Breaking News
More () »

A look at Blackbeard the pirate's legacy in Hampton Roads, tales of his local hidden treasure

Navy officers decapitated Edward Teach, the infamous English pirate, centuries ago. To walk in his footsteps, you don't have to travel far.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Despite the bulk of his pirating lasting only a few years in the early 1700s, the legacy of Edward Teach -- better known as Blackbeard the pirate -- lives on centuries later across the Hampton Roads region.

Blackbeard's name and image are synonymous with pirate lore in modern-day pop culture, but as historian Trish Thomas finds, many may not realize that his legacy is built around coastal Virginia and North Carolina's Outer Banks.

“There are three eras in the golden age of piracy; the third era is where Blackbeard was in. That era starts in 1713 with a treaty that ends the Spanish Succession, and a lot of sailors are out of work because of this," she said.

To walk in his footsteps, even centuries later, doesn't take a lot of traveling. 


Before the colonial beginnings of the United States, Blackbeard's pirating reputation was feared in the then-British colony. His looting and commandeering of vessels had put a stranglehold on Virginia's waterways and trade.

In November of 1718, Governor Alexander Spotswood issued an act before the Virginia General Assembly condemning piracy and awarding monetary compensation for the retrieval of various ranks. 

Blackbeard's name was the only pirate formally named in this act. 

"He read his act to encourage the apprehending and destroying of pirates. It read: ‘Any and all persons taking pirates on sea or land, shall be entitled to have and receive money for the treasury,'" Thompson said.

"The only proper name in this act is Blackbeard’s name. The money on his death was 100 pounds," she explained.

Shortly after, Spotswood commissioned Lieut. Robert Maynard into the then-sovereign colony of North Carolina, who tracked Blackbeard to the Outer Banks before the two squared off in what would be Teach's final battle. 

Blackbeard's crew was eventually brought back to the city, where they were later hung from the gallows.

RELATED: North Carolina wins court piracy case over Blackbeard's ship

Virginia Beach

The next time you drive by Pleasure House Road, know that you're driving by history. 

It was here that Blackbeard would wait for signals from modern-day Cape Henry, signs that would indicate which kinds of ships were passing through the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. 

If they were government ships, he'd hold off, but if they were trade vessels, he'd plunder. 

It's rumored that he buried his famed treasure at First Landing State Park. 


This is the final resting place of Blackbeard. 

Here, Blackbeard's decapitated head was put on a spike and displayed at the mouth of the Hampton River to discourage pirating in Virginia's waterways. 

Every year, the city of Hampton holds an annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival, an homage to the region's pirating history.

Thomas said it's been rumored that Blackbeard's head would eventually be used as a drinking mug at the Raleigh's Tavern in Williamsburg after it'd been plated with silver. 

“In a way it’s a story that can happen in any age," she said. "It starts with politics, ends in a dramatic death and teaches a lesson."

Before You Leave, Check This Out