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James Innes of Cape Fear
North Carolina
Alison Halley

The following Will was sent to me by an American genealogist friend because it had a reference to Caithness in it, and she wondered if it might be of interest to anyone locally.


In the name of God amen.

I James Innes of Cape Fear in North Carolina in America. Coll of the Regement of sd Province Raised for His Majestys imediate Service and Commander in Chief of this Expedition to the Ohio against the French and there Indeans whoe have most unjustly Invaided and fortified themselves on His Majestys Lands.

Being now readdey to enter upon action and of Sound minde, memory and understanding. Do make this my Last Wil and Testment in manner and forme following viz: I recomend by Soul to the Almighty God that gave it, relying on the Merits of Jesus Christ for Mercy att the last day. My Bodie I most freely offer to be disposed off as God in His wise providence shall pleas to direct.

I recommend the paying of all my Just and Lawfull debts instantly, or when demanded. I direct a remittance may be made to Edinburgh Sufficient to pay for a Church Bell for the Parish Church of Cannesby, in Caithness, agreeable to my Letter to Mr. Jams. Broadee Minister thereof.

I also appoint and Direct that there may be a furder remittance made of One Hundred Pounds sterll. for the Use of the Poor of the Said Parish of Cannesby. And the Said Summ of One Hundred Pounds to be put to Interest for the use of the Poor of Said Parish, as formerly directed by me.

I also give and bequeth att the Death of my Loving Wife Jean Innes my Plantation called Point Pleasant and the Opposite mash Land over the River for which ther is a Seperate Patent, Two Negero yound Woomen One Negero yound Man and there Increase, All the Stock of Cattle and Hogs, halfe the Stock of Horses belonging att the time to that Plantation With all my Books, and One Hundred Pounds Sterling or the Equivalent thereunto in the currency of the Country for the Use of a Free School for the benefite of the Youth of North Carolina. And to see that this part of my Will be dewly Executed att the time, I appoint the Colonell of the New Hanover Regement, the Parson of Wilminton Church and the Vestrey for the time being, or the Majority of them as they shall from time to time be choised or appointed. The Residue of my Estate boeth reall and personall I leave to the sole disposeall of my Loving Wife and Companion of my Life Jean Innes whome I appoint to be Sole Executrix of this my last will and Testament, which I desire may be recorded in the Publique Register. In Testimony hereof I have put my hand and Seall this fifth day of July and in the year of Our Lor God One Thousand Seven hundred Fifty and Four. Done at Winchester in Virginia in Presence of us. Signed, Sealled and published


Probate follows, dated Brunswick 9th Octo 1759 Arthur Dobbs

My first thought was "who was James Innes? What was his connection with Caithness, and Canisbay in particular?" This was followed by wondering if a church bell had been provided for the church at Canisbay, and if the money for the poor had materialised.

The first source I tried was the present Minister of Canisbay, the Rev. A. Muir. He, unfortunately, has only recently come to the area and does not know the history of the church. The previous minister had a large collection of the Church records, which would have been extremely useful, but on his death it was felt that they would all be sent down to the Record Office in Edinburgh, where they are now difficult to gain access to from Caithness! Mrs. Bremner, the Church Treasurer, was able to give me a start by telling me that there was a gravestone for a James Innes who had been minister at Canisbay from 1667 till his death in 1704, aged 67. There was also an entry in the records of a sum of 80 left to the poor by a Col James Innes of Cape Fear, but this was dated 1804.

The next step was provided for me by Miss Janet Ryrie, who had a copy of "Ecclesiastical History of Caithness" by D. Beaton (pub. 1909). This book gave the information that the Rev. James Innes descended from the family of Blackhills in Moray, was laureated at the University and King's College, Aberdeen, 11th June 1666, entered (? the ministry) 22nd Dec. 1667 and died on 24th Dec 1704 in the 67th year of his age and 28th of his ministry. He had 2 sons. The elder, Theodore, was a merchant in Edinburgh, and the other settled in South Carolina and bequeathed 80 to the parochial poor. Well, this was obviously leading in the right direction, despite the fact that there was no mention of the bell, and only 80 was given to the poor!

My final information (so far, at least!) was gathered for me by Duncan Ross, of the Highland Family History Society, who is very conveniently situated in Inverness with all sorts of documentary information denied to us in Thurso! He consulted the 'Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae' to check the information on the Rev. James Innes. "Fasti" confirmed that he was 'descended of the family of Blackhills in Moray', and entered 22nd Dec. 1667, but said he was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen (M.A. - 11th June 1666). He did not conform to Presbyterianism in 1690 but was allowed to remain in the charge (of Cannisbay) until his death. He married Jean Munro, who died before 1725, and has issue Theodore, Merchant, Edinburgh; James, settled in South Carolina, and who left 80 to the poor of the parish; and Barbara, married (contr. 19th August 1732) John Sutherland, Merchant, Thurso.

This did not lead very much further, but Mr. & Mrs John Durham of Balloch, Inverness, have generously presented the Highland Family History Society with a microfiche index to the Old Parochial Registers for Caithness and Sutherland, and Duncan diligently searched through them, trying to throw some more light on James Innes of Cape Fear, and his wife Jean. He did not find the Births of Theodore and James in the index for Caithness and, since the index is comprehensive, and a Minister would be expected to have his children baptised and registered, it seems likely that they were born before he became Minister. of Canisbay. There is, however, a Marriage entry on 25th Jan. 1690 in Thurso of a James Innes to a Jean Miller. This would fit in very nicely with James Innes of Cape Fear, whose wife was a Jean.

There is much more that could be searched to broaden the information about James Innes, his emigration to America, and how he made good over there, but such research is better done in Edinburgh in person! For the time being it is interesting to compare the life James and Jean Innes left behind in Caithness at the end of the 17th C. or beginning of the 18th C. and the life they had in America in North (? or South) Carolina. It is pleasant to think that he carried with him the Scottish belief in education to the New World and is remembered there as a provider of free schooling in the early

days of the nation.


Charles Coon Publications of the North Carolina Historical Commission. The Beginnings of Public Education in North Carolina. Vol. 1. Raleigh 1908