The Family of Montgomery

Reprinted from the Allentown Messenger dated November 16, 1905:


A Remarkable Unbroken Line of Ancestors Extending Back to the Tenth Century – Eglinton, near Allentown, Selected for a Home Over Two Hundred Years Ago.


The well-known property named as Eglinton, near Allentown, now owned and occupied by Daniel J. Wright, is one of the oldest settled estates in this vicinity. It is a part of  a large tract of 4,000 acres which Robert Burnett purchased from the Indians, the deed bearing date October 20, 1700. It is now 203 years since Mr. Burnett’s son-in-law, William Montgomerie, of Ayrshire, in Scotland, left his native land with his family and came to New Jersey, selecting this fine location for his home, where several generations of Montgomerys afterwards resided. The family itself is one whose lineage can be traced back for hundreds of years, and some members of it have been actors in stirring historical events in Great Britain and America as will be seen in the record which follows.


The earliest records we have of the family of Montgomerie place its origin north of France, in the ninth century. Its history leads us back from the present, through an unbroken succession of ten centuries in length, to the first known of the name, Roger Montgomerie, who was Count of Montgomerie, before the coming of Rollo, who was at the head of the invading army of Northmen in the year 912.


Roger Montgomerie the fourth, who was sixth in the line of succession, was one of the most powerful and influential nobles at the court of Duke William of Normandy. Roger accompanied the Duke in his invasion of England, and at the battle of Hastings, October 14, 1066, that event which so changed the face of England and turned the current of its history, Roger commanded the advance division of the Norman army.


 In the division of the English territories which William made among his followers, Roger was munificently rewarded. The Conquer first advanced him to the Earldom of Chichester and Arundel, soon afterwards to that of Shrewsbury.


Roger late in his life turned his attention to religious matters, and when well advanced in years entered into holy orders and became a monk of the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul at Shrewsbury, which he himself had founded in 1083. Here he spent the few remaining years of his life, and died on July 27, 1094, and was there buried.


John de Montgomerie, Count of Ponthieu and Montgomerie in France, was the ninth in succession. In 1168, during the war between England and France, he refused permission to King Henry II to march his troops through his county, who thus was obliged to take the route by sea. The English afterwards satisfied their vengeance by burning more than forty of his villages. In the year 1190 he went to the Holy Land with Philip Augustus, and died at the siege of Acre the year following.


Sir John de Montgomerie of Eaglesham was the twelfth in the succession. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Sir John was in the army raised by Alexander III to meet the Norwegians under their king, Haco, whom he defeated on their landing in the Bay of Ayr at the famous battle of Largs, in August 1263. So much was feared from these marauders should they succeed in their invasion that the whole available strength of the country was put in requisition, and all the barons whose possessions lay contiguous to the Ayrshire coast could especially not fail to aid in the defence of their country.


Sir John de Montgomerie of Eaglesham and Eastwood was the thirteenth in the succession. He was one of the great barons of Scotland summoned to appear at Berwick in 1291, and was afterwards, with many of his countrymen, it is said, obliged to swear fealty to Edward I. As soon as Robert Bruce asserted his claim to the Scottish throne, Sir John joined his standard and remained a steady friend to the independence of his country.


Sir John de Montgomerie, the fifteenth in the line, married in 1361, Elizabeth, the daughter and heiress of Sir Hugh Eglinton, and by her obtained the large possessions of that family on the death of her father. The Eglintons, whose name furnishes a title to a branch of Sir John’s descendants, were a family of much antiquity in Scotland.


The present castle of Eglinton, in the county of Ayr, is the third structure built on the same sight, and was finished in 1802. It was built by Hugh Montgomerie, the twelfth earl, who spared no cost in making the surrounding one of the most delightful in the west of Scotland. Robert Burns, in the poem describing his parting with Highland Mary, makes mention of the castle in the stanza beginning “Ye banks and brace and streams around,

The castle of Montgomerie.”


Mary Campbell was a dairymaid in the family of Col. Hugh Montgomerie. Here near the house, Burns according to his beautiful poem, used to meet her. The poet’s birthplace was about three miles from the town of Ayr. Eglinton is a large and valuable estate of 1,700 acres in extent in the parish of Kilwinning, Ayshire.


Hugh, third Lord Montgomerie, was the nineteenth in the succession. He was concerned in the revolt of the barons against James III in 1487, which resulted in the death of that king as he fled from the battle of Sauchie, and the accession of his son to the throne, June 11, 1488. He was in great favor with James IV, who created him Earl of Eglinton. He as in all probability present at the disastrous battle of Flodden Field in 1513, where two his cousins were killed. The Earl was one of the lords to whom the tuition of James V when in his minority was entrusted by the Duke of Albany, the Governor. 


During Hugh’s lifetime the quarrel between the Cuninghames and Montgomeries showed itself most violently. With faults on both sides, the encounters were frequent. In a battle fought between the sons of the two earls and their adherents in January 1508, several of the combatants lost their lives. Nearly a century later can be traced to this family feud the cause of the alienation of the estates and title of the family from the heirs male in favor of a female branch.


Hugh de Montgomerie, the twenty-first in the succession, and who was the third Earl of glinton, proved himself a steady supporter of Mary Queen of Scots. He was in arms in her behalf at Langside in 1568, and with many other barons of account was taken prisoner, but subsequently liberated. He at last submitted, April 1571, after his zealous partisanship of the Queen, to the authority of James VI and was sent to Doune castle. He was soon, however, released. Hugh’s grandson, Hugh, the fifth Earl of Eglinton and the twenty-third in succession, was the last of that title of the male line of the family. He appears from the records of the time to have been a favorite with James VI, who granted him the dissolved Abbey of Kilwinning with all its lands and titles, erecting the same into a temporal lordship.


Hugh Montgomerie of Brigend was the twenty-eighth in the succession. He succeeded his grandfather subsequently to the year 1652. He married, in the year 1653, Katharine, second daughter of Sir William Scott of Clarkington. The marriage settlement of this couple is still in existence and in a fair state of preservation. The roll is upward of seven and a half feet long, filled in with clerkly penmanship. The autographs of all the parties immediately interested are intact. Brigend, of Bridgend, ad formerly spelt is in the parish of Maybole, Ayshire, and situated on the banks of the river Doon, about one-fourth of a mile below and on the opposite side to Alloway Kirkyard. At this place is the “Old Bridge of Doon,” so celebrated in Burns’ “Tam O’Shanter.”   


William Montgomerie of Brigend, Hugh’s eldest son, was the twenty-ninth in succession. He married, January 8, 1684, in Edinburgh, Isabel, daughter of William Burnett, of Lethintie, Aberdeenshire, who later became one of the proprietors of East Jersey. It appears that this daughter went with him to America, but was sent back to complete her education in Scotland, where she was married. Her acquaintance with the new country, as well as her father’s large interests there, led William Montgomerie eventually to move his family from Ayrshire and make a new home for his children in the colonies of America. In 1692 he had joined with his father in disposing of the estate of Brigend to his cousin John Montgomerie, and in 1702 crossed the ocean with his young family and settled on lands of his father-in-law in Monmouth county, East Jersey.


Eglinton, the name of the estate, is about a one and a half miles from Allentown. The original house was taken down, and the present mansion erected, partly on the same site, prior to the Revolutionary War, and was built of bricks made on the property. The beautiful view commanded from the house to the eastward is an evidence of the good taste of the one who selected its site. The deed conveying this tract is dated May 20, 1706:


“Robert Burnett of Freehold, in ye county of Monmouth, with the eastern division of Nova Cesaria, one of the principal proprietors of the eastern division aforesaid in America, gentleman, on ye one part, and William Montgomerie, his son-in-law, of the same town, county and division aforesaid, yeoman * * * one hundred pounds current silver money, with in ye province of New York * * * five hundred acres of land lying and being in ye said town, county and division aforesaid, and is part and parcel of a certain tract of land belonging to ye said Robert Burnett, lying on a creek commonly known and called by the name Doctors Creek, and is also the plantation and tract of land whereon the said William Montgomerie now dwelleth.”


William died about 1721, and is believed to have been buried in the Friends’ ground at Crosswicks.


Robert Montgomerie, born at Brigend in 1687, succeeded his father, and was the thirtieth in line of succession. He was married, in 1709, Sarah Stacy, of Burlington. Among the names of the twelve witnesses to their marriage certificate are those of Nathan Allen, who is known as the founder of Allentown, and his wife Marjory, who was a daughter of the aforesaid Robert Burnett.


Robert Montgomerie’s death occurred in 1766, in his 80th year, and he also was interred in the Crosswicks burying ground. Although Robert was a Friend, he lived before the time when that Society became such earnest opponents of the system of slaveholding. Human property as well as real estate served to make his “subject of several thousand pound” which his Scotch relatives had been informed had been left by him, for he bequeaths to his grandson Robert at his death, Dick, Dinah, Kate, Bob, Bristo, and young Dick; to his grandson John, Peter; and to his grandson William Simon. He was the last of this line to adhere to the old terminal of the family name, “rie.” All of his papers preserved at this day observe this form of spelling the name. His son the first to substitute for it “ry,” though why he did so would know be difficult to say.


Robert Montgomerie the second succeeded his grandfather Robert at the age of eighteen and was the thirty-first and last in the succession, his father, James, having died in 1760. Robert was born at Eglinton, October 22, 1748. Living in a part of the State which during the Revolution was alternately in the possession of either of the contending foes, he was perhaps prudent in abstaining from any active participation in the war. Three of his brothers and a cousin served their country at this time; and two of the former contracted diseases in the service which ended their lives.


Robert’s estate necessarily suffered from depredations of the troops; and there is a memorandum of his losses caused by the Hessians on their passage through this part of the county just before the battle of Monmouth. It is endorsed by him, “ Inventory of property destroyed June, 1778, belonging to Robert Montgomery, amounting to L  249.10.” This amount, however, only comprised the losses in his movable property, the damage to his real estate quadrupling that sum.


A portion of the British army encamped on Montgomery hill the night before [three nights] the battle of Monmouth, and while there three cannon balls were fired at the dwelling, one of which struck near the front entrance, and the hole made in the bricks is still visible. Another passed through the wainscoting under one of the upper windows and found its way into a room. A third entered the parlor through one of the windows. After being preserved for a number of years the balls were finally distributed to relatives of the family.


Robert Montgomery died in 1828, in his 80th year, and leaving no son, he was the last of the male line of the family to occupy the estate. His widow Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Dr. James Newell, of Allentown, passed away in 1845, having reached the age of 98 years. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery were Lucy and Esther. The latter married in 1817, her cousin, Samuel C. Newell, a grandson of the above Dr. Newell, and for several years the old mansion remained a home.


Mrs. Newell died in 1856, leaving several daughters, among whom the estate left by her father was divided, the Eglinton homestead farm being left to her sister, the above Lucy Montgomery.


Samuel C. Newell’s second daughter, Sarah, married in 1845, Bennington Gill and for many years thereafter Eglinton was their home and under their management.


Lucy Montgomery, who had continued to reside in her birthplace, died unmarried in 1868, and was the last of the family name who resided in the homestead. The estate afterwards passes into the possession of Bennington Gill. The family continued to reside there until 1893, when, at a sale of the property, Daniel J. Wright became the owner and occupant, after an occupancy of 191 years by the family of Montgomery.


(This article will be continued in our next issue by giving an account of the other brothers of Robert Montgomery of Allentown and their descendants.)


Other Sons of William of Brigend, Scotland.


The subjects of the following sketches are descendants of other sons of William of Brigend who settled near Allentown, and who have not thus far been mentioned in the family history.


James Montgomery, a brother of the last Robert, was educated to the law; but at the commencement of the Revolutionary War he entered the army, holding a lieutenant’s commission in the New Jersey militia. He was under General Richard Montgomery in his expedition against Quebec, December 1775, and was at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. The latter part of his life was spent at Allentown.


Brigadier-General William R. Montgomery was a son of the above named James Montgomery. He was a graduate of West Point, and in the Mexican War was a captain in the Eight Infantry, U.S.A. He was afterwards breveted lieutenant colonel “for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Molino del Rey, September 8, 1947.” In the Civil War he commanded the first New Jersey Volunteers at the battle of Bull Run. On August 17, 1861, he was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers, and was appointed military governor of Alexandria, Va., where he remained until the following spring, when he was placed in command at Philadelphia.


John Montgomery was a brother of the above mentioned James Montgomery. Before he was twenty years of age he parted with his share of his grandfather’s estate and removed to Philadelphia, his younger brother William following shortly after him. Here the two brothers united themselves together in business pursuits. In the Revolutionary War John took a part in military matters and was a member of the Philadelphia City Troop of calvary from 1777 to 1787 and saw service in that company in some of the New Jersey campaigns of the war.


Major William Montgomery, as he was known, was a grandson of William of Brigend. He had inherited from his father a handsome property which had improved and added to to such a degree that he was at one period of his life one of the wealthiest residents of Monmouth county. He was residing on his estate in Upper Freehold when the Revolutionary War began. Although a member of the Society of Friends, he took up arms and became a major in the New Jersey line in consequence of which he was expelled from the meeting. He married, January 15, 1778, Mary, daughter of Robert Rhea, of Monmouth county, whose brother, Colonel David Rhea, commanded the artillery of the American Army at the battle of Monmouth.


William W. Montgomery of New Orleans, son of the above Major Montgomery, was born in Upper Freehold in 1778. In 1795 he went to New York, and after a few years’ residence there was sent as supercargo on different voyages, and in 1803 removed to New Orleans, in which city he made his home thereafter.


He spent much of his time in Paris, where a portion of his family resided for many years. During the invasion of Louisiana by the British, he was quartermaster of the Fourth Regiment, Louisiana Militia, and was in active service under General Jackson until after the retreat of the invading forces. He subsequently became President of the Branch Bank of the United States, and was prominent in mercantile circles of that city.


Dr. Thomas West Montgomery was a great grandson of William of Brigend and was born at Allentown in 1764. He was admitted to the practice of medicine November 6, 1787, after which he went to Paris, and there remained for about three years pursuing his medical studies. On his return, he practiced his profession for many years in Allentown, after having built for himself the residence which in later years became the home of Dr. William A. Newell. He afterwards removed to New York City.


Dr. Montgomery, in 1788, married a daughter of Hon. John Berrien, of Rocky Hill, one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey. It was at Judge Berrien’s residence [Rockingham] that General Washington wrote his farewell address to the army. 


Other Sons of William of Brigend, Scotland.


Dr. [Thomas West] Montgomery’s, daughter Margaret Riker married for her second husband John B. Shaw, of Annapolis, Md., purser in the United States Navy. Mr. Shaw who with Commodore Porter in his famous fight on the frigate “Essex” off the harbor of Valparaiso, March 28, 1814. Dr. Alexander M. Montgomery, son of the above Thomas West, was serving as surgeon’s mate on the “Essex.” On the return of the vessel to the United States, he proceeded with Commodore Porter and his officers to Washington, whither they were ordered to the command of the Naval Hospital at Brooklyn, where he died in 1828.


Nathaniel Lawrence Montgomery, a brother of the above Alexander, entered the American Navy at the age of ten years. He was in the action of the “President” with the “Belvidere” on June 23, 1812, where he lost an arm. He was aid to Commodore McDonough at the victory on Lake Champlain, September 11, 1814, where he was also wounded. He was commissioned lieutenant on his sixteenth birthday for his gallant and meritorious services. It is believed he was the youngest officer ever thus commissioned in the U. S. Navy. After many years of active service, he died in the West Indies in 1825, of fever, while in command of a vessel there cruising.


Commodore John Berrien Montgomery, also a brother of the above mentioned Alexander, entered the U. S. Navy June 4, 1812, just a fortnight before the declaration of war by Congress against Great Britain, and served throughout the war, being present at Lake Erie, under Commodore Perry, September 10, 1813. Subsequently he was with Commodore Decatur in the expedition against Algiers. While stationed on the Pacific coast in command of the “Portsmouth,” the war with Mexico broke out and in 1846 he took possession for the United States Government of the town and harbor of San Francisco. During his stay here, he was drawn into a controversy with the British commander on that station in regard to some alleged violations of the blockade, which he conducted with such great skill and firmness that as eventually to win from the British Government a very laudatory notice of the course pursued by him. During a portion of the time in the Civil War he was in command of the Boston Navy Yard.


William Henry Montgomery, a son of the Commodore, held a commission in the U. S. Navy. While with his father on the Pacific coast in 1846 he was sent in charge of an expedition up the Sacramento river, his brother John, who was his father’s private secretary, being of the number. But neither of the brothers or any of the party were ever heard of afterwards.


While the families of Montgomery claim relationship with Gen. Richard Montgomery, the hero of Quebec, the fact of their kinship cannot be clearly proved. But there is little doubt he was descended from one of the Irish branches of the family. He was born at Convoy House, the seat of his father, Thomas Montgomery, near Raphoe, County Donegal, on December 2, 1736. In 1772 he came to America and when the Revolutionary War broke out he immediately engaged in it, and with what results every American knows. The night of the 31st of December, 1775, forever identified the name of Montgomery with Quebec.


Many interesting documents, consisting of deeds, marriage certificates, inventories, etc., relating to the Montgomerys have been preserved, and are now in the possession of the children of the late Bennington Gill. There are also some relics of Revolutionary days. Among these is an engraved silver medicine spoon that was left by Major Andre in the home of their great-great-grandfather, Dr. James Newell, when the former with a sick brother stopped there over night at the time the British troops were marching through Allentown.


There are also other branches of the Montgomery family residing in Ireland and Scotland. The only line, however, moving to America from either of those countries whose connection is clearly and satisfactorily traceable is that of the Brigend Montgomerys, the most prominent members of which have been mentioned in this brief historical record.  [Charles H. Fidler]