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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Anne Bonny, Possible Neighbor of the Thaches of Spanish Town, Jamaica?

"Anne Bonney" illustration from A General History of the Pyrates

Ever since the pirate trial of 1720/21 at St. Jago de la Vega, or "Spanish Town" Jamaica, historians have contemplated the only two female pirates ever mentioned in the modern (and, of course, disputed) Golden Age, from 1715-1726. Mary Read and Anne Bonny have fascinated thousands for at least three centuries!

Spanish Town, of course, was the colonial capital of the fairly fresh English colony of Jamiaca - having been taken from the Spanish in 1655. Thus, the oft-used named of "Spanish Town" for the captured Spanish capital of St. Jago de la Vega. 

Most modern assumptions stem from Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, which has, in recent years, come under a great deal of scrutiny. Also, it's author was more than likely Nathaniel Mist, a controversial newspaper publisher, often jailed for supporting the Jacobite cause (not unlike MAGA dissension in America today). 

Jacobites desired to place James III, the "Pretender," (Donald Trump in this analogy) back on the throne of England. Parliament (similar to our Congress) prevented James III from succeeding his sister Anne in 1714, but Jacobites still saw the "Pretender" as the rightful King of England and rebelled twice in 1715 and 1745. 

Most scholars presume that pirates of the Caribbean and in the Americas more generally, held a strong fascination with Jacobitism - especially the early iteration in 1715. Still, how durable that fascination actually was is a matter of debate. It is known that pirates at least identified with the "Pretender" and his Stuart royal family, reflected in the naming of their vessels, like "Revenge," "Royal James," or the two pirate ships named "Queen Anne's Revenge." 

Anne Bonny rose into legend over that 300 years since the 1720s - something of a tricentennial, in fact. Due to the scarcity of records - especially from former pirate strongholds such as Jamaica or the Bahamas - many scholars have relied quite loosely upon questionable sources such as Johnson's - or Mist's or the ubiquitous flood of popular literature about them since - most all based on one source: A General History

Based in A General History and owing to this flood of popular literature since, Anne Bonny's supposed history has blossomed from being virtually unknown to... the daughter of William Cormac, a man reputed to have "first moved to London to get away from his wife's family, and he began dressing his daughter as a boy and calling her 'Andy.'" 

A great deal of literary license over the centuries by numerous authors - all hinging upon A General History - a book called by literary scholar Dr. Manushag Powell a "counterfactual" (think: "alternative facts" or, at best, historical fiction) - culminated in this extraordinary passage found on Wikipedia:

When Cormac's wife discovered William had taken in the illegitimate daughter and was bringing the child up to be a lawyer's clerk and dressing her as a boy, she stopped giving him an allowance. Cormac then moved to the Province of Carolina, taking along his former serving girl, the mother of Bonny. Bonny's father abandoned the original "Mc" prefix of their family name to blend more easily into the Charles Town citizenry. At first, the family had a rough start in their new home, but Cormac's knowledge of law and ability to buy and sell goods soon financed a townhouse and eventually a plantation just out of town. Bonny's mother died when she was 12. Her father attempted to establish himself as an attorney but did not do well. Eventually, he joined the more profitable merchant business and accumulated a substantial fortune.

It is recorded that Bonny had red hair and was considered a "good catch" but may have had a fiery temper; at age 13, she supposedly stabbed a servant girl with a knife. She married a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny. James hoped to win possession of his father-in-law's estate, but Bonny was disowned by her father. Anne's father did not approve of James Bonny as a husband for his daughter, and he kicked Anne out of their house.

However, it is known [but, not really] that sometime between 1714 and 1718, she and James Bonny moved to Nassau, on New Providence Island, known as a sanctuary for English pirates called the Republic of Pirates. Many inhabitants received a King's Pardon or otherwise evaded the law. It is also recorded that, after the arrival of Governor Woodes Rogers in the summer of 1718, James Bonny became an informant for the governor [also, unsupported - the Calendar of State Papers - the usual source for this info, does not seem to notice James]. James Bonny would report to Governor Rogers about the pirates in the area, which resulted in a multitude of these pirates being arrested. Anne disliked the work her husband did for Governor Rogers.

While in the Bahamas, Bonny began mingling with pirates in the taverns. She met John "Calico Jack" Rackham, and he became her lover. He offered money to her husband James Bonny if he would divorce her, but her husband refused and apparently threatened to beat John. She and Rackham escaped the island together, and she became a member of Rackham's crew. She disguised herself as a man on the ship, and only Rackham and Mary Read were aware that she was a woman until it became clear that she was pregnant. Rackham then landed her at Cuba where she gave birth to a son. She then rejoined Rackham and continued the pirate life, having divorced her husband and married Rackham while at sea [possibly - but her actual husband's name might have been Fulford].

Seriously?? I have to say that this elaborate tale depends on absolutely NO primary sources - unless you consider A General History to be a primary source, which I - and Dr. Powell - do not - up until we get to the line "Bonny, Rackham, and Read stole the ship William, then at anchor in Nassau harbor, and put out to sea." 

How do we know this? Because the Boston Gazette issue of October 17, 1720 printed an ad by Gov. Woodes Rogers of the Bahamas, searching for the absconders! Williams' owner Capt. John Ham probably wouldn't stop bugging Rogers about it: 

Boston Gazette, 17 Oct 1720, page 3

Note the name "Ann Fulford alias Bonny." She was known on the Bahamas by both of these names. The term "alias" did not usually mean she was hiding from the law. It simply meant "another name for" or "also known as." Her married name - whether ecumenically or common law - was probably Fulford.

For example, George Washington's wife might have been called "Martha Washington alias Custis."

So far, no "theory" explains this "Fulford" name. If I have to say it... that the article is a valid primary source - and one that does NOT depend on A General History - from a contemporary who knew these people - and was responsible for apprehending them... well, let's just say that Woodes Rogers had to know what he was talking about! He deserves more credit than to be completely ignored!

The court records from the Spanish Town Trial mentioned Rackham, Bonny, Read, Vane, and a great number of other pirates captured by Jonathan Barnet, a privateer of Jamaica since at least 1715 - the time of the wreck of eleven Spanish vessels known as the "Plate Fleet" today - or specifically from Gov. Archibald Hamilton's response in November 1715 to the massive flood of pirate activity that followed the hurricane of July 30, 1715 and the spilling of millions of pieces of eight on the shallow shores of La Florida - in easy fishing distance - a virtual fortune for anyone who would risk his neck to fish it or take it from others who had. And, a great many mariners took that chance!

Many of the "wreckers" who filled the streets of Nassau, New Providence Island in the Bahamas to fish those wrecks came from New England, England, both Carolinas, Virginia, Bermuda, Antigua, and yes - Jamaica! From all over the Atlantic World!

Until my exposure to the historical community of the Jamaican Anglican Church Records - available on microfilm since 1960s and online for the past decade at, almost no one searched Jamaica looking for any pirate's origin... the island just sat there - in the Caribbean - certainly noticed by most 18th century writers - even by Johnson - but never accessed by anyone since!

I found Edward Thache's family there in the capital city of Spanish Town through those records. So, what about Ann Bonny? What about Mary Read?

Well... just from the Anglican Church records in the Thache's church of St. Catherine's Cathedral come these records for Bonny, researched by me on

1695 July 1 - Burial of Mary Bonny

1698 Nov 22 - Phillip & Ann christen child Mary

1699 Feb 9 - Phillip & Ann christen child Elizabeth

1700 July 19 - Burial of Edward Bonny [son or brother of Phillip?]

1701 June 6 - Burial of Annie a child [father unknown]

1702 May 17 - Burial of Mary Bonny [likely 1st dau. Mary of Phillip & Ann, ch. 1698]

1704 Nov 12 - Phillip & Ann christen child Mary [married Sir Simon Clarke & d. 1762]

1710 April 6 - Phillip & Ann christen child John

1713 April 5 - Burial of Ann, a child

1714 Sep 1 - Burial of Mary, a child [child of another Bonny?]

1714 Nov 16 - Burial of James, a child

1718 Aug 19 - Phillip & Ann christen unnamed son [John? Thomas? or William?]

1726 June 30 - Burial of Sarah Bonny

1732 Oct 16 - Burial of John Bonny [son of Phillip & Mary, ch. 1710?]

1733 Dec 29 - Burial of Ann Bonny [who is this? next man buried was from "gaol" - coincidence?]

1736 Jan 14 - Burial of William Bonny Mul. [mix of European with African]

1748 March 15 - Phillip & Ann Bonny {man & wife buried in one coffin} [appar. died the same day]

1748 April 22 - Burial of Thomas Bonny

1748 April 27 - Burial of Charity Bonny free child [presumed of African ancestry]

---------updated 2/21/21----------------------------

Vere Parish shows numerous Read/Reed/Reids, but only one baptism for Bonny: 

"Bonny - Mary, Dr.[daughter] of Willm. & Thoma... born Jan 7th. bapts. April 4th 1707"

Note: the family of Gordon Bonny cannot be fully explored as the Anglican Church records from St. John's Parish - like most remote Jamaican parishes - did not begin until later - in this case, 1751.


There were more records already researched from the Register General's Department there:


Will proved: 6th December 1777
Date within document: 3rd August 1773

Persons Mentioned, Places Mentioned

Edward Clarke [planter] [testator], Hyde Plantation, Trelawny, Jamaica
Thomas Worth [godson] & son of Thomas Worth Chief Justice of Jamaica, Mount Pleasant St John, Middlesex in Jamaica [home of William Bonny]
Robert Cooper of London [friend], Hyde Cheshire, England [home of George Clarke]
The Governors of the College of the province of New York, Swanswick plantation in St James, Jamaica
Mary Clarke [daughter], Land in the province of New York, America owned by Edward Clarke
Anne Clarke [daughter]
Mary Bonny [Anne, Edward & Penelope Clarke's mother]
William Bonny [Mary Bonny's father]
Penelope Clarke [daughter]
Edward Clarke
George Clarke [brother]
William Innes of London [Merchant & friend]
Edward Clarke [grandson & son of George Hyde Clarke]
George Hyde Clarke [son]
Samuel Williams Haughton [son in law]
Helen Camberbarh[?] [daughter in law]
Elizabeth Cork [Sister]
Mathew & Letitia Cork [nephew & niece]
Ballard Beckford [nephew]
Susanna Beckford [daughter of Ballard Beckford]


This is the will of Edward Clarke who appears to have owned Hyde Plantation in Trelawny at the time of his death in 1777 and lands in the province of New York State. He appears to have had a brother, George, living in Hyde, Cheshire in England and various children whose mother was Mary Bonny also a grandson, Edward, son of his son Edward Hyde Clarke... [the will goes on interminably long, so I'll stop it here.]

Also, INDEX TO DEED BOOKS - JAMAICA 1669-1797 showed James-Bonny transactions for Phillip Bonny (who's wife was Ann):

Phillip Bonny Sold land in 1715 to Henry James - Vol. 54, f.92
Phillip Bonny Sold land in 1727 to Henry James - Vol. 76, f.19

And, "Jamaican Landowners in 1754" show:

Bonny, Philip, St. Catherine 533, St. John 194, Total 727 [acres]
Bonny, Gordon, St. John, 200 [acres]


Phillip Bonny was the most well-known Bonny of Jamaica, having been officially appointed to government positions there - why he appears in the capital city, no doubt - as per Calendar of State Papers:

September 1703, 11-20

Sept. 15th - Writ of election and return for the parish of St. Katherine's read. It was resolved that Noah Delauney* was duly elected a Representative in the room of Henry Brabant, who was expelled the House. Ordered that the writ and return be entered in the Minutes of this House. The return is signed by Jno. Hickman, Provost Marshall, Henry Willis, John Hanson, Beaumont Pestell, Wm. Parker, John Palmer, Edward Rowland, Geo. Fletcher, Tho. Powell, Richd. Bradford, John Morris, Phillip Bonny, John Ellis, senr., John Ellis, Matt. Gregory, Robt. Nedham, Wm. Nedham, Tho. Flower, Richd. Masters, Bartho. Fant, Tho. Mercer, Arthur Sparke, John Bancks. [C.O. 140, 7. pp. 107–112.]

*"Noah Delauney" or Noah Delanmey or Delanney was a probable godfather of one of Edward and Lucretia Thache's children in 1704. 


Phillip, who owned 727 acres and plantations in at least two parishes, also earned a place in the MONUMENTAL INSCRIPTIONS JAMAICA - PARISH OF HANOVER.

Page 329


M. M. Sculptured by Flaxman.

(The remainder of the inscription is a general character of the deceased.)

Sir SIMON was 7th Baronet; lie married Anne Haughton.* He was the eldest of six children of Sir Simon, 6th Baronet, by his wife Mary, daughter of Philip Bonny, of Jamaica. Philip Clarke, a younger son of the 3rd Baronet of that name and family, held the office of Patent Clerk of the Crown, in Jamaica, in 1722. The 5th Bart. was an officer in the Navy, in 1730, but was transported to Jamaica, for a highway robbery committed by him and another man, near Winchester, and died in the former island, without issue, in 1736, whereupon the eldest son of Philip, Clerk of the Crown, above mentioned, succeeded to the Baronetcy.

These records show a definite family group with a government official Phillip and Ann as the parents and multiple children, having arrived in the island at the beginning of the 18th century (Like Edward and his first wife Elizabeth Thache, Phillip & Mary were not born or married on Jamaica - so, probably in England or another island). Phillip could have had brothers Edward and Gordon (living in St. John's Parish), too. 

1733 burial record for Ann Bonny in St. Catherine's Parish, Jamaica

It is at least as possible that Anne Bonny could be from this family - and perhaps maybe why she was spared the hangman's noose - well, for that reason as well as pregnancy. The Anglican Church burial record for "Ann Bonny" on December 29th, 1733 may show an Ann not immediately related to Phillip and his wife Ann herself, but may be a daughter of the Edward mentioned as dying there in 1700 or perhaps a daughter of Gordon in St. John's Parish, or William in Vere Parish, and both may be related to Phillip. She might very well have shacked up with some Fulford guy on New Providence Island while hoping for massive riches of her own. The family and the Jamaican Anglican authorities never recognized the marriage and simply recorded her with her family as "Ann Bonny!" John, William, Thomas, or Charity - only one male of whom is Phillip and Ann's - could be her child.

David Fictum in "Colonies, Ships, and Pirates: Concerning History in the Atlantic World, 1680-1740" writes "A record of burials in St. Catherine, Jamaica, notes the death and burial of a Mary Read on April 28, 1721." Yes. And, there a lot of Reid, Reed, Read family names in Jamaica - quite a few in St. Catherine's Parish. Two "Mary Reed"s were christened in St. Catherine's in the mid 1680s and another slightly older in St. Andrews. It may be that she's also from Jamaica. Note that the infamous female pirate's entry reads "pirate" immediately after her name, leaving little doubt who she was! Time to erase the "unknown" added to most of her times of death in secondary sources!

Just down the page, noted for June 28th, also shows "A Pirate from the prison." 

That Anne Bonny escaped the gallows seems unusual at best. But, perhaps not if she had family there in the capital town - especially a government official - her freedom may have been purchased... or at least a sentence reduced. I should also note that it was rare for a pirate to be buried in Christian fashion and noted in an Anglican burial record. Their bodies were usually left hanging in a gibbet for the birds to peck on - like Rackham himself - or on a beach below the low water mark, so as to eternally damn their souls to hell! 

St. Catherine's Parish Burial Records, April 28, 1721 for "Mary Read pirate" - note that the incidental "pirate" part should not appear in the digitized transcriptions or finding aid on the genealogical website, but only by viewing the actual record itself.

I can say that Fulford is not a name found on Jamaica - but, it is on nearby Barbados - and there were men from every part of the Atlantic World in Nassau, New Providence - a small backwater shanty town seething with masses of greedy mariners at the time!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: Quest for Blackbeard


Review of original 2016 edition...

Now updated and expanded.. and affordable e-book edition!

A truly groundbreaking Book!
By Mark Martinez on July 16, 2017
Baylus C. Brooks' Quest for Blackbeard I believe will help to usher in a sea change in the field of piracy in the 18th century West Indies. A highly sourced and entirely readable work, Quest presents a much needed critique of Captain Charles Johnson's 1724 book "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates" which has served as the principal source used by researchers since the time of its writing in defining the character and exploits of the famous pirate.
Brooks helps to reinforce the emerging theory among researchers that the Captain Johnson who wrote "A General History" was actually the 18th-century Jacobite printer and journalist, Nathaniel Mist. Mist's reputation is best understood by examining his "Weekly Journal" which was the most vocal and extreme resistance newspaper to emerge in opposition to the Hanoverian Whig takeover of the British parliament in 1715. Brooks explains how Mist, under the Johnson pseudonym, wrote "a General History" largely as an exploitation and/or propaganda narrative designed to appeal to the unique political sensibilities of his readers. As such, it has been wrong for researchers to use it blindly, as it has been, to define who Blackbeard was and how he should be understood in history.
In this regard, Brooks has done groundbreaking work in uncovering the true origins of Blackbeard. Unlike the image painted by Mist of a vulgar and brutal monster of low birth, Brooks has discovered through records he has brought to light found in St Catherine's Parish registries of Jamaica and Jamaican deed books as well as through genealogies compiled from wills kept by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in England that Blackbeard, whose given name was Edward Thache, was actually from a minor aristocratic family who was not far removed from high level players in the political circles of his time - principally among them, the Lechmeres of Hanley Castle in Worcestershire who supported the 1st Whig Junto and who were, through marriage, connected to the Winthrops of Connecticut. Brooks has discovered that Thache began his career, surprisingly, as a well-respected mariner serving in the British Royal Navy aboard the HMS Windsor.
Put simply, Brooks has made a compelling case that Thache was perhaps more privateer than pirate, at least in his early days, with sympathies more aligned with the ousted Stewarts than with the ascendant Hanovers. These alignments appear to have led him onto the wrong side of history. It can be argued that he may have gotten caught in his own emerging reputation fostered by his own press along with the unstable politics of his age, a combination that led him into an outlaw career that he perhaps couldn't escape.
In all respects, Quest is a groundbreaking book. It offers much food for thought no matter what opinions the reader holds on the subject and, at a minimum, presents much newly discovered source material that makes the light of day for the first time in this work. These documents, by themselves, make the book worth purchasing. The well-conceived conclusions Brooks draws makes it invaluable. In all respects Quest for Blackbeard is well worth the read for all who are interested in the subject.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Carpenter's Bay and the Mystery Tomb of Mauritius

Northwest Port and Tombeau, Brow’s, or Peter Butts Bay from “A chart of the Island of Mauritius” by John Thornton, made 1702-1707. 

In writing Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar, a reference came up often about a tomb on the shores of the East-Indian island of Mauritius at a place called "Brown's Bay" or "Carpenter's Bay." This tomb became the apparent reason for the changing of the name of that bay to "Bay of Tombs" or "Baie de Tombeau" in French. This tomb also was so large, that it was visible for miles and often used as a navigational aid by ship's masters:

HMS Salisbury log - 28-30 March 1722 at Mauritius

The tomb was used by pirates to scribble a message in charcoal for probably Capt. James Macrae, former commander of the East-Indiaman Cassandra, whom the pirates believed was chasing them. Earlier, the pirates had taken this vessel from him.. an important man who would soon be president at Fort Madras. Thing is... Commodore Thomas Matthews thought the message had been written for him by these same pirates as he sailed for Madagascar from Bombay to find them. 

1765 Jacques N. Bellin Map

So, more than one level of confusion existed over this tomb and its message!

One such quandary concerned whose tomb this was and when they were buried, and under what conditions. My investigations revealed more than one possible answer. 

Part of Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar, Chapter Six reads:

Comm. Mathews Again
Visits Madagascar

After witnessing Gov. Boone’s retirement and the succession of John Pitts as governor of Bombay for the EIC, and after removing Sir Robert Johnson as captain of HMS Exeter for violating orders, the fleet departed Bombay in February 1722 – Exeter, then under Capt. Samuel Braithwaite. They followed the Indian west coast or Malabar in the south. They were bound for Madagascar and, so then branched west and made for Mauritius, as Downing wrote:

In February 1721-2 we left the Coast of Malabar, and took our Departure from Cape Commeron [Comorin] in the Latitude of 7 Deg. 10. M. Northerly, and shaped our Course for the Island of Moroslas [Mauritius], but made no Stay there; tho' we here found writ on Capt. Carpenter's Tomb with a Piece of Charcoal, [“]We were here in the Cassandra and Victory [not Defense; This was written when the pirates repaired Victory Feb-April 1721, not 1722], expecting your Coming; we left this Place on the 28th of February [confusing; if 1721, they arrived about that date – had they left this message for Macrae when they arrived?], and are now on our Voyage for Port Dolphin [Dauphin], on the Island of Madagascar.[“ Was this another misdirection intended for Macrae?]

The Commodore and his men, however, almost missed the pirates’ message, which appears to have been written instead for James Macrae, who the pirates believed followed behind them as they sailed south from the Malabar Coast. As Lion’s log recorded, the fleet made sail on 15 March for Bourbon, “where some of our People disposed of several Casks of Arrack, and Madera Wine, &c. for very good Profit.”

The fleet then left Bourbon for Madagascar. Lion’s log told, however, that weather alternated for weeks between fair, rainy, and contrary winds – Lion, Exeter, and Salisbury made little headway. There came a strong lightning storm thirty miles northwest of Round Island, a small island about fourteen miles north of Mauritius. The storm separated Lion from her consorts and split her mizzen topsail “from head to foot.”
Blown six leagues back southeast, Lion’s crew made sight of Round Island four leagues away. They knew they were close to Mauritius and decided at nightfall to return to that destination for resupply and to make repairs. The next afternoon, 28 March at 3 pm, Lion anchored in the northwest harbor of Mauritius, likely where the pirates had made their repairs to Victory the year before. Salisbury and Exeter had landed there as well. On 29 March, the fleet made for the next bay north, or Carpenter’s Bay [“Brown’s Bay,” “Pieter Both Bay,” “Peter Butts Bay,” “Baye de Tombeau,” or “Bay of Tombs”], to “wood and water.”

This bay was apparently where they found the message written on Capt. Carpenter’s tomb by the pirates – perhaps a large white marble tomb erected during the Dutch occupation period (until 1710) – which the Navy men believed was a taunt written for their benefit, not Macrae’s, urging them to find the pirates who took Cassansdra at Port Dauphin.  As HMS Salisbury’s log makes clear, Carpenter’s tomb was large and obvious enough so as to function as a navigational feature, seen from aboard ship. Salisbury’s log mentions “wee finde here 2 french Ships that brought people to Settle this place” to join with an unknown number of English pirates already there, probably in the former dwellings of the previous Dutch residents.  Lion and Salisbury mounted forty and thirty-six guns. Mathews informed the Admiralty that they brought twelve shore guns, but were “in a very bad condition, and no way provided with Men sufficient, or Provisions, or, indeed, with any necessaries to preserve them from the attempts of the Pirates.”  After nearly a week at Mauritius, the fleet resupplied and weighed anchor on 4 April to resume her voyage, now for Port Dauphin, following the misunderstood message of the pirates, to find them at Madagascar, not at Île Saint-Marie, but at the location to which they hoped to misdirect Macrae.*


* The investigations revealed:

“The Manuscripts of P. Edward Tillard, Esq., of the Holme, Godmanchester,” Fifteenth Report, Appendix, Part X (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1899), 79; Cemetery location and fauna detail from the observations of William Tillard, 17 May 1699 at Carpenter’s Bay, Mauritius: “There is verry good fresh water about half-a-mile up ye river from Carpenters bay w[h]ere we lay with our ship, so yt we made 3 turns with fresh water every day, & yt with ease. There is a tomb built at ye entrance of ye river [Terre Rouge or Rivière du Tombeau], a little way from ye shore, where lyes one Welden [Tillard assumed this to be George; will prob. 11 March 1698 - PROB 11/444/239; “Will of George Weldon, Merchant of the East Indies bound on Ship Benjamin“], who died on this Isld abt 2 yrs since, returning home in ye Benja [British hired storeship of 450 tons – captain John Brown] from Bombay.

I looked at the will of George Weldon, but found nothing to indicate his date of date, just the probate of his will on 11 March 1698, which did mean that he died before this date, and while on Benjamin, so it worked. 

But, Weldon was not the only person suggested to be buried in that tomb:

Another reference made in 1709 by Jean de la Roque (1661-1745) in A voyage to Arabia Felix through the Eastern Ocean and the streights of the Red-Sea, being the first made by the French in the years 1708, 1709 and, 1710…, page 151, states "As we drew near the Sea Shore, we found by the side of a little Torrent, a very handsome Tomb of Freestone, cover’d with a Marble [table or tablet], with an Inscription, which gave us to understand, that it was the Tomb of the wife of a Dutch General who dy’d in this Island going to the Indies;” 

De la Roque gave a wonderful description of the tomb and why it was so obvious from ships off shore. And, his reasoning was close - at least it involved a woman! Still, de la Roque apparently couldn't tell the difference between English and Dutch! Thus, he also missed, as the woman buried here was the widow of a British East India Company official...

The actual journal of Benjamin shows that “Lady Susannah Child” had died 26 March 1697 and was buried on the shore of Mauritius and that Capt. John Brown fired 20 guns in her honor:

Journal entry from 26 March 1697

"Portrait Of A Lady, Said To Be Lady Susannah Child" oil on Canvas, by Maria Verelst.
Lady Susannah Child was the wife of Sir John Child, who was deputy Governor of Bombay from 1679-1681 and President of Surat from 1682 until his death in 1690.

The storeship Benjamin was listed as: 450/468 tons, 30 guns, 90/93 crew.


(1) 1688/9 St Helena, Bombay and Sumatra. Capt Leonard Browne. Downs 7 May 1689 - 19 Jul Madeira 8 Aug - 6 Jan 1690 St Helena - 28 May Bombay 26 Sep - 8 Oct Surat - Jul 1691 Acheh - Oct Malacca - 29 Jan 1692 Acheh - 26 Apr Onore - 10 May Karwar 23 Sep - Goa - 16 Oct Surat 14 Feb 1693 - 16 May Cape 2 Jun - 18 Sep Ascension - 31 Oct Plymouth.

(2) 1693/4 Surat. Capt John Brown. 22 Jul 1694 - 13 Oct São Tiago - 1 Mar 1695 Moheli - Bombay 16 Sep 1696 - 11 Nov Bandar Abbas - 17 Dec Bombay - 10 Jan 1697 Karwar - Bombay 18 Feb - 22 May Mauritius - Cape 5 Aug - 30 Sep St Helena - 27 Jan 1698 Margate.

(3) 1698/9 Madras. Capt John Brown. Downs 29 Oct 1698 - 20 Dec Cadiz - 2 Mar 1699 Cape - 2 Jun Fort St David - 4 Jun Madras - 24 Jul Fort St David - 1 Aug Pondicherry - 4 Aug Madras - 26 Aug Masulipatam - 30 Aug Vizagapatam - 16 Sep Balasore - 25 Dec Vizagapatam - 30 Jan 1700 Masulipatam - 3 Feb Madras - 17 Jun St Helena - 27 Sep Downs.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

La Buse: Mutiny on Le Postillon, 3 June 1715

Early events in the Golden Age of Piracy at Saint Domingue

Excerpt from Le capitaine La Buse: L'âge d'or de la piraterie (2018) by Jacques Gasser:

Olivier Le Vasseur, called "La Buse" and ten other mutineers left Fort Saint Louis on the south coast of Saint Domingue (French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, or modern Haiti) aboard a large vessel under Capt. La Lande de Rochefort on June 3, 1715. They took it from that captain as they passed the Isle de la Vache that afternoon and became pirates. One official later stated that this vessel named Le Postillon is an "excellent sailor that was ideally suited to its black designs."

In a letter dated 14 June 1715, Mr. Barthomier, the king's lieutenant at Fort Saint Louis, recounts La Buse’s escape in great detail:

I have the honour to inform Your Lordship that Mr. Devaux, director for the affairs of the Royal Company of Santo Domingo in St. Louis, having purchased on behalf of the company about five months ago a large boat named Le Postillon, the said boat was kidnapped by the crew of eleven men who went pirates. This happened on the 3rd of June at three o'clock in the afternoon when the said boat having left the port of Saint Louis at about one o'clock in the afternoon where it had been loaded with three complete sugar crews consisting of a copper boiler and loot and some other effects.

Hardly then, Monseigneur, the said boat was out of sight of the fort that these eleven men revolted against their captain named La Lande de Rochefort having all taken the weapons they had hidden in the hold and deliberated strongly a long time if they would kill him and the pilot who refused to be with them. But they made up their minds to lock them both up with another male passenger in a room, and when they found themselves strong off Isle à Vache about eight leagues from here, they boarded them the next morning in a small canoe [periagua] that belonged to a poor man who was in the back of the boat; which man took advantage of this opportunity to return to the Isle à Vache from where he had come two days ago. These pirates also sent back along with the others this captain and this pilot, [and] instead of coming straight to the fort to warn, [they] went to the safety of Isle à Vache saying that the sea was too rough to go to the fort's side. So that I was not informed until June 5 at 9 a.m. [such] that these pirates must be far away and that Monsieur de La Rigaudière who arrived at this port on May 30 with two frigates of the Company and I did not feel that it was worth time to go after [them], both for the time that this vessel had in advance [a head start] and because it is one of the best sailing boats in the sea and furthermore we had not yet begun to unload the cargoes of these two [company] ships. Nevertheless, I sent people by land on the coves and at Cape Tiburon to see if this vessel [Le Postillon] would not go on these sides but we did not see or hear it and following all appearances it had taken off and set sail for the coast of Spain (Mainland America) and get to Bocator which is a place where pirates retreat. This pirate ship [Le Postillon] has four mounted guns and has about ten to twelve pounds of gunpowder. 

I have given notice of the theft of this vessel to Mr. [Archibald] Hamilton Governor of Jamaica and to the Governor of Curacao on occasions I found in those days.*


*A.N. Colonies C9 B2 . Lettre du sieur Barthomier, du fort Saint Louis le 14 juin 1715.