John Kneeland, #43 on “The Dunbar Prisoners” List

Every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy; please independently verify all data.

Published on: 06 Apr 2015
Updated: 16 Jan 2017

Find his researcher here.

Surname variations: Kneeland, Neelan, Cleland

DISCLAIMER: According to History of Littleton, NH in Three Volumes (James R. Jackson ed., Cambridge: University Press, 1905.) John Kneeland was born in Boston, MA however no sources are referenced and the book contains a note stating “The extent of the errata is chiefly due to incorrect material furnished by individuals concerning their ancestry.”  In Seven Centuries of the Kneeland Family (Stillman Kneeland, New York: Self-published, 1897.) there is no documented proof of John Kneeland’s parentage and the author routinely uses “probably” and “likely” when making familial connections throughout his work.  As purported elsewhere, there is no mention of any John Kneeland of Boston in John Burton Cleland’s The Ancient Family of Cleland.  We are not entirely certain the John Kneeland of Stewart’s Unity list (view the original list here) is the same man who married Mary Hawkins nor are we certain he is a founder of the Scots’ Charitable Society.  However, based upon the preponderance of evidence, we hypothesize they are all the same man.   We are currently searching for a descendant of John Kneeland in hopes of providing clarification.

John Kneeland’s parents, birth date, and exact birth location are currently unknown.  Between 11 Nov 1650 and the spring of 1651 he was transported as a prisoner of war (following the Battle of Dunbar and the subsequent Durham Death March) from Scotland via England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the ship Unity.1

Founding member of the Scots Charitable Society on 06 Mar 1657 (06 Jan 1657).2

Married Mary Hawkins d/o James and Mary (Mills) Hawkins by 1659.3

Mary (Hawkins) Kneeland was a member of the First Church of Boston.4 It is important to note that John Kneeland was never recorded as a church member.  This indicates he was not a Puritan.  Possibly Catholic or Presbyterian like other POWs?

Mary #1 b. 06 Oct 1659, Boston, MA5 and d. 19 Oct 1660, Boston, MA6
Hannah b. 18 Jul 1663, Boston, MA7 and bp. 10 Apr 1666, Boston, MA8
Mary #2 b. 13 Apr 1665, Boston, MA9 and bp. 10 Apr 1666, Boston, MA10
John b. 29 Nov 1668, Boston, MA11
Solomon b. 07 Feb 1670, Boston, MA12 and bp. 12 Dec 1670, Boston, MA13
Ruth b. 30 Jul 1673, Boston, MA14 and bp. 27 May 1673, Boston, MA15
Rachel b. 02 Sep 1678, Boston, MA16

Took the Oath of Allegiance in Boston, MA on 11 Nov 1678.17

John died 11 Aug 1691, Roxbury, MA aged 59.18,19

Mary died 05 May 1703, Roxbury, MA aged 65.20

John’s tombstone

This family was connected to another SPOW, John Marshall.  John Kneeland and John Marshall married sisters Mary and Ruth Hawkins respectively.

This family was connected, either through kinship or friendship, to Judith (Mrs. Oliver) Callow/Callaway as she left bequeaths to John Kneeland, his wife Mary, Mary’s four sisters: Damaris (Mrs. Bartholomew Threeneedles), Ruth (Mrs. DanielFairfield) previously the widow of SPOW John Marshall, Elizabeth (Mrs. Thomas Masor [Mercer]), and Sarah Newton as well as John’s mother-in-law Mary Hawkins.18

1 George Sawin Stewart to Elizabeth (French) Bartlett, January 31, 1913. Letter. From New England Historic Genealogical Society, The Bartlett Collection.
2 Scots Charitable Society, ed., The Constitution and By-laws, of the Scots Charitable Society of Boston, (Boston: Farrington Printing Co., 1896), 10.
3 Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volume III, G-H, (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), 264.
4 Boston Church Records: The Records of the Churches of Boston, Online database. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008), 222.
5 A Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston Containing Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages, & Deaths, 1630-1699, (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1883), 69.
6 Ibid., 75.
7 Ibid., 88.
8 Boston Church Records, 218.
9 A Report of the Record Commissioners, 100.
10 Boston Church Records, 218.
11 A Report of the Record Commissioners, 108.
12 Ibid., 115.
13 Ibid., 117.
14 Ibid., 128.
15 Boston Church Records, 234.
16 A Report of the Record Commissioners, 146.
17 Records of the Suffolk County Court: 1671-1680, Vol. XXX, (Boston: The Society, 1933), 967.
18Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850, Roxbury Vol. II, (Online Database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010), 569.
19 Anderson, 304-305.
20 Appleton, William S. et al. “March Meeting, 1900. John Brown and the Destruction of Slavery; John Marshall’s Diary; Suffolk Registers of Deeds; Memoir of Samuel Eliot.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 14, 1900, p22.

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