Part 4

By Genevieve Cora Fraser, Massachusetts, USA
Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.

Researching history is like holding a kaleidoscope to your eye. As each shard of evidence falls into view, colorful designs shift into increasingly complex patterns. And so it has been in my search for the identity of David Thomson, adventurer, scholar, traveler, colonizer, naturalist, philosopher and Scottish gentleman.

On October 16, 1622, Thomson received a 6000-acre grant for Piscataqua (New Hampshire) from the Council for New England. Two months later, he was named Governor and attorney, on behalf of the Council, for the Massachusetts territory granted to Robert Gorges, son of Sir Ferdinando Gorges. The document was signed by Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel; James Hamilton, the Marquise of Hamilton; and Ludovick Stuart, the Duke of Lennox, president of the Council for New England. (1)

Lennox was no ordinary figure; he was James’ closest relation at court from his father’s side. According to Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonston, “when King James went to Denmark in 1589, (to pick up his bride Anne, the daughter of the King of Denmark) he not only appointed Ludovick Duke of Lennox viceroy of Scotland during his absence, but also named him heir to the crown of Scotland in case he himself died in that voyage, as being then the next lawful heir to the crown.” (2)

Since the publication of my last article in 2000, I have visited archival repositories in England, Scotland and America. I’ve searched records in the Public Records Office at Kew Garden, where the 1622 Massachusetts grant is located; the British Library in London, where I accessed Sir Francis Bacon’s letter-book; and the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh, where genealogical and other important documents can be found. On a visit to the Duke of Norfolk’s library at Arundel Castle in West Sussex, I viewed Thomson’s letter to the Earl of Arundel first hand. And with my Scots cousin, Liz Farquhar at the wheel, we traveled to Corstorphine and Ratho in Mid-Lothian, where David Thomson once lived with his father, Reverend Richard Thomson.

Ironically, back in America after an extensive search in the UK, I located the original Minute Book of the Council for New England records from 1622 to 1623. It is housed in Worcester, Massachusetts at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) -- not far from my home. Clarence S. Brigham states (1912) in The Records of the Council for New England, ‘At the top of the first inside page, which is otherwise blank, is written “The briefe orders att several meetings of the Councell of New-England in America.”’ (3) Though the hand-written script throughout the manuscript does not match that of David Thomson, based on a careful examination of both handwriting samples, I believe the writing on the top of the first page, which describes the contents as “The briefe orders...”, is Thomson’s. Perhaps he was labeling the Minute Book, which would join other books in a charter chest purchased to store Council records. Charles Deane corroborates David’s access to the manuscript in the 1875 Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, concerning the Records of the Council for New England.

That some books were kept by the company, besides the mere minutes of proceedings is evident. An entry in the records of the 12th July 1622 reads, “To consider of a place for our meetings, and staying for the clerk, and for a chest for our books.” February 25th, 1622-23, “It is ordered that the clerk call upon Mr. Collingwood for the copy of Sir John Bruce’s patent.” And this memorandum of the clerk follows, “Mr. Collingwood answered me that he hath delivered all the books to Sir F. Gorges and to Mr. Thompson.” Collingwood was formerly clerk to the Council, and now was in the service of the Virginia Company, in the same capacity. (4)

Another interesting feature concerns watermarks in the Minute Book. I examined these with Thomas Knoles, the American Antiquarian Society Curator of Manuscripts. Upon further examination, Knoles wrote in an E-mail that a watermark in the Minute Book manuscript, which he describes as a one handled pot, is similar to a watermark in a copy of the printed 1622 text, "A briefe relation of the discouery and plantation of Nevv England.” (5) Under the date of “Sat last of May 1622. Whitehall,” the Minute Book records Lennox, Arundel, Lord Gorges, Mansell, F. Gorges, S. Argall, and Barnabe Gouche as present and states, “the allowance for the printing of the book is referred to the Earl of Arundel.” (6) The 1622 "A briefe relation of the discouery and plantation of Nevv England” I suspect is the book Arundel was authorized to print on behalf of the Council for New England. This watermark also resembles one I noticed embedded in the parchment of the1625 Thomson letter to Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel, housed at Arundel Castle. Each of the three documents, the Minute Book, a “briefe relation” and the 1625 letter of Thomson to Arundel contain similar watermarks. I suspect the parchment paper Thomson used to write the Earl of Arundel while in New England may have been supplied from Arundel’s own stock.

Clarence Brigham writes of the one-handled pot found in the Minute Book as a ewer. “The watermark in the paper is a small ewer, with five trefoils at the top, the middle one of the five being larger than the rest. In the middle of the volume, however, is another watermark - an ewer of the same size, but of different shape and design, and with a single trefoil and upturned crescent at the top.” In a footnote, Brigham states, “The manuscript Virginia Court Book of 1622-1623, in the Library of Congress, has this latter watermark in some of its pages.” (7) This footnote supports the insight Charles Dean puts forward in suggesting ties between the Council for New England and the Virginia Company.

While visiting the National Library of Scotland, I accessed two letters signed by “Ludvick Stuart, the Duke of Lenox, Great Admirall.” The manuscript dated May 159_? included at the top, a seal shaped like a spiny flounder. Whereas the letter, dated Jan 1620, had a seal with a one handled ewer (pot) with five trefoils, and a crescent emerging from the center trefoil. The Lenox watermark is closest in appearance to the watermark described by Brigham as appearing in the middle of the Minutes book of the Council as well as the Virginia Company records.

Thomson Seal located at the Boston AthenaeumAnother archival clue to the identity of Thomson is found in the Boston Athenaeum in Boston, Massachusetts (click picture for detailed image) which houses a manuscript the noted American scholar and former librarian at the Athenaeum, Charles Knowles Bolton, identified as belonging to the arms of Thomson: [Arg] a stag’s head cabossed, the horns enclosing a cross moline slipped [gu]. On a chief [az] a crescent bet 2 pierced mullets. (8) The seal follows “the signature of Samuel Mavericke on a letter from the Comm’rs bounds, March 11, 1664, to Gov. of Plymouth,” which would be about 36 years following Thomson’s death. (9) As has been mentioned in previous articles, Maverick, who was Thomson’s close friend in his colonial enterprises, married Thomson’s widow, Amias Cole Thomson. During the Restoration, King Charles II appointed Samuel Maverick a Royal Commissioner for the New England Colonies. At that time in American history, a man who married a widow might on certain occasions use the seal of his wife’s deceased husband. According to Scotland’s Lord Lyon records, heraldic seals associated with Thomsons of Edinburg frequently use a stag’s head cabossed as the central image associated with the coat of arms. Whereas, the Heraldic Journal Recording the Armorial Bearings and Genealogies of American Families reports under item #16, “Samuel Mavericke...uses two armorial seals, one being three battle-axes, the other a cross couped compony, between four mullets, and bearing one on the fess point.” (10) In other words, Maverick’s alternately used a decorative cross with six pointed stars between each axis arm, with a star in the middle of the cross. (Might this have been associated with an esoteric society, such as the Rosecrucians or Freemasonry?)

Upon request, the Boston Atheneum authorized that a photograph be taken of the 1664 manuscript bearing the Thomson seal. The seal itself is about the size of a small coin. But with the photo magnified, a different identification appears. The cross between the stag’s antlers is a cross patte fitche. The crescent, upon closer examination, is not a crescent but an ouroborus, a snake eating it’s own tail, associated with alchemy. There are six tines per antler and a dot directly in the center of the forehead, possibly representing the sixth chakra, the inner eye, one of the seven centers of spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga. The cross patte is associated with the Knights Templar and early Freemasonry, and with the cross patte fitche between the antlers, the Kirk at Canongate and Holyrood. Since the time of King David of Scotland, the Kirk at Corstorphine was affiliated with the Canongate. Reverend Richard Thomson, David’s father, was affiliated with the Collegiate Kirk at Corstorphine. The kaleidoscope journey through discovery after discovery has sustained and intensified my belief that David Thomson, said to be a descendent of both Alexander, the Earl of Mar and Sir John Forrester of Corstorphine, is one and the same David Thomson, New England colonizer.

One point that needs further investigation involves the affluence that Rev. Richard Thomson enjoyed as a member of the clergy. As early as 1597, Rev. Thomson drew his stipend from an extraordinary number of parishes, several of which came under Royal patronage. Early in his career, his salary was approximately £294 a year plus “bere and meal.” A letter, written in French by Mary, Queen of Scots, on September 28, 1584 contains an intriguing reference to a Thomson. It is addressed to her emissary, Monsieur Fontenay, the brother of the French Secretary. The reference may in fact be to Rev. Richard Thomson’s father, Bernard (named after Bernard Stuart, the “Flower of Chivalry” who died in Corstorphine castle in 1508). If so, it suggests that from the start, Rev. Thomson enjoyed Royal preference. The Queen also comments on Lennox, a man clearly involved in David Thomson’s life, as was Maitland in his father’s. At this point in her troubles, the Queen was imprisoned at Wingfield Manor by the infamous Bess of Hardwick’s 4th husband, George Talbot, the 4th Earl of Shrewbury. The Earl was her kindest jailor, whose wife Bess, perhaps unfairly, accused him of infidelity with the imprisoned Queen. It is said he burst into tears at her execution. He was also the grandfather of Altheia Talbot, wife of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel: ( 11 )

Mary Queen of Scots to Fontenay

“Fontenay. As being about to depart from here to Tutbury, I may not otherwise have the leisure for writing privately of the things herein to tell those whom they concern, I send you this memoir on leaving, in execution of which I charge you to apply yourself in my name, and to do as much as you can for the good of my service and the contentment of those whom it can concern.

First, recommend on my part to my son, with all the favorable intercession that you can, the young Duke of Lennox, that he may be preserved in all the goods of his late father and others with which since he could have been gratified.

Moreover, to make my said son intervene with regard to my cousin the Earl of Huntley, and to interpose my recommendation for the accomplishment of the marriage between the said earl and the said Duke of Lennox’s younger sister.”

“....And as to the young Duke of Lennox’s journey out of the country and his marriage with Arbella, these are things that do not require haste, and therefore I will refrain for this time from making a reply thereto.... Continue in the course that I have commanded you to take in favor of the Hamiltons, and especially of my Lord Claud, so that my son, separating them from the rest of the exciles seeking assistance here, may assure himself of them in the future, the said Lord Claud being very capable and very sincere in intention to do him service; for which I reply to him myself, and therefore let him retain him in Scotland if possible and return him his possessions....”

“Deliver to Secretary Maitland the packet for him enclosed, in which are letters, articles, and commissions for the association. Which commission I have left to the Secretary to fulfil, as among all others he will be the best advised. But I desire that the Earl of Huntly, Maitland, and Robert Melville may be named therein, and you also, especially if my son is going shortly to perform my intention in that, you will resolve to make a longer sojourn near him.

Excuse me to Robert Melville, because he has been put on one side, my state being such that I can not give him any wages, my dower being reduced to so little that I have been constrained this year to borrow the wages of my officers not actually serving for my maintenance here, and to pay the debts that I have here.

I have granted to one of Thomson’s sons a prebend, not being able at present to do more for him.” (12)

Queen Mary’s Secretary in 1584 was John, the 1st Baron Maitland of Thirlstane, the son of William Maitland who had been her secretary as well as her mother’s, Mary of Guise. The Maitlands held Thirlestane in mortgage from 1450 to 1586 to the Forresters of Corstorphine. Sir Alexander Forrester had obtained the property in 1450 from his cousin, William 8th Earl of Douglas. (13) William Maitland was valiantly loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots, and held Edinburgh Castle, the last Marian stronghold, until its fall in1573 . He escaped hanging by dying in Leith prison, possibly by suicide. John his son, was likewise imprisoned, regaining power as Privy Councillor in 1583, Secretary in 1587, and Lord Chancellor in 1587, the year of Mary, Queen of Scot’s execution. (14)

In Part 2 of this series, I wrote that John, Lord Thirlestane was the patron of Stobo parish from which the Reverend drew a stipend that was challenged in 1603, but resolved in his favor. In addition, the King granted to Ludovic Duke of Lennox the lands belonging to the Archbishopic of Glasgow, including Stobo. This means that Lennox would also have served as a patron to David’s father.

The year following the Queen’s execution, Richard Thomson was presented to the vicarage principal and pensionary at Ratho, a village on the outskirts of Edinburg, on 14th January 1588, as recorded by the Register of the Privy Seal. That he would have been presented to the parish by in this manner is another indication of Royal patronage.

“Ane presentatioun maid to Ritchard Thomesoun minister at Ratho presentand him to þe vicarage principall of the p(ar)oche kirk of Ratho and vicarage pensionarie of þe samen lyand within the Sheriffdome of Edinburgh with all and sundrie teynds teynd schevis fruittis rentis proffittis emolumentis and dewiteis of þe said vicarage principall of Ratho and vicarage pensionarie of þe samen with mansis gleibis and kirkland apperteinyng þ(air)unto now vacand lyik as it hes vackait be þe space of ten zeiris bygane be deceis of umquyle sir James Bischope last viccare and possesser þairof and þairthrow perteyning to our sovarane lordis presentatioun and dispositioun as direct to þe comissionare of Lawthiane requyring him to try and exaiminat þe doctrine literature and coversatioun of þe said Ritchard Thomesoun minister within the kirk of God to ressaif and admit him to the said vicarage principall of Ratho and pensionarie of þe samen and authorize him with testimonial þ(air)upoun in competent and dew form at our Halieruidhouse the xxiiij day of Januarie the zeir of God jajvc fourescoir aucht zeiris.” (15)

Transcribed by Frank Bigwood.

In subsequent appointments, it is recorded that Thomson was presented to the Prebend of Half Byres, in the College Kirk of Corstorphine and later to Castleton by King James VI. It is clear from the outset that his appointment is authorized “at our Halieruidhouse” aka Holyroodhouse, site of the Palace and Chapel Royal which stands on your left as you enter the Canongate. The legend of Halieruidhouse involves King David I who was hunting on the Feast Day of the Holy Cross. A stag began to charge, and succeeded in unhorsing him, but the King was delivered from certain death by the sudden appearance of the Holy Cross between its antlers. Which is why, to this day, a cross patte between a stag’s antlers is the heraldic arms of the Kirk at Canongate, a symbol also found on David Thomson’s arms in America. (16)

Contributed by: Genevieve Cora Fraser FraserGenevieve@gmail.com (More information on the publication)

"Here's a brief excerpt from my latest article published in June 2003 by the Scottish Genealogical Society. The article is quite long... 26 pages. The SGS has also offered to publish my book once I'm ready. I hope to begin work on the book in 2004. But prior to that I will be starting Part 5 the first of the year. "

(posted: 08 Nov 2003)


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