Friday, 14 December 2018 22:13

The Most-Successful Pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy: Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy ($120 million)

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Pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy Pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy Image from Wikipedia

Golden Age of Piracy: Top 10 Countdown Part X

This is Part A of the tenth and final installment of a series focusing upon the ten most successful pirates (as determined by the estimated total value of their combined hauls) of the Golden Age of Piracy (generally considered to have begun around 1700 and ended with the killing of Barthlomew “Black Bart” Roberts in 1722).


# 1. Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy: $120 million

While not usually mentioned in conjunction with some of his more famous pirate contemporaries such as Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, Black Bart, or even Calico Jack Rackham, “Black Sam” Bellamy (1689-1717) was indeed the highest-earning pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy (c. 1700-1725).

Bellamy’s early life is not well-documented, even by 17th century standards.  It is known that he was born in Devonshire, England, and records indicate that his mother, Elizabeth, died and was buried on February 23, 1689.  It is also known that he himself was baptized three weeks later (March 18th), thus leading to speculation that it was Sam’s birthing that killed her.

Emigrating to the American colonies at the age of 15 in search of relatives, Bellamy began his sailing career as a teenager in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Enlisting in the Royal Navy, Sam learned seafaring skills and was able to become familiar with the waters off the New England coast.  Soon, though, and just as was true with most, if indeed not all, of his contemporary pirates, Bellamy noted a potential for substantial wealth via operating as an entity unto himself.

Meanwhile, Bellamy seemingly developed a love interest.  The various accounts depict different versions as to what the true situation may have been.  Some indicate that the girl (identified as “Goody Hallett”) was of the same approximate age as Bellamy, while others state that she was much older.  It is also noted in local lore that either Bellamy was not deemed by her parents to be suitable for husbandry, or that Hallett was already married, or both. 

Regardless, it would seem that there was a serious attraction between the two, so much so that Bellamy’s decision to engage in piracy may have been because of her. There is speculation that it was at least partly his desire to impress Hallett that caused him to turn to piracy, viewing that as a way of making a quick fortune, with the idea of then returning to Cape Cod to entice her to join him.