Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Ramblings of Wakeman Edwards

Wakeman Edwards (1788-1842)
One of the ironies of my own family history is the absence of famous ancestors. There was the occasional miller, mariner, gardener or shipwright, but for the most part my ancestors were farmers or agricultural labourers from England. None of them were members of the aristocracy, none of them had illustrious military careers, and none of them were notorious criminals. A few of them did, however, have connections to interesting people.

Samuel Cooke (1789-1832), was a merchant and the brother of my ggg-grandfather. Samuel married a young woman from Bideford named Elizabeth Edwards (1792-1862). Elizabeth was the daughter of Elizabeth Chichester (1758-1834), a granddaughter of Sir John Chichester, 4th Baronet (1689-1740).


Louisa Marrett (1812-1842)
At the time of her marriage to Samuel Cooke on 1827, Elizabeth's cousin, Sir Arthur Chichester (1790-1842), was 7th Baronet. Elizabeth's brother, Wakeman Edwards (1788-1842), was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Wakeman married Louisa Marrett (1812-1842), the daughter of Captain Joseph Marrett (1778-1857), a distinguished naval officer during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In 1841, while living in Brittany, Louisa gave birth to a son, Wakeman Julius Chichester Edwards. A year later, young Wakeman was an orphan.
 
In 1867, while on a voyage from London to Trinidad, Wakeman decided to write an account of his life up to that point. The original manuscript is held by a descendant, however, a few years ago I was given a transcribed copy. Wakeman's "Ramblings" are quite fascinating as they relate how over the course of several years he circumnavigated the globe.

Wakeman was raised by his grandparents, Joseph and Sarah Marrett. When his grandmother died, his grandfather moved in with his daughter. Wakeman's aunt ("Mrs. B.") was quite envious of "my grandfather's partiality towards my orphan self" and as a result Wakeman entered the Royal Naval School in London. Wakeman excelled in Arithmetic, Geography and Navigation, but was indifferent to the rest of the curriculum.

While in London, Wakeman was a frequent visitor at the house of another aunt, Elizabeth Cooke. After the death of her husband Samuel in 1837, Elizabeth had moved to London with her two children. Wakeman writes:

I shall never forget the kind welcome they gave me, so different from the reception I received from my Aunt C. and her family. How I used to look forward for the Saturday I used to spend with my kind Aunt and cousins.
When Wakeman graduated from the Royal Navy School he turned down a commission in the Royal Marines and instead joined the mercantile navy as an apprentice. His first voyage was aboard the Nourmahal, commanded by Capt. Lewis Brayley. Nourmahal was a ship of 835 tons with a crew of 30 and 18 passengers bound for Australia. Wakeman was one of six apprentices.

Corroboree on the Murray River, 1858 by Gerard Krefft
Nourmahal arrived in Australia in February 1857 after a voyage of 125 days. Wakeman almost deserted the ship at Sydney, as one of his cousins (the wife of brewer, squatter and businessman Robert Tooth) was living nearby, but at the last minute he decided to return to England. While in Australia, Wakeman also encountered a large group of aborigines performing a corroboree:
The relection of the fire on their painted bodies, representing skeletons made them look hideous, all being quite naked and yelling and dancing about...
By the time he returned to England, Wakeman had decided to "leave the sea." For the next three years he worked as a clerk in London for Charles Tennant, Son & Co., His grandfather had died while he was in Australia, and in February 1862, his Aunt Elizabeth Cooke also died. Wakeman then decided to take passage for New Zealand aboard the Indian Empire, arriving in Auckland in October 1862.

After working at a South Island sheep station on the Rakaia River for a few months, Wakeman then took passage across the Pacific to Vancouver Island.  After a two week stopover in Tahiti, Wakeman arrived in Victoria in May 1863. His intention was to prospect for gold in the interior of British Columbia, but instead he worked first as a navvy for a road crew and then as a bartender.

After 10 months, Wakeman headed south to San Francisco where he obtained work at a lumber mill. A year later he was back in Victoria. Work was scarce, and after a nine-month period as a steward on a coastal steamship, decided to head for New York.

In 1867, the easiest way to get from Victoria to New York was by steamer to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua; by mule to Lake Nicaragua, and then across the lake and down the San Juan River by steamer to the Caribbean, where Wakeman boarded the Santiago de Cuba for New York.

After three months in New York working as a night watchman, Wakeman sailed to Liverpool aboard the Chicago, arriving in England on April 22, 1867. His trip around the world had taken almost five years.

A month later Wakeman was aboard the Spherved bound for Trinidad. It was on this voyage that he wrote his "Ramblings."


Gravestone, Watt, Muskoka, Ontario
What exactly happened next is not known, but in 1868, Wakeman came to Canada. In November of the following year he married Margaret Alexander (1844-1905) in the Muskoka district of Ontario. Margaret had been born in Tongland, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland and had emigrated to Canada with her brothers in 1868. Canadian Census data shows Wakeman was a farmer living in Watt Township, Muskoka in 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901.

Wakeman and Margaret had seven children. Their third child, William Cooke Edwards (1874-1931) was named in remembrance of the kindness that Wakeman had received from his Aunt Elizabeth Cooke and her children. Wakeman died in 1902 at the age of 60, and was buried at St Thomas Anglican Church in Ullswater, Ontario.

No comments:

Post a Comment