Genealogy Resources: Steps In Time

Babb Family Anecdotes and 'Yarns'

None of the following stories originated with me but they are my favorite ones! How many of you can claim a pirate? How many of you would WANT to claim a pirate? Some call this the story of "Ocean-Born Mary Fulton" (her true and full name). Without Phillip Babb, alias "Pedro the Pirate", on the day of her birth, she may well have been only Helen Fulton, and died in obscurity, possibly as a scullery maid.

How much of the story is fact? I don't really know. Possibly no one does. It is a combination of fact, hearsay, legend, and a little bit of wishful thinking. Wishful thinking? That is what we all do when we want to make a connection today to something in the past which we want, need, or just wish we could. Wishful thinking is what we, as researchers, must be very careful about when we are accepting data which has no documentation.

The christening of Mary at sea by Pedro is authentic, as recorded by a Col. Coggswell in his "History of Henniker". Other contributors have been members of the Wallace family who were direct descendants of Ocean-Born-Mary, as well as Kirk Pierce, the nephew of President Franklin Pierce. Let's listen as the story unfolds:

The story of Ocean-Born-Mary began on a ship at sea. It was in the year 1720 that a group of emigrants sailed on the "Wolf" from Londonderry, Ireland for America. While becalmed off the coast of Massachusetts, they saw a long, low, sinister-looking ship approaching. The stranger displayed no colors, and suddenly its crew fired a gun across the bow of the unarmed emigrant vessel.

"Pirates!" The warning cry passed from mouth to mouth as a boat put out for the Wolf from the rakish frigate. A blanket of fear settled over the doomed ship. Men stood helplessly silent; women prayed and sobbed hysterically.

In moments sun-bronzed men, cutlasses and pistols gleaming, clambered over the rail. The pirate leader, a fierce, dark man with bits of burning tallow stuck in his ears and whiskers, grimly told his captives to prepart for the plank. But as he spoke, the faint cry of a baby came up from below deck. He turned and tramped down the companionway to a cabin in which young Elizabeth Fulton had just brought new life into the world.

The tiny helplessness of the infant touched the heart of Pedro the Pirate. His rugged face broke into a smile as he said to the terrified mother: "Give me leave to christen this baby and promise to keep the name I give her, and I will not harm this ship or its passengers."

Elizabeth Fulton promised. A few moments later a strange crowd was assembled on deck. One could see wide-eyed emigrants, bewildered crew hands, and rough sailors in colorful garb. Eye patches were seen here and there. Look, there's a peg leg!

Holding the new-born girl in his arms, the pirate intoned, "I christen you Mary for my mother. And as you were born on the sea, your name shall by Ocean-Born Mary. May you always have a happy life and everything you want."

Regretfully he surrendered the infant to her father standing beside him. He then led his men over the rail and back to their boat. Then, just as the emigrants were rejoicing at their escape, panic again seized them. The pirates were returning!

"A present for Ocean-Born Mary!", the captain shouted as he tossed a bolt of greenish-grey tapestry silk, embroidered in a flower design, onto the deck. "Goods for her wedding dress! Maybe, someday, I'll be seeing her again."

The wind freshened and the two vessels parted company. Soon after the emigrants landed in Boston Harbor, Ocean-Born Mary's father died. The mother remarried and brought the baby to Londondarry, named after their old home in Ireland.

Ocean-Born Mary grew into a tall, lovely Irish lass with red hair, white skin and green eyes. In 1743, she married Thomas J. Wallace in a gown made from the embroidered silk that was the pirate's gift. A piece of the cloth is still preserved in the Henniker (N.H.) Public Library. Widely known for her beauty and her skill with the spinning wheel, she became the mother of four boys, all unusually tall. Like her mother before her, she became a widow at an early age.

About this time the old pirate captain remembered the girl he had named. Aged, tired of pillaging, and seeking peace, he gave up the sea. His ship's carpenters and his slaves came with him to build a fine house on an isolated mountain side near Henniker, New Hampshire. The house was a fine house built square, with a solid high structure, sporting dormers and railings. This was truely a sea captain's house. It was a very large estate for those days. It had an ell, then the house, then another ell, a wood shed, and three large barns, all connected. The foundation from one end to the other measured more than 275 feet. It was painted the old iron oxide red, probably dug in the vicinity. It had white trim and green doors. The slaves and a few remaining members of his old crew stayed with him. Then, one day, he sent for Mary, his mother's name sake to come and live in the house, and take care of him in his declining years. Here she could raise her sons to manhood.

Although still young and attractive enough to take her choice of husbands, Ocean-Born Mary accepted the old pirate's offer. Pedro presented the mistress of the manor with a coach-and-four in which she often rode with her boys over the mountain road to the village.

According to one account, Pedro was actually Phillip Babb, a buccaneer of the New England coast who had sailed under Captain William Kidd, the infamous privateer. When Kidd, falsely accused of piracy and murder, was hanged in 1701, Babb turned to high sea robbery.

At his home near Henniker, life flowed smoothly for several years, till one day Captain Pedro returned from a trip with a hugh wodded chest. Late that evening, with the help of one of his old crew members, he carried the chest out of the side door of the house. The sound of shovels broke through the quiet night. Then came the sudden groan of a man in agony, followed by silence. The Captain returned to the house - alone.

About a year later, Ocean-Born Mary came home to find the place empty. In the orchard she found the body of the Captain killed by a sailor's cutlass. Probably another member of his former crew had returned to avenge his comrade. Perhaps anticipating this fate, the old pirate had left instructions for his burial.

That night in the light of flickering candles, Ocean-Born Mary carried out the Captain's wishes. With the help of slaves, she raised a heavy eight by three foot slab of stone that rested in front of the huge kitchen hearth, and the body was buried beneath it. Then the heavy hearthstone, with a hole drilled in the center, was lowered back into place where it remains to this day. This has been the story of Pedro the Pirate, said to have been my immigrant ancestor, Phillip Babb.

What about Mary? Well, her sons grew into manhood, and all four fought in the American Revolution. Mary died on 2/13/1814 and is buried at Henniker, New Hampshire. She was 94 years of age. Mary lived in the house that Pedro built, and legend has it that she haunts the house. The home has been restored by Mr. and Mrs. L.M.A. Roy

What was in the trunk and why was his helper killed? Well, reportedly the trunk was filled with jewels, gold coins and valuables of worth untold. Of course, the helper could not be allowed to tell of its location. I have an old photograph that is suppose to be this buried trunk - oh, well, to the next story.

Arriving in Delaware the Babbs had become Quakers in good standing but the family temperament apparently was not suited to the for the Quaker lifestyle. In the Quaker records we find Babb after Babb being disowned for many infractions of the Quaker discipline. Most of the disowned seem to have taken their punishment in stride. One, however, was not able to shoulder the punishment. This was Sampson Babb, a great-grandson of Phillip, who was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Sampson, son of Peter and Mary Lewis, being the son of good Quaker parents was brought up in that faith. But like a number of other Babbs of his generation he evidently found the life of a Quaker too difficult. In 1767, about the time he married Anne Way, the daughter of John Way and Ann Hannum, the Society disowned him for keeping and playing a fiddle. Sampson continued to live for a while in Chester County, but in 1786 the county seat was moved to West Chester and he moved with the seat. He opened a tavern and became a prosperous tavern keeper. Three years later he built the Black Bear Hotel, which remained in the Babb family until 1867, at which time it was torn down and replaced by the Farmer's National Bank Building.

But this life was not for him. About 1800 he left West Chester for the wilderness of old Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Tioga County at that time belonged to the County of Northumberland, and was exceedingly wild and forbidding. There were no white settlers for miles and the country was mountainous and dangerous. So when Sampson made his way up Pine Creek and settled on a tributary of that stream he bacame the first settler in this recently opened territory. The stream on which he settled is known even today as Babb's Creek.

Though he was seeking solitude, he was never the less a courageous man, and was well pleased that he had found a place where he could bury himself from the world. Though past middle life, he went to work to clear a farm. His wife, Ann and several sons accompanied him into the winderness, but the life there was not for Ann. After a few years she returned to West Chester leaving Sampson and two sons, William and Jacob to tame this wild land. Sampson acquired more land and laid out another farm, followed by the building of a flutter wheel saw mill in 1806.

Tioga was no longer the unsettled winderness that Sampson had found, but the advent of neighbors did not seem to bother him. He favored the building of a road through the area and assisted in its construction.

After more than twenty years of seclusion and hard work, Sampson died in October of 1815. In his will he stated that he wanted to be buried in the northwest corner of his garden and walled in. This request was carried out. In later years, however, road improvements caused the grave to be moved to another spot. Sampson provided for his wife during her life though she lived in West Chester for the last fifteen or twenty years of his life. His two farms were divided among all of his sons. This was the life of the Babb disowned for having kept and played a fiddle.

There were many pioneers among the early Babb families. When my Joseph Babb settled in the Piedmont section of South Carolina prior to the American Revolution, the land granted him by George III was described as "containing two hundred and fifty acres on Beaver Dam Branch in Berkeley County (which at that time extended all the way across the state), bounded to the South East by land of Pennington, on all other sides by vacant lands", the so called vacant lands being occupied by the Cherokee Tribe of Indians.

...and in Greenville County lived ol' Tully Babb. He had more land than you could shake a stick at. He also had a still...the biggest and best apparatus for distilling liquids that could be found at any grist mill anywhere, near or far! The still is long gone. Remains of the grist mill stand watch in Babb's Hollow, an affluent neighborhood of homes that would make ol' Tully's grist mill proud!

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Genealogy Resources: Steps In Time
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