The Carter Family

The Carter family was known as the ‘Carters of Prussia Cove’.

They were a smuggling family from Mount’s Bay, Cornwall and operated out of Prussia Cove in the late 18th century.

Cornish Costal Cove

Their mother; Agnes was born in 1714 had 10 children in total, 8 sons and 2 daughters. Unfortunately, only 8  out of the 10 children lived up to reach maturity, and so far only 4 of them can be traced… one of them was Thomas Carter, who was actually the oldest brother out of all the boys, being born in 1737 but died in 1818, Charles Carter born in 1757 and the other is Francis Carter who was born in 1745. The father of the family; Francis was born in 1712. His working profession was that of a miner and he rented a little farm for them.  The family was brought up in what was known at the time as ‘Decent Poverty’ but even so, they were a religious family like the rest of the neighbouring area. They were taught to say prayers before bed and of course to go to church on certain days and occasions.

While the rest of the siblings were brought up to good country scholars, there were a couple of brothers working together as smugglers in Penzance, Cornwall. These brothers were; John Carter the older brother who was born in 1738, and was nicknamed as the ‘King of Prussia’ due to his smuggling operations, and also it was also said that John had a clear resemblance to the renowned ‘Frederick the Great’ of which this had reached these lads around the time of the Seven years war. The second brother was Harry Carter, and he was born in 1749 in Pengerick, in the Parish of Breage in Cornwall County.


The boys were known to have great skill at sea, and they had two large vessels on hand. One of them was a 19-gun cutter, and the other was a 20-gun lugger. Both ships could hold around 30 men each and also came equipped with a minimum of one small boat per ship. The reason for this was for close inshore work. Combine their skills, love of the sea and their ships…with their knowledge of the Cornish coast and the French coast, along with their beliefs on the immoral grounds that were being put forward by putting tax on anything that was being traded. There was only one way that the Cove boys were going to go, and for that they were highly respected by their fellow Cornishmen.

Harry and John Carter used to take care of different sides of the business. Harry more into dealing with the transport side of things… whereas John was focused more on the sales and distribution of things, and both sides came with a side dish of violence.


Even though Harry Carter had his own adventures ranging as far as the states, the two brothers used to smuggle together at the coves. John Carter was well known for being a good and honest man, even though he was a smuggler and there are stories about his honesty and only taking what had belonged to him out of cargo. Most of what is known about the family and the Carter boys is through Harry Carters own autobiography titled ‘The Autobiography Of a Cornish Smuggler‘, storytelling and legends passed down through generations.

During such tough times, there were wars happening in both the States and also France. Any trade that was being done via the sea was open for criminal movement. Plenty of ships from various countries holding precious cargo, would be stopped and have their cargo taken. Even though the Navy tried to put a stop to this, they weren’t very successful at doing so due to the strain that was happening during that period. It was a lawless time, and everyone was doing anything they could do to survive.

Here are the links to ‘The Autobiography of a Cornish smuggler’ books: 

UK Link

US Link

German Link

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