The Douglas Archives

A collection of historical and genalogical records

I have just received copies of letters written to Betsy Mary Monroe, nee Douglas, and others, in 1830.  This image is the 'envelope' for three of them.

Betsy is the daughter of George Douglas and Margaret McCrone, George being the brother of Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas. 

Betsy Mary Douglas, was married to Col James Monroe, nephew of US President James Monroe (and possible an adopted son?).

I am looking for help identifying others mentioned in the letters:

'Harriet, G & W' is presumably the same as 'George, Wm & H';

George is also referred to as 'Geo Douglas';

'Your brother Wiliam' is presumably the William mentioned above;

But who are these?

  • Mrs Proctor;
  • Mrs Chapman;
  • James Chapman;
  • Mr and Mrs Halliday;
  • Mr Jamieson;
  • Margaret;
  • 'dear little Willy'  - ?a grandson

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Comment by Russell Lynn Drysdale on August 28, 2014 at 0:01

William Betts...After studying law with David B. Ogden.... joined the firm of his father-in-law, Beverly Robinson, as Betts, Emmet & Robinson at No. 52 Wall-street.... he was counsel for the plaintiff in the case of Monroe against Douglas, in which James Monroe, son of President Monroe, sought to secure from Mr. Douglas, his brother-in-law, a redistribution of property left to the family by Sir William Douglas, of Scotland." 

    [ Source : Americans of Royal Descent. By Charles Henry Browning, 1891, p. 108 ]


                         Looking up the case of Monroe v Douglas 

                Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Court of Chancery of New York, Volume 16 

             page 146                               Monroe v Douglas 

and appointed by the deceased Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas Baronet conform to the trust disposition therein mentioned pursuers against George Douglas Esquire residing at Castle Douglas eldest son and heir of the deceased George Douglas Esquire of New York North America merchant Margaret Douglas Harriet Douglas William Douglas and Elizabeth Douglas all residing in New York North America the younger children of the said deceased George Douglas and the tutors and curators of such of them as are minors if they any have for their interest defenders passed to the market cross of Edinburgh and the pier and shore of Leith respective and sucres ive after others and at each of the said three places after crying three several oyesses open proclamation and public reading the said summons in His majesty's name anil authority lawfully summoned warned and charged the said Margaret Douglas Harriet Douglas William Douglas and Elizabeth Douglas defenders all as being forth of Scotland and their tutors and curators if they any have for their interest to compear before the lords of council and session place and days specified in the said summons for first and second diets in the hour of cause with continuation of days to answer at the instance of the said pursuers in the matter therein libelled with certification conform to the said summons in all points a full double whereof to the will with a short copy of citation thereto subjoined for each of the said Margaret Douglas Harriet Douglas William Douglas and Elizabeth Douglas and the like full double and short copy for their tutors and curators if they any have for their interest I affixed and left at and upon each of the said market cross of Edinburgh and the pier and shore of Leith respectively after using the aforesaid solemnities which several copies of citation were signed Vf me did bear the date hereof with the date and signeting f the said summons and the names and designations of the witnesses following who were present at the hall 138 premises and hereto subscribing upou this and the

                                                 146 CASES IN CHANCERY

 Aswell there seems to be a connection to Mr Halliday and Monroe's daughter , described from the pdf link below .

 1 Nov. ,1837 , James Monroe to Mr Halliday ,''Forbids him to use the Monroe name in any connection with the previous incident [?] concerning his daughter ; warns him to be careful of his judgements because his past misunderstandings have lead him into error before

Comment by Russell Lynn Drysdale on August 25, 2014 at 18:00

Comment by William Douglas on August 24, 2014 at 19:18

Margaret Douglas, who was visiting friends in Liverpool when she died on 9 Jan 1830, aged 63 and described as 'Of New York', wife of George the brother of Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas, is interred in themausoleum in Castle Douglas

Comment by Russell Lynn Drysdale on April 29, 2013 at 23:21

the letter you have  may go with some extracts in this pdf , or give further assistance


James Monroe , New York  politician [i think he was the president Monroe's nephew ]

His family consisted of his wife, Eliza Douglas Monroe (1799–1852), son William D. Monroe, and daughter Fanny (1826–1906). Following his wife's death he retired from public life to Orange, New Jersey, where he died on September 7, 1870 at age of 70, days before his 71st birthday. He is interred at Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan. [ Source , Wikipedia ] 

.............       FB Ogden

The following interesting letter relating to this subject is published in Mr. J. M. Swank's census report of 1880, on iron and steel manufactures, the writer of the letter being a nephew of Mr. Robert L. Stevens:—

"HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY, May 31, 1881.

DEAR SIR: In answer to your letter of the 27th instant 1 will say that I have always believed that Robert L. Stevens was the inventor of what is called the T-rail, and also of the method of fastening it by spikes, and I have never known his right to the invention questioned.

The rail of the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad, on its opening, in September, 1830, was of wrought iron, divided into fish-bellied sections, each section being supported by a cast-iron chair, to which it was secured by a wooden wedge. The form was derived from the old cast-iron fish-bellied train rail, cast in single sections, each about 36 inches long. This wrought-iron rail was afterwards improved by making its bottom straight uniformly throughout its length.

Mr. Stevens' invention consisted in adding the broad flange on the bottom, with a base sufficient to carry the load, and shaped so that it could be secured to the wood below it by spikes with hooked heads; thus dispensing with the cast-iron chair, and making the rail and its fastenings such as it now is in common use. In the year 1836 and frequently afterwards he spoke to me about his invention of this rail, and told me that in London, after unsuccessful applications elsewhere in England, shortly after the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad, he had applied to Mr. Guest, a member of Parliament, who had large rolling mills in Wales, to take a contract to make his rail for the Camden and Amboy Railroad, of which he was the chief engineer; that Mr. Guest wished to take the contract, but considered that it would be impracticable to roll the rail straight; that, finally, Mr. Guest agreed to go to Wales with him and make a trial; that great difficulty was at first experienced, as the rails coming from the rolls curled like snakes, and distorted in every imaginable way; that, by perseverance, the rail was finally successfully rolled; and that Mr. Guest took the contract. The Camden and Amboy Railroad, laid with this rail, was opened October 9th, 1832, two years after the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad. Of this I was a witness.

This rail, long known as the old Camden and Amboy rail, differed but little, either in shape or proportions, from the T-rail now in common use, but weighed only 36 pounds to the yard. For the next six or eight years after the opening of the Camden and Amboy Railroad this rail was but little used here or abroad, nearly all the roads built in the United States using the flat iron bar, about 2½ inches by ¾ inch, nailed to wooden rails, and the English continuing to use the chair and wedge.

My uncle always regretted that he had not patented his invention. He mentioned to me, upwards of forty years ago, that when advised by his friend, Mr. F. B. Ogden, the American consul at Liverpool, who was familiar with the circumstances of his invention, to patent it, he found that it was too late, and that his invention had become public property.

Yours, truly,


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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