17 April 2012

A College founded on Pirate Loot? Surely Not? (Part Two Tuesday Talk )

The Williamsburg, Virginia, College of 
William & Mary was founded on PIRATE LOOT – aaarrrgh!

              Buccaneers Davis, Wafer, Hingson 
& Dampier
& the Ship Bachelor's Delight

By John Fitzhugh Millar, 2010

Link here to read Part One

While on the west coast of America, Davis’ ship sacked Guayaquil, Ecuador and raided various other ports, including Leon and El Realejo in Nicaragua, Paita and Sana in Peru (impressive ruins of Sana, destroyed by a natural disaster 35 years later, are now a proud tourist attraction featuring the pirates!), and Arica in Chile. However, not all their raids ashore produced useful treasure, and one raid on Panama went badly wrong. One Spanish ship they captured was full of slaves from Africa, so they set them free ashore, and welcomed a few (including Peter Cloise) into the crew of Bachelors Delight.

Tall Ship in the Chesapeake Bay
   Dampier eventually tired of this life, so he joined the crew of Captain Charles Swan’s Cygnet (another formerly Spanish merchant ship captured by English buccaneers) as navigator, and sailed west across the Pacific to complete his second voyage around the world. The fractious crew left Captain Swan on the beach in the Philippines. Then after he had made extensive observations of the geography, flora and fauna of the wild north coast of Australia (which Joseph Banks found very useful about 80 years later), Dampier himself was marooned with one colleague by the mutinous crew in the Nicobar Islands (between India and Malaysia), and yet the pair amazingly survived a long ocean voyage on a small raft or dugout-canoe with outrigger they had built, until they were picked up at Banda Aceh in Sumatra by a merchant ship headed for England.
   When asked how much is enough, John D. Rockefeller once said, “Always a little more,” but the crew of the Bachelors Delight came to the conclusion in mid-1687 that they had indeed gained enough treasure. That was also the same moment when they heard the news at Panama that the dreadful King James was being thrown out by Parliament and replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband William. Life in England would definitely be better under William and Mary than it was under James. Moreover, James had just signed a proclamation offering amnesty to pirates who registered with English authorities. Therefore, they decided to sail back to England.
   The adventurers prudently planned to hedge their bets. They buried approximately one third of their treasure at Chatham Bay on the north coast of Cocos Island, 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, in case they were somehow deprived of the rest of their loot on the way home. (Helen: this is interesting - most of the history of pirates books I've read claim that the Treasure Island notion that pirates buried their treasure is a myth. This rather proves that it wasn't!)
 It is said that Cocos Island (now Isla del Coco National Park), which is only five miles long, is the site of no fewer than three treasures from separate pirate ships, but, in spite of many expeditions mounted over the years by treasure seekers, nothing of value has ever been found from any of them. It is now illegal to dig there. (Helen: hmm so maybe it is a myth after all :-(  )
   Several of the crew, who had lost their shares through gambling, asked to be put ashore on Juan Fernandez Island as the ship headed south past Chile. What became of them is not recorded, but they were probably rescued by other visiting ships in a short space of time.
Rounding the Horn
   They rounded Cape Horn in dreadful weather in the autumn of 1687. A book published in 1803 asserted that Davis and his ship were the first people ever to see Antarctica (the next people were as late as 1820!), and it was probably the result of the ship being blown off-course through Drake’s Channel towards the Antarctic Peninsula at this passage off Cape Horn, although it could also have been on the sail back to Chile from New Zealand. When they reached the tropics in the Atlantic, Dr. Wafer called a meeting of the entire crew. He told them that if they all appeared in England at the same time with their loot, they would probably be recognized to be pirates, and could be arrested and hanged in spite of any royal proclamation. He suggested that they should draw straws. The men with the first three short straws (among them was notorious pirate James Kelley, who had joined the crew because he was an old friend of Cook) should get off in Jamaica with their share of the loot, the next three in the Bahamas, the next in South Carolina, and so forth. The remainder would sell the ship in Philadelphia (which had been founded only a few years earlier), and take passage onwards to other colonies on coastal ferries. After remaining in the colonies for two or three years, they could drift back to England if they wanted to. They agreed. Davis accepted a royal pardon from the governor at Port Royal, Jamaica, and let it be known that the coin treasure to be divided among the crew came to more than 50,000 Spanish dollars, plus countless jewels and silver and gold plate.

   As planned, they sold the ship in Philadelphia, apparently to one or more of the pirates in their crew, because the ship next surfaced in a pirate cruise on the other side of the world. Wafer and Davis, along with seaman John Hingson and a former Spanish slave, the African Peter Cloise, drew the straws for Virginia. They sailed down the Chesapeake Bay from Philadelphia on a local ferry and dropped off three crewmen in Sussex County in what later became Delaware (their plantation, named Bachelor’s Delight, was located where the village of Laurel now stands), and they dropped off a crewman named Berry (and presumably his two colleagues) in Maryland, where Berry named his land Bachelor’s Delight in Charles County. Then they registered as ex-pirates with Commander Thomas Allen of HMS Quaker, 10 guns, and managed to deposit their loot with a local banker. Wafer said he intended settling in Norfolk. They were immediately arrested, however, at Jamestown under suspicion of piracy within hours of their arrival by order of Captain Simon Rowe of HMS Dumbarton, 20 guns; he said he was acting under orders of Admiral Sir Robert Holmes, whose vigorous anti-pirate campaign stepped on the toes of many colonial officials. Davis had been recognized from his piratical activities from a decade earlier. The royal pardon he received in Jamaica apparently carried no weight in Virginia.

Part Three Next Week

John F Miller runs a superb B & B Newport House in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia - worth a visit!
John and wife, Cathy
John is also connected with the building of a couple of replica ships - Rose, now known as HMS Surprise (yes, the one in the Master & Commander movie) and the Lady Washington - known to Jack Sparrow fans as Interceptor... 


Thank you for leaving a comment - it should appear immediately, but Blogger sometimes chucks its teddies out of the cot and has a tantrum (especially if you are a Wordpress person) If you are having problems, contact me on author AT helenhollick DOT net and I will post it for you. Sometimes a post will appear as 'anonymous' instead of your name or avatar - I draw attention to this being a Blogger Blooper and not of MY doing... However ...SPAMMERS or distasteful rudeness will be stamped on, squashed, composted and very possibly cursed - if you spam my blog, next time something nasty happens to you just remember that I DID warn you...