28 August 2017

Brough Family Emigates to America as Colonies Ready for War

George Brough and his family lived in the Parish of Evie & Rendall on the north coast of the largest of the Orkney Islands of Scotland called The Mainland.  The Orkney Islands lie in the region of the globe where the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean and is a wet, cold place, where the summer high temperatures rarely exceed the mid-fifties.

Agricultural Orkney consisted of small tenant farms until the mid-1700’s when the landed gentry elected to raise rents on the farmers as they consolidated their holdings in favor of larger commercial farms and larger grazing ranges for sheep herds.  Unable to pay the increased rents, many tenant farms were left with little options but to migrate elsewhere.  This is the situation George Brough found himself in 1774.

At the age of thirty-five, George Brough and his wife Barbara (Leask) Brough, along with their four children, Thomas, Christain, James and Helen travelled to Kirkwall for passage to America and a new life.  Unable to pay his family’s passage, he signed a contract of indentured servitude for the cost of passage to a Thomas Brown, who was gathering Scotsmen to immigrate to America.  George gave his reason for emigration as “sustained loss by his cattle dying and cannot support his family.”

In September, 1774 the Broughs boarded the ship Marlborough along with approximately 50 other Scotsmen in Kirkwall, joining others contracted to Thomas Brown from Whitby, England, for the voyage to Savannah, Georgia.

That November the Marlborough docked in Savannah and soon thereafter the indentured servants began their eight-day trek from the port city of Savannah up a road that paralleled the Savannah River to the plot of land just north of Augusta and south of the Little River in St. John’s Parish which would become their new home.

Twenty-five year old English aristocrat Thomas Brown had been granted 5,600-acres around the Little River near Augusta, Georgia where he intended to establish the settlement of Brownsborough.  He envisioned recreating a typical English manor with a fine manor house, stables, etc.

Upon arriving, the indentured servants began clearing the land and erecting a house for Brown, along with cottages for the indentured servants, a barn and kitchen.

Being loyal to the crown, Brown was in conflict with the local Sons of Liberty which resulted in a life altering event.  Here is how Brown described it, “I was ordered to appear before a committee then sitting in Augusta, and on my refusal to attend, a party consisting of 130 armed men headed by the committee surrounded my house in South Carolina and ordered me to surrender myself a prisoner and subscribe a traitorous association.  I told them my determination to defend myself if any person presumed to molest me.  On their attempting to disarm me, I shot one of the ringleaders (a Captain Borstwicke).  Being o’erpowered, stabbed in many places, my skull fractured by a blow from a rifle, I was dragged in a state of insensibility to Augusta.  My hair was then chiefly torn up by the roots; what remained, stripped off by knives; my head scalped in 3 or 4 different places; my legs tarred and burnt by lighted torches, from which I lost the use of two of my toes and rendered incapable of setting my feet to the ground for 6 months.  In this condition, after their laying waste a very considerable property, I was relieved by my friends and conveyed to the interior parts of South Carolina.” 

Brown lost a portion of his scalp and two toes in the fiery confrontation, and gained the nickname “Burnt-foot Brown”.

Eventually escaping the Ninety-six region of South Carolina.  Captured in Charles Town.  Brown then sailed for Savannah where the Marlborough was landing with his last shipment of colonists.  Just about the time his latest settlers were off the ship, Brown found it necessary to turn and sail for St. Augustine in East Florida where he raised a regiment called the Florida Rangers (later the King’s Rangers) and led raids on the southern frontier for the next 4 years

With Brown gone, the indentured servants were left to their own devices. 

(Note: I am not sure what transpired at Brownsborough after Thomas Brown fled to Florida but we do know that William Manson, an indentured servant of Brown’s who arrived aboard the Marlborough in the second group in 1775, enlisted with the patriots in July 1776 under Capt. John Bowie of the South Carolina State Troops at Ft. Charlotte, SC on the Savannah River.  Also Magnus Tullock a 13-yr old passenger on the Marlborough’s second voyage to Savannah enlisted as a fifer under Capt. John Bowie.

A statement in The Kings Ranger, by Edwar Cashin, reads, "The events of July 1776 (Thomas Brown’s escape) quickly forced established residents and the newly arrived “to choose between independence and the king.””)  

Unfortunately, the trail of George Brough ends and there is no further record of him that I have been able to locate.  But the first US census in 1790 does list his eldest son Thomas Brough as a resident of Abbeville, South Carolina (approx. 60-miles north of Brownsborough in the Old 96 region) with wife Nancy (Calhoun) and daughter Margaret.  Whatever happened to George and his wife Barbara (Leask) along with their other children Christain, James and Helen remains a mystery


George Brough was born about 1739 in Orkney, he married Barbara Leask on 24 December 1759 in Evie, The Mainland, Orkney Islands, Scotland

There children were:

Thomas Brough born 18 December 1760 Evie, Orkney married Nancy Calhoun (1766-1834) Abbeville, SC

Christain Brough born 19 November 1762 Evie, Orkney

James Brough christened 4 July 1765 Evie, Orkney

Helen Brough born 28 December 1767 Evie, Orkney



Some information on Thomas Brown was taken from the following:

Making of a Loyalist by Wayne Lynch, Journal of the American Revolution, Jan 1, 2014.

Edward Cashin, The King’s Ranger, (New York, Fordham University Press, 1999

Brown to Cornwallis, Volume I, 16 July 1780, reprinted in Ian Saberton, The Cornwallis Papers (East Sussex, Naval & Military Press, 2010)