Scottish Prisoners of War in Salem

One of the most impressive historical remembrance projects of recent years is the Scottish Soldiers Project initiated by the University of Durham’s Department of Archaeology after human remains were found in mass graves on the grounds of Durham Cathedral in 2013. After intensive archaeological and documentary analysis, it was confirmed that these were the remains of the prisoners of war transported from Scotland after one of the British Civil Wars’ bloodiest battles, the Battle of Dunbar, a hour-long rout which occurred on September 3, 1650. Following their defeat by Oliver Cromwell’s well-seasoned troops, thousands of Scottish prisoners of war embarked on a death march to Durham, where (if they survived) they would experience disease and deprivation, with as many as 1700 men dying over the next year. These are the bodies buried in unmarked graves uncovered five years ago, and re-interred in a much more respectful ceremony just last week. A smaller group of Dunbar survivors—about 150 men–escaped the exhaustive miseries of Durham through another kind of  turmoil: transport across the Atlantic into indentured servitude in the New World. Following the English Revolution’s very last battle, the Battle of Worcester (exactly one year to the day later), more Scottish captives followed in their wake.

Scottish Prisoners of War Dunbar 1661 BM

Scottish Prisoners Worcester Dutch 1661 BM

Scottish Prisoners BodiesofEvidencewebsiteimage

Scottish Prisoners Burial1661 Dutch prints of the Battles of Dunbar and Worcester a decade before, British Museum; the remains near Durham Cathedral, and the reburial ceremony on May 18, BBC News.

As you can read on the project blog, an initiative that began as scholarly, and even scientific, became and remains very personal, assimilating the contributions of thousands (?) of descendants of the Scottish prisoners in the United States, and most particularly here in New England, as a band of Dunbar survivors were transported to Massachusetts Bay where they began their North American lives as bond labor at the Saugus (then Hammersmith) Iron Works north of Boston or in sawmills in southern Maine. Another 272 men were transported to Massachusetts as “servants” in November of 1651, and dispensed to their “positions” by Charlestown merchant Thomas Kemble. After these Scottish prisoners of war served their terms of 6-8 years of forced labor, they were free to establish new lives elsewhere—and so they contributed to an evolving New British community and identity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site.

At least four of the seventeenth-century Scottish prisoners of war found their way to Salem after their indentures were completed: Allester Mackmallen (Alester M’Milan) came to Salem in 1657 and never left, as did apparently his neighbor from back home, Allister Greimes (Grimes), George Darling operated a tavern in the vicinity of “Coy Pond” on the Salem-Marblehead line, and Philip McIntire settled ultimately in nearby Reading but was notably the great-great-grandfather of Salem’s iconic architect, Samuel McIntire. All of these men were imprisoned at Dunbar and marched to Durham–and beyond. My colleague Emerson Baker contributed to the Scottish Soldiers Project in a big way, and while he notes their original “alien” identity in Puritan Massachusetts, he also recognizes their ability to succeed and assimilate, particularly in the southern Maine region which would become known as “Berwick” after the town adjacent to Dunbar. It’s the same for the Scottish soldiers of Salem: though Greimes would be the beneficiary of public charity during the final years of his life, both Mackmallen and Darling left considerable property to their heirs. There’s a Darling Street in Marblehead and a whole historic district named after Samuel (and Philip) McIntire. These prisoners of war made their mark, in a world not of their choosing.

Scottish Prisoners Essex Antiquarian Volume 13

Mcintire collageThe Darling property in Sidney Perley’s Essex Antiquarian, Volume 13; Prints of Benjamin Blyth’s pastel portrait of Samuel McIntire, 1786, and McIntire’s rendering of the Ezekiel Hersey Derby House on Essex Street–originals in the Peabody Essex Museum, of course.

Appendix: The site manage of Historic New England’s Boardman House tells me that it was long identified as the “Scotch House” and the barracks for the Scottish prisoners of war working at the nearby Iron Works. It was actually built in 1692, on a site adjacent to where the real barracks was situated.

Scotch House

The Scotch House MarkerBoardman House and Mass. Tercentenary Commission marker, 1930s, Library of Congress.

17 responses to “Scottish Prisoners of War in Salem

  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donna,

    Great piece as usual. Another Scottish prisoner “transported” to work in the Saugus Ironworks following the Battle of Worcester was named William Munroe. After his servitude was completed, he removed to Lexington (then called “Cambridge Farms”), acquired 100 acres, married three times, and had 14 children. Eleven members of the Munroe clan fought at the 1775 battle of Lexington.

    Another descendant, William Munroe, was the owner of Munroe Tavern in Lexington which the British commandeered as a field hospital during the fight. Munroe fought in several campaigns during the Revolutionary War. Before his death, he had the honor of escorting the Marquis de Lafayette on a tour the ancient battlefield when the latter made his triumphant return to America fifty years later.

    Their story lives on in the History and Genealogy of the Lexington, Massachusetts Munroes by their kinsman Richard S. Munroe published in 1966.

  • Paula Libby

    Last week on Who Do You think You are?, they traced actor Jon Cryer’s family tree back to one of the Scots who ended up at Saugus Iron Works as an indentured servant for between 5 and 7 yrs, His last name was Adams and he was one of the survivors of the Battle of Dunbar. He was also a founding member of the first ever American benevolent organization that helped other Scots in need.This is such a timely post and fits so nicely with what I watched, Thank you.

  • Paula Libby

    I forgot to say that after his period of indenture was over, he became a Collier.

  • Pam Keegan

    Funny and timely, just last night I watched the Jon Cryer episode on TV and learned about the Scots were came here as indentured servants.

    My Roberts side came here from Wales in about 1632. Love hearing about all these beginnings of families in America.

  • Teresa Hamilton/Pepper Rust

    Reblogged this on John Hamilton of Charlestown, Massachusetts (c1636-c1681) and commented:
    Our ancestor John Hamilton was one of the Scottish prisoners of war from the Battle of Dunbar.

  • Scottish Prisoners of War in Salem | Scottish Prisoners of War…

    […]  Read the entire article at streetsofsalem. […]

  • Lawrence Claflin

    Hello! Great post. I just returned from a visit to Scotland, where I visited Old Castle Laughlin (the seat of the MacLaughlin clan, and drove to Durham to take in the amazing “Bodies of Evidence” exhibition, where my ancestor, Robert M’Lachlan was mentioned. Eventually Robert’s some of descendants took on the last name Claflin and many Claflins have contributed to Massachusetts through the years — a judge, governor, founders of BU, my father an award-winning sportswriter, and the founders of Claflin College in the south. The Claflin-Richards house still stands, next to Wenham Museum. I’m a freelance writer living in Salem. Please let me know if you’d like to get in touch. I think a book on the Dunbar 150 from an American perspective would be an amazing project!

  • Helen Breen

    Lawrence, what an exciting trip tracing family roots in Scotland.

    “I think a book on the Dunbar 150 from an American perspective would be an amazing project!”

    Agreed, and good luck.

  • Mary Anderson

    I am a descendent of Henry Magoon who was a SPOW and brought to Exeter. From what I have been researching, he was only 15. He had brothers who were also captured and brought to the colonies. Is there anyway of finding out if any of the remains found at Durham Castle were related to Henry?

  • Amanda Cooper

    This is really cool to read..Iam a descendant of Alexander Cooper!! Really exciting to find your families history..

  • James Terry Dean

    I am a descendant of Henry Grimes, or Graham, POW. All family trees I have consulted said he was a son of Sir George Graham second Baronet of Esk; which I doubted, as Henry is not named as a son on Sir George Graham or Grimes marble stone. He married Mary W Clark; Ancestry trees say she is daughter of James Clark, 1637 Immigrant; Sir William Clarkson of. Her line seems more well documented; but I always felt in those times most married within their social class. Can anyone supply more information on Henry Grimes or his wife?. His son Lieutenant Benjamin Graham owned a mill in Hartford, Was Henry apprenticed to someone in a mill, and thus passed that skill onto his son Benjamin. Thank you, James Dean, Sebring Florida Phone 954 524 7278. Any knowledge appreciated.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: