Saugus Iron Works at Lynn, Massachusetts


Forge with bellows from Wikipedia

You can read a fascinating account of the origins of the Saugus Iron Works in The Saugus Iron Works at Lynn, Mass. by J. H. Woodbury, c 1892. While this small book does not mention one word about the Scots at the Iron Works from 1651-1688 I think there is no doubt about who some of the perpetrators are in this quote on page 10!

“The litigation to which the Iron Works were subjected increased and became oppressive. It appears as if the impulse to “sue the corporation” was instinctive among the townspeople. The corporation, its managers, and its workmen were proceeded against under every conceivable excuse. The boundaries of worthless land, poor crops on sterile soil, unrestrained courtships, speaking lightly of the Governor, reproachfully of the Church and harshly of the King, were all subjects of long continued and bitter litigation.”

We know that some of the Scots did court and marry some of the English Puritan women. They got into trouble not respecting the English Puritan Governor or the English King (restored in 1660), understandably so! 🙂 The works shut down in 1688 so our Scots were there from 1651 to 1688.

Thirty-five Scotsmen at the Iron Works in 1653

As found on a document compiled by George S. Stewart and located in the Bartlett Collection at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.

1. James ADAMS


3. John BANK

4. Alexander BREBNER

5. Alexander BURGES

6. John CLARK


8. George DARLING

9. Malcolm DOWNING

10. James DUNSMORE

11. Peter GRANT

12. James GORDON

13. Alexander INNES

14. Andrew JAMESON

15. William JORDAN

16. Thomas KELTON

17. James “LADLE”

18. Robert “MIMY”

19. James M’CALL

20. Alexander M’DOUGAL

21. Malcolm M’CALLUM

22. William “M’WATER”

23. John M’SHANE

24. John MASON

25. Ingraham MOODY

26. John PURDIE

27. John “RUBTON”

28. John STEWART

29. Thomas TOWER

30. George THOMPSON

31. James THOMPSON

32. James TAYLOR

33. John “TOISH”

34. Thomas WALTER

35. Alexander GRIMES


For more information:

The Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site – “In the 1600’s, on the banks of the Saugus River, something extraordinary happened.  Explore the place where European iron makers brought their special skills to a young Massachusetts colony. This nine-acre National Park includes working waterwheels, hot forges, mills, an historic 17th century home and a lush river basin.”

The following is found at Boyd
The Scots arrived in Lynn from Boston by boat. The initial payments for food for the Scots is recorded in the record books of John Giffard, the agent for the undertakers of the iron works, in April of 1651. This indicates that they arrived there around that time. There were also payments recorded for medicine and medical help, suggesting that they were in poor health. One death was recorded.

Once there, some were sold elsewhere. Alexander Ennis was evidently among those who remained at Saugus. He was listed on an inventory of the iron works dated November 1653. The inventory was a result of lawsuits resulting from financial difficulties. The Scots were valued at ?10 each, though Giffard protested that they were worth twice that amount and some of the Scots more than that.

The indentured Scots were employed in a variety of tasks, including acting as forge hands, assisting the colliers (who produced the charcoal for the iron works), and even keeping Hammersmith’s cattle. Giffard was directed to use most of the Scots as woodcutters to supply the colliers. Some were taught the trades of “smiths, colliers, carpenters, sawyers, finers, and hammerman” (according to Carlson). Giffard stated that these men “would neare have managed the Compa(ny’s) business themselves, and have saved them many hundreds of pounds in a yeare.” Carlson stated, “The Scots of Hammersmith were for the most part unskilled laborers. Yet, they played a major role in the support of the skilled iron workers.” If not for the debts that affected business, he says, these Scots would have taken over more and more of the skilled positions there.

Most of the Scots lived in the “Scotchmen’s house”, a single building one mile from the iron works. This house is believed to have had two rooms around a central chimney with a cellar oven. There were eleven beds and bolsters there and twice that number of coverlets and blankets, suggesting that the Scots slept two to a bed. Others lived with non-Scottish workers, although there is some indication that the company may have had other quarters built for them beside the house.

The company provided the Scots with food, clothing, and tools. Payments were recorded as having been received by local craftsmen and ironworker’s wives for shoes and clothing. Food was either grown on the company farm or purchased by Giffard for the Scots. The latter consisted of “malt, hops, bread, mackerel, wheat, peas, beef, and pork”, according to Carlson. Apparently, the undertakers thought that Giffard fed the Scots too well. They complained, “As for the dietting of the Scotts men:I have advised with some of the Company and they tell me that 3s. 6d. per weeke is a sufficient allowance for every man:Considering the cheapnes of provision thaire…you haveing ther plenty of fish, both fresh and salte and pidgions and venison and corne and pease at a very cheape Rate.” (A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn…, Baker Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA) Apparently, he was spending 6s. a week for each man on food. Some of the tools used by the Scots had been shipped with the Scots. Others were made by a local blacksmith. They were even supplied with “strong Waters” and tobacco at the expense of the Company.

Meanwhile, some claimed the Scots were not receiving their full portion. There were complaints that food and soap meant for the Scots went to other workers and even to the Giffard family.

The Scottish workers were not isolated from Lynn’s community, though it was an “alien environment”. Many Scots married local women both before and after their indentures were finished. In addition, “all Scotchmen, Negroes, and Indians inhabiting with or servants to the English” were to be included in military training, by the order of the colony’s General Court in May 1652. (Dow, George Francis, ed., The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, Salem, MA, 1920, I, p. 354-5, also A Collection of Papers Relating to the Iron Works at Lynn…(see above))

However, William Saxbe, Jr. noted in his article that, “Relations with the surrounding Puritan communities were not always smooth:a local observer noted that ‘At the Iron Works wee founde all the men wth smutty faces and bare armes working lustily…The headmen be of substance and godlie lives. But some of the workmen be young, and fond of frolicking, and sometimes doe frolicke to such purpose that they get before the magistrates. And it be said, m(u)ch to their discredit that one or two hath done naughtie workes with the maidens living thereabouts.’”[7]

Financial difficulties at the iron works led it to be handed over to creditors. The Scots were transferred over along with all of the iron works’ property. Most served the remainder of their terms at Lynn “in a plant that saw little activity conducted until the latter part of the decade” (Carlson).

12 Responses to Saugus Iron Works at Lynn, Massachusetts

  1. Marion Gonzales says:

    Trying to trace my Moody ancestry. My grandmother was Addie Belle Moody and have traced her line back to Clement who possibly could be son of Ingraham Moody?! Any information on Ingraham Moody would be greatly appreciated to see if I’m in his line or that of Caleb Moody?

  2. Joanne Roth says:

    I have a map that also shows Henry Magoon as being at the Iron Works, with this list of men. I do not know why his name was omitted from the list but he is shown as living there at that time. How do I find and view the information about Ingraham Moody (as I have connections to my Henry (thru his son Alexander) Magoon with him as well) and would like to add that to all of this history if possible.

  3. David Gordon Stolpetad says:

    Henry Magoon ended up in Exeter, Rockingham New Hampshire. I was wondering if James Gordon had any off spring from Saugus. Alexander Gordon ended up in Exeter also, were James and Alexander brothers? Trying to track my 8th great grandfather Henry Gordon, Marblehead 1700-1738

  4. Does anyone know what became of John Bank after the Iron works closed or where he may have lived? Any family?

  5. Pingback: Downing & Abbott Company Founder and Carriage Builder of Concord New Hampshire: Lewis Downing (1792-1873) | Cow Hampshire

  6. Kirsten Courtney says:

    I am a descendent of James Adams. (Known as Jamie, originally Seumas (not exactly sure of spelling, but my uncle might know for sure.) He came on the Unity and was a slave/ indentured slave at Saugus Iron Works and family later lived in RI and Putnam, CT. My grandparents lived in New London, CT, when I knew them (and also St. Louis, MO when my dad was a child.) Some family still lives in the New England area, but I grew up as an Air Force kid and my dad lives in North Carolina.

    My uncle, Bryon Niemann has extensive genealogy and historic family documents dating back to this time and probably farther back. His mother was Helen Adams before she married William Nieman (my grandparents.) Helen died of cancer in 1997, three weeks after my daughter (her first great grandchild) was born. Her husband died a few years later. They had 4 sons, my father the oldest. Helen and William had 2 granddaughters and one grandson (I am the oldest, an only child, the other two are brother/ sister.) They have at least two great grandchildren (my children, girl and boy,) and possibly more (I haven’t kept up with my 2 cousins very well.) My uncle Bryon is likely already involved in this research, but I am fairly new in rediscovering this family history.

  7. Tim Upton says:

    Name number 27 – John “Rubton” – may be my 1st generation Upton in America. His name was reported, sometimes, as John Rupton from Salem, Massachusetts. His name recorded on land deeds is John Upton of Salem and Reading Massachusetts and did work at the Hammersmith and Saugus Iron Works. He was a Scottish prisoner of Cromwell’s war and send to American as an indentured man. He married Eleanor Steward. This can be verified in “The Upton Memorial” book found on the web. Any information confirming John “Rubton” and John Upton are the same person would be appreciated.

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