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James Forbes of Connecticut

1627 – 1692


James Forbes (1627 – 1692) of Hartford, Connecticut was one of the earliest House of Forbes immigrants to North America. James Forbes was most likely the son of Captain James Forbes of Caithness, the second son of Duncan Forbes (1572-1654), Provost of Inverness and first lord of Culloden.

Both Scotland and England were ruled by a single monarch, Charles I, son of James VI of Scotland (James I of England) and grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots. However, the English parliament demanded a constitutional monarchy. Thus, from 1642, Charles I fought the army of the English parliament in the English Civil War. By the end of 1648, Oliver Cromwell's army had consolidated its control over England. Charles I was executed in January 1649, the monarchy was abolished, and his son, Charles II, fled in exile. The execution of Charles I consolidated Scots against the new English Republic Independents and the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed that Charles II was their king.

In 1650, James Forbes, the younger, fought for his king at the Battle of Dunbar. Unfortunately, the Scots were defeated by a much smaller force led by Oliver Cromwell. Over 10,000 Scots were captured and marched to Newcastle. However, holding such a large number of prisoners was expensive. Therefore, the Council of State, which was England's governing body, decided to ship prisoners to New England as indentured servants. After an indentured period of 6 to 8 years, the servant was first recognized as a citizen and was granted land.

On November 8, 1651, the John and Sarah sailed with about 300 Scottish prisoners on board, of which 272 of them survived to reach Charlestown in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on May 13, 1652. One of the names on the passenger list was "James farfason." This is most probably James Forbes which was written by an English clerk unfamiliar with Scots Gaelic dialect. This misspelling was similar to the records of John “Fobes” of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and William “Forbush” of Kittery, Maine.

The first written record of James Forbes in North America occurs in "The Genealogical Items from the Medical Journal of John Winthrop.” Winthrop notes that James Forbes, a "Scotchman," worked on a farm in 1658 owned by Mr. Goodens or Goodwin.

In 1658, James obtained land from John Crow in Hartford. The record of this land transaction notes the spelling of his last name as “fforbas” and describes the land as “One parcell of Meadow lying on the East side of the great River.” “One parcel” was about twenty acres on the Connecticut River. In 1660, records indicate that Forbes relinquished this property and obtained another parcel of land: "more one parcel of mead which he bought of John Crowe lying on ye eaft Side of ye great riuer Containing by estimation about Nine or tenn acres." Forbes prospered and added to his landholdings in 1661/62, 1673, and 1683/84.

In 1688 James and his family resided in the neighborhood of Hartford known as “Scotland,” which was renamed Burnside. James died intestate in 1692 and his total property was valued at about £344. This included a house and lot, barn, 60 acres of woodland, 6 acres of pastureland, 8 acres of swampland and 10 acres of meadowland.

James had 7 children and most them had several children. The details of the subsequent generations are meticulously recounted by Karen Lorraine Forbes in her genealogy Descendants of James Forbes of Hartford, Connecticut (c. 1635 – 1692). She traced twelve generations of his descendants who have settled all around North America.

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