The 'Unity'

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On 3 Sep 1650, the English defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. There were 4000 dead, 10,000 captured, and 4000 more escaped. After being captured, they were marched from Durham to Newcastle. They were given very little to eat. Between the march and lack of food, many died along the way. Disease was rampant. Some men were shot because they either could not or would not march. When they reached their destination, they happened upon a field of cabbage.  They ate all of it, which of course made them even sicker than they already were.

The surviving Scots presented the English with a problem. Holding such a large number of prisoners could be costly. However, letting them go could prove to be very dangerous. One week after the battle, the Council of State, which was England's governing body, decided to turn the problem over to the committee and informed Sir Arthur Hasenlrigge, that he could deposed of as many of the Scots as he felt proper to work in the coal mines.

With that authority Hasslrigge sent forty men to work as indentures servants at the salt works at Shields. He then sold another forty men as general laborers and set up a trade of Linen Cloth, twelve prisoners became weavers. While this was going on, the Council had received several petitions from persons, who wished to transport the Scots overseas. On September 16Th, the secretary, Gualter Frost, was ordered to confer with the petitioners, to terms under which they would undertake the project. John Becx and Joshua Foote conferred with their partners, the Undertakers of the Iron Works. Three days later, Hasseltigge was directed to deliver 150 prisoners to New England, with conditions that these men were well and sound and free of wounds because Hasslrigge, was concerned that these men were all infected, They were sent to London by water.

By October 23rd, the council was ordered to stop the project until is was confirmed that the Scots were not being sent anywhere where they could be dangerous. So the Scots waited in the Thames, for passage to New England.

November 11Th, the Council issued sailing orders to the Unity. There were 150 Scots who were were sent to New England on The Unity and arrived at Lynn, Massachusetts,

Augustine Walker, the ship's master who had settled in Charlestown,1640, had , which was where the Unity had been built by shipwright, Benjamin Gilman, weighed anchor more than likely right away, after receiving his orders. The trip from London to Boston, which normally took six weeks and was mostly likely unpleasant. The conditions in which Becx and Foote, took the Scots was a commercial venture . They planned to sell each man for between 20 and 30 pounds, which would have made them a considerable profit, since they only paid five pounds for each man. The ship Unity, that delivered the prisoners from Dunbar, lost a lot on the way and threw them overboard due to death scurvy.

They arrived in Boston in December.

• 15 or 20 of the men went to Richard Leader for services at his Saw Mill , at Berwick, on the Pascataqua River, in Maine.
• 62 went to John Giffard, the agent for the Undertakers of The Iron Works of Lynn (Saugus).
• The remainder were sold to local residents.
The term of service for all of them was seven years.

However, by the time the Scots arrived in Boston, they were in poor health. Payment for medical care and medicine as well as food was needed. 61 of the men did make it to the iron Works. 3 went to the company 's local commissioner,17 were sent back to Boston to work for William Awbrey, the company factor and the warehouse he ran there and 2 to 7 men ended up being sold to colonist.

In 1651, William Tingle hired four men for a period of three years, for which the company deducted 6 pence from every load of charcoal that Tingle produced.

The number at the Iron Works stayed at 28 until around August 28, 1652 , when there were as many as 37 there.

Most of the Scots were hired out to other employers and went to colliers. Since charcoal was expensive to make, the company had Giffard employ most of the Scots full- time as woodcutters to supply the colliers.

The Iron Works at that time covered over 600 acres, from what is now Saugus Center to Walnut street up towards what is now North Saugus, almost out to where Route one is now and over as far as Lynn Commons. Today is nowhere as near as large and a Historical Site.

The men worked long hours, 12-hour shifts. The work was hard, dirty, hot and dangerous. More than likely, many ended up deaf or at least hard of hearing because of the constant hammering .

Most of the Scots stayed at The Scot Boardman's house in what is now the Oaklandvale area of Saugus. It was then called the Scotsman's House, it had been framed by Samuel Bennett, a master carpenter who also worked on constructing the Iron Works.

Many were sent to Berwick Maine after the demise of the Iron Works. Among the men who were sent to the sawmills of Berwick along with other workers from the Iron Work. were the Grant brothers, Peter and James.

An incomplete list of Scots who were sent to New England in 1650 appeared in the Iron Works papers in 1653.
Among them was Alexander Dugles.

In the following years, many Scots who were were taken prisoners at the Battle of Worcester were sent to Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maine aboard the John and Sara. No one named Douglas appears on the passenger list for the John and Sara, though several has been taken prisoner.



Sources for this article include:
  • Scots Prisoners and their Relocation to the Colonies, 1650-1654

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    Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024