my quaker cousin rev. william leeds: was a pirate?!?

Okay, wait a minute here…

My quite exemplary 1st cousin (9x removed), an upstanding member of the colonial New England community, who generously willed that, upon his death — “after decease of wife and brother Daniel” — all of his considerable real estate be gifted to “the Venerable and Honorable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, for a perpetual glebe for use of a clergyman of Church of England to preach to the inhabitants of Middletown and Shrewsbury,”1 the Rev. William LEEDS, Jr., a founding member of the Shrewsbury, New Jersey, Christ Episcopal Church,2 was a pirate?!?

So claims a January 10, 1935, Red Banks Register [New Jersey] newspaper article.3

Rev. William LEEDS, Jr. (born after 1668–died between 1735-’39 Monmouth County, Province of New Jersey; buried originally on his property at Swimming River in Leedsville — now Lincroft — later exhumed and moved to Christ Churchyard, Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey)4 is the son of Quakers William LEEDS, Sr. (1650 England–1719 Province of New Jersey; burial unknown) — my 8th great-granduncle — & Dority SCILTON (1650 England–bef. 1739; buried Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, Middletown, Monmouth County, New Jersey).5

The, “Piracy Not Disreputable” boldfont heading in the Red Bank Register piece notwithstanding, I’m going to take umbrage on cousin William LEEDS, Jr.’s, behalf here for this centuries-later reputation-trashing.  (Hey, what’s a future cousin for? 🙂 )

“Old Church Set Up By Pirate’s Legacy,” Red Bank Register newspaper; Jan. 10, 1935.3

Pirate?!  Prove it.

The thing is, there isn’t any proof per se; from what I’ve seen out there; just general speculation and, “agreement” that a humble Quaker could not possibly have acquired LEEDS‘ wealth.  Therefore, LEEDS must have been an associate of, a cohort of, legendary-pirate-of-the-era Captain KIDD‘S, or, he must have known where KIDD‘S loot was buried and been plundering it.

“But, “Piracy in the Middletown section at least was not considered a disreputable profession,” the Red Banks Register article continues.  “Pirate chiefs and their ships received governmental commissions during the colonial wars.”  Somewhat contradictorily, however, we read next that,Captain KIDD was commissioned by the British to ‘exterminate pirates.’ “

Hmmm.  It seems pertinent to point out here that Captain KIDD was hung for piracy.  (Well, and for a murder.)

An article at The New England Historical Society online posits an interesting argument:  “William Kidd, the Pirate Who Was Framed,” is the title.  “The treasure was never found – nor were the uncontested facts about his career,” the piece begins.  “To some, he was a vicious pirate, one of many who crowded Boston’s jails at the turn of the 18th century.  To others, he was a privateer who was framed by his benefactors.”6

Aha.  If KIDD, why not LEEDS?  How do we know? 

We don’t.  Let William LEEDS rest in peace.

William LEEDS married only once: to Rebecca (TILTON) APPLEGATE, widow of Daniel APPLEGATELEEDS had no children of his own.

Cenotaph to William LEEDS.3


There are seemingly endless reads “out there” on the question, Was William LEEDS a pirate?  At “Grove of the Other Gods,” you can read an imaginary speech by Leeds,  Old Burial Grounds of New Jersey: A Guide tickles curiosity saying, No-one “has found the treasure of an earlier pirate, William Leeds, a member of Captain Kidd’s crew in the 1600s. [more at url].”  A cached version of “Captain Kidd on the Raritan Bay – Pirates In Central Jersey,” maintains, “Another reformed pirate mate of Captain Kidd who settled in Monmouth County was William Leeds.  He became a respected citizen, who was known for his wealth and his generosity.  Although some said he knew where Kidd’s treasure was buried, and that accounted for his wealth, most people felt he had just invested his ill-gotten money wisely.”  On a positive note, this read at least points out that, “Christ Church in Shrewsbury, and Christ Church in Middletown” “still benefit financially from the land Leeds bequeathed to them.  In FACT, the article continues, “This historical legacy of pirates existed through the 250th anniversary of Christ Church in Middletown, when parishioners dressed as pirates ‘raided’ Christ Church in Shrewsbury and carried back historical treasures owned jointly by the two churches to use during the celebration.”7 !!!

I dunno about you but, I call that, A good time is being had by all involved?!  (Um, with LEEDS‘ alleged pirate career?…)  It would even seem, it’s in many’s interests to perpetuate the unproved myth of William LEEDS, Jr.’s, pirating.

Takes my mind wandering back up to mid-blog-post here, at, The New England Historical Society positing, “William Kidd, the Pirate Who Was Framed”…  And perhaps William LEEDS along with KIDD, centuries later…  (You can be sure I’ll return to this subject at a future date should I find solid evidence.)  In the meantime, if you’re interested in the subject, just Google “William Leeds” & “Captain Kidd” — the names in quotes, just like that — and you’ll pull read after read after read after read…
1 “New Jersey, Abstract of Wills, 1670-1817,” “William Leeds” (June 20, 1735, residence Middletown, Monmouth, New Jersey), at , accessed Oct. 30, 2018.
2, Greater Media Newspapers Archives, “Dedication marks start of church’s 300th year House of worship helped define historic ‘Four Corners’ since 1769,” Staff Writer Julie Kirsh, December, 2001; at , accessed Oct., 2018.
3 “Red Bank Register Newspaper Archives,” “Browse By Date,” “Issues of 1935,” “January 10,” at , accessed Oct. 30, 2018.
4 memorials no. 30313329, “William Leeds,” at & 46275447, “William Leeds,” at [same William, two memorials…], both accessed Oct. 20, 2018.
5 memorial no. 80224968, “Dorothea Scilton Leeds,” at , accessed Oct. 20, 2018.
6 New England Historical Society, “William Kidd, the Pirate Who Was Framed,” at , accessed Oct. 30, 2018.
7 A.) “Grove of the Other Gods,” “William Leeds,” at .  B.) Old Burial Grounds of New Jersey: A Guide, 1994, Janice Kohl Sarapin; Rutgers University Press – Travel,” at Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, “Captain Kidd on the Raritan Bay – Pirates In Central Jersey,” at ; A-C, accessed Oct. 30, 2018.



leeds: rhoda ann (rudy) leeds, daughter of james leeds & rody bayard

LEEDS is one of my “favorite” family lines from a research perspective, home as it is to:  • The legendary Jersey Devil [see my January, 2018 post, starting your family history research]; and, • Daniel LEEDS, my immigrant ancestor in this line and, compiler of the first almanacs in this country, in 1687, continuing until 1716, when his sons Felix and Titan succeeded him, with whom fellow almanac-maker Benjamin Franklin himself engaged in an ongoing feud [more on that in another blog post]; and other colorful characters.1

Rhoda Ann (Rudy) LEEDS & George GREGGER2

My LEEDS connections begin at my 3rd great grandmother Rhoda Ann (Rudy) LEEDS (Oct. 1, 1797 New Jersey, USA–June 21, 1864 probably Ohio; burial Mount Olive Cemetery, Felicity, Clermont County, Ohio, USA) who married George GREGGER (about 1798 Pennsylvania, USA–Oct. 13, 1869 Ohio, USA; Mount Olive Cemetery) on Mar. 27, 1818, in Hamilton County, Ohio.

While I’m uncertain of George’s parents, Great-Grandma Rudy was the daughter of American Revolutionary War veteran James LEEDS (1762 Gloucester County, New Jersey Colony–1841 Sangamon County, Illinois, USA; burial unknown), a Private in Captain Higby’s Company of the New Jersey Militia3, & Rhoda (Rody) BAYARD (abt. 1764–?; burial unknown).

James LEEDS & wife Rody BAYARD, members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), emigrated from New Jersey with their five sons and three daughters on May 15, 1806, settling near Moscow, Clermont County, Ohio.4

      “The girls married farmers, and three of the sons became farmers also; the whole six settling in Clermont county.  One son, Josiah, learned the hatter’s trade, and Peter T., the subject of this sketch, selected a profession, and commenced the study of medicine at the age of twenty,” John Powers’ History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois, tells us.4  My 3rd great grandma Rhoda Ann (Rudy) was of course one of those sisters marrying a farmer — George GREGGER — and settling in Clermont county.

From the 1850 & 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses I’ve “found” the following nine children for George & Rudy GREGGER (that they may have had more is entirely possible):  • My 2nd great-grandfather Emanuel H. (1820 Ohio–1910 Ohio) [See my April 20, 2015, blog post, “three years shy of 100:  emanuel h. greger”]; • Abraham M. (Abram) (1823 Ohio–1893 Ohio); • John Franklin (abt. 1829 Ohio– ); • George W. (1829 Ohio–1910); • Mary A. (Polly) (Abt. 1832 Ohio–abt. 1868 Indiana); • Robert Chaffin (1837 Illinois–1880 Illinois); • Thrussey (1839 Ohio–1865 likely Ohio); • Jerome Walter (1840 Ohio–1914 Missouri); &, • Josephus (abt. 1843 Ohio–bef. 1860).  Josephus appears to have died in childhood.

More to come on this line from my nearest immigrant ancestor in it, Daniel LEEDS of Leeds, England, on down.

The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and County, New Jersey: Containing Sketches of the Past and Present of Atlantic City and County, John F. Hall; 1900, Daily Union Printing Company, Atlantic City, New Jersey, at , accessed October, 2018.
Photo contributed to by Karri Samson to “George GREGGER” memorial, number 134462653, at ; accessed October, 2018.
“U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900,” “Survivor’s Pension Application” for “James LEEDS,”, at , accessed Oct., 2018.
4 History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois. “Centennial Record”, by John Carroll Power, “Assisted By His Wife, Mrs. S. A. Power,” “Under The Auspices Of The Old Settlers Society;” Springfield, Illinois: Edwin A. Wilson & Co., 1876; via, at , accessed October, 2018.
The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in the State of Ohio, “Compiled Under the Direction of Frank D. Henderson, The Adjutant General; John R. Rea, Military Registrar; Daughters of American Revolution of Ohio.  Jane Dowd Dailey (Mrs. O. D.), State Chairman;” F. J. Heer Printing Company; Columbus, Ohio; 1929; Vol. III, “Roster listings,” at , accessed October, 2018.