The Legend of Graybeard


The Chesapeake Bay is rich with a colorful history spanning more than 400 years. However, few, if any, accounts have survived that accurately chronicle the fascinating story of the discovery and early settlement of Rock Hall, Md. - "The Pearl of the Chesapeake". While most explorations of the Chesapeake region originated between Cape Henry and Cape Charles, Virginia, the voyage of Graybeard, Rock Hall's celebrated pirate, orator and leader of men, originated in Great Britain at the turn of the18th century during the War of the Spanish Succession.
   Captain Albert Kendall Hall, an ambitious seafarer from Cornwall, England, rapidly rose through the ranks to become one of the youngest captains in the history of the British Royal Navy. In 1702, at just twenty-five years of age, he was easily distinguished by his unique, pre-maturely gray beard. While commanding the man-of-war, HMS Gratitude, Hall's unflinching, steadfast courage against the Franco-Spanish Fleet in the Battle of Vigo Bay earned him the nickname La Roca which translates into "The Rock." British naval historians believe that after the destruction of the Spanish at Vigo, La Roca illegally pillaged a huge bounty of silver, gold and "other fabled treasures" from the doomed galleons of the richest treasure fleet ever to sail the Spanish Main.
   Her Majesty, Queen Anne, summoned the triumphant La Roca back to England in 1703. She had fully expected to bestow upon him a well-deserved knighthood for bravery and exemplary service. However, to her shock and humiliation, the captain unexplainably absconded with his loyal crew of six aboard Gratitude, making off for the New World with much of the stolen treasure. The ship sailed westward at sunset and as accordion music played on the breeze, La Roca's crew exulted in song:

     "Hail Rock Hall, Hail Rock Hall
     Long live Graybeard - Pirates are we all
     Pirates are we all - pirates are we all
     Long live Graybeard - Hail Rock Hall"

     When the Queen became aware of La Roca's treasonous departure, she immediately ordered an "armada of tiny ships" to "pursue him to the ends of the earth" and upon his capture, to carry out specific secret instructions she had carefully sealed in an envelope. Believing that it takes a pirate to catch a pirate, the Queen chose Capt. Jay Hawkins, grandson of the notorious Elizabethan sea dog, Sir John Hawkins, to command the flotilla. The fleet quickly assembled and set out with Godspeed after La Roca. However, by the time the tiny ships got underway, HMS Gratitude could barely be seen. As her tall masts fell below the horizon, an accordion played and the sound of cheerful voices sang:

     "Hail Rock Hall, Hail Rock Hall
     Long live Graybeard - Pirates are we all
     Pirates are we all - pirates are we all
     Long live Graybeard - Hail Rock Hall"

     Although laden heavy with treasure, Gratitude stayed well ahead of her relentless pursuers on fresh winds and following seas. Nevertheless, the crew soon became restless when they began to run low on beer. It was just before happy hour during their second week at sea that a near-mutiny took place on the deck of the ship. The six angry men drew their swords and began to surround the Captain demanding that he turn back to England. It was at this defining moment that Graybeard's extraordinary gift of oratory would come forth. The Captain swiftly drew his sword and thundered to his threatening scallywags, "Stand down me lads, avast, avast! I know how to make it last." At once, silence befell the deck as Graybeard outlined his brilliant solution to the problem - and miraculously, the tension began to quell. Within a few days, the men had completely adapted to daily rations of ten-ounce beers. The crisis was averted and the issue never arose again. Graybeard smiled as an accordion played. His men burst into song:

     "Hail Rock Hall, Hail Rock Hall
     Long live Graybeard - Pirates are we all
     Pirates are we all - pirates are we all
     Long live Graybeard - Hail Rock Hall"

     Fearing that pirating would be too competitive in the Caribbean, Graybeard plotted a course for Delmarva on the northern coast of Virginia. Graybeard believed that Delmarva had been mistakenly designated a peninsula by map makers who had been too lazy to fully explore the area. The truth, he held, was that a northern passage existed, thus making Delmarva an island. They chose to sail north into the Delaware Bay where they would search for the passage and prove Delmarva was in fact, an island.
   When the pirates reached Cape May, New Jersey, they decided to stop for grub. They bartered pieces of eight with the natives for necessary supplies. Digging deep into one of the treasure chests, Graybeard found a tattered treasure map depicting a northern passage around the "Isle of Delmarva" exiting into the Elk River at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. An arrow pointed north and then south to a remote location on a small peninsula where a large black letter X marked a secluded spot. The Captain read the following words that were scrawled on the map. "Perla de la Chesapeake - quien posee esta perla encontrara vivir agradable eterno". This translated means, "The Pearl of the Chesapeake - He who possesses this pearl shall be granted an eternity of pleasant living".
   Graybeard had heard of the fabled pearl and having discovered the secret map marking its secret location, he got underway immediately making toward the northern passage to the Land of Pleasant Living. The crew began to sing:

     "Hail Rock Hall, Hail Rock Hall
     Long live Graybeard - Pirates are we all
     Pirates are we all - pirates are we all
     Long live Graybeard - Hail Rock Hall"

     The ship kept steadily on her northward course until the river began to narrow. Dodging shoals and large pieces of driftwood, the going became treacherous. Before long, the lookout in the crow's nest spotted an entrance to an uncharted tributary that Graybeard suspected was the mythical route. Although the channel was no wider than the ship was long, the Captain ordered Gratitude forward as they ventured into the unmarked opening. Since Graybeard's voyage pre-dated the age of electronics, he set two mates off in a dinghy to check the depth ahead. After several miles of scraping the bottom and waiting for rising tides, Gratitude suddenly stopped - she was hopelessly stuck in the mud and was unable to turn around. Once again, the Captain's remarkable resourcefulness came to bear. Graybeard ordered all men ashore, whereupon they began clearing a road for transporting the ship's contents over-land where they would reclaim it upon reaching the Chesapeake Bay. For several weeks, the pirates labored unloading cargo from the stranded ship and carrying it to a hiding place on the Chesapeake side of the passage. They called this hiding place, Chesapeake City. When the last of the cannons and treasure chests were removed, Gratitude was once again afloat and ready to make sail. Yet again, the men began to sing:

     "Hail Rock Hall, Hail Rock Hall
     Long live Graybeard - Pirates are we all
     Pirates are we all - pirates are we all
     Long live Graybeard - Hail Rock Hall"

     By August of 1707, Graybeard and his fearless lads had finally reached the spot that was marked on the map with an X. It was a most magnificent site with an abundance of fresh seafood, excellent sailing, secluded harbors, and everything they might have hoped to find in the Caribbean (except warm winters and blue water, of course). They moored the ship just off a small sandy beach where they buried their treasure, for fear that Jay Hawkins and his men with tiny dinghies might one day find them. Moreover, on August 11, as the men came ashore, they fittingly named their discovery in honor of their beloved leader, Graybeard himself - Captain Albert "The Rock" Hall.
   Graybeard and his men found a wonderful life in Rock Hall. As it turns out, because they had no use for it, they nearly forgot about the treasure they had buried on the beach. Before long, they had all found beautiful wenches, who would allow them to fish, sail and drink as much beer as they pleased. Graybeard knew that he and his pirates truly possessed the greatest treasure of all - the Pearl of the Chesapeake Bay - the Land of Pleasant Living. Watching as the sun slipped majestically below the distant horizon, Graybeard raised his ten-ounce can into the air. "Who lives better than us?" He heartily inquired upon his intrepid mateys. "Nobody"! Was the thunderous reply.

     "Hail Rock Hall, Hail Rock Hall
     Long live Graybeard - Pirates are we all
     Pirates are we all - pirates are we all
     Long live Graybeard - Hail Rock Hall"

Posted by Under The Black Flag on 1:56 π.μ.. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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