Scottish Prisoners

Four of our relatives were captured at the Battles of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651) and sold as indentured servants to America.  Largely unskilled and aged between 19 and 25, these men had been conscripts raised by the Scottish Parliament from villages and clans all over Scotland.


As the civil war in England drew to a close, Scotland proclaimed Prince Charles as their King and Cromwell travelled north to crush this new threat to his power. The Scottish regiments were comprised of clansmen of the Highland chieftains and they formed an army that was valient, but undisciplined. Their defeats at Dunbar and Worcester resulted in the capture of thousands of Covenanters (Scottish Presbyterians) who could not be returned to their homeland, where they might cause more trouble. On the march to England, where they were to be imprisoned and some transported to the colonies, thousands died. The first ship of deportees, including Alexander Ennis and Henry Merrow,  to arrive in New England was the “Unity” ordered to sail Nov 11, 1650 with 150 prisoners, captured at the Battle of Dunbar.

The battle at Worcester was one of the final battles of the civil wars in England and Cromwell described it as a “crowning mercy of the Lord.” Of the prisoners captured there, some 300 including William Cahoon and Thomas Ross were sent to New England in the “John and Sarah“. The ship was ordered to depart on Nov 11, 1651, probably left in early December and arrived in New England sometime in early 1652. Prisoners on this second ship, the “John and Sarah” were to be deliverd to Thomas Kemble of Boston, who would place the prisoners in indentured positions to pay for their voyage.

Battle of Dunbar

The Battle of Dunbar (3 Sep 1650) was a battle of the Third English Civil War. The English Parliamentarian forces under Oliver Cromwell defeated a Scottish army commanded by David Leslie which was loyal to King Charles II, who had been proclaimed King of Scots on 5 Feb 1649.

As a result of the destruction of the Scottish army, Cromwell was able to march unopposed to Edinburgh. He quickly captured the Scottish capital, although Edinburgh Castle held out until the end of December. The prisoners taken at Dunbar were force-marched south towards England in order to prevent any attempt to rescue them. The conditions on the march were so appalling that many of them died of starvation, illness or exhaustion.

Death in Durham Cathedral

By 11 September, when the remnants arrived at Durham Cathedral where they were to be imprisoned, only 3,000 Scottish soldiers were still alive. If Sir Edward Walker’s statement that 6,000 prisoners were taken and 5,000 of them were marched south was correct, then 2,000 captives perished on the way to Durham.

Once Alexander and the other prisoners reached Durham, they were shut up in the city’s cathedral. They were starving and exhausted but the ordeal was not over.

Hasselrigge later wrote,

“I wrote to the mayor and desired him to take care that they wanted for nothing that was fit for prisoners. I also sent them a daily supply of bread from Newcastle . . . but their bodies being infected, the flux increased.”

He wrote to the Parliament that the prisoners were given“pottage made with oatmeal, beef and cabbage—a full quart at a meal for every prisoner” and that his officers set up a hospital, where the wounded were fed “very good mutton broth, and sometimes veal broth, and beef and mutton boiled together. I confidently say that there was never the like of such care taken for any such number of prisoners in England.”

It may have been that this was what he was told by his officers, he being back in Newcastle and not actually in Durham. The general consensus among historians is that he believed what he wrote and had no idea what was really going on. However, whether or not he knew the true situation in the cathedral, his information was false.

The jailers blackmailed the prisoners, withholding the food and coal meant for the Scots. Desperate for warmth and food, the prisoners resorted to anything they could. They traded anything valuable that they had actually retained. The Neville family tomb was ransacked, probably mainly by those looking for valuables to trade. The woodwork in the church, some of it dating from medieval times, was torn down and broken into bits for firewood. Murders were also reported to have taken place. Apparently informed of the prisoners’ and not the guards’ behavior, Hasselrigge reported, “They were so unruly, sluttish and nasty that it is not to be believed. They acted like beasts rather than men.”

The death rate was at an average of 30 men a day and may have reached over a hundred a day. The dead were unceremoniously buried in a mass grave outside the church without coffins or Christian burial. At the end of October, 1,400 of the original 5,000 prisoners were still alive. More had died on the march and in the cathedral than had died fighting at Dunbar.

While thousands of Scotish prisoners died in Durham Cathedral, Alexander Ennes, and Henry Merrow survived

While the prisoners were dying at alarming rates, the Parliament was discussing what to do about them. Stephen P. Carlson, in the Scots of Hammersmith, reported, “The disposition of such a large number of prisoners presented the English authorities with a dilemma: to maintain them as prisoners would prove costly, and to release them could prove dangerous to the security of the Commonwealth.” A committee appointed by the English governing body, the Council of State informed Hasselrigge that he was to send a number of prisoners to the coal mines. Hasselrigge sold some of the Scots as workers in various trades.

Sold to America

Petitions were sent to the Council to send prisoners overseas to be sold as indentured servants. On 18 Sep 1650, Hasselrigge was ordered to send 150 Scots, “well and sound, and free from wounds,” (Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1650) to John Becx and Joshua Foote to be shipped to New England. Becx and Foote would be allowed to sell or consign the Scots in America at a cost to them of about £5 per man. The Scots were to be indentured (involuntarily) for a term of seven years. These men were mainly between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five in 1650, according depositions made during their lifetimes. Although these 150 men all seemed healthy, Hasselrigge shipped them to London by water, fearing “they are all infected”.

According to Carlson, “By October 23, when the Council ordered the project stopped ‘until assurance be given of their not being carried where they may be dangerous,’ the Scots were awaiting passage to America in the Thames.” On Nov 11, Augustine Walker of the Unity received sailing orders from the Council “as their ship is ready and the place is without danger”.

What followed was probably an unpleasant ocean voyage that would have taken about six weeks. Carlson stated that while the Unity’s size is not known, it “would have been far from spacious” for the prisoners. It is also unknown how many did not make the journey from London to Boston, as no lists survive. The death rate is estimated at ten percent.

Becx and Foote consigned seventy-seven to eighty-seven men to two businesses in Maine and Massachusetts in which Becx had interest. The rest were sold to local residents for £20-30. Sixty-two of the consigned men, including Alexander Ennis, xxx, were sent to the Saugus Ironworks at Lynn, Massachusetts.

Battle of Worcester

The Battle of Worcester took place on 3 Sep 1651 at Worcester, England and was the final battle of the English Civil WarOliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians defeated the Royalist, predominantly Scottish, forces of King Charles II. The 16,000 Royalist forces were overwhelmed by the 28,000 strong “New Model Army” of Cromwell.

Oliver Cromwell in the Battle of Worcester

About 3,000 men were killed during the battle and a further 10,000 were taken prisoner at Worcester or soon afterwards. The Earl of Derby was executed, while the other English prisoners were conscripted into the New Model Army and sent to Ireland. Around 8,000 Scottish prisoners were deported to New England, Bermuda, and the West Indies to work for landowners as indentured labourers. Parliamentary casualties numbered in the low hundreds.

Once in the city, Charles II removed his armour and found a fresh mount; he attempted to rally his troops but it was to no avail. A desperate Royalist cavalry charge down Sidbury Street and High Street, led by the Earl of Cleveland and Major Careless amongst others, allowed King Charles to escape the city by St. Martin’s Gate.  Charles II escaped after many adventures, including one famous incident where he hid from a Parliamentarian patrol in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House..

Of the prisoners captured there, some 300 were sent to New England in the “John and Sarah“. The ship was ordered to depart on Nov 11, 1651, probably left in early December and arrived in New England sometime in early 1652. Prisoners on this second ship, the “John and Sarah” were to be deliverd to Thomas Kemble of Boston, who would place the prisoners in indentured positions to pay for their voyage..

Saugus Ironworks

Saugus Ironworks was the first ironworks in North America, a great technological achievement in that time and place. It was built about 1646, closed by 1675, and was built near some ore deposits, as well as the Saugus River, which provided power to the ironworks. The site included a dam that provided power for forging, a blast furnace with a bellows, a reverbatory furnace, a trip-hammer forge, and rolling and slitting mills. It produced both cast and wrought iron.  One item produced there was nails, which were especially vital because so many new settlements were being built in the wilderness. They milled thin strips of wrought iron, slit these strips, and sold them. The customers then cut the nails and shaped the heads and points. The ironworkers formed a community there known as Hammersmith.

Saugus Iron Works, Saugus, MA

The Scots arrived in Lynn from Boston by boat. The initial payments for food for the Scots is recorded in the record books of John Giffard, the agent for the undertakers of the iron works, in April of 1651. This indicates that they arrived there around that time. There were also payments recorded for medicine and medical help, suggesting that they were in poor health. One death was recorded.

Once there, some were sold elsewhere. The indentured Scots were employed in a variety of tasks, including acting as forge hands, assisting the colliers (who produced the charcoal for the iron works), and even keeping Hammersmith’s cattle. Giffard was directed to use most of the Scots as woodcutters to supply the colliers. Some were taught the trades of “smiths, colliers, carpenters, sawyers, finers, and hammerman” (according to Carlson). Giffard stated that these men “would neare have managed the Compa(ny’s) business themselves, and have saved them many hundreds of pounds in a yeare.” Carlson stated, “The Scots of Hammersmith were for the most part unskilled laborers. Yet, they played a major role in the support of the skilled iron workers.” If not for the debts that affected business, he says, these Scots would have taken over more and more of the skilled positions there.

Working Forge Hammer at Saugus Ironworks (cover your ears!)

Most of the Scots lived in the “Scotchmen’s house”, a single building one mile from the iron works. This house is believed to have had two rooms around a central chimney with a cellar oven. There were eleven beds and bolsters there and twice that number of coverlets and blankets, suggesting that the Scots slept two to a bed. Others lived with non-Scottish workers, although there is some indication that the company may have had other quarters built for them beside the house.

The company provided the Scots with food, clothing, and tools. Payments were recorded as having been received by local craftsmen and ironworker’s wives for shoes and clothing. Food was either grown on the company farm or purchased by Giffard for the Scots. The latter consisted of “malt, hops, bread, mackerel, wheat, peas, beef, and pork”, according to Carlson. Apparently, the undertakers thought that Giffard fed the Scots too well. They complained, “As for the dietting of the Scotts men:I have advised with some of the Company and they tell me that 3s. 6d. per weeke is a sufficient allowance for every man: Considering the cheapnes of provision thaire…you haveing ther plenty of fish, both fresh and salte and pidgions and venison and corne and pease at a very cheape Rate.” (A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn…, Baker Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA) Apparently, he was spending 6s. a week for each man on food. Some of the tools used by the Scots had been shipped with the Scots. Others were made by a local blacksmith. They were even supplied with “strong Waters” and tobacco at the expense of the Company.

Tools in Saugus Ironworks Forge Building

Meanwhile, some claimed the Scots were not receiving their full portion. There were complaints that food and soap meant for the Scots went to other workers and even to the Giffard family.

The Scottish workers were not isolated from Lynn’s community, though it was an “alien environment”. Many married local women both before and after their indentures were finished. In addition, “all Scotchmen, Negroes, and Indians inhabiting with or servants to the English” were to be included in military training, by the order of the colony’s General Court in May 1652. (Dow, George Francis, ed., The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Salem, MA, 1920, I, p. 354-5, also A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn.

However, William Saxbe, Jr. noted in his article that, “Relations with the surrounding Puritan communities were not always smooth: a local observer noted that ‘At the Iron Works wee founde all the men wth smutty faces and bare armes working lustily…The headmen be of substance and godlie lives. But some of the workmen be young, and fond of frolicking, and sometimes doe frolicke to such purpose that they get before the magistrates. And it be said, much to their discredit that one or two hath done naughtie workes with the maidens living thereabouts.’

Financial difficulties at the iron works led it to be handed over to creditors. The Scots were transferred over along with all of the iron works’ property. Most served the remainder of their terms at Lynn “in a plant that saw little activity conducted until the latter part of the decade” (Carlson).

Our Scottish Prisoners

George POLLEY’s brother-in-law Henry Merrow was born in 1625 in Inverness, Scotland.  He married Jane Lindes (b. Abt. 1635 in Ireland, – d. 1685 in Reading, Mass.). 5 Nov 1685 in Reading, Mass)  George’s son Edward married Henry’s daughter Mary  in 1696 in Reading, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Henry Merrow was captured by Cromwell’s men in the Battle of Dunbar  in 1650, and sent to the US as a prisoner of war/indentured servant (bonded captive worker), and did not come on his own. He came in 1651 on the ship “Unity,” and landed in Massachusetts. He settled in Reading where his children were born and later moved to Dover, NH. He was listed as a freeman in the May 22, 1677 census.

William HOLMAN‘s son-in-law Thomas Ross was born 1630 in Scotland. He married Seeth Holman 16 Jan 1661 in Cambridge, Mass  Thomas died 20 Mar 1695 in Billerica, Middlesex, Mass.

Thomas Ross 1 — Source: Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury (1938)


Jannetje LOZIER‘s father-in-law Alexander Ennis was born about 1632 in Scotland.  He married Catherine [__-__] about 1657 in Taunton, Mass.  Alexander Innes died in 1679 at the home of his daughter Elizabeth “Enos”, the wife of William Harris, on Block Island, Rhode Island. He made a nuncupative will  in the presence of Robert Guthrie and two others from Block Island, naming William Harris as his heir (New Shoreham Town Book 1:52). Catherine most likely died between 1664 and 1679.

Jannetje  was born 22 Aug 1660 in Ulster, NY.  Her parents were Francios LeSUEUR and Jannatie Hildebrand PIETERSEN.  After Jannetje’s first husband Jan Jansen POSTMAEL died, she married Thomas Ennis  after 1688.

Alexander Ennis, the father of Jannetje Lozier’s second husband, came to America as a prisoner of war after the Battle of Dunbar. It is not known exactly how long Alexander stayed in Durham cathedral. It may have been little over a week. However, he certainly left before 23 October 1650. Sixty-two of the consigned men on the Unity, including Alexander Ennis, were sent to the Saugus Ironworks at Lynn, Massachusetts. Once there, some were sold elsewhere. Alexander Ennis was evidently among those who remained at Saugus. He was listed on an inventory of the iron works dated November 1653. The inventory was a result of lawsuits resulting from financial diffulties. The Scots were valued at £10 each, though Giffard protested that they were worth twice that amount and some of the Scots more than that.

Catherine Ennis

Carlson records that Alexander Ennis “had moved to Taunton by late 1656, later moving to Block Island, Rhode Island.” By this time, Alexander married a woman by the name of Catherine either in the area of Lynn or in Taunton. Her last name and date and place have not been found but her country of origin is known:“an Irish woman named Katheren Aines (Innes)”, according to Plymouth records found by Saxbe. Saxbe also put forth the theory that she was captured and deported by Cromwell and sent with several hundred other Irish to Marblehead, near Lynn, in 1654.

According to Catherine O’Donovan, “Cromwell and his army of well trained and experienced soldiers, called Ironsides, came to Ireland in August 1649 with the intention of subduing the rebellion and stamping out all opposition to parliament. Cromwell, a Puritan, ‘believed he was an instrument of divine retribution for (alleged) atrocities committed by Catholics against Protestants in 1641 and he accordingly gave orders to deny mercy to Catholics.’ His campaign was savage and is remembered for the slaughter of women and children as well as unarmed captives.” Cromwell returned to England in May of 1650 and his son-in-law and another general continued the campaign. The Irish surrendered in 1652.

Several historians have noted that after the wars, the English exiled large numbers of Irish to the colonies in America and the West Indies. Robert West wrote,

“At the end of the war, vast numbers of Irish men, women and children were forcibly transported to the American colonies by the English government. (Sir William Petty, Political Anatomy of Ireland, London, 1719, p. 19)

These people were rounded up like cattle, and, as Prendergast reports on Thurloe’s State Papers (John Thurloe, Letter of Henry Cromwell, 4th Thurloe’s State Papers, London, 1742), “In clearing the ground for the adventurers and soldiers (the English capitalists of that day)… To be transported to Barbados and the English plantations in America…J. Williams provides additional evidence of the attitude of the English government towards the Irish in an English law of June 26, 1657:

‘Those who fail to transplant themselves into Connaught (Ireland’s Western Province) or (County) Clare within six months… Shall be attained of high treason… Are to be sent into America or some other parts beyond the seas…’ (Joseph J. Williams)

Those thus banished who return are to ‘suffer the pains of death as felons by virtue of this act, without benefit of Clergy.’ (Ibid.)…Emmet asserts that during this time, more that ‘100,000 young children who were orphans or had been taken from their Catholic parents, were sent abroad into slavery in the West Indies, Virginia and New England, that they might lose their faith and all knowledge of their nationality, for in most instances even their names were changed… Moreover, the contemporary writers assert between 20,000 and 30,000 men and women who were taken prisoner were sold in the American colonies as slaves, with no respect to their former station in life.’ (Thomas Addis Emmet, Ireland Under English Rule, NY & London, Putnam, 1903)”

Life in Taunton – The Irish Catherine and Scottish Alexander clashed with the Puritans of Taunton on at least one occasion. Saxbe writes, “‘an Irish woman named Katheren Aines’ was brought before the court at Plymouth in February, 1656/57, ‘vpon suspision of comiting adultery.’ The trial was the following month, and justice was swift and harsh:

‘Att this Court, William Paule, Scotchman, for his vnclean and filthy behauiour with the wife of Alexander Aines, is centanced by the Court to bee forthwith publickly whipt…which accordingly was p(er)formed…Katheren Aines, for her vnclean and laciuiouse behauior with the abouesaid William Paule, and for the blasphemos words that shee hath spoken, is centanced by the Court to bee forthwith publickly whipt heer att Plymouth, and afterwards att Taunton, on a publicke training day, and to were a Roman B cutt out of ridd cloth and sowed to her vper garment on her right arme [for blaspheme]; and if shee shalbee euer found without it soe worne whil shee is in the gou(vern)ment, to bee forthwith publickly whipt…Alexander Anis, for his leauing his family, and exposing his wife to such temptations, and being as baud to her therin, is centanced by the Court for the p(re)sent to sitt in the stockes the time the said Paule and Katheren Ainis are whipt, which was p(er)formed…’

Understandably, the Innes family moved sometime within the next few years. In 1659, Alexander is found in the records buying land in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, fifteen miles south of Taunton (Clarence S. Brigham, Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth (Providence: E.L. Freeman &Sons, 1901), pg. 379). In 1664, Block Island became part of Rhode Island and a group of Scots settled there.

Robert Guthrie, whom the Scots saw as a leader, wrote a letter which is believed by Saxbe to have been addressed to Alexander (as it began with the greeting “Country Man” and was found in the New Shoreham (Block Island) Town Book with two deeds having Alexander as grantee; also a deed in 1678/79 with Alexander as grantor called his land “a gift from the Propriators & Inhabitants of Blockisland.”. In this letter, he promised six acres of free land and the option to buy 40 more and a home lot.


Joseph PECK’s son-in-law William Cahoon was born in 1633 Tullichewan, Scotland.  His parents were Alexander Colquhoun and Marian Stirling.  He married Deliverance Peck 26 Jun 1662 Block Island, Newport, Rhode Island.  William was killed in King Philip’s War on  22 Jun 1675 in Rehoboth, Mass.  After William died, Deliverance married Caleb Lumbert (Son of Thomas LUMBERT)

William Colquhoun fought the English in the brutal battles of Dunbar and Worcester in Scotland, and was captured by the Army of Parliament. He was indentured to the iron mines in Braintree, Massachusetts. Upon achieving his freedom, he sailed on the “Shallop” to Rhode Island and bought a share of Block Island there. In 1664 he went to Swansea RI and successfully petitioned the General Assembly to make him a freeman with full rights as a citizen.

“William Cahoon in America soon about 1652 (possibly aboard the John and Sarah). He worked for a number of years at Saugus (Lynn, Mass.). He spent six months at Taunton before assisting in the construction of a shallop at Braintree. In April of 1661, he was one of the fifteen men who sailed from Taunton to Cow Cove and became the first settlers of Black Island, Mass. (now Rhode Island).

The entire state of Rhode Island is shown in this satellite image. Block Island lies within Long Island Sound about 12 miles south of Naragansett Bay.

His period of servidtude presumably espired before the end of 1662, and on 13 Jan 1662/63 William Cahoune bought from Thomas Terry 40 acres on the ‘hieway’ that then divided Block Island. On 4 May 1664 he was a freeman at New Shoreham, in 1665 he served on a Newport grand jury, and on 20 Feb 1669/70 he became a freeman and permanent resident of Swansea, Mass.

On 13 Nov 1670 William Cohoun sold his 38 acres on Block Island to Samuel Hagbourne. At the coming of King Philip’s War, William Cahoone was killed by the Indians near East Rehoboth on 22 June 1675 and was buried at Swansea two days later.

On Sunday, June 24, 1675, the colonists held a day of prayer concerning the unrest. Upon returning to their homes after church services, numerous residents of Swansea were killed.  Others, including the family of William and Deliverance, sought refuge in the garrison home of  Rev. John Myles. During the night, one of their sentries was attacked and injured. They decided  to send two men to the neighboring town of Rehoboth to retrieve the doctor. One of these was William. Along the way, both men were killed by the Indians. William was 42 and had a wife and  seven children.

In 1681 Joseph Kent and Caleb Lambert were appointed guardians of Joseph Cahoon (son of William & Deliverance).

More about William Cahoon

The William Cahoone (Colquhoun) Society Founded on the 325th anniversary of his death, June 24, 2000, by The Descendants Of William, The First American Cahoone.

What does Block Island have to do with William Cahoone? LOTS!!!

In 1661, under the leadership of Dr. John Alcock of Boston, Mass. (one of the first graduates of Harvard), a group of men (some with their families), wishing to leave what they perceived as the “unfree” atmosphere of the Puritans, landed on Block Island. These free-thinkers defiantly believed that the State should have no power over people’s religious conviction nor their right to vote. They held to their opinion that no onehad the right to tell them what to charge for their own goods and services rendered nor what clothes to wear. They even dared to support the basic rights of Native Americans, including their being”paid” for their land, rather than having it just taken away from them “in God’s name”.

It was this group’s goal to found a new settlement where they could “breathe the air of freedom”. To this end, Wiliam Cahoone, along with a few other indentured Scotsmen, was returned from the Leonard Iron Works back to Quincy where he worked on the construction of a shallop (a 22+’ 2-masted shipdesigned for transport of people and goods along the shallower waters near the coast). William and this boat were returned to the Leonard Iron Works, on what today is the Raynham/Taunton line. In April of 1661, these “new pilgrims”, who included William Cahoone, then traveled down the Taunton River, the Warren River, out into Mt. Hope Bay, Narragansett Bay, and out to Block Island at Cow Cove.As the settlers’ boat came close to the shore, an unforseen problem presented itself: -how to unload the cattle?!

After some deliberation, it was decided that the easiest way to accomplish this necessary task would be simply to push the cows overboard! The bewildered beasts were compelled to swim, much to the delight of the curious and excited Native Americans gathered there.

Even til today, this stretch of beach is still known as “Cow Cove”. WILLIAM CAHOONE WAS FIRST LISTED AS A FREEMAN HERE ON MAY 4, 1664! In 1911, a lasting tribute to these stalwart souls was erected on Block Island in the form of “Settlers’ Rock” on which a commemorative plaque lists the settlers’ names.

Settler’s Rock on Block Island (1661-1911)

Officially made Swansea’s first town brickmaker, Dec. 24, 1673 William Cahoone finally met with “success” as a Freeman in Swansea, Massachusetts, when he was officially appointed as the sole brickmaker for that town. There is still in existence, in the Swansea Town Offices, the original bound volume entitled: “Proprietors Book of Grants and Meetings, 1668-1769”. It includes the following entry: “At A Town Meeting of the Towns Men, Dec 24, 1673, It was Agreed upon by and Between the townsmen In the behalf of the town and William Cohoone (Cohoune/Cohowne?) brickmaker that for and In Consideration of a Lot and other Accommodations or Grantes And Given by him from the town unto him the said William Cohoun. It was therefore Agreed and Concluded upon by the Parties Above so that the saidWilliam Cohoon Shall Supply all the Inhabitants of the Town with Bricks at a Price not Exceeding Twenty Shillings a Thousand in Current Pay Putting between Man and Man.”

In each instance where William’s name is written, his last name is spelled differently! This is a sign that perhaps William Cahoone was illiterate, not that uncommon for his times and circumstances. Is it any wonder, therefore, that even today this name is spelled in so many different ways?

On June 24, 2000, William Cahoone’s direct descendants donated a Commemorative Plaque to the Swansea Historical Society. It will be affixed to a rock and erected near the site of the Cahoone Brickworks, close to the location of the Myles Garrisoned House along the Palmer River in Swansea, Mass

The Providence Journal newspaper sent a reporter to cover the William Cahoone Memorial Service on June 25, 2000. The following is the article which subsequently appeared on July 10, 2000. It was accompanied by four photographs

A settler’s sacrifice. Descendants gather to honor a Swansea founder. by Meredith Goldstein REHOBOTH – Deborah Cahoon Didick knows the story by heart. It was June 24, 1675. Native Americans and settlers were about to begin fighting in what came to be known as King Philip’s War, a bloody battle over land and identity. William Cahoone, a Scottish immigrant, gathered with a group of local residents at the Baptist Meeting House in Swansea for a day of prayer. They prayed for peace, hoping that the growing tension would subside. That night, however, as they left the church, the settlers were ambushed by Native Americans who had become vengeful for their stolen homeland. Some of the settlers were killed, others badly wounded. The survivors ran to the pastor’s house to hide.

William Cahoone was a family man. He had come to the New Plymouth Colony as an indentured servant and became one of the first residents of Swansea (founded in 1668), where he and his wife raised seven children. He was the town’s official brickmaker.

That night, as his companions lay injured and dying, Cahoone volunteered to travel through what he knew was hostile territory to get medical help. He set off through Swansea toward Rehoboth to get a doctor. Cahoone was never seen alive again. His remains were found in Rehoboth near Providence and Lake Streets, the original Native American footpaths. He was never given a proper Baptist burial. Three-hundred twenty-five years and one day later, a group of about 30 of Cahoone’s descendants gathered at the Lake Street Cemetery in Rehoboth to lay their patriarch to rest. They wore pink name tags which said how they are related to Cahoone (now spelled Cahoon), and laid fresh flowers in honor of the anniversary of his death. “You can cry”, said Didick, an 11th -generation Cahoon who organized the memorial service. “You’re family. You’re my cousins.” Didick spent the last year finding Cahoons in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and all around the country, some of whom did not know their ancestor’s history in Rehoboth and Swansea. She invitedthem all to the area to meet one another and learn about “Grampa Will”, the man who sacrificed his own life for those who needed medical attention. After more than three centuries, Didick wanted to gather with her family together to put Cahoone’s spirit to rest. During a memorial weekend, they toured Cahoone’s past. They stopped at the Leonard Iron Works in Raynham where Cahoone worked before moving to Block Island in 1661. They followed the Taunton River, the same route he would have traveled to get to the island, where he was first listed as a Freeman. They went to the Luther Museum in Swansea to see his brickmaking handiwork, and stopped at the site of the Myles Garrison House in Swansea where Cahoone was last seen alive by his friends and neighbors.

The group celebrated their heritage at a testimonial dinner where newly-acquainted family members spoke about their ever-present connection to Grampa Will. And on Sunday, June 25, they had a proper funeral. To the cries of bagpipes played by Charles Neil Cahoon, they placed flowers on a small gravesite. The Rev. Edgar Farley of the Hornbine Historic Baptist Church led the service. He thanked Cahoone for making a journey of mercy, and sacrificing his life to help other people. ”

Richard (Cahoon) Didick June 25th, 2000

Deliverance Peck and William Cahoon were married. William Cahoon was captured by the English, along with his brother John, and they were sold as an indentured servants and sent to America. On 11 Nov 1650 William was taken to Liverpool and was transported from there to Boston, Massachusetts aboard the ship “Unity,” commanded by Captain Augustine Walker of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Bex & Company, a London Merchant company, purchased several Scotch prisoners for indentured servants to exploit bog iron at Saugus, Braintree, and Taunton.

William’s brother John was shipped from London aboard the ship “John & Sarah” on 11 Nov 1652, but he died either on the voyage or shortly after arriving in Massachusetts.

After working in Saugus, Massachusetts for several years, William worked in Taunton for 6 months. He then assisted in the construction of a shallop at Braintree, Massachusetts. He learned the brick making trade from James Leonard.

In 1660, with sixteen others, he purchased Block Island, Rhode Island,and became one of the first settlers there, and settled at Cow Cove on Block Island.  They sailed from Taunton to Cow Cove in 1661 and became the first settlers on Block Island. Apparently his term of servitude had ended by this time.

On 13 Jan 1663 he purchased 40 acres from Thomas Terry, which were on the ‘hiway’ that divided Block Island. On 4 May 1664 he was a freeman in New Shoreham. In 1665 he served on a Newport Grand Jury. On 13 Nov 1670 he sold 38 acres on Block Island to Samuel Hogbourne.

William worked as a brickmaker in Braintree, Massachusetts, according to a contract dated 23 Dec 1673.

In “Hubbard’s Narrative of Indian Wars” we find this record: “On the 24th of June, 1675, the alarm was sounded in Plymouth Colony, when eight or nine of the English were slain in and about Swansea, they being the first to fall in King Philip’s War.” William Cahoon was one of these nine. He was killed by Indians during the King Philips War, on 22 Jun 1675 near East Rehoboth, Bristol County, Massachusetts. He was buried two days later, on 24 Jun 1675, at Swansea, Massachusetts. We find in the records of this event the Americanized spelling of the name from Colquhoun to Cahoon.


Following the trail of the 1650 Scottish Prisoners – A Summary of the Battle of Dunbar and the Scots of Berwick, Maine

Ship Passenger List of The “John & Sara” out of London 1651 and bound for New England with Scottish Prisoners. (this alphabetizes the list and adds spelling variations)

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14 Responses to Scottish Prisoners

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  6. Miner Discrepancies and Miner Revisions.
    In 1648, the Presbyterian Scots made a compact called ‘The Engagement’ with Charles I in which they would help restore him to his throne in return for him imposing Presbyterianism on all of his people. It would outlaw all of the various sects, of which Cromwell was an ‘Independent’ and included Baptists and Quakers.
    In 1650, the Scots had agreed a similar compact with Charles II. Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland was ‘preemptive’.
    On the eve of the invasions Cromwell made two statements to his men. 1: That these are our brethren who have been misled. 2: That and of his soldiers found to have taken goods from or done harm to any Scotsman not in arms would pay with his life. Cromwell also wrote to the Comittee of Estates begging them to reconsider their compact with Charles.. The Restoration must have brought Cromwell’s words back to many people when Charles outlawed Presbyterianism and killed a number of people for their beliefs.
    Regard the Order To Muster: That Heritors and other responsible persons should take a required number of peoploe to Edinburgh. That they should bring provisions for their men for thirty days if below Aberdeen or forty days for above Aberdeen. This was early July and the provisions for 30,000 men had to be taken from the local economies… Plus Horses, Plus Equipment, Plus Farriers, smiths and wheelwrights.
    Below Edinburgh, all of the men of fighting age were driven to Edinburgh and all crops and grazing destroyed, leaving nothing for the invaders to subsist on. All of the ingredients for the nationwide famine that followed.
    It may interest you to count how many days passed between the Muster and the battle of Dunbar.
    In doing so, you will see that David Leslie was forty days into thirty days’ supplies, whi9ch is why many of the prisoners complained about having no food for four days before the Battle Of Dunbar. It may even explain Leslie’s purging on the ungodly. Seeing Cromwell’s depleted forces, Leslie believed that he could take Cromwell in a pitched battle. He also knew that if he didn’t terminate things quickly, he would lose men to starvation and mutiny. He had to leave the high ground. He had to face and beat Cromwell quickly. He lost. Given his previous behaviour, it is perhaps as well for the English Soldiers that Leslie did lose because a sortie into John Buchan’s ‘Montrose’ will show you that Leslie found it acceptable to give favourable terms to vanguished forces, take their weapons and then slaughter them. That may account for the number of conscripts left on the field.
    Their job would have been butchery!
    Leslie left the field at Dunbar with between 11,000 and 13,000 troops. Even then, far more men that Cromwell had to hand.
    On the 2nd September 1650, Cromwell was entertaining defeat. On the 3rd September, Cromwell was considering how to deal with up to 10,000 prisoners in an area in which there was famine and alongside his own army who were reduced to a sort of broth of peas and oats (Poor Horses)
    You can only ask yourselves what you would have done if you were Cromwell. He couldn’t offload ships due to the weather. The total lack of support from across the Border makes me think that they weren’t committing men and supplies if there was a chance of Cromwell losing. Cromwell couldn’t let the Prisoners go for two reasons. 1: Release them into an area already in famine would be criminal and 2: Release them to rejoin their army would be lunatic.
    It was necessary to get them secured, covered and fed. He needed to get to a place where between 3,000 and 5,000 men would be fed. Of the 5,000 sick, wounded and starving that Cromwell dismissed, it is hoped that his sending trumpets around Scotland inviting people to collect their sick and wounded may have saved some lives.

    We then have the terrible march to Durham, described well by Haselrige. But before that I would ask you to research Refeeding Syndrome. Take a look at the Allied Prisoners of the Japanese or the Jewish victims of the Concentration Camps.

    If men had gorged themselves on Cabbages as Hesilrige claims, then within a couple of days they would have been either very sick or dead. If Hesilrige had fed the men as described, they would have died. Men seeming well and then dying is typical of Refeeding Syndrome. The feeding process that followed with milk and water is similar to modern processes.

    People have often described the Scots burning wood panelling in order to keep warm, plus the pews etc. Much of the timber they ‘burnt’ had previously been sold, long before their sojourn.
    Much of the Organ Screen ended up in Roxwell Parish Church as first an Altar Screen and then a partition. Not just that, but the majority of the 1,600 who died in the Cathedral did so in September and October and not many people freeze to death in those times.

    In three different letters, Cromwell expressed his concern for the Prisoners, not least because he wanted them to fight alongside his own men in Ireland. Many commentaries are derogatory of the Scots and the Americans. They claim that the Americans would be prepared to pay £30 per man and that that man would have no value other than a mouth to feed. The Scottish Prisoners may not have been soldiers but they did know how to make Lime out of Limestone and take Salt out of the Sea. Ignore what you heard before… These men were men of value.

    When you look and see who was the ‘Main Player’ in the Council of State for Scotland and Ireland, you will find Sir Henry Vane the Younger. One time Governor of Massachusetts and bosom friend of the enlightened ‘Roger Williams’ of Rhode Island. It was that council which later made funds available to Scottish Prisoners.

    John Cotton described the preparations for the new Indentured Servants. In his letter to Cromwell, he describes houses being built with four men per house. Land set aside to be worked by the men for their own subsistence.

    To describe the shipboard condition of the Scots as ‘poor’ also describes the conditions of everyone else on the Ships. 200 year later, Mark Twain describes his crossing of the Atlantic in a paddle steamer plus the condition of some of his fellow travellers. The Ship sometimes seeming to stand on its nose and then its stern. Just ten years ago, on a voyage from Plymouth to Roscoff, my wife was praying for death in a cabin with padded cushions, a loo and a shower. My description of a Slaving Ship’s conditions did nothing to improve her condition.

    To describe their life as ‘forced labour’, it is probable that nearly all of the occupants of the Colony would have endured periods of ‘forced labour’. There weren’t many easy lives, or central heating or plumbing but, at that time, the life expectancy of a man in Scotland averaged 28/30.

    I do not claim to be an authority on this subject but I do regard many of the things written in the first 200 years after Cromwell’s Death were written under Patronage and said what ultimately, the powers that be wanted to hear.

    I have recently searched the Guild Book of Berwick upon Tweed, Records office. The book was copied/re-written in 1670 and many of the important occurences in Berwick, such as the Prisoners marched through the town, have been arranged. Same goes for the House of Commons. Loads of missing records. Even Massachusetts Records Office has a wonderful set of books from which the arrival of Prisoners in Boston seems also to have been erased.

    People who teach History should tell their pupils… ‘Now go away and prove me wrong!’

  7. Allison White says:

    Henry Merrow is my 8th great-grandfather. I wish I could find out more about him.

    • Nils Lovering Nordberg says:

      Henry Merrow was my 7th great grandfather. After serving his 7 years indentured servitude at Saugus Iron Works, he was granted his freedom. It appears that he went up the Saugus River to its headwaters in what was then West Lynne Village, now the Town of Reading, MA., where he is believed to have constructed one of the first habitations for Europeans in the town. The Reading Antiquarian Society has fouind no remains of a structure, but has a pretty good idea of the likely location. In the mid 1900s, one of his descendants, living in Winchester, MA at the time, devoted 15 years of research to writing a history of the Merrow family. The Reading Public Library and the New England Historical Genealogical Society each has a copy. I have visited each and read snippets, but hope to get an opportunity to read at leisure.

  8. Sam says:

    Terrific article. I’m finding it long after you published it but Even so I just have to write. Recently I discovered that my family descends from one of the Scottish prisoner of war who came here on the John and Sarah after the battle of Worcester. Like the people in your story my ancestor John Wattell/ Waddell/ Woodall married into my family. His daughter Mary married my first grandfather John Parrish. Both men were at one time or another in Ipswich and then moved onto Stonington Connecticut. I’ve been hoping to find out more about him —-after he came here after the battle of Worcester —and Back in Scotland before he fought against Cromwell. (So far my research suggests that he may have come from Stow ) (I also found I found Isaac Magoon Who made his way to Connecticut also and founded the town of Scotland in Windham Connecticut) .In later years he lived only a stones throw from our home on PARRISH Hill in Chaplin Connecticut. But neither of them showed up in your article. I wondered if you had gotten any additional information since you wrote this? Would love to hear more. Thanks again

    • Geraldine Thompson says:

      Two of my known Scottish POW ancestors also arrived on the “John and Sarah”, they being David Hamilton and Richard Jaxon. Davis later married the daughter of Jaxon and all were killed by Indians on Sept 28, 1691. Fortunately the children were all grown, moved to their own homes and not involved in the massacre.

  9. Isabella says:

    William Cahoon / Colquhoun absolutely has been proven NOT to be the son of Alexander Colquhoun and Marion Stirling. They were only married 10 months and in that time, she gave birth to their only child, a girl named Joan. Unfortunately wee Joan died soon after her birth and Alexander died about two weeks later. This must change in your story. Both William and John Colquhoun [as they were born, the Cahoon came from the trip over to Colonies by ignorant men who could not spell so writ it phonetically] were more like born to John Colquhoun and Katherine Graham, his sister-in-;law whom he eloped with – a very long and sordid story there – I just happen to be researching Colquhoun’s presently.

  10. Isabella says:

    PS…sorry… but William Cahoon /Colquhoun arrived in Massachusetts in 1650 on the Unity. His brother John was on the John and Sara and died at sea.

  11. Elizabeth Prosser says:

    A David Kincade/Kincaid was a member of the Scottish Charitable Organization in Bosotn, but not found on any ships’ lists. Has anyone run across his name elsewhere?

  12. markanthonymiranda says:

    henry merrow family in scotland needed or parents

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