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Thomas Tew the Pirate, of Rhode Island

"Tew, in Point of Gallantry, was inferior to none"
(Captain Charles Johnson)

"A man of courage and activity", and "A very pleasant man": Ben Fletcher, Governor of New York

Contents
1. Introduction
2. Tew's Early Days
3. From Privateer to Pirate
4. Link with Captain Misson
5. Return to Rhode Island
6. Back to Madagascar
7. Rhode Island and New York
8. Tew's Last Commission
9. Fletcher's Decommissioning
10. Separating Fact from Fiction
11. Tew's Family
12. Bibliography
13. Links

This page is written and maintained by Paul Orton of Red Flag Ltd.  Research on a book on Thomas Tew is underway; this page shews what was achieved by 1999.  For the rest, you will have to wait for the book, or email the author at the address below.

1. Introduction

Thomas Tew, the Rhode Island Pirate was active in the 1690s in the Red Sea, based in Bermuda, Rhode Island and New York.  His standard is shewn above8. Reports of his death in 1695 are a bit gory (see below), but apart from this isolated incident he was very successful in his chosen profession. He may have been my g7 great uncle, although there is some debate over this (see Tew's Family).

It is Tew who is credited with steering the rich "Madagascar trade" to the warehouses of New York2.

 

2. Tew's Early Days

Not much is known about Thomas Tew before his arrival in Bermuda in 1692. He was seen in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1694 by a traveller who he had known in Jamaica twelve years earlier (around 1682). It was claimed by a man named Weaver, counselor for the King during Fletcher's Decommissioning, that during Tew's stay at Bermuda "it was a thing notoriously known to everyone that he had before then been a pirate"4, and a sailor who had known him well testified that he "had been a rambling"9.

According to The Pirates of the New England Coast by Dow and Edmonds, Thomas, a young seaman hailing from Rhode Island, arrived in Bermuda with gold in his pockets and after a time purchased a share in the sloop "Amity", owned by merchants and officials living on the island, among whom were Thomas Hall, Richard Gilbert, John Dickenson, Col. Anthony White and William Outerbridge (a member of the Governor's Council). According to one source, Tew claimed to belong to a good Rhode Island family that had been there since 1640 (that of Richard Tew and Mary Clarke). 9

A British naval sloop of 12 guns anchored off Boston lighthouse, from an engraving by William Burgis dated 1729.  This shows the rig of the sloops operated in American waters in this period, such as the Amity. They were in demand by pirates and privateers such as Tew. [needs image]


Having interested his part-owners in the "Amity", a privateering commission was obtained from the governor.

Tew left Bermuda in command of the Amity by Governor Ritchier, with the aim of attacking the French at Goree on the river Gambia in West Africa, with another privateering sloop commanded by Captain George Drew. An agreement was signed and sealed between Tew, the other owners and the crew (agreement.html)11.

The owners were Thomas Tew, Henery Fyfeild, Thomas Wamsly, Richard Gilbert and Thomas Hall. The crew of 47 consisted of Thomas Tew, Nicholas Beare, Arthur Jones, David Basset, Barent Rynder, Hugh Frater, Thomas Leivis, Thomas Evin, Joshua Barnes, Kalop Mathos, Thomas Foild, Charles Roberts, Richard Want, John Dodd, Francis Wetherinton, Robert Silvester, Stephen Squire, Ieanda Dourneau, Thomas Way, Benji Doughtie, John Rowe, George Brok, John Baukes, Thomas Ball, John Johnson, Samuel Elatson, James Traworth, Anthony Bermingham, Carnolus Reeke, Thomas Phillips, William Clampsett, Paul Lafleus, Thomas Seele, William Noble, Peter Ledger, John Fredrick, Mingoe Smith, John Banks, John Green, John Coary, John Morris, Jacob Smith, Nicholas Cutler, Edward Woodman, William Howes and William Daniel.

Although the expedition had the aim of attacking the French in West Africa, the agreement that was signed was clearly aimed at dividing up any plunder. The agreement does not say who can or cannot be attacked, but just refers to the distribution of whatever valuables 'that shall bee ffound, Taken, Gotten, had or Recovered att any time or place or in any mannor dureing the whole terme of the said voyage or voyages or Expedition

3. From Privateer to Pirate

All of this chapter is from "The History of the Pyrates" by Captain Charles Johnson. See Separating Fact from Fiction for more detail on this book.

On the voyage out a violent storm came up; Drew's sloop sprung her mast and the two vessels lost sight of each other1.

According to Johnson, Tew called his crew and persuaded them to abandon their mission and organise themselves on a piratical basis, on the basis that an attack on the French factory would be of little value to the public and of no particular reward to them for their bravery. The crew cried out 'A gold Chain, or a wooden Leg, we'll stand by you'. The crew chose a quartermaster to represent them, without whose agreement the captain could not proceed.

They sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, and in time the Red Sea was reached.  As they were entering the Straight of Babelmandeb they sighted their first ship, a "tall vessel" leading a squadron of six bound from the Indies to Arabia.  She was manned by three hundred soldiers, but Tew told his men that this was their opportunity to strike for fortune, and the Arabs would be lacking in skill and courage. The ship was taken without loss, and the cargo of jewels and rare wares was worth over three thousand pounds per man (other reports give differing values).

According to Cordingly & Falconer7 this took place in the summer of 1693, and they tortured their captives for six days to reveal the whereabouts of the treasure.  I have not seen this report of torture repeated elsewhere, and does not fit with any other reports on Tew's conduct that I have seen.

They then headed for Madagascar where the quartermaster and 23 of the crew left the ship for a life of ease. The rest of the crew planned to return to America.

4. Link with Captain Misson

All of this chapter is from "The History of the Pyrates" by Captain Charles Johnson. See Separating Fact from Fiction for more detail on this book.

Before they sighted land they came a came across the Victoire. Tew stood towards her, hoisted black colours and fired a gun to windward. The Victoire hove to and fired a gun to leeward, then hoisted out a boat. Tew soon discovered that she was commanded by Captain Misson, a famous French pirate (or not - he was the leader of the "Republic of the Seas" a century before the French Revolution), and the Amity went to Misson's settlement of Libertatia on Madagascar. Tew was surprised to find the settlement well fortified; the first fort saluted them with nine guns.

Tew was invited to take part in a council of officers to consider what should be done with the large number of prisoners brought in by Misson. 73 were taken on and the rest were set to work on a dock half a mile above the mouth of the harbour.

Tew and his crew stayed with Misson until Tew was sent on a mission to seize slaving ships frequenting the coast of Guinea, with a crew of 200 (30 English, the rest French, Portuguese and negroes). North of the Cape of Good Hope he took a Dutch East Indiaman of eighteen guns and several chests of English crowns, which cost the life of just one man. Nine of the Dutchmen joined his company and the rest were set ashore in Soldinia Bay. On the coast of Angola he took an English vessel with 240 slaves abord whom the negroes in his crew found relatives. On hearing of the happy life to be found in Madagascar, with no slavery, the captured slaves were unchained and set to work on the building of the dock.

After his return Tew went on a four month trip around Madagascar charting the coast. Tew commanded the Liberty and the 'schoolmaster' the Childhood.

5. Return to Rhode Island

Tew then proposed that he should return to America and arrange with merchants to send ship's stores, clothing and a variety of luxuries to Madagascar. Some of his men also wished to return to their families, and so the Amity was refitted and Tew set a course for the Cape and from there to Bermuda. Tew came across contrary winds, and running into a brisk gale he sprung his mast, but after about a fortnight made it to his home in Newport.

From Newport he sent for his part-owners in Bermuda and a few weeks later a sloop arrived, commanded by Captain Stone, who, some years later, testified that when he presented his order to Captain Tew from the Bermuda owners, he found that part of the money was buried in the ground at Newport, and for the remainder he was obliged to go to Boston4. .

Outerbridge, the councillor, received 540 pounds left by Tew in Boston, and his entire share in the proceeds of the voyage amounted to over 3,000 pounds, which reached him in the form of Lyon dollars and Arabian gold. Tew's share in the proceeds amounted to about 8,000 pounds (depending on which report you read).

Tew had applied to the governor of Boston for a new privateering commission, but had been refused. For the sum of 500 pounds he obtained one in Rhode Island, which authorised him to seize the ships of France and the enemies of the Crown of England. In New York he found Frederick Phillips who was not averse to making profitable voyages to Madagascar, and soon the ship Frederick was dispatched with a full cargo. Seven years later Phillips was reported as having attained an estate of 100,000 pounds, much of it gained in the pirate trade to Madagascar.

6. Back to Madagascar

All of this chapter is from "The History of the Pyrates" by Captain Charles Johnson. See Separating Fact from Fiction for more detail on this book.

Not long after his return Tew went out on a cruise of the Red Sea with Misson, each in command of a ship manned by about 250, including many negroes. Off the coast of Arabia Felix they came upon a large ship belonging to the Great Mogul with more than a thousand pilgrims on board bound for Mecca, and 110 guns. The ship was taken without loss and, after consultation with the crew, the prisoners were put ashore near Aden, except for over 100 unmarried girls, aged from 12 to 18, who were kept for wives despite the tears and lamentations of their parents.

On returning to Madagascar they found in the hold a vast quantity of diamonds, rich silks, spices, rugs and wrought and bar gold. The ship was taken to pieces for the timber and the guns used in defending the mouth of the harbour. By this time they had cleared and cultivated a large area of land and had 300 black cattle.

One morning one of the pirate sloops came back into the harbour chased by five tall fifty-gun Portuguese ships. The two forts at the entrance to the harbour couldn't stop the ships, but the forts, batteries, sloops and ships sank two with many men drowned. The remaining ships had timed their attack so the turning tide would carry them out if they got into trouble, and they used this to make their escape. After a running fight, one was taken, leaving two to escape in crippled condition. This engagement apparently made much noise in Europe and America, and I am hoping to find evidence that the battle did actually occur. The two survivors of the fight returned to Lisbon with the story of their fight, which found its way to London with the credit given to Henry Every as "the pirate king" of Madagascar, operating a navy of 32 sail. Two captured Portuguese were discovered to have been previously captured and paroled on the basis that they would not fight against the settlement. They were hanged after some deliberation and murmerings- hanging was not popular as many of the company now and then felt a clutch at the throat.

Some of the Englishmen under Tew and the Frenchmen under Misson developed friction, which Tew suggested be fought out by the disputants. A meeting was called of the settlement, and a form of government was arranged. It was decided to separate into companies of ten, each of whom would elect a representative to aid in framing the laws. All treasure and cattle were equally divided and such land as a man might enclose by his labour would become his own. All hands shared in the building of a state house. At the first meeting Misson was elected conservator to serve three years, and it was arranged that the delegates of the tens would meet annually, or more frequently as required. Nothing was to be done without the consent of the the estate as thus organised.

Tew was made Admiral of the Fleet, and urged the building of an arsenal and the augmenting of the fleet. This was rejected on the grounds that men were required to till the soil at that time. Tew then proposed that he should go on a cruise in search of recruits, and went on a cruise on the Victoire and 300 men to bring in some volunteers. Tew first called on his former crew members where he went ashore. The governor (the ex-quartermaster) received him well but could not be persuaded to leave his comfortable situation where his company were free and independant of all the world. He wrote down some thoughts he had on the English government forming a colony in Madagascar, with the hope that the odious label of 'pirates' would be removed from his men. Late that afternoon a violent storm came up suddenly with so high a sea that Tew could not go out to his ship. The storm increased and in less than two hours the Victoire parted her cables and was driven ashore and the whole crew drowned in sight of Tew, who could not help them.

One morning some weeks later two sloops came to anchor and Captain Misson came ashore. News from the settlement was worse- the natives had attacked and killed men, women and children without mercy. The absence of the Victoire and also the Bijoux had left them with insufficient men to defend themselves. Misson had escaped with 45 men and a considerable weight of rough diamonds and bar gold.

The two captains agreed to abandon further roving and return to America where they could live in comfort and safety for the rest of their lives. Misson desired to visit his family, so they took a sloop each and divided the treasure. They set sail a week later, but off Infantes, before reaching the Cape, a storm sank Misson's sloop within a musket shot of Tew, who could give no assistance.

 

7. Rhode Island and New York

Tew returned to Newport, where his crew took their share of the treasure and quietly dispersed while Tew settled down to a quiet life. One of his company, Thomas Jones (not one of the crew in 1692), who had formerly sailed with "Long Ben" Avery, married Penelope Goulden and also settled down and lived in Rhode Island, but others squandered their shares and began soliciting him to make another voyage. For a time he refused, but was eventually persuaded to undertake one more voyage.

Thomas Tew is pictured here in conversation with New York's corrupt Governor Fletcher6.  Fletcher wrote in 1696 that 'Rhode Island is now a free port for pirates.  Thomas Tew... brought there 100,000 pounds from the Red Sea in 1694'.  Although Fletcher described him as a pirate, he commissioned him once more to sail against the French in Canada8.  A copy of this commission is in the Public Records Office in London4.

His frequent journeys to New York in connection with shipments to Madagascar and for the disposal of his wealth had given him an acquaintance with Governor Ben Fletcher, so in October 1694, he presented himself at the Governor's mansion to obtain a privateering commission. Flether gave Tew the commission on 8 Nov 1694, in receipt for 300 pounds. A report to the Earl of Bellomont, Fletcher's successor, claimed that it was well-known in New York that Tew had been roving in the Red Sea and had made much money.9

"He had brought his spoil to Rhode Island and his crew dispersed in Boston where they shewed themselves publicly. In 1694 or 1695 Tew came to New York, where Governor Fletcher entertained him and drove him about in his coach, though Tew publicly declared that he would make another voyage to the Red Sea and make New York his port of return... He fitted out his sloop in Rhode Island, whence he sailed to the Red Sea and there died or was killed. His crew picked up another ship at Madagascar."

 

8. Tew's Last Commission

Tew fitted out his sloop Amity for his new venture in preparation for getting his commission. He made no bones about his intentions and he talked freely to neighbours and strangers about his intentions. John Groves wrote to the Council for Trade and Plantations in 1697 that in October 1694:

I was travelling from New England to New York, when I saw 3 small ships, a sloop, a brigantine and a barque, fitting out at Rhode Island. The name of the master of the sloop was Thomas Tue, whom I had known living in Jamaica twelve years before. He was free in discourse with me, and declared that he was last year in Red Sea, that he had taken a rich ship belonging to the Mogul and had received for his owner's dividend and his sloop's twelve thousand odd hundred pounds, while his men had received upwards of a thousand pounds each. When I returned to Boston there was another barque of about thirty tons ready to sail and join Tew on the same account."

Ben Fletcher signed Tew's commission on 2 Nov 1694. Tew sailed from Newport, and was joined by Captain Want in a brigantine and Captain Wake in a small vessel fitted out at Boston. Want was Tew's mate on voyage in 1692 and returned with him and spent his share of the treasure in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. On this final voyage, Thomas Jones of Newport was also associated with him. One Captain Glover, in a ship owned by New York merchants, is also said to have joined Tew's fleet.

In June 1695 Tew was at Liparu Island at the mouth of the Red Sea, where with other English vessels he joined the fleet commanded by Captain Avery. Tew at that time had a crew of 'thirty to forty' men. After gaining information on ship movements they came across twenty-five ships, which they followed. The Amity was a bad sailor and could not keep up. The rest of the fleet captured two vessels which gave 60,000 pounds plus 1,000 pounds per man, for 180 men. This information came from the examination of John Dann, mariner of Rochester.

At this point Tew disappears from contemporary sources of information. Probably on an attack on the Fateh Muhammed, an Indian trading ship8, Johnson told that "in the Engagement, a Shot carried away the Rim of Tew's Belly, who held his Bowels with his Hands fome fmall Space; when he dropp'd, it ftruck fuch a Terror in his Men, that they fuffered themfelves to be taken, without making Resistance".1

Tew had probably been dead for well over a year by this time Robert Blackborne, the Secretary of the East India Company wrote to William Popple on 18 Dec 1696:

Captain Tew had a commission from the Governor of New York to cruise against the French. He came out on pretence of loading negroes at Madagascar, but his design was always to go into the seas, having about 70 men on his sloop of sixty tons. He made a voyage three years ago in which his share was 8,000. Want was then his mate. He then went to New England and the Governor would not receive him; then to New York where Governor Fletcher protected him. Colonel Fletcher told Tew he should not come back unless he brought a store of money, and it is said that Tew gave him 300 for his commission. He is gone to make a voyage in the Red Sea, and if he makes his voyage will be back about this time. This is the third time that Tew has gone out, breaking up the first time in New England and the second time in New York. The place that receives them is chiefly Madagascar, there they must touch both going and coming. All the ships that are now out [are] from New England, except Tew from New York and Want from Carolina. They build their ships in New England, but come under pretence of trading from island to island. The money they bring in is current there, and the people know very well where they go. One Captain Gough who keeps a mercer's shop at Boston got a good estate this way. On first coming out they generally go first to the Isle of May for salt, then to Fernando for water, then round the Cape of Good Hope to Madagascar to victual and water and so for Batsky, where they wait for the traders between Surat and Mecca and Tuda, who must come at certain time because of the trade-wind. When they come back they have no place to go but Providence, Carolina, New York, New England and Rhode Island, where they have all along been kindly received. It is hoped that by means of this information they may be taken.

 

9. Fletcher's Decommissioning

A letter from the Council of Trade and Plantations to Governor Fletcher, 1 Feb 1697 reads: "

...Futrther complaints have been made, especially from Jamaica, as to the entertainment of pirates in several places, and the King has given orders to the Governors of a ll Colonies to prevent the sheltering of pirates under the severest penalties. ...By information given lately at the trial of several of Every's crew, your Government is named as a place of protection to such villains, and your favour to Captain Tew given as an instance of it.

Fletcher was relieved of his governorship by Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, on 2 April 1698. His earliest efforts were to enquire into the Red Sea trade concerning which he reported to the Lords of Trade on 8 May 1698:

"I find that those Pirates that have given the greatest disturbance in the East Indies and the Red Sea, have either been fitted out from New York or Rhode Island, and manned from New York. ...It is likewise evident that Tew, Glover and Hore had commissions granted them by Governor Fletcher when none of them had any ship or vessel in Col. Fletcher's government, yet they had commissions and were permitted to raise men in New York and the design public of their being bound for the Red Sea. And Captain Tew, that had been before a most notorious Pirate (complained of by the East India Company), on his return from the Indies with great riches, made a visit to New York, where (although a man of most mean and infamous character) he was received and carressed by Col. Fletcher, dined and supped often with him and appeared publicly in his coach with him, and they exchanged presents, as gold watches, etc., with one another. All this is known to most of the city."

On 16 October 1696 the Lords of Trade made a detailed report on affairs in New York to the Lords and Justices, in which Tew's relations with Fletcher came under further review. Before coming to New York in 1694,

"the said Tew being in Rhode Island did offer unto John Easton, then Governor of that Colony, 500 for a commission, which was refused, though it is certain others there have been very guilty of that fault. And Governor Fletcher's commission to Tew, being dated in November the same year, makes it highly probable it was not granted for nothing."

Fletcher wrote to the Council of Trade and Plantations on 22 June 1697:

[since Leister] There have been no others [pirates] come into the province. Captain Tew brought in no ship to this port. He came as a stranger, and came to my table like the other strangers who visit the province. He told me he had a sloop well manned, and gave bond to fight the Frech at the mouth of the Canada river, whereupon I gave him a commission and instructions accordingly. I have given provate commissions to others of like nature who have done service against the enemy.

On his return to London Fletcher wrote on 24 December 1698:

"As for my intimacy and kindness with Captain Tew and the great presents from him, which is objected... This Tew appeared to me not only a man of courage and activity, but of the greatest sense and remembrance of what he had seen of any seaman that I ever met with. He was also what is called a very pleasant man, so that some times after the day's labour was done, it was divertisement as well as information to me to hear him talk. I wished in my mind to make him a sober man, and in particular to cure him of a vile habit of swearing. I gave him a book for that purpose; and to gain more upon him, I gave him a gun of some value. In return thereof he made me also a present, which was a curiosity and in value not much; and this is the sum of all the kindness I am charged with."

 

10. Separating Fact from Fiction

According to Johnson "Tew, in Point of Gallantry, was inferior to none".

Johnson claimed to have got his information on Tew from a member of Captain Misson's crew (Misson was a French pirate who, according to Johnson, founded Libertatia then joined up with Tew).4. Chapters 3, 4 and 6 of this page are based solely on "The History of the Pyrates". The chapter on Tew mentions various events which may or may not have actually taken place. I have not found out much on Captain Misson (or Mission) and there is no independant evidence that the pirate kingdom of Libertatia actually existed3, although between 1690 and 1720 Madagascar was the principal base of pirates preying on the rich trade of the Indian Ocean.  A visitor around 1700 counted 17 pirate vessels and an estimated population of 1500 men.8.

Most of what is known about Tew when he was at sea was originally from "The History of the Pyrates" by Captain Charles Johnson (follow the link to see the original chapter on Tew). This was generally accepted to be a pen name of Daniel Defoe (writer of Robinson Crusoe), but this now seems doubtful. The authorship of this book has been in question for some time.  I quote here from 'Life Among the Pirates, The Romance and the Reality' by David Cordingley:

Trial documents, naval logbooks, reports from colonial governors, and the depositions of captured pirates and their victims are the principal sources of information for the great age of piracy.  The other source, which has been much plundered by writers and film directors, is a remarkable book published within two or three years of many of the events described within its pages.  It is entitled A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates and its author was Captain Charles Johnson.  The first edition was published on 14 May 1724 and was so popular that other editions followed in rapid succession.  Johnson took most of his information from the transcripts of pirate trials and from the reports in contemporary newspapers such as the London Gazette and the Daily Post.  The vivid details of places and conversations suggests that he also interviewed seamen and former pirates.  He shows a familiarity with the use of seamen's language which indicates that he may have been a sea captain, although his name could be the nom de plume of a professional writer or journalist.

In 1932 the American scholar John Robert Moore announced at a literary meeting that the real author of the General History of the Pyrates (as it is usually known) was Daniel Defoe.1  He devoted several years to proving his theory and published his conclusions at length in Defoe in the Pillory and Other Studies (1939), and Daniel Defoe, Citizen of the Modern World (Chicago 1958).  Moore's arguments were persuasive.  He showed that the style of language used and the frequent inclusion of moral reflections was typical of Defoe, and pointed out that Defoe was clearly fascinated by pirates:  The year after publishing Robinson Crusoe, Defoe had written Captain Singleton, a work of fiction presented as the true autobiography of a pirate.  He had also published a biography of Captain Avery entitled The King of the Pirates, and an account of the Scottish pirate John Gow.

Professor Moore's reputation as the foremost Defoe scholar of his generation persuaded most of the libraries of the world to recatalogue the General History of the Pyrates  under the name of Defoe.  But in 1988 two academics, PN Furbank and WR Owens, demolished Moore's theory in their book The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe.  They showed that there was not a single piece of documentary evidence to link Defoe with the General History of the Pyrates, and pointed out that there were too many discrepancies between the stories in the book and the other works on pirates attributed to Defoe.  So convincing are their arguments that there seems no alternative but to abandon the attractive theory that Defoe wrote the General History of the Pyrates and to return the authorship of the work to the mysterious Captain Johnson.  Whatever the identity of the author, the book has had a far-reaching effect on the popular view of pirates.  It is the prime source for the lives of Mary Read, Anne Bonny and many other pirates of what is often called the Golden Age of Piracy.  It publicised a generation of villains, and gave an almost mythical status to men like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, who subsequently became the subject of ballads and plays.

Defoe was known for embellishing a small amount of truth with large amounts of fiction (such as with Robinson Crusoe), and passing it off as the truth. If he was the author of the General History of the Pyrates then it would be fairly safe to assume much of it was made up. If it was written by someone other than Defoe, which seems likely, then it may contain a greater degree of truth. I am attempting to identify what is known to be true about Tew.

Known Dates. As part of my quest to identify the truth in the writings about Tew, I have pulled out the various dates of known events in Tew's life:
About 1682. A traveller saw Tew in Newport in 1694, and said he knew Tew from Jamaica twelve years before.
June 1692. Signing of agreement between Tew, his crew, and the other owners of the Amity.
1694. Fletcher wrote in 1696 that 'Rhode Island is now a free port for pirates.  Thomas Tew... brought there 100,000 pounds from the Red Sea in 1694'.
1694. Tew was seen in Newport.

 

11. Tew's Family

It is not clear who Thomas's parents were. Richard Tew (1607) and his wife Mary Clarke produced three sons in Maidford, Northamptonshire:  William (1634-52), John (1636-51) and Richard (1638-1660) before the family sailed for America in 1640 producing  Seaborn, a daughter, on the way.  They produced more children in Rhode Island until 1654.  Working back from known dates, Thomas must have been born by 1650s at the latest, but the meticulously kept Quaker records do not show evidence of any such child being born to Richard and Mary.  Thomas may have been a son of one of the three older sons, all of whom died young (ages 18, 15 and 22)3.  Richard (1607)'s brother John (1610), the 'Doctor of Physick', had a son Thomas in 1656 who may have crossed the Atlantic and taken up piracy5 (although he may have been dead by 16833).  Alternatively, Thomas the pirate may not have been related to this Tew family- Thomas had connections with various Colonial Governors, which Richard Tew's family did not have, but this does not disprove a relationship.

It seems most likely that Thomas Tew the pirate was a fairly close relative of Richard Tew and Mary Clarke, and would have either been their son or grandson, or the son of Richard's brother John (1610).  I (Paul Orton) am descended from John, which would make Thomas Tew either my g7 great uncle, 1st cousin 9x removed, or 2nd cousin 8x removed.  Information on Thomas is limited, and it may be that Thomas was not related to the above Tews at all, as suggested by some. See my Tew History Page for more information on Richard and Mary Tew's family.

Thomas was reported to be entertained by Governor Fletcher in New York in 1694 with his wife and daughters dressed in fine silks. For such an occasion they would probably be at least of teenage years, which puts the first birth at around 1678. Thomas therefore was likely to have been born by 1658. This would have make him at least 34 when he received his commission in 1692. This leaves his possible parentage as being one of the following:
1) Richard Tew and Mary Clarke's last recorded child was in 1654, so there could have been a later child, although the meticulously kept Quaker records do not show any such birth.
2) Thomas could have been the son of one of Richard and Mary's three older boys- William (1634-52), John (1636-51 and Richard (1638-60), all of whom were born in England and died young in Rhode Island. William and John were both dead by 1652 (aged 18 and 15) but Richard was 22 when he died in 1660, which would have given time to produce a child (legitimate or not) between 1655 and 1660).
3) Richard Tew's brother John had a son Thomas in 1656 in Towcester, England. It would be perfectly possible for him to have travelled to America to be near his aunt and uncle in Rhode Island. I am now looking to see if there is a record of this Thomas's life.
4) He may not have been related to Richard Tew and Mary Clarke at all. It seems likely to be that he was, which would make him one of the above options, but this is by no means a foregone conclusion.
I am looking for more evidence of Thomas - he is recorded as having a wife, but I have not yet found evidence of a marriage, or to the baptism of any children. Of course Thomas may have not been a keen churchgoer!

Jerome Tew has supplied me with a file which shows the descendants of Richard Tew and Mary Clarke who settled in Rhode Island.

The name of Tew prevailed on Long Island into the Revolution. There is also a record of a James Tew being taken from a privateer and held prisoner in England at Forton in 17782.

 

12. Bibliography


1) The History of the Pyrates, by Captain Charles Johnson, Printed by T. Woodward, London, 1727ish.
2) Under the Black Flag, by Don C Seitz, published by Stanley Paul & Co., London (no date given)
3) Thomas Tew .. The Pirate, by Alan J Tew, revised Jan 1996.
4) Items held at the Public Record Office, London, and summarised by me.
5) Thomas TEW the Pirate, by Jerome D Tew, (Jun 1997).
6) Drawing of Thomas Tew and Governor Fletcher, as imagined by Howard Pyle.
7) Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality by David Cordingley:  Little Brown & Co, London, 1995.
8) Pirates Fact & Fiction by David Cordingly and John Falconer.  Collins & Brown Ltd., London, 1992.
9) The Pirates of the New England Coast by Dow and Edmonds, Chapter VI- 'Thomas Tew, who Lived at Newport'.
10) Agreement made between Tew, the other owners of the Amity, and the crew. Copy of original held in the Public Record Office, London.

The numbers in superscript above give reference to the source of the information used.  

 

13. Links

The New England Pirate Museum, who very kindly posted me some material recently.
Rhode Island USGenWeb Genealogy and History
The New England Historic Genealogical Society
The Rhode Island Genealogical Resources
The Crabs page on Heroes Rogues & Tough guys
The Pirates Library
The Pirates of the Caribbean
Another Pirate Page

Shewn here is a Coat of Arms supposedly accredited to the Tew Family. Supplied by Jerome Tew and interpreted by Paul Orton.


 Coincidentally, I have another pirate website, although I am reasonably certain that I am not related to my other buccaneering hero, Captain Pugwash.