Cape Coral writer provides pirate history
Author Wilson Hawthorne has written three novels on pirates and has a fourth on the way. His love of pirate history was on display at the Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Charley’s Boat House Grill last Thursday as the costumed Cape Coral native recited a poem about a pirate and then gave an account of his knowledge of swashbucklers.
Hawthorne, who performed at the Pirate Festival on Fort Myers Beach last weekend, penned his first book entitled “The Last Pirate” in 2008 about a “mythical” pirate named Gasparilla and a child who finds a treasure map the week Hurricane Charley hits Pine Island Sound and hunts down the gold. Sequels entitled “The Cajun Pirate” and “Curse of the Pirate” followed and the fourth installment “Pirate Dreams” is due out soon.
Pirate history dates back to the Spaniard’s arrival to the New World in the late 1400s and their pursuit of gold in South America and transportation of it back to Spain. Dutch and English settlers, who also grabbed island land, were taught how to smoke meat on the beachfront by Carib Indians in a large smoker called a “bucan.” They became known as buccaneers and were known to be marksmen.
“One day, one of them got the bright idea that (they) could probably take a ship. So, they crammed their canoes with as many buccaneers and muskets as they could, and they’d go after ships and began taking over ships,” said Hawthorne. “They were men who were on the run from their government or their debts or maybe even their religions.”
The pirate writer spoke about pirate missions, exploits and the fact that the buccaneers died out at the end of the 17th century. Others took over piracy until Henry Avery became the first pirate to get away with his craft and disappeared.
“In England and Ireland after that, he became a legend, a myth, the object of songs that were sung in the pubs and taverns. I’m sure he got romanticized and his legend grew and grew as these stories were told,” Hawthorne said. “That inspired a whole group of people to go to Nassau and become pirates. That included Blackbeard and Calico Jack and Anne Bonnie. That’s what they called the golden age of pirates from 1710 to 1720.”
Hawthorne stated the pirates became the counter-culture people who were against authority and shined in the public eye.
There are questions if pirates existed in Southwest Florida. Shipwrecks with musket balls trivialized it.
“Estero Bay and Pine Island Sound was perfect for pirates to come and hide from the law,” Hawthorne said. “‘Panther Key John’ told stories about being Gasparilla’s cabin boy. He claimed to be 119 years old before he died in 1900. That’s probably where a lot of pirate stories came from.”
Other accounts were told: Bruster Baker, who lived on Bokeelia; Augustus Black, who Black Island at Lovers Key is supposedly named for; and Black Caesar, who people say Captiva is named after and was aboard Blackbeard’s ship.
“There was probably tons of pirates, and there may even be some gold around here,” said Hawthorne. “If you are a weekend pirate like me, you get into that stuff.”
For more information about the author or his books, visit ThePirateNews.com.