Early Years

portrait of Peter Francisco

Peter Francisco – Capitol Building, Richmond, VA

Kidnapped by pirates from his wealthy family in the Azores in 1765! Abandoned in a New World where he couldn’t understand or speak the language! Living alone in a warehouse on a wharf! All of this at only five years of age!

How did this young boy of Portuguese descent become a hero of the American Revolutionary War? Here is his amazing story!

Pedro Francisco was born to Francisco Machado Luiz and his wife Antonia Maria on July 9, 1760, in Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, The Azores, where his baptism is recorded in St Anthony Church. The unimpeachable testimony of men of integrity told his story which coincides exactly with Peter’s account of how he came to be at City Point (now Hopewell, Virginia) in 1765.

“On Pentecost Sunday 1765, Pedro Francisco was playing with his sister in the gardens of their home in Porto Judeu, when Moorish pirates kidnapped him, and rushed him to a nearby ship which departed immediately and was never heard from again.”

Once Pedro learned English, he told of the events of his life, of his lovely mother, when he was kidnapped in the garden, and about his awful sea voyage to America. On June 23, 1765, a small boy was abandoned on a wharf at City Point (now Hopewell, Virginia). The eyewitness account of James Durell of Petersburg, Virginia states: "... a foreign ship sailed up the James River, dropped anchor opposite the dock, and lowered a longboat to the water with two sailors in it. Then a boy of about five years was handed down and rowed to the wharf, where he was deposited and abandoned. The boat returned, quickly, to its ship. The ship weighed anchor at once, sailed back down the James River, and was never heard from again." The child did not speak English and no one understood what he said, except that he kept repeating "Pedro Francisco." Thus, the local citizens called him Peter Francisco.

He was described as handsome, of dark complexion, probably from Italy or Portugal. His clothing, though disheveled from the long ocean voyage, was of the best quality and his shoes had silver buckles engraved with the initials "P. F." Though confused, sad and lonely, his demeanor and bearing were courageous and engaging which led the local citizens to believe he was from a wealthy family – perhaps nobility.

At first the authorities gave Peter a bed in which to sleep in a warehouse on the wharf; and the local housewives saw to it that he was well-fed. Later in the year he was taken to the Prince George County Poor House where he remained until Judge Anthony Winston took him to his home, "Hunting Tower Plantation" in Buckingham County, Virginia. Peter worked as an indentured servant in the fields and the blacksmith shop for eleven years. He gained in strength and stature – reaching the height of six feet six inches and the weight of two hundred sixty pounds by the age of fifteen!

Judge Winston was a prominent planter and a dedicated patriot who vigorously opposed the tyranny of the King of England. In fact, many conferences were held at Hunting Tower where resentment brewed toward England. While living in this atmosphere, Peter understood at an early age the real importance of the growing struggle for independence of the colonies.