The Family of Arbuthnott


When John of Rockfleet bought land in Co.Mayo, other Arbuthnots were already living in Ireland. Some of them, like John, may have gone to take up government appointments, but most probably went as farmers in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

A little can be learnt about them through records, though many Irish records have been destroyed.

Richard Arbuthnot, whose will was recorded in 1777, lived at Killalla in Co.Mayo. He had a brother, the Rev. Nicholas, who went to Trinity College, Dublin in 1738, and lived firstly in Dublin and then in Co.Armagh where he was appointed to the parish of Newton Hamilton. His son, the Rev. Frederick, also went to Trinity College, in 1778, and had one daughter, Phoebe, who died in Armagh in 1803. The Rev. Nicholas had another son, James.

Table 2.  In County Down there lived John Arbuthnot of Balleny. In 1725 his son Charles married Arabella, daughter of John Arnold of Greenan, Co.Down. Arabella must have been heiress to the Greenan property because, in 1785, her son Charles Arbuthnot Senior sold the property to his own son, also called Charles. It is not known why he sold it, and did not merely hand it on.

It was Alexander, son of Charles Junior and great-grandson of John of Balleny, who went to the United States in 1835 and founded the Pittsburgh branch of the family. Another great-grandson, William Arbuthnot of Rockvale, Co.Down married Sarah, daughter of John McCully of Drumblane, Co.Down in 1796.

At present there are Arbuthnots living in Co.Armagh, Co.Antrim, Co.Derry, Belfast and also in Co.Down, where, for many generations, some owned a farm at Dromore. The Irish Arbuthnots are of special interest because it is from Ireland that most of the families emigrated to America, Canada and Australia.

United States of America

Dr Thomas Arbuthnot must have been one of the earliest members of the family to settle in the American colonies. His will, dated 1742 and recorded in the court house at Fairfax Co. Virginia, shows that he owned several farms of which one was in Montgomery Co. Minnesota and three were in Fairfax Co. Va. He had eleven children, one of whom may have been Dorothea whose will was recorded in Enrico Co. Va. in 1782.

In 1761 an act was passed to provide for the settlement of Protestants in two new townships in South Carolina called Bessborough and Belfast. Among the first to come from Ireland under this scheme, on the sailing ship 'Pennsylvania Farmer', were Francis Arbuthnot and his wife. In order to earn their passage, Francis became servant to a doctor and his wife acted as maid to another passenger. However, on arrival, they were able to pay for 450 acres of land and were granted a further 450 acres.

Table 1.  It may be only a coincidence, but two men are mentioned in connection with Pennsylvania in 1793. In that year William Arbuthnot bought several thousand acres of land in Northampton Co., Pa. Also Samuel Arbuthnot, an Irish ship's captain, arrived then in Pennsylvania. He came possibly from Co.Cork, but more likely from Co.Down. He served in the Pennsylvania militia from May to December in 1793. His first wife had died in Ireland and he had one son, William. He then married Esther McMarlin in 1796 and had eleven more children. He lived in Allegheny Co., Pa. His many descendants are well chronicled. They moved on to many states including New Jersey, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, where Susan Arbuthnot became Professor of English, to Texas and Iowa, from whence one of Samuel's grand-daughters, Eliza Grubbs and her family moved to Oklahoma in 1889, the year the land was thrown open to homesteading. They called their baby daughter, born that year, Oklahoma Independance Grubbs.

In 1803, James Arbuthnot owned land in Mississipi and near Greensburgh, Louisiana. This was the year of the Louisiana Purchase, when the territory was bought by the U.S. from Napoleon. However, James was in the area before that time, which suggests, as some of his descendants believe, that he came from France. Others think he may have come from Scotland. The family plantation was near Winnfield, La.

James Arbuthnot, forebear of the Mississippi and Louisiana Arbuthnots is mentioned in the Mississippi Territorial Papers, Volume 5. In Volume 6 of these papers, George Arbuthnot is recorded as having signed a petition to the President concerning intruders into Chickasaw lands, Miss. Territory in 1810.

A John Arbuthnot bought land in Gibson Co., Indiana in 1817 and 1830, but there seems to be no way of relating him to other members of the family.

An incident on the Spanish Florida border in 1818 caused consternation in Washington and uproar in London. Alexander Arbuthnot, a Scottish trader aged seventy, was tried in his absence by an army court under the command of Andrew Jackson, and found guilty of aiding hostile Indians. He was later captured and hanged.

Another Alexander Arbuthnot, son of Charles Jnr. of Greenan and great-grandson of John of Balleny, Co.Down, went to the United States in 1835. He settled in Pittsburgh. He may have gone as a trader in Irish Linen, certainly his son Charles was a linen trader and founded the Arbuthnot-Stevenson Dry Goods Store in Pittsburgh. Charles married Elizabeth Shaw, one of their sons, William Shaw Arbuthnot became president of the store, and another, Dr Thomas Shaw, became Dean of the University of Pittsburgh from 1907-1918.

In 1850 Eleanor Arbuthnot, after the death of her husband, travelled to Pittsburgh from Co.Down taking most of her ten children with her. Eleanor, born an Arbuthnot of Balleny, married her cousin, another Charles Arbuthnot, possibly one of the Arbuthnots of Greenan. She must presumably have been a close relative of Charles, the founder of the Arbuthnot-Stevenson Store, who by then was well enough established to feel he could offer a future for his widowed cousin and her children.

James Armstrong Arbuthnot was Adjutant-General of the State of Missouri and his grandson, the Rev. Charles W. Arbuthnot, had charge of Presbyterian activity in Europe for 22 years. He held this appointment after World War II and was based in Geneva.

The rest of the world

Information about the family
Arbuthnott Family Association Homepage

Hon Mrs Christy Bing 1977 - 2000