Reputed to have been born November 1800, in Putney, London, England.

Jackson first came to New Zealand in 1829, as mate of the schooner Waterloo, which was under the command of Captain John
(Jacky) Guard.Jacky Guard. The ship left Sydney in 1829 and arrived at Te Awaiti, on the south-east New Zealand's first shore-
based whaling station, situated at Tar'white [Tawhite], which was the Anglicized version for the Maori name Te Awaiti was called by
Europeans. As was the custom for so many of the early whalers, James entered into a form of marriage with a Maori woman, with
whom he is said to have had several children.

In the 1830s Guard had moved to Kakapo Bay, Port Underwood, which was closer to the annual whale migration trails through
Cook Strait. At about the same time Jackson established himself as the headsman of a whaling operation at Onapopoti, a little bay
separated from the main Te Awaiti valley by a small peninsular. This bay became known as  Jacksons Bay after him. In September
1839, when New Zealand Company officials visited the settlement on the Tory, the three Te Awaiti whaling stations were run by
Richard Barrett, Joseph Toms, and James Jackson [in Jacksons Bay]. James had up to 20 assistant whalers at his factory and
established a permanent home and associated farm. A watermill, said to have been built at Jacksons Bay to grind wheat, was
probably one of the first water-powered flour mills in New Zealand.

James must have experienced a life of hardship and privation arising from his hazardous occupation but also from the tribal
warfare of the times. Frequently there was a shortage of food, with the whalers at times relying on the blubber from the whales for
their livelihood. It is recorded that at one time they subsisted for a month on fern root and part of a decomposing whale.  

Jackson was a huge figure, both physically and literally. He was big – over 6 feet 3 inches in height and 19 stone in weight – and
was also known as 'Fat Jackson'. However, he was best known as Captain Jimmy Jackson. A great talker, he had strong opinions
and liked to use long words, although he did not always understand their meaning. Edward Jerningham Wakefield recalled that on
his visit to Jacksons Bay in 1839, Jackson 'never ceased talking from the moment we entered his house until we returned on
board.' Said Wakefield: 'He was a great admirer of Bonaparte, whose battles adorned his walls in gaudy colors and tinseled
frames, as bought from some French whale-ship. He supported his superficial view of almost everything that could be mentioned,
by quotations from the Scriptures and Guthrie's Geography, which seemed his favorite books of reference.'

An accomplished seaman with entrepreneurial ability, in December 1839 Jackson transported whale oil to Sydney as master of the
chartered brig Siren. In later days, he owned a small schooner of 14 tons called the Nelson Packet, which he used on coastal
trading trips. Jackson took cargo to and from Wellington, Foxton, Nelson and Blenheim.

In September 1842 James accompanied Arthur Wakefield on the Nelson Packet to the Collingwood and Takaka areas. to survey
land which had purchased from local Maori. Alfred Domett, editor of the Nelson Examiner wrote that James was 'looming large as
he sate in the stern, bearing about the same proportion to his little craft as Venus does to her shell, or Neptune to his car, in
allegorical pictures…his commands are given in a man-of-war style, with a sort of dashing self-satisfied burly cheerfulness, which
shows a mastery and delight in his profession, and, above all, a pride in his craft, which is unto him as a frigate.'

He married Eliza Roil at Nelson on 19th Feb 1843. Eliza Roil was born 1826 and arrived in Nelson with her parents in the year
1842 on March 15th, aboard the ship "BOLTON", which sailed from Gravesend for Nelson on the 29th October 1841.

Eliza Jackson, nee Roil, became as tough as any whaler's wife and could, according to the family, swear in two languages with
great proficiency on the slightest provocation. The Rt.Hon.Richard Seddon, who enjoyed Eliza's keen sense of humor, holidayed
with the family on frequent occasions. Eliza was known to all as "Granny Jackson". She died on the 3rd July 1910, aged 85 years,
at the home of her daughter Annie, (Mrs W.Bragg) at the family's home at Mount Pleasant, Picton, where she resided for some
years following the death of James. She is buried at Jacksons Bay, Troy Channel

It appears that James did not live continuously at Te Awaiti, as in 1855 he operating a store at Waitohi, which he did not own,
however, he had returned to Jacksons Bay on Arapawa Island, by 1857, where he also operated a farm of 40 acres.

James, after a long and eventful life, died 2 August 1877 and was buried at Jacksons Bay