The John Guthrie Family Of Virginia

The John Guthrie Family Of Virginia

The name of Guthrie is an ancient one in the history of Scotland. The name of Guthrie was often corrupted among the English to “Guttery, Guttreg” or “Gutteridge”. An old tale without substance gives an alternative derivation for the name. One of the early Scottish Kings had taken shelter, along with two attendants, in a fisherman’s hut. The King, knowing his attendants would be hungry, asked the fisherman to prepare two fish for them, but the fisherman offered to feed the king as well and “gut three”; and so, the legend insists, the name stuck.

The lands known as Guthrie are in Angus. Squire Guthrie is the first of the name on record in Scotland, appearing in 1299. In this same year, the Laird of Guthrie was sent to France to invite Sir William Wallace to return to Scotland. Sir William Wallace did return.

It appears that the family got the Barony of Guthrie by charter from David II. In 1446 Alexander Guthrie of Guthrie acquired the lands of Kincladrum and became baillie of Forfar.

In 1457 Sir David Guthrie of Guthrie was armour bearer to the king and captain of the guard. In 1461 he was appointed Lord Treasurer of Scotland. In 1468 he obtained a charter to build a castle at Guthrie which is still standing; until very recently, this was the residence of the chiefs. He was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Scotland in 1473. David increased the estate of the family, as well as founded a collegiate church at Guthrie. In 1513, his son, Alexander, died at Flodden. 1.

The estate of Guthrie passed through cousins until John Guthrie, Bishop of Moray, became chief in 1636. He was the eleventh chief.

The Guthries held the Barony of Guthrie by Charter from King David II; but they were men of rank and property long before the reign of James II.

Alexander of Guthrie and his spouse, Marjory, obtained the lands of Kilkandrum in the Barony of Lower Leslie, and Sheriffdom of Forfar by charter from George, Lord Leslie, of Leven, the Superior, dated 10 April 1475.

“Alexander and Marjory had three sons, David, James, and William, of whom the eldest, Sir David Guthrie, Baron of Guthrie, was Sheriff of Forfar in 1457. He held the station of Armour Bearer to King James III, and was constituted Lord Treasurer of Scotland in 1461; in which post he continued until 1467, when he was appointed Comptroller of the Exchequer.”2. In 1469 he was made Lord Register of Scotland; and in 1472, he was one of the ambassadors on the part of Scotland, who met those of England on 25 April in that year at New Castle, and concluded a truce until the month of July, 1473. In 1473 he was made Lord Chief Justice of Scotland.

The Reverend James Guthrie, was a minister at Stirling and was executed for his writings in Edinburgh 1 June 1661. James was described by Oliver Cromwell as “The short man that would not bow.” Chambers in his History of Eminent Scotsmen, says:

“James Guthrie, the Martyr, one of the most zealous of the protesters as they were called during the religious troubles of the seventeenth century, was the son of the Laird of Guthrie. He became teacher of philosophy, and was much esteemed, as well for the equanimity of this temper as for his erudition.”

Most American Guthries can trace their lineage to pre-Revolutionary War immigrants from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Ireland was a stepping stone for many of our ancestors. James I, who assumed the English throne in 1603, ventured a plan to colonize the Emerald Isle with loyalist settlers from England and Scotland. The Scots saw this as an opportunity to both improve themselves economically and to follow their Presbyterian faith without interference from the Church of England. The resulting prosperity of the former Scots became their downfall.

To better understand why our immigrant ancestors followed the migratory trails they did, it is important to understand the political and religous conflicts of the times; therefore, the following is a brief outline of those times:

English merchants saw the new industry as a threat and enacted the Navigation Acts of 1650, 1660, 1663, and 1696. These acts were British regulations designed to protect British shipping from competition. These acts said that British colonies could only import goods if they were shipped on British-owned vessels and at least 3/4 of the crew of the ship were British.

England believed that the mercantile system was an explanation of the world economy, that wealth was finite, and that with a limited amount of wealth to be had in the world, any trade between countries accrued wealth in the direction of the trade advantage. In general, there was a belief in England that the colonies were a source of raw material for England’s manufacture, and an outlet for finished English goods. In other words, the colonies existed to benefit the mother country. Thus, it became important for England to limit the amount of trade coming and going from the colonies. In order to protect that trade, England found it increasingly necessary to legislate the terms of trade, starting with the Navigation Act of 1651, during Cromwell’s reign or “Protectorate.” This law kept Dutch ships out of the English colonies, and was a reaction to the closing of Dutch claims to New Holland, or New York as it would become known.

This first of the Navigation Acts coincided with the growing success and development of the various colonies themselves. As early settlements grew into expanded communities, immigration increased, commercial development became successful, and the need to reign in the colonies began to be felt in England. The growing prosperity of the colonies was a signal to England that in order to protect their long-term mercantile interests, there grew a need to monopolize trade with the colonies. This was the theory, anyway. England had less need for fish, wheat and lumber produced in the colonies, and the colonies expanded their trade to other European countries without significant English intervention. On the other hand, England was very much interested in controlling other exports from the colonies. The next Navigation Act of 1660 required that all imports TO the colonies had to first pass through England and be taxed.

The North American coastline could not be patrolled effectively, being rather long and providing many natural ports of entry and exit. The Navigation Act of 1663 was circumvented routinely by smugglers, much to English chagrin. Colonists encouraged illegal imports, and often shipped their raw materials to other European ports to avoid England’s desired monopoly. This necessitated the Navigation act of 1673, which required two things. First, all goods leaving colonial ports had to pay an export duty before departure, ensuring collection of tax before goods left the country. Second, it provided for customs agents to reside in the colonies to collect those duties. The importance of the Navigation Acts is that they provided a legal framework and precedent for controlling trade with the colonies that lasted until the Revolutionary war, a hundred years late.

To control Ireland, The Staple Act of 1663 was enacted to prohibit direct Irish exports for most goods. In 1699 this was expanded to prohibit export of goods anywhere except to England and Wales. During this period the Test Act was established by Queen Anne requiring all office holders to take the sacraments as prescribed by the Church of England.

Many Irish, and Scots who had been sent to colonize and strengthen the English claims in Ireland, retaliated by crowding into ships bound for America. This was in response to not only the financial loses faced with the new British legislation, but also was a response to the imposed religious intolerance to any religion outside the establish Church of England, which was established under Henry VIII, when he ran afoul of the Roman Catholic Church. (He refused to acknowledge the Pope, and set himself up as the head of the Catholic Church in England, ie. “Church of England”)

Since money was not available to pay for passage, the majority came as indentured servants, an arrangement which bound the servants for a term of 4 to 7 years. At the expiration of this time, the individual was given clothing, farm tools and usually some land. The arrangement was considered no more demeaning than a normal apprenticeship.

At first the immigrants avoided the southern colonies with their “Established” Church and New England with its “Puritanical ways.” Central Pennsylvania was the favored haven and future jumping off point for further migration. To satisfy their hunger for land, these settlers seldom observed legal proprieties. Their clannish ways made them poor neighbors for either the whites or the Indians. It was truly observed that “the Scots kept the Sabbath and anything they could get their hands on!”

Because of these religious persecutions under which the family suffered, James, John and Robert Guthrie decided to leave Edinburgh and emigrated to the new world, where they first settled in Boston.

James Guthrie of Suffolk County, Massachusetts was listed in the will of John Richardson, dated 7 May 1683, in which Richardson says, “I give and bequeath unto James Guthrie all I have in the world except twenty shillings to buy John Harris a ring and ten shillings to buy John Kyte a ring.” This was witnessed by John Raynsford and John Ramsey.

It is said that this James Guthrie migrated from New England to Bermuda 3.

John Guthrie, of the Jamestown settlement came to America in 1652. Several traditions exist as to his origins in the Americas. One says that he was one of three brothers who emigrated. (How often do we hear that one?!) Another says that he received a grant of land in America from King Charles I of England, prior to Cromwell’s rebellion, and that when the latter came into power, in order to save his life, he was forced to leave England because of his loyalty to the Crown. This tradition claims that his brother, James Guthrie, was beheaded by Cromwell, a fate which he came near to sharing, and assigns the date of his flight as circa 1632. It should be noted here that, while Cromwell held no love for James because of James’ loyalty to the Crown Cromwell did not execute James, who was beheaded in 1661, as previously mentioned.

The first record of John was taken from “Index to Land Grants, Isle of Wight Company, Virginia, book 3, p. 315.” Here it lists: “John Gutteridge, 1654, 350 (acres) .”

In Virginia Colonial Militia 1651-1776, by Crozier, p. 103, it says: “Military officers in Virginia 1680; Isle of Wight Co. Col. Jos. Bridger Commander in Chief of ye horse in ye counties of Isle of Wight, Surry Nanzemond and Lower Norfolk, John Gutridge, Captain.” The same book p. 99 gives Middlesex County Militia,…among others, John Gutteridge.

John married Elizabeth Baskett, 6 February 1686 [Record of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County, VA]

The principle information concerning John and his immediate descendants was found in a letter which follows:

“Martinsferry, Ohio
March 12th, 1867”

“My Dear Daughter:

“Believing that it would be agreeable to you to know something of your Ancestors, I propose to give you some account of what I have learned by Tradition.

“I am informed by tradition that my Paternal Great Grandfather obtained a Grant for a tract of land in America, emigrated from England some time in Cromwell’s Rebellion and located his Grant on the North side of York River, in Poropotank Neck, in Stratten Major Parish, King and Queen County, Virginia, and that he had four sons, and lived to be old, and that he danced a jig when he was one hundred and five years old, and that he lived to be one hundred and ten years old and at his Death he Bequeathed sixty acres to each of three sons, and the balance to my Grandfather, and it is the Homestead where I was born. The farm is surrounded on two sides by a branch of the Poropotank Creek. I often have heard my father of being the Heir at Laws in this Country and if there should be any thing coming from England he would be the heir.

“My Maternal Grandfather, George Pigg, was a surveyor, and I have heard it said was born in the year one, that is, in the year 1701, but don’t know at what time he emigrated from England. But was in this country when he was twenty-five years old and stood as Godfather for my Grandmother according to the rules of the Episcopal Church and when she was twenty-five years and he fifty years old they were married. They had six children three sons and three daughters of whom Rachel Pigg the second daughter was my mother who was born in 1760. I am not positive what my Maternal Grandmother’s maiden name was but think it was Murie.

“I have heard it said that my Grandfather in surveying called the neighborhood where King and Queen Court House now stands the frontiers which is not more than forty or fifty miles from Chesapeake Bay. He procured a beautiful farm on York River a few miles above Poropotank Creek which he left to his oldest son his two oldest sons enlisted and served three years at the North in the Continental Army and returned in the year 1780 that remarkable cold winter when it was said that a beef could be roasted on the ice, and then George, the second son enlisted and went South and died there of excessive heat and fatigue. My father and one brother enlisted in the Continental Army for three years and was through the New England States. He was Sergeant and returned in the winter of 1780. He was married three times my mother being his third wife and I was born in February 23, 1793.

“I have given you Dear Daughter the most important terms that I derived from tradition which I am sure will be gratifying to you.

Henry P. Guthrie”

In the above letter Henry P. Guthrie stated that his great grandfather, had four sons. The four sons’ names are not given; however, from the given names of the earliest Guthries listed on p. 4 of “American Guthries and Allied Families”, the given names are listed in the following order:

  • John, who received the chief portion of their father’s estate. The remaining three received 60 acres each.
  • Edward
  • James, and
  • Daniel
    Robert Guthrie of Edinburgh, Scotland, was an early settler on Block Island, and was overseer of the poor in 1687. He died 3 December 1692. He married 1st, Margaret, born 1633; died 5 April 1687. He married 2nd, Anna, daughter of Dr. John and Sarah Palgrave Allcocke, widow of John Williams. They had a daughter, Catherine Guthrie, born on Block Island, 24 June 1690; married 9 September 1706, John Sands, and died at Cow Neck, LI, 10 February 1769.

    Descendants of James Guthrie of Virginia
    Records of the Guthrie Family of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Virginia,
    by Harriet M. & Evaline Guthrie Dunn; Chicago, Illinois, 1898, pp. 158-164.

    James Guthrie served as a Sergeant in Captain Phillip Taliaferro’s Company known also as Captain Thomas Minor’s Company, and as as Captain Nathaniel Welch’s Company, 2nd Virginia State Regiment, Revolutionary War.

    James enlisted to serve three years. The company served as follows:

  • At White Plains in July and August, 1778
  • At West Point in September 1778
  • At Middlebrook from October 1778 to April 1779
  • At Smith’s Clove in May and June 1779
  • At Camp Romapan in July 1779, and again
  • At Smith’s Clove in August 1779
    John Guthrie, a brother of James, served as fifer in the same Company.

    The Clan Guthrie Website: Guthrie History at

  1. Records of the Guthrie Family of Pennsylvania, Connecticutt, and Virginia; by Harriet M. & Evaline Guthrie Dunn; Chicago, Illinois, 1898, pp. 1-2
  2. American Guthrie and Allied Families – Lineal Representations of the Colonial Guthries of Pennsylvania, Connecticutt, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North & South Carolina, et al; by Laurence R. Guthrie, A.B., B.D.; published by the Kerr Printing Company, Chambersburg, PA; p.1
    For further reading on the Guthrie Clan of Scotland, visit Clan Guthrie, USA.

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