Colonel John Douglas, Esq. (1636-1678)

by Harry Wright Newman

John Douglas, Esq., of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland, and Blythswood and Cold Spring Manor, Province of Maryland, was born in or about the year 1636. He was the first-born of Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun and his second wife, Lady Susan, whose marriage took place in September 1635.

In 1649, a time when his father had a large, growing family to support and was feeling great economic discomfort caused by the City of Glasgow not meeting its payments, John was apprenticed to John Hamilton, of Glasgow, to learn the art and science of merchandising. It can be assumed that he pursued and completed his apprenticeship with diligence. At the age of seventeen, with his father on the verge of financial ruin, and realizing that he had to create a place for himself in the economic world, the prospects of fresh opportunities in America appealed to him.

He financed his own passage. It was either paid for by his father, as the parental patrimony, or it was the bonus he received at the termination of his apprenticeship. The master, by law, was responsible for furnishing the apprentices with lodgings, food and raiment, but little or no money. At the conclusion of the period of service, certain provisions established by law were made either in currency or kind.

Scotsmen have always possessed keen business ability in the mercantile trade, and John Douglas, after his settlement in Maryland, pursued the art which was partly responsible for his affluence in America.

The ship on which he sailed is not known. It is extremely difficult to name the ships which brought the adventurers to Maryland or to any of the American colonies, owing to a fire in London early in the nineteenth century which destroyed nearly all of the early ships' lists.

After his settlement in Maryland, the great distance between "Blythswood," his plantation, and Edinburgh precluded frequent correspondence with his parents. If any occurred, it has not come down to posterity. It is evident that his father had no landed estate to leave him at his death, and perhaps very little personalty. His father predeceased his mother back in Scotland, who apparently had very little at her death. Further-, the fact that she died intestate prevented additional knowledge of any possible legacies or heirs. It often happened in those times, that an emigrating son would receive his patrimony when he sailed to distant America, and therefore be omitted from his parent's will.

Upon his arrival in Maryland, a new life began for young John Douglas, and his early days in Old Scotland became only a cherished memory. He honored his father by naming his second son Robert.

The foregoing chronicles of several branches of the Douglas family in Blythswood Parish, Lanarkshire, and the early days of John Douglas, the Maryland emigrant, show that economic conditions rather than religious or political issues were his incentive for leaving his native Scotland and seeking a new life in the Province of Maryland, where heretofore very few of his compatriots had settled. It is probable that he heard tales about the advantages and opportunities of Lord Baltimore's Province or he read the several pieces of literature which had been written under the direction of Lord Baltimore to attract worthy settlers to his colonial domain. There is certainly no evidence that he was exiled to the Colonies for political activities.