From the Clan MacNauchtan to the McNutts of Saugus, Massachusetts

Last Update 22 March 2000

The Saugus family with the surname McNutt had its beginning in Nova Scotia around 1760. However, ancestors with surnames McNitt, MacNaucht and MacNauchtan can be traced back through Palmer, Mass. (1760-1732); Northern Ireland (1720-1656); and Scotland (1650-1200).

In Roman times, Scotland, known then as Caledonia, was occupied chiefly by the Picts, a Celtic race. The Romans, unable to conquer the Picts, controlled Britain, only south of Hadrian's Wall which is south of the present boundary between England and Scotland. The Scots, another Celtic race, originally lived in Ireland, and migrated to Caledonia during the first 500 years A.D.. These Scots converted the Picts to Christianity, then united with them under Scot King Kenneth MacAlpine in 843 A.D.. A third Celtic race, living in England, was controlled by the Romans, and ultimately was pushed back into Wales.

The Clan MacNauchtan is older than recorded Scottish history, and may have originated with one of the three Pict kings of Caledonia named Nechtan who ruled during the periods 458-482, 599 - ?, and 710-730. Families in Schotland did not have established surnames until the later half of the 11th century, when Scot King Malcolm Canmore (1058-1093) encouraged his people to accept the practice, already begun in other countries. However, standards of literacy were low so the records show many variations in the spelling of the surname, including MacNaughton, McNaughton, MacNaghtan, MacNachtan, McNaghtane, MacNaghtane, etc..

The early MacNauchtans were Picts who had settled in Strathtay, the valley of the Tay River in the Scottish lowlands, north of Edinburgh. These MacNauchtans were a brave and warlike people under the leadership of chieftains called Thanes of Lochtay. In 1164 Scot King Malcolm IV gave the clan chiefs control of lands in the Scottish highlands to the west, in gratitude for help in controlling the MacDougalls. This marked the beginning of the movement of the clan chiefs from Strathtay to Argyll, north and west of Glasgow. Additional lands in Argyll were assigned to the clan, as vassals of King Alexander II in 1222. In 1267 King Alexander III granted custody of Fraoch Eilean, a castle on an island in Loch Awe, to Gilcrest MacNauchtan, the clan chief, for assistance in driving Norsemen from W. Scotland. Clan headquarters were later moved to the castle of Dubhloch, in Glenshira, and then after 1473, to Dunderave, near the head of Loch Fyne. During the disagreements over succession to the Scottish throne, after the death of King Alexander III in 1286, the MacNauchtans initially supported English King Edward I and his choice of John Balliol, then, later switched to support Robert Bruce who became King Robert I of an independent Scotland in 1314. A coat of arms was assigned to the clan chiefs sometime after this. The MacNauchtan highlanders of Argyll remained loyal supporters of the dynasty of Steward Kings, until they were thrown out in 1688. King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England and Scotland when the two parts of the island were united in 1603.

Because of a plague which erased most of the men of the immediate family, there was no chief of the Clan MacNauchtan in Argyll from about 1450 to 1473. Then, Gilbert MacNauchtran was installed as clan chief as a vassal, by the first Earl of Argyll, Colin Campbell. Clan fortunes in Argyll, under the Campbells, fluctuated and declined until 1688, when, with the fall of the Royal House of Stewart, members of Clan Campbell began acquiring control of most of the MacNauchtan Chief's properties.

Around 1580, Shane Dhu MacNauchtan, whose grandfather, Alexander was a brother of Gilbert, the clan cheif in 1473, migrated from Argyll to Antrim in northeast Ireland, where he established a line with the surname MacNaghtan. This clan branch prospered, and being Protestant, retained their land holdings after the Irish (Catholic) Rebellion of 1641-1652. In 1818, Edmond Alexander MacNaghten of Antrim was elected Chief of Clan MacNaughton by some 400 clan members in Scotland, after the title was restored by Scottish courts. The clan coat of arms was also restored. Successor clan chiefs include several influential judges in British courst during the late 19th century.

Back in 1235, King Alexander II had trouble in controlling residents of Galloway, in the Scottish lowlands, south of Glasgow, and must have been assisted by the MacNauchtans of Argyll, because shortly thereafter, members of the clan appeared in the area, led by John MacNachtan. This name was shortened, as we find that the chief, who signed the Ragman Roll in 1296, swearing homage to King Edward I of England, was Gilbert MacNaucht. The MacNaughts prospered and expanded in Galloway, with headquarters at Kilquhanity, an estate of some 1800 acres of farm lands. As vassals of the King, the chiefs were required to give military service and bear a coat of arms. Other estates acquired by the family included extensive farms at Dalwhairn and Dundough and grain mills at Crossmichael and Cumnock. The MacNauchts of Galloway were neither feudal barons or retainers of warmakers. They were quiet people of the middle class who lived in simple houses of stone, kept cattle, horses and sheet, and raised oats and barley. Variations in surname spelling in the records include Makenaght, MacNaight, McNaight, MacNaught, and McKnight (the Anglified form). Unlike the MacNauchtans of Argyll, the MacNauchts of Galloway were not consistently loyal to the Scottish and later British Kings. During the mid-1600's, many of the MacNauchts joined the Covenanters, as they were staunch Presbyterians (Church of Scotland) and objected to efforts by King Charles I and Charles II to force the Church of England upon them.

When King James IV of Scotland became King James I of Britain in 1603, he inherited the problem of what to do about Ireland which was considered part of the United Kingdom. In 1607 King James I confiscated large areas of Northern Ireland and assigned them to English and a few Scottish supporters, who, in turn, leased the last to Scottish and English immigrants for farming. In the 1633-35 period, it is estimated that some 10,000 Scottsmen moved across the irish channel to Northern Ireland, including a few MacNauchts from Galloway.

Then, after the Irish Rebellion of 1641-52, when King Charles II began active persecution of the Convenanters in Scotland, there was a wave of Scottish Covenanters who moved to Northern Ireland. It was during this same period that the English Puritans and Quakers accelerated their migration to the New World. The MacNauchts who migrated to Northern Ireland during this period apparently changed their surnames to McKnitt, McNutt, McNitt, McNott, Nutt, etc., so that it is not possible to identify the family group in Galloway from which they came.

More members of the Galloway MacNaucht families seem to have settled in the Laggan section of Donegal, than in any other area although there are records of some in other counties of Northern Ireland. The Laggan, or lowlands, lies south of Lough Swilly, and just west and southwest of Londonderry. The Laggan section in the county of Donegal, is now part of the Irish Republisc. This is where our oldest identifiable ancestor, Alexander McNitt, was born in 1656.

The Scotts who settled in Laggan must have been inconvenienced by the siege of nearby Londonderry in 1689, until the French and Irish forces, under the disposed Stewart King James II were finally driven back and out of Ireland, by the army of King William III of Orange. In the early 1700's, the Church of England was again applying pressure on the Ulster Scottsmen to give up their memeberships in the Presbyterian church, without success. At the same time, English merchants and industrialists succeeded in repressing the industrious Scottsmen, by having legislation approved requiring that all wool produced and processed in Ireland be shipped to England. This step led the Scotts of Ulster to start up a new industry of growing and processing flax to linen, which could be sold and shipped anywhere. This industry continues to flourish today in Ireland. Before 1720, many of the leases held by the Scotts of Ulster came up for renewal, and the landowners, supporting the church of England, and the English merchants, made it extremely expensive for Scottsmen to renew their leases. These repressions were sufficient to push those of Ulster, who owned no land, into emigration to the New World. Although a few of the Ulster Scottsmen had migrated as early as 1684, the large numbers did not move until after 1718, and continued until the American Revolution of 1775. It has been estimated that between 1730 and 1770, at least a half a million people, mostly of Scottish origin transferred from Ulster to the colonies in America, thus making up not less than one sixth of the entire population at the time of the Revolution. It is also estimated, that, in 1770, one third of the population of Pennsylvania was of Scottish Ulster origin.

Our ancestor, Alexander McNitt, who was born in Laggan in 1656, came to Boston with his youngest son, Barnard, in 1720. With their wives, they settled with an Ulster Scottish colony near Worcester, Mass., and then moved west to Palmer, Mass. in 1732. The eldest son of Alexander McNitt, and brother of Barnard, named Alexander McNutt, emigrated from Laggan to Maryland in 1735, with his family, and then moved on to the Valley of Virginia in 1744. Another Alexander McNitt emigrated from Laggan in 1722 and settled with his family in central Pennsylvania. These and many more emigrants from Ulster sailed across the Atlantic in small ships, generally two masted square rigged brigantines, which plied between Londonderry or Belfast and American ports, and were forced to locate west of the established settlements at Boston, Philadelphia, and Tidewater Virginia, so that they were closer to the Indian frontiers. Most of the Ulster Scottsmen received small grants, or purchased land for their homes and farms. Most groups included a Presbyterian minister.

The Scottish immigrants were good middle class people. Early in 1718 some 319 men from Londonderry signed a letter to the then governor of Massachusetts expressing their desire to come to Massachusetts, if assured of a welcome. Seven of the signers were ministers and university graduates. Of the 319 who signed, 306 wrote their names in full showing a much higher level of literacy than could be found in any other part of the British Empire, or even in New England.

Most of the MacNauchts who came from Galloway to Northern Ireland must have moved on to the New World. In 1921, only one family of the MacNaucht line, of George McNutt, could be found living in the Laggan section of Donegal. Of the Clan MacNauchtan family names in use in the United States, the name MacNaughton is the next most numerous, with McNutt third, MacNaught fourth, and McNitt and McNett the last used.

Barnard McNitt, our direct ancestor, raised his large family of 9 sons and 5 daughters at Elbowa Plantation in Palmer, Mass. Records seem quite reliable since Barnard himself was town clerk for some 15 years. The children married and moved on with some settling farther west in Massachusetts and on into New York. Five of the sons and one daughter, moved on to Nova Scotia where the surname became McNutt.

Nova Scotia was first settled by the French during the early 1600's and was assigned to the English in 1713, by the treaty of Utrecht. In 1749 Governor Cornwallis arrived at Halifax with a fleet of ships and some 3,000 men to take control of the area. By 1755, the English, with help from New England Colonials were engaged in driving the French from Cape Breton Island, with that campaign ending in 1758 after the Siege of Louisburg. In 1755, French colonists the Acadians, in the Minas Basin of Nova Scotia were forcibly removed, many to Louisiana, as described by henry Longfellow in his epic poem - Evangeline.

Shortly after removal of the French from Nova Scotia, colonists in New England and Virginia began developing plans to recolonize the area. Among the leaders was Alexander McNutt III of Virginia, who promoted the resettlement of Nova Scotia by Ulster Scottsmen from New England and Northern Ireland. He enlisted the help of some of his cousins, Barnard McNitt's children, in Palmer, Mass., and other Scottish Ulster families settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

In 1761, William (McNitt) McNutt of Palmer, our direct ancestor, migrated to Onslow, Nova Scotia, with his wife and 3 small children. At the same time several Ulster Scottish families from Londonderry, N. H. resettled in the Minas Basin area at Onslow, Truro, Masstown, and Londonderry, N.S. Late during 1761 the first shipload of Ulster Scottsmen from Northern Ireland arrived, aboard the "Hopewell" at Halifax, where they spent the winter before moving on to the Minas Basin. Other shiploads from Northern Ireland continued to come to Nova Scotia for several years bringing Scottish settlers from Ulster, including other McNutt families. A second Ulster settlement was established at the southeast end of Nova Scotia at Shelburne, where brothers of William and a brother of Alexander settled. Alexander McNutt III became known as the Colonizer of Nova Scotia with a title of Colonel. Alexander later lost his influence with English government officials at Halifax because he advocated that Nova Scotia become the 14th rebelling colony during the American Revolution. During this period many English Tories left the lower colonies to settle in Nova Scotia. Most of the Ulster Scottsmen, including practically all of the McNitts and McNutts, in the lower 13 colonies, supported the Revolution, and joined in the fighting.

William McNutt's familiy in Onslow increased to 6 sons and 4 daughters. As a carpenter, as well as a farmer, he designed in 1770, and built, the first church in Onslow, where almost all the Ulster Scottsmen continued their loyalty, to the Presbyterian church. William's sons and daughters married and remained in the area to produce at least 75 grandchildren. He became know as the grandfather of Nova Scotia McNutts. His 5th son, Samuel, our direct ancestor, had a large family of either 11 or 15 children, but names of only 8 have been identified in the records.

Samuel A. McNutt, Samuel's son and our great grandfather, was born in 1799 in Onslow. In 1822, he married Sarah Lynds, the sister of his Uncle Gideon's wife and granddaughter of Jacob Lynds, an Ulster Scot who brought his family to New Hampshire in 1756, and thence to Nova Scotia in 1761. Samuel A. must have been a tennant farmer, since his children were born in three different Nova Scotia towns - Onslow, River John, and Pictou. In about 1850, he migrated to New Bedford, Mass., with his wife and 3 daughters and 3 sons.

Jacob Lynds McNutt, our grandfather, born in North River, N.S., in 1843, and two of his brothers must have served on whaling ships sailing out of New Bedford. His two older brothers, Samuel Jr., and George were killed in whaling ship accidents, and Jacob had sailed to Alaska by the time he was eighteen. Jacob served in the Union Army during the latter part of the Civil War. In 1869, at Fairhaven, Jacob married Adeline Gifford Damon, a daughter of Barnard Damon, of French descent and Mary Cunningham Millard, of Dighton, Mass. Jacob and his family moved to Saugus, Mass., around 1890, and worked in Lynn shoe factories. He never owned property in Saugus, and lived in at least six different rented homes in the East Saugus and Cliftondale sections of the town.

Edward Damon McNutt, our father, was born in New Bedford in 1880, graduated from Saugus High School and worked in Boston, first as a machinist, then as a foreman for a small surgical instrument manufacturing and distributing company. In 1905, he married Minnie Elizabeth Fiske, daughter of Willard Luke Fiske and Jennie Isabel Williams, both of Saugus. Edward purchased a home on Essex St., near the Cliftondale railroad station in 1905. In 1914 the Essex St. home was exchanged for a newly built home on Birch St., which was retained unitl 1950 after all the family had grown up. There were 3 daughters and 5 sons.

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Update of 3/22/2000: Doug McNutt edited dad's work a bit to remove unintended references to distilled spirits common in Scotland. Thanks go to a reader who pointed it out some years ago.