Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Allen line: John Bruce 1690-1748, Immigrant

We know more about John Bruce than we do some of our other immigrant ancestors, but of course it's not enough.  The timeline for his life and the history of his times would indicate that it's possible he left Scotland under duress, as a "Covenanter", but I've not found proof of that.  He may have come to America for economic reasons alone. 

John Bruce was born (or christened) September 7,1690 in Portsoy, Fordyce Paarish, Aberdeen, Scotland.  Portsoy is a small village on the northeast coast of Scotland, with lovely cliffs overlooking the ocean, but little else in the way of natural beauty.  The pictures I found on line showed no trees outside of the village and very few in town.  The main occupation of the townspeople would have been fishing, and also quarrying or mining a serpentine rock that was considered so beautiful it was used both in jewelry and in the Palace of Versailles.  Presumably there would be enough vegetation to raise a few sheep or goats, but it's hard to see how someone could farm and make a living there.

John's parents were Thomas Bruce and Mary Christian.  He is believed to have had six brothers and sisters.  There is not as much certainty about the identity of his wife.  My tree shows "Sarah Parrell" but I have also seen Margaret Griffith, Margaret Frazier and Sarah Coles listed as being his wife.  He may have been married more than once, but I don't have documentation for any of this.  One possible explanation for the lack of knowledge may be that he spent some time in Ireland, as many Covenanters did, before emigrating to America.  I have seen speculation about this but again, nothing definite.

John arrived in Chester County, Pennsylvania by about 1730.  He would have been nearing the age of 40, and surely he brought his children with him.  His two oldest daughters married and stayed in Chester and Bucks county, but John moved on.  By 1735, he was in the area of Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, where he received a patent for land on November 12, 1735, which was a grant from the Crown. (The policy at the time was to get this land settled, as a border against both the French and the Indians.) There are records in what was then Orange County of John suing and being sued for various debts.  He is listed as a "peddler", which leads one to wonder whether he was trading with the native Americans, or whether there were enough white people in the area to support his trade at that time

Brucetown, Va. was named at least partly in his honor.  This town was located 8 miles northwest of Winchester,  near the border of what is now Berkley County, West Virginia.  His land totalled about 255 acres.  In addition to doing some peddling, John was a farmer and operated a grist mill.  His lie was cut short by an epidemic that hit the area in 1748.  It may have been cholera, or any of several other diseases that were all too common at the time.  In his will, which had been written in 1747, he left his land to his sons George and James, who were to take care of his widow Sarah for as long as she lived.  I don't have a death date for her, but she may have lived for some years. 

It's not clear why his other children weren't mentioned in his will.  Perhaps the daughters had been given money or other property at the time of their marriage.  At any rate, by the time of John's death he had established a settlement that became a town, set up a business that George was able to grow, with the partnership of his mother in law, and had a farm that would help support the Bruce family.  We can be proud to call him our ancestor.

I'd love to know more about John, and especially about his wife.  When did they marry, and who was she?  Was there a church established that John and his family attended?   

The line of descent is:

John Bruce-Sarah Parrell
Ann Bruce-James McCoy
William McCoy-Elizabeth Royse
James McCoy-Nancy Lane
Vincent McCoy-Eleanor Jackson
Nancy McCoy-George R. Allen
Edward Allen-Edith Knott
Richard Allen-Gladys Holbrook
Their descendants

There is a lot of material about John Bruce on the Internet.  I would particularly recommend "In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors", found at www.bradleyrymph.com.  There is also a book which I haven't yet seen, but which is frequently referenced, called John Bruce of the Shenandoah, by Violet Laverne Bruce.  Much of the information on the Internet seems to have come from that source.