The history of pirates in New Jersey

FRANKLIN. As part of the county library’s Oceans of Possibilities program, historian Fred Eckert illuminated the state’s place in pirate lore.

| 15 Jul 2022 | 11:04

The golden age of piracy thrived from 1690 to 1730. Yet yesterday’s pirates have a place in the history of the state of New Jersey and they left behind some important souvenirs in and around the state.

According to Fred Eckert, honorary pirate and historian, pirates are part of the “coolest history on earth.”

Eckert presented a PowerPoint demonstration and hands-on program on New Jersey pirates at the Franklin branch of the Sussex County Public Library System, in collaboration with the Library’s summer reading program Oceans of Possibilities. Decked out in full pirate garb, complete with a dangly earring, Eckert expertly defined the life of the 18th century pirate.

“They were totally interested in ships’ cargo, being steadfastly greedy for gold, silver, silk, cotton, sugar and of course rum,” Eckert said.

Pirates lived and died by a very rigid code, democratically electing their ship’s captain, they also freed Black slaves and offered them equal positions on their pirate ships.

New Jersey, one of the 13 original colonies, was perfect for a career as a pirate, with ocean frontage and loaded with intricate barrier islands.

Participants in the July 12 program were able to observe muskets, cutlasses, daggers, flintlocks and three-pound cannon balls.

Eckert elaborated on three famous pirates who frequented the Jersey coast. Captain William Kidd was known to have buried treasure on Long Island and the Jersey shore, namely, Cape May, Toms River, Sandy Hook, the Brigantine inlet and at the mouth of the Raritan River.

Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, pilfered for only a short two years, but was an intimidating character. He allegedly buried his pirate booty in Cape May and Burlington. The most wanted pirate by the law was Bartholomew Roberts, or Black Bart. He captured and looted between 400 to 450 ships. Black Bart supposedly sank his huge treasure in the Delaware Bay.

New Jersey is known as the Garden State; maybe it should also be known as the Treasure State. For more programs like this, check out what the Sussex County Library has planned at