Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
Serving on the vestry of Saint Thomas Parish in Bath with the (supposedly hanged) pirate, Edward Salter is Blackbeard's widow's second husband, John Barrow. Also on the vestry is John and Charles Oden. John Barrow's third wife is Martha Oden. John, Charles and Martha Oden are brothers and sister. Therefore, John Barrow has two of his brothers-in-law on his vestry. Martha is a great-great aunt of the present day John Oden whose research started the development of the historical thread of piracy and the link to the American Revolution. Without John Oden's research into Blackbeard this historical linkage would not have been possible. The twentieth century John Oden started his research by examining Deed Books of Beaufort County beginning in 1694. I would know nothing of actual fact without his work.
When Blackbeard was killed, Thomas Worsley, the moneyman, was serving on the vestry of Saint Thomas Parish. Also serving was John Lillington who is John Barrow's mother's half brother. These people would have an interest in the Christian burial of the remains of Blackbeard and his crew. They may have saved the bones of Blackbeard in crypts under the brick church.
One of John Barrow's daughters married a Boyd. They maintained Saint Thomas Church for many years.
With the death of Blackbeard, the bounty put on all east coast pirates heads, and the subsequent searches by Governor Spotswood's troops and the British Navy, all persons in the Bath County area were suspect. In particular friends, relatives and a former wife of Blackbeard would be prized captures.
Stories were invented and spread to throw these hounds off the trail. The direct arrow that points to John Barrow being one of the sources is the legend that Blackbeard's wife was Mary Ormand. An outdoor drama has played for years that have Mary Ormand being Blackbeard's wife in Bath. The real Mary Ormand is the daughter of John Barrow's second wife Martha Oden Barrow. That is, Blackbeard's real wife was Mary Ormand's aunt. However, John Barrow's first wife was the widow of Blackbeard. Because of the danger of capture, the real truth could not to be revealed publicly. This is one of the convenient legends that was made up to confuse the authorities.
John Barrow's financial treasure, inherited with the death of his wife Elizabeth Worsley Beard Barrow, along with his political position of being Blackbeard's "chosen one" propelled him to the top of Bath County colonial nobility. He became chief law enforcement person and High Sheriff. He rose to he rank of colonel in the military. He represented Bath County in North Carolina legislative affairs.
John Barrow's wealth continued to increase. In 1748 a Spanish ship loaded with gold and silver survived a hurricane and limped into Ocracoke. It came to rest at the well site at Teach's Hole. There, two sloops offered to take chests of gold and silver to the Spanish consulate in Norfolk for a fee. After loading, these two Boats vanished. Who owned the boats? It had to be part of the Bath County family of pirates.
John Barrow was an owner of slaves. Slaves who participated in acts of piracy were generally not prosecuted because they were acting for their owners. However, the owners were subject to prosecution. Slaves were very valuable. The last chapter presents how John Barrow allocated his slaves among his children.
Of interest is a slave named Moses. In 2001 when my wife, Jane, inherited some of the land that originally belonged to John Barrow on Pungo Creek at the site of Port Pamlico, the court house, and the customs house, a Black man named Moses Hopkins lived in the only remaining house. He has passed away. Various deeds and wills show a continuous occupation of this site by men named Moses during the past 300 years.
Edward Salter's daughter married John Gray Blount. He had a port called Shell Castle between Ocracoke and Portsmouth Island inside the inlet. The port was on Beacon Island. These sloops were probably connected to Bath County and the secret pirate society controlled by John Barrow. John Barrow and John Gray Blount both had increased wealth after the Spanish event at Ocracoke event along with some Hyde County persons.
We find John Barrow is one of three commissioners working with Governor Tryon to build one of the most magnificent buildings in America at that time. Tryon Palace is in New Bern. John Barrow had to be part of the finance operations. He also was promoted to colonel to raise troops to fight the French. He refused to fight in battle against he French.
The Bath County pirates who received hundreds of chests of silver from the Spanish ship were in operation more than 20 years after the British government declared all pirates had been hung and defeated. There is no record of these hanged Bath County pirates in history books other than legend. Had this treasure been delivered to Spain most of it would have gone to the Catholic Pope who controlled life or death by his power of the inquisition or declaring heresy. Had it gone to the British it would have gone to the Kings treasury.
The Bath County family of pirates had better plans. It went to those who stole and divided it by some system of shares. We find this silver used in many ways. One use was to build a copy of Tryon Palace on the Edward Salter Tunnel House Plantation. Another was to help make John Gray Blount a prosperous businessman. Many within the entire Pamlico region benefited.
The next event is in 1776 in Halifax County, after North Carolina rebelled and became an independent country. John Barrow was elected to serve on the Committee of Safety as the representative from Bath County. Committees of Safety were a temporary expedient to replace the British officials who were driven out of all of the Colonies by 1774. Committees of Safety on the county, region and state levels administered all government functions. This included the executive, legislative and judicial. They ran the North Carolina colonial militia, the ports, and issued letters of marque and reprisal to privateers.
The Committee of Safety seized all land, deeds, and records of ownership for the country of North Carolina. This included the Granville Grant lands.
Blackbeard's substitute now became a substitute for the English King by an act of war. The Committee of Safety had become owner of the Lords Proprietor's lands and the Granville Grant all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The pirate, John Barrow, had become a ruler in the country of North Carolina.
Just as when Lord "Grenville" on Ocracoke Island claimed soil for Queen Elizabeth, the Spanish attacked. Now the English will attack North Carolina, but it is the last American colony-country to be attacked.
While John Barrow is in Halifax a Navy was created. John Paul, who took Jones as his last name is recruited to captain ships in the fledgling Continental Navy. He used pirate tactics to seize an abundance of British shipping from Newfoundland to the coast of he British Isles. Jones was called a pirate by the British press. John Paul Jones is the father of the US Navy.
Even with the shaky value of the continental currency there was a system of trade that worked well. French ports would take silver and gold for war goods, no questions asked. Goods were delivered to Ocracoke Island or Shell Castle owned by John Gray Blount whose wife is the daughter of Edward Salter, the Bath pirate. Blount would reload and ship inland to Washington, N. C. These goods were then delivered to troops of North Carolina and the Continental Army.
Blount was paid in continental currency, which he did not want to hold. It had a diminishing and uncertain value. This continental currency was used to buy vast tracts of land from the Committee of Safety in Halifax. John Gray Blount became the largest landowner in the new country of North Carolina.
The British army defeated all colony Countries except North Carolina. Cornwallis believed the only way to defeat North Carolina was to take control of Ocracoke (shipping), and to control the southern part of Virginia country cutting off supplies to General Nathaniel Greene and allowing his army to wither away.
The British army operating in South Carolina did not receive supplies on a regular basis. Privateers (pirates) captured many supplies and sold them to the Continental Army. When Cornwallis British Army leaves Halifax for Virginia it is a retreating, defeated army. The battles of Camden, Cowpens, Kings Mountain, and Guilford Court House along with the unrelenting Indian fighting tactics of the Loyalists wore on Cornwallis and his army.
Part of this defeat was delivered by the "Over the Mountain Men" at Kings Mountain. British land agents and tax collectors were corrupt. Not only did they tax but also they demanded rent for the use of land. The British General Ferguson threatened to take land back, to burn houses and barns and imprison families unless these men swore allegiance to the British Crown. These men realized that once the British were defeated The Committee of Safety's title to these western lands would be good. The Mountain Men rallied at Kings Mountain, used Indian tactics against European standing formations. They thoroughly defeated Major Ferguson capturing or killing his entire command including many loyalists and their supplies.
History was written by the Whig Party led by George Washington who is portrayed as one of our greatest American heroes. That history leaves out the link to Blackbeard's pirates whose descendents contributed to the retreat of the British from the South, Loyalists suffered with the brutality of the British, the separate neighborhood battles with the Tories, the confiscation of land and the summary execution of Loyalists. All this happened in the South.
John Barrow dies in 1781. John Barrow's will is careful to divide silver spoons among his children. The silver came from pirate treasure, Spanish silver. Also he makes note of land he purchased from William Howard, which is now Goose Creek State Park. William Howard was supposedly a hung pirate who sailed with Blackbeard and helped found our nation. He purchased Ocracoke Island.
John Barrow had three wives during the course of his life. Elizabeth Worsley Beard Barrow died before 1735. Esther Blount, his second wife, was dead by 1746. Martha Oden, his third wife, dies by 1790. The following is a list of John Barrow's sons and daughters with their married sir names. Also presented are the slaves who were willed to his wife and children. Other possessions and land are mentioned in his will.
Elizabeth Worsley Beard Barrow Calif
Martha Barrow Jarmon, a woman named Sealey
Elizabeth Barrow McSwain
Anne Barrow Boyd
Sarah Barrow Latham, a woman named Edey
Rebecca Barrow Archabel, a woman named Pen
Fanny Barrow Lanier, a woman named Dinah
Ruth Barrow Smaw, a girl named Jen
Susan Barrow Winfield, a girl named Sau and a boy named Stephen, four silver spoons
Rhoda Barrow Jordan, a boy named Jacob and a girl named Easter, three silver spoons
John Barrow, a man named Moses
William Barrow, a boy named Plueto, a man named Tom and a man named Abram, one silver spoon
Thomas Barrow, a boy named Aron, a man Anthony, a woman Dina, a child named Brea, one silver spoon
His wife: Martha Oden, a man named Davey and a woman named Hanna, six silver spoons
From Indian massacres, yellow fever, and drought-induced poverty, came a people endowed with the wealth to play a serious part in the founding of our nation. One man, John Barrow, provided the thread and the leadership to link Blackbeard to the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.
Copyright, 2014, Eugene Bowers Grant, Jr., All rights reserved
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This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.