About John Darvil, Jr.
John Darvil Jr. was an infamous Bahamian pirate in the early 1700s.
His father, John Darvil Sr., owned a fleet that sailed from the Eleuthera, then the chief inhabited Bahamian island, to Cuba in 1715. John Jr. was 17 at the time and was a key participant in the successful Bahamian raid. Along with five other men, John captured more than 11,000 pieces of eight during the raid, along with gold and silver trinkets from the treasure ship. Some of these items continued to be willed down through the Darville family, including gold rings, silver buttons, pewter spoons and basins, iron pots, and a silver toothpick.
Family lore holds that the majority of his monetary take was used to purchase large amounts of land on Long Island in the Bahamas, but accounts from the time suggest much of the loot was repossessed by the British government in the region. It is known that Darvil was taken to Nassau for trial but soon released as other pirates threatened the government with violent, personal retaliation.
Historians Michael Craton and Gail Saunders note that the relatively small amount of take mentioned in his will "scarcely seem a rational recompense for the risk of death in battle or on the gallows." (113)
Excerpts from a letter from Thomas Walker, reprinted in Sandra Riley's book Homeward Bound:A History of the Bahama Islands to 1850:
In his March, 1715, correspondence to the Council, Thomas Walker assured their lordships that in "discharging his duty and loyalty to His Majesty" he had spent his "time in takeing upp pirats and routeing them from amongst these islands" and promised to "persevere" in these pursuits until a govenor was sent out. When the govenour arrives, he went on to say, he will be hard pressed "to curbe the exorbitante tempers of some people" and will find "inhabitants upon Ileatheria and the out Islands in arms to deffend themselves against justice."
Enclosed in Walker's correspondence were papers relating to his recent confrontation with Eleutheran pirates who had voyaged out against the Spanish. Included among those on a list of designated pirates were some inhabitants who may have decided that turnabout was indeed fair play:
List of men that sailed from Ileatheria and committed piraceys upon the Spaniards, on the coast of Cuba, since the Proclamation of Peace: Daniel Stillwell, married to John Darvill's daughter. John Kemp, Matthew Lowe, James Bourne, John Cary (all married). John Darvill sent his young son of 17 yeares old a-piratting and was part owner of the vessell that committed the piraceys. Strangers that sailed from Ileatheria a-piratting: -Benjamin Hornigold, Thomas Terrill, Ralph Blankenshire, Benjamin Linn.
Mention of Darvill and others is also in letter from Lt. Gov Spotswood to Council of Trade and Plantations, Virginia, 3 July 1716, CSP, 29:141.
- Craton, Michael and Gail Saunders. Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People, Vol 1. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999.
- Riley, Sandra and Thelma Peters. Homeward Bound: A History of the Bahama Islands to 1850. Miami: Riley Hall, 2000.