Thomas Tew, Rhode Island Pirate

April 11, 2013 by  

Thomas Tew, Rhode Island Pirate, Thomas Tew (died 1695), also known as the Rhode Island Pirate, was a 17th century English privateer-turned-pirate. Although he embarked on only two major piratical voyages, and met a bloody death on the latter journey, Tew pioneered the route which became known as the Pirate Round. Many other famous pirates, including Henry Every and William Kidd, would follow in Tew’s path. Much of what is known about Tew is derived from Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates, which is a mixture of fact and fiction. When reading about Thomas Tew it is important to be able to distinguish between truth and story.

Captain Johnson said “Tew, in Point of Gallantry, was inferior to none.”

It is frequently written that Tew had family in Rhode Island dating back to 1640, but it is not known where he was actually born. He may have been born in New England. One theory is that he was born in Maidford, Northamptonshire, England before immigrating to the colonies as a child with his family, although there is only a little circumstantial evidence for this. He lived at one time in Newport, Rhode Island. Tew is reported as being married with two daughters. According to one source his wife and children all greatly enjoyed the New York City social scene after Tew struck it rich., but there is no supporting evidence elsewhere for this.

Around 1690, Tew moved to Bermuda. Although there is evidence that he was already reputed as a pirate at that time, no modern historian has determined whether this reputation was earned or not. He may simply have engaged in privateering against French and Spanish ships.

He was in close relations with fellow pirate Captain Want who was his closest ally.

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