Sweet Berry Farm: Come to pick fruit. Leave with pirate coins.
Let’s start at the beginning . . .
Once upon a time—on September 7, 1695, to be exact—an English pirate named Henry Every robbed a vessel carrying Muslim pilgrims home to India from Mecca. Captain Every’s crew tortured and killed the people onboard. The brigands also stole tens of millions of dollars’ worth of gold and silver before escaping to the Bahamas.
Government officials sought to bring the criminals to justice, but to no avail. No one ever found the elusive Captain Every. The case went cold . . . and then warmed up again more than 300 years later when amateur historian Jim Bailey took his metal detector to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island. With it, he found a dime-sized coin. Peering closer, he spotted Arabic text. The coin was from the 17th century—the oldest pocket change ever found in North America.
Research proved that the coin was minted in 1693 in the Middle Eastern country of Yemen. There’s no evidence that American colonists traveled to the Middle East to trade until decades later. So who left the coins? Maybe pirates. Maybe Every.
Since then, others have unearthed 15 more Arabian coins in New England from the same era. Another was found in North Carolina. Some of Captain Every’s men first came ashore there.
Bailey says the coins show that the pirate made his way to the American colonies. There, Every and his crew spent the stolen treasure while on the run. Every hid in plain sight by posing as a slave trader.
Most people get their ideas about pirates from movies and books. But who were these swashbuckling sea looters, really? Were they actually peg-legged buccaneers decked with eyepatches and perched upon by parrots? Maybe. The dangerous pirates’ life could easily have led to the loss of a limb, and evidence shows that some pirates kept parrots. It’s also possible that some pirates wore eyepatches to help their eyes adjust to the dim light below deck.
But Every’s story reminds us that piracy is hardly the romantic occupation we read about in fiction or watch in film. His crimes were similar to those of present-day pirates. Pirates still exist—though they’re more tech-savvy than they used to be, stealing from ships and holding them for ransom using sophisticated weapons and location tech. Real piracy, then as now, is nothing to be laughed at. It’s a violent, dangerous, and dishonest business.
And what about Bailey? He says he’s going to keep digging.
There is a future for the man of peace. — Psalm 37:37