Rev. James Blair

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James Blair

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Edinborough, Scotland
Death: Died in Williamsburg, Va
Place of Burial: Jamestown, James City County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Blair and Alvah Minister
Husband of Rachel Blair and Sarah Blair
Father of William Scott Blair; Col. Robert Blair; John Blair and Abraham Blair
Brother of Dr. Archibald Blair, Apothecary and William Blair

Occupation: Rev
Managed by: Michael Legh Waddell
Last Updated:

About Rev. James Blair

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Blair_(Virginia)

Rev. James Blair was a Scottish born clergyman in the Church of England, best known as the founder and first president of the College of William and Mary. He was the uncle of U.S. Constitution signer John Blair.

James Blair D.D. (1656 – April 18, 1743) was a Scottish Episcopalian clergyman, missionary and educator, best known as the founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.

Youth and education James Blair was born in Banffshire, Scotland as one of five children. His father, Robert Blair, was a clergyman. James Blair was educated at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh.

After completing his education, in 1679 he was ordained in the national Church of Scotland (known officially at this time as the Kirk of Scotland, see kirk). During the entire seventeenth century the Kirk had been experiencing passionate internal conflicts between Presbyterians and Episcopalians (see, for example, the Bishops' Wars). The Episcopalians were in the ascendancy during this period and the Church of Scotland was briefly aligned with the Church of England during the reign of Charles II of Scotland. Charles was a strong opponent of Presbyterianism and converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

In 1681, Blair, aligned with the Episcopalians, was deprived of his parish in Edinburgh due to the conflict within the Episcopalian movement between those supporting the Roman Catholic Church and those advocating a continued Protestant Episcopalian national church. Discouraged, Blair relocated to London later that year.

Missionary to the Virginia Colony

In London, 1685, he became ordained in the Church of England, and at the request of Henry Compton, the Bishop of London (responsible for the colonies), Blair traveled to the New World with a mission to "revive and reform the church in the Virginia Colony." [1]. His initial assignment was to serve as rector of the Parish of Henrico at Varina. He developed good relationships with prominent political familes, such as the Harrisons, whose daughter, Sarah Harrison, became his wife on June 2, 1687. He was also named Commissary in the Virginia Colony for the Bishop of London, making him the colony's highest-ranking religious leader.

The leaders of the Virginia Colony had long desired a school of higher education. An earlier attempt to establish a university at Henricus around 1618 had been promising, but failed after the Indian Massacre of 1622 wiped out the entire settlement, which was not rebuilt. With encouragement from the Colony's House of Burgesses and other prominent individuals, Blair prepared a plan, believed by some historians to be modeled after the earlier one from Henricus, and returned to England in 1691 to petition the monarchy for a new college.


College of William and Mary The trip to London proved successful. Blair was supported in his efforts by John Tillotson, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1693, a charter was granted for The College of William and Mary in Virginia, named to honor King William III of England and Queen Mary II of Great Britain, the reigning monarchs. Blair was made president of the new school for life.

After Blair returned to Virginia, the trustees of the new college bought a parcel of 330 acres from Thomas Ballard for the new school. The location chosen was at Middle Plantation, a high point on the Virginia Peninsula so named because its was equidistant from the James and York Rivers. Middle Plantation had served as a fortress during periodic conflicts with the Native Americans since its establishment in 1632.

The College was given a seat in the House of Burgesses. Financial income was to come by taxation of a penny per pound on tobacco exported from Maryland and Virginia to countries other than England, and from other similar sources, such as an export duty on furs and animal skins. The new school opened in temporary buildings in 1694. Properly called the "College Building," the first version of the Wren Building was built at Middle Plantation beginning on August 8, 1695 and occupied by 1700. Today, the Wren Building is the oldest academic structure in continuous use in America. (Incidentally, it is called the "Wren Building" because tradition has it that the building was designed by the famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren who had designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His actual involvement with the College Building completed in 1700 is disputed by some historians).

Capital of Virginia, Williamsburg

The State House at Jamestown burned again (for the third time) in 1698, and as it had in the past, the legislature again took up temporary quarters at Middle Plantation. On May 1, 1699, Blair and five students of the College of William and Mary appeared before the House of Burgesses (which was meeting nearby in temporary quarters) to suggest that they designate Middle Plantation (soon to renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III), as the new capital of Virginia, and a month later, the legislators agreed.

Williamsburg served as the capital of Virginia for 81 years, until 1780, when the capital was moved to Richmond for security reasons at the outset of the American Revolution. Incidentally, primarily due to fire hazards in the Colonial era, the current building in Richmond, known as the Virginia State Capitol, is the eighth one.

Religious leadership, writing

James Blair served as a member and for a time, president of the Governor's Council in Virginia. As representative of the Bishop of London, Blair was in a position of great power and responsibility in the period in Virginia before the separation of church and state became a fundamental political concept in Virginia which was put into place after the American Revolution. Blair worked to improve the moral condition of the people while he also defended them against the tyranny of the royal governors. He had great influence in England, and reportedly was involved with the recall to England of 3 royal governors: Edmund Andros, Francis Nicholson, and Alexander Spotswood.

He was also the Rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg from 1710 until his death. Dr. Blair organized the construction of the now-historic church building, which began in 1711. It was beautifully restored in the early 20th century under then-rector Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, a project which inspired Goodwin to advocate further restorations of other buildings, and seek sources of funding to do so, which led him to Colonial Williamsburg greatest benefactor, Standard Oil fortune heir John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his family.

In 1722, Blair published Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount, a five-volume collection of his sermons from 1707 to 1721. With Henry Hartwell and Edward Chilton, Blair wrote The Present State of Virginia and the College, which was published in 1727.


De ath, burial at Jamestown James Blair died on April 18, 1743 at the age of 87, after a long career. Dr. Blair was buried next to his wife Sarah (née Harrison) Blair (who had died earlier in 1713) at Jamestown Island, where Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), owns the original site of Jamestown, including the church and cemetery.

Heritage

During the Colonial period, Dr. Blair was instrumental in reviving and reforming the Church of England in Virginia.

Dr. Blair's contributions to education in Virginia are recognized not only at the College of William and Mary, where Blair Hall is named for him, but also in the naming of various schools, including James Blair Middle School in James City County, Virginia, (formerly James Blair High School) and James Blair Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia.

On the William and Mary campus in the city of Williamsburg, a large portrait of Dr. Blair is displayed in the Great Hall. Nearby, there is a statue of him prominently displayed.

In 2005, the Cypher Society of the College announced it was taking responsibility for a site restoration and beautification of the Blair graves at Jamestown Island in anticipation of Jamestown 2007, which will celebrate the settlement's 400th anniversary.


James Blair D.D. (1656 – April 18, 1743) was a Scottish Episcopalian clergyman, missionary and educator, best known as the founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.

Youth and education James Blair was born in Banffshire, Scotland as one of five children. His father, Robert Blair, was a clergyman. James Blair was educated at Marischal College, University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh.

After completing his education, in 1679 he was ordained in the national Church of Scotland (known officially at this time as the Kirk of Scotland, see kirk). During the entire seventeenth century the Kirk had been experiencing passionate internal conflicts between Presbyterians and Episcopalians (see, for example, the Bishops' Wars). The Episcopalians were in the ascendancy during this period and the Church of Scotland was briefly aligned with the Church of England during the reign of Charles II of Scotland. Charles was a strong opponent of Presbyterianism and converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

In 1681, Blair, aligned with the Episcopalians, was deprived of his parish in Edinburgh due to the conflict within the Episcopalian movement between those supporting the Roman Catholic Church and those advocating a continued Protestant Episcopalian national church. Discouraged, Blair relocated to London later that year.

Missionary to the Virginia Colony In London, 1685, he became ordained in the Church of England, and at the request of Henry Compton, the Bishop of London (responsible for the colonies), Blair traveled to the New World with a mission to "revive and reform the church in the Virginia Colony." [1]. His initial assignment was to serve as rector of the Parish of Henrico at Varina. He developed good relationships with prominent political familes, such as the Harrisons, whose daughter, Sarah Harrison, became his wife on June 2, 1687. He was also named Commissary in the Virginia Colony for the Bishop of London, making him the colony's highest-ranking religious leader.

The leaders of the Virginia Colony had long desired a school of higher education. An earlier attempt to establish a university at Henricus around 1618 had been promising, but failed after the Indian Massacre of 1622 wiped out the entire settlement, which was not rebuilt. With encouragement from the Colony's House of Burgesses and other prominent individuals, Blair prepared a plan, believed by some historians to be modeled after the earlier one from Henricus, and returned to England in 1691 to petition the monarchy for a new college.

College of William and Mary The trip to London proved successful. Blair was supported in his efforts by John Tillotson, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1693, a charter was granted for The College of William and Mary in Virginia, named to honor King William III of England and Queen Mary II of Great Britain, the reigning monarchs. Blair was made president of the new school for life.

After Blair returned to Virginia, the trustees of the new college bought a parcel of 330 acres from Thomas Ballard for the new school. The location chosen was at Middle Plantation, a high point on the Virginia Peninsula so named because its was equidistant from the James and York Rivers. Middle Plantation had served as a fortress during periodic conflicts with the Native Americans since its establishment in 1632.

The College was given a seat in the House of Burgesses. Financial income was to come by taxation of a penny per pound on tobacco exported from Maryland and Virginia to countries other than England, and from other similar sources, such as an export duty on furs and animal skins. The new school opened in temporary buildings in 1694. Properly called the "College Building," the first version of the Wren Building was built at Middle Plantation beginning on August 8, 1695 and occupied by 1700. Today, the Wren Building is the oldest academic structure in continuous use in America. (Incidentally, it is called the "Wren Building" because tradition has it that the building was designed by the famed English architect Sir Christopher Wren who had designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His actual involvement with the College Building completed in 1700 is disputed by some historians).

Capital of Virginia, Williamsburg The State House at Jamestown burned again (for the third time) in 1698, and as it had in the past, the legislature again took up temporary quarters at Middle Plantation. On May 1, 1699, Blair and five students of the College of William and Mary appeared before the House of Burgesses (which was meeting nearby in temporary quarters) to suggest that they designate Middle Plantation (soon to renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III), as the new capital of Virginia, and a month later, the legislators agreed.

Williamsburg served as the capital of Virginia for 81 years, until 1780, when the capital was moved to Richmond for security reasons at the outset of the American Revolution. Incidentally, primarily due to fire hazards in the Colonial era, the current building in Richmond, known as the Virginia State Capitol, is the eighth one.

Religious leadership, writing James Blair served as a member and for a time, president of the Governor's Council in Virginia. As representative of the Bishop of London, Blair was in a position of great power and responsibility in the period in Virginia before the separation of church and state became a fundamental political concept in Virginia which was put into place after the American Revolution. Blair worked to improve the moral condition of the people while he also defended them against the tyranny of the royal governors. He had great influence in England, and reportedly was involved with the recall to England of 3 royal governors: Edmund Andros, Francis Nicholson, and Alexander Spotswood.

He was also the Rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg from 1710 until his death. Dr. Blair organized the construction of the now-historic church building, which began in 1711. It was beautifully restored in the early 20th century under then-rector Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, a project which inspired Goodwin to advocate further restorations of other buildings, and seek sources of funding to do so, which led him to Colonial Williamsburg greatest benefactor, Standard Oil fortune heir John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his family.

In 1722, Blair published Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount, a five-volume collection of his sermons from 1707 to 1721. With Henry Hartwell and Edward Chilton, Blair wrote The Present State of Virginia and the College, which was published in 1727.

De ath, burial at Jamestown James Blair died on April 18, 1743 at the age of 87, after a long career. Dr. Blair was buried next to his wife Sarah (née Harrison) Blair (who had died earlier in 1713) at Jamestown Island, where Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), owns the original site of Jamestown, including the church and cemetery.

Heritage During the Colonial period, Dr. Blair was instrumental in reviving and reforming the Church of England in Virginia.

Dr. Blair's contributions to education in Virginia are recognized not only at the College of William and Mary, where Blair Hall is named for him, but also in the naming of various schools, including James Blair Middle School in James City County, Virginia, (formerly James Blair High School) and James Blair Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia.

On the William and Mary campus in the city of Williamsburg, a large portrait of Dr. Blair is displayed in the Great Hall. Nearby, there is a statue of him prominently displayed.

In 2005, the Cypher Society of the College announced it was taking responsibility for a site restoration and beautification of the Blair graves at Jamestown Island in anticipation of Jamestown 2007, which will celebrate the settlement's 400th anniversary.


General Notes:

Among the places harried by the troopers of James II was the beautiful village of Aghadowey, in County Antrim. It lies on the West side of the river Bann as it curves in its course from Lough Meagh to the Atlantic, near Lough Foyle and the Giant's Causeway, through one of the loveliest districts in the north of Ireland. In this section many families of the name of Blair had settled. On the opposite side of the stream, which here is so narrow a boat that can cross in a short five minutes row, at a little town called "The Vow", there are, in this present year [c. 1900 ?] five families by the name of Blair.

At Derry, in the Cathedral yard, there stands a stone which was erected to the memory of Thomas Blair, who died in 1696, at the age of forty years; next stands that of his widow, Mrs. Eliza Blair, who died July 1754, aged ninety-six years. They belonged to the village of Glendarmot, which lies about two miles south of Derry, and were to be buried among their own kinsfolk, but, as Thomas Blair was severely wounded at the siege of 1689 and died of his hurts, the people of Derry begged to have his ashes mingled with those of his murdered comrades. Alexander Blair, ancestor of this Thomas Blair, a native of Scotland, obtained a grant of land at Glendarmot, at a penny an acre, from King James, about the year 1610. A brother of Alexander came at the same time and settled at Aghadowey, six miles from Coleraine. The Glandarmot Blairs claim to have come from Ayrshire, Scotland, and to have been related to the Rev. Robert Blair, who came from Scotland at a much later date and was settled as the pastor over churches in Irvine and Bangor, Ireland.

Miss Mary Semple writes:

"I have been in different counties in Ireland and Scotland celebrated in history and song, yet nowhere did I ever see scenery superior to that of Aghadowey, my eyes never rested on a lovelier spot. The silvery waves of the pastoral Bann kiss the shore as it winds its course towards its ocean home in the broad Atlantic. The country is well wooded and the high state of cultivation which pervades the entire locality strikes the traveler with admiration; no matter how humble the home, there is always a wealth of flowers around the dwelling. The cotters plainly have a great love of fruit and flowers, and not a foot of the soil is left unfilled. "Among the Blairs was one James Blair who erected a stone in Aghadowey churchyard to the memory of his wife, Rachel Boyd, who died March 10, 1700 aged fifty-six years. They had a son named Robert who married Isabella Rankin, daughter of David Rankin, who came from Scotland in 1685 and died in Aghadowey in 1750 aged eighty-four years as is cut on his tombstone. As far as I can make out, this Robert Blair who married Isabella Rankin and was the son of James Blair and Rachel Boyd, was the ancestor of the New England Blairs."

This James Blair and his brother Abraham owned a bleach green called Balldywitt, within calling distance from the church at Aghadowey, It is now [1893] owned by a Mrs. Lochdale. There are other bleach greens in Aghadowey all covered with linen webs. The whole region is quite level, with a gentle slope to the river, the only rising ground being the hills of Sleigh Gallon, several miles distant to the northwest. The southern end of the village joins Kilrea, and throughout its length can be traced houses built by its first Scots settlers. These are in clusters and are termed "Clackens", Gaelic for village. The people are a strong-looking race, the men tail and well formed, the women rather above medium height. They are principally farmers, but many work on the bleach greens, while others spend their lives weaving on looms which stand in their own houses. There is a weaver in almost every dwelling in County Derry, and at the time of the great migration spinning and weaving were the principal industries of this whole province.

The bleach green of Balldywitt lies about a quarter of a mile from the bank of the river at the North end of the parish, very near the Kirk. The Blairs employed weavers to work at looms in their own houses and men to spread the brown webs on the smooth, rich green grass; to watch them as they slowly whitened under the sun, while others prepared for exportation the beautiful linen which was not used for their own household.

At the opening of the fateful year of 1688, they were quietly pursuing their pastoral lives. Then Abraham Blair went to Derry, and while he was gallantly fighting there the King's soldiers were harrying his defenseless kindred, sacking and burning their houses, forcing many of the suffering crowds under the walls he was defending. His brother James' wife, Rachel (Boyd) Blair, managed to evade the hunters. With her little children she cowered in the sheltering furze. Her son, Robert was then about five years of age, old enough to receive a vivid, lasting impression of the devastation of their cherished home. His mother was a descendant of Thomas Boyd, who, in 1576, settled at Craig, a village lying between Ballymena and Kilrea. He could trace his ancestry back to Lord Boyd, who was a guardian of James Stuart III [of Scotland who later became James I of England] during his minority. In 1467, the eldest son of Lord Boyd created Earl of Antrim and married the King's sister. Owing to enemies at court, in 1469, they were convicted of treason and their estates were forfeited; they then were governing the lordships of Kilmarnock, Ayran, Bute Cowal, Renfrew, besides the castle of Rothsay. Lord Boyd fled to Oxfordshire, and his brother Alexander was executed on Castle Hill.

The gravestone erected to the memory of Mrs. Rachel (Boyd) Blair by her husband, James Blair, is still standing, and as it is alone, it strengthens the inference that her husband accompanied his brother Abraham, and his own sons when they sailed away to New England. Mrs. Rachel Blair died May 10, 1700, aged fifty-six years.

When the siege ended, the Blairs returned to their own place, rebuilding the house, watching the weaving and caring for the great linen webs during the week, quietly walking with their children and grandchildren to the old Kirk so close to their home, on the Sabbath, where the Rev. James McGregor preached to them from the time of his first settlement in 1701 until the end of his services in 1718. But the peace of their earlier years had departed. Promises made by the crown were not kept, and the future was dark and threatening, holding no brightness for their sons and daughters who had married and had many small children dependent on them. The brothers must have been among the first who discussed the idea of leaving all the dangers that darkened around them, and settling in far away New England, and who shared in the hope that in casting their lot with a people who had encountered hardship and trial to win religious freedom and a new country for themselves, they would be going to a kindlier brotherhood.

At home, they were forced to endure many grievances. As "Dissenters" they were at liberty to follow their own form of worship, yet they were obliged to pay tithes to the Church of England. Their land was held by lease from the Crown and not in individual right; they were Protestants in the midst of a Roman Catholic population, in whose breasts smoldered the fires of revenge, which only lacked occasion to burst forth into bloody deeds. Onerous restrictions were laid on their manufacturers. Urged by these embarrassments this people sought out more favoring conditions. Their attention was turned to New England by a young man named Robert Holmes, the son of a Presbyterian minister who had lived in the region. Encouraged by his account of the civil and religious liberty enjoyed in the American colonies, several clergymen, Rev. William Boyd, Rev. James McGregor and Rev. William Cornwall, with their congregations, decided to migrate. Therefore in the spring of 1718, Rev. William Boyd was sent with an address to Governor Shute of Massachusetts Bay, which was signed by over three hundred of the people, nine of whom were ministers, and all of whom, save thirteen only, wrote their own names. (This paper is preserved in the State House in Boston.)

The response of the Governor and his Council was so encouraging that they prepared to migrate. Rev. James McGregor assembled his flock in the fine old church which the Blairs had always attended and where they must have been present when Mr. McGregor preached the farewell sermon from Exodus, 33rd chapter, 15th verse, "If thy presence go not with me carry us not up hence", and recounted the reasons for leaving their homes. They were to avoid oppression and cruel bondage, to escape persecution and designed ruin and to withdraw from the communion of idolatry, to have opportunity of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of his inspired word. (From "Rambles Through Europe", by Mr. L. A. Morrison, Page 86.)

Five ships were chartered, and in these whole families embarked, including aged grandparents and helpless babes, the main port of departure being Londonderry, but the present harbor master of Larne thinks the ships touched at other ports on the way out and that one put in at Larne. These five ships anchored "at the little wharf at the foot of State (then King) Street, Boston, New England, August 4, 1718." (From the first book of town records of Londonderry, New Hampshire.)

The descriptions and statements of Aghadowey are taken from a series of letters written by Miss Mary Semple of Monthill, Larne, County Antrim, Ulster Province, Ireland, who made a personal visit to the place and talked with the aged men, who recounted tales they had received from their grandsires.

Monthill (Ireland) 28 August 1893 "Dear Mr. Blair:

I was at a place called Craigs, seven miles beyond Ballymena and unexpectedly received information which may interest you. Robert Boyd, who lives at a place called Boydstown, in the parish of Craigs, gave me a history of his own family. You may imagine my surprise when he began to tell of the Boyds being married among the Blairs of Aghadowey. He said the founder of his and many more families, was one Thomas Boyd, a native of Oxfordshire, who settled at Craigs in 1573. He married Elizabeth Douglas, a daughter of Scotch parents who had settled at Craigs also.

This Thomas received a grant of land, of which his descendants still hold a part. A son settled at Dungiven, County Derry, and was the grandfather of the Rachel Boyd who married James Blair, and own father of the Rev. Boyd who went with the emigrants to New Hampshire.

I never met a more interesting man than this Mr. Boyd. He took me around his farm, and nearly every field had a history. A small river near the house, which is called the Red Ford, so named because It was surcharged with blood the three days when Cromwell's army fought that of Philim Roe O'Huill 'till that place where the Irish leader was killed'. A large cairn marks his grave. He also showed me a spot where a church with a graveyard once stood in which many Boyds are buried. As it stood far from the public road, it was gradually neglected and is now a fair meadow.

There are apple trees in his garden which were planted by an ancestor named Montfield Lyle Boyd, some two hundred years ago; he was a soldier and fought under the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim.

I was told that one of the ships that carried the first emigrants was called The Eagle's Wing and another The Lady Sellerooke. There is an old song about the emigrants going away in the ship Lady Sellerooke that left fair Londonderry.

Yours,

Mary Semple.

In a letter dated January 1, 1900, Miss Semple writes:

"Close beside the old church at Aghadowey is the house where the Rev. James McGregor lived prior to his removal to America. The People here for the most part know their ancestry well. The traditions of each family were handed down from father to son since they came from Scotland. Before the Scotch settlers came, there were many Danes living on this coast; the Scotch married among them, therefore we all have Danish blood.

"This country of Antrim has given four presidents to your great republic: Breckenridge [?], Jackson, Johnson and Garfield. Breckenridge's ancestors lived about a half a mile from here. I have a copy of the lease of land they had in 1700. Andrew Jackson's father was born about three miles from here. I have seen the house often. Then, the ancestors of General John Gordon, late governor of Georgia, lived here. His great-great grandfather lies in our churchyard; he died in I710."


There is a dublicate !

James Blair Sex: Man Born: cirka september 1640 Aghadowey, Antrim, Ulster, Ireland Dead: cirka 1732 (83-99) Massachusetts, USA Family: Son to Rev. James Blair och Elizabeth Watson Husband of/ to Rachel Boyd Father till Col. Robert Blair och John Blair Brother till Robert Blair Half brother of Abraham Blair; William Blair och David Blair Skapad av: Eileen Patricia Burroughs, 24 januari 2009 Förvaltas av: Eileen Patricia Burroughs, Kevin Lawrence Hanit, Doug Robinson, Priscilla del gesso, Patricia Jane Small, David Alan Blair, Stephanie Siame Alvarez (Petersen) och <private> Leitch.

General Notes:

Among the places harried by the troopers of James II was the beautiful village of Aghadowey, in County Antrim. It lies on the West side of the river Bann as it curves in its course from Lough Meagh to the Atlantic, near Lough Foyle and the Giant's Causeway, through one of the loveliest districts in the north of Ireland. In this section many families of the name of Blair had settled. On the opposite side of the stream, which here is so narrow a boat that can cross in a short five minutes row, at a little town called "The Vow", there are, in this present year [c. 1900 ?] five families by the name of Blair.

At Derry, in the Cathedral yard, there stands a stone which was erected to the memory of Thomas Blair, who died in 1696, at the age of forty years; next stands that of his widow, Mrs. Eliza Blair, who died July 1754, aged ninety-six years. They belonged to the village of Glendarmot, which lies about two miles south of Derry, and were to be buried among their own kinsfolk, but, as Thomas Blair was severely wounded at the siege of 1689 and died of his hurts, the people of Derry begged to have his ashes mingled with those of his murdered comrades. Alexander Blair, ancestor of this Thomas Blair, a native of Scotland, obtained a grant of land at Glendarmot, at a penny an acre, from King James, about the year 1610. A brother of Alexander came at the same time and settled at Aghadowey, six miles from Coleraine. The Glandarmot Blairs claim to have come from Ayrshire, Scotland, and to have been related to the Rev. Robert Blair, who came from Scotland at a much later date and was settled as the pastor over churches in Irvine and Bangor, Ireland.

Miss Mary Semple writes:

"I have been in different counties in Ireland and Scotland celebrated in history and song, yet nowhere did I ever see scenery superior to that of Aghadowey, my eyes never rested on a lovelier spot. The silvery waves of the pastoral Bann kiss the shore as it winds its course towards its ocean home in the broad Atlantic. The country is well wooded and the high state of cultivation which pervades the entire locality strikes the traveler with admiration; no matter how humble the home, there is always a wealth of flowers around the dwelling. The cotters plainly have a great love of fruit and flowers, and not a foot of the soil is left unfilled. "Among the Blairs was one James Blair who erected a stone in Aghadowey churchyard to the memory of his wife, Rachel Boyd, who died March 10, 1700 aged fifty-six years. They had a son named Robert who married Isabella Rankin, daughter of David Rankin, who came from Scotland in 1685 and died in Aghadowey in 1750 aged eighty-four years as is cut on his tombstone. As far as I can make out, this Robert Blair who married Isabella Rankin and was the son of James Blair and Rachel Boyd, was the ancestor of the New England Blairs."

This James Blair and his brother Abraham owned a bleach green called Balldywitt, within calling distance from the church at Aghadowey, It is now [1893] owned by a Mrs. Lochdale. There are other bleach greens in Aghadowey all covered with linen webs. The whole region is quite level, with a gentle slope to the river, the only rising ground being the hills of Sleigh Gallon, several miles distant to the northwest. The southern end of the village joins Kilrea, and throughout its length can be traced houses built by its first Scots settlers. These are in clusters and are termed "Clackens", Gaelic for village. The people are a strong-looking race, the men tail and well formed, the women rather above medium height. They are principally farmers, but many work on the bleach greens, while others spend their lives weaving on looms which stand in their own houses. There is a weaver in almost every dwelling in County Derry, and at the time of the great migration spinning and weaving were the principal industries of this whole province.

The bleach green of Balldywitt lies about a quarter of a mile from the bank of the river at the North end of the parish, very near the Kirk. The Blairs employed weavers to work at looms in their own houses and men to spread the brown webs on the smooth, rich green grass; to watch them as they slowly whitened under the sun, while others prepared for exportation the beautiful linen which was not used for their own household.

At the opening of the fateful year of 1688, they were quietly pursuing their pastoral lives. Then Abraham Blair went to Derry, and while he was gallantly fighting there the King's soldiers were harrying his defenseless kindred, sacking and burning their houses, forcing many of the suffering crowds under the walls he was defending. His brother James' wife, Rachel (Boyd) Blair, managed to evade the hunters. With her little children she cowered in the sheltering furze. Her son, Robert was then about five years of age, old enough to receive a vivid, lasting impression of the devastation of their cherished home. His mother was a descendant of Thomas Boyd, who, in 1576, settled at Craig, a village lying between Ballymena and Kilrea. He could trace his ancestry back to Lord Boyd, who was a guardian of James Stuart III [of Scotland who later became James I of England] during his minority. In 1467, the eldest son of Lord Boyd created Earl of Antrim and married the King's sister. Owing to enemies at court, in 1469, they were convicted of treason and their estates were forfeited; they then were governing the lordships of Kilmarnock, Ayran, Bute Cowal, Renfrew, besides the castle of Rothsay. Lord Boyd fled to Oxfordshire, and his brother Alexander was executed on Castle Hill.

The gravestone erected to the memory of Mrs. Rachel (Boyd) Blair by her husband, James Blair, is still standing, and as it is alone, it strengthens the inference that her husband accompanied his brother Abraham, and his own sons when they sailed away to New England. Mrs. Rachel Blair died May 10, 1700, aged fifty-six years.

When the siege ended, the Blairs returned to their own place, rebuilding the house, watching the weaving and caring for the great linen webs during the week, quietly walking with their children and grandchildren to the old Kirk so close to their home, on the Sabbath, where the Rev. James McGregor preached to them from the time of his first settlement in 1701 until the end of his services in 1718. But the peace of their earlier years had departed. Promises made by the crown were not kept, and the future was dark and threatening, holding no brightness for their sons and daughters who had married and had many small children dependent on them. The brothers must have been among the first who discussed the idea of leaving all the dangers that darkened around them, and settling in far away New England, and who shared in the hope that in casting their lot with a people who had encountered hardship and trial to win religious freedom and a new country for themselves, they would be going to a kindlier brotherhood.

At home, they were forced to endure many grievances. As "Dissenters" they were at liberty to follow their own form of worship, yet they were obliged to pay tithes to the Church of England. Their land was held by lease from the Crown and not in individual right; they were Protestants in the midst of a Roman Catholic population, in whose breasts smoldered the fires of revenge, which only lacked occasion to burst forth into bloody deeds. Onerous restrictions were laid on their manufacturers. Urged by these embarrassments this people sought out more favoring conditions. Their attention was turned to New England by a young man named Robert Holmes, the son of a Presbyterian minister who had lived in the region. Encouraged by his account of the civil and religious liberty enjoyed in the American colonies, several clergymen, Rev. William Boyd, Rev. James McGregor and Rev. William Cornwall, with their congregations, decided to migrate. Therefore in the spring of 1718, Rev. William Boyd was sent with an address to Governor Shute of Massachusetts Bay, which was signed by over three hundred of the people, nine of whom were ministers, and all of whom, save thirteen only, wrote their own names. (This paper is preserved in the State House in Boston.)

The response of the Governor and his Council was so encouraging that they prepared to migrate. Rev. James McGregor assembled his flock in the fine old church which the Blairs had always attended and where they must have been present when Mr. McGregor preached the farewell sermon from Exodus, 33rd chapter, 15th verse, "If thy presence go not with me carry us not up hence", and recounted the reasons for leaving their homes. They were to avoid oppression and cruel bondage, to escape persecution and designed ruin and to withdraw from the communion of idolatry, to have opportunity of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of his inspired word. (From "Rambles Through Europe", by Mr. L. A. Morrison, Page 86.)

Five ships were chartered, and in these whole families embarked, including aged grandparents and helpless babes, the main port of departure being Londonderry, but the present harbor master of Larne thinks the ships touched at other ports on the way out and that one put in at Larne. These five ships anchored "at the little wharf at the foot of State (then King) Street, Boston, New England, August 4, 1718." (From the first book of town records of Londonderry, New Hampshire.)

The descriptions and statements of Aghadowey are taken from a series of letters written by Miss Mary Semple of Monthill, Larne, County Antrim, Ulster Province, Ireland, who made a personal visit to the place and talked with the aged men, who recounted tales they had received from their grandsires.

Monthill (Ireland) 28 August 1893 "Dear Mr. Blair:

I was at a place called Craigs, seven miles beyond Ballymena and unexpectedly received information which may interest you. Robert Boyd, who lives at a place called Boydstown, in the parish of Craigs, gave me a history of his own family. You may imagine my surprise when he began to tell of the Boyds being married among the Blairs of Aghadowey. He said the founder of his and many more families, was one Thomas Boyd, a native of Oxfordshire, who settled at Craigs in 1573. He married Elizabeth Douglas, a daughter of Scotch parents who had settled at Craigs also.

This Thomas received a grant of land, of which his descendants still hold a part. A son settled at Dungiven, County Derry, and was the grandfather of the Rachel Boyd who married James Blair, and own father of the Rev. Boyd who went with the emigrants to New Hampshire.

I never met a more interesting man than this Mr. Boyd. He took me around his farm, and nearly every field had a history. A small river near the house, which is called the Red Ford, so named because It was surcharged with blood the three days when Cromwell's army fought that of Philim Roe O'Huill 'till that place where the Irish leader was killed'. A large cairn marks his grave. He also showed me a spot where a church with a graveyard once stood in which many Boyds are buried. As it stood far from the public road, it was gradually neglected and is now a fair meadow.

There are apple trees in his garden which were planted by an ancestor named Montfield Lyle Boyd, some two hundred years ago; he was a soldier and fought under the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim.

I was told that one of the ships that carried the first emigrants was called The Eagle's Wing and another The Lady Sellerooke. There is an old song about the emigrants going away in the ship Lady Sellerooke that left fair Londonderry.

Yours,

Mary Semple.

In a letter dated January 1, 1900, Miss Semple writes:

"Close beside the old church at Aghadowey is the house where the Rev. James McGregor lived prior to his removal to America. The People here for the most part know their ancestry well. The traditions of each family were handed down from father to son since they came from Scotland. Before the Scotch settlers came, there were many Danes living on this coast; the Scotch married among them, therefore we all have Danish blood.

"This country of Antrim has given four presidents to your great republic: Breckenridge [?], Jackson, Johnson and Garfield. Breckenridge's ancestors lived about a half a mile from here. I have a copy of the lease of land they had in 1700. Andrew Jackson's father was born about three miles from here. I have seen the house often. Then, the ancestors of General John Gordon, late governor of Georgia, lived here. His great-great grandfather lies in our churchyard; he died in I710."

About Rev. James Blair (svenska)

James Blair WikiTree Födelse: Ungefär 1650 Död: Efter 1732 - Massachusetts, USA Far: David Blair Maka: Rachel Blair Barn: John Blair, Robert Blair

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Rev. James Blair's Timeline

1656
1656
Edinborough, Scotland
1682
August 9, 1682
Age 26
Aghadowey, Antrim, Ulster, Ireland
1683
1683
Age 27
Aghadowey, County Derry, Ulster, Ireland
1685
1685
Age 29
Aghadowey, Antrim, Ulster, Ireland
1743
April 18, 1743
Age 87
Williamsburg, Va
????
????
Jamestown, James City County, Virginia, United States