In late October, the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team embarked on a four day trip to Boston, Massachusetts, in the USA. The trip provided the opportunity to:

  • Meet and learn more from descendants of soldiers who were sent to this part of the USA as indentured servants.
  • Share our research with descendants, the general public and other academics through a series of lectures and talks.

Meeting descendants of the Scottish Soldiers

The trip began at Saugus Iron Works National Park, in the small town of Saugus, north of Boston. It was fitting that our trip began here as it was in this Iron Works that many of those soldiers sent to the US worked as indentured servants.

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The Team were given an excellent tour of the site, now owned by the National Park Service. Through the reproduced Iron Works, it was possible to see the iron-making process in motion and to gain a sense of what it must have been like for those soldiers who found themselves on foreign soil.

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The Team met with Emily Murphy, Park Historian, and her colleagues, who provided insight into the lives of the soldiers beyond the Iron Works.

The Team were also very privileged to meet around 30 descendants of those soldiers who voyaged to New England. Descendants had travelled from across the USA to attend the meeting and the Team welcomed the chance to see the impact the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project is having, by bringing these historical biographies up to the present date. It was a pleasure to meet this group of engaged and knowledgeable individuals, and the Team are excited to learn more from them, and to explore opportunities for continued dialogue and collaboration.

The Team also gave a public lecture at a packed Saugus Public Library. Descendants and members of the public attended a standing-room-only talk, along with local media, to hear more about what brought a group of Scottish soldiers to New England nearly 400 years ago.

Scottish Soldiers in Maine

The second part of the trip saw the Team visit South Berwick, Maine, to meet archaeologists, historians, and more descendants of the Scottish soldiers. The Team visited Vaughan Woods State Park to view the sites of two properties owned by 17th Century Scottish families. They also visited the Chadbourne archaeology site of a 17th Century English home and industrial complex, where it is likely that some Scottish prisoners worked as indentured servants.

This was followed by a visit to the Counting House Museum to view objects excavated from the Chadbourne site, including saw blades from the mill, and artefacts from the house which gave an insight into what life was like in the 17th Century.

The team were also able to visit the McIntire Garrison in York, Maine. Built in 1707 by the son of a Scottish prisoner, it is believed to be the oldest standing house in the state. It is located in the Scotland District; an area that was largely settled by Scottish soldiers in the 1650s-1660s when they completed their indentures.

Academic lectures

The final part of the trip saw the Project Team visit some of the most prestigious universities in the US and share their research with students, fellow academics, and Durham alumni.

The Team gave lectures at Harvard University, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World at Brown University, and Boston University.

The lectures were a valuable opportunity to talk to academic peers about their work in more detail and to learn from colleagues’ expertise.

Whilst at Harvard, the Team also visited the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology to explore their collections.

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Throughout the visit, the Team were overwhelmed with the interest and engagement with their research and would like to thank everyone who took part for making it so useful.

Now we are back in the UK, we will be focusing on organising the commemorative event for the Scottish Soldiers, to take place in the coming months, and we are also looking forwards to continuing the conversations we began in the US.

Sophie Daniels

Author: Sophie Daniels

Sophie is a Policy Support Officer in the Executive Office of Durham University. She is the Project Manager for the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project and coordinates all communications and engagement for the Project Team. She has a BA and MPhil in Theology from Trinity Hall, Cambridge and her role at Durham University focuses on Higher Education policy and project support for the University Executive Committee.

Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project Team visit USA