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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dispatches From the Road: Maine, by Way of Scotland – An Immigrant’s Tale

Courthouse News’ Western bureau chief – some of whose ancestors came to the United States in colonial times – reminds us we’re a nation of immigrants in his latest dispatch from the road, from his home state of Maine.

(CN) – Oliver Cromwell's forces scattered the Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar in a decisive victory that helped establish the Commonwealth of England – and created one small ripple in the sea of immigration that is integral to the American Story.

The Scottish army, loyal to recently proclaimed King of Scots Charles II, had laid waste to the south of Scotland in an attempt to slow down the English parliamentarian leader's advance on the capital of Edinburgh.

Cromwell's battle-hardened army, sick and demoralized by a lack of success in the present campaign, had to get most of its supplies from England through the Port of Dunbar, to which it began to withdraw in September 1650.

David Leslie, leader of the Scots largely conscript army, took a gamble under pressure from church ministers and approached the town of Dunbar, hoping to secure a strategic road before attacking the English. Cromwell, seeing an advantage, moved a large number of troops opposite the Scottish right flank and launched a surprise attack on the front. Though the Scots at first held the English at bay, the overwhelming numbers of English on the right flank pushed back until it began to disintegrate. Cromwell's horses then scattered the Scottish cavalry, causing the rest of the Scottish army to break ranks and flee.

Leslie retreated to Stirling with the few thousand troops he had left.

The English killed some of the Scots they captured, freed others that were sick or wounded and force-marched the rest – approximately 5,000 – over 100 miles south to Durham Castle in the north of England. More than 3,500 died

on the march or while imprisoned at the castle, where they reportedly wreaked havoc. They beheaded and otherwise defiled the church statuary and burned most of the wood for fires, except for one section that bore the design of a thistle, symbol and national flower of Scotland.

The majority of the remaining 1,500 hardy survivors were tried for treason in England for opposing Lord Protector Cromwell and then transported as indentured servants to the English colonies in New England, Virginia and the Caribbean.

One of these men, Lt. William Furbush from Aberdeenshire, was sent to the northern reaches of New England, bound to serve seven years at a sawmill near Berwick, in what today is the state of Maine.

Furbush was not my first ancestor to arrive on American shores. That was William Bradford, who arrived with the Puritans at Plymouth in 1620 and was the first governor of the Plymouth Colony.

But Furbush was the first that we know of who made it to what would become Maine.

During his long life, he moved back and forth between the Kittery area and New Hampshire. He reportedly filed a petition for direct government and was later fined for criticizing the government of England.

He and his wife were also fined for abusing a constable. Furbush supposedly brandished a weapon and said he would die before his goods were carried away. At one point, he was also prosecuted for getting Native Americans drunk. The records don’t indicate any of these events were related.

Furbush died in his 60s in Kittery, Maine, after siring eight children with two different woman – the youngest and oldest born 35 years apart.

One of those children was Daniel Furbush. He married Dorothy Pray, who begat Daniel Furbush II, who married Anne Lord, who begat Abraham Furbush.

Wait, this isn't the Old Testament.


In 1915, eight generations from William, Gordon and Madeline Furbush had a son they named Charles.

Charles worked himself up from clerk to supervisor at the United Shoe Manufacturing Corporation factory in Beverly, Massachusetts, known locally as "The Shoe." He married Virginia Green, an employee of a Boston bank and eight years younger. Virginia was the indirect descendant of Bradford. They were my grandparents.

Charles built his own house with the help of a carpenter in the north shore town of Wenham, tending to his garden and his genealogical research with the same care and attention to detail that he had brought to "The Shoe" and all other aspects of his life. He and Virginia had a daughter – my mother – and a few years later, a son.

My mother, a nurse, left Massachusetts for Maine in the early 1980s with her young family when my father, also a nurse and a Vietnam veteran, accepted a job at a Veteran's Hospital in Augusta. My father's family had spent generations in rural northwestern Maine, having arrived over the previous centuries from Scotland, Switzerland and England, some of them making stops in Canada and other parts of New England along the way.

One of his grandfathers had been part of the Swiss Navy before emigrating. In my imagination, I see Papa Zimmerman in a very large ship on an endless patrol of Lake Constance, constantly bumping into its shores in his quest to protect the hemmed-in Swiss Federation from militant Teutonic empires to the north and east.

But that's another story for another time.

The story for this time is that the United States was and remains an immigrant nation.

We Americans – unless our roots in this land go back farther than four centuries – are descended from immigrants. Some fled religious persecution, some war. Some came seeking opportunity, some were captured and sent against their will, while still others came to escape economic hardship in pursuit of the American Dream.

The preceding has been just one part of one American story.

As we head into an uncertain future we would be well-served to remember our immigrant pasts.

Courthouse News Service has provided daily coverage of the United States District Court for Maine for more than a decade and regular coverage of Maine state courts since 2015.

Cumberland County Facts

County Seat: Portland, also the state's largest city

Population: 289,000

Named After: William, Duke of Cumberland and son of King George II

Interesting tidbits:

Cumberland County is home to the Portland International Jetport, Maine's largest airport, the Maine Mall and the Portland Sea Dogs, minor-league affiliate of the beloved Boston Red Sox.

The great fire of 1866 burned 1,800 buildings and left 10,000 Portland residents homeless. The great fire was just one of four devastating fires that inspired the phoenix rising from the ashes on the city seal.

The Greater Portland Metropolitan Area is home half a million people, more than one third of the population of Maine.

Portland was home to Neal Dow, known as the "Napoleon of Temperance" and the "Father of Prohibition." Dow was instrumental in the passage of the Maine Law, one of the first prohibition laws to hit the books, which might come as a surprise to the drunken revelers that spill from Old Port bars most weekends.

Portland was named after the English Isle of Portland. Portland, Oregon, was in turn named after Portland, Maine.


York County Facts:

County Seat: Alfred

Population: 201,000

Named After: York, England, by explorer and member of the Plymouth Council for New England Christopher Levett, who had to abandon plans to found a settlement in present-day Portland

Interesting Tidbits:

Home to many of the oldest colonial settlements in Maine, York County is the oldest county in Maine and one of the oldest in the nation.

York County used to be much bigger. Cumberland and Lincoln counties were carved out of the original York County in 1760, and a northern part of the county was stripped away to become part of the new Oxford County in 1805.

The oldest court records in the United States still in existence are held at the historic York County Courthouse in Alfred. The records go back to 1636 and include a patent conveying land between the Piscataqua and Kennebec rivers from King Charles I of England to Sir Ferdinand Gorges.

Though he helped found what would become the state of Maine and set up its first court system, Gorges, a naval and military commander and governor of the port of Plymouth in England, never set foot in the New World.

York County is the only Maine county that borders both New Hampshire and the Atlantic Ocean.

Penobscot County Facts:

County Seat: Bangor

Population: 152,000

Named After: The Penobscot Native American Tribe

Interesting Tidbits:

Penobscot County is home to the flagship campus of the University of Maine in Orono, located approximately 10 miles northeast of Bangor.

Penobscot County was split off from Hancock County in 1816, four years before Maine became a state as part of the Missouri Compromise, which allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state and Maine as a free state.

Penobscot is the most populous county in Maine's northern second congressional district. The county's support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election was instrumental in Maine splitting its electoral college votes for the first time since 1828.

There are more than 20 communities around the world named Bangor. Fifteen are in the United States and named after Bangor, Maine – which is named after either Bangor in Wales or Northern Ireland.

Bangor has been the port of entry for more than a million members of the military returning from foreign wars.

Kennebec County Facts:

County Seat: Augusta, also the state capital

Population: 119,000

Named After: Eastern Abenaki word for large body of still water or still bay. The endangered language is spoken by many Native American tribes, including the Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot.

Interesting Tidbits:

Augusta is home to Fort Western, a former British colonial outpost built in 1754 during the French and Indian War. The original main building was restored in 1920 and depicts its use as a trading post. This bureau chief fondly remembers school field trips to the fort.

Kennebec County is home to Colby College and Thomas College, both in Waterville, as well as the University of Maine at Augusta.

Kennebec County was established in 1799 from portions of Cumberland and Lincoln counties.

A large amount of paper and textiles were produced in earlier years at mostly now-shuttered mills along the Kennebec River, some of which have been redeveloped as housing.

Augusta is home to approximately 19,000 people, making it the third least-populous state capital behind Montpellier, Vermont, with approximately 7,800 people and Pierre, South Dakota, with a population of approximately 13,000.

Read more coverage of Maine news

Maine Governor Calls for Guillotine After Beating Impeachment Attempt

Maine Splits Electoral College Votes

This Bureau Chief Writes What He Hopes Will Be His Only Overtly Political Column

Bangor's Methadone Clinic Battle Heads to Court

Nestle Water Pumping Deal Approved in Maine

Maine AG Sues Over Closed Ed Panel Meeting

Maine Governor Loses Court Battle on Vetoes

'North Pond Hermit' Doesn't Owe Police

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