BLAIRS OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA Part 8

No more noble member of the Blair race could be desired than the Rev. Robert Blair of St. Andrews (1593-1663), early missionary to Ireland. His remarkable person and long life of heroism are recorded in Reid’s “History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland” and other authoritative historical works. One eminent writer calls him “the most distinguished Presbyterian minister who was ever in Ireland.”

Among the descendants of this great man were Robert Blair, author of the English Classic, “The Grave”; Hugh Blair, the famous rhetorician; and the Lord President Blair of Court of Sessions.

Although no family connection has been made between the line of Rev. Robert Blair of St. Andrews and that of the Revs. Samuel and John Blair, Hugh Blair, of Richmond, stated, “My grandmother (doubtless Mrs. John Durburrow Blair) was wont to recall the relationship between our branch of the Blair family and that of the celebrated divine and rhetorician;” and the name of Hugh went to her grandson.

*58 It is a pleasure to note the following alliance of these lines: James Sutton Blair, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, who married Leena Custis Watkins Hall, a great-granddaughter of Rev. John Durburrow Blair, descends from the Rev. Robert Blair of St. Andrews.

Mrs. Margaret Blair Shumaker, of the Robert Blair line, says: “My grandfather, David Blair, said he was a cousin of Montgomery Blair (great-grandson of Rev. John Blair of Fagg’s Manor).

In an old family Bible of the Carlisle, Pa., Blairs, are notes by Mrs. Eleanor M. Hustand Moore, a Blair genealogist. Writing of the line which leads to Hartstown, Pa. (that of Rev. Robert Blair), Mrs. Moore says: “The Fagg’s Manor Blairs, Samuel and John, were somewhere in this line.”

BELVIDERE, NEW JERSEY, BLAIRS

Mr. John Inslee Blair, well-known capitalist and philanthropist of Belvidere, New Jersey, in whose honor Blair Hall at Princeton University is named, established Blair Academy at Blairstown, New Jersey, and aided other institutions of learning. His family traces to John Blair (1718-1798) and Samuel Blair, his brother, emigrants, who came from Scotland between 1730 and 1740. It was a tradition of the “Belvidere” Blairs that they were cousins of Revs. Samuel and John Blair of Fagg’s Manor. Mr. John Inslee Blair, during a visit paid to Richmond, discussed the relationship with Col. Walter Blair and Mr. Hugh Blair, with the conclusion that no such connection could be traced.

Besides Mr. John Inslee Blair, his brother James, capitalist, was well known. The banking firm of Blair and Company, in New York City, was founded by members of this family.

Mrs. Laura Blair Vedder, niece of Mr. John Inslee Blair, has furnished information of her family, kindly putting at our disposal the chart of her family line. The editor of this book has found no apparent relationship on the chart between the Blairs of Belvidere, New Jersey, and the

CARLISLE, PENNSYLVANIA, BLAIRS

This fine family of Blairs stands as one with which Richmond Blairs would also desire a connection.

The Carlisle Blairs have been allied with the Alrich family of Delaware, who furnished colonial governors to that colony.

Miss Jenny Blair, of Carlisle, made many Blair researches.

Interesting family relics have been preserved by this family.

A FEW INDIVIDUALS

Not Related to the Family of Rev. John Durburrow Blair

Archibald Blair, Sr., died in 1824, a highly esteemed citizen of Richmond, son of Dr. James Blair, of York County, Virginia. A relationship has been supposed between James Blair of York County and the family of Commissary Blair in Williamsburg, but it would seem that the connection has not yet been fully made out. Archibald Blair, Sr., had been Secretary of the Virginia Convention and Clerk to the Committee of Safety throughout the Revolution.

Archibald Blair, Sr., left three sons: John H., Beverley, and Archibald, Jr.; also a daughter, who married John Minor Botts. John H. Blair died in Hanover County in 1827; Beverley Blair, in 1857; and Archibald Blair, Jr., in i860. There are no Blair descendants of Archibald Blair, Sr., living now (1933) in Richmond that we can discover.

The period of residence of Archibald Blair’s family in Richmond was mainly during the first half of the 19th century.

James Edwin Blair, born in Scottsville, Albemarle County, Virginia, resided for some years in Richmond, Virginia. He was Captain of Company C, 19th Virginia Regiment, during the Confederacy. He was an Elder in the Second Presbyterian Church, Richmond. He has (1933) one son in Richmond, Ernest Spotswood Blair, unmarried.

John Blair, M.D., of Augusta County, Virginia, is a well-known practicing physician in Richmond (1933). He has two daughters.

RESEARCH

BLAIR COAT OF ARMS

EDITOR’S NOTE

RESEARCH

BLAIR ANCESTRY

One of the most interesting questions raised concerning the forbears of , has to do with the parentage of Rev. John Blair, their emigrant ancestor to America. Authorities, notably Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., President of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), states with no uncertainty that John Blair and his elder brother, Samuel, emigrated while young to America. In a letter dated 1830, to Col. Walter Blair of Richmond, Dr. Alexander wrote: “They were natives of the north of Ireland and were brought to America while boys.” Dr. Foote, in “Sketches of Virginia, First Series, 1849,” says of Samuel Blair: “Born in Ireland, June 14, 1712, he was early removed to Monmouth, New Jersey.” In “Sketches of the Log College,” 1851, Dr. Alexander repeated: “The Rev. Samuel Blair was a native of Ireland, but came early to this country.”

Did their parents accompany them to America?

If, as stated by Hugh Blair in “Blair, Bolling, and Banister Families,” John Blair emigrated when six years of age, it seems unlikely that the younger boy, at least, would have made the long and difficult crossing in a sail ship unless in company of one or both parents. A writer in “The Richmond Standard” (R. A. B., January, 1880) states: “The grandparents of Parson Blair (John and Samuel) emigrated very early in the Eighteenth Century from Ireland to Monmouth.” One must remember, however, that at that time (1726) Presbyterian families were arriving in America by thousands, and near relatives of Samuel and John Blair may have had them in care.

Who were their parents and to which Blair line did they belong?

For some years past the “Blair Society for Genealogical Research” (Pennsylvania) and other Blair genealogists have been trying to find the answer to these questions. Dr. Eleanor Hustand Moore, a descendant of Rev. Robert Blair of St. Andrews, stated: “The Fagg Manor Blairs (Samuel and John) are somewhere in the line that leads to Hartstown, Pa.” (Descendants of Rev. Robert Blair.) Dr. Moore’s death, which cut short her valuable researches, left this statement unverified. Miss Jenny Blair of Carlisle, Pa., untiring in Blair research, it is thought concluded that Samuel and John Blair, emigrants, were of the line of Brice Blair who settled near Larne, Ireland, in 1625. Mrs. Clarill Blair Blair, Corresponding Secretary of the Blair Society for Genealogical Research, inclines to the Brice Blair descent.

Others who have written about the two brothers have given William Blair as the name of their father.

In preparation for “ ,” all of these suggested antecedents have been subject to investigation.

In the summer of 1930, through the generosity of Mr. Rolfe Eldridge Glover, Jr., the editor of this book was enabled to make a research in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the parentage of Rev. Samuel and John Blair, emigrants. Beginning at Monmouth (Freehold), New Jersey, she investigated the church and state records there, of which the former in particular have been carefully preserved from an early date and are well organized. No trace of any Blair was found, so that it is reasonable to suppose if the Blairs first resided at Monmouth on coming from Ireland, they took no root there, but passed on into Pennsylvania, where we find Samuel Blair, doubtless by the year 1730, pursuing his classical studies at Neshaminy, Bucks County.

One writer on the life of Rev. John Blair stated: “He lived as a boy with his father on the banks of the Brandywine” (Pa.). In order to follow this clue, a visit was paid to the old Brandywine Manor Church, but neither there, nor at other churches, did church records or tombs yield any information on the point desired. At Fagg’s Manor, scene for so many years of the lives of Samuel and John Blair, no reliable information produced the desired data. A long trip to Belvidere in northern New Jersey was taken with the hope that from among the Blairs whose family had settled in that vicinity a light might spring. At Belvidere all courtesy was rendered for the editor’s aid, but the results were negative. (See “Belvidere Blairs,” page 133.) Meanwhile the Library of Congress and the historical libraries of Philadelphia had given, but fruitlessly, their aid. It was then that the editor accepted Mr. Glover’s offer of a trip to northern Ireland to continue the search. She decided to pursue investigations along three lines: viz.: that of the Rev. Robert Blair of St. Andrews, one or more of whose sons settled in Ireland; the Brice Blair family; and among Blairs in and around Londonderry.

The services of two professional genealogists were enlisted. Unfortunately some time ago all Irish state records were removed to Dublin, where later most of them were destroyed by fire. Of those that remain an intensive search for Blairs was made and recorded for the editor, listing all Blairs of the dates required. No Samuel and John Blair appeared in this register. With regard to the ancestral hunt among church and graveyard records, the difficulties everywhere were almost insuperable. The rooms of the Presbyterian Historical Society were just closing for the summer when the editor reached Belfast. At Park Gate and Donegore, near which it was said descendants of the sons of Rev. Robert Blair had lived, no church records extended as far back as the dates required—a lack invariable elsewhere. The terrible condition of the graveyards with the almost total obliteration of the older inscriptions rendered aid from them hopeless. A courteous communication from a relative of the Blairs of Park Gate expressed regret that no records of that family could be produced. At Glendermott, near Londonderry, all traces of early Blairs had vanished. The editor did not visit Aghadowey, well known for its Blairs, because its emigration lists to America from that centre had been previously examined, and led to New England. (See Emily Leavitt’s “Blairs of New England,” Library of Congress.)

The most hopeful discoveries came undoubtedly at Larne, but discrepancies between the data obtained there and authenticated facts in possession here have kept the solution of the parentage of Samuel and John Blair still in doubt. An account of the Brice Blair line follows:

In 1625 Brice Blair, aged twenty-five, with his young wife, Esther Peden, and their infant daughter, fled on a collier from Ayrshire, Scotland, to Ulster. It is presumed that Brice Blair was escaping from religious persecution. Esther Peden was a farmer’s daughter and below her husband’s rank. She was the aunt of the famous William Peden of sainted Covenanter memory, to whom a memorial has been erected in recent times. On arriving in Ireland, Brice Blair made his way to his kinsmen, Sir William Edmonstone of Broadisland, and Rev. Edward Brice of Ballycarry. (The Edmonstones had large estates in Scotland and Ireland.) From the former he obtained 400 acres at Ballyvallagh, township of Raloo, about four miles from Larne on the coast of Antrim. On the land he acquired Brice Blair built a flax mill by a stream and a simple cottage for his home. The Blairs at Ballyvallagh gradually acquired adjoining lands and built houses on the farmland, the earlier cottage of Brice Blair being superseded by a dwelling on higher ground. At Ballyvallagh for some time the Blairs lived as pioneers and farmers, although their family in Scotland had doubtless been of higher station.

*1 Brice, or Bryce, is another form of the Scotch name Bruce.

Brice and Esther Blair left five sons and a daughter. From their son Daniel, who married Janet Drummond, came eight children. One of these, Samuel, married Martha Campbell Lyle, daughter of James Lyle of the Toreagh Lyles in the township of Raloo. *2 Samuel and Martha Campbell Lyle Blair had also a large family of children:

Esther, Nancy, Daniel, Samuel, James, Mary, John, Martha, William.

The above information of the Brice Blair line was given the editor through the kindness of Dr. John Crawford Blair, Surgeon, of Larne, who allowed a chart of his family to be copied, a table compiled by his uncle, Dr. Andrew Blair, Surgeon, who had taken great interest in the genealogy of his family.

In addition to this chart, the editor is under great obligation to information contained in “The Lyle Book,” by Oscar K. Lyle (deceased) of Brooklyn, published 1912. This book gives at length data of the Lyles who settled near Larne and also the Blairs of Ballyvallagh with whom the Lyles intermarried. The significant entries for research with regard to Rev. John and Rev. Samuel is found among the children of Samuel Blair of Raloo and his wife, Martha Campbell Lyle Blair:

“Samuel, nothing further known,

John, probably went to Virginia.”

The dates given for these brothers correspond in the main with the ages of Samuel and John Blair of Fagg’s Manor; and were the only two brothers of those names found in Ireland corresponding to our two emigrant Blairs of the same period. This does not imply, however, that the search is exhausted.

The order of ages of the family of Samuel Blair of Raloo given above may not be correct. “The Lyle Book” is not free from error. But it will be observed that on the list the name of Samuel precedes that of John.

Two of the daughters of Samuel and Martha Campbell Lyle Blair and a granddaughter settled in Virginia. Esther married Matthew Lyle at Larne in 1731. They emigrated to Pennsylvania and removed to Timber Ridge in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Martha married Captain John Paxton of Timber Ridge. She brought with her Mary, daughter of her brother, James Blair, of Raloo. (See “The Lyle Book” and “The Paxton Family.”) If John Blair of Fagg’s Manor were of this Raloo family, it is not improbable that he did go as a boy to Virginia. It may be remembered also that Rev. John Blair made, as a young man, two preaching tours into the Valley of Virginia, on one of which he organized the church at Timber Ridge. Rev. Samuel Blair also visited the Valley of Virginia.

If Samuel and Martha Campbell Lyle Blair were the parents of Rev. Samuel and Rev. John Blair of Fagg’s Manor, the mystery of their lost parentage solves itself. Their parents never came to America, their mother dying in 1729 when John was nine years old. Their father lived to be very old. If he came to America, he returned to Raloo. Thus the mysterious blank in the parentage of two eminent, highly educated, and well-connected men would be explained, and Dr. Alexander’s expression, “They were brought to America” gains an added significance.

But a disturbing discrepancy throws this solution of Samuel and John Blair’s parentage into serious question.

The sisters of Samuel and John of Fagg’s Manor are not the sisters listed on Dr. John Crawford’s Blair’s chart nor in “The Lyle Book.” From reliable sources we know the names of at least three of the sisters of Rev. Samuel and John Blair of Fagg’s Manor:

Margaret Blair, who married George Duffield the elder; parents of Rev. George Duffield, Jr., of Philadelphia, who married his first cousin, Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. Samuel Blair.

Elizabeth Blair, who married Rev. Robert Smith of Pequea, Pa.; parents of Rev. Samuel Stanhope Smith, the father of Hampden Sydney College and President of Princeton; married a daughter of John Witherspoon the Signer, and ancestor of General J. C. Breckinridge, Vice-President of the United States. And his brother, Rev. John Blair Smith, for some years President of Hampden Sydney College.

  • Blair, who married Robert Cummins; parents of Rev. Alexander Cummins of New York and Boston.

Dr. Alexander mentions two other sisters: Hannah Blair, who, he says, married Rev. John Carmichael, pastor of the church at the Forks of the Brandywine, and an unmarried sister whom he remembers seeing, an elderly lady, at the house of Rev. Robert Smith. Of the latter we know nothing. Of the former, Dr. Alexander was evidently in error. Rev. John Carmichael married Sarah Blair, daughter of Rev. Samuel Blair and not his sister.

Three other sisters of Rev. Samuel and Rev. John Blair have been supposed:

Mary Blair, married – Moore,

Rebecca Blair, married – Elliot,

Alice, or Agnes, Blair, married – Rutherford.

Of these three nothing is yet verified. Frances, or Francina, daughter of Rev. Samuel Blair, married James Moore and may have been confused with a supposed aunt. Neither Alice nor Agnes are our Blair names of that period. Moore and Elliot are Valley of Virginia names.

Samuel Blair of Raloo married a second time, Ann Graham, but it is said they had no issue. Unless this is a mistake, or that Samuel Blair married yet again and had issue by a third wife,—he lived to be 87—it is difficult to reconcile the list of his daughters as given in “The Lyle Book” with the three proven sisters of Rev. Samuel and Rev. John Blair of Fagg’s Manor.

The relative dates for Samuel Blair of Raloo and his first wife, Martha Campbell Lyle Blair, as given on their tombstones, are questionable. If the wife died in 1729 (the probable date), aged 34, she was 28 years younger than her husband, an unlikely difference of age for a first marriage in times of early wedlock. Samuel Blair’s age is given as 87 at the time of his death in 1754. *3

In a long and extended research, the editor of this book

*3 One of the most pleasing adventures of the research was the visit to old Raloo churchyard. Starting from the sea-coast and Larne, one bright afternoon, the car climbed into a high, rolling country of broad hills and beautiful distant views. Two men of the neighborhood, familiar with the graveyard, accompanied the expedition. After inspecting the site of Brice Blair’s original settlement at Ballyvallagh, it was necessary to go on foot up a tall hill and down again into a valley in order to reach the churchyard. The inevitable rain had appeared. The place was impressive. Immensely tall dark trees secluded the spot, which was surrounded by a substantial stone wall with dignified iron gates. The ruin of tiny old Raloo church, now only a mound covered with bushes, moss, and fern, occupied the centre of the enclosure. Samuel Blair’s tombstone, broad, tall, four inches thick, bore the inscription:

Here lyeth the Body of Samuel Blair of Bally Raloo who Died March the 20, 1754 Aged 87 years

These words surround the Blair coat of arms cut in the stone, as follows:

Amo Probos; stag statant; helmet; star; saltire with mascles; garb.

The tombstone of Martha Cambell Blaer, wife of Samuel Blair, is near her husband’s.

Earnest efforts were made with an excellent kodak (gift of Miss Virginia Randolph Ellett for the research tour) to photograph the tombstones at Raloo, but the deepening gloom under the dark trees in torrents of rain ruined the films; rough pencil sketches only could be obtained. The star may have been a mullet. It is known that other stones in Raloo churchyard bore the Blair coat of arms.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the help given on this and other expeditions by Miss Anne Blair Matthews, the editor’s travelling companion in Ireland and Scotland.

has come across no mention of a brother, or brothers, of Samuel and John Blair of Fagg’s Manor except in one instance. Among the papers left by Miss Jenny Blair of Carlisle, Pa., which the editor has had the privilege of inspecting through the courtesy of her family, an account is given of Judge William Blair of northern Maryland, said to have been a younger brother of Samuel and John. His judgeship began in Frederic County, Maryland, in 1765. His home is given as Fagg’s Manor prior to his residence in Maryland. Judge William Blair’s will was made January 7, 1777. He mentions as children Samuel, John, Elizabeth, and Naomi (or Nannie). He had also a daughter, Emalia. The family of Judge William Blair became connected through marriage with the Blair family of Carlisle, Pa. The paper giving this information is unsigned and was evidently copied by Miss Jenny Blair from some data not verified by her.

The seven consecutive William Blairs of the Carlisle line have an interesting history. The first (accredited with the name William) born in Ireland, emigrated to America with his wife, son, and daughter. He died shortly after landing. His wife and children went to Lancaster County, Pa., where a posthumous son, William, was born at Brandywine. (William Blair, First of Carlisle, 1729-1802.) William Blair married Mary Cowen. They removed to Carlisle. His older brother died unmarried.

Since none of the rather hazy William Blairs proposed by different persons for the father of Samuel and John Blair, emigrants, have so far been verified by those who have put up their names, the editor of this book suggests that the proximity of dates and localities of Samuel and John with the early Williams, emigrants of the Carlisle line, may have confused later genealogists. As to Judge William Blair of Frederic, Maryland, all other accounts of Blairs are silent. Samuel and John Blair, brothers, of Raloo, had a brother named William, buried in Raloo Churchyard, the date of whose death is given as 1788, aged 73.

The Rev. Samuel Blair of Fagg’s Manor had a son named William, an attorney, who doubtless lived at Fagg’s Manor. Could he have become later Judge William Blair of Maryland?

Rev. John Blair had also a son of the name of William—William Lawrence Blair, lawyer of Kentucky. Rev. John Durburrough Blair had a son, William. Some attention might be paid to the constant use of the names Samuel and William in the Fagg’s Manor line, in search for the father of our emigrant Blairs.

DURBURROW ANCESTORS

The Durburrow families of Philadelphia have been more than one, it is said, with several spellings of the name. We find Durburough, Durborow, Durburrow. The editor sent a circular letter to all of these names listed in the Philadelphia Directory, asking information about their own families and about John Durburrow and his daughter, Elizabeth, who married Rev. John Blair. She received a number of courteous replies, but no definite information.

John Durburrow, father of Elizabeth Durburrow Blair, is said to have been an English merchant who lived in Philadelphia prior to the Revolution.

In the Office of the Register of Wills, City Hall, Philadelphia, it is recorded:

“Letters of Administration were granted to Rebecca Durborow, widow and relic of John Durborow, on the estate (£800) of the said John Durborow dece’d.” On the margin is the date 1747. Administrators’ Book F, page 82.

The oldest daughter of Rev. John and Elizabeth Durburrow Blair was named Rebecca (Mrs. Linn).

Correspondence with Mr. Charles B. Durborow of Philadelphia and his relatives inclines the editor to think there may be a relationship between them and Blairs of Richmond, Virginia. That Philadelphia line regard their Durborow forbears as removing from Savannah, Georgia, to Philadelphia. This suggests an English origin. Other Durborrows came with William Penn.

Records of old Christ Church, Philadelphia, in the (Locust Street) Genealogical Society should be studied.

Military Service of Rev. John Durburrow Blair in the American Revolution

In a letter in verse to Captain Shore of the Richmond Blues Rev. John Durburrow Blair states that he fought in the American Revolution. We have as yet no official record of his service. His graduation from Princeton occurred at the age of sixteen, in 1775. Dr. Foote (“Sketches of Virginia, Second Series”) says that he came to Virginia in 1780 to take charge of Washington Henry Academy. His war record presumably falls between the two dates and the ages of sixteen to twenty-one.

A number of John Blairs fought in the American Revolution. From the fact that it was not customary then to list the soldiers except by their first and last names, and that official lists are incomplete, the location of his name in service has not appeared. With regard to his service as from New Jersey, the following record offices have failed to find his name on their files:

Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, D. C.; Director of Pensions Office, Washington, D. C.; Adjutant General’s Office, State of New Jersey, Trenton, New Jersey; Hightman’s Register; and files of Princeton University.

John Durburrow Blair did not seem to have made use of his middle name when a student at Princeton.

Pennsylvania military records should be searched.

BLAIR COAT OF ARMS

While not claimed by Richmond Blairs, the coat of arms used at the present time by the Blairs of County Antrim, North Ireland, is thus described:—

“By a comparison with the arms engraved in ‘Scottish Heraldry’, we learn that the shield is identical with that borne by the Blairs of ‘Milgerholm’, Ayrshire, Scotland, with a mullet for difference, showing this County Antrim line belonged to the third house. The motto, AMO PROBOS, (‘Love the Right’) is that borne by Blairs of that ilk, and the crest is from that of Blair of ‘Blair’, Ayrshire, with a difference in the posture of the stag, the Ayrshire crest being a stag lodged (lying down) while the Antrim crest is a stag statant (loping).”

The charges of the shield are: field argent; a saltire (St. Andrew’s Cross) between two crescents (increscent) in the flanks; a garb (sheaf) in the base; five mascles (lozenges) voided; mullet (a star with five points pierced in the centre) below the helmet; motto, AMO PROBOS, on a scroll above the helmet. The two charges, silver and sable, make a most brilliant escutcheon.

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