By Richard Gwynallen

Alexander Watt
1673 – 1760
Relationship to Fawn: 8th great grandfather

We introduced the Watt line of our family in The Watt Family Arrives on the North Carolina Frontier.  In that essay we mentioned that the family emigrated to the American Colonies in 1716. Recently, I stumbled across one potential cause of their emigration, which indicates they did not arrive at the same time.

I had previously seen an excerpt from David Dobson’s book, Scots on the Chesapeake, that identified Alexander Watt as arriving in Yorktown, Virginia in 1716.  However, recently I found that he arrived as an un-indentured prisoner on the ship Elizabeth and Ann, which transported Jacobite prisoners that had been captured in the 1715 rising.

In David Dobson’s Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantation, 1650 – 1775, we find Alexander Watt identified as “Jacobite captured at Preston. Transported from Liverpool to Virginia or Jamaica on the Elizabeth and Ann . . . Landed at York, Virginia – unindentured.”  The ship master was Edward Trafford.  The Elizabeth and Ann left Liverpool on 29 June 1716 with 126 prisoners.  The ship arrived in Virginia on 12 October 1716.


If Alexander was living in Aberdeenshire, he may have joined or be pressed into service as Colonel John Farquharson’s efforts to raise rebel troops in western Aberdeenshire.  In March 1715, Scottish forces took control of Aberdeen and Inverness under the Earl of Mar.  Farquharson led a force into northern England.  Alexander would never return to Scotland.

Scottish and Northumbrian Jacobite forces occupied Preston in Lancashire on 9 November 1715.  Government forces moved against them surrounding the city and ultimately forcing its surrender on 14 November 1715.

Most of the Scottish prisoners were tried in Liverpool.  Some of the more prominent were sent to London for trial.

The prisoner records shows Alexander’s home parish as Chapel Of Garrie and his home county as Aberdeen.  The record is reproduced on USGenWeb Archives using sources from the National Archives, Kew, London.

We have him born in Stirlingshire, but nothing as to where he was actually living before leaving Scotland.  I have not been able to identify the parish of Chapel of Garrie.  The listing is what Alexander Watt provided or what the recording officer thought he understood Alexander Watt to say.  Either could be inaccurate; Alexander’s statement intentionally so perhaps, the officer’s accidentally.  There is a small village in west Aberdeenshire called Chapel of Garioch.  It’s possible that that is what Watt said and the officer heard Garrie.  There is also a Loch Garry, River Garry, and Glen Garry, though none are in Aberdeenshire or Stirlingshire.

Transported from Scotland

Transportation of prisoners to the colonies was an established British practice. It was deemed cheaper than keeping them in prison, and was held as similar to commuting a sentence from execution to life in prison.

The Elizabeth and Ann was a commercial vessel that first transported Puritans to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1635.  In the 1680s it was refitted for the slave trade.  Many such ships were used to transport Jacobite prisoners. The arrangement made between the government and and an agent was for the agent to take the prisoners on consignment and receive payment when a receipt for their delivery was presented to His Majesty’s Court in London.

TS 20 47 3 [Public Record Office, Treasury Solicitor] Cover sheet, pp 7, 7reverse and 8. Warrant Sr. Thos. Johnson for Transporting Rebel Prisoners. (Copy)Warrant - 1716 shipping of Jacobite rebels

Whereas Sr. Thomas Johnson of Leverpoole in the County of Lancaster Knt: being under an Agreement wth. us persuant to Articles in that Behalfe bearing date the 16th Day of April 1716 to transport or carry at his own proper Cost & Charges to some of his Maj. Plantations in America such Rebels or Prisoners as were or should be delivered or offered to be delivered to him or his Servts. at Liverpoole from any of the Goals of Chester, Leverpoole or Lancaster

We in Consideration thereof did by the same Articles Covenant & Agree on his Maj: Behalf that the sd. Sr Thos. Johnson should recieve and be paid 40 sh. for every Rebel or Prisoner that was or should be so delivered to be transported upon producing proper Certificates from the Mayor of Leverpole as the Collector or Searcher of ye Port of Liverpoole of the sd. Rebels or Prisoners being shipped on Board of his Ships in & by the sd. Articles amongst other things relation being thereunto had may more fully appear.

These are by Virtue of his Maj. Genl. Tres patents Dormant bearing date 14th Day of August 1714 to pray and require your Lordship to draw an Order for paying unto the sd. Sr. Thomas Johnson or his assignes the sum of 278L 00sh together wth. the sum of 1000 already issued to him by way of Advance upon the Contract or Agreemt. is in full of the sd Allowance of 40sh for 639 Rebels or Prisoners so shipped for Transportation according to the annexed Certificates attested by the Mayor of Liverpoole & the Collr. or Searcher there as by the said Articles is directed, that is to say:

30th March 1716 shipped on Board the Scipio Frigate Capt. John Scraisbrick Commander for Antigua 96 Rebels nil. at 40sh each amount to . . . . . 190

21st April 1716 shipped on Board the Wakefield Capt. Thos. Beck Commander for South Carolina or Rebels nch. at 40sh each amount to . . . . . . 162

26th April 1716 shipped on Board the Two Brothers Edward Rathben Commander for Jamaica 47 Rebels or Prisoners nch. at 40sh each amout to . . . . . 94

7th May 1716 shipped on Board the Susannah Capt: Thos. Bromhall Comander for South Carolina 104 Rebels or Prisoners at 40s each amount to . . . . . 208

24th May shipped on Board the Friendship Capt. Michael Mankin Commander for Maryland or Virginia 80 Rebels or Prisoners nch: at 40sh each amount to . . . . . . 160

25th June 1716 shipped on Board the Hockenhill Capt. Hockenhill Comander for St Christophers 30 Rebels or Prisoners 40s each amount to . . . . . 60

29th June 1716 shipped on Board the Elizabeth & Anne Capt. Ed: Trafford Commander for Virginia or Jamaica 126 Rebels or Prisoners nch. at 40s each amount to . . . . . . 252warrant_02

14th July shipped on Board the Goodspeed Capt: Smith Comander for Virginia 54 Rebels or Prisoners nch: at 40sh each amount to . . . . . . 108

15th July 1716 shipped on Board the Africa Gally Rd. Cropper Comander for Berbadoes one Rebel or Prisoner nch at the same rate amon. to . . . . 2

Eod Die shipped on Board the Elizabeth & Ann Capt. Ed. Trafford Commander for Virginia one Rebel or Prosoner nch at the same rate is . . . . . . 2

28 July shipped on Board the Goodspeed Arthur Smith Mar. for Virginia two Rebels or Prisoners nch. at the same rate amount to . . . . . 4

31 July 1716 shipped on Board the Ann Capt: Robt. Wallace Commander for Virginia 18 Rebels or Prisoners nch. at the same rate amount to . . . . 36warrant_03

1278 From nch: to be abated the Sum advanced and paid as aforesaid . . . . . . 1000 Then remains . . . . 278

Notwithstanding nch. Paymt. the sd. Sr. Thos. Johnson is by the sd Articles obliged to produce Certificates signed by the Govn. or Governors of the said Plantations of the Landing of the sd. Rebels or Prisoners in the sd. Plantations or upon any of their dying by the Way an Affidavit of such Death And let the sd. Order be satisfied out of any his Maj. Revenues being & remaining in the Receipt of the Exchequer applicable to the Use of the Civil Government. And for so doing this shall be your Warrant

Whitehall Treary Chamber 25th March 1717
R. Walpole Wm Sr. Quintin Torrington
R. Edgcumbe

Alexander definitely reached Virginia because his name appears the debarkation document.  He is #10 toward the bottom of the below document under the list of those not indentured.


It is easier to read his name on page 186 below of the published version in the Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts, 1652 – 1781.


I wondered why some of the prisoners were indentured and others were not.  I have not found a clear answer.  It could have been that their families paid the fee for their transportation. It’s also possible that they indentured only those signing a letter requesting the leniency that transportation was considered.  The others they tried and transported anyway, though identifying them as un-indentured.

Arrival in the Virginia Colony

It seems that upon arrival they were all treated as indentured and the shipmaster tried to sell them all into servitude.  Perhaps that was always the courts’ intention. There is a letter by one to Virginia Governor Spotswood, complaining that they had been confined in prison in Yorktown without cause and several had already been sent “up” the York River to satisfy a debt to Sir Thomas Johnston, Parliament man of Liverpool “who pretends a right to us.” Governor Spotswood evidently ignored the letter.

It is possible that Alexander spent his first seven years in the colonies in servitude.  It’s also possible that his family paid the shipmaster and he left with them.  It’s just as possible he had to make his own way.  There are no records as to what happened to him.

What we know is that Alexander Watt found himself deposited at York, Virginia Colony.  If he was on his own he needed immediate work.  York of that time was a bustling place.

By the time Alexander arrives, York had existed for 103 years, having been founded in 1619 on the north side of the Virginia Peninsula. It was originally named Charles City after King Charles I.  It became “York” after Charles’ execution in 1649.  When York was founded as Charles City, tobacco already formed the basis of Virginia’s economy. Tobacco was used to purchase the indentured servants and slaves to cultivate it, pay local taxes and tithes, and buy manufactured goods from England. Promissory notes payable in tobacco were even used as currency, with the cost of almost every commodity given in pounds of tobacco. The large planters usually shipped their tobacco directly to England, where consignment agents sold it in exchange for a cut of the profits.  Smaller planters, sometimes bundling their harvest with other planters, worked with local tobacco merchants who bought their tobacco and supplied them with manufactured goods.

In 1691, the Virginia House of Burgesses designated York as an official port through which tobacco could be exported. The crown invested in York, subsidizing wharfs and warehouses to build the tobacco trade.  The very yearAlexander arrived, Charles Chiswell, Clerk of the Governor’s Council of Colonial Virginia. was granted a “parcel of land lying within the high-water at Yorketown, 100 feet by 80 feet for the purpose of erecting thereon a storehouse and wharf”.

The York River region in 1716 was the largest tobacco producing region in colonial Virginia.

Alexander might have found work in York itself, but it seems that the whole lot of prisoners were treated as indentured, though I have not found records of how many actually did end up indentured.  However, faced with a desperate situation, some unindentured Scots may have voluntarily agreed to indentured servitude under a deal with a local businessman or planter, or the deal might have been brokered by the ship’s captain.  These agreements required the servant to work for food, shelter, and sometimes some craft training for a specified period of years.  Seven years was a frequent period if indenture, but it could have been anywhere from five to ten years.

Outside of York, hundreds of plantations and smaller farms peppered the land on either side of the York River in 1716.  A land boom had been underway and there was a severe colonial labor shortage.   New tobacco plantations were even being created further inland along the York, James and Rappahannock River basins. Labor to grow and harvest the crops was in critical demand..  Some plantations actually used hiring agents on the docks of York.

So, it’s possible Alexander found work in York itself, made his own way up the river to work in the building going on on along the river and inland, or run into a hissing agent that arranged for work.

His Family

It does not look like his family could have followed him until after 1722.  His grandson, William, was born in 1722 in either Scotland or Ireland.  I currently have no records of the Watt family until a land warrant is issued by Earl Granville’s agents on 18 February 1750 to survey for William Watts 640 acres of land on the south branch of Fourth Creek in Anson County, North Carolina.  The family appears to have migrated from Pennsylvania, where William had first married.

However, exactly what the Watt family did in the intervening 34 years between Alexander’s arrival in 1716 and 1750 is still a mystery.  They obviously settled in the Scots community of Pennsylvania, then moved with other families south to North Carolina.  Those 34 years were ones of Alexander acclimating to life in the colonies. It was probably one of very hard work.  For the rest of the family, they were making their plans for emigrating, getting established in Pennsylvania, then relocating to North Carolina where they became a prominent part of the Fourth Creek community.

When did the whole family emigrate? Did Alexander join them in Pennsylvania.  Some have Alexander ending his life in Raleigh County, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Did he end up with property there and choose to stay?  Hopefully, these are questions we can one day answer.  If I find a record of Alexander’s steps I’ll add on a new story.