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Perdita did not conform to the stereotypical conduct of women at the time. Theodore’s report on the Perdita story caught her interest. Brief ly, it went as follows: In 1768, a teenaged girl in England met a young man from Virginia and they fell in love. Her family was not supportive of their union, so they decided to elope by boarding a ship bound for the Chesapeake. The y se c u re d t hei r pa s sa ge by going as crew members, with her disguised as a cabin boy. She was taken on, but to her disappointment, her beau failed to show up and the ship sailed without him. Her masquerade somehow worked until they docked at Oxford and the crew fell into a drunken celebration. The captain was furious, for he felt she had cheated him out of a fare. When she refused to give her name, she was forced into indentured service at the captain’s home. (We can almost hear the Tilghmans exclaiming, “Yes, she worked here, in this very house!” But not for very long, it seems.) A local apprentice seaman named Stewart Dean met Perdita in Oxford and took pity on her. He agreed to smuggle her back to England aboard the Hazard, Capt. Coxen, the ship on which he was then serving. The Oxford port records show the Hazard sailed from there in the summer of 1769 to the Isle of Wight,

suggesting that Perdita spent about a year in Oxford. A p p a r e n t l y, D e a n’s s c h e m e worked and Perdita slipped back home safely. OK, now here’s the fun part. When Theodore reported the Perdita tale to his sister, Catharine Sedgwick, she jumped at it. She arranged to meet Captain Dean and learned of his impressive seafaring career. Years after young Dean rescued Perdita, he became a ship’s captain with a distinguished career. During the Revolutionary War, he engaged in various privateering voyages. In 1782, he took command of the armed merchantman Nimrod and ventured to the Caribbean. While at anchor in St. Kitts, then controlled by the French, he was jumped by two British ships and taken to Antigua, then under British rule. This seizure infuriated the French authorities, America’s allies, and they held up a British merchant convoy until the governor of Antigua released Dean and restored his vessel. After an absence of more than four months, Dean brought the Nimrod safely to the head of the Elk River (now Elkton). Later, Dean commanded the second American merchant ship to China, the Experiment, in 1786, and went on to a successful career on the China run. He was, by all accounts, an honest and respected fellow. Cat har ine Sedg w ick now had t he f i x ings for a more complex and interesting story. She picked

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Profile for Tidewater Times

Tidewater Times March 2019  

March 2019 Tidewater Times

Tidewater Times March 2019  

March 2019 Tidewater Times