Friday, January 29, 2016

Blackbeard's Daughter: Elizabeth Thache Barham of Spanish Town, Jamaica

Historian Richard S. Dunn, in A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, wrote:
When the owner of Mesopotamia [plantation in Jamaica], Ephraim Stephenson, died in 1726, he had no living children and willed all of his property to his widow, Mary. This lady needed a husband in order to operate Mesopotamia, and by August 1727 she had married a man named Heith. When Heith also died, Mary took a third husband in early 1728, a Jamaica physician named Dr. Henry Barham. Barham was the son of a naturalist also named Henry Barham who was an intellectual of some note. The elder Barham wrote a treatise about Jamaican flora and fauna, corresponded with Sir Hans Sloane, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1717.
 Later, in England, as Dunn wrote:
Dr. Henry Barham retired permanently to England [in April 1736], leaving the management of his Jamaican property to his medical colleague Dr. James Paterson. As soon as he reached England, Barham married again, this time to a wealthy widow he had known in Jamaica named Elizabeth Smith Foster Ayscough. This lady had a large family by her first husband, John Foster, who died in 1731 leaving five Jamaica sugar plantations staffed by 768 slaves, valued at L33,958. Her second husband, another Jamaica planter named John Ayscough, died in 1735 or 1736.
Dunn wrote A Tale of Two Plantations to study the individual lives and collective experiences of some 2,000 slaves on the Mesopotamia sugar estate in western Jamaica and Mount Airy Plantation in tidewater Virginia. He studied Jamaican records intensely for this story. Still, he missed an earlier marriage record for Dr. Henry Barham found in the Jamaican Anglican Church records. 

Admittedly, this record has little connection to Dunn's purposes in A Tale of Two Plantations. Still, it has a great deal to do with pirate history - specifically, the history of Edward "Blackbeard" Thache. It also explains the great financial possibilities of the only Thache family to ever live on Jamaica: the family of Blackbeard's father, Capt. Edward Thache of St. Jago de la Vega or Spanish Town, the eighteenth-century capital of the island.

Marriage record for Dr. Henry "Barram" to Elizabeth "Theach" in St. Catherine's Parish, Jamaica - April 19, 1720

Memorial stone for Joseph Jordan and his sister Jane Jordan Barham (b. 1693, d. May 27, 1717) in St. Catherines Cathedral.
Bottom of stone above.

Henry and Alice Barham, the parents of young Dr. Barham, also lived in Spanish Town. The above record shows that Dr. Henry "Barram" or Barham, born about 1692 (28 years of age at the time of this marriage), married Elizabeth "Theach" or Thache in that same parish (she was his second wife: Jane Jordan Barham had died May 27, 1717). Undoubtedly, Barham, as any English gentleman of his day, had hoped to increase his land holdings and wealth by marrying Elizabeth, as he had later with his third and fourth wives: Mary Stephenson Heith and Elizabeth Foster Ayscough, as told by Dunn. [For the numerous spellings of Thache, see "Getting Blackbeard's Name Right?"]

Elizabeth Thache Barham was born most likely 1700-1705. Edward Thache Jr., the only male Thache in Jamaica old enough to have been her father, probably did not live in Spanish Town at that time. Little is known about his life until 10 December 1706, when he deeded his father's inheritance to his step-mother, Lucretia and the children by her: Thomas and Rachel Thache. Presumably, Lucretia's eldest child, Cox was aptly provided for by his namesake, Assemblyman Thomas Cox of Spanish Town.  

Argument for Elizabeth as Edward Jr's daughter: A deed in March 1706 from Dr. Thomas Stuart indicates, a young Elizabeth Thache was living with Capt. Edward and Lucretia Thache just before the elder Capt. Edward died. Why was this Elizabeth living with Lucretia and her husband and being referred to as one of her children? Her son Thomas was her youngest child, born in November of the previous year, just months before Elizabeth appears. Also, Capt. Edward Thache already had a daughter named Elizabeth from his previous marriage and probably would not name another daughter the same; this Elizabeth married Huguenot merchant John Valescure. Dr. Stuart deeded a slave "Sabina" to care for the Thache children, including Elizabeth. She appears as a child of comparable status and age to Rachel and Thomas. She is probably much younger and the right age to later marry Dr. Henry Barham as his first wife. This Elizabeth is probably not the older Elizabeth, Blackbeard's sister and the younger Elizabeth's aunt.

Edward Thache Jr. probably plied the local Caribbean waters as a mariner, like his father before him and his half-brother Thomas after 1725-30. The town of Kingston, recently made a port to replace the earthquake and fire-destroyed Port Royal, across the bay, may have attracted Edward's maritime interests, as it did the family of "notorious" pirate Thomas Barrow. Barrow's father of the same name served Jamaica for twenty-five years as the Attorney-General - interestingly, many of those years as a blind man who eventually died in 1725.

Young Edward may have married while in Kingston and had a daughter. The marriage and birth would, unfortunately, not have been recorded because the Anglican church in that new parish did not begin recording such events until 1722. It could not be recorded in Port Royal, either. Port Royal's church, St. Peters, fell into the bay in the earthquake of 1692. It also did not restart recording such events until 1725. 

As Kingston was considered a "unhealthful sickly place," even worse than the rest of the Caribbean island, Thache's wife may have become ill and passed away. Or, as childbirth in the eighteenth century was hazardous for women, she may have died upon giving birth to Elizabeth. [For the Kingston mix-raced children of Cox Thache, see: "Jane Teach, 'Free Negro Woman' of Kingston, Jamaica"]

Owing to his itinerant life as a mariner, and certainly because of joining the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Windsor, Edward Thache knew that he would not be able to care for Elizabeth and asked his parents to help. This may also have been a further inducement for him to deed his inheritance back to his family - to provide for his daughter in his absence.

Presumably, as Barham's marriage to Elizabeth Thache later indicates, Edward's inheritance should have been substantial. Owing to primogeniture, or the practice of the eldest son inheriting the bulk of his father's estate, Edward received the whole plantation, with the slaves, after his father's death in November 1706. Thus, he deeded it back to his family and it became an attractive investment for Dr. Barham is 1720, eager to build his estates and fortune. 

Queen Anne's War provided Thache with military experience, knowledge, and tactics. Still, it also negatively changed the narrative of Edward Thache's life. Having been a mariner and a Royal Navy veteran of the war, he likely disagreed strongly with the change in government at the end of that war in 1714. The death of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, and the succession of King George I, a German protestant from the Duchy of Hanover-Lunenburg - a new king of Britain who spoke no English - was a travesty that likely violated Thache's sense of patriotism. He turned rebel, like many did in the later American Revolution - a Jacobite to protest Parliament's perceived treason by ousting James III or the "Pretender," as he was later styled. But, Thache also turned rogue mariner when eleven heavily-laden treasure galleons wrecked on the Florida shore in the hurricane of July 30, 1715. The treasure-lust was too great for any mariner to ignore, at 14,000,000 pesos worth of silver alone! Many landed and wealthy gentlemen fished those wrecks, like Henry Jennings of Jamaica and Bermuda, Richard Tookerman of South Carolina, Peter Parr of Jamaica, and fellow Kingston resident, son of Assemblyman and Attorney-General Thomas Barrow.

Thache probably fished those wrecks. His first appearance as a pirate was with Bahamian pirate Benjamin Hornigold in the deposition of Henry Timberlake, taken on December 17, 1716. This dated well over a year following the hurricane. Thache's miltary experience made him successful in his mini-rebellion. He became the primary focus of Capt. Charles Johnson, or Jacobite newspaperman, Nathaniel Mist in A General History of the Pyrates. The rest is history - right up until his death in Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina on November 22, 1718. 

The now "notorious" Blackbeard, formerly the landed gentleman Edward Thache, missed his daughter's wedding two years later. Then again, he also missed her sudden demise, reflecting her own mother's death in the tropical and disease-ridden heat of the Jamaican climate - the climate so well described by Richard S. Dunn's social treatment of slavery and slave agency in A Tale of Two Plantations. Mary Stephenson Heith married Elizabeth Thache Barham's widowed husband by 1728 and brought the great wealth and slaves of the Jamaican plantation Mesoptamia into his growing portfolio. 

If not for Elizabeth Thache Barham's early death, the daughter of Blackbeard the Pirate may have later sailed to England with her husband. They may have resided together, as Dr. Barham did with Elizabeth Foster Ayscough Barham, in Grovesnor Square in London, mistress of great estates there and in Jamaica. She would have been a neighbor to the Marquis of Rockingham, Northern Secretary of State Charles Townsend, Lord North, Alderman & Chamberlain of the City of London John Wilkes, and King George I's own mistress, the Dutchess of Kendall!

 Three years before Dr. Henry Barham died in 1746, he possessed sixty-five separate apartments, estates, and other rentals in the 1743 property tax listings while living on Grovesnor Street - he also was a neighbor of and equally as wealthy as James Vernon Esq., the brother of Admiral Edward Vernon, the Royal Navy's former commander of their forces in Jamaica. 

Fate sometimes takes a fickle and unpredictable path, doesn't it?

Grovesnor Square: Built between 1725-1731 at the center of the Grosvenor estate. It is the 2nd largest Square in London. The average cost of homes originally built there was the amazing sum of 7,500 pounds--at a time when a time when a farm laborer received less than 40 pence, there are 240 pence per pound, per day during the high demand harvest season. Naturally the majority of the original residents were titled. The area came to be called Little America because John Quincy Adams lived there while he was the American ambassador to Britian.


 Read more about the family of Edward "Blackbeard" Thache in Blackbeard Reconsidered: Mist's Piracy, Thache's Genealogy

Visit for news about Quest for Blackbeard and stories on pirates and their families and friends in the Pirate Library!


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