Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pirates of Maryland

Maryland's time of trouble. To quote:
The complicated dispute between Claiborne and Calvert over Kent Island struggled through the courts in England and the colonies for over 40 years, not ending until Claiborne’s death in 1677. William Claiborne discovered Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay just east of current Annapolis in 1628. Considering it an ideal location for a fur trading post, he bought it, for twelve pounds sterling silver of his personal funds, from the Natives who lived there, named it Kent Island, and claimed it for the King of England. Beginning in 1631, Claiborne fortified Kent Island, planted crops and orchards, stocked it with cattle, and built a fort, church, trading post, living quarters for 100 men, and a plantation house for himself named Crayford.

When Lord Baltimore received a charter from the King to found Maryland, the charter specified that Maryland should have the unsettled land above the Potomac River and across the Chesapeake Bay. William Claiborne believed that Kent Island was exempt from the Maryland charter because it was settled and inhabited. Leonard Calvert took the position that Kent Island was NOT settled because it only contained a trading post, not permanent residents with families.

The preceding illumination of the controversy squeezes 40 years of courtroom drama into a few sentences, but the purpose here is to establish the events relative to William Pinley and Alexander Mountney. William Claiborne was a neighbor to Hannah and her husbands at Elizabeth City, Claiborne ran the Community Store/trading post from his estate at Strawberry Banks. Eventually, Claiborne claimed land and established the trading posts on the Eastern Shore as well, having founded the trading post that became Alexander Mountney’s Community Store at Kings Creek. In 1634, Mountney entered into a partnership with William Claiborne on the building projects and trading post at Kent Island. See the chapter on Alexander Mountney.

Lord Calvert offered to allow Claiborne to bring his plantation at Kent under Maryland’s authority and continue his operation there, but Claiborne stubbornly refused, insisting that Kent Island was already under the Virginia charter. When Calvert sent Robert Vaughn to the area with a militia, Claiborne’s Captain Thomas Smyth arrested the men as invaders. He eventually released them unharmed, but kept some useful commodities. Maryland issued a warrant for the arrest of Captain Smyth for piracy. In 1635, Maryland loyalist Henry Fleet, the sole survivor of the massacre of Henry Spelman and his men in 1623, seized Claiborne's prize ship, The Long Tayle. Fleet refused to accept the ship's license to trade because it was issued by Virginia instead of Maryland. Captain Fleet, a fur trader in dire competition with Claiborne, delivered the The Long Tayle and its crew to Calvert as a war prize. Calvert released the crew, forcing them to make their way back to Kent Island by a treacherous and long overland hike around the Chesapeake Bay. (Read entire article.)

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