Family Notes

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A Collection of Information about Our Family Before Us

Alexander Sutherland

1743 - 1843

updated July 21, 2002

I have estimated that my ancestor Alexander was born around 1743 in Scotland. We have informal family history that Alexander was a British soldier who joined the Americans sometime after the famous battle of 1775 at Breeds (Bunker) Hill in Boston, where his friend on the right was felled with two bullets and his friend on the left with a single shot. Other than this, we know essentially nothing about him.

After the war he was reported to have lived in Wythe County VA with the Cloyds and McGavock families. He married Margaret Elizabeth Bryant (Bryan?) and one of his ten children was Joseph Alexander born July 9, 1788. Alexander was a successful farmer and acquired a lot of land. Many generations stayed in the corner area of VA, TN, and NC. These families are noted in Cox's "Footprints in the Sands of Time". My Grandfather (with his daughter-my Mother) left Mountain City, TN in mid 1930's. For additonal info about this area, goto

Johnson County History at

and New River Valley History at

oldscot1.gif In the early 1950's a Sutherland Cousin, Alice Ingalls, researched the legend of Alexader and was in contact with several of our family via letters and visits to Mountain City. My Mother provided me a document from Alice which summarized what was known from the surviving family. If you have later and more complete documents please contact me. I have scanned the documents provided by Alice, as well as others provided by cousin Mac Wright about Alexander's grandson Joseph Asberry into an Adobe PDF file which you may view or download by clicking this hyperlink : Alice Ingalls Research. In my contacts with many far flung cousins it appears this document and the legends were widely distributed through all of Alexander's children.

Alexander lived to be 101, residing first in Wythe County. VA, and buried at Elk Creek. He married Margaret Bryant. His father is said to be the "Grand Duke" of Scotland. However, this can not yet be collaborated, although he did receive a large grant of land from his unknown father after the war, and from the State of Virginia. If related to the Duke of Sutherland, he was perhaps illegitimate which was very common and accepted. Refer to the infamous Highland and Sutherland Clearances in Scotland for additional relevant content concerning this generation, and the survivng "Sutherland/Gordon" daughter who married the English businessman and their part in this relocation tragedy. After the Scottish Battle of Culloden in 1746 and inhumane defeat by England, Scotland was forced through significant changes and many left home wanting no trace for fear of reprisals. Those who remained faced retributions and the extinction of the Clan system which had governed for over 1000 years. For whatever reason, we are fortunate that Alexander did what he did.

A Scottish researcher (Mr.Gordon Johnson of Kinhelp in Aberdeen) reported to me the following information. "KinHelp has a policy of being honest with clients, and letting the client decide whether to continue with the research or not. We do not con our clients. I have made some further checks into the Earldom of Sutherland in that period, and find that it is clearly stated that the 18th Earl of Sutherland, named William (the Earls of this period had the family surname GORDON), was born in 1735, was an officer in the government army (in Britain), and died at Bath in 1766. He had married at Edinburgh, 14th April 1761, Mary, eldest daughter of William Maxwell, esq., and had two daughters, no sons. As you can see, if he did not marry until 1761, any child born in 1758-1760 has to be illegitimate, and therefore much more difficult to identify. Illegitimate children could not inherit a title, and so the story could make sense if he was an illegitimate son of the Earl."

"My own thought is that if his father was dead, he may have previously made an arrangement for some friend (e.g. the Duke of York), to provide some support to his natural son, probably when he came of age (i.e age of 21, the legal age for many rights, or even older if stipulated). There is no need for any direct contact with the father at all, and indeed the father would have made no public acknowledgement of the child, merely provided for him financially, sometimes in a roundabout way as I have suggested. I think this must wait for examination of works on the Sutherlands, to see whether any reference to "by-blows" (illegitimate offspring) is made.

I looked into the possibility that my ancestor may have been the Lt. Alexander Sutherland noted in the on-line Virginia Colonial Records as the engineer who surveyed and reported on possibilities of establishing a fortification at Old Point Comfort (1781). This Alexander was a much sought after engineer with the Cornwallis Army. He was a POW captured during or at start of the Yorktown seige whose exchange was sought but never implemented during the War. Lt. Alexander Sutherland was with Clinton's army in New York before being sent to Cornwallis at Yorktown. There he surveyed locations for the last battle, and recommended that Old Point Comfort was ideal but would be too expensive to properly fortify at that time and circumstance. This later became Hampton Roads and Fort Monroe, the largest stone fort ever built in the U.S. and the only moat-encircled fort still in use today. Cornwallis settled in and was pounded by Washigton's artillery at Yorktown, and surrendered, effectively ending the war.

My Scottish researcher (Gordon Johnson) traced this possibility very throughly. The story would make a good movie. Lt. Sutherland was captured at Yorktown, and held for a year or two in VA awaiting exchange of prisoners. Upon release he could have served in Jamaica as I recall, and later returned to England where he took a lengthy leave of absence. Then he was sent to Flanders to fight Napolean and was killed in battle around 1812. No family associations were found. Unless there is a massive coverup in place to mask the rare desertion, this person is not my ancestor.

Returning to informal family history, one account says he disserted the British with two brothers. So.... maybe you can tie these threads together and discover where he came from. I will continue to update this site with more from my archives. Let me hear from your success or feedback concerning this information.

Thanks and good luck,

Richard Boswell

Email to : Boswell Farms

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This page last revised March 19, 2006