A painting of the pirate Blackbeard

While not as famous as Blackbeard, Black Caesar gave the shores of Florida's east coast the nickname the Gold Coast by burying his gold on the beaches. His infamy grew large enough to gain the attention of Blackbeard, who recruited him to join his crew. After being captured in Africa and sold into slavery, Black Caesar’s journey from tribal chief, to slave, to piracy began.

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The beaches near Port St. Lucie, Florida, are named the Treasure Coast, and for a good reason. Many Spanish ships carrying treasure crashed along the shores of Florida’s east coast, causing gold and silver to wash up on the beaches’ shores. 

One man, named Edward Teach, heard rumors of the gold and, during one of many of his exploits, stopped to collect loot. He later sold it in Nassau, the pirate haven in the Bahamas. Edward Teach went by a different name, a name most people know today. He was one of the most notorious pirates ever to set sail. Blackbeard. 

Many articles, movies, and books have been written about Blackbeard. But very few have been made about Black Caesar, a Florida pirate who buried his treasure along the Miami and Palm Beach coastline. He, along with other pirates and privateers, helped give the region of the peninsula the nickname the Gold Coast.

A sketch drawing of the pirate Black Caesar

Like most pirate stories, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, but the legend surrounding Black Caesar’s origins is fascinating. In the late 17th Century, Black Caesar was born in west Africa, where he was a tribal chief who was said to be the size of two men. 

He avoided capture by slavers for many years until he was tricked into boarding a ship to inspect some treasures promised to him. Once he was on board and below deck, the crew raised anchor and took off. Before Black Caesar realized the ship was moving, he had already become a slave. 

The ship set sail for the shores of Florida. Along the way, Black Caesar made friends with the crew and learned to speak their language. His efforts paid off one night when a hurricane struck the ship. 

One of the sailors he befriended helped him escape on a rowboat. It’s unsure if any of the other crew members survived, but Black Caesar and the sailor made it to a small island off Florida’s coast.

The two men were stranded on this island with little supplies, so they hatched a plan. They were near the maritime routes often taken to get to Florida’s shores and knew ships would pass by. At the sight of a boat, they would approach the ship on their small rowboat. 

When the ships stopped to assist the two men who appeared stranded, Black Caesar and his friend would hold the captain and crew at gunpoint while they loaded their rowboats up with as much gold and as many supplies as it would carry. Then they would simply row away and return to their island. 

The two men used this ruse many times of the next few years and amassed quite a large fortune, all hidden on Elliot Key.

Things changed one day when they boarded a ship and took a beautiful English woman as a hostage. Both men wanted this woman, so they settled it in true pirate fashion, with a duel to the death. Black Caesar shot and killed the man who just years prior saved his life. 

It’s unsure how long the woman was a prisoner, and not much is known about their relationship. But what is known is that Black Caesar left the island alone to pursue his pirate career. It’s speculated that he killed his prized English woman before departing. Pirates were often given the name ladykillers, but he was quite literally a lady killer in Black Caesar’s case.

Over the years, Black Caesar would capture men and bring them to the island where he converted the sailors to pirates. Once the group grew large enough for a crew, they hijacked a ship and turned it into a pirate’s ship. 

According to legend, there was a massive iron ring around a large rock in the middle of Elliot Island, and it was here the pirate ship would be docked. They would pull the boat on its side using the iron ring as an anchor so that they could hide from patrols, or they would lower the masts and sink the ship rapidly if someone was chasing them. 

Then the men simply vanished into the mangroves. After the boats had passed, they could drain the water and bring the boat to the surface.

Alongside the pirates that inhabited the island were prisoners being held for ransom and over 100 women. They were said to be Black Caesar’s personal harem. He had many children, as did a lot of the men in his crew. 

It is believed the children had a unique language to speak to each other as they grew up alone on the island. Many Florida locals who visit the park today believe these forgotten pirate children’s spirits haunt it.

Black Caesar made a name for himself in the pirate community and caught the attention of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Blackbeard’s early years are more shrouded in mystery than Black Caesars, but recent archeological and genealogical finds have shed light on a potential past. 

[Read Part Two Next]

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