Wigtown in South West Scotland, home to our ancestors, is like taking a stroll in history. Even today, the mind can imagine what life was like 300 years ago in this area.
Initially one needs to know something about Wigtown. Wigtown was made a Royal Burgh during a visit by Robert the Bruce in 1329. That status was confirmed by King James II of Scotland in 1457. Wigtown is the principal burgh of the sheriffdom, had exclusive trading rights, and was of importance over a period of 700 years. The River Bladnoch originally ran to Wigtown, and Wigtown was port city trading with Brittany, France, and England.The port was used by enterprising men in the 17th and 18th centuries to seek fortunes in the colonies. Probably David Coltrane left from ths very port to find new opportunies in America.
We can trace our ancestry to three generations bearing our name around the Burgh of Wigtown in the District of Galloway.
However, there are even earlier references to our name in the Wigtownshire Charters. Michael Acolterane was a bailie in a land transaction in March 10, 1497. Roland Acoltran's name appeaed in a charter of alienation on December 2, 1553. Thomas Coltrane was a vicar of Kirkmadryne on July 29, 1559.
Definitely, we know that our earliest ancestor was Patrick Coltrane, Provost of Wigtown, who died Mrch 1, 1674. At that time a provost was similar to a mayor and a judge combined. Patrick's tombstone can be seen in the Auld Kirkyard at Wigtown. It is a table stone and can still be read after 300 years. There is a crack across the stone whch will be explained later. Patrick Coltrane owned the lands of Kerribroune, Culmalzie, and Airlies. Interestingly, farms retain their names so that we can still locate a place after 300 years. We do not know the names of his wife or children other than William, his second son.
William Coltrane, his son, seceded his father as Provost of Wigtown. He owned land in Airlies, Kirriewaychops, Drummoral, Miekle Arrow, and Maidlandfey. William received much notoriety because of his role during the Covenanting Times. These were times when loyalty to the Presbyterian Church rather than the king was considered by the Royalists to be a crime. On the 2nd of April, 1680, Willam was ordered by the king's troops to supply horses to carry prisoners from Wigtown to Edinburgh for trial. William refused to do so and seemed to be a champion of the cause at that time. Later people were required to take "The Test" which meant they were loyal to the king only. Many people, no longer able to pay for the fines for refusal, took the Test out of fear of poverty or severe punishment. This caused great resentment against William who once had inspired them. Two women in Wigtown who refused to take the Test were condemned to die by drowning. William was in Edinburgh, and it is believed he had the reprieve but arrived too late to prevent the executions. Because of this fact, it is believed he suffered the rest of his life. When he died, on November 8, 1708, the local legend is that the people would not let his body be interred in the Auld Kirkyard. In the middle of the night his body was buried under his father's tombstone. In their haste, the stone was cracked.
The remains of William's house can be seen at #6 Bank Street. We spoke to the present owner of the house that is built in front of the 1700 house. An original stairway is enclosed in the present structure and only the remains of a wall can be seen in the backyard.
William, who was a member of the last Parliament of Scotland in 1707, was married to Agnes Ramsey and had 4 children: Margaret, Patrick, Mary, and Helen. In 1702 Patrick married Elizabeth Stewart of Physgill in Whithorn. This house [the Physgill House] is still on the Isle of Whithorn and is owned by the Stewart descendants today. We learned at the Stranrear Museum that John Hawthorne Stewart of Physgill was the first to come up with the idea of the stonewalls used to partition land.
Patrick and Elizabeth Coltrane had 4 children: John, Patrick, David, and Henrietta. Patrick, it seems, did not take an active role in public affairs and probably died young. John, his oldest son, married Christian Heron and became the owner of Drummoral, Airles, and Miekle Arrow. He served in the army under his uncle Captain William Stewart. On Noveber 6, 1727, Captain Stewart died, and Physgill passed to John's unmarried aunt, Agnes Stewart. Being in advanced age, she resigned in favor of John. In 1732 she died and John Coltrane assumed the name of Stewart and took ownership of Physgill. After approximately 10 years the title to the estate was disputed and was given to his cousin Agnes Stewart, wife of John Hawthorne. John was killed on September 21, 1745, on the battlefield of Prestonpans and is buried in the adjacent parish churchyard. Nothing is known about Patrick's and Elizabeth's other children, Patrick and Henrietta. Their third son David is the one who came to America. He married Mary Trotter of Edenton, North Carolina, and fathered William Coltrane. William migrated to Randolph County.
There are rumors that two other Coltranes together settled in Pennsylvania, but we have had no luck in learning more about them. There seems to be no more Coltranes living in Scotland at the present time. We would like to find out about the Stewart/Coltranes. We know that there is a chapter in a book revealing some of their history. We wold like to share that information if we had it.
Our heritage is extremely interesting and we are sure that there is more to the story than we know. If you know more or something contradictory, please share it with us.