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Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia
Part II – Military, Ecclesiastical and other Matters (2)


The interest taken by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the religious well-being of their countrymen abroad has been illustrated in our previous volume. Once again in 1722 the Assembly took occasion to write to those far-off parts of Europe. The Protestant Church of Lithuania was in a pitiable condition at the time, chiefly for the want of funds and for their inability to give their young candidates for the ministry a suitable training. On the seventh of May in the year given, the National Synod assembled in Edinburgh takes this sad condition of the sister Church into consideration, and deliberates on the "friendly request" to train at its own expense two Lithuanian Students at the University of Edinburgh. Finally they resolve to spend the four distinct collections from Lothian and Tweeddale, which were formerly devoted to the bringing up of other students, for the said purpose of educating two Lithuanian youths at the University, beginning at Martinmas 1723. They commission Jacob Young of Killicantie to gather in these tithes, and send copies of their resolution to the Prussian ambassador at London, , Baron von Wallenrode, as well as to the Rev. Boguslaus Kopyewitz at Vilna.[In Livonia, Russia.] The letter written to the Reformed Synod of Lithuania in connection with this matter is dated May 17th, 1722 and runs:—

"DEAR AND HONOURED BRETHREN,—The Reverend Boguslaus Kopyewitz, minister of God’s Word at Vilna, when he was here in 1718 as a delegate of the Reformed Church of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, witnessed with his own eyes, with what great pity for his brethren who profess a purer faith among your people, the story of your afflictions, as read by him in your letters, had filled the Scottish Church then holding her National Synod, and how heartily she advocated a collection of funds on your behalf. The event has sufficiently taught us that our lay-brethren have been animated by the same feelings towards you as we ourselves. We have handed over to you all the money except nine pounds and two shillings of British money, which small sum not being considered large enough for the purpose, was given to Samuel Chien, a student of Divinity, and a Pole, as a donation. As a further proof that the kind feeling of our Scottish Synod towards you has remained unaltered, and that our mind is most ready to spread the Kingdom of our Saviour and most willing to assist our brethren tied to us by the same Reformed faith, the members of the Synod commissioned me to let you know in their name, that they have, in consequence of your letter, by their resolution, a copy of which is enclosed, provided for the board and the education at the University of Edinburgh, of two students, who will have to be recommended by your certificates. We hope that this proposal of our Synod will be agreeable to you, and a fresh token not only of its interest in your own Synod but of its sincere love towards those among your nation who are united to us by the true teaching of Christ. It remains for me to add with how great a pleasure I received the commission of communicating this to you by my letter, having thus an occasion of assuring you of my own sincerest wishes, with which I beg to sign, Reverend and dear Brethren, in brotherly love, your humble servant,

GULIELMUS MITCHELL,
May 17, 1722
Moderator.

Verum Exemplar Epist. ab Ecclesia Scoticana ad Synod. Reform. Lithuaniensem. [Kgl. St. Archiv, Konigsberg. The name Chien occurs amongst the Scots in Poland, so that the above named student would have been a "Scoto-Polonus."

How zealously the Scots attended the German Presbyterian Churches of St Peter and Paul and of St Elizabeth at Danzig, and how eagerly they availed themselves of their ordinances is shown in the Church registers and books which have been kept and preserved uninterruptedly since the year 1573, that is to say only about fifty years after the introduction of the doctrines of the Reformation. [According to Simon Grunau it was the son of a Scot from Nurnberg, with the name of Matz Konigk, a councillor and very eloquent, that first brought the message of Luther and his books into the town of Dantzke. Grunau, III., 115. But Grunau is not an authority of the first order.]In the marriage registers we find between the years 1573 and 1699 over one hundred Scottish names, from Jacob Burges who marries Anne, Simon Lang’s widow (1573) to D. Nichols, who marries Anne Merivale a hundred years later. In the lists of baptisms from 1590 to 1632, about seventy Scottish names occur, amongst them Mackomtosh, Cochran, Skoda, Hewell and Grieve, names that we do not find elsewhere.

In the fifty years dating from 1631 to 1681, finally close on sixty Scotsmen and Scotswomen were buried in St Elizabeth’s alone, a great many also in the Church of St Peter and Paul, two or three in the Church of St Mary (Frauenkirche) and three in St Johann’s. Of one Daniel Beer, it says, "a Scot of ninety-five buried in the Churchyard of St Barbara," another whose name from Fergus became "Vergiss" seventy-two years old, was buried in the Churchyard of Corpus Christi. The notes, short as they are, very often are extremely interesting. Of Edward Kincaid we read that he was a late "Feldpreger"(Army Chaplain) in the army of the Swedish General Baner (1641); another, Jacobus Ross, is described as a late lieutenant and an innkeeper; the name of Johann Cant is accompanied by the following note: "a Scottish lieutenant who died on his way through Danzig fifty-six years old" (1652). [Another Cant or Kant, Andreas, was a tanner and dwelt in Petershagen, a part of Danzig. In 1661 he is described as a ‘musketeer under Sergeant Major Goltz in the army of the Elector of Brandenburg."] Gertrud Uphagen is described as Lieutenant Jacob Stuart’s "housewife" (1658), Catherine Watson, seventy-seven years old, as the "Scotch" Catherine (1639), and of Alexander Watson we are told that he was "a Scottish youth of twenty-four who was wounded on the walls of Schöneck."

Besides these entries we have the more enduring records of numerous tombstones and mural tablets, many of them adorned with their proud Scottish coats-of-arms, in the two Churches of St Peter, St Elizabeth and St Mary at Danzig.

Danzig, always ready to receive the sea-tossed Scots in the shelter of her harbour, has now granted them a last safe anchorage.

The Scottish traveller, who gets into ecstasies of delight at the sight of the foreign Campo Santos under the brighter sky of Italy, would do well to remember that here also far in the "rude North," forgotten and lonely, is a Campo Santo intimately connected with the life-history of his own people: the true Campo Santo of the Scot abroad.

On those Scots in Germany eminent in the walks of life we have now to make a few remarks. To the notices given concerning Alexander Alesius, the celebrated Scottish Reformer, we may add that when he threw up his professorship at Frankfurt on the Oder, so poor seem to have been his circumstances that Johann Friedrich, the Duke of Saxony, had to provide forty ducats as travelling money for him; [Corpus Reform., II. 885.] that his name occurs written on the fly leaf of a Latin Bible (1549) belonging to the German reformer Scribonius and that his chief work was his Lectures on St Paul’s epistles to the Romans.

There is another Scottish professor at Frankfurt mentioned with the name of Johann Walter Leslie, who died in 1679. He wrote various theological works; whilst on the Roman Catholic side mention must be made of William Johnston, who was a Jesuit and taught Philosophy and Theology at Grätz in Austria. He died in 1609. [He wrote among other works an Epitome Historiae Sleidani and a Commentary on Isaiah.]

Other descendants of the Scots took to the Law. To complete our list given elsewhere we may mention the names of Christof Pathon or Patton who was a lawyer at Elbing in 1648, and of John Immanuel Hamilton, the son of the above named clergyman, who became an advocate and professor of Philosophy at Halle University and died as a judge at Stargard in Pomerania in the year 1728. Another Pomeranian solicitor, John Mitzel (Mitchel) was born in 1642, at Stralsund, and went as a lawyer to Rostock after having finished his University course at Helmstádt. In 1670 he became Professor of Jurisprudence at Königsberg, where he died in 1677.

To the famous Scottish doctors of medicine must be added the name of John Patterson, who was Imperial Physician, and lived in the small town of Eperies in Hungaria, in the latter half of the XVIth. Century.

In the walks of Science and Natural History the Forsters, father and son, were eminent. Their ancestor, George Forster, emigrated, together with the swarm of his countrymen, about the year 1642, when he settled at Neuenburg, in Eastern Prussia, as a merchant. His son Adam removed to Dirschau not far from Danzig, where he also obtained citizenship. A grandson of his, George Reinhold, became famous as the companion of Cook, with whom he sailed round the world from 1772 to 1775. He was a man of a very unsettled disposition, and quite incapable of adapting himself to the exigencies of life. After having been a clergyman at Nassenhuben, a village with a Presbyterian Church near Danzig, he turned to the study of Natural History and made a scientific journey, by order of the Empress Katherine, through the Colonies of the Government of Saratow (1765). A year later we find him in England supporting himself as a teacher of German and Natural History at Warrington. After his voyage with Cook, he ruined his chances with the English Government by allowing his son, who had accompanied him, to publish a diary of his travels, in contravention of the Government order forbidding any printed publication except its own official report. The D.L. of Oxford was the only reward he reaped for his scientific researches during his voyage. It was only by the generous act of Frederick the Second of Prussia that he escaped imprisonment for debt. In 1780 he was appointed Professor of Natural History at Halle, where he died in 1798. He understood seventeen languages and stood in the first rank of the Zoological and Botanical scholars of the day.

His son, Johann George Adam, accompanied his father as a botanist, though he was then only seventeen years old. He then studied at Paris and in Holland. Being of the same roaming disposition as his father, he was for a short time Professor at Kassel, but changed this pleasant place for Vilna in Russia. A Russian voyage of discovery to the Northern Regions of the Pacific Ocean was abandoned on account of a war with the Turks (1787). In his disappointment Forster accepted the offer of a librarianship at Mayence. Here in very rigid Roman Catholic surroundings his cosmopolitan views as a Republican were strengthened. He joined a Republican Club, of the town, then in the hands of the French, was sent to France in 1793 to advocate the French occupation of the left border of the Rhine and spoke and wrote much in favour of his political ideals. But, having seen Paris his was a rude awakening. Moreover, the German army retook Mayence in 1793 and Forster was thus rendered homeless. His plan of visiting India was cut short by his death in 1794. He belongs to the classics of German style and is a model of clear and spirited diction, whilst he was among the first to rouse the feeling for the beauties of outward nature, a merit which has been warmly acknowledged by Humboldt.

Other Scottish families still existing in Germany are the Barclays. We have seen that a great number of them settled in Rostock in the XVIth. Century. They all descended from one Peter Barclay who immigrated from Scotland and became a burgess in 1657, as a silk merchant. His eldest son called himself Joannes Barclay "de Tolli." [The Russian General of the same name, who became Field-marshal and Prince (1761-1818), is said to belong to the same stock.]Peter’s other son Ludwig was the clergyman. Descendants of his on the female side are still alive.

Of the Spaldings in Mecklenburg who have now spread over the whole of Northern Germany and of the services they rendered to their adopted country in the calling of arms and in the learned professions, we have already spoken. The third Scottish family that settled in Mecklenburg were the Gertners (Gardiner). John Gardiner from Brechin in Scotland was made a burgess of Schwerin on the 19th of July 1623. His son was enrolled in 1647 and afterwards rose to the dignity of "Rathsherr" (councillor).

The Muttrays at Memel, of which family descendants are still living at Danzig and elsewhere, trace their origin to Thomas Muttray who is said to have accompanied James II. to France in the year 1688. He afterwards came to Memel when the King of France did not prove the liberal supporter of the adherents of the fugitive British prince, he was expected to be.

The Simpsons, another Scottish family in Memel, which spread from there all over Prussia, came originally from Cupar Angus in Forfar. An old birth brief, dated 1680, is issued there. It seems that they first settled at a small place about twenty miles north of Memel called Heiligen Aa, ["Aa" means water. "Heilig" is "sacred."]from a river Aa which emptying itself into the Baltic at the same time formed the boundary between Kurland and Szamaiten. Besides the Simpsons, tradition mentions the names of Muttray, Douglas and Melville as settlers. They traded with the produce of Szamaiten, corn and flax, which they chiefly sold to Danzig. The inhabitants of Memel, feeling themselves aggrieved at this proceeding, lodged a complaint with the Crown of Poland, at that time exercising supremacy over the Duchy of Prussia; and effected an interdict of King Vladislaus, dated February 6th, 1639, by which all trading across the Heilige Aa was strictly prohibited. His captains received orders to burn the place. To this day, there is a fishing village called Heiligenaa on the borders of Curland, but the harbour has long ago been choked with sand. Simpson and the other Scots fled to Memel, where they soon held positions of influence and trust. The Simpsons trace their descent from one Andrew Simpson, whose son, Jacob, was married to Barbara Young, a descendant of Magister Will. Young of the Ruthven family and of Catharine Bruce (Robert Bruce). They are related by intermarriage to the Macleans, Muttrays and Stoddarts.

The Macleans also are numerous in Prussia; some of them call themselves "of Coll" from the island of that name in the Hebrides group; others hail from Banff; on a tombstone in the churchyard of St Salvator at Danzig, the home of Maria MacLean, who died seventy years old in

1806, is given as Duart in Scotland, which is on the island of Mull. This is all the more interesting as among the many thousands of Scotsmen emigrating to Prussia and Poland in the centuries spoken of, very few from the far West and of Celtic blood are to be found. [The Scots were known in Prussia for their fair hair; a dark Scot is immediately called "de swarte Schotte."

Alexander Gibsone, British Consul at Danzig As to Baron Gibsone, the proprietor of the large Neustadt estates which he left to the husbands of his nieces, the Counts Keyserling, [See Scots in Germany.]he caused his nephews John and Alexander Gibsone to come over from Scotland to Danzig in order to take up his business, as we have seen. Of these the second, Alexander, did a large export trade of grain under the style of "Gibsone and Co." He took for partners other two young Scotsmen, Marshall and Stoddart, of whom the latter, after Gibsone’s death, carried on the business, leaving it to his son Francis Blair Stoddart, [There are Stoddarts or Stodderts in Danzig in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but a connection between these and the present bearer of the name cannot be established. The other of the Stoddart who came to Danzig in 1832, served in the English Navy against Napoleon and died as Vice-Admiral. Originally, the family hailed from Peebleshire, and Selkirkshire, where they owned property of Williamhope on the Tweed and Hartwoodburn. Many members of this old family are buried in St Mary’s aisle by the shore of "lone St. Mary’s silent lake," or in the venerable graveyard by the manse of Yarrow.] who is the present owner of this well-known house. Alexander died unmarried. His elder brother John, generally called Baron Gibsone, who was at the same time the elder brother of Sir James Gibsone Craig of Riccarton, lived at Potsdam, was a member of the Prussian Court, and as such accompanied King Frederick William III on his flight to Konigsberg in 1807. He instructed the Crown Prince, later on King Frederick William IV, in the English language. Like his brother Alexander, he was an active member of the "Tugendbund," a secret association for the rousing of the nation against Napoleon. Later in life he resided some time at Rome, and to judge by his correspondence with Wilhelm von Humboldt, then Prussian ambassador at Naples, appears to have been something of a political agent for Prussia. He died only fifty-three years old and is buried in the old churchyard of Potsdam, along with his daughter, Cecilia, who outlived him more than sixty years, and was a friend of Alexander von Humboldt and the famous Mendelssohn family in Berlin. Of his sons, the eldest, William, and the youngest Gustavus Adolph died unmarried. William went back to Great Britain, established a mercantile house at Liverpool, and was appointed German Consul there. After having given up business, he travelled a good deal and died very aged at Scone, in Perthshire. His younger brother, Gustavus Adolph, was an officer in the British navy, was sent home an invalid from India and died on the Hamburg roadstead, where his father had gone to meet him.

John’s second son, Alexander, remained at Danzig and took to ship owning under the firm of Alex. Gibsone & Co. about the year 1820. He was greatly esteemed by his fellow-citizens, who conferred on him their highest honours appointing him president of the Chamber of Commerce and of the Town Council.

Of his three sons, the eldest, Alexander, was a student who finally settled at Nuremberg where he worked for many years voluntarily at the great Museum Germanicum; the third son, Thomas, an officer in the East Indian navy, died in India, twenty-three years old at the time of the mutiny. The second son, John, who alone of the brothers is alive, inherited his father’s business in 1853, and enlarged it considerably, so that he was known as one of the largest shipowners in the Baltic. Being also entrusted with a good many honorary offices by his fellow-citizens, he now chiefly devotes his time to the building of labourers’ cottages, being honorary secretary of the so-called "Abegg Stiftung," a legacy left for this purpose in 1870.

As neither Mr Gibsone nor Mr Stoddart has any direct heirs bred to the business, the mercantile firm of Gibsone, so well-known in Danzig for several hundred years, is doomed with their demise to disappear.

Casting back a look over the vast numbers of Scotsmen in Prussia in the seventeenth century, far exceeding the thirty thousand mentioned by Lithgow, [Scots in Germany, p. 32.]and noting their gradual assimilation and absorption, we do not wonder at the statement of the anonymous English Merchant, and Resident in Danzig, of the eighteenth century, that one third of that city was of Scottish blood, nor at the other statement of the German scholar of the nineteenth, who attributes the stubbornness and the shrewdness of the Eastern Prussian to the influx of the Scots.

Let us rather hope that some of the higher qualities of the Scots also: their tenacity of purpose, their sense of duty, their great charitableness, their saving disposition and their general trustworthiness contributed something towards shaping the character of the inhabitants of these remote German Provinces; provinces, that may no longer now be looked upon with that stolid indifference or cheerful ignorance which is generally vouchsafed abroad to German geography and ethnology, but must be considered as the Canada and the Australia of the seventeenth century, into which much of the best strength and blood of Scotland has been poured, if to less glorious advantage, still not all in vain and always to the incentive interest and delight—let us hope—of the student of this phase of exterior Scottish history.


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