Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A page from my website on the Brooks of Coastal NC

Joseph Brooks I

b. ?

d. 22 November 1718


Joseph Brooks II

Stephen Brooks

Joseph Brooks I or “Sr.” is known primarily due to his notoriety as a member of Blackbeard’s pirate crew. There’s no way to know where or when Joseph joined the infamous Edward Drummond, Teach or Thatch… whatever was his real name was… we call him “Blackbeard”. But, we know that his son, Joseph was a part of the crew as well.

There is a tradition amongst the descendants of Thomas Brooks, b.1738 Hyde Co, NC that now live in Tennessee, that Thomas’ father was Stephen Brooks b. c1703 and that his father was this Joseph Brooks, the man of notoriety here mentioned.

It is a wild thought, but not without some merit. It is not popularly known that “Outer Bankers” were a surly sort, prone to living by beachcombing after shipwrecks and even creating disaster in order to assist the shipwrecks’ occurrence. There’s no direct evidence, of course. For example, I don’t write down everything I don’t want known. I’m sure they didn’t either… maybe even tended toward extreme privacy. The evidence lay in the effects their activities will have on peripheral events. Studying those will take lots of evidence to make the point and time to sift through it. I’m sure that, given the heavy amount of research (see ) into the Brooks and other related families of Mattamuskeet Indians and their relationship to the Croatan (possible descendants of the Roanoke Colony left on the Carolina Shores in 1587, that more information will come to light.

One of the purposes of that “Lost Colony” was to provide an English presence in the New World to put pressure on the expansion of Spanish colonization, at that time, primarily south of Carolina. They were essentially a force of mostly fighting men that had a number of encounters with the Spanish before settling on Roanoke, where they built elaborate fortifications that had future plans for cannon. In many views, this colony’s underlying purpose was to raid Spanish shipping. I suppose the English would have preferred the term “disrupt”. One author of a recent book called it “Ralegh’s Pirate Colony”.

If the members of that colony had survived after 1587 by living and breeding with the native Croatan, there would have been signs in their descendants such as oddly European-like eye color, hair color and the ability to “write in the book,” or use writing. On one occasion, later Europeans witnessed all of these things among the Croatan (or Hatteras) Indians when they began to re-colonize Carolina in the mid 1650’s. Only 75 or 80 years had passed since the colony was left by Ralph Lane and John White as they left to obtain supplies from England. Unfortunately, the famed “Spanish Armada” of ships attacked England at that time and delayed their departure by three years. What they found upon their return was the now well-known story of “CROATOAN” carved on a post to indicate where they had gone. The pre-arranged alert signal of a cross carved above the name was not there, so they apparently went in peace. Obviously, their supplies dwindled and they could not survive on their own, later to be taken into the local tribe of friendly Croatan Indians. That’s the supposition, anyway. Any number of unknown factors may have come into play.

Descendants of these “pirates” and the native peoples of Carolina would have lived an existence barely above what most Europeans of the time would have thought of as primitive. Yet, many of them took Christian names and had taken up the Christian religion, in which the first contact with them had revealed a strong interest. It’s purely hypothetical, but it wouldn’t be difficult for those colonist/Indians to re-infiltrate English society as the Indians themselves proved possible. Lake Mattamuskeet in now Hyde Co, NC is populated by such descendants even today. As well as Cape Hatteras, around the town of Buxton… site of the original Croatan village as seen by the colonists in 1587. As well as the residents of Chocowinity and Free Union that sparked the interest of the folks at

Would it be such a far cry from “Pirate Colonist” in 1587 to “Pirate-Indian, now Colonist again” in 1650? It seems perfectly natural to me, especially in light of the increased presence of the English in a land that used to belong to the Indian… or, rather in their view… the “domain” of their god. To them, it must have seemed like an invasion and I’m sure that any colonist’s children born as an Indian and raised as an Indian, whether or not he could “write in the book” would have seen it the same way. To the sea-faring folk of these times, piracy would have been a natural result of the distaste, if not outright hatred for the English. Kind of echoes the American Revolution, huh? As was the case with Blackbeard’s crew and many crews like it, I’m sure that their noble original intentions fell to lesser, more base affairs. The sight of “booty” was probably enough. Invasion led to revolution led to piracy. History is replete with this theme.

Would it be so hard to believe that Indian descendants like the Brooks of Currituck & Hyde Co’s, NC became members of this short-lived and little understood profession? It was a way to make your living in a time when there was little authority to tell you otherwise. Besides, England condoned it… so long as the intended victims weren’t English. In this case, unfortunately, they were. England had to send Lt. Maynard of the Royal Navy to “remind” the locals of the need for civilization. Even Gov. Eden of North Carolina had Blackbeard as his guest there in New Bern. Indeed, was somewhat “partnered” with him according to most historians.

We have to remember that North Carolina was wild at this time. There was little “civilized” behavior in even the Governor. Imagine what the average colonist must have been like and especially the “lower-classed” Indians, for which most English had great distrust. A lawless life probably looked perfectly natural to them. But, the Colony of North Carolina was growing fast and Indian ways and Piracy could no longer be tolerated, as Joseph Brooks and his son found out in 1718.

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