Capt. Zachariah Gillam | Gilliams of Virginia

Other Early GILLIAMs: Pirates and Revolutionaries
Capt Zachariah Gillam of Boston
Updated March 4, 2016


Zachariah Gillam was the second son of Benjamin Gillam of Gillam and Company of Boston.

In 1664, when about thirty years old, he was captain of the vessel that transported the French explorers, Radisson and Groseillers, into the Hudson Bay region. In the ketch Nonesuch, he reconnoitered the bay for those interested in forming the Hudson Bay Company, and his was reputed to be the first European ship ever to reach the lower end of the bay. In 1671, the year after the company was chartered, Gillam sailed the Prince Rupert into Hudson Bay again, among other things conducting a search for the Northwest Passage. He was dismissed from company service upon his return to England in 1673, and charged with engaging in private trade while employed on business for the Proprietors of Hudson Bay. Shaftesbury instituted a suit against him in Chancery Court in 1674, although the captain seems to have been back in the good graces of the Proprietors by 1675.

He was in the Albemarle tobacco trade as early as 1676 and possibly earlier. By this date he also appears to have served as an unauthorized agent purchasing tobacco for the non-English European market. In addition, there has been the suggestion that Gillam operated a counting house in Albemarle.

Zachariah Gillam was without a doubt involved in Culpeper’s Rebellion, for the uprising did not occur until after the arrival of his ship, the Carolina, with a cargo of arms and ammunition.

Gillam was also in Virginia at the time of Bacon's Rebellion. He reported the burning of Jamestown:

One of the King’s ships, “The Young Prince,” arrived in the James River during the height of the rebellion. For nearly four months it lay off Isle of Wight in Waryascoak Bay (Burwell’s) and its commander kept a journal of his daily movements. Many events occurring in Isle of Wight are mentioned therein. The Journal was as follows:
Sep 19th, came to Kicowtan, Capt. Prin informed me the country was all up in arms.
Sept 20th; anchored at Newport News, a sloop coming down the river informed us the Governor had quitted Jamestown and was coming down with his men and shipping.
Sept 21; Capt. Gilliam came aboard and informed us of the burning of Jamestown
Sept 26; We ride fast expecting the Governor who was in Warayscoak Bay
26th and 27th; the Governor mustered his men on shore and there came down a sloop of Bacon’s who fired a one of ours
Oct 7th; we anchored in the mouth of the Nansemond and had intelligence the enemy had retired
Oct 27th; we stood in the mouth of Elizabeth River and sent the sloop ashore to trim and in the evening resolved to go to Nansemond to hinder the coming over of the rebels.
31st; Major Sawyer sent a rebellious soldier “I put him neck and heels for a quarter of an hour and release him on Capt. Nosworthy’s persuasion.” . . .

Arrested in London in 1680 with John Culpeper, he was released for lack of actual proof of his participation in Culpeper's Rebellion.

Soon after this, known as “old Gillam,” he once again captained the Prince Rupert on a voyage to Hudson Bay. There he and his son, Benjamin II, “Young Gillam,” became entangled in new charges of illegal trading in the area. On October 21, 1682, Zachariah Gillam drowned when the Prince Rupert, crushed by the ice in the Nelson River, sank.


Sources
  • Boddie, John Bennett, Seventeenth century Isle of Wight County, Virginia : a history of the county of Isle of Wight, Virginia, during the seventeenth century, including abstracts of the county records. Chicago: Chicago Law Print. Co., 1938, pgs 146-147.