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 one’s curiosity with, 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.” !!!

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.
7A “Grove of the Other Gods,” “William Leeds,” at .  7B 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 ; all three, accessed Oct. 30, 2018.


This entry was posted in Ancestry, APPLEGATE, Capt. William KIDD, Christ Church of Middletown & Shrewsbury New Jersey, Family HIstory, Genealogy, LEEDS, Quakers, SCILTON and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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