Alexander and Catherine Innes
by Michelle Boyd

Not much is known of Alexander Innes’ background or early years. He was born in Scotland in or about 1632. He came to America as a young man, though not by choice. The story of why Alexander was transported to the New World begins when Alexander would have been just a child.


Alexander grew up in a time of political and religious unrest. King Charles I had demanded religious changes in Presbyterian Scotland. The people rebelled and the National Covenant was drafted in 1638. In this, the signers promised to protect their religion at all costs. An army of Covenanters later aided the Parliament in defeating Charles.
The Parliament’s promise to the Scottish people that no harm would come to the King was broken in 1649 when Charles was executed. Though the Scottish had been angry with him, Charles was the king of not only England but Scotland as well, one who was descended from the old Scottish royalty, and England had executed him without the Scots’ consent.
The indignant Scots then made a deal with Charles (later King Charles II), the late king’s son, who was in exile, to accept him as their king. However, Charles and the Scottish Covenanters still disagreed. When Charles refused to make a statement denouncing his late father’s policies, as well as his mother’s religious beliefs, the Covenanter ministers sought revenge by purging the army of anyone of questionable morals. This meant the exclusion of over 3,000 of General David Leslie’s professional soldiers. One Scottish officer angrily reported that Leslie was left with “nothing but useless clerks and ministers’ sons, who have never seen a sword, much the less used one.”
Meanwhile, the English Parliament was unsettled by the thought of Charles II on the Scottish throne, thinking Scotland would force the new king onto the English throne. Soon, Lord General Oliver Cromwell, who had returned from fighting in Ireland just months before, along with 16,000 troops of the New Model Army (Roundheads), was sent by the English Parliament to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
General Leslie and the Covenanter Army resisted with a guerilla campaign. The Scots were in their home terrain. This familiarity with the land, according to Charles Fleetwood, an English officer, led to “the impossibility of our forcing the Scots to fight—the passes being so many and so great that as soon as we go on the one side they go on the other.” The Scots stripped the land bare as they went, denying the English of re-supplying their troops. Upon arriving just outside Edinburgh, Cromwell found that Leslie had forced the Roundheads to a heavily defended position.
Unsuccessful, running low on supplies, exposed to the wet, cold weather, and with many ill, Cromwell’s forces had to withdraw from their attempt to attack Edinburgh and headed back towards Dunbar. The English forces, wrote one Englishman, were reduced to “a poor, shattered, hungry, discouraged army.” Their march was paralleled by Leslie and the Covenanter Army, 23,000 troops strong, who harried the English troops on their way. Leslie sent regiments to a high position on Doon Hill, creating a barrier and stopping Cromwell’s movement south towards Berwick. The English troops were trapped along the coastal lands near Dunbar.


The Battle of Dunbar

The Battle of Dunbar took place on 3 September 1650 on what is now the Dunbar Golf Course. It is believed that the ministers accompanying the army had refused Leslie’s plea to attack on the 1 September while the English were still defenseless, as it was a Sunday. Leslie then decided to force the English to decide to starve or fight their way up the impregnable hill. The impatient and overconfident ministers overruled him and demanded that the Scottish army attack. On the afternoon of 2 September, instead of waiting for the English to move, the Covenanters began moving down Doon Hill. The Scots formed a line at the bottom of the hill from the beach to Broxburn stream, placing the cavalry on the beach, where there was little maneuverability. Cromwell, sensing his opportunity, rallied his troops and, at four in the morning on 3 September, launched an attack. Six English cavalry regiments and three regiments of foot were sent across the Broxburn to the right of the Scottish troops, and the Roundheads gave their cry. The sleeping Scottish were surprised, but recovered quickly. The English and Scottish became engaged in vicious hand-to-hand combat in the center of the line. Then, Cromwell sent his undefeated reserves, the Ironsides, into the battle, hitting an opening at the left of the infantry fighting. This caused the collapse of the Scottish line and the English cavalry regrouped and came through the gap in the line. Upon seeing his victory, Cromwell is reported to have laughed uncontrollably amid the carnage.
The Scottish soldiers threw down their weapons and fled by the thousands. The English cavalry chased them for eight miles, killing and capturing those in flight, in what became known as “the Race of Dunbar”. In the end, 3,000 Scots were dead and 10,000, including Alexander, about 18 years old, were prisoners of war. Cromwell was unable to deal with the huge number of prisoners. 5,100 were released because of serious injury. Alexander must have escaped major injury, as he and the remainder of the soldiers were considered too dangerous to release. They could take up arms again and attack the English if something was not done right away. Also, Cromwell feared that the remaining Scots would attempt to free their prisoners. Cromwell ordered the prisoners to march south immediately under the command of Sir Arthur Hasselrigge. Alexander was among this number, and it would be the last time he ever saw his homeland.

Site of the Battle of Dunbar

From A School Atlas of English History, edited by Gardiner

Drawing of the Battle of Dunbar, 1650


The Durham Death March

At dawn, on 4 September, 1650, the prisoners and their captors began a march of eight days and 118 miles towards Durham, England, which was later described as “the Durham Death March”.[1] Many Scots tried to escape and the captors, offering them no quarter, recaptured and killed the escapees. After a 28-mile march, the prisoners arrived in Berwick, in the far north of England, long after nightfall. The captors had only a little food, eating mainly what had been taken from the Scottish supplies, and so did not feed the prisoners. Some of the Scottish had already not eaten for a day or two, since there was a Scottish military habit of fasting before a battle to sharpen reflexes. At great risk, a few civilians tossed the prisoners what little bread they could. The Scots drank from rain puddles and ditches. A large number of the wounded, starved, and sick died on the way.
Three days later, the Scots arrived in Morpeth and were placed in a walled cabbage field. Hasselrigge wrote that, “they ate up raw cabbages, leaves and roots…They poisoned their bodies. As they were coming from thence to Newcastle, some died by the wayside.” Typhoid fever and dysentery killed many. At Newcastle, Hasselrigge put the prisoners in the largest church that could be found, St. Nicholas’ Church, for the night. More Scots died within the church. In the morning, 500 Scots were unable to walk further. Alexander was evidently not among this number and continued on with the prisoners to Durham. Of the approximately 5,000 Scottish prisoners who began the march, about 3,000 made it to Durham. A few escaped but most had died.

Durham Cathedral

Once Alexander and the other prisoners reached Durham, they were shut up in the city’s cathedral. They were starving and exhausted but the ordeal was not over.
Hasselrigge later wrote, “I wrote to the mayor and desired him to take care that they wanted for nothing that was fit for prisoners. I also sent them a daily supply of bread from Newcastle . . . but their bodies being infected, the flux[2] increased.” He wrote to the Parliament that the prisoners were given“pottage made with oatmeal, beef and cabbage—a full quart at a meal for every prisoner” and that his officers set up a hospital, where the wounded were fed “very good mutton broth, and sometimes veal broth, and beef and mutton boiled together. I confidently say that there was never the like of such care taken for any such number of prisoners in England.”
It may have been that this was what he was told by his officers, he being back in Newcastle and not actually in Durham. The general consensus among historians is that he believed what he wrote and had no idea what was really going on. However, whether or not he knew the true situation in the cathedral, his information was false.
The jailers blackmailed the prisoners, withholding the food and coal meant for the Scots.[3] Desperate for warmth and food, the prisoners resorted to anything they could. They traded anything valuable that they had actually retained. The Neville family tomb was ransacked, probably mainly by those looking for valuables to trade.[4] The woodwork in the church, some of it dating from medieval times, was torn down and broken into bits for firewood.[5] Murders were also reported to have taken place. Apparently informed of the prisoners’ and not the guards’ behavior, Hasselrigge reported, “They were so unruly, sluttish and nasty that it is not to be believed. They acted like beasts rather than men.”
The death rate was at an average of 30 men a day and may have reached over a hundred a day. The dead were unceremoniously buried in a mass grave outside the church without coffins or Christian burial. At the end of October, 1,400 of the original 5,000 prisoners were still alive. More had died on the march and in the cathedral than had died fighting at Dunbar.
It is not known exactly how long Alexander stayed in the cathedral. It may have been little over a week.[6] However, he certainly left before 23 October as will be seen below.


Durham Cathedral, Durham, England

Medieval Clock with Scottish thistle in Durham Cathedral


London, Boston and Indentured Servitude

While the prisoners were dying at alarming rates, the Parliament was discussing what to do about them. Stephen P. Carlson, in the Scots of Hammersmith, reported, “The disposition of such a large number of prisoners presented the English authorities with a dilemma: to maintain them as prisoners would prove costly, and to release them could prove dangerous to the security of the Commonwealth.” A committee appointed by the English governing body, the Council of State informed Hasselrigge that he was to send a number of prisoners to the coal mines. Hasselrigge sold some of the Scots as workers in various trades.
Petitions were sent to the Council to send prisoners overseas to be sold as indentured servants. On 18 September 1650, Hasselrigge was ordered to send 150 Scots, “well and sound, and free from wounds,” (Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, 1650) to John Becx and Joshua Foote to be shipped to New England. Becx and Foote would be allowed to sell or consign the Scots in America at a cost to them of about ?5 per man. The Scots were to be indentured (involuntarily) for a term of seven years. These men were mainly between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five in 1650, according depositions made during their lifetimes. Although these 150 men all seemed healthy, Hasselrigge shipped them to London by water, fearing “they are all infected”.
According to Carlson, “By October 23, when the Council ordered the project stopped ‘until assurance be given of their not being carried where they may be dangerous,’ the Scots were awaiting passage to America in the Thames.” On November 11, Augustine Walker of the Unity received sailing orders from the Council “as their ship is ready and the place is without danger”.
What followed was probably an unpleasant ocean voyage that would have taken about six weeks. Carlson stated that while the Unity’s size is not known, it “would have been far from spacious” for the prisoners. It is also unknown how many did not make the journey from London to Boston, as no lists survive. The death rate is estimated at ten percent.
Becx and Foote consigned seventy-seven to eighty-seven men to two businesses in Maine and Massachusetts in which Becx had interest. The rest were sold to local residents for ?20-30. Sixty-two of the consigned men, including Alexander Ennis, were sent to the Saugus Ironworks at Lynn, Massachusetts.


The Saugus Ironworks

Saugus Ironworks was the first ironworks in North America, a great technological achievement in that time and place. It was built about 1646, closed by 1675, and was built near some ore deposits, as well as the Saugus River, which provided power to the ironworks. The site included a dam that provided power for forging, a blast furnace with a bellows, a reverbatory furnace, a trip-hammer forge, and rolling and slitting mills. It produced both cast and wrought iron. John Lienhard of the University of Houston stated that one item produced there was nails, which were especially vital because so many new settlements were being built in the wilderness. They milled thin strips of wrought iron, slit these strips, and sold them. The customers then cut the nails and shaped the heads and points. The ironworkers formed a community there known as Hammersmith.

Saugus Iron Works, Saugus, MA

The Scots arrived in Lynn from Boston by boat. The initial payments for food for the Scots is recorded in the record books of John Giffard, the agent for the undertakers of the iron works, in April of 1651. This indicates that they arrived there around that time. There were also payments recorded for medicine and medical help, suggesting that they were in poor health. One death was recorded.

Once there, some were sold elsewhere. Alexander Ennis was evidently among those who remained at Saugus. He was listed on an inventory of the iron works dated November 1653. The inventory was a result of lawsuits resulting from financial diffulties. The Scots were valued at ?10 each, though Giffard protested that they were worth twice that amount and some of the Scots more than that.

The indentured Scots were employed in a variety of tasks, including acting as forge hands, assisting the colliers (who produced the charcoal for the iron works), and even keeping Hammersmith’s cattle. Giffard was directed to use most of the Scots as woodcutters to supply the colliers. Some were taught the trades of “smiths, colliers, carpenters, sawyers, finers, and hammerman” (according to Carlson). Giffard stated that these men “would neare have managed the Compa(ny’s) business themselves, and have saved them many hundreds of pounds in a yeare.” Carlson stated, “The Scots of Hammersmith were for the most part unskilled laborers. Yet, they played a major role in the support of the skilled iron workers.” If not for the debts that affected business, he says, these Scots would have taken over more and more of the skilled positions there.

Most of the Scots lived in the “Scotchmen’s house”, a single building one mile from the iron works. This house is believed to have had two rooms around a central chimney with a cellar oven. There were eleven beds and bolsters there and twice that number of coverlets and blankets, suggesting that the Scots slept two to a bed. Others lived with non-Scottish workers, although there is some indication that the company may have had other quarters built for them beside the house.

The company provided the Scots with food, clothing, and tools. Payments were recorded as having been received by local craftsmen and ironworker’s wives for shoes and clothing. Food was either grown on the company farm or purchased by Giffard for the Scots. The latter consisted of “malt, hops, bread, mackerel, wheat, peas, beef, and pork”, according to Carlson. Apparently, the undertakers thought that Giffard fed the Scots too well. They complained, “As for the dietting of the Scotts men:I have advised with some of the Company and they tell me that 3s. 6d. per weeke is a sufficient allowance for every man:Considering the cheapnes of provision thaire…you haveing ther plenty of fish, both fresh and salte and pidgions and venison and corne and pease at a very cheape Rate.” (A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn…, Baker Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA) Apparently, he was spending 6s. a week for each man on food. Some of the tools used by the Scots had been shipped with the Scots. Others were made by a local blacksmith. They were even supplied with “strong Waters” and tobacco at the expense of the Company.

Meanwhile, some claimed the Scots were not receiving their full portion. There were complaints that food and soap meant for the Scots went to other workers and even to the Giffard family.

The Scottish workers were not isolated from Lynn’s community, though it was an “alien environment”. Many married local women both before and after their indentures were finished. In addition, “all Scotchmen, Negroes, and Indians inhabiting with or servants to the English” were to be included in military training, by the order of the colony’s General Court in May 1652. (Dow, George Francis, ed., The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Salem, MA, 1920, I, p. 354-5, also A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn…(see above))

However, William Saxbe, Jr. noted in his article that, “Relations with the surrounding Puritan communities were not always smooth:a local observer noted that ‘At the Iron Works wee founde all the men wth smutty faces and bare armes working lustily…The headmen be of substance and godlie lives. But some of the workmen be young, and fond of frolicking, and sometimes doe frolicke to such purpose that they get before the magistrates. And it be said, m(u)ch to their discredit that one or two hath done naughtie workes with the maidens living thereabouts.’”[7]

Financial difficulties at the iron works led it to be handed over to creditors. The Scots were transferred over along with all of the iron works’ property. Most served the remainder of their terms at Lynn “in a plant that saw little activity conducted until the latter part of the decade” (Carlson).


Carlson records that Alexander Ennis “had moved to Taunton by late 1656, later moving to Block Island, Rhode Island.” By this time, Alexander married a woman by the name of Catherine either in the area of Lynn or in Taunton. Her last name and date and place have not been found but her country of origin is known:“an Irish woman named Katheren Aines (Innes)”, according to Plymouth records found by Saxbe. Saxbe also put forth the theory that she was captured and deported by Cromwell and sent with several hundred other Irish to Marblehead, near Lynn, in 1654.
According to Catherine O’Donovan, “Cromwell and his army of well trained and experienced soldiers, called Ironsides, came to Ireland in August 1649 with the intention of subduing the rebellion and stamping out all opposition to parliament. Cromwell, a Puritan, ‘believed he was an instrument of divine retribution for (alleged) atrocities committed by Catholics against Protestants in 1641 and he accordingly gave orders to deny mercy to Catholics.’ His campaign was savage and is remembered for the slaughter of women and children as well as unarmed captives.” Cromwell returned to England in May of 1650 and his son-in-law and another general continued the campaign. The Irish surrendered in 1652.
Several historians have noted that after the wars, the English exiled large numbers of Irish to the colonies in America and the West Indies. Robert West wrote, “At the end of the war, vast numbers of Irish men, women and children were forcibly transported to the American colonies by the English government. (Sir William Petty, Political Anatomy of Ireland, London, 1719, p. 19) These people were rounded up like cattle, and, as Prendergast reports on Thurloe's State Papers (John Thurloe, Letter of Henry Cromwell, 4th Thurloe's State Papers, London, 1742), "In clearing the ground for the adventurers and soldiers (the English capitalists of that day)... To be transported to Barbados and the English plantations in America…J. Williams provides additional evidence of the attitude of the English government towards the Irish in an English law of June 26, 1657:‘Those who fail to transplant themselves into Connaught (Ireland's Western Province) or (County) Clare within six months... Shall be attained of high treason... Are to be sent into America or some other parts beyond the seas...’ (Joseph J. Williams) Those thus banished who return are to ‘suffer the pains of death as felons by virtue of this act, without benefit of Clergy.’ (Ibid.)…Emmet asserts that during this time, more that ‘100,000 young children who were orphans or had been taken from their Catholic parents, were sent abroad into slavery in the West Indies, Virginia and New England, that they might lose their faith and all knowledge of their nationality, for in most instances even their names were changed... Moreover, the contemporary writers assert between 20,000 and 30,000 men and women who were taken prisoner were sold in the American colonies as slaves, with no respect to their former station in life.’ (Thomas Addis Emmet, Ireland Under English Rule, NY & London, Putnam, 1903)”
Life in Taunton

The Irish Catherine and Scottish Alexander clashed with the Puritans of Taunton on at least one occasion. Saxbe writes, “‘an Irish woman named Katheren Aines’ was brought before the court at Plymouth in February, 1656/7, ‘vpon suspision of comiting adultery.’ The trial was the following month, and justice was swift and harsh:‘Att this Court, William Paule, Scotchman, for his vnclean and filthy behauiour with the wife of Alexander Aines, is centanced by the Court to bee forthwith publickly whipt…which accordingly was p(er)formed…Katheren Aines, for her vnclean and laciuiouse behauior with the abouesaid William Paule, and for the blasphemos words that shee hath spoken, is centanced by the Court to bee forthwith publickly whipt heer att Plymouth, and afterwards att Taunton, on a publicke training day, and to were a Roman B cutt out of ridd cloth and sowed to her vper garment on her right arme; and if shee shalbee euer found without it soe worne whil shee is in the gou(vern)ment, to bee forthwith publickly whipt…Alexander Anis, for his leauing his family, and exposing his wife to such temptations, and being as baud to her therin, is centanced by the Court for the p(re)sent to sitt in the stockes the time the said Paule and Katheren Ainis are whipt, which was p(er)formed…’”[8]

Rhode Island

Understandably, the Innes family moved sometime within the next few years. In 1659, Alexander is found in the records buying land in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, fifteen miles south of Taunton (Clarence S. Brigham, Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth (Providence: E.L. Freeman &Sons, 1901), 379). In 1664, Block Island became part of Rhode Island and a group of Scots settled there. Robert Guthrie, whom the Scots saw as a leader, wrote a letter which is believed by Saxbe to have been addressed to Alexander (as it began with the greeting “Country Man” and was found in the New Shoreham (Block Island) Town Book with two deeds having Alexander as grantee; also a deed in 1678/9 with Alexander as grantor called his land “a gift from the Propriators & Inhabitants of Blockisland.”[9]). In this letter, he promised six acres of free land and the option to buy 40 more and a home lot.

Alexander Innes died in 1679 at the home of his supposed daughter Elizabeth “Enos”, the wife of William Harris, on Block Island, Rhode Island. He made a nuncupative will[10] in the presence of Robert Guthrie and two others from Block Island, naming William Harris as his heir (New Shoreham Town Book 1:52). Catherine most likely died between 1664 and 1679[11]

Aerial photo of Block Island, RI


Alexander and Catherine’s Family

Saxbe suggested the following family group below as the probable family of Alexander and Catherine Innes. See his article “Four Fathers for William Ennis of Kingston:A Collective Review” in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (129:4) for more information.
Alexander Innes was born in Scotland. He married Catherine — by 1656 in Massachusetts. Catherine was born in Ireland. Alexander and Catherine are probably the parents of:[12]
1.Elizabeth Enos, married 1) William Harris in 1672, 2) Richard Smith by 1694/5, and 3) Roger Alger in 1711-12, lived on Block Island, Rhode Island, then Lyme, Connecticut.
2.Mary (Innes?), married John Dodge in 1676, lived on Block Island, Rhode Island.


3.Catherine Innis, married Dennis Manning by 1679, lived on Nantucket, Massachusetts, died after June 1739.

4.William Ennis, married Cornelia Viervant by 1694, lived in Kingston, Ulster, New York, died between 1712 and 1717.

5.Thomas Ennis, married Jannetje Le Sueur by 1695, lived in Kingston, Ulster, New York.


American Society of Mechanical Engineers, “Saugus Ironworks”, ASME Landmarks Roster,
Bell, Dennis, The Battle of Dunbar, 1998,
Carlson, Stephen P., The Scots at Hammersmith, Saugus, MA:Eastern National Park & Monument Association, 1976.

Elton, Lord, UNESCO World Heritage List Nomination: Durham Cathedral and Castle, No. 370, 1986, posted on

Fraser, Elisabeth, An Illustrated History of Scotland, Jarrold Publishing, Whitefriars, Norwich, 1997.

Gardiner, Samuel Rawson (ed.), A School Atlas of English History, London:Longmans, Green, & Co., 1892.

Lienhard, John H., “Iron in America”, Engines of Our Ingenuity, No. 1317,

National Park Service, Park Museum Collection Profile: Saugus Iron Works National Historical Site,

O’Donovan, Catherine, The Cromwellian Settlement, Ennis, Ireland:Clare County Library,

Saxbe, William B., Jr., “Four Fathers for William Ennis of Kingston:A Collective Review”, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 129, No. 4, October 1998, pgs. 227-238.

West, Robert E., “England’s Irish Slaves”, American Ireland Education Foundation PEC Newsletter, Stony Point, NY, reprinted in the Catholic Weekly, 1995.

© 2001 by Michelle Boyd, All rights reserved.




[1] Dennis Bell, 1998.
[2] Dysentery.
[3] The guards also stole a brass lectern from the church and sold it, along with much of the food and fuel at cut rates to locals.
[4] The Scots had no special love for the Neville family, since the Nevilles had led a battle in 1346 in which the Scots had been defeated. Because of this, the Scots destroyed the tombs rather than just plundering them.
[5] The only wood spared in the cathedral was a clock case, on which was carved a thistle, Scotland’s sacred symbol.
[6] On 18 September, when Hasselrigge was ordered to ship prisoners to New England. It is not known how quickly he acted on those orders.
[7] “Obadiah Oldpath,” Lin: or Notable People and Notable Things in the Early History of Lynn (Lynn, Mass.: George C. Herbert, 1890), 75-76.
[8] Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed., Record of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, 12 vols. (Boston: William White, 1855-1861), 3:110-12.
[9] New Shoreham, Rhode Island, Town Book 1:17
[10] Oral will, written by witnesses.
[11] Saxbe wrote that Guthrie mentioned her in his letter and that her absence from the will indicates that she had died.
[12] Saxbe did not believe G. Andrews Moriarty’s theory that there was an Alexander Innes, Jr.

© December 2001
Michelle Boyd