Was Alexander Who We Think He Was?

But how do we know he was the second son of these parents?

We don’t, not absolutely. We believe it on the basis of two pieces of evidence.

1) In Maryland, Alexander named three of his plantations for Dunblane (a cathedral town in Perthshire), Craigneich (the farm where Alexander Magruder the elder was born), and Inchaffray (an abbey and estate near Maderty, where Alexander the elder was Chamberlain–corrupted in Maryland to Anchovie Hills). Craigneich is especially convincing because it was (and is) a private farm, not a large estate. It is unlikely a man without intimate connections there would have bestowed this name on a Maryland farm, and few would have had such connections.

Alexander named no plantations for Balmaclone (or Belliclone) where he is believed to have been born. That was a Drummond farm, to which his mother had a lifetime right as widow of her first husband, Andrew Drummond. Craigneich was a McGruder farm and had been for several generations. Alexander was seven or eight years old when his father died and his mother remarried, at which point he probably would have been sent to live at Craigneigh to be raised by his father’s family.

2) The Records of the Privy Council (vol. viii, pp 101-102) show that on 22 November, 1622, one “Alexander McA Growder,” twelve years old, was fined for illegally carrying arms and shooting deer and wildfowl with some other boys at Spittalsfield, Caputh Parish, near Cargill, about six miles from Dunkeld.

This provides a birth date of ~1610, which places him after James, the known eldest son of Alexander Magruder and Margaret Campbell. This family–and James especially–also show strong association with Cargill. Later in his life, James Magruder is identified as being either in Cargill, indicating he lived there, or of Cargill, indicating he owned land there. In one record he is designated Laird of Cargill, which, if accurate, indicates a significant elevation in status.

And that’s it. That’s our positive evidence.

What we might call negative evidence boils down to the simple fact that no other candidate can be found in the records. McGruders / MacGrouthers were few in number, so other choices for where to locate Alexander among known families would be slim. In 1620, John McGrouther (brother of Alexander the elder) purchased land in Meigor, in Glen Artney, thus making the rare step from tenant to landowner. His descendants owned this farm until the 19th century when the line died out. Because of land ownership, there are more records for that family than for any other. Among them there is no Alexander who could be our immigrant, nor is there a Maryland plantation called Meigor.

Don McGruther has found a few McGruthers, MacCrouthers, and other variations of the name, scattered through the southern Highlands, Edinburgh, and as far as Ireland, but it seems far-fetched to imagine that Alexander came from one of those families. His strong attachment to Perthshire, in particular to Inchaffray and Craigneich, establishes his origins in the McGrouther heartland.

* * * * * * * *

See Sources for full citations.

Charles Kurz, “The McGruder Lineage in Scotland to Magruder Family in America.”

Don McGruther, Wha’s Like Us? MacGrouthers in Scotland before 1855.

Gordon MacGregor, Red Book of Perthshire.

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