THE MANY ADVENTURES
OF
CAPTAIN WILLIAM LYFORD SR
.

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Nothing is known of his ancestry. The only recorded statement he made of his origin is questionable. According to a bill-of-sale he wrote, William Lyford Sr. was of the Island of Jamaica. At the time he made the statement, he was on the lam for a large debt he owed in the Bahamas and may have been trying to cover his tracks.  However, his life after arriving on New Providence Island, Bahamas in the early 1700s to marry Elizabeth, daughter of well-to-do ship owner and high government official Captain William Spatches, is well document in public records, right up to his death some forty years later. These records reveal him to be a tough, capable, determined man, as most mariners of his day had to be.

1719. His son, William Jr. was born on New Providence Island in the Bahamas.

4/13/1725. His daughter, Mary, was born on New Providence Island.

1719 -1728. He owned and operated a commercial vessel transporting goods between islands of the Caribbean.

11/10/1726. In a letter from to the British Council of Trade and Plantations, Governor Phenney reported, "Last night Mr. William Lyford mariner and one of our inhabitant arrv’d here having privately got away from the Havana [Cuba] in a small piragua [a canoe made by hollowing out a tree trunk]."

1728. His wife having died and faced with an inability to satisfy an extremely large debt, William Lyford  moved with his two children to Beaufort, SC, from where he continued his commercial shipping venture.

1/6/1734. As recorded in records of St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort, he married Ann Watt, spinster.

4/1/1737. In the same session of the SC Commons House of Assembly, he was appointed commander of Fort Frederick in Beaufort—South Carolina’s southernmost defense against the Spanish. At the same time, he served as harbor pilot for Port Royal.

4/6/1738. While on a commercial voyage to and from the Caribbean, he observed several Spanish military vessels off St. Augustine. Perceiving them to be a threat to the lower colonies, he reported their presence to Beaufort’s senior military officer on his return. Authorities in Georgia were warned, and the colony was put in a state of readiness.

9/1741. He was placed in charge of South Carolina’s provincial navy, which consists of two scout boats and two partially built half-galleys. Upon completion of the first of the two galleys, the Charles Town, he assumed command of it.

7/1742. He sailed abroad the Charles Town in a small fleet of South Carolina ships going to the aid of Georgia after the Spanish invasion of St. Simons.

8/3/1742. At the battle scene, he had a strong disagreement with Georgia's leader, James Oglethorp and wrote an angry letter to the South Carolina governor complaining of it.

8/28/1742. The Charles Town, under his command, was part of a fleet of vessels that shelled Castillo de San Marco, the Spanish fort in St. Augustine. Also in the fleet was one of Oglethorpe’s vessels, the Norfolk, commanded by Captain David Cutler Braddock.

9/1742. Apparently impressed by what he saw of David Cutler Braddock during their excursion against the Spanish, Lyford placed him in command of the other half-galley, the Beaufort.

11/7/1742. According to records of St. Helena’s church, his daughter Mary married David Cutler Braddock.

1/28/1743. He successfully partitioned the provincial government for better provisions for the men under his command.

1743-1744. He and Braddock alternated in cruising the Southeastern coast to keep the Spanish at bay.

9/9/1743. He was charged with trading with the enemy—the Spanish—while on a prisoner swapping mission in St. Augustine.

10/8-13/1743. In a lengthy hearing before the governor and his council, several of his crew testified in his defense until one declared that on their return trip to Charles Town, the said Galley touched again at Port Royal and that the deponent, together with Edward Hilton, carried to Captain Lyford's house in Beaufort Town a chest in which he had seen a great quantity of silver and that the said chest was as heavy as they could manage. Lyford was ordered to be held until he could be transported back to England for trial.

12/13/1743. The commander of the Loo, the largest British man-of-war stationed in America, wrote the following letter in Lyford’s behalf to the governor. "Being informed by Mr. Lyford, Pilot of his Majesty's Ship Loo, under my command, your Honour has granted a warrant for apprehending him for trading with the Spaniards. I think it a duty incumbent on me, as it is for his Majesty's Service, to acquaint your Honour and His Majesty's Council that he is actually Pilot of His Majesty's Ship Loo, and that there is no man in the Country that knows anything of the Bar or Harbour of Port Royal, and His Majesty's Ship Loo under my command is fit for Sea, and am well assured that there will be a 40 or 50 Gun ship from England for that place very soon, that cannot properly get in without some able Pilot, to carry her, and also to carry the Loo out, and to be continued at that Port, for want of which His Majesty's Service, and also the Service of this Province must greatly suffer, there being no other person in the Province capable of taking charge of any of His Majesty's Ships of that rate for that Port for which reason I, in duty to His Majesty's Service must beg your Honour & His Majesty's Council will be pleased to take it into consideration, and if his Crime is not so bad but if on his proper conceptions and his going bail for his future Conduct, your Honour and his Majesty's honourable Council will be pleased to release him, it being intirely for his Majesty's Service in this Province."

2/5/1744. He was serving as one of the two pilots aboard the HMS Loo when the man-of-war ran aground on a Florida key and was lost. The key, which is one of the most popular scuba diving spots in the US, has been called Looe Key ever since.

4/21/1744. In spite of the grave offense with which the South Carolina government charged him in October 1743, he was granted two lots in the heart of Beaufort, across from St. Helena’s Church. By then, he had acquired two new vessels and had returned to commercial shipping ventues.

2/21/1745. He was sighted off St. Augustine with two ships, one commanded by his son, William Jr., trading with the Spanish

9/10/1745. His vessel was captured by Spanish privateers and he was taken into St. Augustine.

9/25/1745. His wife, Ann, died while he was captive.

10/22/1745. He arrived in South Carolina after being released, along with 51 others, by the Spanish.

6/1746. Returning to the Bahamas, he was placed in command of a privateer, the Isabella, and with it captured a Spanish vessel containing a cargo valued at 52,500.

3/1754. He died. In his will he left his son William Jr. one English shilling, his third wife, Elizabeth Evans Rowlad one Spanish milled dollar, and all the rest of his estate to his under-aged son, James.

For a full length article of Captain William Lyford Sr. published in the South Carolina Historical Society magazine Carologue, click here: CAPTAIN WILLIAM LYFORD, SR.: A Most Intrepid Seaman

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