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James Freeman (1763–1830)

James Freeman was found guilty on 3 March 1784 at Hertford, England, of a highway robbery that netted him and his companion 12 shillings. His death sentence was commuted to seven years transportation. He was sent to the Justitia hulk where he remained until he embarked for New South Wales on the Alexander in January 1787, arriving in Sydney in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

Sentenced to death on 27 February 1788 for stealing, with William Shearman, 15 allowances of flour, Freeman was given the option of being pardoned if he became the public hangman. His first duty — which he undertook very reluctantly, only after being threatened that the marines would shoot him if he didn't— was to hang Thomas Barrett that same day. On 11 December 1789, two weeks after he hanged Ann Davis, he was sentenced to 100 lashes and a stoppage of his grog, for being drunk and insolent and out of hut after 10.45 pm.

By 1792 Freeman was living with Mary Edwards; they had two children. His occupation in Musters was given as labourer. In the 1828 Muster he was described as a pauper and was living with Thomas Miles at Richmond. He died at Windsor Hospital and was buried on 28 January 1830.

* information from Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), p 136

Citation details

'Freeman, James (1763–1830)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Thurman, James

Hertford, Hertfordshire, England


27 January, 1830 (aged ~ 67)
Windsor, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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Passenger Ship
Key Events
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Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years