During a time known as the Golden Age of Piracy, the waterways of eastern North Carolina were havens for pirates.
“It’s a history that grabs people’s attention. I don’t think people are aware, outside of Blackbeard, just how much North Carolina was a part of the pirate’s world in the early 18th century,” said local author Jack E. Fryar.
Fryar will share tales and history of this age in the Cape Fear region during a one-hour presentation at the historic Burgwin-Wright house in downtown Wilmington next Thursday, Aug. 13.
Fryar uses images from his book, “Pirates on the North Carolina Coast,” to illustrate his lecture. The book is a part of his Young Readers Series, a collection of books each containing 30-50 pages with ample illustrations, created to educate children and teens about various aspects of North Carolina history.
“I’ve found that these books are also very popular with adults,” he said. “It’s a great way to find out about something without having to wade through a 400-page book.”
Within his book and his lecture, Fryar explains how the primarily uninhabited North Carolina Coast was prime territory for pirates during this Golden Age. From Charleston all the way up to Chesapeake, there wasn’t much except for a few settlements.
“We had 300 miles of coastline full of creeks, streams and bays — good places for pirates to hide,” he said. “The locals in North Carolina at the time were very welcoming to the pirates because they got a share of the loot.”
One particular story to which Fryar is partial is that of Stede Bonnet, a wealthy gentleman-turned-pirate.
“This is a guy who had been a British army major. He came to the Bahamas to take over a plantation, but apparently his wife was such a nag, he bought his own ship, hired his own crew and took to pirating. He decided he’d rather risk a hangman’s noose than live with that woman anymore,” Fryar said.
Fryar said Bonnet’s story is also unusual because he bought his own ship instead of stealing one, like most pirates did.
“He was captured after a running gun fight on the Cape Fear River in 1718,” Fryar said.
Fryar is also captivated by the stories of female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read who sailed with Calico Jack, an English pirate captain.
“After Jack was captured, Anne and Mary both escaped the hangman’s noose because they both claimed to be pregnant at the time. They let Anne, who was in a relationship with Calico Jack, see him before he went to the gallows. She told if that if he’d fought like a man, he wouldn’t have to hang like a dog,” Fryar said.
Christine Lamberton, the Burgwin-Wright House’s museum manager, said the museum hosts a North Carolinian lecturer each month, August through May.
“Jack Fryar is kicking off our lecture series,” she said. Past lecturers include Beverly Tetterton, author of “Maritime Wilmington” and local historian Chris Fonvielle, who teaches history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Fryar’s presentation will take place at the historic Burgwin-Wright House on Thursday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m. A book signing and reception will follow.