Hand-me-downs

Tulliechettle Graveyard, at the foot of Glen Artney Photo: Susan Tichy, 2014

Tulliechettle Graveyard, at the foot of Glen Artney
Photo: Susan Tichy, 2014

Magruder Memorial, Tulliechettle Photo: Susan Tichy, 2015

Magruder Memorial, Tulliechettle
Photo: Susan Tichy, 2015

Magruders of Craigneich and Glen Artney are buried here, though their graves are now unmarked and the graveyard itself has been incorporated into a local farm. The last member of the McGruther family at Meigor in Glen Artney–descended from Alexander Magruder’s uncle–was Helen McGruther, who died unmarried in 1831. In 1811, she erected a monument at Tulliechettle memorializing her lost family, including her two sisters, who died unmarried, and her five brothers, each of whom “died abroad”–whether in a Scottish regiment, a Jacobite enclave in France, or elsewhere, is unknown.

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My mother said that she had heard, from some Magruder but she didn’t know who, that one day when Alexander the Immigrant was eating dinner with his family in Maryland, a strange young man appeared at the door and introduced himself as Alexander’s Scottish son. He was eighteen years old, she recalled.

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Early on in the days of Trafficke, my mother told me that she had been told that her great-grandfather, Fielder Montgomery Magruder (I should say one of the Fielder Montgomery Magruders, of which there appear to be three or four score…) freed all his slaves before the Civil War. She was savvy enough to be skeptical of any such claim, and more or less gave me her blessing to prove it wrong. To date, I have found no evidence that he ever owned slaves at all. Friends have advised me that in family stories slaves are more likely to disappear than to be invented; so I should keep looking. I have kept looking–I am looking to this day–but have found no trace to follow.

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Some accounts of Alexander’s earliest land acquisitions claim that in the margin of one of them, the name McGregor had been scrawled. I have never seen such a document. One source provided a citation, so I showed it to archivists at the Maryland Hall of Records, but they did not recognize it as pertaining to any of their records. And, of course, anybody, in any century since 1653 could have scrawled McGregor in a margin.

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In Scotland, aficionados of the McGrouther/Drummond connection and family stories uniformly believe that Margaret Drummond and her sisters were intentionally poisoned. The evidence: they were eating fruit (not likely to be toxic, even if spoiled), and though they were fine in the morning they were dead by evening. Food poisoning generally takes longer than that to kill you, I’m told. Historians say the claim that they were poisoned did not appear in Drummond family histories until a hundred and fifty years later.

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Don McGruther believes it quite likely that Alexander McGuther/Magruder had not been married in Scotland. He bases this on economics and the carrying capacity of the land. Even today, a quick survey of farms like Craigneicht confirms that only a small portion of its land was arable. Parcels of land that were subject to legal or violent disputes for generations often were no more than scraps of marginal grazing ground, demonstrating that the land had been exploited to the limit of its resources and that families regarded even a small increase to their production worth fighting for. Such conditions make it difficult to marry and set up a household.

A counter-argument to this might be that Alexander would have had employment possibilities within the Drummond households themselves–as witnessed by positions held by his father, uncle, and brother–that could have mooted the question of agricultural productivity.

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