The 3rd American: John Thurman

John Thurman

Little is known about the third American aboard the Endeavour. It is assumed that John Thurman was from the colonies but nothing much is known except that he was impressed at Madeira when Cook put in for a supply of a few thousand gallons (not litres; gallons!) of fine Madeira wine as this wine was known to travel well, and would only improve as the journey progressed.

Young Mr. Thurman was around 20 years at the time, and it appears he was impressed from a sloop out of the colonies. Now the sloop, being a man-o-war had to be British, at that time the American colonials relied on the Royal Navy to protect their shores and them from any aggressor (read French) as they had no navy of their own until sometime after the revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

It’s quite possible that Thurman was American by birth and had joined the navy voluntarily as did Lt. Gore and Midshipman Matra, but more likely I think to have been pressed into service when the sloop was in port in one of the colonies.

Thurman didn’t have much of a life, he enjoyed 12 lashes, twice which wasn’t bad considering, there was around 80 men aboard who were eligible for punishment by the cat-o-nine-tails, and for the entire 3 year voyage Cook ordered one of six lashes. 21 of 12 lashes and 3 of 24. This was pretty light for that period. Poor Thurman got a double dose!

And to top it all off he died from dysentry on the 3rd February 1791 whilst the ship was en route between Batavia and the Cape of Good Hope. He was or course consigned to the deep.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it wasn’t much of a life for this young man; won’t you?

2 thoughts on “The 3rd American: John Thurman

  1. Brian, I have had a look around the web for a little more information about John Thurman. He was a native of New York and was pressed into service on the “Endeavour” at Funchal, Madeira. He was a sail maker, but received 12 lashes in Rio for refusing to help make and repair sails. He received a further 12 lashes for stealing (perhaps “souveniring”) some bows and arrows from the indigenous folk of Tahiti, from then on he seems to be happy enough being the assistant sail maker, until his death in the Indian Ocean, from dysentery. I wonder why, if his trade was sail making, that he refused to do this task. I would have thought a sail maker on a sailing ship would enjoy a certain amount of prestige.


    1. Well thank you for that Neill, I never found that info and it adds much more to the post knowing these things about this poor bloke. I’m not sure about the prestige bit for a sailmaker, he would probably have been part of a group, it must have been a big and heavy job requiring several men I’d imagine. The carpenter was a prestige position on board as we know from the cabin arrangements at the for ends of the ship, He scored his own, not big but at least his own. No such privileges were extended to the sailmakers. The ‘Sailmaker’ proper scored his own cabin but our bloke wasn’t so lucky.


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