Crowleys, Blackbeard, And The Slave Trade

Marjo Crowley from Napa, California emailed me with a mystery. "I ran across some interesting information about Captain Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, in a book called 'The Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean'. It seems that he, on board Queen Anne's Revenge, along with 3 sloops captured eight merchant ships in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, in May 1718. One of these ships was the "Crowley", mastered by Captain Clarke. It was bound for London. I found no other information about the ship."

I love a good mystery (probably why I love genealogy), so I went to work to find out what really happened with Blackbeard and the sailing vassal Crowley. I knew that there were seafaring Crowleys on the east coast of America in early history, but they were fisherman who sailed in the waters around Maine. There was no reason for their ships to be in Charleston harbor in 1718. I first tried contacting the author of "The Pirate Hunters of the Caribbean", David Cordingly. I emailed his publisher, and Cordingly did very graciously answer me by writing that he did not have any further information about the Crowley.

I then started Googling combinations of 1700s, sailing vessel Crowley, London. Finally, I discovered the connection. The Crowley was owned by John Crowley who was the son of Sir Ambrose Crowley of London. Sir Ambrose, who died in 1713, became successful manufacturing armaments during the European wars of the late 1600s. When peace came, the company needed to find new markets and began making hoes and other tools.

John Crowley took Sir Ambrose's company international concentrating on the new world and its farming needs. Crowley's inventory included "Carolina Hoes", "Carolina Axes", and padlocks "for Negroes Necks". Crowley was supplying the plantations of South Carolina with tools and with shackles for the purpose of transporting and restraining the Africans who were enslaved on the plantations.

Ironically, Sir Ambrose was known for his hard work, innovations, and for taking good care of his workers. "He was a man of unquenchable ambition and energy", Chris Evans, teacher of history at the University of Glamorgan in the UK wrote. Ambrose Crowley treated his workers far better than most employers of his time.

Blackbeard, Edward Teach, was considered a fearsome pirate, and there are varying accounts of his methods. Some historians say that he ruled by fear and intimidation, but not by violence. Another quotes him as saying, "I have to kill someone now or then, or they will forget who I am". He was in Charleston in May 1718 in search of medical supplies because his crew, and possibly Blackbeard himself, was ill. He captured several prominent Charlestonians and ransomed them for a chest of medicine.

So ends the mystery of Crowley, Blackbeard, and the slave trade.

The Crowley Clan Newsletter is
compiled by Marian Crowley Chamberlain