Captain Cook’s links to Crofton

To the south east of Wakefield is the village of Crofton and hidden in the shadows of Crofton Church on the sleepy grassy slope, next to a stone wall, stands the gravestone of Elizabeth Atkinson who died in 1908.

She shares her grave with her son John who was killed at Walton Colliery having been crushed by a runaway coal tub in 1906, aged 16.

Elizabeth’s husband Robert Atkinson, a colliery deputy at Walton Colliery, brought his family down from Redcar where the extended Atkinson family were established members of the Redcar lifeboat.

Robert Atkinson was the son of a farmer who was born at Carlton in Cleveland in 1851.

He went to seek work in Redcar as an Iron stone miner and joined his eldest brother John, who had married the daughter of the Redcar lifeboat coxswain William Upton.

Elizabeth Atkinson nee Verrill was the daughter of William Verrill, of the famous fishing family from Staithes near Whitby.

Her mother Mary Sarah Haswell, of Guisborough, was the niece of Charles Haswell who married Elizabeth Pickering in 1841 - the great-great niece of Captain James Cook through Grace Carter and Grace Fleck, the daughter of Margaret Cook who was Captain Cook’s sister.

Charles Haswell was no saint and went off to America to seek his fortune, leaving behind Elizabeth Pickering and the children.

He married another two times, leaving aq string of sons across the midwest of America - two of which died during the American Civil War in 1864.

John Charles Haswell was killed in action at the battle of New Hope Church in 1864 and his descendants live on in Nebraska and San Jose in California.

The descendants of Elizabeth Pickering and Charles Haswell’s son Charles, born in 1843, live in Alberta, Canada.

James Cook as a lad of 16 was sent to Staithes to work at Mr Sanderson’s haberdashery store and would have most possibly come face-to-face with Elizabeth Atkinson, nee Verrill, whose third great-grandfather was John Verrill, born 1715.

His two sons - John, born 1744, and Thomas, born 1748 - gave rise to the massive Verrill family when they in turn married two Burton sisters and between them had 16 children.

John Verrill’s grave stone still stands proudly up at Hinderwell Churchyard and descendants of Elizabeth Atkinson who live in the Wakefield area will be surprised to learn of their seafaring heritage link.

Trevor Atkinson

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