Benjamin ASHE

Captain John ASH


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Captain John ASH

  • Born: 13 Sep 1741
  • Marriage: Sarah RUTTER on 16 Jul 1771 in St. George, Everton, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
  • Died: 1806 aged 65

bullet  General Notes:

Extract from the Marriage Register of St. George, Derby Square, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Marriage: 16 July 1771 at St. George's, Derby Square, Liverpool, Lancashire
Groom: John Ash, Mariner of Liverpool
Bride: Sarah Rutter, Spinster of Liverpool
Witnesses: Bernard Lightfoot and Thomas Cowell
Married by license by: Thomas Fishwick, Lectr.

Extract from "CONTRABAND COFFEE: Smuggling and Other Tricks of Trade" by Michelle L. Craig, Department of History, University of Michigan and PEAES Pre-Dissertation Fellow (2003)
In January 1773, Captain John Ash wrote to his financial backers, the Jamaican firm of Brown and Birch, of his safe arrival in the Caribbean. He also informed them of a change in plans. Contracted to secure a cargo of wood and mules, Ash tried first in Tortola and then in St. Thomas without success. He sailed next to the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico where he reported: "We loaded what of the wood we could get there and sent express to the out bays near us, who returned for answer, that there was very little and so situated that we could not get at it either with ship or boats… we proceeded then to another plan for we found neither wood nor mules, but a good deal of coffee." [Letter from Captain Ash to Messrs. Brown and Birch (January 24, 1773]. Jamaicans would not likely buy Ash's coffee when he returned to Kingston as they produced more than enough of their own locally, but he decided to purchase between 2,240 and 2,688 lbs. reasoning it could be resold to North America to offset the expense of his endeavor.
Ash saw advantages in this alternative, but he also advised Brown and Birch of some potential downsides. While "their [Puerto Rico's] principal trade is coffee," Ash faced significant competition. He described a "coast … full of vessels that can supply them on better terms than we" and suggested carrying at least one-third to one-fourth the purchase price in cash as well as an "assortment of very fine goods." Samples, such as Ash was used to offering, had not been considered acceptable terms by Puerto Rican sellers.
Ash also noted some logistical difficulties. His vessel, the ship Mary, drew too much draft for Puerto Rican harbors so he recommended using smaller crafts such as shallops or flatbottomed boats to transfer goods from the bays to larger ships anchored off-shore. Acknowledging that increased labor would result in additional expense he strongly advised the investment in local manpower over stretching the resources of his existing crew. The shuttle transfer needed to ferry coffee from coast to ship had required thirteen of his "best men" leaving the ship and the remainder of the crew unguarded, "waiting the lucky or unlucky chance of a moment." The unlucky chance he feared most was discovery by cruisers from the Spanish Main that regularly patrolled the waters surrounding Spain's island colonies in search of illicit foreign trade. Captain Ash's actions definitely fell into that category; for while Ash might have been willing to incur the salaries of a few more workers, he was not willing to pay the appropriate export duties on the coffee he brought out of Puerto Rico.
After docking, Captain Ash no longer narrates the story. His Jamaica factors, Brown and Birch wrote the last series of letters to their Liverpool counterparts, confirming rumors that the ship Mary had been condemned by Jamaican authorities for illegally importing non-British coffee. It seems Ash made a bad miscalculation; rather than sell his Spanish coffee in North America, he off-loaded his cargo in Kingston. To undercut local producers, "Capt. Ash was imprudent enough to offer coffee for sale in a publick company, under the current prices considerably, which was taken notice of by a coffee planter there present." Jamaican planters did not appreciate Ash's entrepreneurship and reported the arrival of unlicensed foreign produce to local port authorities who condemned the ship that same evening. When customs officials boarded the vessel they initially found only four casks of coffee; after more thorough examination, however, not only were "the people's beds found full of beans," but also notations on this concealment of cargo turned up in both the captain's log and first mate's journal, casting more than a shadow of doubt on Ash's protestations of innocence. Brown and Birch opted to pay the penalty for importing foreign coffee rather than forfeit their ship; doing so also kept Ash out of prison, though they seemed less concerned about his welfare than that of their vessel.

Extract from "The Cumberland Chronicle and Whitehaven Public Advertiser" dated 5 November 1778
All Gentlemen Seamen and able-bodied Landsmen, who are desirous to enrich themselves upon the Spoils of the French and Americans, have an opportunity in:
The Ship Terrible
Capt. John Ash, Commander
(Now fitting out at Liverpool)
[Details given, including an assurance that the Terrible will be going to the West Indies, not the Guinea Coast]: Whitehaven contact, Mrs Alkin in Marlborough Street.
"Several parties continue to beat up here for seamen to man the privateers, and letters of marque, fitting out at this port, and Liverpool. To those mentioned in our last we have to add, the Terrible, Capt. Ash, now fitting out at Liverpool -- a vessel known to sail very fast, and to have accommodation superior to most armed vessels, and not inferior to a King's frigate.

Extract from Baptism Register of St. Nicholas, Liverpool, Lancashire
Name: John
Occupation: Servant
Baptism: 7 November 1781
Note: a Native of Angola aged about twelve years, Servant to Captain John Ash, of this town, Mariner [No Surname Entered].

Extract from "History of the Liverpool Privateers" by Gomer Williams (1897)
Pages 250/251:
Early in the year 1779, Captain Ash, of the Terrible, 250 tons, 20 guns, and 130 men, belonging to Messrs. Nottingham & Co., took a large snow called La Victoire, from St. Domingo to Bordeaux, and on the same day, a large ship from Port-au-Prince, called L'Age D'Or, both of which arrived safe in Liverpool. Their united cargoes consisted of 774 hogsheads and 22 tierces of sugar, 29 barrels, 29 half-barrels, 65 quarter casks, and 40,000 pounds of coffee; 120 bags of ginger, 120 bales, 11 bags, and 3 pockets of cotton, and 2 quarter-barrels indigo. Captain Ash also recaptured and sent into Cork, the Leinster Packet, from Bristol to Galway, which had been taken the previous day by the Rocket, of 16 guns and 110 men.
Page 263:
On the 24th of November, 1779, the frigates Telemachus, Captain Ash, and the Ulysses, Captain Briggs, both from Liverpool, on a cruise, took a Spanish frigate of about 600 tons burthen, called the Soladad, pierced for 26 guns upon her main deck, and carrying 170 men. She was bound from the South Seas for Europe, and had been three years out.
Page 291:
In September, 1781, the Heart of Oak privateer, Captain Ash, recaptured the Alexander privateer, of Liverpool, which had been taken by an American frigate. In March 1782, we read of the Heart of Oak taking a Dutch privateer, which was cruising off the Humber, and carrying her into Hull.

Extract from "The Monthly Magazine; or British Register: Vol. XXII, Part II for 1806"
At Greenwich, John Ash, esq., formerly in the West India trade.


John married Sarah RUTTER on 16 Jul 1771 in St. George, Everton, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. (Sarah RUTTER was born on 22 Jan 1749 in Liverpool, Hartshaw, England.)

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