Check out a new photo of Wester Meigor, added to Hugh Rose’s Photos of Glen Artney & Craigneich. Thanks, Hugh!
Duncan McGruther sends the following query:
From the Scottish Archives it does not appear that Alexander the Immigrant would be ‘a poor indentured servant’, so where in USA is this Indenture held, and can someone please post it online?
Alexander was captured in a Civil War battle against Cromwell – Dunbar (Sept 1650) in Scotland, or Preston (Aug 1648) or Worcester (Sep 1651) in England all fit date wise, though the latter date is very late (impossible?) to give time for Alexander to be transported across the Atlantic in time to start buying land in America in 1651. Alex’s family were the most senior officials in the Duke of Perth’s household, and in turn the Drummonds Of Perth were King Charles I particular favourite Dukes in Scotland. So if Alex did not have money directly he would have had access to it. I do not doubt as a Prisoner of War Alex would have been exiled and transported, but he would not have been poor, hence him buying up land on his arrival in Maryland.
These are important questions, that help to clarify the relationship between Scottish and American records; so I’ll respond point-by-point.
- Prisoners of war who were transported and sold into indenture were not necessarily poor men to begin with.
- No individual documents of indenture survive from Maryland’s early years. Entries regarding indenture do survive in Colonial records.
- There is no evidence at all that Alexander was buying land by 1651 or even 1653. The colony offered “headrights” of land to anyone who brought settlers into Maryland, whether family members or servants. Indentured servants (whether prisoners or those who voluntarily indentured themselves) were also entitled to a headright at completion of their indenture.
- Note that a headright existed only on paper. The recipient then needed to find his or her 50 acres, hire a surveyor, and pay the court clerk to record the details. Still to be done: find labor to clear the land and to build a house plus outbuildings, and then to plant the land in tobacco and corn. These details go far to explain why many former servants simply sold their headrights and went elsewhere to look for a life.
- Speculation that Alexander was in Maryland as early as 1651 arises from a claim for land made by one John Ashcomb in reward for having brought several people into the colony, including “Alexander Mathoda.” It is important to note that a statement that so-and-so brought someone into the colony is not always literally true. Often it means that the claimant is entitled to a “headright” of 100 acres (1630s-1640s) or 50 acres (by Alexander’s time) in the name of that new person. Claiming in the name of an indentured servant is a common circumstance.
- The reason some believe this record from 1651 refers to Alexander is that the same man, John Ashcomb, assigns land to “Alexander Macruder my servant” on 19 November 1653. That phrasing (“my servant”) indicates that this land is due to Alexander on completion of indenture. If that “Mathoda” entry is, indeed, our Alexander, then the commonly-held belief that he arrived with other prisoners on The Guinea in January 1652 is wrong.
- The next definite trace in the land records is from 7 October 1653, when Charles Steward assigned 50 acres to “Alexander Macruder.” The 50 acres were due to Stewart for importing his wife “into the Patuxent.” (The Patuxent is the principle river in southern Maryland, which was, at the time, the center of the colony and included its capitol at St. Mary’s City.)
- The question about Alexander’s indenture is how/why he got free so quickly. Money from home–from the Drummonds or directly from his own family–is the most obvious explanation. Early redemption was not common, but clearly occurred.
- As well, men with skills were able to earn money on the side and purchase their freedom. Given his family of origin (described so clearly by Duncan) we have every reason to believe Alexander was fully literate, a rare skill in Maryland of the 1650s. Both Aschcomb and Steward signed those land assignments with “X.” That two men may have owned Alexander’s indenture jointly also suggests that he was initially sold at a very high price–possibly because of literacy, possibly because he came from a privileged class, or both.
- In his book Economy and Society in Early Colonial Maryland, historian Russell A. Menard studied two groups of indentured men in early Maryland. His second group, which included Alexander, consisted of “all of the 137 men identified as indentured servants in the headright entries found in the first 300 pages of liber AB&H of the patents series and who arrived in Maryland between 1648 and 1652.” Among other things, this puts the latest limit for Alexander’s arrival at 1652. It probably also indicates that Menard accepts the “Mathoda” entry as referring to Alexander McGruder/Magruder.
- 72 of those men later appear in the records as free men. Subtracting those who died, left the colony, or disappeared from the records without explanation, 56 remained in the study group whose economic lives Menard followed. About 75% of those 56 men acquired land in the colony, most holding between 50 and 400 acres. Alexander Magruder was one of three men (the others were John Bogue and Nicholas Gassaway) who owned more than 1000 acres when they died.
- It is important to bear in mind that in this study Alexander was compared to other formerly indentured men. Most land in the colony was owned or otherwise controlled by a small number of wealthy and well-connected men who had never been indentured.
- A related fact: Menard reports that 43 or 44 (around 75%) of those 56 men participated in local government in some way during their lifetimes–from serving on juries to holding minor offices such as constable or overseer of highways. We know from other sources that Alexander Magruder was one of the 25% who did not. Menard notes that formerly indentured men of his time largely were shut out of high office, those positions having been locked up by earlier arrivants and/or wealthier individuals. Interestingly, the two exceptions were Bogue and Gassaway, both of whom obtained relatively high military and/or civic positions.
- For full info on Menard’s work, click the Bibliography tab on this site, then click Early Maryland. I have been quoting and paraphrasing from Chapter V: The Age of the Small Planter, pages 174-175 in the 1985 edition. His notes cite individual land patents.
- Charles Kurz (also in the Bibliography) cites early entries for Alexander Magruder in the Maryland Archives’ Land Records as Liber AB&H, Folio 352 & following. I don’t have copies of them. Theoretically, they are available on line and I am seeking help from the Maryland Hall of Records to actually find them. (Those who have used the MSA site will need no explanation!)
A new missive from Scottish researcher Duncan McGruther:
I have recently confirmed some information that was not available to me when I wrote my book MacGrouthers in Scotland to 1855, and feel I am in a position to make some reasoned speculation on the source of the McGruthers of Meigor wealth. In 1620 the McGruder family, tenants in Innerclair alias Wester Craigneich, acquired the lands of Meigor near Comrie, Perthshire. In an era when it was almost unheard of for any tenants to acquire land, they became the first McGruther landowners in Scotland. The date is intriguing. Around this time the Dukes of Perth family became one of the ‘Undertakers’ in what is now Northern Ireland of a scheme to populate the land there with Scottish and English tenants – the Plantation of Ulster. Scottish Perthshire names begin appearing from then on in Ulster, including John McCrue, father and son, whose ancestors’ written testimony speculates their name was derived from McGruder.
Thus, the Drummonds of Perth, to curry favour with the King (whose Scheme was the Plantation of Ulster) undertook to supply tenants for Ireland. The McGruders supplied their junior family members, but extracted Meigor in Scotland as their price. The McGruders who moved to Northern Ireland themselves got 9000 acres of land. The Source of the McGruder/McCrue name is thus Perthshire, and there is no separate Irish McGruder (or variations thereof) name.
This may explain why, since [my] book was published in 2007, no Ulster McGruder/Magruder/etc has come forward.
A reader just asked me the meaning of Craigneich, the farm near the foot of Glen Artney where Alexander McGruder/Magruder presumably was raised after the death of his father. Though no longer associated with our family, in Alexander’s time the place had long McGruther/McGruder/MacCrouther associations and was his father’s homeplace. In Maryland, Alexander named one of his properties Craigneich (now most often spelled Craignight), which suggests a strong attachment to this wee farm.
I have read that Craigneich means “rock of the raven,” but have never found confirmation of that. Nor have I had any luck asking locals. The online Dictionary of the Scots Language gives neich as a variant of nech(e), a verb meaning to draw near (intransitive) or to draw near to (transitive). Considering the standing stones on and near the present-day Craigneich–including one in a field by the road, close to the buildings and visible from both the road and the driveway–we can speculate that the name might mean something like “gathering stone” or “meeting stone.” This is, I stress, pure speculation on my part. Perhaps someone reading this can shed some light?
Here are a couple of sites with information on the Craigneich stones: Peter McNaughton’s Highland Strathearn and The Northern Antiquarian. ** Peter McNaughton gives the meaning as “Craig of the Horse,” and I’m hoping he can shed light on the etymology.
Tues, May 24: 7 pm: reading from and talking about Trafficke, along with Karen Branan, author of The Family Tree, @ The Potter’s House, a D.C. institution since I was too young to drive. 1658 Columbia Road NW, DC, 202-232-5483. Come early, eat supper, buy a book…
We were initially scheduled for the 26th, but in the meantime The Potter’s House decided to make Thursdays the night for jazz…so drop by for that.
At the end of 2014, in a meeting of the DC chapter of Coming to the Table, I met Karen Branan, a retired investigative journalist. My book Trafficke was in production; Karen was negotiating a contract and putting last touches on her book, The Family Tree. We realized immediately that we were in some way related, through the Beall family who, like the Magruders, were among the first arrivants to Colonial Maryland. We next realized that though our foci were different, each of us had been investigating for decades our ancestors’ culpability in slavery and white supremacy.
Today, I finally did my homework and discovered that Karen, too, is a Magruder descendant. My line runs from Samuel Magruder, Alexander’s grandson, born in what was then Calvert County MD, about 1687. Karen is descended from Samuel’s sister, Verlinda Magruder, born 1693, who married John Beall, son of Alexander Beall and Elizabeth Coombs. Samuel and Verlinda’s parents were the well-documented Samuel Magruder and his wife Sarah (also believed to have been in some way related to Ninian Beall, though we’re pretty sure now that she was not his daughter). I have at least one more Beall in my line–Charity Beall, who married Haswell Magruder in 1762–but haven’t yet figured out if that ties me more closely to Karen’s family.
So now you have one more reason to drop by Karen’s web site and read about The Family Tree: a lynching in Georgia, a legacy of secrets, and my search for the truth at karenbranan.com. One truth Karen discovered is that she is related not only to white men involved in the lynching, but also to one of the four black victims. On her site, you’ll find links to thoughtful and enthusiastic reviews and to several radio conversations. The Family Tree is available in hardback, as an e-book (Kindle or Nook), and as an audio book (CD or streaming). Karen is working hard to promote the book–more accurately, to use her book to promote conversation and action. Check out her scheduled appearances in numerous states. Invite her to yours!
Don’t forget: this Sunday, 28 Feb 2016: 2:00-3:30, I’ll be reading from Trafficke, with Karen Branan, author of The Family Tree (Simon & Schuster, 2015). @ The Writers Center, Bethesda, MD. Unknown to each other until we met at a gathering of Coming to the Table in 2014, we each spent 20+ years researching our families’ history–in my case, Alexander’s true Scottish origins and the history of slave-holding among his descendants/my ancestors in Maryland; in Karen’s case, a “kinship lynching” within her family in Jim Crow Georgia. I’m a poet, she’s a journalist, and as fate would have it we are distant cousins, both descended from Ninian Beall in Maryland. (I haven’t yet figured out if Karen is also descended from Alexander…) Please come out and join the conversation. Free parking on Sundays in the lot across the street from The Writers Center.
4508 Walsh St
Bethesda MD 20815
GPS users please note: Enter “Chevy Chase” as the city…though, really, it’s Bethesda.
Read about The Family Tree on Karen’s web site–including rave reviews.
Tues, 17 Nov: 7:00. Reading from Tafficke @ University of Illinois, Springfield. Great Room of Lincoln Residence Hall, 2160 Vachel Lindsay Drive, Springfield IL 62703. Parking lots right by the building, I’m told. Free and open to the public. If you come, please let me know you are a reader of Magruder’s Landing.
If you’re nearby…I’ll be reading from my Magruder book, Trafficke, on Friday, October 9th, 7:00 pm @ University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. University Center, Room 303.
Follow signs in the building. Parking is open to visitors (other than handicap or reserved spaces) after 4:00 pm on Fridays. If you’re there, be sure to say hello! I’ll also have books there for sale.
Once again I am grateful for notice in this influential trade journal–read by book buyers for stores and libraries. Don’t be alarmed by the “Fiction” category–all poetry books reviewed in PW appear under that heading…though it seems particularly unsuitable for Trafficke. If I’d been willing to fictionalize, the project would have been a whole lot easier! Trafficke in Publishers’ Weekly