Saturday, January 4, 2014

Scottish Prisoners of War in Massachusetts

     Poor people without means to pay their own way to America could voluntarily sign themselves into bondage in return for passage.  The person who paid for the passage then had use of servant for a fixed period of time.  But was it always voluntary servitude?
     In 1651, during the War of Three Kingdoms, Cromwell defeated the forces loyal to Charles II in the battle of Worcester.  Thousands of Scottish men (and Irish) who, for the most part, had been forced into service by their clan chiefs were captured and marched to London.  Those Scotsmen never saw their homeland again.  The men were sold into forced labor in gold mines, plantations, and other colonial tasks.  
      In 1652, a ship, carrying almost 300 prisoners of war, anchored in Boston Harbor.  These prisoners were then sold into servitude.1  Scotsmen were considered the lowest class of people.  They spoke a strange language. They did not practice the correct religion.  Eventually, some of these servants were able to purchase their own land, marry, and start a family.
     My ancestor, Samuel Stratton, was an early colonist living in Watertown, Massachusetts who purchased one of these Scottish prisoners for six year term.2  I sure hope he was a reasonable master.

1.   "Scots for Sale - New England Historic Genealogical Society." 2013. 4 Jan. 2014 <>

2.  Thompson, Roger. Divided We Stand: Watertown, Massachusetts, 1630-1680. Amherst: Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

No comments:

Post a Comment