Bill's Genealogy Blog

Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.

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Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. I love family history. Since 2007, I have spent much of my time providing part-time support for the world's largest free family history site This is very rewarding. I have helped others with the Family Tree and related FamilySearch products.
In 2010-2018 Iserved in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Peel of Buchanan

In a previous posting I referred to my search for "the old Buchanan castle". I had seen various references to this building, which existed in the 1600s and probably much earlier. It seemed  that it had to refer to the old manor house "Buchanan Auld House". But this seemed to be a "mansion" rather than a "castle". So where does the term "castle" come in? Finally I found references to the "Peel of Buchanan" which stood not far from the Auld House. A "peel" was a "tower house", a small castle resembling the "keep" of a large castle, but smaller, typically 4 or 5 stories high. From this description in the History of Stirlingshire, the Peel of Buchanan was definitely a castle, complete with a moat, and probably a drawbridge.

'We may now pass to another remarkable antiquity, which, like the last mentioned, has, hitherto, so far as is known, been unnoticed in print—" the Peel of Buchanan," about 200 paces in front of the mansion of His Grace the Duke of Montrose. The Enric [river] had had its course in this direction, though now flowing considerably to the southward. The ditch around this ancient fort was filled by the river, and crossed by a passage, probably a draw-bridge, from the north.'
The History of Stirlingshire, Volume 1, By William Nimmo, Robert Gillespie, page 59, published 1880

Friday, June 10, 2016

In Search of the Old Buchanan Castle

Buchanan Castle at Drymen, Stirlingshire is an interesting ruin, but a comparatively modern one. It was built in 1852-1858 by the Duke of Montrose to replace the manor house which burned in 1850. It was a classy residence in its day. But its day only lasted a century. In 1954 the roof was removed so that it could no longer be taxed as a residence, and the building has greatly deteriorated since that time. “A romantic ruin” is a frequent description of it. Let's go back in time.

Image result for buchanan castle

The photos above show Buchanan Castle as it used to be and as it is today.

Fragments of the old manor house, Buchanan Auld House, have been incorporated into the present Buchanan Castle Golf and Country Club building. As near as I can tell, the manor house was a large building but was not in the style of a castle.

There is a picture of the Place of Buchanan showing a white 3-story rectangular building, that was part of the “Auld House”.  John Buchanan, the last laird Buchanan of Buchanan, built a long one- story building as an exhibition hall. After his death, his estate passed to the Montrose family, and the First Duke of Montrose built 2 stories on top of the exhibition hall, added on to both ends, and finished the building attractively.

Buchanan Place

"The barons or lairds of Buchanan built a castle where the present house stands. Part of it exists, forming the charter-room. A more modern house was built by these chiefs, adjoining the east side. This also now exists. The last Buchanan in possession of the edifice was a collector of curiosities; and had constructed, for holding them, a long range of one story, called " the Volary," from the prevalence of its birds. The first Duke of Montrose, and grandfather of the present noble proprietor, erected on it two additional stories; which, with the volary, have been since used for inhabitation. Behind this long range, the late Duke built a kitchen, and some other apartments. On the east and west, his present Grace, some years ago, added two ends, in a very elegant stile of Doric architecture. They form parts of a plan, the centre of which has, in the drawing, a magnificent aspect. The architect was the late Mr Playfair."
History of Stirlingshire. Corrected and brought down to the present time  ... By William Nimmo (minister of Bothkennar.), 1817, pages 399- 400
The verbal description seems to match this 1787 drawing of the Place of Buchanan made by J. P. Neale, shown above, which can be seen about page 272 of

The chiefs of Clan Buchanan seem to have lived in this same location since at least the year 1225 when they were granted a formal charter. Did the older parts of the Auld House date back that far? Possibly. Was it the “old Buchanan castle”?

While searching for information I came across a reference to a stone “tower house” that was once part of the complex of buildings. It was called the “Peel of Buchanan”. A tower house was a small defensive castle and aristocratic residence, a fortified tower typically 4 stories high. I think I finally found the “Old Buchanan Castle”!

The Peel of Buchanan may have resembled this peel tower.

“There are now no visible traces of the Peel of Buchanan which is said (RCAHMS 1963) to have stood about 200 paces in front of Buchanan Old House. The site is now part of a golf course, and one of the green-keepers told the Commission's officer that he had come across traces of stone foundations in the area. A small stretch of water, about 400 yds to the SW, which appears to have been formed within an old course of the Endrick Water, is known as Peel Pond.” “The Peel of Buchanan was demolished before 1724. It comprised an 'old tower and a great many other buildings.'”

By this time in history, the skirmishes between clans were over, and the new fashion for aristocratic residences was the palace rather than the fortress. And the Peel was probably a decrepit eyesore compared with the newer buildings. See the article in wikipedia

In its glory days the Peel of Buchanan was surrounded by a water moat, as the Endrick river passed by. The course of the river subsequently changed, and the foundations of the Peel, and its moat, are now hidden beneath the green grass of the golf course. The only remnant of the old watercourse is Peel Pond. The History of Stirlingshire, Volume 1 By William Nimmo, Robert Gillespie, page 59.  

"THE families of note in Stirlingshire about the end of the 13th century, and subsequently distinguished, were the Levenax, the Callendars, the Livingstons, the Erths, the Mores, the Stirlings, the Buchanans, the Drummonds, the Napiers." History of Stirlingshire. Corrected and brought down to the present ... William Nimmo (minister of Bothkennar.), ‎William MacGregor Stirling - 1817

I suppose that the term "old Buchanan castle" may have been used to refer to the manor house or to the peel. I had always thought it referred to the manor house. But that was before I knew about the Peel of Buchanan. Tower houses were commonly called "castles" and I find that the Peel more closely matches the usual definition of a "castle". I feel saddened by its loss.

The chronology as I currently understand it goes like this:
1225 the Buchanan chiefs were living on the site, perhaps for 200 years. They probably lived in fortified houses but tower houses were uncommon at that time.
1400 The Peel of Buchanan was probably built about this time and the chiefs would be living there.
Over time, additional buildings were added.
1660s the exhibition hall or “volary” was built by the last John Buchanan of Buchanan
1683 the Montrose family acquired the Buchanan estates and moved in
1690s the Place of Buchanan was created by expanding the exhibition hall
1720s the Peel of Buchanan was demolished
1850 a fire destroyed Buchanan Auld House/Place of Buchanan
1852-1858 the new Buchanan Castle was built
1954 the roof was removed from Buchanan Castle and it was allowed to decay

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A Family Divided by the American Revolution

I find the story of Thomas Sherwood and his family especially interesting. The American revolution has sometimes been called "the first American civil war", and this was very obvious in the case of the Sherwood family. The three brothers moved from Fairfield, Connecticut to a place 5 miles north of Fort Edward NY, to begin farming.

When the revolution broke out, brothers Seth and Adiel joined the rebels. But Thomas read in his Bible that he should fear God and honor the king. And in obedience to the scripture, he moved his family north to Quebec and joined the British cause. Various Sherwood cousins joined one faction or the other.

A family story that I find rather touching is that Thomas was given a letter from Seth's wife requesting financial help, as her husband was a prisoner of war and was unable to help. Thomas protested loudly that there must be a mistake as "No brother of mine would be a traitor to his king!" but somehow the sister-in-law received the help she had asked for. Even in the midst of war, family was most important.

His cousin, Captain Justus Sherwood was more famous, but this account mentions them both:

"On October 4, 1777....Towards dusk the Queen's Loyal Rangers and the other provincials were sent to reinforce Colonel von Breymann --- the officer who had been leading the reinforcements near Bennington --- at a redoubt on the north side of the British camp. The Germans were under attack by the Kentuckian Daniel Morgan and his corps of rifleman, and a few snipers of provincials might help turn the tide. As night fell the rebels overran the men at von Breymann's redoubt. Justus was ordering his men back within the camp when he felt hot iron pierce his thigh and he staggered and lost his balance. Lieutenant John Dulmage, swimming before his eyes, aided by a German soldier, was lifting him from the redoubt. As the second Battle of Freeman's Farm was ending, Dulmage, aided by men from the company, carried Justus past Burgoyne's own headquarters to the hospital tents on the north side of the camp, near the bank of the Hudson where the provision of bateaux were tied up.

"The hospital was a madhouse of shrieking men, surgeons sawing shattered  limbs on tables slimy with blood. Dlumage found an empty straw palliasse [straw mattress], and joined by Thomas Sherwood and Elijah Bothum, both very alarmed, they laid Justus down gently. With a knife his lieutenant cut away the breeches from around the bloody hole. In his agony Justus heard John say that he had stopped a musket ball but the bone was intact. Elijah brought a tumbler full of rum, which Justus sipped while awaiting a surgeon to attend to him.

Dulmage left to look after the company, while Thomas and Elijah sat with Justus and held him steady until the surgeon had extracted the ball. With teeth clenched, Justus wondered why the rum was doing so little good.

"Throughout the night Justus lay comforted by more doses of rum. In the morning Thomas Sherwood came in, and on asking about Brigadier Fraser, Justus was saddened to learn that he had died before dawn at the house where the Baroness von Riedesel was staying. The army's present predicament was not Fraser's doing. After a moment's silence Thomas reported that Burgoyne had ordered a withdrawal up the Hudson. The vanguard was leaving, although rain teemed down, beating on the walls of the tent. Outside the road was a sea of mud, guns towed by emaciated horses and oxen, pushed by men who had scarcely the strength to walk, let alone salvage the artillery. The most severely wounded men would be left behind, but John Dulmage had men making a litter for Justus. All refused to forsake their captain."

Loren Kelly

Buckskin Pimpernel: The Exploits of Justus Sherwood, Loyalist Spy by Mary Beacock Fryer - 1981 - 288 pages Page 18