Robert Edwards (pirate)
Robert Edwards (died 1762) was a Welsh buccaneer given 77 acres (310,000 m2) of largely unsettled Manhattan by Queen Anne of the Kingdom of Great Britain for his services in disrupting Spanish sea lanes. After Edwards' death, the property passed in 1877, via a 99-year lease, to the brothers John and George Cruger, with the understanding that it would revert to his heirs after the lease expired. Apparently, this never happened. It is alleged that the Crugers were wardens of Trinity Church, an Episcopal Church—today, one of New York City's biggest land owners. Maybe everything was tangled in a muddle of colonial Manhattan land giveaways. But, according to family lore, the whole tract wound up in Trinity's hands.
Trinity indeed got a large slice of the land that seems to be described in the Edwards family account. But the church got the last of the ground in 1705, all of it directly from Queen Anne, according to a church pamphlet published in 1955, at a time when Trinity was bedeviled by Edwards family claims.
The legend has since proved persistent, and indeed some high profile claims of rightful ownership to the fortune, now estimated to be worth around 650 billion dollars. The most recent of these was a claim from a Cleoma Foore, whose research led to the foundation of the 'Pennsylvania Association of Edwards Heirs', a body funded by donations in a bid to finally prove that they were entitled to the vast fortune through direct ancestry. This fund attracted around $1.5m at its peak, but no firm evidence was forthcoming. Indeed, the end result was an embezzlement case tried at the federal court in Pittsburgh before Chief Judge Donald E. Ziegler in 1999.
More recently, this ancient claim has been the subject of many multimedia productions including books, TV shows and radio reports and a 1998 primetime UK TV show called 'Find a Fortune' and hosted by Carol Vorderman amongst others, attempting to shed new light on the topic.
A document held at the Glamorgan Record Office in Cardiff, Wales, entitled 'THE EDWARDS MILLIONS' outlines the case as it stood in 2002, with claims and counter claims further muddying the issue. Tales of unscrupulous lawyers and fraudulent claims have also hampered attempts by amateur researchers to get to the truth. Finally, the introduction of the 'Statute of Limitations' in NY State, which sets a time limit for all claims, to be commenced within fifteen years of the expiration of a lease, appears to have all but buried the claim with the death of Robert Edwards himself.
The only document that could prove the matter would be the original of the 99-year lease signed over to the brothers Cruger, but that would now be statute barred.
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Edit February 2011 CAPTAIN ROBERT EDWARDS received the New York property, a bequest from Queen Anne of England, as a commendation for service. He leased the land to John and George Cruger for 99 years for "1,000 pounds and a pepper corn yearly" as set out in a lease dated June 1, 1778, signed and executed at Manhattan Island. The land and all improvements thereon were to revert to the descendants of his lawful living heirs and those of his siblings, six brothers and a sister, at the expiration of the lease, i.e. May 31, 1877. Robert was the eldest acting on behalf of his siblings and it is understood died shortly after signing the Cruger lease.
Beginning in the late 1800s, any and all attempts by Canadian and American heirs to file a claim to such land proved fruitless. Lawyers sent to plead cases disappeared. Enquiries often met with stonewalling. The case was eventually carried through all New York State courts and lost everywhere. With the passage of time, claims were defeated by the state's Statute of Limitations.
A copy of the original lease is in the hands of at least one of the Edwards descendants, probably more, and the New York property story has been passed down through families.
- "Old family keeps trying for a slice of old Manhattan". Retrieved 2013-12-29.
- Official Glamorgan Record Office entry
- Informative Site
- Site for people with surname of Edwards' offering several more related links[dead link]
- NY Mag article
- Sample of NY Times article