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Amelia Volume 2 chapter 21

The Skinner or Cortlandt MacGregors

[page 296]
WILLIAM MACGREGOR [1]   cousin of John of Glencarnock having taken arms on the Stuart side was wounded in 1715. Going to Liverpool he was concealed by Mr Skinner whose name he took: He afterwards went to Philadelphia, but returned in 1721 and by the advice of Bishop Robinson took Holy orders.

"Another account mentions that William MacGregor or Skinner went to Holland where he remained some time with Lord Balmerino. He afterwards travelled through France and Italy for several years, he then went to the West Indies and from thence to North America. Having received a University Educa¬tion he determined by the advice of his friend Dr Robinson then Bishop of London, with whom he corresponded, to enter into Holy Orders, and for that purpose returned to England in 1721; After having been ordained he went back to America and was appointed in the year 1725 Rector of St Peter's in the Parish of Amboy, New Jersey, where he resided till his death. He was a profound and elegant scholar, in manners he was a perfect gentleman and was highly respected as a man of worth.

"He married in 1727 Elizabeth Cortlandt daugher of Stephanus Van Cortlandt of Cortlandt Manor, in the Province of New Jersey, which in the year 1760 furnished a Regiment of Militia and sent a Representative to the House of Assembly and upon Colonel Cortlandt's death the Revd Rector in Right of his wife succeeded to a share of his Father-in-law's valuable property which was equally divided among the Colonel's ten children. The Rev. William MacGregor Skinner gave his family name to several parts of his new estates as 'MacGregor Cove' &c. He left four sons and one daughter.

1. Cortlandt who was at first in the Army but left it and became a lawyer, he was for many years Attorney General and Speaker of the House of Assembly New Jersey. On the Revolt of the Americans in consequence of being a Loyalist he was obliged to take refuge on board a British Ship of War, where he remained till the arrival of the British troops. Sir William Howe then gave him command [page 297] of all the Forces raised or to be raised, in the Province of New Jersey with the rank of Brigadier General. His Brigade consisted of six Regiments of 500 men each. He served during the War and died in England in the year 1799 having sacrificed his large hereditary and acquired possessions, and his high Civil appointments in America to his attachment to his Sovereign and to his public Duty. Brigadier General Cortlandt Skinner MacGregor who was a man of brilliant talents was much respected and esteemed by the successive Commanders in Chief of the British Forces in America during the contest and from his local knowledge and great influence was enabled to render them important services in carrying on the war. He married Miss Elizabeth Hearney, died 4th Jan. 1810, of the Family of Hearney of Garretstown in Ireland and had five sons and seven daughters.
2. William who died a Major General in the British Service. He married a daughter of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, K.B., by whom he had one Child, Susanna Maria who married Jan. is 1789 Henry 3d Viscount Gage. She died April 1821 leaving descendants.
3 Stephen who married a Miss Johnston in America and had one daughter.
4 John who died a Major in the Army having married Miss Hearney and had two sons in America.
Daughter, Gertrude married …. Parker a lawyer in America and left six children.

"Returning to the children of Brigadier General Cortlandt Macgregor Skinner, his sons were
1. William died a Lieutenant in the British Navy.
2. Phillip a Colonel in the British Army.
3. John a Lt in the Navy and commanded one of the Dublin and Holyhead Packets.
4. Cortlandt married Isabella Macartney daughter of a Captain in the Royal Navy and had seven children.
5. Downs married Miss Williams of Jamaica and had one daughter named Bonella.

Daughters: 1. Elizabeth married … Tyrrill Esq and had children.
2. Susan married …. Farmer Esqr of New York and had children.
3. Gertrude married Captain S. Meridith and had children.
4. Isabella married Dr Fraser of Bath and left children.
5. Euphemia married Major Barbari and left children.
[page 298]
6. Catherine married .... Robinson Esqr Dep: Commissary General.
7. Maria married 14th Nov. 1797 Lt General Sir George Nugent, G.C.B., of Waddesdon Berks. She died Oct. 24, 1834, and left children."

The paper from which most of this is taken was sent to Sir John Mac¬Gregor Murray with the following additional paragraph:-
"Cortlandt MacGregor alias Skinner Esqr residing at Belfast in Ireland fourth [2]   Grandson of the said Rev. Rector William MacGregor, Skinner, by his said eldest son General Cortlandt Macgregor alias Skinner, is desirous to resume the arms of his proper name of MacGregor either plainly or blended with Skinner as shall be deemed most appropriate, adopting in the MacGregor Arms the Oak Tree used by Lord MacGregor of Old as resumed by Sir John MacGregor Murray the present head of the Family and with whose entire approbation these arms are solicited."

There is no date to the paper, but it mentions the daughter of Major General William MacGregor Cortlandt as the "present Dowager Lady Gage." Her Husband died in 1808, and she died in 1821, therefore the date must have been between those two years.

With this paper was an extract of a letter from Mrs Robinson to her sister Lady Nugent, dated Halifax, May 24, 1811.

"I must tell you a curious circumstance which occurred a few days since, I was driving with Elizabeth, when the carriage broke down: we were fortunately near a Mr McAlpin, where I went till the Coachmen could return to town for another carriage. The man of the House was very civil and after a few minutes said he had much wished to see Mr Robinson as he remembered his family in New York and that he himself was a Captain in the Army during the American War. I said 'Possibly you might have known my father General Skinner' I wish you could have seen his face, his eyes sparkled with joy, 'Then Madam' he said 'You have no reason to be ashamed of the blood in your veins, you are a Mac¬Gregor and so am I' He immediately entered into a long history of the Family, knew every branch of it, could tell me all their names, shewed me the MacGregor Arms and said that in the year 1780 he went from England and carried a letter to my Father to introduce a Colly MacGregor, from Mr Archibald Carnpbell, I thought we would never have parted, as he said he could talk to me for seven years. King Alpin was not forgotten he proved himself a true Member of the Clan. Was it not a curious circumstance?"
[page 299]
In later years Lady Nugent met Lady Elizabeth Murray MacGregor in India and a cordial friendship ensued. The following is Lady Nugent's account of her Forefathers.

"Her Great, great Grandfather's name was MacGregor He was killed in Battle, when Viscount Dundee adopted his son and had him educated in his Family. He also died on the Field of Battle. His Son, Grandfather of Lady Nugent after Battle of …. went in the Suite of the Spanish Ambassador to the Continent and from some connection of his Mother's took the name of Skinner. Returning to London he was there secreted by Bishop Robinson: but returning to America there married a coheiress and became a person of distinction. He was all along silent regarding his true surname, which however after his death, which occurred suddenly by a stroke of apoplexy, was discovered by his family in certain letters which he left behind. Among the relics there was part of a ring which he had hroken with the Head of his Clan, and which as appeared from a little document attached was some day to prove his identity. There were letters either to his Father or Grandfather from Lords Monk and Dundee soliciting the return of the person to whom they were addressed, to this country, but labelled with an answer in the Negative.

Lady Nugent probably had a less accurate knowledge of her grand father's family than her brother, by whom the other account was written. He does not mention the two ancestors killed on the field of battle, and there are some inherent improbabilities about that part of the story'. At all events her brother states that the Rev. William MacGregor or Skinner went abroad after 1715. It is much to be regretted that his exact Forbears cannot be traced. Lady Nugent tells the very interesting episode of the broken ring which is still in the hands of Mr Cortlandt MacGregor's Representative, and a broken ring amongst the relics now at Edinchip is believed to he its counterpart.

A typewritten account [3]   of this family contains additional particulars, with some repetitions which will here be omitted.
"Upon the 4th June 1814, the King's birthday I had the honor to dine with Captain Courtland McGregor Skinner, Head Storekeeper to the Customhouse in Belfast and one of the Magistrates of the Town from whom I had the following account of himself and his progenitors. He said that his Grandfather was a [page 300] MacGregor, he thinks of the family of Glengyle, who having espoused the cause of the Stewarts in the year 1715 and on their being defeated at Sheriffmuir, was obliged to leave Scotland to avoid the fate of other rebels, upon which he fled to Liverpool, where he was befriended by a Mr Skinner of that town, whose name he took, the better to pass without observation. He remained with him for some time but in what capacity is unknown. Whilst there he fell in with the unfortunate Lord Balmerino, another rebel whom he accompanied in his travels through France, and other countries abroad. When the heat of persecution was a little cooled Lord Balmerino's family procured a remission of his sentence and he returned home in the year 1740 as appears in his speech on the scaffold before he was beheaded, but being fraught with revolutionary principles he joined the Stewart interest again in 1745, for which he suffered in the Tower the following year.

"On separating from his travelling companion Mr Skinner set off for the West Indies, where he settled as a clergyman of the Church of England, and married a Miss Courtland by whom he obtained great possessions of land. During his residence there," in America not the West Indies, "he kept up a correspondence with his friends in Scotland. On his death, his son succeeded to his property, was a Member of Congress as well as General Officer in the Republican Army, but on the American War breaking out in the year 1775 he joined the Royalists from whom he obtained the rank of Lieut. General, as he had before, but all his Estates and Effects were confiscated by the Republic, and amongst other things he lost his father's Target and Broadsword on which he put great value and which are still to be seen in the New York Museum. His Father gave him also the one half of a ring telling him that if ever he returned to Scotland, he would find the other half with the Chief of the Clan. It was the half of a sixpence having the centre cut Out and divided thus between them as a token of remem¬brance but this was lost amongst his other effects. On the conclusion of the War, General Skinner returned and settled in Ireland with his family where he acquired a very considerable property in lands."

Some details follow about his children, and the narrative continues as fol1ows

"The correspondence which Mr Skinner had been carrying on with his friends in America during his residence in America had by some chance or other fallen into the hands of Sir John MacGregor Murray on his accession to the Chieftain¬ship, which enabled him to trace Mr Skinner's descent and on his going over to Ireland with the Clan Alpin Fencibles in I 799 and meeting with Captain Skinner, he related to him the above narrative which coinciding exactly with the account he had received from his Father, a friendship was formed between them which lasted during their lives. Sir John pressed Captain Skinner to resume his ancient family name, [page 301] and the latter being perfectly satisfied that that was MacGregor, replied that he was quite ready to do so in any manner that Sir John himself did. That is Sir John took that of MacGregor only, giving up that of Murray he would do the same by quitting that of Skinner, but that if Sir John retained the adjection of that of Murray he would do so of Skinner, which I find is still the case: his sons are now all MacGregor Skinners, and he has written to his brothers to take the name also, but I find that neither of them have done it yet. Colonel Alexander MacGregor Murray, brother to Sir John, sent him a patent for using the name with an exact copy of the ClanGregor Arms from the Lord Lyon's office. Captain Skinner was in the Army for twelve years where he obtained his rank, he married a lady of the name of McCartney, be has a good landed property and is Agent or Factor on several estates as well as his appointment as Storekeeper in the Custom House.

The paper sent to Sir John MacGregor Murray, from which the details of General Courtland MacGregor's children were taken, was probably a copy of his 4th son and representative's application to the Lyon Office for Arms.

In a letter dated Nov. 1889 to Alexander MacGregor, formerly of Crosshill, Glasgow, by Major Courtlandt A. MacGregor, son of Cortlandt MacGregor, who wrote the genealogical paper, he says

"In an account of the life of my Great Uncle John MacGregor Skinner mention is made of George Skinner who as one of the Scottish Chiefs was taken in the 1715 at Preston and lodged with his servant in one of the London Prisons I have verified this in the British Museum. it is recorded in the London Gazette 9. & 10 Dec. 1715. I think my Great Uncle must have told this to his biographer Mr Sparrow, who is dead. That William MacGregor was a MacGregor is certain, we have letters from his daughter who says he admitted it often.
But the target my Grandfather refers to was I think W Skinner's father's whoever he was, because the Arms impaled for the wife are not those of the Van Cortlandts. “William Skinner died in America aged 71 in 1758. He was therefore born in 1687.
“He was ordained in 1722 by the Bishop of London and his record of ordina-tion says he was born at Banff educated at the Grammar school there and afterwards at King's College Aberdeen."

It might be possible that the Mr Skinner who protected William Skinner at Liverpool was taken prisoner at Preston Pans or soon after the Battle, and that his name may have been George; that of the fugitive MacGregor being certainly William,
[page 302]
In the "Scottish Antiquary," No.37' notice of the Cortlandt Macgregors is given under the heading of "the MacGregor Family," signed by W. D. Hoyle. The writer does not profess to be versed in the history of the Clan, and makes the mistake of supposing that a MacGregor killed in battle and adopted by Viscount Dundee was the father of two sons -

“One the Father of John MacGregor of Glencarnock and that the other son married first a Miss Skinner a Yorkshire lady and secondly lady Elizabeth Fan¬shawe, he being killed like his Father in battle.”

Putting aside these singular suppositions, there is a very interesting account of a silver shield in the Museum of New York, presented, as stated by the writer, to the Museum by Gertrude, only daughter of the Rev. Wm. MacGregor Skinner, and wife of Mr Parker. A sketch of the shield is given in the "Northern Antiquary" notice with the following description “Argent, an oak tree, in pale, surmounted by a sword in bend dexter; in dexter chief point, an antique crown, with points; impaling ‘ Argent’ an inescutcheon gules, charged with a crescent of the first; around the inescutcheon is an orle of eight martlets’; name unknown. This oval belt is surrounded with a belt, whereon is the motto ‘Pro rege et grege’ and a date MCXLVII (I do not under¬stand this unless D is left out intending it for 1647). On the top of the belt is an heraldic ducal coronet. Upon it rests a knight’s helmet, with mantling sur¬mounted by the MacGregor crest.”’

Then the supporters and two mottoes are described, ending with the addition:-
"Suspended from the oval shield is a small oval medallion, surrounded with rags or points it bears 'gules, a cross moline, or flory, argent."

The writer of this notice goes on to explain that the shield was" brought from Scotland by a MacGregor who changed his name to Skinner," the father of Mrs Parker, and relating the anecdote of the broken ring, it is stated in this article that it was of "bloodstone."

The following observations on the shield must now be made. It is possibly identical with the "target" mentioned in the letter of Major A. Cortlandt MacGregor, Nov. 1889, though a silver target would be an anomaly. It is, at all events, highly improbable that a fugitive from the [page 303] Highlands after the "15" would carry with him to America a piece of silver plate, and none of the Clan were in a position to possess more silver than possibly a quaich or the mounting of a weapon or snuff mull. The arms are full of discrepancies, which show positively that they did not belong to the Rev William MacGregor Skinner before he left Scotland. It may not be very generally known that only the chief of a clan himself has a right to supporters-his sons do not inherit them except the eldest, when he becomes chief. In England no Commoner has a right to them, hut it was conceded in Scotland to Highland Chiefs. The coronet under the helmet is another anomaly. The letter of 1889 states the wife's arms (in pale) are not those of the Van Cortlandts - are they those of Miss Hearney, Brigadier Cortlandt MacGregor's wife? This is a point which can probably be ascertained. The motto on the belt round the arms in itself shows that the origin of the shield is not early Highland. "For King and People "-a very appropriate motto for the loyalist General in America, and the little medallion suspended below the arms looks very like the badge of some order to which possibly the motto and date applied. From all these indications we may conclude that the silver shield did not come from Scotland, and that it most likely belonged to General Cortlandt MacGregor Skinner, who may have had the arms drawn according to such examples as could be procured, without strict rule. [4]  

This sketch, like others in the present volume, is not carried down to the present time, as the intention is that the nineteenth century should follow later.


[1] Compiled from notice by Sir John MacGregor Murray and from a statement sent by the lineal Representative of Wm. MacGregor or Skinner to Sir John who calls William MacGregor his Cousin, but without stating his Parentage.

[2] His elder brothers leaving no descendants, Cortlandt became the representative of the Family.

[3] The source of this paper has been forgotten, therefore the name of the writer cannot be given, but the mention of the "target” at New York shows that Major Cortlandt MacGregor refers to this paper is his letter of Nov. 1889 to Alex' MacGregor Crosshill, quoted farther on.

[4] The magazine was sent to the editor in 1897 - by Dr Carroll Dunham of Irvington on Hudson, New York, himself a descendant of the Rev William Skinner, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and anxious for all information on the subject.