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Our Pirate Hoard 1891   By: (1849-1913)

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By Thomas A. Janvier

Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers


My great great great uncle was one of the many sturdy, honest, high spirited men to whom the early years of the last century gave birth. He was a brave man and a ready fighter, yet was he ever controlled in his actions by so nice a regard for the feelings of others, and through the strong fibre of his hardy nature ran a strain of such almost womanly gentleness and tenderness, that throughout the rather exceptionally wide circle of his acquaintance he was very generally beloved.

By profession he was a pirate, and although it is not becoming in me, perhaps, to speak boastingly of a blood relation, I would be doing his memory injustice did I not add that he was one of the ablest and most successful pirates of his time. His usual cruising ground was between the capes of the Chesapeake and the lower end of Long Island; yet now and then, as opportunity offered, he would take a run to the New England coast, and in winter he frequently would drop down to the s'uthard and do a good stroke of business off the Spanish Main. His home station, however, was the Delaware coast, and his family lived in Lewes, being quite the upper crust of Lewes society as it then was constituted. When his schooner, the Martha Ann , was off duty, she usually was harbored in Rehoboth Bay. That was a pretty good harbor for pirate schooners in those days.

My great great great uncle threw himself into his profession in the hearty fashion that was to be expected from a man of his sincere, earnest character. He toiled early and late at sea, and on shore he regulated the affairs of his family so that his expenses should be well within his large though somewhat fluctuating income; and the result of his prudence in affairs was that he saved the greater portion of what he earned. The people of Lewes respected him greatly, and the boys of the town were bidden to emulate his steady business ways and habit of thrift. He was, too, a man of public spirit. At his own cost and charge he renewed the town pump; and he presented the church he was a very regular churchgoer when on shore with a large bell of singularly sweet tone that had come into his possession after a casual encounter with a Cuban bound galleon off the Bahama Banks.

And yet when at last my great great great uncle, in the fulness of his years and virtues, was gathered to his fathers, and the sweet toned Spanish bell tolled his requiem, everybody was very much surprised to find that of the fine fortune accumulated during his successful business career nothing worth speaking of could be found. The house that he owned in Lewes, the handsome furniture that it contained, and a sea chest in which were some odds and ends of silverware (of a Spanish make) and some few pieces of eight and doubloons, constituted the whole of his visible wealth.

For my great great great aunt, with a family of five sons and seven daughters (including three sets of twins) all under eleven years of age, the outlook was a sorry one. She was puzzled, too, to think what had gone with the great fortune which certainly had existed, and so was everybody else. The explanation that finally was adopted was that my great great great uncle, in accordance with well established pirate usage, had buried his treasure somewhere, and had taken the secret of its burial place with him to another and a better world. Probability was given to this conjecture by the fact that he had died in something of a hurry. He had been brought ashore by his men after an unexpected (and by him uninvited) encounter with a King's ship off the capes of the Delaware. One of his legs was shot off, and his head was pretty well laid open by a desperate cutlass slash. He already was in a raging fever, and although the best medical advice in Lewes was procured, he died that very night. As he lay dying his talk was wild and incoherent; but at the very last, as my great great great aunt well remembered, he suddenly grew calm, straightened himself in the bed, and said, with great earnestness: "Sheer up the plank midway "

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