Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
Blackbeard, if not a native son of the Bath area, was an adopted son with blood relatives living in the area. He had the trust of the local families. He organized a core of about 20 men from the Bath area. The majority of these men were connected by blood.
He developed a system of shares that was honored by all until the end. Arrangements were made for letters of credit connecting the Caribbean with banking interests in Boston. Not all treasure was silver, gold and jewels. These are easily stored or hid. They do not spoil. What about the mercantile goods? What about the slaves? They had to be fed, clothed, and guarded. These perishables were sold or bartered and the sooner the better.
Considering the system of shares, the letters of credit, the quick sale of a lot of the goods, there was little reason for these pirates to bury their treasure. They laundered it through Boston banks.
This is evidenced by the wealth retained by Blackbeard and his crew after pardons were granted by Governor Eden. The Boston banker, James Calif married Elizabeth Worsley Beard Barrow, daughter of John Barrow and Blackbeard's widow. James Calif was in charge of her letter of credit. She met him in Boston where she traveled to collect her money.
There would not have been the ample availability of money and goods for the various social events unless a part of the booty had been saved.
After piracy, these wealthy, single men took wives mostly from the Bath area and started families. There seemed to be no stigma attached to their past even though all in the Bath area knew about their past. Blackbeard seemed to be well accepted, purchasing property and marrying with out any reported friction.
The reason for these blissful conditions was two fold. Blackbeard was a skilled leader and businessman. He had made all those, about 20 men and families, wealthy and secure. Had this not have been so he would have had little respect in the Bath area and that condition would have became very public and well known.
Blackbeard's financial success came during the seven months following the capture of the French slave ship, La Concorde de Nantes, which he renamed the "Queen Ann's Revenge". This name was not picked by chance. Blackbeard had originally received his privateers commission during Queen Anne's reign. After her death in 1714 many commissions were lifted, many privateers, during the next few years, had to either give up the business or become pirates. Piracy is a much more risky business than privateering under the protection of the monarch.
Blackbeard outfitted Queen Anne's Revenge for war and piracy. This 300-ton frigate was originally built in England during 1710 and called Concord. She was captured by the French in 1711 and renamed La Concorde de Nantes. Blackbeard was given the ship by Captain Benjamin Hornigold after her capture on November 28, 1717 near the island of Martinique. Blackbeard increased the number of guns from 20 to 40. The ship was large, he added more crew.
Blackbeard was a tall man with a black beard. He understood the advantage of reputation and scary appearance. He treated his prisoners better than most. He purposely developed a reputation for sparing life. All of this served him well. He did less fighting, obtaining undamaged cargoes and ships.
During the seven months with "Queen Anne's Revenge" he captured 18 ships and collected a payment for lifting his blockade of Charleston Harbor. His crew grew to about 400 men. His operations had become large and complicated. Capturing one prize was completely different from having to manage to dispose of the cargo from 18 ships within about seven months, making sure his crew did not steal the treasure, and dealing with discipline problems.
The crown rulers of Europe were cooperating to stamp out piracy. It was only a matter of time before all were caught and hanged.
This brought him to the skillful maneuver of separating the Bath County men from the rest of the crew at Beaufort. He did not want to take all of them back home to the Bath area. The presence of more than 300 real live pirates in the Bath area would have ruined his friends and relatives and destroyed his reputation. Blackbeard managed to separate the Bath County men from the rest of the crew. Whether by accident or design Queen Anne's Revenge ran aground. Blackbeard put those he did not want on a small island and made a clean get away with the Bath County men. Within a few months he and his crew accepted a full pardon from Governor Eden.
He had promised to bring the Bath County men back to their homes with enough money to overcome their families poverty. They were all wealthy by now with silver, gold and mercantile goods on board but with the majority of their treasure protected by letters of credit in individual accounts in the Boston Banks.
What led Blackbeard to return to piracy is not clear. It could have been boredom. He was certainly an intelligent fun loving person. The protection of Governor Eden, his partner, had to have been enticing. Whatever the reason, he chose to practice his illegal trade too close to home. Maybe, for some good reasons. Virginia and South Carolina were actively trying and hanging pirates. Blackbeard had blockaded the Port of Charleston and collected a substantial payment. Maybe that is why he decided to prey on the Virginians. He was sure to be hanged in South Carolina. Then there were those stories about abandoning his crew at Beaufort Inlet. By this time he had enemies at all points south of Ocracoke Island.
Virginia Governor Spotswood became incensed about Blackbeard's raids on shipping around the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. In those days each state was for all practical purposes a country. They were ruled independently from England. Spotswood knew how well protected Blackbeard was in the Bath area. Bloodlines are strong. There is little question about the prosperity Blackbeard had brought to the region. And Governor Eden was cashing in. There was no chance of a raid into the heart of Blakbeard's home being successful. Besides Governor Eden could do a raid on Virginia in retaliation.
The word was not long in getting out that Blackbeard was planning a pirate party at Ocracoke, at what is now Teach's Hole. Some speculate that one of his spurned mothers-in-law living in Bath had given Spotswood the information. But, if you are inviting what could be a hundred or more pirates to a party the information could have come from a lot of different places. Spotswood may have paid for accurate information. For sure, his naval force arrived at the opportune time. Spotswood also sent an overland military force to Bath. Spotswood used his personal money for this operation which means he had information he considered to be very reliable and he thought he would recover enough booty to pay for the venture and make a profit.
Blackbeard, his crew and guests were caught flat-footed, drinking at Ocracoke. Lieutenant Maynard and his crew had good luck and bad luck. They lost a ship but through good luck managed to kill Blackbeard and Thomas Miller who was from Hyde County. They captured the pirate crew. The Virginians cut off Bladkbeard's head as proof of their success. They stayed at the well site on Ocracoke through December of 1718 burying the dead and looking for loot before returning to Virginia. The Virginia Militia stayed around the Town of Bath for several weeks searching for booty. They found none and returned empty handed, taking several purported pirates to Williamsburg. The militia never went to the Barrow plantation on Pungo Creek. The militia did find booty stored in Tobias Knight's barn. Sounds like the Bath area people stuck together. Blood is thicker than water.
Of all the pirates taken to Williamsburg for trial, none were hanged. All returned home. There is little in the record to show why. Perhaps these wealthy pirates paid their way out. There is speculation the King of England pardoned them because he was preparing for war with Spain and needed experienced privateers.
John Barrow was born in 1700 the second son of William Barrow. He was 18 years old when Blackbeard sailed up to his home on Pungo Creek in the sloop "Adventure" with 20 men in his crew. These men were rich, pardoned, citizens of the colony. All of them probably got married and started large families. Each was a member of Bath area families that had put up money to send them off to seek treasure.
In June 1718 Blackbeard arrived with medicine and goods worth 400 pounds or 2 million dollars in to days money. Goods of all kinds, rum, wine, silver and gold. William Barrow had died along with many others of the colonial elite, probably from lack of medicine and proper care.
Blackbeard had married and was holding large parties, entertaining the elite colonial nobility. This went on until November of 1718 when he was killed. His wife was a Worsley. Her mother was Mary Perkins Worsley, the Daughter of David Perkins. David Perkins started Bath Town and lived on Pungo Creek beside of William Barrow.
Thomas Worsley was a friend of Captain James Beard owner of the sloop "Tryall". Captain James Beard had a son named Blackbeard". Thomas Worsley had the power of attorney for Captain Beard for the sloop "Tryall". This is where the money trail points to who was Blackbeard and who was his wife. Thomas Worsley was in charge of finance for the Beards who were also his neighbors on Bath Creek. Captain Beard also had another daughter, Susanna Beard. Thomas Worsley's rank was only a planter (land owner) before July of 1718. After that he rose two grades to Esquire (Nobility of Colonial Bath). He suddenly had a line o credit of 550 pounds of Boston or New England money, not British pounds, and owned one half of a man of war, the sloop "Tryall" valued at 220 pounds New England money.
Captain Beard also had a second wife "Elizabeth Beard Marston" who was in Bath along with Maurice Moore. Elizabeth Beard Marston got no money and was not included in Blackbeard's parties or share of the loot.
Some believe Elizabeth Beard Marston and Maurice Moore gave Virginia Governor Spotswood the information about Blackbeards's party at Ocracoke, and Governor Eden's Secretary, Tobias Knight's storage of pirated goods. These were the jealous citizens of Bath. This information resulted in the death of Blackbeard and the trial of Tobias Knight.
John Barrow was young and had no money. He owned the 486-acre site on Pungo Creek subject to his mothers life estate. Her name was Elizabeth Elkes Lillington Barrow. She was nobility, kin to all the colonial elites, and Governor Walker's and Tobias Knight's wives. When she died she owned significant land acreage, had silk dresses and servants. She moved from John Barrow's house and leased it to his brother for the duration of her life.
At the death of Elizabeth Elkes Lillington Barrow in 1734 she willed to her several children, slaves, and clothing of great value including silk. She also passed over her sons William, John and Samuel in her will giving them each one shilling.
Following the money trail after Blackbeard's death. John Barrow buys land and moves to the New Bern area on Beard Creek next to Susanna Beard, the sister of Blackbeard. He is Thomas Worlsy's son-in-law. This means he married Blackbeard's widow. This quick marriage and move protected Blackbeard's widow from the invading troops of Virginia's Governor Spotswood. It ultimately made John Barrow a wealthy man.
Spotswood's troops arrest persons connected with Blackbeard, taking them to Williamsburg, Virginia for trial during November of 1718. The Virginia Militia seized Bath and the Bath Creek area, but failed to seize the Pungo Creek area. That is why the escape to the New Bern area could be made by John Barrow with Blackbeard's widow. This couple was only 18 years of age. They were rich and on the run. No records were made and those that existed were destroyed for fear they would be seized and used to obtain convictions.
All this is tied together by a hand carved tombstone, made of slate and imported form the Boston area.
It has a deaths head with angels at the top. The name is Mrs. Elizabeth Calif born November 16, 1721 and died June 20 1741. This stone was found on John Barrow's land having been moved from the house site graveyard to the civil war graveyard.
Elizabeth Calif was born to John Barrow and Elizabeth Worsley Beard Barrow, Blackbeard's young widow. Elizabeth was rich with the line of credit in a Boston Bank. She married James Calef of the Boston firm that managed the pirate's money deposited with them.
Blackbeard's sister, Susannah Beard, married John Martin Frank. Susannah procured the place in the New Bern area on Beard's Creek where John Barrow and Blackbeard's widow were safe. Susannah's daughter Mary Frank married the brother of Blackbeard's widow, John Worsley the son of Thomas Worrsey.
This describes the complete first family of what is today called the "Pirate Nation". This family along with their consorts controlled the Tar-Pamlico basin and the Neuse basin out to Ocracoke.
Governor Spotswood had financed this expedition with his personal funds hoping to capture Blackbeard's treasure. There was little treasure found to pay for this adventure.
Governor Eden moved to Edenton and never returned. He put Tobias Knight on trial but he never located the treasure. Blackbeard' stepmother moved to Edenton where she had to work for a living.
Maurice Moore went to develop the Cape Fear Region. He never returned.
The independent countries of Virginia and South Carolina publicly hanged all pirates captured and paid bounties for pirates. However, they released the citizens of North Carolina who returned to Bath.
Another successful pirate was Edward Salter. He went from being a cooper to the top of the local nobility in short order. He protected his share of his pirate treasure.
Two others were Stephen Elsey and James Robbins. They had acquired three slaves with which they purchased a tract of land owned by Governor Eden located on the west side of Bath Creek on the Pamlico River. They sold this to Edward Salter who built a large building complete with an escape tunnel. He had been caught before by Virginia troops. This tract of land is known as the Tunnel House Plantation. It was later purchased by John Barrow's daughter Fanney Barrow Lanier for 800 pounds (about 5 million dollars in today's money). She married a Frenchman named John Lanier. The land became known as the Archbell tract and today is a Corporate Retreat of the Potash Corp. One of John Barrow's descendents is employed by the Potash Corp. on this tract.
By 1734 Edward Salter is the Senior Warden of the Saint Thomas Episcopal Parrish. Among other wardens are John Barrow, John Oden, Thomas Worsley and John Lillington. Pirates used Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in Barbados. At Bath we have a brick building built by pirates using their pirate treasure. Why would they do this?
By tradition brick crypts were installed for deceased loved ones inside church walls and under the floor at the alter. Saint Thomas in Bath was built from brick made at John Barrow's home site on the Pungo.
There was need for a permanent church. Blackbeard's wife was deceased and John Barrow required a safe place for her body to rest in peace. Also the bones of Blackbeard less his head, his crewmembers and Thomas Miller who was killed with Blackbeard at Ocracoke may be in this brick church. The Virginia troops stayed at the well site on Ocracoke through December of 1718. They buried the dead. We have no record as to where the bones of Blackbeard and his crew may rest. One fear pirates have is that they will have no decent burial site for their bones. These pirate families and Blackbeard's wife could have recovered these remains from Ocracoke for placing them in crypts at Saint Thomas. Church.
Copyright, 2014, Eugene Bowers Grant, Jr., All rights reserved
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