Sir Michael Geare
Sir Michael Geare
(1558 - 1602)
Sir Michael was born into a rich, well-to-do family in Bristol England. The second son of Francis Geare, a merchant in the spice trade and Jane Pollard, a rich heiress originally from Stafford-Upon-Avon. Brought up spoilt, rambunctious and always eager to pick fights, Michael was finally sent to school in Cambridge. While he did well academically he never finished school, instead he was smitten by the adventure bug. Fame, fortune and ambition called and he left Eaton with a few friends to Plymouth to try out their fortunes. When his father threatened to cut him out of his inheritance, he reluctantly returned to school only to leave again when his father died 11 months later. He sold the house his doting mother had bought for him in Cambridge, and with the money he again went to Plymouth to search for fame and adventure. Records indicate from 1575 till 1584, Michael worked on many different trade vessels, mostly they were trade ships going to Antwerp, Venice and around the Mediterranean sea working his way up from a boatswain's mate to master.
England and Spain engaged in a privateering war between 1586 though 1603, which is when Geare was active in the West Indies. Geare's first voyages were under Sir George Carey. He then worked for John Watts from 1588 through 1591. In 1590 Michael was the Master of the Little John captained by Christopher Newport with a fleet of six additional ships which attempted to relieve the Roanoke Colonists by Governor John White. No record is available whether the relief effort was successful or not.
In 1591, he was made captain of the Little John, which was one of five ships under the command of William Lane that raided the Spanish ports in the Carribeans. According to Lane's accounts, Geare was in the forefront of most of the fighting, gaining for himself a rather large booty plus extra loot by smuggling goods into England. Geare bought a share in the Little John and renamed her the "Michael and John". From 1592 to 1595, Geare had four successful versions in the ship. In 1595, Geare encountered a Spanish warship near Havana. The battle cost the lives of 50 of his crew as well as a pinnace, the Spanish prize he had captured. Geare fled the action in the ''Michael and John'' and was able to recoup some of his losses with the taking of another Spanish prize, after which he returned to England.
In 1596, Geare command of the Neptune and it's pinnace with John Rilesden and Christopher Newport. Towards the end of the year, Geare along with 15 men stole the pinnace plus several more prizes before setting anchor at Jamaica where he joined Sir Anthony Sherley. Geare, Sherley, and William Parker sailed to Honduras. In 1601, Geare was in command of the warship Archangel and captured three valuable ships. Geare was able to get two of the ships back to England but was separated from the third in a storm. The crew of the third ship sailed her to Morocco where she was sold.
Geare was instrumental in the capture of two Spanish warships as well as several other ships during 1602 when his ship was part of a three-ship consort led by Christopher Newton. In 1603, Geare at the age of 45 retired to a large home in Stepney, a suburb of London. He was quite wealthy and had been bestowed the honor of knighthood the year before.