A visit to Magruder’s Landing…and a glimpse of Anchovie Hills

Patuxent River, Magruder's Warehouse site. Photo: Margaret Yocom, 2013.

Patuxent River, Magruder’s Warehouse site. Photo: Margaret Yocom, 2013.

Last weekend, a friend and I made a quick trip to southern Maryland, visiting Magruder’s Ferry and Historic St. Mary’s City, site of Maryland’s first colonial capital. I’ve made a page for photos and snippets of history on Anchovie Hills & Magruder’s Tobacco Landing in the Maryland section.

Coming soon: St. Mary’s City.

For those interested in the Magruder/MacGregor question…

Please see comments by Jim Magruder on the page (under Alexander) called “Alexander’s Family Tree.” Continuing that conversation, I have updated the page (under Scotland) called “McGruder / McGregor / Campbell / Drummond: Are you confused yet?” I haven’t changed the argument I make there, but I have added more details, some sources, and some clarifications.

To all who still believe, or want to believe, in the Magruder-MacGregor connection: your comments are welcome. More welcome still would be evidence to back up the legend.

Jim Magruder says in his comments that belief in the connection goes back to the 17th c. I know of no evidence before the 19th; and the 19th c. Magruders whose writing I’ve seen, or whose stories have been published, make no claim pointing farther back than the late 18th.

When I first started researching Alexander and all these related histories, a long, long McGruder-MacGregor tradition was exactly what I expected to find…but I didn’t. I read about Alexander’s life, and I read about Clan Gregor, and I couldn’t find any intersections between them. Likewise, when Don McGruther began researching in Scottish historical records, he expected to prove the McGruther-MacGregor connection: instead, he wound up proving that there is no evidence.

So, really, if you have older evidence from Maryland, I can’t wait to see it. And if you have evidence from Scotland, bring it on! We can start the hunt all over again.

Directions to Belliclone Farm

For Liz, who is cycling around Crieff and Perthshire…traveling vicariously for us all…here are directions to Belliclone Farm.

I took this this partly from memory (from two previous visits) and partly from someone else’s typed directions.

Belliclone is east of Crieff on the old Perth-Crieff road. You can come from that direction, or reach it off the A85 east of Crieff.  About 6 miles from Crieff is an unnumbered road on the right that leads in about a mile to the ruins of Inchafray Abbey. You’ll see them on your right, not very large, across a field. There’s a private house there but the owner let myself and friend in to see the ruins in ’99. His electronic gate says Inchaffray Abbey. To find Belliclone, keep going on that road past Inchaffray about 2.5 miles to a paved road, which is the old Perth-Crieff road. Turn right. There are new houses along that road, in case you have to ask directions. The typed directions say it’s about a mile from there to the Bellyclone road on the right, a private road. I recall that it was or seemed farther. Once you turn right on the Bellyclone road it will run north a short way then hook back to the right (east) and you’ll see Belliclone on the right, if new houses haven’t been built in front of it. The tenants in ’99 were reasonably friendly toward our visit. Because of the plaque placed on the house by American Magruders in ’75 they weren’t too surprised to see strangers at the gate.

If you look at the outbuildings, you’ll find a partition wall between two sections where the stonework looks markedly older than the rest. It is visible from the outside where the end of the partition wall forms part of the exterior wall. This is said to be stonework dating from Alexander Magruder’s time, though I don’t’ know how this was established, nor what kind of building it is supposed to have been.

Also nearby is Maderty Church & cemetery.

Good luck, Liz!

McGruder / McGregor / Campbell / Drummond : Are you confused yet?

The more I learn about the McGrouther/McGruther/McGruder family in Scotland the more outlandish it seems to imagine they were part of Clan Gregor or that Alexander ever identified himself as a MacGregor. The Drummond family, to whom the McGruders were connected for many generations, were closely allied with the Glenorchy Campbells, with whom the MacGregors feuded bitterly. And, more particularly, the Drummonds and McGruthers had a powerful reason to feud with Clan Gregor themselves. See the new page I’ve just put up, with the same title as this post, under the heading Scotland.

McGruder/MacGrouther sites in Glen Artney

Well, I’m back from a summer spent 12 miles from the nearest internet, so you can expect more posts and new pages in the coming months. Jill asked if I had birth or death dates for the 16th c. McGruders in Alexander’s family tree–and the answer is no, no one does. Don McGruther and the other researchers mentioned on that page have reported the records that survive–mostly land transactions, legal proceedings, and the like. From those fragments we can make educated guesses about the the life spans of some of those named, but we can’t go any further.

So, where is Meigor, where Alexander’s uncle acquired title to land? And where is Craigneich, where we believe Alexander was raised by McGruder relatives after the death of his father…………?

I have moved this information to a new page, McGruder Sites in Glen Artney, under “Scotland,” with a couple of useful links added to help you find ’em.


Finding Magruder plantations in MD

Actually, I haven’t made much effort to do this, but here are some ways to start…

Use the link at right to Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, where you can search by name, browse within counties, and so forth.

  • Magruder sites include Anchovie Hills and Dunblane. Most of the early Magruder plantations were in what is now Prince George’s County.
  • Magruder’s Landing (now Magruder’s Ferry) can easily be found on the map, as it’s now a park and public boat launch. Anchovie Hills was/is just uphill from there. When I tried to find in about a dozen years ago, the property was overgrown and going unused.
  • Descriptions of the properties were current when application was first made for historic protection, so check the date on the documents, and browse for other information, like where the original surveys and deeds may be found.
  • I have had the best luck searching with a “Begins with” string, rather than trying to match the exact name they have in the database.

In her 1959 book, Prince George’s County Heritage, Louise Joyner Heinton included a fold-out map of tracts as they were laid out in the early years of the county. There little correlation to modern landmarks, but major watercourses and the rail line give some aid. The early Magruder properties were all in the portion that had been Calvert County before P.G. was founded. The original of this map should be at the Maryland Hall of Records, according to a note in the book.

  • I used this map as I drove around the area back in the 90s, and was able to locate some properties, at least approximately. It helps when developers name streets for the old plantations.
  • Alexander’s plantations Anchovie Hills, Good Luck, Alexandria, Craignecht, and Dunblane all appear on this map.

Use the link at right to Find a Grave. Family cemeteries are one way to locate a vanished home site. Several significant Magruder cemeteries in Prince George’s County.

Oakley Cabin African American Museum, Olney, MD (Montgomery County). Oakley Farm was purchased by Dr. William Bowie Magruder in 1836. Lots of interesting sites near-by.

Conditions of Indenture in Alexander’s Time

Page numbers are from Russell Menard’s Economy and Society in Early Colonial Maryland (Garland Publishing, 1985), unless otherwise noted. See Sources for more. 

  • Most indentured servants in 17th c. Maryland were young men and boys. A 22 year-old immigrant would live about 18-23 years (pp 68, 135). As a man already in his early 40’s on arrival, Alexander Magruder was a great exception.
  • Most were probably from “middling” families–yeomen, husbandmen, artisans. They differed from free settlers primarily in being unable to pay their own passage. (pp 68, 71)
  • In later generations, more came from the lower classes.
  • Alexander and others transported as prisoners of war were the exception, not the rule, as were transported criminals.
  • Few had formal education and only about half could write their name. It is possible that some could read who could not write. The colony’s public affairs were conducted orally. Alexander Magruder appears to have been fully literate. (p 58)
  • Servants probably worked 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, as specified by English law. (p 69)
  • Servants could be sold, and faced severe punishment for running away (p 69). Historians’ analyses of how many ran away–and where and why–vary.
  • Servants’ rights included adequate food, clothing, and shelter, Sundays off, and the right to protest ill-treatment in the courts. They were subject to corporal punishment. Surviving records indicate few cases of abuse, though some cases that do survive are extreme. (p 69)
  • No actual documents of indentures survive. A model document from the 1635 promotional publication A Relation of Maryland, specifies that the master was to pay the servant’s passage, provide food, lodging, clothing, and other necessities. At the expiration the indenture, he was to provide clothing, food for a year, and 50 acres of land. (Menard p 69, or read the document in Narratives of Early Maryland p 99)
  • By a 1640 act of the Maryland Assembly, at the end of his term a servant was entitled by law to “one good cloth suite of Keirsey or Broadcloth a Shift of white linen one pair of Stockins and Shoes two hoes one axe 3 barrels of Corne and fifty acres of land five whereof at least to be plantable.” (p 70)
  • Masters did not give their servants 50 acres of their own land, but only a “headright” to 50 acres of uncleared, unimproved land–typically valued at a mere 100 pounds of tobacco. To make use of his headright, a man newly “come out of his time” had to locate the 50 acres, pay a surveyor, and then a clerk’s fee to register his ownership (p 70). Headrights could be, and often were, sold. Most who entered indenture never acquired land.
  • The usual term of service was 5 years, but shorter terms could be assigned to someone with artisan skills. Earlier release also could be purchased, and such arrangements sometimes obligated the servant to continue providing some services to his former master. (p 70-71) See my page on Alexander for my beliefs about why he served a much shorter term.
  • In the first generation, only about half of indentured servants survived their indenture. Most who died, died of disease–cholera in summer, pneumonia in winter. The death rate among newly arrived settlers was only a little lower than the catastrophic death rate among Natives.
  • “Seasoning” was the period after arrival, when a settler faced a high likelihood of death. Seasoned men were more valuable as servants, having proved their ability to survive.
  • Edmund S. Morgan has argued that the high mortality rate increased opportunities for those who did survive. Menard finds too little evidence to support this theory. (p 177)
  • In any case, those who did survive indenture could expect to become substantial members of society. Once this early generation secured their places in the food chain, opportunities for later arrivals narrowed.
  • Menard studied 137 indentured servants who arrived in Maryland between 1648 and 1652. Just over half appeared later in the records as free men–though 5 of those died soon after completing their indenture, and another 11 vanished from the records soon after. Of the 56 remaining, most became small, land-holding planters, holding on average between 50 and 400 acres. (p 174)
  • Alexander Magruder is named by Menard as one of just 3 in this group who owned more than 1000 acres when they died. (p 174-75)
  • Around half of those who did not acquire land nevertheless established families and participated in local government. (p 175)

In which battle was Alexander Magruder captured?

I admit to changing my mind a few times about this question. The candidates are the Battle of Preston, 1648; the Battle of Dunbar, 1650; and the Battle of Worcester, 1651. At the moment (June 2021) I am leaning toward Worcester. Here are the arguments.

In an essay published in The Yearbook of the American Clan Gregor Society, Vol. LXIII (1979), Charles Kurz wrote:

Tradition is that Alexander McGruder served in the Scots Army of King Charles II, was captured after the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and was later transported to Maryland. In the context of Scottish and Maryland history, students of Alexander Magruder’s life have difficulty accepting the tradition that he was captured after ‘the Battle of Worcester’. The time span from the purported 3 September 1651 capture is difficult to reconcile with a time for sentencing as a rebel, a 3- to 6-month voyage to Maryland, a period of indenture, and two land assignments of 50 acres each on completion of indenture–all within 26 months–by 19 November 1653…According to T[homas] G[arland]. Magruder, Jr, it is very possible that Alexander McGruder could have een captured at the Battle of Preston on 17 August 1648. (68)

I have argued in the past that it’s most likely Alexander was captured at Dunbar on 3 September 1650–two years after Preston and exactly one year before the Battle of Worcester. The defeat at Dunbar was huge and Scots prisoners many. Accounts I have read differ in some details, but agree that hundreds, if not thousands died on a forced march to Newcastle, even as their captors debated what to do with them. In true Puritan fashion, a committee was appointed–which quickly determined that those healthy enough to work might be sent to the coal and salt mines. As early as September 16th, the committee was receiving petitions from entrepreneurs who wanted to profit by transporting prisoners to the colonies as indentured labor. Thus, these captives from Dunbar became the first prisoners from an internal war to be transported–barbadoed in the slang of the day–a decision that was unprecedented and notably scandalous. From these accounts, I think it unlikely that Alexander, or anyone else, was transported to the colonies after the Battle of Preston two years earlier. 

However, prisoners from Worcester, a year after Dunbar, were quickly marched south to London, thousands dying on the way, to be prepared for transportation to the colonies. A strong argument for believing that Alexander was among them arises from the way regiments were raised and commanded. There was no “Scots army,” as Kurz puts it; regiments were raised locally and personally by titled and landed gentry, from among their tenants and allies. Lord Madderty’s brother commanded a regiment at Worcester that was overcome, with many (including Lord Madderty) captured–a perfect fit for Alexander, whose father was Lord Madderty’s chamberlain. Given his father’s status, Alexander would have served as an officer in such a regiment. (I have seen American accounts assigning him a rank but this is, pardon the pun, rank speculation.)

For Scots prisoners shipped to New England in these years, many records survive, including their names, the ships they arrived on, and where they were sent to work. Unluckily for us, no such records survive from Maryland or Virginia.

In the Yearbook of the American Clan Gregor Society for 1952, Herbert T. Magruder published “Some Notes on Circumstances Surrounding the Transporting of Alexander Mac Gruether as a Prisoner of War; and His Landing in Maryland in 1652.” He writes that

[r]esearch by William H. Gaines, Jr., an editor of Virginia Cavalcade, a publication of the Virginia State Library, has brought to light a record of the fact that a fleet of two warships, the JOHN and the GUINEA, and  several armed merchantmen was fitted out by order of the Parliament in the summer of 1651. The ships sailed from England in the fall of that year. Among the passengers were six hundred Scottish prisoners of war, who were being sent to do penance in the colonies. The voyage was by way of Barbadoes, which was a center of Royalist resistance as was the Virginia colony. The weather at the season may also have been a factor in plotting the course; for the  John was lost at sea; and the Guinea lagged behind. The merchantmen therefore arrived first off the Virginia capes in January 1652, and anchored offshore to await their armed escort. At length Governor William Berkeley and his Council were brought to terms of submission by the Parliamentary Commissioners; and the fleet sailed up the Chesapeake to bring the Maryland colonists into line.

It is certainly probable that Alexander Mac Gruether was one of the six hundred Scots on board those transports[.]

If Alexander was captured at Worcester, the timeline in this account could explain the rapidity with which he reached Maryland. Historians say that Cromwell disliked the costs of housing and feeding prisoners, and moved rapidly to dispose of them. Chris Gerrard, research director of the Scots Prisoners Project at Durham, has given me his opinion that Worcester is entirely feasible as the place Alexander McGruder was captured. There is, however, nothing to connect Alexander or his fellow Drummond retainers to the burials at Durham.

That said, the Scottish Soldiers at Durham project is well worth following, as they study (and try to identify) the remains of prisoners from the battle of Dunbar, imprisoned and later buried at Durham Cathedral. A victim of the Reformation, the building was empty in 1650 and had not been used for worship for several years. Mass burials of the 1,600 men who died there (out of 3,000 imprisoned) were discovered in 2013 in a routine construction project. Read this wonderfully informative interview with Christopher Gerrard, leader of the research team, at the Council for European Studies.

Some further background…Maryland had been plundered by Puritan freebooters as early as 1645, when its Catholic governors were arrested and sent to London in chains. Those with the resources to flee had hightailed it back to England, or at least to Virginia, leaving the colony to the lawless rule of Puritan-backed thugs for the next two years. By the time the Calverts returned in 1648 (bringing with them a Protestant governor to appease their enemies) St. Mary’s City held fewer men than had founded the colony in 1631, all other survivors having scattered into the woods and swamps for self-protection. It was in this atmosphere of desperation, as the Calverts struggled to keep hold of the remnants of their colony, that the famous Act Concerning Religion–so often touted as the first American law to guarantee freedom of conscience–was passed by the hastily reorganized Assembly. It failed in its first purpose, however–to convince the Puritans to keep their hands off Maryland. In the following year came the Regicide and Cromwellian rule, followed in due course by the battles of Dunbar and Worcester, and the final submission of Virginia and Maryland to the forces of Cromwell’s Parliament.

This was the Maryland to which Alexander was delivered.

Several sources give the number of prisoners still on board when the Guinea reached Maryland at 150. Wherever he was captured, and however long the hell of his ordeal, it is probable that Alexander Magruder was among them.

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