The Douglas Archives

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I'm trying to track down Douglases who were slave traders. I've met a Jamaican whose mother's maiden name was Douglas, and the family story is that she was descended from a union between a slave and a Douglas slave trader in the 1700s. 

My own Douglas history makes it possible that this man and I are related. Four brothers - George, Samuel, William and James came to the U.S. around 1784 with a 'Captain Stevenson' and James Shaw. Shaw was a teenager at the time, and was later Sir James Shaw, Lord Mayor of London in 1804. 

These six had a company - whose actual business is what I'm trying to clarify - based in London, with offices in New York, Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia. The business was very profitable, and all but George returned to England or Scotland with their piles of cash.

George was the father of Harriet Douglas, to whom I trace my own ancestry. Harriet had others in her family who were slave traders, but I don't know how to find out more about this particular business.

All help appreciated.

Daniel Stewart Robinson

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Comment by William Douglas on February 14, 2023 at 16:57

Re:  George Douglas 'traded with Indians' 

I note that a Dr. James Henderson, a Scottish physician who, for services rendered at Greenwich Hospital in Britain, received a grant of 16,000 acres from King George II.  Dr. Henderson travelled to America hoping to build a country house on the grant, but apparently learned it was a wild and desolate area inhabited only by Mohawk Indians. It was then that he built a home in New York City.

The royal grant descended to Margaret Corne, Dr. Henderson's granddaughter and the wife of George Douglas.

Was there, I wonder, a connection between this land grant and the report that the Douglas brothers, particularly George, 'traded with Indians'?

Comment by William Douglas on March 3, 2022 at 20:15

The four brothers - George, Samuel, William and James, are a very interesting, and enterprising family.  They were merchant traders. They spent their formative years in part of Galloway, southwest Scotland known as the Glenkens.  As did I, 200 years later.  James Shaw was born just outside St Johns Town of Dalry, a small village also in the Glenkens.

Captain John Stevenson ran trading ships that carried the Douglas goods across the Atlantic. I have been trying to find out more about him, as he may have been a blockade runner or a privateers, or similar. James married Elizabeth, Stephenson's former wife.

A Captain William Stevenson was involved in the slave trade sailing from Bristol and/or Liverpool, died 3rd September 1784 after 7 voyages as captain.  I may well have have confused this William with John! Or maybe they are one and the same?

James built Orchardton House, just outside Castle Douglas, which is currently on the market, should you be tempted!  Castle Douglas is a planned town, laid out by William.

James's daughter, Mary, married a William Rose Robinson.  Of your family?

Some years ago, I tracked down a reference to the Douglas trading operations in New York.  Unfortunately, I can no longer find the refence, but two aspects I remember.
a. When the goods arrived in New York harbour, much of the consignment had already been sold, such was the demand for the quality garments.

b. George Douglas 'traded with Indians' (sic).

As you know, George settled in America and made friends in high places.  I think that he may have acquired cotton plantations, as part of his trading operations.  These would have been worked by slave labour.  I do not think the family were 'slave traders', but of course the workforce was bought and sold.

The London company, Douglas & Shaw acted for traders in the West Indies

There is a discussion here that might add to the story:

I note this: 
• Samuel Douglas, of Windsor Plantation, Jamaica, was the son of Nathaniel Douglas and Margaret Heron, and 1st cousin to Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas

and this:

• Campbell Douglas, born 12 March, 1781, to 1st marriage of William Douglas in 'Craignine', Minnigaff, Kirkcudbrightshire. William's brother was Samuel Douglas of 'Windsor Castle' plantation, Jamaica, who died Charleston, NC., 9 Jan., 1799. Both brothers were 1st cousins of Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas.

There are several entries on this family in the Douglas Archives.  

Please keep us informed of your progress in joining the links in the chain.

Yours aye,


Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

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