Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pirates of Maine

The first pirate to operate in the waters of New England was one Dixey Bull. In June, 1632, he was peacefully trading in Penobscot Bay when a roving French company seized his goods. Bull reacted by gathering a small company to make a venture against the French. After vainly searching for Frenchmen on whom to work his revenge, Bull and his company began plundering English traders. Finding the pickings easy, the newly formed pirate company looted Pemaquid. Pursued by a small flotilla dispatched by the authorities of the Massachusetts Bay Company, Dixey Bull vanishes from history, said to have gone over to join the French.

Dixey Bull is said to have buried his loot in and around the Casco Bay area. In 1855 a farmer plowed up twenty one pieces of gold and thirty one pieces of silver on Richmond Island in Casco Bay. This was probably part of Dixey Bull's loot from the sack of Pemaquid.

Another pirate who left treasure in the Casco Bay area was Edward Low. Captain Ned Low, in the four years of his piratical career, stole immense amounts of treasure and committed incomprehensible acts of cruelty. At one point, Low spread information that he intended to kill the master of every New England vessel he captured. Ned Low's insane rage was no idle boast. A few examples will suffice. He ripped the master of one New England vessel open alive; roasted the poor man's heart; and then compelled the first mate to eat it. He slashed the master of another vessel unmercifully with his cutlass; then cut off the unfortunate man's ears and had them roasted. After sprinkling the ears with salt and pepper, he made the crew eat them. The wounded captain's wounds were so severe he soon died. Low also intended to torture and murder the captured crew, but his own men had had enough and forced Low to release the honest seamen. These released seamen brought home information that Low carried an enormous cargo of gold and silver coin and plate.

Low's end was no less than he deserved. Overthrown by his crew, the psychopathic Low was cast adrift without provisions. Rescued by a French Man-of-War, Low was soon discovered to be a pirate. If ever a man sailing the seas deserved to be hanged and gibbeted in chains it was Ned Low. And so it was.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gays in 19th Century America

In the middle of the 19th century, medical writers attempted to establish ways to identify male homosexuality, which was considered a significant social problem. Medical literature increasingly portrayed homosexuals as effeminate and degenerate. A general belief among social purity campaigners, on the other hand, was that male homosexuality was a product of the same unrestrained male lust they were trying to curb. Homosexuality was portrayed as a jaded appetite of lustful men. Society had a duty “to enforce the law and protect the children of respectable parents….from being made the victims of the unnatural lusts of full grown men.”

By 1890, private male homosexual acts were explicitly and severely legislated against. Laws were much more all encompassing than before. There was no provision made in the laws for women committing similar offences, however. Two overtly lesbian women in a relationship would be referred to as “companions.” The fact that they might enjoy sex with one another remained unmentionable.

In 1897, the British psychologist Henry Havelock Ellis published his study Sexual Inversion which concluded that homosexuality was neither a disease nor a crime. The book was declared obscene and the bookseller imprisoned. Victorian Britain was a society dominated by an evangelical religion that demanded that strict rules of behavior be followed. Victorian America mirrored the sentiment.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013


Few visitors to Hawaii realize that they may be only a few feet from a hidden royal treasure. On May 8, 1819, the doleful sound of the great conch sounded. The muffled thud of drums echoed across the seven islands. A small band of chieftains carried the body of Kamehameha the Great, together with his vast treasure trove, to a secret hiding place which has baffled historians and treasure hunters ever since.

The treasure was made up of rare Hawaiian artifacts, literally priceless today.

Kauai is one possible hiding place. This was the home of some of the most trusted chiefs. The coast, in places, is very mountainous making access difficult. The high cliffs and deep ravines are dotted with numerous caves which could house the treasure.

It is more probable that the king and his treasure were buried on the island of Hawaii, “the big island”. This was Kamehameha’s original home and site of his capital. One legend says that the treasure was placed in a cave in the lush and tangled rain forest near Hilo.

There is one theory daunting to even the most adventurous; that the king and his treasure were thrown into a live volcano to placate Pele, the volcano goddess.

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