seven years to New South Wales. Ward sailed aboard the convict ship, the Indefatigable in May 1815. Two months later his 23 year old wife, Sophia sailed aboard the Northampton from Liverpool as a free person. Little is known of the family's early years however soon after Sophia settled in the Windsor area, Michael was assigned to her to work on a property where she was living, while this was a cosy situation it was quite common in the early life of New South Wales.

    The 1828 New South Wales Blue Book or census shows that Michael was a labourer with a small farm at Wilberforce near Windsor. The Ward's other children were Sarah 12, Emily 8, Joshua 6, George 4, Hester 2 and Selina one month. There was at least one other child, William (also known as Harry). Typical of the times,their grandson Frederick (later known as Captain Thunderbolt) is said to have been born in a typical slab hut at Freeman's Reach, opposite Gardiner's Hotel, Wilberforce. Convictism, a term denoting the convict heritage of Australian society, was blamed as a major cause of bushranging, particularly in the 1860's. Indeed many argued that bushranging was hereditary, derived from convictism.

    Certainly many of the Wild Colonial Boys of the 1860's were sons of convicts. Australia was founded in 1788 as a harbour for England's refuse, the convicts. It was a society formed for outcasts, rejects of the British system, criminals who would hopefully reform. The colonial seal showed prisoners being released on a new land. Through the industry of farming, they became a prosperous and loyal yeoman class. The vast Australian colonies were the solution for the burgeoning masses of criminals formed in the Industrial Revolution - criminals who were products of a great population increase, and the upset of a rural economy. One significant effect of convictism was to create heroes from criminals. Bushrangers became the first folk heroes, and probably the most enduring. For, transportation of convicts was an integral part of Australia life till the year of Thunderbolt's death in 1870. So was bushranging - even among the 1,070 souls first transported to Australia there were "bolters" or runaway convicts soon known as "bushrangers". Some 160,000 convicts, about triple the number previously transported to the US colonies, were dumped on the Australian shores. Yet the Australia population was minuscule compared with the American. So the effect of crime was
    far greater.

    During most of the 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain's criminal law was mostly directed against property offenses; the result of great unemployment and a population explosion. At the time of Australia's foundation there were 260 offenses punishable by death or transportation. These included cutting down trees, raiding oyster beds and any form of petty theft. Convicts were initially imprisoned in hulks and then transported. The death rate on the hulks and the subsequent voyage, through over-crowding and diseases could often be high. As well there was widespread unrest in the countryside, with farmers dressed in disguise as "Rebecca's Daughters" smashing and burning Government turnpikes. Smugglers too, did battle with officials and vicious land-laws and famine crushed the peasants of Ireland. Crime ranged from political and social causes to pure greed.

    The Australian colonies were the apotheosis of experimentation - one of the most curious of modern times, and of world history. For it was the intention of the English to establish, 13,000 miles from their shores a vast prison, a continent of prisoners. Bushranging was among the many curious results of this extraordinary decision. Power was passed onto the naval/military founders who exercised laws unknown in Britain. Crime as distinct from corruption flourished from earliest times.

    The first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, was faced with immense problems, including famine, a debauched guard and convict contingent, and the unsuitability of practically the entire affair 1,070 souls to be self sufficient at farming. By the time of Captain Thunderbolt's death in 1870 the Australian colonies were major world exporters of wool, gold, and the economy was firmly rooted in agriculture. The interlude however provided a weird history.

    From the start there were distinct factions in society, the jailor and the jailed. Governor Phillip for example, needed to supplement his marines with mainly a convict-composed police force, hence the term and the practice for generations, of using "felon police". At times Phillip even begged his convict constables not to raid vegetable gardens or steal rations in the critically food-short colony. The convicts in fact arrested several robbing marines.

    Law and order under a strong naval/military force was far different from anything Britain had ever experienced, probably the most peculiar ever in a British colony. Supt. Harris, who controlled the greatest number of convicts on earth, was himself a former convict. Several of the early police chiefs were former convicts including George Barrington, renowned as the Crown Prince of Pickpockets. D'Arcy Wentworth, another, fled England with warrants out-standing for his arrest on highway robbery. For some years too the courts refused to sit when a reformist Governor Lachlan Macquarie appointed former convicts or emancipists to the bench. Also there were punishments unknown to British law, including the cutting off of ears for perjury, and 1,000 lashes with a cat of nine tails.

    The Legend of Captain Thunderbolt - Frederick Ward “The Official Story” supplied by the McCrossin's Mill Museum, Uralla

    The Thunderbolt legend lives on most strongly in the New England district of northern New 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 landholders that also recognised their common enemy as the Government and the Law. They considered Thuderbolt to be a victim of circumstance and they sympathised and identified with him. The Police force was over governed by Parliamentary and grossly underpaid, under trained and overworked and supplied with horses of dubious breeding,

    Fred Ward finally met his match on the afternoon of 25th May, 1870. He 'bailed up" firstly John and Liza Blanch near their Inn, then Coghlan and an Italian hawker, Giovani Cappasotti. Resenting this action, Cappasotti alerted the Uralla PoIice Officers Mulhall and Walker.
    The Police exchanged shots with Thunderbolt and Constable Walker, gave chase. Thunderbolt was finally cornered in a waterhole in Kentucky Creek some 4 kilometers distant. A coroner's Inquest was held on the body of Fred Ward 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, N.S.W., in either 1835 or another reference states 16th May 1836. The birth date is not recorded. 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 fowl 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 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 headed for New England and stole a double-barreled 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 purported 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 Monkton (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 Majesty'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 harassed 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 hideout. 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 Tenterfied 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)

    143 years since Thunderbolt's death near Uralla have passed, but stories of his exploits still circulate in the Uralla district. How great-grandfather met Thunderbolt one day while mustering cattle in a lonely place and shared a yam and a billy of tea. Similarly, great-grandmother would hang a blanket as a signal on the clothesline 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.
    The best-researched book on Thunderbolt is " A Ghost Called Thunderbolt" by Stephen Williams

    (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 & Maitand Ensign 9/3/1867).
    (vii) "A Ghost called Thunderbolt" by Stephan Williams - page 11

    Father: Hanley Thompson WARD

    Marriage 1 Sophia Jane Elizabeth Ann CROLSTON b: 1788 in Islington, Middlesex, UK
    • Married: 1813 in England 1
    1. Has Children Sophia Jane WARD b: 29 MAR 1809 in Keppel St, Holborn, London, England
    2. Has Children Sarah Ann WARD b: 1816 in Wilberforce, NSW
    3. Has Children Amelia (Emily) WARD b: 1820 in Wilberforce, NSW
    4. Has Children Joshua Michael WARD b: 1822 in Wilberforce, NSW
    5. Has Children George Edward WARD b: 1824 in Wilberforce, NSW
    6. Has Children Esther Berfield (Hester) WARD b: 14 NOV 1826 in Wilberforce, NSW
    7. Has Children Selina Maria WARD b: OCT 1828 in Windsor, NSW, Australia
    8. Has Children William Thompson (Harry) WARD b: 1829 in Wilberforce, NSW
    9. Has Children Edward George WARD b: 1830 in Wilberforce, NSW, Australia
    10. Has No Children Harriet WARD b: APR 1833 in Wilberforce, NSW

    1. Title: Fred Ward.FTW
      Source Medium: Other

      Text: Date of Import: Jun 28, 2003
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