Was John Patrick McMullan an Indentured Servant?

February 2020

Did John Patrick McMullan Come to British Colonial America as an Indentured Servant?

 

 

Several McMullans have looked for concrete evidence about John McMullan's life. Here is what we have been told:

1. John was born in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland in 1740.
2. John's family moved to Dublin when John was around 4 years old.
3. As they got old enough, John and is brothers worked on ships.
4. John repaired sails in the shipyards in Dublin and that he must have been a tailor also.
5. In 1760, at 20 years of age, John came to America.
6. The ship John was on docked in Norfolk, Virginia.
7. John settled in Virginia and married Theodosia Beasley.
8. John had 4 children with Theodosia and she was probably pregnant with their fifth child when John enlisted in the Continental Army in an all-Irish brigade.
9. John fought in several engagements in the American Revolutionary War. He was in the hospital some during that time but we do not know why.
10. John, as a tailor, made George Washington's first military uniform when he became Commander of the Continental army.
11. After the War, John returned home and his wife, Theodosia had left with, and married, Capt. William Dula.
12. John married Elizabeth Stowers and they had 10 more children.
13. In 1797, John, Elizabeth and all of John's children who had been born at that time except for two of them, migrated to the northeastern part of the State of Georgia.
14. John died in 1813 in then, Elbert County, Georgia.
15. Some sources say Theodosia died but she married William Dula and had several children with him. She is buried in North Carolina.

Some of these things we believe are true but many of them cannot be substantiated. Let's examine each point.

1. John was born in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland in 1740.

Many times stories are passed down about family members and unfortunately those stories get twisted over the years. So far, in January 2020, no birth record has ever been found for John. Most McMullans in the mid 1700's lived in what is now, Northern Ireland, completely across Ireland. I have run across sources that say John was born in Tralee, Galway and even Dublin. If John's father, Patrick Joseph McMullan, was a farmer, the family could have lived outside of one of those cities. Recently, we ran across a Google Earth image of a house in Dublin and marked on the map, above the house was the word, "Tralee." I asked a friend who grew up in Ireland but lives in Scotland what she thought about this. She said that her mother said when people moved away from a place, sometimes they would name their home after the place they had come from. Could it be that John was not born in Tralee but rather in a house that was called Tralee but was actually in Dublin. And then we have to ask did John grow up in Galway? Family records were not kept as meticulously as we do now.

2. John's family moved to Dublin when John was around 4 years old.

Until we can find a birth record for John and other information, we may never know where he was born, where he lived or what he did.

3. As they got old enough, John and is brothers worked on ships.

This is simply conjecture on someone's part. Fishing and shipping were major industries in any seaport town. Other people were farmer, merchants and many other professions. At this time (2020) we have no record for John, his siblings or his father.

4. John repaired sails in the shipyards in Dublin and that he must have been a tailor also.

Again, we have absolutely no proof of what kind of work John did.

5. In 1760, at 20 years of age, John came to America.

We don't even know the exact date on which John was born. I have found three different years in which he could have been born. 1740, 1743 and 1748. If John would have been born in 1740 and enlisted in the Continental Army, he would have been 36 years old which seems to be an extreme age to join the military. I believe the other two dates of 1743 and 1748 should be looked into more closely. I believe these dates would put him at a more appropriate age to go to war.

6. The ship John was on docked in Norfolk, Virginia.

Again, we have no idea on what ship John came to British Colonial America or what year. In the mid 1970's Philadelphia was major port in the colonies. I believe there is a very good chance that when John immigrated into America, he came in thorugh Philadelphia.

7. John settled in Virginia and married Theodosia Beasley.

If John actually did land on American shores in 1760 there are 9 years before he married Theodosia Beasley that we can't account for. They were married in 1769 but we do not have an official record of that marriage either. In those days, many marriages were common-law marriages. Many times there would be a ceremony and the couple would be considered to be husband and wife. In the 1800's, in very small communities, people would have a marriage ceremony and the marriage would solemnized by a circuit preacher or circuit judge the next time they came through that town.

I have always felt that John, most likely, came to America as an INDENTURED SERVANT. Many thousands of people came to this county in that fashion. Most of them would give up five and even ten years of their lives for a boat ride across the Atlantic Ocean. We have found something that points in this direction. While doing a search on Ancestry.com in February 2020, I got this hit:

Searching for Farley Grubb's book mentioned above I was able to come up with this page that shows a John McMullan, John McMullen and John McMullin. All of them were runaway slaves (indentured servants). You must realize that indentured servants were slaves in every sense of the word. Many times they were held longer than the terms they agreed on and many times their masters were mean and cruel. There were many more caucasion indentured servants than there were African American slaves. African American slaves were taken care of "from the cradle to the grave" where caucasion indentured servants did not have that kind of care.

These records were taken from the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper. The name of the slave is first, followed by the owner or owners. Then is the date on which the runaway was published. Then, information about the slave is given including their age and how long they had been escaped. This is the only page in the book with a John McMullan. There are three with various spellings of the McMullan name.

There is a John McMullan, age 24 – his escape is published on 5 November 1767 making his birth around 1743
There is a John McMullin, age 16 – his escape is published on 21 June 1764 making his birth around 1748              
There is a John McMullen, age 40 – his escape is published on 21 September 1774 making his birth around 1734 which is much too old for our ancestor

The first "John McMullan" absolutely fits the requirements for our common ancestor, John Patrick McMullan! The second one's age works our very well but the last name is spelled differently. The third man listed is too old be our John McMullan.

Here is the actual clipping from the November 5, 1767 Pennsylvania Gazette.

SIX DOLLARS Reward

Run away the night of the 17th of October last, from the subscriber, living in East-Town township, Chester County, a servant man, named JOHN M’MULLAN, about 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high, about 24 years of age, of a sandy complexion, pale hair, and talks very broad; he had on, when he went away, a blue coat, black jacket, with lighter black parts, check shirt, and trousers, with two other shirts, of new course linen, blue yarn stockings, a pair of old shoes, and a felt hat; the said servant is supposed to have forged indentures with him; he is apt to drink to excess, and when so, very talkative. Whoever takes up and secures said servant in any of his Majesty’s goals, so that his master may have him again, shall receive the above reward, paid by JAMES MURDOCK, or JAMES BLAIR.

At this time in his life, John had probably never been to Virginia. Trying to get as far away from Chester, PA as he could, he may have traveled 225 miles to the colony of Virginia putting a lot of distance between him and his master. It wasn't uncommon even into the early 20th century for criminals to flee one state for another where they know no one would look for them. After a couple of years in Virginia, John met Theodosia and they were married.

This is a modern Google map of the East Town township, Chester County, Pennsylvania to Greene County, Virginia.

I am going to be the first to say it, I believe this IS OUR JOHN PATRICK McMULLAN!

8. John had 4 children with Theodosia and she was probably pregnant with their fifth child when John enlisted in the Continental Army in an all-Irish brigade.

We do have proof that John fought in the Revolutionary War but we don't know why he was listed in the hospital on some of his muster cards. We know he was with George Washington in the horrible Valley Forge campaign. More soldiers died from sickness and disease than they did from battle wounds. John enlisted for three years and the war lasted for seven years. We do not know how long John was gone from home during this time. We do not know if her ever took leave and went back to see Theodosia and the children. From what I understand, mail service at that time, was almost non-existent. Kay Cleveland, one of our McMullan cousins has asserted that Theodosia may have well thought John must have been killed in action and that he was not going to be coming home. I also wonder how a woman with four small children and being pregnant with the fifth child would be able to survive on her own uless there was family there. Her family must have close by but John had no family in that area at the time.

9. John fought in several engagements in the American Revolutionary War. He was in the hospital some during that time but we do not know why.

If John was an escaped slave, it would make sense for him to join the military. It would take him away from the cities where people would be looking for him and he probably felt like, being in the army might keep from being arrested and returned to his master. We can only make assumptions.

10. John, as a tailor, made George Washington's first military uniform when he became Commander of the Continental army.

The following is taken from Capt. Albert McMullan's book, History of McMullan and Allied Families,

THE FOLLOWING WAS TAKEN FROM THE HISTORY OF HART COUNTY, GEORGIA BY JOHN WILLIAM BAKER.

John McMullan of Scotch-Irish descent, was born in Dublin, Ireland, about 1740, emigrated to America and settled in Virginia, in that part known as Orange County, then later Rockingham County: was married to Theodosia Beasley ( first wife) Orange County, Va. about 1766 or 1767 and after the American Revolution settled in Swift Run Gap of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Orange County, Va., on a tract of land of about 400 acres patented to him by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1796. He was a lieutenant in the Revolutionary war and, as related by his youngest daughter, Lavinia Smith, to Judge Frank M. McMullan, of Orange, Va., fought on the side of the Patriots and Colonists; was a tailor by trade and cut out and made the first military suit worn by George Washington after he was made Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The tailors Chest, made of cypress, which John McMullan brought from Ireland, went into possession of his son, Patrick, at his death; from Patrick it went to his son, William from William it went to his son, William Marion; from William Marion it went to his son, William Jesse McMullan of Newton, Mississippi.

Baker believes John married Theodosia in 1766 or 1767. In my research, I also found the marriage could have been in 1769. John and Theodosia's first child, James, was born in 1770. I would think they started having children pretty quickly after getting married so I would tend to believe 1769 as the year of their marriage. John escaped from indenture around 5 November 1767. This would have given him plenty of time to get to Virginia, go to work and eventually court Theodosia.

11. After the War, John returned home and his wife, Theodosia had left with, and married, Capt. William Dula.

As I stated before, I can't imagine how hard it would have been for a woman to raise five children by herself. Kay Cleveland has repeatedly said that she thinks Theodosia probably didn't hear from John for the seven year duration of the War and feared he was dead. Because of that, she had to get on with her life.


12. John married Elizabeth Stowers and they had 10 more children.

As far as John's children we know that with two wives, he fathered 15 children.

13. In 1797, John, Elizabeth and all of John's children who had been born at that time except for two of them, migrated to the northeastern part of the State of Georgia.

This we know is true also. There are still many of John McMullan's descendants Hart County and Elbert County, Georgia. We have the history of him and his children in this area. Many of his descendants immigrated to Mississippi and to Texas.


14. John died 16 December 1817 in what was then, Elbert County, Georgia.

I believe this date can be taken seriously. John had established himself in that area of Georgia and his sons had also become established. Many of them were very active in the local churches and some of them became ministers. By this time in our country's history, better records were being kept also.


15. Some sources say Theodosia died but she married William Dula and had several children with him. She is buried in North Carolina.

Someone made this assumption and other people have believed it without any proof. It has been well established that Theodosia married Capt. William Dula, had children with him and she is buried in North Carolina.

With all of this history, I am going to take a stab at how John's life story may have gone. Please understand this is mostly conjecture and assumption. But I do believe their could actually be some truth in the story.

John McMullan, born in 1743 in Tralee, Kerry County, Ireland, moved with his family when he was young to Dublin. With shipping and fishing, being the major industries in Dublin, John and his brothers worked in the shipyards or on fishing vessels. This is at a time when children started working when they were very young. John worked at repairing sails on the many ships that came through Dublin and the ones that were based there. He and his brothers heard stories of the New World and John, probably the adventurer of the group, had dreams of becoming wealthy in America. After months of thinking about it and dreaming about it, John eventually signs up to come to British Colonial America as an indentured servant.

After a long, rough boat ride across the Atlantic Ocean, John lands in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is met by his new master. He is taken to his master’s shop and over the course of a few months is taught how to be a tailor. His master was probably cruel and abusive. Many indentured servants were forced into indenture for many years more than for the set amount of time upon which they had agreed.

John finally decides this indenturment isn't headed in the direction he wants for his life so he runs away, traveling over two hundred miles away to the Colony of Virginia thinking he will be far away that no bounty hunter would be looking for him there. He gets a job as a farm hand and in 1769 he meets Theodosia Beasley and they marry. Ever the Irishman, John probably didn’t care a lot for the English and when talk of independence goes around, John begins to think this is his opportunity to be a part of something big and exciting. Always looking for some new exciting adventure, John volunteers to fight in the Revolutionary War. Theodosia is probably not happy with John’s decision and when John heads off to war. When John leaves she is pregnant with their fifth child, John or he was just a newborn baby.

John enlisted for three years and the War lasted seven. John may have stayed on for the entirety of the War. Theodosia had to have struggled just to have survived, being alone to raise five children and after not hearing from John, probably assumes he has been killed in action. The Revolutionary War ceased on 3 September 1783. Having served until the end of the war, John goes home and discovers that Theodosia has taken off with Capt. William Dula another Revolutionary War soldier. John marries Elizabeth Stowers around 1783 and moves on with his life. Their first child, Nail, is born in 1784.

In 1796, John was ceded 400 acres of land at Swift Run Gap, Virginia for his military service. John probably never farmed the land. He sold it within a year of becoming the owner of that property..

John probably never lost his adventurous spirit and stories of inexpensive land in Georgia that had just been acquired from the Indians made him dream even bigger. After thinking about Georgia and dreaming of his future, he and all but two of his nine children load up what they can and move to Georgia settling in Elbert County. John begins to amass more land through land grants and lotteries and homesteading. Six more children are born in Georgia and John builds quite a large farming operation. He and his children become strong pillars in that area of Georgia. John gives land to his children from Theodosia so they can establish their farms in Elbert County, Georgia also. When he passes away, he gives the rest of his land and property to the children he had with Elizabeth Stowers. Finally, in December 1817, John gets sick and passes away, surrounded by his wife and family

Jay McMullan
8 February, 2020

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© 2020 by Jay S. McMullan - All Rights Reserved

On February 12, 2020, I started posting again to a Facebook page I started several years ago about our McMullan family. Until I got the following message from one of our McMullan cousins, Melissa Clark, I was about 65% sure that all of the information above was about our John Patrick McMullan. After getting this message from Melissa, I am 95% sure it is our John McMullan!

Melissa M. Clark: My Grandpa Mac (Frank Burkett McMullan) and all of my McMullan relatives have said he was an slave a.k.a. "indentured servant" and escaped after he came over to the states.

 

 

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