Bath commemorates Blackbeard’s death with weekend celebration

Published 1:33 pm Monday, October 15, 2018

They were a Jackson, a Brooks, a Salter and Boyd. The names still exist today, in and around the town of Bath. What they share is a history — a 300-year-old history that points to pirates of high seas. They were part of Blackbeard’s crew.

2018 marks the 300th anniversary of death of the notorious pirate and the capture of his crew in a battle off of Ocracoke. The captured and Blackbeard’s head — proof of his death — were returned to Bath. Next weekend, the town will commemorate the occasion and its more than 300 years of history with two days of festivities and events hosted by the Greater Bath Foundation, starting with a mock hearing to “Reconsider the Guilt or Innocence of the Pirate Blackbeard and His Shipmates From Bath, North Carolina” on Friday and ending with fireworks over Bath Creek on Saturday night. In between is everything from food and live music to a pirate parade, sword-fighting and a sea battle.

“We want it to be fun, and we want it to be family friendly, and we want it to be unusual,” said Kevin Duffus, a noted historian who’s written several books on the pirate.

Recreating a mock hearing starts the unusual off on Friday: the hearing will be held Superior Courtroom at the Beaufort County Courthouse in Washington; the presiding judge will be District 1 Superior Court Judge J. Carlton Cole. District Attorney Seth Edwards will argue on behalf of Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood and British Royal Navy Lt. Robert Maynard, each responsible for Blackbeard’s death and the capture of his crew, and attorney J. Erik Groves will take up the case for Capt. Edward Thatch and his shipmates. Surrounding the real practitioners of law will be actors portraying the roles of Blackbeard, Spotswood, North Carolina Governor Charles Eden, the pirate/slave Caesar and more.

“The trial is going to be mostly scripted, partly because the witnesses, the actors, have to adhere to facts,” Duffus said. “Judge Cole’s decision is totally upon him and how the testimony strikes him. Ultimately, this is learning experience, it’s a teachable moment, not only about history but how history can sometimes be misunderstood.”

In addition to those who reserve a seat at the hearing, some of the hearing’s audience will consist of students, Duffus said.

“In the jury box, we’re going to seat Beaufort County Schools students. They’re not going to be a jury per se, but I think Judge Cole is going to query them as to how they react to the testimony,” Duffus said. “It’s my hope that these young people who will be in attendance Friday afternoon will someday be telling their grandchildren about it.”

Later on Friday, “An Evening with Blackbeard and Friends” will be held at the Turnage Theatre in Washington. The fundraiser for the Town of Bath, it starts with a reception entitled “A Taste of 1718,” featuring Native American and English foods common three centuries ago, presented by caterer Carryout by Chrislyn. Duffus will also hold a discussion of controversial topic: whether Blackbeard’s death was justice or murder. The evening wraps up with lighter fare: a gameshow on the Turnage stage: “Will the Real Blackbeard Please Stand Up?” in which a panel tries to determine which of three Blackbeards is the real deal.

“I produced this a year ago out in Ocracoke. It was so hysterical, we could hardly get through it,” Duffus laughed.

The following day, Oct. 20, is brimming with events starting at 10 a.m. and running through 9 p.m. when the fireworks are set to go off. In addition to live music, vendors, re-enactments, historical lectures and more, Duffus said there are several highlights, including a sea battle and cannon fire at Bonner’s Point.

“One of (the cannons) is a 6-pounder, which is going to rattle some windows, I think,” Duffus said.

Following a children’s Pirate Parade, an attempt to break a world record of amassing the greatest number of Blackbeards in one location will take place. At 11:45 a.m. at St. Thomas Church, all Blackbeards — men, women, children — are asked to gather.

“We’re encouraging all these kids to wear beards and even my dogs are going to be wearing beards,” Duffus said. “There are various ways you can make a beard — mine is made of yarn. … Those are all fun things, but then there are some significant things.”

One of the significant things includes Duffus’ program on the “The Pirate’s Daughter,” and the discovery of a portrait of Blackbeard’s crewmember Edward Salter’s daughter, Hannah — the earliest known painting of a resident of Beaufort County, painted between 1755 and 1765. Another is recognition of descendants of Blackbeard’s pirates and those who took part in their capture. A direct descendent of crewmember Edward Salter is traveling from Oklahoma to take part in the festivities.

While there are many towns that celebrate Blackbeard with pirate festivals, including Beaufort and Hampton, Virginia, Bath holds a very unique place in Blackbeard history, and it’s one worthy of two days of festivities, according to Duffus.

“There are places that are celebrating Blackbeard where Blackbeard never set foot. We can say with confidence that Blackbeard walked the streets of Bath. This is really one of the only legitimate places that can claim Blackbeard history, along with Ocracoke,” Duffus said.

The Beaufort County Courthouse is located at 112 W. Second St., Washington.


Blackbeard 300 Schedule of Events


2 p.m.

Beaufort County Courthouse

112 W. Second St., Washington

“Blackbeard’s Trial — A Mock Hearing to Reconsider the Guilt or Innocence of the Pirate Blackbeard and His Shipmates From Bath, North Carolina.” Local attorneys, posing as historic figures, will argue Blackbeard and crew’s case 300 years later — did the colony of Virginia legally have the right to dispatch forces to the colony of North Carolina to capture Blackbeard? Superior Court Judge J. Carlton Cole will preside over the hearing that could give a new take on an old story. (Limited seating; reservations are required by calling Court Coordinator Paula Wethington at 252-940-4076 or emailing


6:30-10 p.m.

Turnage Theatre

150 W. Main St., Washington

A fundraiser for the town of Bath, “An Evening with Blackbeard and Friends” combines “A Taste of 1718”, a look back into culinary arts, the mystery of Blackbeard, with a controversial program “Was Blackbeard Murdered?” and the gameshow “Will the Real Blackbeard Please Stand Up?,” a hilarious take on the pirates of yore. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased by calling Elna Lewis at 252-943-7033 or emailing




All day long in Bath

Visit the exhibit “300 Years of the Iconography of Blackbeard the Pirate” at Swindell Store; tour pirate encampments at Bonner’s Point, experience the Canon Crew, Pirates of Port Royal Jamaica exhibit, Half Crown Bakehouse, Campbell Cannon and Carriage Works, Colonial Seaport Foundation, The Sword Conservatory,  and helicopter rides at Catnip Point Road.


10 a.m.

Main Street

Vendors and food trucks open for business

10:50 a.m.

Bonner’s Point 

Cannon Salvo at (Six-pounder!) marks the start of the festivities. Families are invited to gather here for children’s Pirate Parade.

11 a.m.

Bonner’s Point Main Stage

Shadow Players sword fighting demonstration, welcome from the Greater Bath Foundation President, Jason Pair, followed by a discussion of Blackbeard’s connections with Bath in 1718 by historian Kevin Duffus.

11:20 a.m.

Bonner’s Point

Skydivers land on the west point.

11:30 a.m.

Main Street

Blackbeard leads the children’s Pirate Parade northward up Main Street taking right onto Craven to St. Thomas Church for photo op.

11:45 a.m.

St. Thomas Church

World’s Largest Gathering of Blackbeards. Dress the part of a pirate — all “Blackbeards” are welcome at this piratic attempt to break the record!


Swindell Store

2014 NC Historian of the Year Kevin Duffus discusses Blackbeard’s “Secret Midnight

Meeting at Tobias Knight’s Bath Plantation.”

Noon – 1 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Live music: The Rusty Cutlass Band.

12:15–1 p.m.

Low Tide Realty

Live music: Motley Tones.

1–1:15 p.m.

Bonner’s Point

Cannon demonstration by Campbell Cannon and Carriage Works.

1:15–2 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

The Rusty Cutlass Band performance.

2–2:30 p.m.

Off Bonner’s Point

Epic Sea Battle off Bonner’s Point — Capt. Horatio Sinbad’s Meka II plays the role of a merchant ship fending off the attacks of Blackbeard’s sloop Adventure.

2:30–3 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Shadow Players pirate entertainment.

3 p.m.

Swindell Store

2014 North Carolina Historian of the Year Kevin Duffus program, “Was Blackbeard Murdered?”

3:15–3:45 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Live music: The Rusty Cutlass Band.

3:45–4 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Greater Bath Foundation President Jason Pair thanks sponsors and crowd.

4–4:30 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Sword-fighting demonstration by the Shadow Players Stage Combat Group.

4:30–5 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

The Blackbeard Reunion — Introduction of descendants of Bath’s Pirates and other VIPs of 1718. Presentation of the Pardons of Forgiveness to descendants of Blackbeard’s pirates.

5:15 p.m.

Swindell Store

2014 North Carolina Historian of the Year Kevin Duffus program “The Pirate’s Daughter,” the amazing story of the only portrait known to exist of a family member of one of Blackbeard’s pirates.

5–5:45 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Live music: Kyle Whitford.

6–6:30 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Live music: Motley Tones.

6:30–7:30 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Live music: The Patriots Family and Friends Reunion Tour.

7:30–7:50 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

The Greater Bath Foundation – Thank you’s and sponsor recognition.

7:50–9 p.m.

Bonner’s Point Stage

Live music: The Patriots Family and Friends Reunion Tour.

9 p.m.

Fireworks over Bath Creek.