Published 6:43 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009
Court case could set stage for examining 250-year-old bones
By TED STRONG
Local tradition has long claimed that pirates were among the early landholders along the Pamlico river and sound.
Now, a local historical researcher is looking for legal recognition he would try to leverage to show that at least one of them was a member of Blackbeard’s crew.
At a hearing Friday, historical researcher Kevin Duffus asked to be named executor for Edward Salter, a Bath man who has been dead for more than 250 years. Two of Salter’s descendants came from Missouri to back the move.
At issue is a box of bones in Raleigh. Duffus wants the remains tested to see if they are Salter’s and, if they are, reburied in accordance with Salter’s will. Duffus thinks they’re Salter’s bones, and he thinks Salter was a member of Blackbeard’s crew who escaped the noose and returned to settle in Bath.
The bones ended up in Raleigh after what was then TexasGulf asked for permission to install a bulkhead on the west bank of Bath Creek. Archeological examinations before the work was done yielded the remains. The state argued that it’s only duty is to conserve the remains permanently.
Both sides agreed that the hearing wasn’t a fight about the remains, but Duffus said he would use his position, if appointed executor, to “work with” state agencies to determine the identity of those bones.
Technically, the court has only been asked to decide if the estate of Edward Salter, the cooper, or barrel maker, who died in Bath in 1735 should be reopened. One of the key questions is if Duffus can prove the remains in Raleigh are those of the Edward Salter who died in Bath.
Duffus said the best he could determine was that Salter was the only owner of the property in that period to die while residing there. He also determined that he died before a churchyard was constructed at his church and that the remains are those of a man who did manual labor, particularly with his right arm.
Clerk of Court Martin Paramore must decide only if Salter’s estate should be reopened.
He won’t decide whether Edward Salter of Bath is the same man who joined Blackbeard’s crew near Puerto Rico, was captured by British authorities and taken to Williamsburg, Va., for trial.
An Edward Salter joined Blackbeard’s crew Salter’s ship was stopped by the pirate, according to an English affidavit from the 18th century, Duffus said. His occupation was listed as cooper.
According to Duffus, Salter bought thousands of acres of land, including the land on the west bank of Bath Creek.
Duffus’ attorney, Eric Groves, summed up his case: “We strongly believe, for a number of reasons, that they are (the remains of Edward Salter of Blackbeard’s crew), but he’s faced more problems in death, your honor, than … in life.”