Well on a positive note I made it through the night alive and I made a major breakthrough on my research. But, I have no idea how I am functioning right now…I can barely look at the screen without wanting to throw up, my eyes are in so much pain.
I woke up pretty early this morning (in fact I don’t think I slept at all, I spent most of the night reading my textbooks in attempt to knock myself out) so I was able to get to the historical society right when they opened up. (I went straight for the microfilm since I knew it would probably take hours. I don’t know if you’ve ever used one of these horrendous machines before, it’s the one with the knobs that you have to use to move the images along and after awhile your fingers start to hurt. I’ve successfully avoided it for most of my academic career, because digital copies have been available. But since I am getting to the point where I need to do some of my own fieldwork I cannot avoid it any longer.)
Though I did not mention this in great detail in my previous blog posts, from what I learned from the hostess of the restaurant I made a guess that the pirate was operating somewhere around what is now known as Gloucester, Virginia. I started looking for blurbs in either local newspapers or those of neighboring cities (Norfolk and Richmond were the two that came to mind first) reporting boat robberies on the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. I was unable to find newspapers from that area and the newspapers from Richmond yielded no results…therefore I decided to make a trip to the local historical society to see if they had any local newspapers from that time.
It took me eight, long, dreadful hours with a small break for lunch to locate these two short articles. Unfortunately they don’t appear in any particular order at all so you have to go through all of the slides so you do not miss anything. On top of that once I found the articles, there was no way to get a copy of them, apparently the machine is broken, so I had to transcribe them by hand.
Here is what I found:
July 15th, 1876:
Earlier this morning the press received a report from the sheriff in Gloucester, Virginia that a local man had been robbed the previous night while sailing back home from Maryland. The victim, a fisherman named John Preston, was aboard his small craft on the evening of July 14th when a vessel approached from the left side of his boat. According to the sheriff’s report, Preston asked the sailors aboard the unidentified vessel if they were lost or in distress when one anonymous man threatened Preston with a large gun mounted on the deck of the other vessel.
When asked if he was hurt, Preston only replied that he was in fine condition and without injury. According to his account of the incident, it was too dark to identify the man who threatened him. Preston was instructed to stay put while two other men boarded his boat and removed all the valuables. Missing are seven dollars, Preston’s monthly earnings, a gold watch and a photo frame. The elusive men responsible for this incident have not been apprehended.
August 1, 1876
Two men were robbed last night in an attack on their ship. The two men, who have chosen not to give their names, were aboard their ship when an unidentified vessel sailed up to them, seeming to ask for help. When the innocents’ boat moved in closer, a man on the deck pointed to a large gun mounted on his deck and manned by a member of his crew. He then demanded that the two men remain on deck, while a third man was able to board the boat and rob the Innocents of all that was valuable. The robbers have not been identified or caught.
I hope that I’m on the right track here! Unfortunately I was so consumed by the microfilm that I forgot to talk to the local historian, and by the time I had finished she had already left for the day. I got her contact information, her name is Irene. I might stop by her house tomorrow before I leave for home. At first I thought that might be a little weird, but the girl at the desk actually encouraged it. (Must be a small town thing.)
And before my eyes start bleeding, I am going to go get some sleep. I am pretty sure I am not going to have trouble tonight.
My sources were: Landmark (1873), Portsmouth Star (1894).