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Tag Archives: Virginia

Early American Criminals: Francis Burdett Personel and the Liberty Pole

Constable Mr. Van Gelder was just about to abandon his search. He had recently been sent to New Haven, CT to find Francis Personel by New York City mayor Whitehead Hicks, who had learned that Personel was possibly hiding out in that city. But what Van Gelder did not know was that at the same […]

Early American Criminals: Thomas Hellier’s “Hell upon Earth”

With the ill treatment by his mistress “burning and broyling in [his] Breast,” Thomas Hellier, an indentured servant on a Virginia plantation, knew he had to escape. In 1677, Hellier was tricked into signing an indentured servant contract back in England with the promise that he would not be forced to perform physical labor and […]

Early American Criminals: The Last Stand of Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard

The merchants and planters in and around Bath, North Carolina had had enough of Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard. The pirate had been living–and carousing–in town, and had been pillaging ships up and down the inlets and rivers of the colony. But the citizens knew that they could not complain to Governor Charles Eden of North […]

Special Announcement: My New Book on Convict Transportation Is Now Available

My new book, Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America, has just been published by Pickpocket Publishing and is available for purchase. I hope you enjoy reading it. Paperback ($16.99) and Kindle ($4.99). Smashwords: All e-book formats ($4.99). The book will soon be […]

Crime and Prison Songs: “John Henry”

“Take My Hammer” is a work song that possibly has roots going back to the time of slavery and was sung by convicts who were leased to dig tunnels through the Appalachian Mountains: Take my hammer, Carry it to the captain, Tell him I’m gone, Tell him I’m gone. If he ask you was […]

Early American Criminals: Stephen Smith on the Common

Stephen Smith was born a slave in 1769 in Virginia. His last name was originally Allen, but he changed it to Smith in order to escape from the master who owned him, William Allen. Smith’s father was a religious man, but his mother encouraged him to steal. With her prompting, Smith committed several small […]

Early American Criminals: Thomas Mount and the Flash Company

In April 1791, Thomas Mount and James Williams were thrown in the Newport, RI jail to be held until their execution for burglary. Williams was reticent to discuss his life or the crime that the two committed, but Mount not only willingly talked at length about these topics, he divulged the inner-workings of the […]

The End of Convict Transportation: After Servitude

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. Most transported convicts did not make it back to England. Escape was difficult, and the passage back to England was expensive. Even if some convicts were able to return to England after serving out their 7- or 14- year term, […]

Transported Convicts in the New World: Convicts Who Returned to England

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. Most of the convicts who were sent to America from Great Britain stayed in America, but some made it back to their home country, legally or illegally. Convicts who escaped, ran away, or purchased their freedom soon after landing in […]

Transported Convicts in the New World: Runaways

Note: This post is part of a series on Convict Transportation to the American colonies. Lots of convict servants tried to run away from their owners in an attempt to escape harsh treatment from them or to regain their freedom and possibly return to Great Britain, or both. Almost as soon as the practice of […]