Sam Bellamy’s Lost Pirate Paradise

Lost and Buried treasure in Maine?  Some say it’s more than just legend so we’re digging into our home state’s history to find out.

When someone brings up the topic of “pirates” (arrr matey!) you probably immediately think of warmer climates – Bermuda, Nassau, the Caribbean,  and even the southern coastal waters of the United States, like Florida and the Carolinas.  But up here in Maine we have a secret:

Pirates knew about our state’s rough and rocky coastline, and while most avoided it  – viewing it like the shipwreck graveyard that it was – (Davey Jones’ locker is not an ideal vacation destination) a few made it a point to pay us a visit.  It’s quite a surprising fact, since the rough, choppy seas and unforgivably cold water temperatures during all times of the year – even in summer – would seem to be good reasons to avoid the Northern reaches of the East Coast.  But, to an opportunistic pirate who’s being chased for the bounty placed on their head, and the recovery of the stolen loot they were carrying, the foggy waters and thousands of islands hidden off the coast of Maine were the perfect places to escape, and if all went well, made great places to “disappear into the night”.

There are well over 4,500 documented “islands” off the coast of Maine. The larger of which are hundreds of acres and the smallest of which are less than a half-acre and can only be seen during low-tide or when rough waters crash upon their shallow ledges.  Navigating the treacherous waters off the coast of Maine could be a deadly decision or a risk with a huge payoff.

So let’s talk about a couple of pirates rumored to have left a stash here in Maine so impressive we’re thinking of becoming Treasure Hunters.

First we have the dashing and daring English born pirate, Samuel Bellamy.  Sam was born in 1689 and first took to sea by joining the Royal Navy in his late teens.  After serving his time and seeing action in numerous battles Sam left the Royal Navy and, in 1715, sailed west to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in search of family he believed had settled there.

While in Cape Cod he met his future partner in crime, and our 2nd “pirate of interest”, Paulsgrave Williams.

Paulsgrave Williams was a wealthy man, and some might say “a man of stature”.  A jeweler by trade and the son of Rhode Island’s Attorney General, Paulsgrave had grand visions of recovering the enormous riches trapped in the sunken Spanish wreck of the 1715 Treasure Fleet which had met its demise off the coast of Florida. He was so passionate about the possibilities of recovering this sunken treasure that he funded a full crew with his trusted friend and ally, Sam Bellamy, at his side.

Sadly, the task to recover the treasure wasn’t as easy as they’d hoped, and after months of searching – with gold, riches, and wealth on their minds – they abandoned their quest and took up positions on the pirate ship, the “Mary Anne”, captained by Englishman, Benjamin Hornigold.

Incidentally, Hornigold’s second in command at this time was Edward Teach.  You might recognize him better by the name of “Blackbeard”.

Benjamin Hornigold is an important figure in the pirating life of the young Sam Bellamy because he modeled a type of character and ethical nature which helped determine the type of leader Sam would captain his own crew in the future.

Hornigold was an influential character.  A leader in the pirating community, and one of the original founders of the Republic of Pirates based in Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas.  He had a personal policy of never attacking English ships, and he was well known for treating his crew with respect, and his prisoners with dignity.

This leadership style would bode well for him when his crew decided to mutiny because he held firm to his policy of not attacking any of the numerous English ships they routinely encountered in open waters.   When the mutiny was over, Hornigold was set adrift toward New Providence with a small loyal crew, and Sam Bellamy had been elected the ship’s new captain.

In 1716, with Paulsgrave Williams at his side, 27 year old Samuel Bellamy stepped into the position of “Captain” aboard the Mary Anne with his own trademark style, quickly earning the recognizable moniker “black Sam Bellamy” by growing his black hair to lengths he could easily tie back with a simple bow, rather than wearing the more commonly seen white-wig headpiece routinely worn by crew leadership.

Within his first year at the helm, Sam was well on his way to earning a new moniker – one that would highlight the true character of this fiercely successful swashbuckling buccaneer.  Because he was kind and generous to the crews and captives of the ships he pirated he quickly became known as the “Prince of Pirates”, and even “Robin Hood of the Seas”, and his crew came to call themselves “Robin Hood’s Men”.

In this first year of captaincy “black Sam Bellamy” and his crew had captured 50 ships, including the Sultana, which they all voted to appoint Paulsgrave Williams as commander.   With Williams at the helm of this 2nd ship, in 1717 both the Mary Anne and the Sultana were able to take into possession the mighty Whydah – a 300-ton English slave ship filled with enough gold, jewels and loot for the entirety of both ships’ crews to retire on – set for life.

In true “Prince of Pirates” style, Sam Bellamy set the captain and crew of the newly captured Whydah back out to sea in the Sultana.  Paulsgrave Williams became commander of the Mary Anne, and Sam Bellamy sailed off into the sunset with the 300-ton prize.  The capture of the Whydah in 1717 put Samuel Bellamy over-the-top in terms of captured booty and loot.  In a little over 1 year’s time as a pirate ship captain “black Sam Bellamy” had become the wealthiest pirate in recorded history.

What does all of this have to do with Maine?

Ever since the sinking of the Whydah in 1717, which happened only a short 2 months after Bellamy commandeered her, there have been rumors floating around.  Rumors that suggest Samuel Bellamy and Paulsgrave Williams already implemented plans to set up a remote fortification as a sort of pirate retirement settlement in, and around, the remote coastal village of Machiasport, Maine.

Almost immediately after acquiring the Whydah she was tossed about in a violent storm, which left her with damages needing immediate repairs.

The rumors suggest Bellamy and Williams chose Machiasport to escape to because it was a place they’d already established a sort of outpost at, back in 1716.  It’s common pirate legend, in these parts, that Bellamy and Williams built their own little town and a small number of fortifications on both sides of the Machias River a short distance inland.  Today, the area can be found where Highway 1-A crosses the river in Machias Township.

In true pirate style, Sam and Paulsgrave had the crew dig an elaborate vault system near one of the fortifications in which they could store their loot.

So, after their successful capture of the Whydah in 1717 – with all her gold, silver, jewels, and countless other treasures, the pirate community was pretty confident in the knowledge that Machiasport was Bellamy’s destination of choice because it was the perfect dumping ground.  It was vault ready, it was a safe haven they had already settled, and it was located in a part of the world not many sailors were familiar with.

So the questions remain; Was Bellamy’s pirate retirement community a real establishment? And if so, does that mean the vault exists?  And, if the vault exists, did he actually store any of the Whydah’s treasure inside it?

Treasure Hunters have searched for this fabled vault for hundreds of years and have yet to stumble upon its riches.  Does that mean it doesn’t exist?  It’s hard to say.  Because the Whydah met her demise in 1717, only 2 months after Bellamy captured her, and she was just recently discovered off the coast of Cape Cod in the early 1980’s.   So – how likely could it be that Black Sam Bellamy’s secret vaulted stash is hidden away as he intended, just waiting to be discovered?

We want to know what you think!

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