A friend’s parents were doing some genealogy research into their (very large, slightly shady) family tree and came across this wonderful story. It was published on July 17, 1890, in the St. Andrews Beacon, a long-gone newspaper from the south coast of New Brunswick, Canada:

George Case had a son named Elisha Case whom he dispatched to the West Indies on one of his own vessels with a cargo of fish. Neither the vessel or crew ever returned and for many years their fate was a complete mystery.Some years after, Chaffey of Indian Island (Charlotte Co.) sent one of his vessels to the West Indies under command of Capt. Samuel Leeman with Ward Pendleton as mate. Returning without cargo but with some two thousand in specie, they were attacked by pirates, robbed of the money and all of their effects, being only too happy to escape with their lives.

While the pirates were searching the trunks, one of them opened Ward Pendelton’s and on examining the till found a letter addressed to him from his sweetheart.

The pirate captain, as he appeared to be, looked fixedly at Pendleton, at the same time pronouncing his name in a tone of astonishment. He then returned the letter to the till, threw back the clothing he had seized into the trunk and deserted from further plunder.

Years afterward when this Ward Pendleton was on his death bed, he told his friends that in the pirate chief he had recognized Elisha Case son of Geo. Case, an old school fellow.

Capt. Leeman had in his earlier years been seized by a press gang in England and compelled to serve in the Royal Navy for gour years where he learned much of what was of advantage to him in his profession.

Wouldn’t that have been a great story for Old Man Pendleton to tell his grandchildren, on a winter’s night?

It’s possible that the young Elisha Case had been captured by pirates on his voyage to the West Indies and found that the life suited him. Or he might have been grabbed by a press gang in a Carribean port and pressed into service as a privateer, those “legal pirates” who were licensed by the British to intercept American trade ships during the Revolutionary War. After the cessation of hostilities, a great many privateers seem to have carried on with boarding and looting other ships, rather indiscriminately, rather than return to the placid life of a fisherman or a conventional law-abiding sailor.

I do love history. Notice that most of that word is “story” — too bad that history is often made so dry and dull, when it’s taught to us in school.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. domestika

    Janet, what a lovely comment – and I couldn’t agree with you more! There’s something very basic in humans that draws us to a good story. And it doesn’t matter whether the story is the literal truth or apochryphal, whether it’s very old or the headline in today’s paper… It’s why one of my favourite places is the coffee shop at the local gas station – lots of good stories (or “tall tales”!) going the rounds with the old fellows down there!

  2. Janet Green

    Jen, I’ve been a genealogist for more than 10 years now and I can tell you for sure that the stories are the lure. It’s amazing how finding a good story… and knowing that you have a personal connection to the people involved in it… is addictive! It helps you literally feel like you are part of an ongoing chain of events and gives you (corny as it sounds) a real connection to the past. It’s a highly rewarding activity, certainly worthy of all domestik goddesses!

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