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Billy Boy and Seabreeze
Lloyd Hudson Frye
Born William Alexander Seaworthy in 1676 to a poor millwright in a run-down
neighborhood of Boston , Massachusetts , William had a remarkable life from the
very start. As a baby, he never got sick and there was talk even back then that
there was something about him that just wasn’t right. His parents were proud of
their only son and often would tell people of things he did that were special.
But the people in the neighborhood thought the things they heard and saw for
themselves were too strange to believe and stayed away from the family entirely.
Eventually, the family had to move away from the Boston area after being asked
to leave by a committee sent to talk to them.
“Mamma, why are people so mean to us?” Bill’s lower lip was quivering from the
effects of the committee’s visit. He knew it was because of him that they had to
“Because they don’t see the beauty in you like we do.”
“But Mamma, I’m not beautiful, I’m a boy.”
“You’re my beautiful baby boy.”
“I am not a baby; I’m five years old next month.”
“You’re a baby to me.”
Bill stomped off to his bedroom mumbling the whole way about his not being a
baby. He never really forgave his mother for calling him that.
His father picked a small fishing village along the northern coast of Maine ,
thinking people there would leave them alone. Bill grew up in the village, but
children stayed away from him because of stories their parents told them. Some
of the things they said, the children had seen with their own eyes.
There was the day Bill ran into a jagged piece of metal sticking out of an old
sea wall down close to the water line. There was no blood. Bill looked down at
his arm and there was a gash running from his wrist to his elbow, but not a drop
of blood. The kids next to him could see the white bones and the red tissue but
not a drop of blood.
“Bill, look at your arm. You can see the bone. It’s white like a skeleton,”
cried out Jimmy Walker as he stared at Bill’s red and white arm. All the boys
came closer while the girls ran inside Becky Gray’s house close by.
“Pretty neat, huh. I never bleed when I get cut.”
In unison the boys all went, “Gooolllleeeee”
There were other stories as well. One winter, Bill was playing with Jimmy and
Sarah from next door down by the pond. Their parents let them play with Bill
because it would be awkward to forbid it, being right next door to the Seaworthy
family. That day Bill was walking out on the ice, and telling the others it was
thick enough to walk on. The next thing they saw was Bill falling through the
ice and disappearing under the gray-white sheet of water.
Jimmy breathing heavy called out, “Sarah ran fast and get some help!”
Sarah ran for help while Jim tried to break off a large tree branch to hold out
to Bill. Jimmy could see Bill’s face through the ice; a slight smile is all he
could make out. Both fathers showed up about the same time with rope and a long
sled. Bill’s father got on the sled and Jimmy and his dad held on to the rope
they had tied to one end of the sled. Once they had pulled the two of them back
to shore, no one was particularly surprised that Bill wasn’t shivering. Bill
walked back to the house, changed clothes and returned to playing like nothing
had happened. In fact Bill never seemed to mind the waters of the North Atlantic
Ocean and could be seen playing in the surf year-round.
“What was it like under there?” Jimmy’s eyes still wide from the excitement.
“I don’t know. I could see everyone on top yelling and running around. It was
Even though he played with Jimmy and Sarah next door, Bill never really formed a
close friendship with anyone while growing up in that remote village. His mother
loved him and took care that he had whatever he needed, yet there was always a
distance Bill maintained with her after the baby incident. He was slightly
closer to his father, but the closeness ended at the point his father stopped
answering all his questions. Bill figured his father quit caring enough to
bother answering him. Teachers were amazed at his breadth of knowledge and
ability to learn new things as fast as they could teach him. Repeating subject
matter would cause Bill to stare off into the distance or worse, disrupt the
class until a new topic was covered. On the playground, if Bill fell he would
get up and keep playing, never rubbing where the bump had formed. He would
correct the teachers if they misspoke. If he couldn’t get enough information on
certain subjects, he would become irritated.
“Miss Caulder, Miss Caulder, you used the past tense just then.” He loved it
when they slipped like that.
“Thank you William. Now if you would be so kind, go to the board and write 100
words giving their past, present, and future tenses before you go home today.”
“But all I did was point out what you point out everyday with us.”
“That is “to” us, not “with” us, Bill. When you’re the teacher you can do it too
– not until”
By twelve, Bill was tired of school and tried to sign on a ship as a deck hand.
Bill had chiseled features and a cleft chin. He was big for his age and even
began to sport a small goatee that made his dark brown eyes look black in
contrast. The man signing sailors up couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but
Bill made him uneasy. There was something about the young man that made him
uncomfortable, but he signed him on anyway since they were short handed as it
was. Other members of the crew picked up on the unusual aspect of Bill
An older boy on the first day at sea came over to Bill and shoved him into a
pile of tangled netting that looked like a giant mound of live spiders. Bill
didn’t fight back, just looked at him and didn’t say a word. The older kid took
out his knife and swiped across Bill’s arms. Two cuts opened up but no blood
showed up. Several sailors were watching and laughed at the new kid not
defending himself. The laughing stopped as they all stared at the inch wide
openings in Bill’s arms.
The older kid screamed “You devil. I’ll make you bleed for sure.”
Suddenly everyone there was staring at the knife handle sticking straight out
from Bill’s stomach. Bill looked down, grabbed the handle, pulled the knife out
and threw it back at the other boy.
“I believe this is yours.” Bill figured letting him live would be much scarier
than killing him.
The knife sank deep into the aged, pitch covered mast where it pinned the boy’s
jacket while grazing his chest. At that, everyone to the man quickly scattered
as Bill went back to securing some lines he had been working on. After that day,
all of the crew, even the most aggressive sailors, stayed clear of him for the
rest of the entire voyage. He was used to people staying away from him, forcing
him into a life of isolation and the dysfunction that follows.
At each port of call, Bill would go into town and show up again just before they
weighed anchor. No one saw him in town and the crew spent much of the voyage
making up things they had seen him do while in port. After the incident with the
knife, no story seemed impossible. In Lisbon , he was said to have caused a man
to blackout with just a dirty look because the man had interrupted a
beer-drinking contest Bill was involved with. In Athens , it took over 30 men to
throw him out of a bar and later two dozen policemen let him go because they
didn’t think they could arrest him and haul him to jail. The police captain
decided it wouldn’t look good if they tried and failed. He wasn’t about to lose
his job over some disturbance in a local bar. Someone said they heard that when
Bill was shot in the chest at point blank range, he merely stuck his index
finger in the hole and popped the slug out onto the floor. There were also
stories of him lifting a six-horse carriage off the ground while injured
passengers were pulled from underneath.
By 1692, after four years at sea, Bill Seaworthy returned to New England , a man
at sixteen years of age. In a dockside eatery, he saw a vision of beauty and
asked around about her. They told him her name was Elizabeth and she had come
down from the North to seek her fortune. He introduced himself to Elizabeth
Joyce at a market in Portland .
“Hello, my name is William Alexander Seaworthy, and I wish to ask you to join me
at the bridge for a celebration this Saturday next.”
“No thank you, I have plans.”
“Maybe you could change your plans so you would free to accompany me that day?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Then the Saturday after, to see the ships depart at high tide.”
“No, I have plans for that whole weekend.”
“Is there a chance of any day, either this month, or the next, or one after
that?” He had decided to make her admit there was not going to be a day she
would agree to see him, rather than letting her say no gracefully.
“Very well, if you insist on such a direct answer, I can assure you Mr.
Seaworthy, there will never be a day in which you may count on my company,
“You are plain enough in your answer, I wonder if you would be so kind as to
give me a reason for such a posture?”
“Yes Sir, I would be happy to. The fact that you insist on anything at all upon
first introduction, a self introduction at that, indicates you Sir, are a man
that assumes far too much and any relationship would be one of agreeing to your
thoughts and needs at the complete denial of mine.”
“Your fiery words have lit the passion of my soul and I have every intention of
pursuing you to the ends of the earth, if need be.” Bill was built for the
chase, long and lean, and with a childhood of always being on the outside, he
was determined to have this woman as his own.
“I’ll have the authorities enforce my rights of denial. You must be some sort of
“A mad man I am.”
He courted her for quite some time before she agreed to marry him. She was a
woman who had caught her husband in the arms of another, and had left with only
the clothes on her back, with two handsome sons and a beautiful, three-year-old
daughter. Bill was in love with her beauty and her courage. Women with children
and no man to support them were a rare and noble breed. He considered her
strength equal to his in spirit and adored her determination. Unfortunately for
the newly formed family, the sea was all he knew. Working in town or fishing
locally would have made him restless. So he kissed his loving family goodbye and
set off again with one of the crews he knew from before to secure his fortune
and return to them a wealthy man.
“Bye, my love. I will return with a proper income to provide the family as soon
“Return soon, Bill.”
They kissed long and gently. The boys smirked and the daughter laughed as it
went on and on. Bill turned finally and walked towards the wharf without looking
back. He didn’t want them to see the tears that had filled his eyes; he couldn’t
see clearly as he walked along and tripped while still in sight.
She worked various jobs to support the family in his absence. Bill wished he had
done work ashore in his past, so sailing wasn’t his only option. Because it was
a sea port most of the jobs were on the docks doing paperwork, mostly bills of
lading and filing such. The work was tedious but it paid the bills, and with two
teenage boys to feed, that was a challenge. Rebecca was the most affected by
Bill being at sea.
“Momma, when will papa be home?”
“He’ll be home just as soon as he secures his fortune. It should be soon.”
“Billy Boy” was a legend. Elizabeth had heard of the stories about a boy no one
could kill, injure, or for that matter hurt in any way. But she had no idea that
her beloved Bill was that boy. In seaports all over the world, drunken sailors
told stories of a boy that couldn’t die. If a sailor wanted to watch a man go
ghostly white, he would point behind the man and say, “Isn’t that Billy Boy at
the bar, weren’t you just saying you could wipe the bar room floor with him?” As
with any story after it’s told several times, the facts get lost in the shuffle
as men try to amaze and shock those listening. Now, as the story goes, it took
over 300 men to throw Billy Boy out of that saloon in Athens . In Lisbon , the
man died from the dirty look. The carriage became a collapsing second story of
an orphanage where sixty small children scampered to safety while he held tons
of sagging timbers. It was said he never walked completely upright after that,
some of the ligaments in his back were torn beyond repair. It was the first time
anyone had heard of him being injured. That didn’t mean that men were ready to
try their luck at challenging him to win fame and glory. In fact, a slightly
stooped Billy Boy was even more unsettling when he came through a doorway. His
arms were covered with scars from earlier wounds. Eventually, no man anywhere in
the world would brag that he could show Billy Boy a thing or two, no matter how
drunk he got.
Whenever Billy Boy was home, he divided his time between the family and looking
for the right town to settle down in. He had only one requirement of the ideal
location; that they had never heard of Billy Boy of Boston . So up and down the
eastern seaboard he went looking for peace and quiet. He would go directly to
the central part of town, walk in to any bar, and tell a Billy Boy story, hoping
they would just look at him funny. He would roar at some of the stories, amazed
at the imagination of men when they are drunk. But he noticed that even the
braggarts avoided saying they could beat him in a fight.
In one tavern, in a small sea port town, Bill told a Billy Boy story about the
carriage he had held up while a wheel was changed.
A particularly drunk sailor countered, “That’s nothing, I heard he had to get a
friend out of prison and pulled the bars out of the cell window, frame and all.
Then when the guards pursued the escaping prisoner Billy Boy threw the framed
bars back towards the cell wall so hard, that the entire building collapsed.”
Bill spoke up, “That’s impossible. I doubt the boy could even bend the bars much
less do that.”
“You’re a brave man standing there alone. Bet you wouldn’t say nothing if he
Bill didn’t know why he said that. It wasn’t going to stop the stories from
being told. He doubled his efforts to find a remote place his family would be
happy living in and he could escape these endless stories.
In 1698, on Bill’s 22nd birthday, he rode into a small delta town in the
Carolinas that housed the families of guards at the local colonial prison
established years before. No one had heard of Billy Boy, or as he was called
these days, Boston Billy. So the Seaworthy family left Boston , the largest city
in the colonies with 7000 residents, and settled in, hopefully, for rest of
Bill’s sons, Theodore and Douglas, joined him in the family business, a bait and
tackle shop that also repaired anything that was broke. Darkwood Dock, named
after local trees with unusually dark wood, was so far from the beaten path,
Bill and his family were the first outsiders the people had seen in four years.
No one counted the new prisoners from England that arrived twice a year on a
well-guarded prison ship.
Bill and Elizabeth were happy living in the quiet little town and their sons
married local girls and had large families. The seasons were mild. The summer
sun was cooled by ocean breezes and giant white clouds. Bill always wore loose
fitting long sleeved shirts to cover his past. His daughter, Rebecca or Becky,
was a curious girl and wanted to know everything about the world. He would take
her to the ocean beaches and tell her Billy Boy stories. He would tell what he
heard had actually happened, and then tell her the first time he heard it told,
and then any following versions he had been told.
“Tell me another Billy Boy story, papa”, as she leaned against him on the sand
and squirmed around until she was comfortable on her back with her head resting
on his leg.
“I’ve told you six stories since we got out here this morning. Best we head back
so you don’t miss your supper.”
“I’m not hungry, besides Billy Boy never had to eat; he had the air to breath
and the sun to warm his belly.”
“Yes, but he had no home to go to where meals were waiting.”
Her eyes closed as she tried to stretch out the moment to last the rest of the
“Papa, have you ever seen Billy Boy when you were out to sea or in one of those
“No sweet one, I never did.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Why is that?”
“Because if you knew him, I’m sure he would like you, and be your friend, and
then you could invite him to live with us, for ever and ever.”
“He’s probably not even real little one.”
Bill softly brushed his finger tips across her small forehead, while she smiled,
her eyes still closed tight.
“I love you papa.”
“I love you too, little one.”
One day when he was repairing an axle on a buggy, she saw his arms bare with all
the scars, bumps, and knots. He quickly covered them up and grunted to get him
some water. She never asked him about his arms and he never said a word.
Bill didn’t like the name Rebecca that much, so he started calling her Seabreeze,
since they spent so much time on the beach and there seemed to be ocean breezes
all the time, day and night. She didn’t marry any of the local boys when she
reached the marrying age of 13. She said it was a new century and she was going
to do something with her life. The local schoolteacher lived with the Seaworthy
family, so Seabreeze had access to all the books she wanted to read. She would
read well into the night under the covers with a small candle at her feet. In
the morning, she would carefully peel all the wax off the sheets that had
dripped over the edge of the holder the night before. Her mother had warned her
about starting a fire with candles, but hadn’t actually forbid her from reading
under the covers. Seabreeze looked up to one woman in particular, Aphra Behn,
whose political poetry and theatrical plays catapulted her from an unknown
origin to a pinnacle of success in London society. Bill would tell her that the
idea that women are incapable of critical thinking was absurd and as for the
idea that they were to remain silent and obedient, he used to laugh out loud.
“Papa, you married mother because she spoke her mind, didn’t you.”
“That, and because she was intelligent and wise.”
“Mother says it was because you had to chase her forever and you were too winded
to chase any others.”
“Your mother was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and I had no choice
but follow her wherever she went. I was under her spell then and I’m under her
The next ten years were the best of Bill’s life. Seabreeze’s teacher, Miss
Brighton, was French on her mother’s side and taught a strict Parisian French
class, a luxury in a town so remote. Seabreeze was sure she was ready to visit
Paris in the spring and meet some extremely handsome boy, fall in love, then
return a wiser, worldlier woman. Miss Brighton said she could learn French in
the newly established Detroit before going to Paris , but Bill put his foot
down. He thought she was too young and would miss her too much to allow such a
thing to happen. He took this stand in spite of his going to sea at 12 against
his parent’s wishes. The issue boiled and brewed in the family mostly out of ear
shot of Bill until one day Elizabeth came to him.
“William Alexander, will you reconsider your daughter’s future and what would be
best for her, not what you think would be best for you.”
“But the advantages that could be offered at…”
Elizabeth loved Bill but she knew when to push it and when to drop it.”
Bill sat looking out at his precious Seabreeze. A tear ran down his cheek He
wiped it off after turning his head, so Elizabeth didn’t see.
Word reached Darkwood Dock of war being declared against Spain and France by
England , following the recent coronation of Queen Anne. Although there were
raids by French troops along the entire East Coast, none came anywhere near
Darkwood Dock. Though the delta was known for rich bottom land, few plantations
were closer than 50 miles for fear of escaped convicts. The Carolinas were
prison colonies. Bill’s views were strong against slavery and told Seabreeze
since she was little, that black men were men too. So it was with great
reluctance that he forbade her to invite a young black boy she was interested in
to her sweet sixteen birthday party in ‘05. All the townspeople would be there
and a law had just been passed that it was now illegal for whites and blacks to
marry. In this community, even being seen with a black boy would have them run
out of the community. It was one of the only times Seabreeze wouldn’t talk to
Bill and he went into a deep depression that lasted for weeks.
That same summer, Bill had an accident while fixing a harvesting machine. The
blades were sharp and his mind was on the fiasco at the birthday party when it
happened. Before he could pull his hand back, a blade had sliced off his thumb
along the life line. Theodore, his oldest son was there and insisted that he
take Bill to Bensonville to see the only doctor in a hundred miles of hard
riding. Doc Singleton had studied medicine with a doctor in Boston from Europe
and the rumor was he had to run from some big gambling debts that he couldn’t
pay off. Bill knew the Doc from when there complications with the birth of his
third grandchild and thought him quite competent. Still, Bill had never gone to
a doctor and if it wasn’t for an infection that set in he wouldn’t have gone.
Bill had positioned the thumb carefully in its proper place then bound it so
tightly his skin was white all the way to his small finger. The Doc had to cut
away some dead skin around the wound and found that it did not bleed where he
was cutting. He left the room immediately and brought back two large books.
After several minutes, he put down his reading spectacles.
“Bill, you have a rare condition of the blood vessels and surrounding tissue,
possibly all your body cells are involved. Your blood vessels will close up and
seal themselves instantly upon being severed and there was a good chance that
your vital organs will do the same.”
“Doc, what are you trying to say?”
“I don’t know how long you’ll live, but getting wounded in a fight isn’t going
to be a concern.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Thanks doc, what do I owe you?”
“It’s on the house, if you’ll let me write up this in the Colonial Medical
Journal and agree to be examined by men from various parts of the world.”
“Forget it, I’ve spent years finding seclusion.”
“Enough!” Bill left Doc’s office while buttoning up his shirt. He had left a
gold piece well in excess of what the charges would have come to. He expected
Doc to keep his secret while he spent the excess.
By 1714, the year George I ascended to the throne, the Queen Anne War was over
and the Motherland had been the United Kingdom for several years. The Carolinas
and been divided into North and South, so Bill and his family were now from
North Carolina where importing new slaves was illegal and what plantations were
still around were in hard times. The town of Darkwood Dock had grown some,
mostly newborns from marriages of locals since strangers were seldom seen. Miss
Brighton had married Jim Bob Thompson, the town’s blacksmith back in ‘09 and
Seabreeze had taken over a school of 22 children, grades 1-8 at 20, years of
age. She was known as “the old schoolmarm”, since women her ages had large
families of their own and were considered middle aged. Seabreeze always told
Bill the local boys seemed like her brothers and she had no interest in them
romantically. The books she read told of dashing young men who did great deeds
and rode giant white stallions that carried them into battle. Seabreeze had
added Greek and Latin to English and French classes in the one room schoolhouse
on the bank of the delta.
That year three things happened that made it impossible for Bill to stay in
North Carolina . In late spring, his beloved wife Elizabeth has come down with
influenza and died. Seabreeze had been seeing a recently released prisoner that
talked real smooth and slid out of town just as easily. She was with child when
a traveling pots and pans salesman came to town with his wagon of every day
goods and recognized Bill as Billy Boy of Boston . Bill denied it but several
people standing there asked why the man was so sure. The vendor listed five
things about Boston Bill that fit Bill like a glove: the scars on his chest and
arms, the way he couldn’t stand perfectly upright, the ages of his wife and
children, his unbelievable strength, and the steely look he would give a man
that would paralyze the man where he stood. The men in town knew it was true. It
explained how no one could beat him arm wrestling at picnics. It also explained
the feeling they got if he looked at them a certain way, how their arms and legs
went stiff and their heart seemed to stop beating. Bill gave the peddler one of
those looks as he helped the old man back on his wagon and slapped the
hindquarters of his horse. As the wagon went off down the road with a stiff
looking salesman holding the reins, the townspeople began to pull back from Bill
and Theodore as they finished loading their buckboard.
The following week, Bill signed ownership of the business over to Theodore and
Douglas who by this time were expert at fixing anything that turned, rotated, or
had gears. Bill’s right thumb had knitted back in place but most of the nerve
endings never healed and he wasn’t able to switch to his left hand for much of
the work he needed to do. Bill was still depressed and lonely from Elizabeth ’s
passing and almost welcomed the chance to get away from all the things that
reminded him of her. He would miss his sons and their wives who he had known
since they were little girls. The eight grandchildren were going to miss him the
most. Much of their weekends and every day after school they would run to
Grandpa Bill to hear stories of the sea and ports of call all over the world. He
spent two to four hours with each one before leaving going over their time
together and what he wanted them to do in the up coming months.
The leaves were beginning to fall and there was a light frost on the ground the
morning that William and Rebecca Seaworthy kissed and hugged their family
goodbye and climbed up on the small buckboard loaded with all her books and
their personal belongings. They had left just enough space for a giant malamute
he had bought from a man in Bensonville the year before. He figured he would
sleep easier at night on the road traveling with a 300 pound guard that could
fit a man’s head in his mouth before swallowing it. Klondike was the biggest dog
he had ever seen anywhere in the world. That included a giant St. Bernard in
Geneva and huge mastiff in Oslo . The man he bought it from said Klondike had
carried a man with a broken leg two hundred miles through the mountains of the
Yukon Territories on his back to safety.
Seabreeze was just starting to show and as she pulled herself up to the seat,
she looked at Bill and said it was time to go before she threw up again. They
were headed to Boston , where she would teach school and be the widow from the
South. Hers would be a tragic story, of a newly wed husband killed by Indians
near the end of the Toscarora Indian War the same night she gave birth to their
first child. Bill planned to spend a year or so getting to Boston so there story
matched the baby’s age.
They settled into a small cottage just outside of Baltimore to allow time for
the story line they would tell in Boston . It was a cold morning in March when
Elizabeth Aphra Seaworthy came into the world. She was a happy baby and spent
much of her day creating mounds of bubbles she delivered to waiting shoulders.
Bill loved her dearly and called her Seafoam.
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