Captain Zebulon Wade and the Seaflower

Thirty-three-year-old Zebulon Wade, and his sloop, Seaflower,entered customs at Boston, Massachusetts on August 26, 1750. It had been another routine trip from Ocracoke, the same trip he had been making since the early days of King George’s War.  He would carry American and European goods to Ocracoke which would be bartered for naval stores and produce from North Carolina plantations. Now he was headed home to Scituate where his family lived, a small seacoast village about fifteen miles south of Boston.

Zebulon greeted his wife Mercy and his three children; Zeb and Barney, twins, not yet two years old and Anna, who was just born that summer. While he was gone, she had been baptized.

Regretfully, Captain Wade told his wife that his two partners had arranged another trip to North Carolina and that he would have to return to Boston in a few days to load the Seaflower. After his brief visit to his home in Scituate, Captain Wade hitched a ride up to Boston where he then supervised the loading of his sloop. Among his crew were two sailors, Jonathan Deacon, aged twenty-seven, and Isaac Ray, aged seventeen, both of Massachusetts. There were two apprentice seamen from North Carolina. Abraham Pritchett, a gangly teenager of nineteen, was from New Bern and Thomas Hobson, was a fourteen-year-old cabin boy.

The Seaflower arrived at Ocracoke in early September where they found the Spanish galleon, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, at anchor inside the inlet in Teach’s Hole. He also met Owen and John Lloyd. Owen Lloyd was a familiar face—he had also made trading runs from Ocracoke to Boston in the 1740s.

Captain Bonilla of the Guadalupe hired Wade and the Seaflower to ferry half of his treasure to Norfolk. The other half was put on a New Jersey sloop called the Mary. The Lloyd brothers signed on for the trip to Norfolk. Owen was in need to get to St. Kitts as he and John had originally planned. As Owen Lloyd watched the unruly Outer Bankers banding together to move against the treasure-laden sloops, he came up with a plan to steal the treasure on his own. They would simply sail away with it while the Spanish guards were eating lunch. For the plan to work they needed Zebulon Wade’s cooperation. He reluctantly agreed, only because he recently suffered some financial setbacks at home. On October 20, 1750, the Seaflower unmoored and made a dash for the inlet. On board was a treasure that outdid anything the legendary Blackbeard ever scored.

Three weeks later, Owen and Zebulon Wade buried most of their treasure at Norman’s Island in the BVI and then left for St. Thomas. The Seaflower was abandoned here because her hull had become fouled which slowed the sloop down. From there, Lloyd and Wade went to St. Kitts in a sloop they had purchased and left shortly thereafter for St. Eustatius to hide out. They were soon captured and put into prison by the governor and were sentenced to hang. Lloyd, Wade, and his crew later escaped. Wade and his crew returned home but Zebulon’s life would never be the same. Because of his experience with Lloyd and the buried treasure he never returned to the sea. After the death of his wife, Mercy, and his son, Zeb, he died a broken man in 1754 at Bath, North Carolina, a former haunt of Blackbeard. He never knew that his run in with Owen Lloyd and a galleon’s treasure would be the future inspiration for Treasure Island.

Zebulon Wade’s own legend lived on however. In 1854, at Cohasset, Massachusetts, it was recorded in an account book of Marshal Pratt’s store which said that “70 tons of silver bars overcame Wade’s honesty” which was “advertised all over the world.”