employee dressed as a
pirate in a Water Festival Parade
of the Lowcountry
Information Services Coordinator
was one reason the Spanish first came to what is now Beaufort County in
Walter Edgar, in South
Carolina: A History, wrote that buccaneers, rival navies and hurricanes
were the biggest threat to Spain's treasure ships in the Caribbean and
the Bahama Channel. The excellent harbor of Port Royal Sound was seen
as a possible haven for the Spanish fleet and the end of a foreseen overland
route for mule caravans carrying treasure from Mexico.
The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina: Volume
1, 1514-1861, however, Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore
and George C. Rogers wrote that "the need for a land-based installation
at Port Royal Sound naturally diminished" after 1585, when Spain
established a successful guarda costas (coast guard) system
of galleys to protect Florida from pirates.
Risks increased for Port Royal Sound as the Caribbean grew more secure
for the Spanish, French and British fleets. The British royal navy
drove pirates northward to the less-protected Carolina coastlines.
In 1718, Edward Teach (Blackbeard) held several wealthy South Carolinians
hostage and anchored outside Charleston harbor, threatening not only
to kill the hostages, but to attack the city if the governor did not
deliver medical supplies. The governor gave in, thus avoiding certain
bloodshed and pillage.
at John Cross Tavern
(812 Bay Street, Beaufort)
by Dennis Adams
December 2, 2006
For the quarter of a century
after the city's founding in 1690, however, the citizens of Charleston
enjoyed a much cozier relationship with the pirates. Pirates spent lavishly
while in port, and the townspeople could buy stolen goods from the freebooters
at irresistibly low prices. Although local officials saw these shady dealings
as good for the local economy, the royal government eventually began removing
governors who worked too closely with the pirates.
Governor Landgrave Thomas Smith openly started to suppress the pirate
trade in 1694, and the Charlestonians themselves finally realized that
secure sea lanes were more important to their growing trade than bargains
in the black market. Six pirates were hanged in Charleston in 1700, and
after Blackbeard's insolent threats of 1718, the Colony was even more
resolved to end the menace. British ships defeated a pirate ship off Charleston
even as Stede Bonnet and his pirate crew awaited trial in the city. Bonnet
and 48 others were hanged in November and December of 1718.
According to the Dictionary of World Biography Supplement,
Blackbeard was beheaded off the North Carolina coast (on November 22, 1718) congratulating
the man who struck him down with a hearty "Well done, lad!"
"The character of the privateers authorized to prey upon enemy commerce,"
wrote David Duncan Wallace in The History of South Carolina,
was "indicated by the common usage of the words 'privateer' and 'pirate'
as synonymous." Spanish privateers had stopped trade in Port Royal
during the War of Jenkins' Ear in 1739. At the start of the French and
Indian War in 1756, the British commissioned a galley in Charleston and
another in Port Royal Sound to defend the coast against privateers. In
1757, runaway slaves reportedly piloted a French privateer off the Georgia
coast, causing fears that the rich plantations of Port Royal might be
An English privateer stayed
at Port Royal for a short time in September 1758. Spanish captain Don
Martin de Hamassa captured a brigantine off Port Royal in 1763 and later
sunk a schooner in St. Helena Sound. Don Martin also seized the schooner
"Tybee," upon which Beaufort merchant John Gorgon had depended
for his trade, and brought it to St. Augustine. This was, said The
History of Beaufort County, the "last significant naval action
among the sea islands of the Beaufort District during the colonial era."
Tavern has been legendary in Beaufort as the hangout for Blackbeard
and the other pirates who came noising through the town. According
to A Guide to Historic Beaufort by the Historic Beaufort Foundation,
however, "perhaps no site in Beaufort illustrates the frustration
caused by the scarcity of pre-Civil War records," which were
lost to accident and neglect."
The Foundation added that "local folklore has long held that
John Cross built a tavern (in Beaufort) in the early 1700s" Existing
records show that tabby concrete
building was constructed by Captain Francis Saltus around 1796 and
that it did not house a tavern until the 20th century. Historians
believe that the building had many commercial uses up to the early
20th century, including a dry goods store and a fruit stand.
to Foundation executive director Evan Thompson (cited by Sandra Walsh
in "John Cross Tavern: The End of an Era," Beaufort
Gazette, February 22, 2007), a
former John Cross
Tavern (812 Bay Street, Beaufort)
Photograph by Dennis Adams
December 2, 2006
previous tavern named
for a certain John Cross did exist, but was located on Scott Street.
It was in business sometime between 1800 and 1820, well after the
Age of Piracy.
In 1935, Harry Chakides
opened the Ritz Café in the building. His son, also named
Harry, renovated the structure in 1960 and opened Harry's Restaurant
on the ground floor. He established John Cross Tavern on the second
floor in 1973. The downstairs restaurant closed in the late 1990s,
and the Tavern shut its doors on February 28, 2007.
Whatever the case of
the building on 812 Bay Street, what is sure is that pirates once
rumbled into town just a cutlass-throw from the site.