Paternal Generation I: William Pinley Maryland 1638-9
Maryland's Time of Trouble Pirates Kent Island Claiborne & Ingle
Maryland's Time of Trouble
Pirates, Kent Island, William Claiborne, & Richard IngleThe 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.
In April of 1635, Claiborne retaliated by sending another ship, The Cockatrice into the Chesapeake to find The Long Tayle and bring it home to Kent Island. Warren sneaked up on one Maryland ship in the bay, but another Calvert ship hidden in a cove came to the defense. After a brief but swashbuckling battle of swords, pistols, guns and hand to hand combat, Lieutenant Warren, Richard Hancock, and Robert Lake attempted to board The St. Helen, Captain Cornwallis’ ordered cannons fired at his fellow Englishmen, and Maryland won the day. Hancock, Lake, and Commander Warren were killed instantly, Virginians William Dawson and John Belson also died in battle. Maryland lost one man, William Ashmore. The Cockatrice, manned only by ten wounded survivors, limped back to Kent Island to report the loss.
By the end of 1636, the fur trade had declined because of the warfare, and Cloberry and Company, Claiborne’s financial backers in London, sent George Evelyn to Kent Island as their attorney to take charge of the settlement on Kent and called Claiborne to England to explain his actions, as the recent hostilities had reduced their profits.
Claiborne delayed his departure until 1637, completed a thorough inventory of his property and tried to force Evelyn to post bond that he would not surrender Kent. After Evelyn refused to make the promise, Claiborne finally left for England, positive that he could argue and win his case for Kent Island with the King himself.
William Claiborne was a Virginian first, last and always.With Claiborne finally gone, George Evelin conceded jurisdiction of Kent Island to Governor Calvert, and then attempted to convince the residents of Kent that they should pledge allegiance to Calvert and Maryland and carry on about the business of earning profits for the stockholders back in London.
George Evelin was a businessman, first last and always.
Testimony given by William Pinley’s frequent associate, Thomas Sturman, in Maryland court indicated that Evelyn took no care to provide food for the Kent residents, and witnesses testified that under Evelyn, they were kept alive only because Captain Thomas Smyth smuggled food in from Claiborne’s friends and neighbors at the Eastern Shore (where Alexander Mountney was the keeper of the Common Store). Adding insult to the injury of starvation, Evelyn even transported some of the corn smuggled to Kent Island by Thomas Smyth out to supposedly hungry people in Calvert’s Maryland.
Oysters saved the day again. Evelyn spent more time bonding with Calvert than the men at Kent Island. The arrogant and divisive George Evelyn conspired to starve the servants on Kent into submission to Maryland’s rule by refusing to buy corn and other staples, and shipping their scarce supplies out to the Marylanders when they did manage to smuggle food onto the island. The men on Kent, ever loyal to Claiborne and Virginia, and still pained over the brutal loss of their commander Ratcliffe Warren, refused to admit defeat and resisted Evelyn’s plans. Note: starvation as a tactic to win the “hearts and minds" of the people didn’t work in the 1640’s either.
"The said Evelin badd the said servants gett Oysters and shift for themselves for he had noe meate nor Corne for them nor could not tell where to gett it."
Deposition of Thomas Sturman, May, 1640
Maryland Archives, Proceedings of the Council of Maryland,Volume 5, Page 186, http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000005/html/am5--186.html
George Evelyn conspired with Calvert to lead a small army of men onto the island in the dark of night to subdue the rebels on Kent. In what became known as “the reduction of Kent Island”, Claiborne’s assets and servants were seized.
Claiborne’s immensely popular commander on Kent, Thomas Smyth (Smith) was arrested for piracy, tried by the Maryland Assembly, and hung by the neck until dead.
* This Smith, having committed Piracy, was Arraigned, Tried, found Guilty, and sentenced to Death by this Assembly. The reason of which Proceeding was, that the Lieutenant-General having no Power by his Commission to punish with Loss of life or Member, unless by Laws to be made in the Province, and no such Laws being made, it was necessary, for the due Execution of Justice, that the whole Legislative Body should concur in this Man's Condemnation. (Maryland Archives)
Trials such as Smyth's eventually caused the American Revolution!
In 1606, King James I issued a proclamation to encourage colonization. The King promised that all who went bravely into the “New World” would retain all of their Rights as Englishmen, the same as if they had remained in England. Thomas Smyth’s Rights as an Englishman were denied, and he became a sacred martyr to the Kent Islanders.
For many years afterward, his death was spoken of by his friends in depositions given in the Claiborne law suits. After the hanging, Claiborne was also charged with piracy, but he had gone to England to see the King before he could be captured.
Though the rebels on Kent may have appeared subdued afterwards, many were just waiting for their next opportunity to get even with the Calvert and his blue bloods, especially the hated Thomas Cornwallis. Seven years later, during Ingle’s rebellion, Cornwallis’ home was the site of especially enormous destruction. That plunder is often ascribed to Ingle, the Puritans, and the rebels on Kent Island, but Cornwallis’ lurid murder of Ratcliffe Warren may have been the original motive for revenge.
A delightful website on the history of the Chesapeake Bay was found to have great detail on the conflicts between William Claiborne and Maryland, and is linked here.
"Piracy" on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1600s
The Kent Connection
The controversy over Kent Island played a large role in the lives of two of our generations, the Mountneys, Elizabeth Hill and William Pinley. William Claiborne was a neighbor of the Mountneys in Elizabeth City and Accomack/Northampton. Alexander Mountney was a business partner with Claiborne in the building of the fort and Craford plantation on Kent. Captain Phillip Taylor, Alexander Mountney’s friend and associate from Accomack was made commander of Claiborne’s remaining supporters. Executed pirate Thomas Smyth was Keeper of the Common Store/trading post at times on Kent Island, and as such, was in contact with Mountney’s trading post in Accomack. Many of Claiborne’s staunch supporters moved to homes near the Mountneys in Accomack after Claiborne left for England.
Lord Calvert used William Pinley’s name as his indentured servant on the same list with the servants he seized from Claiborne on Kent Island, Thomas Gerrard went to court to have William released from Calvert’s vengeful grasp. Among the found documents, William Pinley wrote and witnessed more papers for the rowdy Kent Islander Thomas Sturman than any other person. Pinley married Alexander Mountney’s step-daughter, Elizabeth Hill, but there is no indication that Alexander Mountney ever moved his family to Kent Island.
William Pinley’s loyalties in Maryland's chaos are difficult to follow. He did legal work for various "Kent Island Rebels" such as Sturman, Porter and Hilliard, but he was never charged with crimes as they were, nor was he ever found forced to sign a loyal oath as they were. He did legal work for various people caught up in Ingle's Rebellion, such as Hallowes and Sturman, but he was never charged with their crimes, nor was he ever found forced to sign a loyal oath as they were. In Accomack/Northampton County, near the trading post on Kings Creek, he met and married Hannah Mountney’s daughter, Elizabeth Hill. Based on the size of the inventory of his estate, and the types of property listed, it is obvious that William and Elizabeth Pinley had a residence in Northampton County at the time of his death in 1650.
Thomas Sturman and the Puritans Of all of William Pinley’s close friends or associates researched, none is more intriguing than Thomas Sturman (Sterman). Sturman, a cooper by trade, actually came to Kent Island on The Sarah Elizabeth as an employee (not a servant) of George Evelyn and Clobbery and Company to help with the transition away from William Claiborne’s rule on the island.