Arrr Matey! Pirates in Chichester

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Arrr Matey! Pirates in Chichester

2013-07-31 00:00


The Chichester area--encompassing the townships of Upper and Lower Chichester as well as the boroughs of Marcus Hook and Trainer--is located along the southeastern border of Pennsylvania, adjacent to the state of Delaware and the Delaware River. The riverfront location had an important influence on the area's development. The river provided fertile water meadows for farming and later made the location ideal for mercantile ventures and industrial development. Marcus Hook was originally inhabited by Lenni Lenape, and became an early trading post for the Dutch, Swedes, and Finns in the 1640s.

In the early 1700s Marcus Hook came to be known for shipbuilding, its fishing industry, and--pirates! According to legend, the infamous and much-feared "Blackbeard," aka Edward Teach (circa 1680-1718), frequently dropped anchor at Marcus Hook to visit his mistress Margaret. The heyday of pirates in the area was short-lived, but the legacy of Blackbeard and his mateys looms large in the public imagination. Some residents even hoped to find physical evidence of the pirates' presence. In his 1884 book History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Henry Graham Ashmead wrote that treasure-seekers continued to comb Marcus Hook's beaches into the 19th century at the peril of supernatural confrontations. 
"Sometimes the stories would relate to money buried along the shores of the Delaware and its tributary streams by pirates, who had slain a comrade or a captive that the murdered man should guard the blood-stained treasure ever from all save the hands of those who had sold themselves to perdition for the accursed gold."*
While the presence of pirates tapered off, Marcus Hook's fishing (especially shad) and ship-building industries flourished in the 18th and early 19th centuries. 
Postcard, "Fishing Boats, Marcus Hook, Chester, Pa." 1907
"Pioneer," the only surviving Delaware River schooner, was built in Marcus Hook. It is now owned by the South Street Seaport Museum.
The Delaware River also generated the development of the successor for the borough's dominant industry: oil refineries. Because Marcus Hook's deep water harbor allows inexpensive delivery of crude oil by tanker and efficient export to overseas markets, it was identified as a convenient location for oil refineries. The first was built there in 1892; a decade later, Sun Oil Company (Sunoco) opened a facility that would remain a major presence in Marcus Hook for over 100 years.
I must be careful not to let Blackbeard's pirates steal this blog post, though. The Chichester Historical Society is dedicated to sharing and preserving all the history of Marcus Hook and Trainer boroughs, as well as the townships of Upper and Lower Chichester. This includes its maritime ventures, but also myriad other people, businesses, and events that texture the rich history of Chichester. To learn more, you'll have to visit for yourself.
Ashmead, Henry Graham. History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1884. Page 182. Accessed July 23, 2013.


Submitted by George Lamplugh (not verified) on

One of the original land owners to the property was Nathaniel Lamplugh. He was originally from Scottland before going to Barbados and then to America. He was granted the land that is at the river front from the Delaware state line marker to approx where trainer creek dumps into the river. He was a master ship builder and was said to repair ships coming up river. Including rumored pirate ships from his time in Barbados. I believe the land was deeded to him in or around 1684 granted from the king.

During that time William Penn had written him a letter saying that he was to open the river front on Sunday's from , I believe, spring till fall for the purpose of an open air market. Hence the name Market St. If you search Nathaniel Lamplugh on yahoo you will see the letter written to him.

The story passed down to family was that he was bribed by land to come to America to keep him from working or building pirate ships. He than came here and I guess could not escape the pirate life. This info has seemed to escape history, but with the Internet letters and deeded land it was easy to confirm. Also there is a Sunoco document with the original land deed.

Submitted by N.L. (not verified) on

Interesting information. The legend of pirates in Marcus Hook is well known, and while Nathaniel's land grant is certainly documented, as was his profession as a shipwright, I've never heard anything passed down through my branch of the family pertaining to him having a personal relationship with pirates. I've always heard, and it seems to be accurate from researching church records, that he was granted land simply for being a member of a prominent Quaker family, as were so many other Quaker families at that time, and the location of the land was due to his profession.

One thing that I am fairly certain of is that he was NOT from Scotland, but from Cumbria, which is on the English side of the Scottish border. The parish of Lamplugh is in Cumbria, and the parish records of the Lamplugh family in that area are long and detailed. I've heard of a possible Barbados connection, but I never saw records conclusive about it. I personally always heard that he had arrived either on the same ship, or at least at the approximate same time, as William Penn. This would have been after the arrival of the Bezers, another prominent Quaker family that he married into.

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