The Fantasy of Black Sam Bellamy
The mystery of Maria
The best source on this is the book Bellamy’s Bride by Kathleen Brunelle. Th illustration above is by Olivia Englehart. When I say the best, I really mean its the only one.
The ill-fated love affair between Sam Bellamy and Maria Hallett is a legend of Cape Cod.
The story goes that Sam met Maria one spring day in 1715 in Cape Cod. It was love at first sight for both of them. But Maria was only 15-16 and her family disapproved of her association with the poor seaman Sam. In some versions of the story she is the daughter of a well-to-do family of farmers, in others she’s the daughter of a “witch”. In all versions, she is a great beauty.
Sam set off to make his fortune by becoming a notorious pirate so he could return and marry Maria. But not before getting her pregnant. Maria built a hut by the sea to await his return. After successfully raiding for a year and amassing a fortune, Sam took his most famous ship, the Whydah. Unbeknown to her, as Sam was on his way back to her, a terrible storm hits Sam’s ship. The Whydah is wrecked in a terrible storm off the Cape Cod coast.
There are several versions of what Maria did next. I can 100% guarantee that regardless of what really happened, nothing good happens when you’re pregnant out of wedlock in Puritan territory in 1715. Abandoned by her family, some say she delivered the child herself and then smothered it, others that it froze to death, and some that she cared for the child as well as she could until it died accidentally.
Nevertheless, Maria was accused of murder. The legend goes she tried to escape at least three times, usually by using her beauty persuasively against the jailor. She never stood trial and the story goes she was released back to her small seaside hut on the dunes of Wellfleet to pine for Sam for the rest of her life. Her legend became entwined with another local legend of a sea-witch and she became Goody Hallett, an old and bitter woman who haunted the shores of Wellfleet.
Who was Maria Hallett?
Much of the mythology around Maria comes from Elizabeth Reynard’s 1934 book, The Narrow Land: Folk Chronicles of Old Cape Cod. An English professor at Barnard College in New York, Reynard was primarily concerned with collecting together the rich stories of the area rather than checking their historical accuracy.
Brunelle cites genealogical research into the Hallett family of the Cape Cod town of either Yarmouth or Eastham as either Maria’s family of origin or one she married into. However, she also states that there is no-one called Maria on records from this time. One reason for this is that ‘Maria’ is the Spanish version of ‘Mary’ and that no non-Spanish parents would have named their daughter ‘Maria’. Brunelle speculates that a woman called ‘Mehitable’ was the real Maria.
Records show that Mehitable (great name!) was married to a sailor called John Hallett in 1715: the year Samuel Bellamy was believed to come to town. Brunelle’s idea is that Mehitable had an affair with Sam Bellamy while John was at sea. Then after John discovered she was pregnant and realised the baby could not possibly be his, he cast her out.
To add further to the mystery, there is a comment from 2020 on Sam Bellamy’s Wikipedia page citing to be from a relative of ‘Mary’ Hallett. This says that a Mary Hallett was born in Barnstable and that there is a grave in Eastham for a baby called Samuel next to a grave of Mary Hallett (1698-1746). The writer states that it’s possible that this Mary Hallett was a cousin of Sam Bellamy. This may explain why he called in to Cape Cod in the first place.
Up next: How much of the Sam/Maria story is true?
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