The Knox Chronicles – Part IV

{In this fourth installment of a multi-part series, I delve deeper into
exploring my mother’s Scottish ancestry, uncovering both what I know and what I have yet to discover.}

How Romantic!

Here is a history of the Knox family as told by someone in the 1920s. This is quoted from “Minor Sketches of Major Folk” by Dora C Jett, 1928, Richmond, Virginia. All I can say is, ‘bless her heart.’

“The family of Knox is an interesting one. Tradition, which has been collaborated by painstaking research, declares that in the 11th century one Uchter, Earl of Northumberland, married E’giva, daughter of Ethelred II, King of England. They or their descendants settled in Scotland, and in fee simple or by marriage they became possessed of four baronies or lordships within the regality of Renfrew. There’s Knocks, Ranfurlie, Craigends, and Griff Castle. One of the lords fixed his residence in the barony of Knox and surnames coming into use about that time he was known thereafter as Adamus de Knox. The story of William Knox of Renfrew, who married Janet of Summerville of the same locality and of their three sons who emigrated to America is indeed a pleasing narrative. By the will of John Knox, merchant of famous Virginia made in 1768 he leaves extensive lands in Stafford County to his three brothers William, etc. etc.”

(src: Genealogy of the Fitzhugh, Knox, Gordon, Selden, Horner, Brown, Baylor, (King) Carter, Edmonds, Digges, Page, Taylor, and Allied Families. (1932). United States: Foote & Davies.)

As Harriet Goodman said… “We had hoped to trace the line back into Scotland, but so far have not been able to do so.”

(src: Goodman, H. S. (1905). The Knox Family: A Genealogical and Biographical Sketch of the Descendants of John Knox of Rowan County, North Carolina, and Other Knoxes. United States: Whittet & Shepperson.)

The Reality on the Ground

The latter half of the 17th century in Scotland and Ireland was a tumultuous period marked by political, religious, and social unrest. In Scotland, the conflict between the Presbyterian Covenanters and the monarchy dominated the era, with the monarchy attempting to suppress the Covenanters’ opposition to Anglican Church and royal authority. This led to the violent repression of Presbyterianism and the forced migration of Scots to Ireland and the American colonies. In Ireland, English colonization and the brutal suppression of Irish Catholics occurred, driven by the English Crown’s desire to control Ireland and suppress Catholicism.

These actions resulted in bloody conflicts, land dispossession, and Protestant dominance. Additionally, both regions underwent economic and social changes, such as the growth of urban centers, trade expansion, and the emergence of new industries. However, these transformations were accompanied by social inequality, poverty, and political instability. In summary, this period in Scotland and Ireland was characterized by conflict, change, and widespread violence.

The English Civil War, spanning from 1642 to 1651, had a profound and lasting influence on Scotland. Initially declaring neutrality, Scotland became involved when the English Parliamentarians sought their support against King Charles I and the Royalists. The Scottish Covenanters signed the Solemn League and Covenant with the Parliamentarians in 1644, leading to their active participation in key battles, such as Marston Moor and Worcester.

The war disrupted trade and commerce, causing financial losses for Scottish merchants, while also triggering political instability and the rise of radical political groups. The Covenanters seized the opportunity to push for reforms, successfully establishing Presbyterianism as the form of church government. Ultimately, the English Civil War had a transformative impact on Scotland’s political, social, and religious landscape, shaping the nation for generations to come.

The Glasgow Fire of 1652 was a significant event in the history of the city, which had a profound impact on its development. The fire began on the night of June 17, 1652, and quickly spread through the city, destroying a large portion of its commercial and residential areas.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to have started in the home of a tailor near the University of Glasgow. Strong winds helped to spread the flames, and the fire quickly engulfed nearby buildings. The fire continued to burn for three days, destroying much of the city’s infrastructure, including the Town Cross, Tolbooth, and Bishop’s Castle.

Forty years later, the Scottish Famine of the late 1690s was a prolonged period of crop failure and famine caused by unfavorable weather, poor harvests, and population growth. The most severe period occurred in 1696-1697, leading to extensive damage and years of recovery. The famine had devastating consequences, including widespread starvation, disease, and death. With a population of around one million, it is estimated that up to 15% of the population perished during this time.

It is a wonder that Marcus Knox & family survived all this social upheaval not only physically but also financially. Some historians of the day believed that Scotland was being punished at the hands of an angry God. Our next story begins with an accusation of having sinned against the Kirk. It morphed then into the Mystery of the Murdered Uncle. This story has all the makings of a classic gothic tale. So, I asked AI (ChatGPT) to edit my notes on the Mystery of the Murdered Uncle and write it out in the tone of a 19th Century Gothic Novel. Here then is….

The Mystery of the Murdered Uncle

As I perused the pages of Rogers’ tale, my eyes were met with a most perplexing mystery – the tale of the murdered uncle. A tale that, I assure you, shall send shivers down your spine and make your blood run cold. The story goes thus: John Knox, the eldest son of Margaret Maxwell and grandson of a man of the same name, succeeded his grandfather in 1594. But who was this John Knox, you may ask? Such details are not yet certain.

As I delved deeper into Rogers’ account, a name caught my eye – the Laird of Ranfurly. It appears that John Knox, grandson of the aforementioned John Knox, was involved in a most heinous conflict, one that cost his paternal uncle his very life. The presbytery of Palsy passed a most damning judgment on the Laird of Ranfurly, accusing him of the “filthie act of murder.”

But alas! The charges against the Laird were not believed, and the result of the inquiry was left unrecorded. However, on July 17, 1606, the presbytery charged the Laird with forsaking the Holy Communion, to which he replied with a plea, citing the “slander he lay under for the slaughter of his father’s brother.” It seems guilt had not yet been lifted from his soul, but he hoped it would be soon.

Dear reader, I am left with but one question: Who is this John Knox? Was this John Knox the same as the John Knox of the family Ranfurlie who purchased land early in the seventeenth century? Fret not, for in future posts of the Knox Chronicles, I shall attempt to unravel this most intriguing enigma. Until then, let us ponder the dark and twisted tale of the murdered uncle and pray that justice be served.

A Conspiracy Theory

I have a theory concerning the enigmatic parentage of John Knox, a member of the Ranfurly family. It is rather intriguing that despite historical accounts provided by Rogers, who states that John Knox acquired a piece of land in Dromore, County Down, during the early 17th century, we remain unaware of his lineage. This lack of knowledge might be attributed to deliberate actions undertaken by certain individuals who wished to obscure the truth. I surmise that the suppressor of this information could be anyone ranging from John Knox himself to the original 18th century source upon which Rogers relied. Just to clear, the John Knox that I refer to here is the one mentioned in Rogers’ book on page 51 (see part II)

In summary, it is my belief that deliberate efforts have been made to obscure the true lineage of John Knox, a member of the Ranfurly family, who acquired land in Dromore during the early 17th century. I suspect that individuals ranging from John Knox himself to the original source utilized by Rogers in the 18th century have played a role in concealing this information. The absence of any mention of the wives of John and Alexander, along with discrepancies in the dates, further heightens my suspicion that there are one or more generations missing from the historical account.

Pedigree At Large

An unsolved mystery, demanding a solution, can be extremely frustrating to the family historian. Perhaps I should close with another soothingly romantic view of the Knox family history from the pages of an 1825 narrative sketch titled “Pedigree at large with John Federick Knox, Mount Falcon Estate, Co. Mayo, Ireland”

The pedigree of this most ancient and most illustrious race which has now flourished for more than fifteen hundred years (and that historically), and which is of royal origin, has been given in the chart, heretofore supplied only from the period of their establishment in Ireland. This took place about the beginning of the seventeenth century, about A. D. 1610, when they came hither from Scotland, where they had flourished in the highest distinction for more than five centuries previously, viz., from A. D. 1071 to A. D. 1610, when Andrew Knox, Bishop of the Isles, was translated thence to be Bishop of Raphoe, in Ireland, leaving his son, Thomas Knox, Bishop of the Isles.

Among other Scottish honors this family enjoyed three earldoms, viz., Dunbar, March and Moray. They have been regents of that kingdom, and have mated with the noblest and highest therein, including the blood royal; while for upwards of six centuries previous to A. D. 1072 they flourished in England as sovereign princes, viz., during the Saxon heptarchy, and until the Norman invasion.

They came into England from Saxony, where their ancestors had reigned for centuries. Of this royal family three brothers were the reigning princes at the time of their coming into England, about A. D. 450, their names being Hengist, Horsa and Uchter, or Octer. Soon after this period, Uchter aforesaid laid the foundations of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumberland.

Later we find that ‘the Saxon name of Uchter softened into Utred.’ His son Adamus married the Lady Sybilla, or Isabella, the daughter of Walter, the High Steward of Scotland (his cousin by birth), and obtained with her in dowry and frank marriage four baronies or lordships in fee within the regality of Renfrew on terms of fealty (only) to the Baron of Renfrew, the said Walter, Lord High Steward, who was Lord Paramount of said regality.

The names of these four baronies were Knox, Ranfurly, Craigends and Griffcastle, and Adamus having left Dunbar and fixed his residence in said Barony of Knox, came therefore and thenceforward to be described and known as Adamus de Knox. Surnames were about that time coming into use, and were generally taken from such and similar causes.”

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