THE ENGLISH CIVIL WARS: HOW THE FIRST MACTHOMAS CLANSMEN CAME TO AMERICA©
ROBERT E. THOMAS
AUGUST 08, 2002
The history of Clan MacThomas in Scotland has been well documented in association with the matriculation of the MacThomas arms granted, by the Lord Lyon, to Captain Patrick Watt MacThomas in A.D. 1967. However, a significant number of MacThomas kinsmen now reside in North America. Who were the first MacThomas clansmen to arrive on the North American continent? What caused them to cross the Atlantic and begin to build news lives in the wilds of colonial America? Granted, some of our common MacThomas ancestors came to North America by their own freewill in search of fame, fortune, and perhaps religious freedom. However, the first MacThomas clansmen to arrive in the new world came as prisoners of war and were sold into indentured servitude in A.D. 1652. This paper will explore the historical background of Scotland and England that led up to the English Civil Wars and it will trace the involvement of Clan MacThomas in those civil wars. Finally, it will conclude with an account of the life and adventures of David MackHome in early colonial America.
RELIGIOUS UNREST PRIOR TO THE ENGLISH CIVIL WARS
To gain an understanding of the turbulent years between A.D. 1638 and A.D. 1651 in Scotland and England one must look back to the reign of James VI of Scotland (who became James I of the United Kingdom). On the 24th of March, A.D. 1603 Queen Elizabeth of England died. Upon her death her Godson, Sir Robert Cary, sped north to Scotland carrying the news and a ring from her finger as a token to attest to the truth of his message. Three days later Sir Robert strode into Holyrood House and hailed James VI King of England, Ireland, and Scotland. On the 4th of April, A.D. 1603 James began his trip to London to assert his right to the throne of England. As the King of Great Britain James was better able to govern Scotland from London because he was free from the threat of mob factions that had relatively easy access to him at Holyrood.
Feuds and Factions
Prior to James VI accession to the throne of England numerous clan feuds and factions swept through Scotland. Such feuds arose, in part, due to the conflicts between the Scottish nobility and the notion that their honor demanded that, “For any displeasure that they apprehended to be done against them by their neighbor, to take up a plaine feide against him and without respect for God, King, or commonweale to bang it out bravelie, he and all his kinne against him and all his.” This very notion appears to be one of the factors that led to the deadly feud between Clan MacThomas and Clan Farhquarhson over McComie Mhor’s rightful claims to his Forter estates.
These feuds and factions with clansmen “banging it out bravely” characterized the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Scotland. Particularly in the Highlands where one finds such horrifying stories as the McDonalds of Eigg suffocated in a cave by a band of MacLeods in A.D. 1577, the slaughter of the MacLeans while enjoying the hospitality of the McDonalds of Islay in A.D. 1586, or the MacKenzies who were burned to death in a church by the Glen Garry McDonalds of Kilchrist in A.D. 1603. Generally, such feuds were localized. However, various alliances and inter-clan kinships could cause a “small private war” to engulf a much wider area. Such a wildfire of feuding swept through the clans of Cameron, Campbell of Cawdor, the lowland Dunbars, Gordon, Grant, and MacKintosh all during the same period of A.D. 1590.
The Reformed Church in Scotland
The Monarchy of Scotland, prior to union with England, was politically weak, and many local areas were simply under the leadership of strong Clan Chiefs. In this almost anarchic situation morals and religion deteriorated. Likewise, concubinage, drunkenness, simony, greed, and a subsequent disregard for the people typified the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. Hence, the Barons and good burgers of the middle class turned against the Monarchy and united with the Calvinistic John Knox to bring about religious reform. The moral failure of the Roman Church coupled with the spread of Reformation Theology brought about an environment favorable for religious reform in Scotland. In A.D. 1560 the Scottish Parliament led by John Knox abolished the rule of the Pope over the Scottish Church, declared the Mass illegal, repealed all statutes against heretics, and organized the Scottish Church into presbyteries, synods, and a national assembly. Likewise, they instituted a representative form of church government based on that of the Calvinistic Reform Church in Geneva. In A.D. 1592 Presbyterianism became the established religion in Scotland despite the opposition of King James VI of Scotland.
King James I and the Ecclesiastical Problem
The growing success of the Reform Church in Scotland had created a new set of allegiances that made clan and kinship, and temporal monarchy practically irrelevant. Fortunately for James the Reform Church agreed with him concerning lawlessness, oppression, and indiscriminate feuding; however, it was dangerously capable of creating civil unrest by erratically throwing its weight behind whatever cause or faction that it perceived as Protestant and godly.
James never forgave the Reform Church for its support of the Presbyterian Raiders who kidnapped him at age fourteen and held him at Ruthven Castle for almost a year before he escaped. When James moved to London to claim his right to the English Throne he joined himself to the Anglican Church. Additionally, he set to work in an attempt to remove the powerful influence of the Reform Church in Scotland. To secure his authority over the Reformed Church James took a great risk by enforcing a more Episcopal (or Anglican) form of church government. According to T.C. Smout, “He [James] finally solved the ecclesiastical problem by his revival of the office and powers of bishops, coupled with the exile of the troublesome Presbyterian Andrew Melville.”
James was determined to have his way throughout his kingdom. He favored the higharchical Anglican form of church government as opposed to the more democratic Presbyterian form. However, being a Scot, he realized his equal need to control the Clan Chiefs as well as the church. He successfully gained influence by working through, rather than against, the indigenous society of the Clan Chiefs. James skillfully manipulated the Campbell Earl of Argyll, the Gordon Earls of Huntly and Sutherland, and the MacKenzie Earl of Seaforth. By increasing their strength and placing them in strategic government positions James was able to use them to crush other troublesome clans such as the MacLeans, the MacDonalds of Islay, and Clan Gregor. James was skillful at ruling his kingdom with an iron fist thinly disguised in a velvet glove.
REIGN OF CHARLES I
By the time Charles I succeeded to the throne in A.D. 1625 Scotland was in relative peace and prosperity. The well oiled political machine that James I had created continued to serve Scotland well for about a dozen years following his death. However, Charles I lacked the deception, or “Kingcraft,” and instinct for compromise of his father. It was only a matter of time until his heavy handedness stirred the Scots into civil unrest. His first and fatal mistake came when he blundered into Scotland with a misguided innovative and alien form of church polity. According to Smout, “He [Charles I] was like a man with a burring torch tripping into a carefully stacked powder magazine.”
His aggrandizement of bishops above the limited position given them by James I had the feeling of “popery” to most Scots. Likewise, the pseudo-Anglican form of worship mandated by his new Book of Prayer simply was a throwback to Roman Catholicism. Furthermore, his proposal to endow bishops with church lands and teinds, tithes, combined with the above policies drove the leaders of Scottish society to draft the National Covenant. This document began simply as a conservative protest against the apparently unrecognized misrule of the nation by its absentee King in London. However, because of his inability to compromise, Charles turned the National Covenant into a revolutionary document by treating its signers as seditious rebels. By doing so Charles provided the lever that hardcore Scottish Presbyterians needed to overturn the Episcopacy.
THE SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT
On the 1st of March, A.D. 1638 the Presbyterian Scottish Nobles gathered in Grayfriars Kirkyard at Edinburgh and signed the National Covenant. After the nobles came the ministers, gentlemen, tradesmen, and people of all ranks. They pledged to fight for freedom to believe and practice their religion as they thought best.
These Covenanters attempted to negotiate with Charles I before open hostilities broke out. They sent a letter, their Great Supplication, to Charles asking him to remove the hated new Book of Prayer. However, Charles returned their letter to them unopened. Hence, the Scots gathered an army under the command of Alexander Leslie at Dunse Law. At the last moment Charles avoided war by promising the Scots their freedom of religion. Yet, he never intended to keep his promise. All the while he continued to prepare for war. Soon the Scots found themselves allied with the English Parliamentary Forces in what is now called the English Civil Wars.
The Marquis of Montrose
James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, had been among the first to sign the National Covenant and for a time was willing to fight for it. However, when it became clear to Montrose that the leaders of the English Parliamentary Forces and most of the Scottish Nobles were intent on overthrowing Charles I he decided that while he desired freedom of religion he wished to remain loyal to his Sovereign King. It is important to remember that Montrose was won over to the King’s side, partly for philosophical reasons and partly due to disagreements with the Covenanters, though not with disagreements to the Covenant itself. Therefore, Montrose gathered his followers and fought for cause of the King.
Early on during “The Year of Miracles,” A.D. 1644-45, Alasdair MacDonald Maccoll Ciotach MacGillespic joined his Irish mercenary forces with Montrose in Scotland. Initially, when MacDonald landed his forces at Ardnamurchan, west of Fort William, the Septs of the Clan of Iain Mhor disregarded his summons to the Royal standard. Likewise, fear of their hereditary enemy kept the MacKenzies and other small clans from rising. However, following the victory of combined forces of Montrose and MacDonald at Tippermuir John McComie Mhor, often referred to as Iain Mhor, 7th Chief of Clan MacThomas raised his followers and joined Montrose in support of the King at Dundee on the 4th of September, A.D. 1644.
The Battle of Aberdeen
As the Royalist army marched toward Aberdeen the Highlanders, true to their marauding ancestry, began to straggle home carrying away the spoils of war. Most would return to the army as soon as they had seen their booty safely stashed away. MacDonald’s Irish troops could not so retreat and Montrose continued to press toward Aberdeen. During this period the Earl of Airlie and some of McComie Mhor’s peers including Lord Spynie, Lord Dupplin, Sir John Drummond, Sir Thomas Ogilvy, Sir Thomas Tyrie, and other lairds—with their vassals and forty-four horsemen, joined the ranks of the Royalist army. Additionally, a handful of Gordons under the command of the gallant Colonel Nathaniel Gordon bolstered the Royalist ranks.
When Montrose encamped at the “Twa Mile Cross,” just outside Aberdeen, a Covenanting army of 2000 foot, 500 horse, and three guns under the command of Lord Burleigh sought to protect the city. Montrose sent an officer accompanied by a drummer to negotiate the surrender of the city with the alternative being “No Quarter.” However, the city leaders rejected the terms and killed the drummer. This unpardonable action infuriated Montrose and he vowed to give the city up for loot. Montrose devised a brilliant battle array. He divided his troops of horse between his right and left flanks and scattered musketeers among them as well. MacDonald’s Irish veterans held the center of the battle line with Nathaniel Gordon on his left and Rollock on his right. The movement of the of the Royalist flanks left MacDonald in such a precarious position that Sir William Forbes of Craigievar thought it advisable to attempt a cavalry charge against the Irish veterans.
Sir William Forbes of Craigievar was the Sheriff of Aberdeen and he served as the Routmaster for an independent troop of horse that he had raised for the Covenanting cause. Forbes boldly led his cavalry charge against MacDonald’s center. However, the Irish veterans stood their ground until the last instant and then parted their ranks allowing Forbes and his troopers to pass through. Then the brave Irishmen turned about face and unleashed a deadly hail of shot into the unprotected backs of the doomed troopers. The Covenanting cavalry was instantly dashed and the few survivors attempted to flee. It was during this portion of the battle that McComie Mhor distinguished himself as soldier when he personally captured Sir William Forbes of Craigievar.
With the eradication of Forbes’ cavalry the battle was all but over. The fainthearted city dwellers were mown down like waves of grass before the claymores of the advancing Irish mercenaries, and the Covenanting officers were scattered like debris from threshing. Thus, the Irish, who remembered the murdered drummer-boy, waded in blood to claim the spoils of war that Montrose had promised. Four days of butchery followed. Before their throats were cut the well-dressed citizens were striped to avoid bloodying their fine clothing. Likewise, women were violated then killed, homes were sacked, and the dead lay unburied. While Aberdeen was a brilliant tactical victory for Montrose the inhumanity displayed by his soldiers in the days following the battle became a most significant black spot on his otherwise sterling military career.
Defeat at Philiphaugh
Montrose continued to sweep through Scotland winning numerous victories. By the 15th of August, A.D. 1645 Montrose had destroyed Scotland’s army for home defense at Kilsyth and it seemed that all of Scotland was lying at his feet. Upon hearing of disaster at Kilsyth Major General of Horse, David Leslie, raced from the battlefields of England toward Scotland with a large force of Cavalry. Montrose marched his army south to meet the approaching enemy. However, as he moved south once again his Highlanders began to drift away towards their homes. Thus, upon his arrival at Philiphaugh his army had dwindled to about the number he had when he first began his victorious campaign. Now Montrose faced Leslie’s battle-hardened veterans with his depleted force.
At Philiphaugh Leslie advanced his troops under cover of mist and cloud upon the unsuspecting Royalist army on the 13th of September, A.D. 1645. Montrose and his officers were quartered in nearby Selkirk. Caught by surprise Montrose did not arrive at the battlefield in time to array his meager forces adequately in order to pull off his previously successful tactics. Additionally, 1,200 mounted gentry from the southeastern border region, who had only recently joined Montrose, drew off to the rear and watched the battle before allying themselves with Leslie. The Irish mercenaries and the troopers under Airlie and Gordon paid the heaviest price during the battle. The Royalist musketeers were destroyed by waves of advancing infantry. Finally, a man name Wat Pringle led approximately 2000 Royalist troopers to safety by way of a narrow and difficult path through the nearby Harehead Wood. This action forced Montrose to flee the battlefield. The disaster at Philiphaugh served as the deathblow to the Royalist cause under Charles I.
If Montrose and his men were guilty of a massacre at Aberdeen, Leslie and the Covenanters were equally as guilty following Philiphaugh. According to T. C. Smout:
“Thus after the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645, when Montrose’s Highland army was defeated by General Leslie’s Covenanters, all the prisoners, including women and children, were massacred to the cry of ‘Jesus and no quarter,’ and even the professional soldiers who had seen service as mercenaries in the Thirty Years War in Europe were sometimes sickened by the vengeful zeal of the ministers. Leslie on another similar occasion turned to a Covenanting minister with the words, ‘Now, Mr. John [Nevoy] have you not once gotten your fill of blood?’”
Somehow McComie Mhor, like Montrose, escaped Philiphaugh and lived to fight another day. Perhaps he was among the 2,000 Royalist troopers that Wat Pringle led to safety through the Harehead Wood referenced above.
Following his defeat at Philiphaugh Montrose threw himself into his invincible bulwark of Blair in Athol. From there he attempted to summons the Gordons to the Royal standard. However, the spiteful Huntly, whose pride Montrose had previously injured, drew off the Gordons in a daring attempt to rescue the surviving Philiphaugh prisoners from the gallows in the south. Meanwhile, Leslie returned to the army in England leaving Colonel Middleton and a regiment of horse behind to pursue Montrose. Montrose attempted to join forces with Charles I in the Lowlands; however, their attempt was foiled and Charles sent a force of 1,500 men under Digby to join Montrose. When Digby reached Dumfries his advance stalled. Then he dispersed his rank and file, and retreated with his officers to the safety of the Isle of Man.
Montrose, who was at Glasgow, narrowly missed Digby and his reinforcements. Thus, Montrose was forced to retreat to the relative safety of the northern Highlands where he was further disheartened by the news of the deaths of his wife, and his brother-in-law, Lord Napier. On the 19th of May, A.D. 1646 Montrose received a letter from Charles regretfully ordering him to withdraw to France; however, Montrose guessed at the King’s real intentions and lingered in Scotland until a more definite command came on the 16th of July. Thus, Montrose capitulated at Rattary on the 30th of July, A.D. 1646, approximately ten months after his defeat at Philiphaugh. Montrose was able to secure the indemnity of his men; however, he along with Crawford and Hurry merely obtained passports to go into exile abroad.
Tradition holds that McComie Mhor had become a trusted friend to Montrose during the Royalist campaigns. According to William McCombie-Smith, Montrose drafted a letter to the Tutor of Strowan, dated from Glenshee on the 10th of June, A.D. 1646 while the “Great Marquis” was a guest at Finegand. Therefore, during the ten months following the defeat at Philiphaugh, while Montrose hid in the Highlands, he spent at least some of that time enjoying the hospitality in the home of his former comrade-in-arms, McComie Mhor, in Glenshee.
McCOMIE MHOR SUPPORTS THE CROMWELL GOVERNMENT
As noted above, on the 30th of July, A.D. 1646 Montrose acted under the authority of King Charles I to arrange with Major General Middleton, commander of the Covenanting army, terms for a cessation of hostilities. According to the terms most of the Royalists were guaranteed the safety of their lives and properties. Therefore, McComie Mhor laid down his arms. Additionally, McComie Mhor is found along with his neighbors, Robert MacRichie of Dalmunzie and William Farquharson of Broughdearg, in a roll of those to whom Major General Middleton had granted “Remissions and Assurances.” Despite strenuous opposition by the Covenanting Assembly these “Remissions” were confirmed by the Parliament on the 5th of January, A.D. 1647. Thus, McComie Mhor gained security against all pains and penalties for his involvement in the “malignancy” of the Royalist cause.
Back in Glenshee McComie Mhor settled into his home at Finegand and concentrated his efforts on raising cattle and extending his Clan’s lands and influence. Oliver Cromwell eventually became the de facto ruler of the Commonwealth of Great Britain following the execution of Charles I on the 30th of January, A.D. 1649. McComie Mhor having laid down his arms, at the King's command, and accepted the Remission and Assurance of 1646 felt that he could not with honor fight again for the Royalist cause. Eventually McComie Mhor became a willing supporter of the Cromwell Government because it issued Scotland into a period of such peace and prosperity as had heretofore been unknown in the nation’s history.
THE COVENANTERS, CHARLES II, AND CROMWELL
To express Scottish protest of “the murder of the King,” Chancellor Loudoun and the Scottish Parliament proclaimed Charles II King of Great Britain, France and Ireland on the 5th of February, A.D. 1649. Presently Montrose sought an audience with Charles II at The Hague. Upon receiving word of the death of Charles I, Montrose swore to avenge his “martyred Sire” and place his son, Charles II, on the throne. Meanwhile, Argyll and the Scottish Parliament had determined to accept Charles II as King if he would adhere to the Covenant, the Westminster Standards, Presbyterian polity, and dismiss Montrose from his presence. Charles bided his time and gave off indications of his willingness to accept the Covenant even as Montrose prepared to invade Scotland. As he actively conspired with Montrose to regain his throne by force the young deceiver tentatively agreed to accept the Covenant and Presbyterianism, while he simultaneously sought financial aid from the Pope and other sovereigns to support his military plans.
On the 27th of April, A.D. 1650 Montrose and a small Royalist army were defeated at Carbisdale by Lieutenant-Colonel Steachan. Montrose, who was wounded in the battle, escaped into the wilds of Scotland. Eventually, a fevered and starving Montrose turned himself into Neil MacLeod of Assynt. MacLeod, a “Sheriff-Depute of Sutherland,” had no choice but to hand him over to Leslie’s army. Montrose was marched into Edinburgh and executed on the 21st of May, A.D. 1650. Now the Commonwealth, Cromwell and the Rump Parliament, ruled Great Britain. However, the Scottish Covenanters were not satisfied with the Commonwealth’s religious reforms and they remained disgruntled over the execution of Charles I. Therefore, they threw their weight behind Charles II and brought him to Scotland as their King. On the 23rd of June, A.D. 1650 Charles arrived at Speymouth and was allowed to perjure himself by subscribing to the Covenant, which he did not fully support. However, the Covenanting Commissioners were determined to have their King and Charles was equally determined to do or say anything to regain his father’s throne.
Fearing the worst the English Parliament recalled Cromwell from Ireland and ordered him to invade Scotland in order to strike the first blow. Thus, Cromwell crossed the border into Scotland on the 22nd of July, A.D. 1650 with a force of 10,500 foot and 5,500 horse. The Scots assembled an army of 20,000 under David Leslie at Leith. Although the Scots far outnumbered Cromwell’s force Leslie sought to avoid direct conflict. News of Cromwell’s merciless massacres in Ireland caused him to be feared like the plague. Leslie determined the lay waste to the districts through which Cromwell might pass thereby making it impossible for the New Model Army to subsist off the land and no one capable of bearing arms stayed to provoke a fight.
The Battle of Dunbar
Leslie’s strategy worked as early fall rains flooded low-lying areas and the cold and damp began to cause disease to spread among Cromwell’s army. Thus, Cromwell retreated toward Dunbar and arrived there on the 1st of September, A.D. 1650. Leslie pursued the Ironsides and bottled them up on the peninsula at Dunbar. However, Leslie made the mistake of giving up his strong position on the high ground overlooking Cromwell’s army. In the predawn hours of the 3rd of September, A.D. 1650 Cromwell unleashed a devastating attack on Leslie’s unsuspecting Scots. The surprise attack of the English forces soon became a rout as the Scottish battle lines broke. As the sun rose Cromwell was heard to say, “Now let God arise, and His enemies shall be scattered.” Likewise, Cromwell later recorded in a letter how the Scots were, “Made as by the Lord of Hosts as stubble to their swords.” Three thousand Scots were killed and another 10,000 taken prisoner along with approximately 200 standards and 30 field guns.
Following the battle Cromwell released over 5,000 wounded men and marched approximately 4,000 Scots toward England; however, as they marched south most died from dysentery. Disease and infection exacted a heavy toll, by November of that same year only 1,400 of these prisoners remained alive. The English Council of State ordered the remaining healthy prisoners to be transported to the colonies in Virginia and New England, sent to the French military service, and a few to be kept for the English salt-works; however, few evaded the ravages of disease to enter into such servitude. Thus, approximately 900 of the surviving Scottish prisoners went to Virginia, Massachusetts and the Barbados colony in the Caribbean and another 500 were indentured the following spring to Marshall Turenne for service in the French army.
On the 18th of September, A.D. 1650 one hundred and fifty Scots, who were deemed well and sound, and free from wounds, were ordered to be sent to John Beex (Beech) and Joshua Foote to be shipped to New England. On the 11th of November, A.D. 1650 Captain Augustine Walker of the “Unity” received sailing orders from the Council of State to take these Scottish prisoners to Boston, Massachusetts. Upon their arrival in Boston, Beech and Foote consigned most of the Scottish prisoners to two businesses in Maine and Massachusetts in which Beech had an interest. Sixty-two of the Scots are known to have been sent to the Saugus Ironworks at Lynn, Massachusetts. The rest were sold as indentured servants to local residents.
ANOTHER ROYALIST BID FOR THE THRONE
In Scotland the Covenanters continued with their plans to restore Charles II to the throne. On the 31st of July, A.D. 1651 Charles and Leslie with an army of 20,000 men left Sterling and moved south toward London. They reached Worcester (pronounced Wooster) with 16,000 fatigued soldiers on the 22nd of August, A.D. 1651. Meanwhile, Cromwell hurried south to cut off the advancing Royalist forces. He took the East Coast Road to Durham, crossed through central England, and took up a position between Worcester and London at Evesham on the 27th of August, A.D. 1651 with an army twice the size of Leslie’s.
Leslie arrayed his army along the western bank of the Severn River at its confluence with the Teme. Additionally, he destroyed the bridge over the Teme seeking to cut off any attack from that direction. Cromwell drew up his army on the eastern side of the Severn. He split his forces into three divisions. One he used to hold the road to London. The second he positioned to the south ready to cross the Severn, and the third he moved further south before crossing the Severn and marching them up to the Teme. On the 3rd of September, A.D. 1651, one year to the day from his stellar victory at Dunbar, Cromwell struck. He moved his two divisions across the Severn and Teme on temporary bridges constructed of boats.
The stubborn Scots gave ground grudgingly; however, they were pushed from hedgerow to hedgerow until they were forced back into Worcester proper. Charles watched the steady advance of Cromwell’s army from a cathedral tower. When he saw his forces giving way along the London Road he poured troops through the Sudbury Gate and personally charged against the enemy. However, Cromwell rushed in with reinforcements and caused the Scots to break. When the Parliamentarian forces took Fort Royal they turned its guns on the fleeing Scots and cut them to pieces. The troops who took Fort Royal were not New Model regulars, but part-time soldiers from the Essex Trained Bands who fought particularly well at Worcester. While Charles escaped Cromwell took over 6,000 Scottish prisoners including Leslie, Rothes, Lauderdale, Kelly, Middleton, Montgomery, Thomas Dalyell, numerous officers and nine ministers. Eight hundred MacLeods were among the 3,000 Scots who died at Worcester supporting the Royalist cause.
SCOTS IN THE NEW WORLD
Following the Battle of Worcester the Commonwealth found itself with another large group of Scottish prisoners of war. Accordingly, some 2,000 Scots were soon transported to the Colonies in North America. Prior to their transportation to North America the Worcester prisoners were marched to London and held in the artillery grounds at Tuthill Fields near Westminster Palace. While in custody at Tuthill Fields the prisoners were given a pound of bread and half a pound of cheese as daily rations; however, it appears that only the sick received shelter from the elements. Two hundred and seventy-two of these prisoners were sent to Thomas Kemble of Charlestown, Massachusetts aboard a ship called the “John and Sara.” Thomas Kemble and his partner Valentine Hill owned mills at Durham Falls and Lamprey River. Likewise, Kemble owned extensive lands in Maine from which he conducted a successful lumber business. Kemble utilized the strong young Scots in his mills in Massachusetts and his sawmills in Maine.
David MackHome, John MackHolme, Glester MackTomas, and Alexander Tompson are listed among the 272 Scottish prisoners transported to Boston, Massachusetts aboard the “John and Sara” following the Battle of Worcester. The following are the Ships Orders for the “John and Sara”:
“London This 11th of November, 1651; Captain John Greene;
Wee whose names are under written freighters of your shipe the John & Sara doe order yow forthwith as winde & weather shall permitt to sett sajle for Boston in New England & there deliver our Orders and Servants to Tho. Kemble of Charles Towne to be disposed of by him according to orders wee have sent him in that behalfe & wee desire yow to Advise with the said Kemble about all that may concerne that whole Intended bojage using you Jndeavo's with the said Kemble for the speediest lading your shipp from New Eng; to the Barbados with provisions & such other things as are in N.E. fit for the West Indies where yow are to deliver them to Mr. Charles Rich to be disposed of by him for the Joinet accont of the freighte's & so to be Retou'ned home in a stocke vndevided thus desiring your Care & industrje in Despatch and speed of the vojage wishing you a happy & safe Retourne wee remajne your loving friends
Signatum et Recognitum
in pneia Jo Nottock: notar Publ;
13 May 1652
Entred & Recorded Edward Rawson Recorder”
The manager of the Saugus Iron Works at Lynn, Massachusetts received some of the Worcester prisoners and later transferred some of them to work in the mills at South Berwick. Here one sees that John Beech, transporter of the Scottish prisoners aboard the “Unity,” continued to profit from the free labor of Scottish indentured servants.
DAVID McCOMIE IN THE NEW WORLD
David McComie worked his way to freedom and married a young colonial girl named Elizabeth prior to A.D. 1655. Apparently David dropped the “Mc” prefix from the spelling of his surname and became known as David Comee (Comey). Elizabeth was born in A.D. 1639 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She died on the 4th of March, A.D. 1671 in Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts. David and Elizabeth had the following children: Elizabeth Comey, Mary Comey, John Comee, Sara Comee, and David Comee. Sara Comee was born on the 18th of September, A.D. 1668 and David Comee, the younger, was born on the 14th of November, A.D. 1666; however, he died prior to A.D. 1676.
Approximately six months following the death of his first wife David Comee married Ester (Hester) Harvey on the 6th of September, A.D. 1671. David and Ester had two children named Thomas and Ester Comee. Little Ester was born on the 14th of February, A.D. 1676. Shortly following the birth of his youngest daughter David Comee volunteered to fight against hostile Indians in “King Philip’s War.”
On the 20th of April, A.D. 1676 Captain Wadsworth's company marched through Sudbury; however, Wadsworth failed to detect that the Indians were quietly surrounding the town. After learning that the enemy had gone toward Sudbury Captain Wadsworth doubled back. As Captain Cowell's regiment marched along the north road from Quabaug toward Boston it met with intermittent firing and the appearance of small groups of Indians, which warned him of approaching danger. He refused to engage his regiment in open battle and ordered his men to hold their fire and maintain their distance from the Indians; therefore, he was able to reach Sudbury with only four casualties.
News of the attack at Sudbury quickly arrived at Concord. David Comee and eleven others volunteered to march over to relieve the town. However, Indians massacred all but one of these Concord men on the way to Sudbury leaving only five bodies for recovery. A small granite monument commemorates the death of these brave colonial heroes who tried to aid their neighbors. One of the names on the monument is “Daniel Comy.” Could this Daniel Comy actually be David Comee? Court records from the period appear to indicate that this is the case.
Following the attack at Sudbury David Comee’s widow, Mrs. Ester (Hester) Comee, filed a petition with the court seeking court appointed guardians for the four surviving children born from David’s first marriage. In this petition David's surname appears as Comy and Comey. It is assumed that Ester was illiterate; thus, accounting for the different spellings of the surname. The court decreed that Ester Comee would maintain custody of the two young children, Thomas and Ester, born to her. John, David’s eldest son, was appointed to serve as an apprentice until he reached twenty-one years of age. Likewise, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sara were all put into service until they reached their eighteenth year. The descendants of David McComie, later known as David Comee, are numerous and scattered across the United States and the far corners of the world. Many questions remain unresolved regarding the identity of David Comee. Exactly who was he and what was his relationship to the Chiefly line of the Clan MacThomas? Little is currently known that will help to answer these nagging genealogical questions.
The Genealogy of Chief Andrew MacThomas of Finegand
According to MacThomas family history the Clan MacThomas springs from the descendants of Tomaidh Mor (i.e. big Tommy), the grandson of William, 7th Chief of Clan MacKintosh and 8th Chief of Clan Chattan. Thus, the early genealogy of Chief Andrew MacThomas of Finegand, tracing only the Chiefly line, is as follows: 1) Tomaidh Mhor (lived in the late 1400s); 2) John MacThomaidh (lived in the late 1400s/early 1500s); 3) Adam MacThomaidh (lived in the early 1500s); 4) Robert MacThomaidh of the Thom (murdered in the mid-1500s and the Chiefship passed to his brother John McComie of Finegand); 5) John McComie of Finegand (b. late 1500s, d. 1606); 6) Alexander McComie of Finegand (grandson of John lived in the early/mid 1600s); 7) John McComie of Finegand and Forter (b. early 1600s, d. 1674).
John McComie of Finegand and Forter was the 7th Chief of the Clan MacThomas. This John McComie is also known as McComie Mhor. He was married to Elizabeth Campbell of Easter Denhead and together they had six sons, John, Alexander, James, Robert, Thomas, and Angus respectively. Each of these sons is well documented in the records of the period. Additionally, tradition holds that McComie Mhor had additional seventh son named Donald; however, he is never mentioned as a son of McComie Mhor in any contemporary document. Clearly, our David McComie, a.k.a. Comee, is not a son of McComie Mhor.
However, an examination of the siblings of McComie Mhor reveals that his youngest brother was named David. Alexander McComie of Finegand, 6th Chief of Clan MacThomas, was married to Margaret Small and in addition to McComie Mhor they had five other sons named Angus, Thomas, William, Colin, and David respectively. Additionally, Alexander McComie of Finegand had a younger brother named John McComie who moved into the area of Fife. Could McComie Mhor’s youngest brother, David, be the David Comee who was transported to Boston, Massachusetts aboard the John and Sara following the Battle of Worcester? Likewise, could Alexander McComie’s younger brother, John McComie, be the John MackHolme listed as a passenger aboard the “John and Sara”? The time period and names certainly coincide.
At present sufficient documentation is not readily available to substantiate such claims. Therefore, unless our fellow clansmen, who reside in the United Kingdom, can provide the much-needed assistance in verifying records housed there we are left to wonder. The only other alternatives for International researchers are to travel to the United Kingdom and conduct such research personally, or hire a professional Genealogist located in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the time is right for the Clan MacThomas Society to seriously consider establishing a genealogical sub-committee under the authority of the Society Council to assist with such research.
Sir Walter Scott, The History of Scotland, (Philadelphia: Carey & Lea, 1830), 395.
T. C. Smout, A History of the Scottish People: 1560-1830, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969), 107.
James I, Basilikon Dorn, ed., James Craigie (Edinburgh: Scottish Text Society, 1942), 83.
Smout, A History of the Scottish People, 103.
Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 312.
Smout, A History of the Scottish People, 108.
H. E. Marshall, Scotland’s Story: A Child’s History of Scotland, (London: T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1907), 338-39.
Wallace Notestein, The Scot in History: A Study of the Interplay of Character and History, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1947), 43.
James Barr, The Scottish Covenanters, 2nd ed. (Glasgow, John Smith & Son, 1947), 37.
James D. Douglas, Light in the North: The Story of the Scottish Covenanters, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 34.
James King Hewison, The Covenanters: A History of the Church in Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution, (Glasgow: John Smith and Son, 1908), 1:409.
A. M. MacKintosh, MacKintosh Families in Glenshee and Glenisla, [book on-line] (Nairn: George Bain Publisher, 1916, p. 53, accessed 01 July, 2002); available from http://fiss.com/chattan/m'intosh/fi00139.htmhttp://fiss.com/chattan/m'intosh/fi00139.htm; Internet.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 1:411.
Charles Sanford Terry, introduction to Papers Relating to the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant 1643-1647, ed. Charles Sanford Terry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1917), lxxii.
Roger F. Pye, “Clan MacThomas: The Lairds of Forter,” Clach A’ Choilich 2, no. 2 (1969): 33-6.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 1:412.
Terry, introduction to Army of the Solemn League and Covenant, xviii.
Marshall, Scotland’s Story, 343.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 1:427.
Smout, A History of the Scottish People, 68-9.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 1:432.
William McCombie-Smith, Memoir of the Family of M’Combie: A Branch of the Clan M’Intosh Compiled from History and Tradition, (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1887), 165.
A. M. MacKintosh, MacKintosh Families in Glenshee and Glenisla, [book on-line] (Nairn: George Bain Publisher, 1916, p. 53, accessed 02 July, 2002); available from http://fiss.com/chattan/m'intosh/fi00139.htmhttp://fiss.com/chattan/m'intosh/fi00139.htm; Internet.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 1:454.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 2:1.
Calendar of State Papers, ii. 334, 346 quoted in Hewison, The Covenanters, 2:15.
Dennis Bell, The Battle of Dunbar, [article on-line] (September 20, 1998 accessed 06 July, 2002); available from http://www.geocites.com/Athens/5568/dunbar.htmlhttp://www.geocites.com/Athens/5568/dunbar.html; Internet.
Stephen P. Carlson, Scots at Hammersmith, [article on-line] (n. d. accessed 10 July, 2002); available from http://members.tripod.com/graytim/Saugus.htmhttp://members.tripod.com/graytim/Saugus.htm; Internet.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 2:33.
David Appleby, Essex Men at the Battle of Worcester, [article on-line] (n.d. accessed 10 April, 2002); available from http://www.magweb.com/sample/secw/sec52ess.htmhttp://www.magweb.com/sample/secw/sec52ess.htm; Internet.
Hewison, The Covenanters, 2:33-4.
Elizabeth M. MacLeod, The Battle of Worcester, [article on-line] (September 03, 2001 accessed 10 April, 2002); available from http://battleofworcester.co.uk/index.htmhttp://battleofworcester.co.uk/index.htm; Internet.
Everett S. Stackpole, Lucien Thompson, and Winthrop S. Meserve, History of the Town of Durham, New Hampshire, (Concord: Rumford Press, 1913), 75.
The phonetic spelling of the names listed in Passengers to America: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, ed. Michael Tepper (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1977), 146-49, is based upon what an English speaking recorder thought that he heard the Gaelic speaking Highlanders pronounce. Additionally, Chief Andrew MacThomas of Finegand suggests that the individual listed as “Glester MackTomas” should perhaps be understood to be “Alistair” as “Glester” does not mean anything and is not a recognizable Scottish Christian name. Therefore, due to the phonetic spelling referenced above, perhaps these four men are better understood to be David McComie, John McColm, Alistair MacThomas, and Alexander Thomson.
T. C. Parziale, Ship Passenger List of The "John & Sara" Out of London 1651 and bound for New England with Scottish Prisoners, [data on-line] (June 25, 2000 accessed 08 July, 2002); available from http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/colonial/main/john&sara.htmlhttp://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/colonial/main/john&sara.html; Internet.
Stackpole, et al., History of the Town of Durham, 75.
Jeanne C. Evans, First Generation, [article on-line] (December 04, 2000 accessed 10 July, 2002); available from http://www.familyorigins.com/users/e/v/a/Jeanne-C-Evans/FAMO1-0001/d173.htmhttp://www.familyorigins.com/users/e/v/a/Jeanne-C-Evans/FAMO1-0001/d173.htm; Internet.
Roger F. Pye, “Clan MacThomas: Its Origins and Early Chiefs,” Clach A’ Choilich 1, no. 1 (1968): 4-10.
Andrew MacThomas, “MacThomas Family Tree,” Clach A’ Choilich 5, no. 5 (2001): 24-5.
Roger F. Pye, “Clan MacThomas: Years of Obscurity,” Clach A’ Choilich 5, no. 5 (2001): 12-15.
MacThomas, “MacThomas Family Tree,” 24-5.