Select Hamilton Miscellany

Here are some Hamilton stories and accounts over the years:

The Early Hamiltons

Walter de Hameldone owned property near Paisley in Renfrewshire in 1294.  In the Scottish War of Independence in 1290-1305, he was the governor of Bothwell castle and initially loyal to the English King. But he came across to the side of Robert the Bruce.  He was rewarded by Bruce with portions of confiscated Comyn lands in Lothian and Lanarkshire, including the lands at Cadzow which would in time be the town of Hamilton. 

The family’s power grew from their continued loyalty to the Scottish crown.  In 1346, whilst fighting for David II at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, Walter’s son Sir David was captured with his King and the two were not released until after the payment of an enormous ransom

The Hamilton Temptation

James Hamilton, the 2nd Earl of Arran, was chosen as Regent of Scotland following the death of James V and in 1542 was declared Heir Presumptive of the Crown.  As Regent he promoted the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France.  However, he later resigned the Regency and, after opposing the marriage of the widowed Queen Mary to Lord Darnley in 1565, he went abroad for a period of four years.

He returned in 1569 to oppose the Regencies of the Earl of Moray and the Earl of Lennox.  The former was assassinated by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh and the latter killed by other Hamiltons.  The Regency then passed to the Earl of Morton, the husband of his wife's sister Elizabeth, who lost it in 1578 and was executed in 1581.

James Hamilton’s claim to the Crown had come about because his grandfather, the 1st Lord Hamilton, had married Mary, the daughter of King James II.  Much of his life was influenced by his closeness in blood to the Queen.  He was tempted by the Crown itself on a number of occasions, but never in the end succumbed.

His eldest son James Hamilton had been proposed as a husband for Queen Elizabeth of England and later as a husband for Mary, Queen of Scots.  In 1562, however, he was judged insane, although he was probably only scatterbrained, and he gave up his titles.

The Hamiltons in Ireland

The main Hamilton presence in Ireland was those Hamiltons, ennobled as the Earls of Abercorn, who held estates at Strabane in county Tyrone.

Other Hamilton holdings at the time of the Ulster plantations were reported at:
  • Ballymoney in county Antrim
  • Mullaghbrack and Fewes in county Armagh
  • Magheriboy in county Fermanagh
  • and Tuyllyhunco in county Cavan.
These properties could be readily bought and sold.  Sir James Carew, for instance, had the following to say about the Hamilton’s business dealings in 1611:

“Sir Alexander Hamilton, entitled to 2,000 acres in the county of Cavan, has not appeared.  His son Claud took possession and brought three servants and six artificers.  Besides there arrived upon that portion twelve tenants and artificers who intend to reside there.”

Before the end of the year Sir Claud sold his lands to John Hamilton, his agent.  He in turn sold them to William Lawderin Scotland in 1614.  When William Lawder died in 1618, his son sold the lands to Sir Alexander Hamilton, Sir Claud's father. In this way the lands made their way back to the Hamilton family.

The Alexander Hamilton Museum in Nevis

The island of Nevis in the Caribbean was the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury. 

He was born there around the year 1757.  His parents were James Hamilton, the fourth son of a Scottish laird in Ayrshire, and Rachel Fawcett Lavien, the daughter of a Nevisian doctor descended from French Huguenots.  They never married, although their liaison lasted about fifteen years.

Alexander was their second son.  He migrated to the North American colonies for educational purposes, got caught up in the American Revolution, and became George Washington's chief military aide.

His name lives on in Nevis.  The Alexander Hamilton Museum in Charlestown interprets the life of Alexander Hamilton, as well as offering a view on the history and culture of Nevis.

Colonel Hance Hamilton in Pennsylvania

In 1729 the Governor of Pennsylvania set out a request to bring in fighting men in order to stop any further encroachment on their territory by Maryland.  In response some one hundred and forty families were brought over from Ulster.  Their leader was Captain Hance Hamilton. These families landed at New Castle, Delawareand almost immediately went to what is now Adams county, Pennsylvania where they took up land and began to build their homes. 

Hamilton remained the leader of this group of families.  He made his home in Menallen township next to the Hamiltonban township in which he probably had some naming rights.   It is possible that this Hamiltonban name came about from the bawn (a fortified courtyard with stone or earthen walls) built by Hamilton as a defense against the Indians who were marauding the area.  He had earned a reputation as an Indian fighter by this time.  

Colonel Hance Hamilton died in 1772.  Later the Hamiltons made their home just north of the present site of Gettysburg where a large stone house was built.  It was used by General Lee in the Civil War as his headquarters during the Battle of Gettysburg. 

John Hamilton in Pennsylvania

The journey began in 1769 in Scotland when John Hamilton and his wife Nancy took their two young children, Thomas and Janet, and set sail to the New World from Campbelltown. The trip probably took about three months and had to be so hard on everyone, but more so on Nancy who was pregnant with her third child John who was born while still at sea, 30 miles off the New York coastline. 

The family first settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania from the years 1770 to 1775.  John Hamilton then moved his family to Washington county, Pennsylvania and to the Hamilton plantation where for many generations to follow, this would be the Hamilton home.  It still is. 

According to the Pennsylvania state archives, the father John Hamilton served as a private in the Pennsylvania Regiment Continental Line in Westmoreland county in the years 1776 and 1777.  His son John served in the reconstruction period of the American Revolution and was a Major in the War of 1812.

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