Individual biographies

Historical records in New England provide valuable insight into the lives of the Dunbar men after their indentures came to an end. Below are just a selection of potted biographies that reflect their new lives in the New World as they settled down, married and had families. Most the men were still young in 1656-57, some with more than half a century ahead of them.

JAMES WARREN

Born: Possibly North Berwick, Scotland 1621

Died: Kittery (South Berwick), now in Maine, USA 1702

Age at Battle of Dunbar: 29

James served his indenture with Richard Leader, who ran the Great Works sawmill. He married Irishwoman, Margaret, in 1654. Two years later, he was ‘lotted’ land on the banks of the Salmon Falls River to the west of York (now Maine) where the family had a dwelling house with a barn. Today, a plaque marks the site.

James occasionally found himself on the wrong side of the Puritan authorities, as many people did. He was cautioned for his bad language and punished for insolence. A much more significant event for James was the so-called ‘Cocheco Raid’ in June 1689 when one of his daughters, named Grizel, together with his grand-daughter, were taken captive by Native Americans. Grizel never did come home from Montreal where she was taken but, much later, James’ grand-daughter did return. In 1735 she kept a public house in Dover, not far from South Berwick, bringing the family story full circle.

A close-knit community of Dunbar men lived in this area and James remained there for nearly 50 years. Like many of the Dunbar men he was long-lived and died aged 80, leaving land and stock including 4 cows, 14 sheep, 12 pigs; agricultural equipment such as pitchforks, sickles, hammers, and saws; household accessories like bedding, spoons, pewter, a chamber pot, and a brass kettle or cauldron. Several barrels are mentioned: one full of cider; another of (salted) beef.

WILLIAM FURBISH

Born: Possibly Aberdeenshire, Scotland c. 1631

Died: Kittery (South Berwick), now Maine, USA 1694-5

Age at Battle of Dunbar: 19

William seems to have fought at Dunbar alongside his brother Daniel and both were transported to New England. William served the full term of his indenture, probably at a sawmill at Oyster River belonging to Valentine Hill. After his release, he married and had seven children. Like James Warren, he built a homestead close to the riverbank with a family burial ground next to it. We would call him a ‘smallholder’, although he occasionally traded in beaver pelts too.

One of William’s daughters, Rebecca, married Andrew, the son of Dunbar man John Neal. The Dunbar community remained tightly knit for more than the first generation. Even though both their fathers had been indentured servants, Rebecca and Andrew kept two slaves named Dillo and Quash.

William makes regular appearances in New England records because he was forthright in his views of English and Puritan authority and not afraid to state his mind. As a result, he was frequently in trouble.

Brushes with the Law

1662: William confronted the local pastor for laughing at cruelty to three Quaker women who had been arrested and repeatedly whipped. He was put in the stocks. Quakerism was strongly opposed by the Puritan authorities.

1675: William was prosecuted for drinking with two Native Americans.

1679: William’s wife Rebecca struck a constable and William, ‘tooke up a dreadfull weapon and sayd that hee would dy before his Goods should bee Carried away.’ They were both fined.

1683: William received 20 lashes on his bare skin for calling court officials ‘Divills and hell bound’.

1686: William was fined for illegally selling liquor to Native Americans ‘& making them drunke’. He was fined 10 shillings.

What do you think these recorded crimes tell us about William Furbish’s character? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments section below.

WILLIAM CAHOON

Born: Possibly Luss, Dunbartonshire, Scotland 1633

Died: Swansea, Massachusetts 1675

Age at Battle of Dunbar: 17

William probably served his indenture at the ironworks at Braintree. Once freed, he worked at the Taunton ironworks in Raynham.

In 1661 William became one of the first settlers on Block Island, just off mainland Rhode Island, where his seven children were born. Other Scots also made their way there too. By 1673, William was living in Swansea (Massachusetts) and on 24 December 1673 he was contracted to make the town’s bricks.

In June 1675 hostilities broke out with the local Native Americans.

A group of settlers were attacked, injured, and killed after prayers at a local Baptist Meeting House. The wounded took shelter in a garrison. William volunteered to find a surgeon but was ambushed and killed. Almost every building in Swansea was burned to the ground. William had survived a battle on one side of the Atlantic, only to die in hostilities on the other at the start of what would become known as ‘King Philip’s War’.

Cahoon or Colquhoun descendants are now widely spread across America. Original Cahoon bricks can be seen in the Luther Museum in Swansea.

Explore further biographies in the document attached below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University