pleased to host materials related to the descendants of Ann and James
Pitts of Lance
Cove, Bell Island, Newfoundland. James was
in 1735 in Kennford near Exeter, Devon, England arriving as a
teenager in Newfoundland by 1751.
They had three sons - John (1783-1825) married
Elizabeth Picco (1786-1826), James (1784-1870) married her sister,
Frances Bartlett Picco (1786-1864), and William (1787-1869) married Ann
John Pitts drowned in Conception Bay in 1825, and his wife Elizabeth died the next year. The remaining children, lived with their double cousins (Aunt Frances & Uncle James Pitts) and relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland where the children grew up in a large combined family. Capt. William Pitts and his family remained on Bell Island.
Descendants include individuals
are recorded in the Newfoundland Encyclopedia:
Three Pitts descendants Gerald Ayre, Eric Stanley Ayre
Pitts Ayre, were members
of the Newfoundland Regiment and died at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1,
1916. Ethel G. Dickenson (1860-1918) a
descendant, is remembered for her wartime nursing career, and her
selfless concern for others that led to her own death from the Spanish
"His [E.J.Pratt's] roots go much deeper. . . for through his mother's family he can trace back to a generation of Newfoundlanders, Joseph Pitts, who was here in 1678. The story of Pitts' harrowing experiences when he was taken prisoner on his way back from Newfoundland . . ."The article sparked research into a possible connection between Joseph Pitts who was in Newfoundland in 1678 and James Pitts who arrived in 1751. Although no documented connection between the two has been located yet - they were both from Exeter area and with the same surname likely shared a common ancestor at some point. Possibly more research will indicate if the connection mentioned by Sparkes was close kinship or more distant clanship.
The epic as told in his own words began in 1678 when Joseph was age 14 or 15,
"when my genius led me to be a Sailor, and to see foreign Countries."After several short voyages he left his Exeter home aboard the Speedwell with George Taylor, Master bound for
"the Western Islands, from thence to Newfoundland, from thence to Bilboa and from thence to the Canaries"
|Attempting a return from the
of Newfoundland, they are overtaken near Balboa by Algerian pirates who
took the crew into captivity delivering them after further piratical
at sea to the slave market in Algiers where young Joseph Pitts was sold
into slavery. The next fifteen years of his life as a slave
travel to Tunis, Egypt and both Mecca and Medina with his third master,
Eumer who had purchased him from his second master, Ibrahim. With
some diplomatic assistance he escaped and reached Leghorn (Italy),
a 700 mile walk through Germany in winter and eventual arriving in
where he was thrown in Colchester Prison (for resisting
into King's Service) until he could prove his identity through Sir
The heartening story of his return to his father John Pitts' home and his enduring religious conviction throughout his ordeal, make the epic worth retelling.
The history of British relations with the "famous and warlike city of Algiers - the scourge of Christendom" from its origin as a piratical state, to the abolition of Christian slavery by Lord Exmouth in 1816 is well documented in correspondence of diplomatic agents and consuls at Algiers from 1600, preserved in the British Public Records Office. Essentially a terrorist state, Algiers was a constant problem for European citizens.
Few Westerners visited Mecca,
of Islam in the 1600's, thus Joseph's experience was
published in 1704, as A Faithful
Account of the Religion and Manners of
Mohametans. A 1971 reprint by Gregg
was the source for this material as well as Baring-Gould's, Devonshire
Characters and Strange Events (1908). A modern analysis of
narratives published in 2001 places Joseph's story in the context of
published slave stories from the era in Piracy,
Slavery, and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern
The story of James Pitts family
Cove, is well told by Lloyd C. Rees through An Outport Revisited.
|HomePort Quick List||Search HomePort||Send e-mail to: HomePort|