[Published in The Buchanan Banner (October 2020), a publication of The Clan Buchanan Society International]
by Richard Gwynallen
For thirteen years, the westside of Baltimore, Maryland was where I went to work each day in community development. Our office was the old Birckhead Mansion in Reservoir Hill. Built in the late 18th century, the building has also been known as the Bond Mansion, the Norwegian Seamen’s Home, and one of the Mayor’s Stations under Mayor William Donald Schafer.
Next door to Reservoir Hill was the community of Auchentorolie Terrace (pronounced locally as AU-ken-trolley). When I started work in Reservoir Hill, I knew nothing about Auchentorolie Terrace. However, once I learned about the neighborhood, I gathered that the name had Gaelic roots. At some point I looked into it and discovered that the community was on part of the estate originally owned by a Buchanan family.
One summer I took a walk in Druid Hill Park, which adjoins several communities, including Reservoir Hill and Auchentorolie Terrace. My destination was a cemetery to which I had been directed, visited by few and unknown to most.
This is the Rogers-Buchanan cemetery, where lie the original owner of the estate, George Buchanan; his wife, Eleanor Rogers; and a number of their descendants. According to Baltimore Heritage, among them are “a Revolutionary War veteran who served at Valley Forge with George Washington, a Confederate spy and saboteur, and a cantankerous slave-owner who created the ‘Druid Hill Peach’.”1 Indeed, though there are only twelve graves in this cemetery, they tell the story of conflicts within a single elite family that depicts many of the central struggles in early Baltimore — but more on that later in the article.
Rogers Buchanan Cemetery, Druid Hill Park, July 2019
There is a lot of history packed into this small area.
The building standing on the site of the Buchanan house is not the original one. In Baltimore’s Historic Parks and Gardens, Eden Unger Bowditch contends that the Buchanan house was on the site of the current Druid Hill Park Mansion,2 which is identified by the Maryland Zoo as the third house to occupy the site. While the Zoo in its analysis offers no information about the original Buchanan House,3 Baltimore Heritage, which indicates that the Buchanan house was on that site, refers to it as “a castle known as ‘Auchentorolie,’”, and that it burned during the Revolutionary War. 4
Enter Nicolas Rogers, an architect who in 1783 marries his cousin, Eleanor Buchanan, granddaughter of George and Eleanor. They move into a new home which Nicolas builds on the property, as the original Buchanan house has by then ceased to exist. Sixteen years later, in 1796, the Rogers house (House #2 on the property) was destroyed by fire. As it was being rebuilt in 1801, tragedy struck again when the Rogers’s downtown residence was also destroyed by fire. The family then returned to their summer estate in Auchentorolie Terrace before the new home (House #3) was completed, after which it became their year-round residence. Thus, the Mansion House in Druid Hill Park today is the third one on the Buchanan property. Its basic structure is still that of the original Nicolas Rogers house, 5 but two wings that were planned for either side of the Mansion House were never built.6
So, this cemetery is what remains of the original home of the family which would one day give Baltimore Druid Hill Park. Perhaps it is here, at least in the imagination, that it is most appropriate to begin this story.
Baltimore Abounds in Scottish Place Names . . . but
Baltimore has many Scottish place names; ones taken directly from places in Scotland, such as Barclay, Lennox, Dumbarton, and Argyle; and others Scottish-inspired, like Loch Raven, Druid Hill, and Waverly. And, of course, there is the statue of William Wallace in Druid Hill Park. David Dobson recorded information on thousands of Scots, Highland and Lowland, who were in the Chesapeake region in the colonial and the early years of the late colonial period in his book Scots on the Chesapeake, 1607 – 1830. However, there were no large settlements of Scottish Gaels in Maryland such as were established in North Carolina or Georgia, nor Ulster Scots communities such as were founded in Pennsylvania, or later in Virginia and North Carolina, nor large influxes comparable to the Irish in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of the Scots arriving in Central Maryland in the colonial period were poor and were not receiving property or high positions.
The numerous Scottish names of places in Baltimore derive more from romantic notions of Scotland than uplifting actual Scottish culture. The novels of Walter Scott were some of the most popular books in the 18th century. According to Ian Grimble in Scottish Clans and Tartans, Scott, himself, believed that an enthusiasm for adopting tartans, even by Lowland families who had no previous connection to tartan, started as early 1707 as a show of opposition to the Union with England. In any case, an absolute tartan mania followed King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822. Between the popularity of Scott’s books and the tartan craze, a trend had developed of evoking the romantic landscape of the Highlands and of the noble Highlander who lived so close to nature. It was not the real Scotland. It was a sentimental image evoked by self-serving gentry and other wealthy people with no or limited cultural connections to Highland Scotland, all this while the authentic world of the Gael was being destroyed through enclosure of common lands and clearing of large expanses of land. We would call it cultural appropriation today.
Nonetheless, there were a few Scots in positions of prominence in the Baltimore area who left distinct marks. This is one such true Baltimore Scottish story.
George’s Family Origins
George Buchanan was born prior to 7 July 1696, the date upon which his baptism was registered at Edinburgh in Midlothian, Scotland, to Mungo Buchanan, Esq. and Anna Barclay.7 There are sources that report his birth year as 1698, but I use the above date because of the baptismal record.
Mungo and Anna were of the lands of Hiltoun and Auchentorlie. Entries in the National Records of Scotland indicate Hiltoun was in the parish of Forteviot (Fothair Tabhaicht in Scottish Gaelic) in Strathearn (Srath Èireann in Scottish Gaelic).8
Auchentorlie House is off the A82 in West Dunbartonshire. Mungo bought Auchentorlie and other lands from the Colquhouns in 1709.9
The family is descended from the Buchanans of Drummkill in Stirlingshire.10 Mungo’s father, also named Mungo, was of Middle Tulliechewan in the Vale of Leven (Magh Leamhna in Scottish Gaelic) at the south end of Loch Lomond (Loch Laomainn in Scottish Gaelic). He held a charter to Middle Tulliechewan from Sir John Colquhoun of Luss as of 28 November 1654. Therefore, the family were tenants of the Colquhouns of Luss. Mungo Buchanan appears in records as Writer to the Signet, a solicitor who was a member of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet.11
In the Maryland Colony
George Buchanan immigrated from Scotland before 1723, already a physician. He received land quickly. According to the historic register description from the Baltimore City Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), “he received [land] in 1723 by patent from the Maryland Colony and which he named for the family holdings in Scotland.” The family land-holding of Auchentrolie was near Paisley, just east of Glasgow.12
He also rose to the top of Baltimore society quickly, becoming one of the city’s seven original Commissioners appointed to plan “Baltimore Town” at its founding in 1729, and was a member of the General Assembly from 1745 to 1749.13 He married Eleanor Rogers sometime before 1729. She brought with her 250 acres called “Hab Nab at a Venture”.14 By 1740 they held 579 of the 745 acres that now constitutes Druid Hill Park.15 By 1750, they had increased their holdings to twelve parcels totaling 1,684 acres.16
It was during his life in the Maryland Colony that George was entered into the membership rolls of the Buchanan Society of Glasgow on 14 February 1727.17
George and Eleanor had nine children who are listed in the website, Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties, eight of which appear in George’s will. Those children were Lloyd, Eleanor, Andrew, Archibald, George, Elizabeth, James, Katharine, and William.21
The family appears to have been connected to St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church, commonly known today as Old St. Paul’s Church at what is now 233 N. Charles Street. The baptisms and marriages of all their children, from Lloyd in 1729 to William in 1748 were recorded at St. Paul’s. During their years, St. Paul’s would have moved from its original location somewhere near the head of Colgate Creek near present day Dundalk, Maryland and on the same peninsula which would host the Battle of North Point in 1814, to “Lot 19,” in the Original Survey” of 1730 establishing Baltimore Town. It was the highest point just inside the original town boundaries on the north end. A small brick church, facing south towards the harbor, a rectory, and cemetery plots were built in 1739. The present church is the third St. Paul’s Church on the original platted lot of 1730. St. Paul’s has the distinction of being the only property still under its original ownership since the founding of Baltimore.
One of these sons, Andrew, born in 1734, was very involved in the politics and military action of the revolution. He was a member of the Committees of Correspondence in 1774 and the Committees of Observation in 1775. These committees, plus the Committees of Safety, formed a shadow government in the late colonial period, steadily wresting control of the colonies from royal officials. He was in the same years a captain of the 1st Company of Baltimore County militia. On 6 January 1776 he became one of five brigadier generals in the Maryland troops.22
George Buchanan was a physician and remained one until his death, and he is usually referred to as such. However, he was also a landowner and a slave owner. The former is clear from his land holdings. The latter is proven by his will. In it he leaves:
To son Lloyd Buchanan and hrs.,. . . Negro Tom that I bought of Dallam and Negro girl Peggy.
To son George, certain slaves. Eleanor also bequeathed slaves to her children.23
George died in 1750 and was the first grave in this small family cemetery. His eldest son, Lloyd Buchanan, took over the estate when on 28 January 1752, his mother, Eleanor Rogers Buchanan, released her share of “Hab Nab at a Venture” to him on 28 January 1752. Lloyd Buchanan fully took over operation of the estate by 16 October 1758 when he posted an administrative bond on her estate.24 Presumably, his mother had died by that time.
What’s in a Name?
The Druid Hill Park Master Plan gives the translation of Auchentrolie as “fields of sorrel”.18 Indeed, “auch” comes from the Gaelic “achadh”, meaning a field, meadow, or plain, but I couldn’t figure out how the rest of the word might mean “sorrel”. There are many Gaelic words for “sorrel”, but none match. A 1993 Baltimore Sun article records something similar: “The name has a Scottish origin and refers to a flower similar to heather.”19 But what flower? Heather is not sorrel. Alternatively, Anthea Smith in Finding the Charm in Charm City writes that she finds in Place Names of Scotland by James Johnston that it translates as “Field of Sorlie”,20 but in looking through the book I couldn’t find that reference. Somewhere I had heard the translation as “fields of sorrow”, so I explored that possibility and came up short as well. I’m a Scottish Gaelic learner, but not fluent, so I gave the challenge of translation to two fluent speakers, Scott MacIlleMhoire and Liam Ó Caiside.
They, too, could not find the etymology on any Scottish or Gaelic language site, or any term for sorrel that would result in “-trolie.” As regards the “Field of Sorlie” concept, Liam writes, “It would have to be ‘the Sorlie’ — Achadh an t-Sorlie — but what’s ‘Sorlie?’ It wouldn’t be the name Somhairle. You wouldn’t have a ‘field of the Somhairle.’“ The “t” in Auchentrolie seems to imply the presence of the definite article in the original Gaelic. The Sun article may well be closest, but we would have to know what plant is meant. Still, though we cannot rule out that the field in question was named for some event that occurred there, it seemed most likely to Scott and Liam that it refers to the name of some plant that grew there. The original Gaelic would be “Achadh an t-xxxxx”. Liam Ó Caiside suggested that “If it is ‘an t-’, the plant name may begin with ‘s’”. When the definite article is written as “an t-”, the first letter after the hyphen is silent. Therefore, the garbled Gaelic of Auchentrolie could preserve the pronunciation, but memory of the original could preserve the “s” in the English translation.
The Third Generation and the Appearance of “Druid Hill”
Lloyd Buchanan married Rachel Lawson. The couple had only one child, Eleanor, who was born in 1757. Rachel died in 1759. In his turn, Lloyd Buchanan bequeathed the following to his four-year old daughter, Eleanor, when, tragically, he died young in 1761.: “The Levell,” “Hab Nab at a Venture,” “Addition to Hab Nab,” the part of “Coles Harbour” he purchased from Thomas Sligh, and his lot and dwelling house.25
Eleanor Buchanan married her cousin, Col. Nicholas Rogers in 1783.26 Hence, the Rogers Buchanan cemetery, and here you find Lloyd and his wife, and their children and grandchildren.
This couple also transformed the operation from a plantation to more of an estate, reducing, but not doing away with, slave labor. Nicolas Rogers was an architect and built their home on the site of the present Druid Hill Mansion House. That original structure still “forms the basic structure of the present Mansion House”.27 The estate underwent extensive landscaping as well, even creating the rolling, sloping lawn of the existing Mansion House.
It is believed that it was Nicholas and Eleanor who renamed Auchentrolie as “Druid Hill”, perhaps drawing upon that sentimental picture of Scotland in the popular imagination that the gentry strove to foster. Perhaps the goal was to evoke a sense of natural mystery about their land. Or perhaps they were more knowledgeable. The Scottish Gaelic word for “Druid” is “draoidh”, the etymology of which is thought to render in English something like “tree-knower”. Perhaps the name was intentional because of the large numbers of trees on the estate, particularly oaks. Nicolas Rogers had studied in Glasgow, Scotland, so, again, it is possible that he had developed an interest there that led to the name.
The Druid Hill Peach receives a reference in The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, where it is stated that the Druid Hill Peach was originated by L. N. Rogers, Esq, and “ . . . a very delicious, high flavored fruit it is . . . “28
Nicholas Roger’s will evinced a desire to move the estate away from slavery permanently: “All the young negros now in my possession . . . It is my will to have set free.”29
George Buchanan, the son of the Revolutionary War General, Andrew Buchanan, shared the anti-slavery sentiments of his aunt, Eleanor Buchanan and her husband, Nicholas Rogers, but took it to a more active level.
By profession, George was a doctor, and was very involved in the development of medical institutions in Baltimore, but it is his social views that make him stand out for the purposes of this article.
He joined the Maryland Philosophical Society in 1786 when he was 23 years of age and became progressively involved in not only the development of medical institutions, but of early Maryland’s ideological foundations. On the 4th of July 1791, he delivered a presentation at a public meeting of the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery entitled An Oration upon the Moral and Political Evil of Slavery.30
It became a pamphlet, a copy of which was found in the Boston Athenaeum among George Washington’s papers with Washington’s signature on the title page.31 The presentation and pamphlet became so influential in the anti-slavery movement that it was important in William Frederick Poole’s 1873 publication of Anti-Slavery Opinions Before the Year 1800.
However, Nicholas Rogers’ wish remained unfulfilled at the time of the sale of the land to Baltimore City.
The Sale of the Land
When Lloyd Rogers sold Druid Hill in 1860 to Baltimore City to create a public park the sale referred to the enslaved population as “Slaves for Life”.32
Lloyd Rogers made one stipulation in the sale: that any living members of his family could be buried at their cemetery in Druid Hill and that the city would maintain the cemetery in perpetuity.
It is that gift that allows the public to enjoy what is clearly one of Baltimore’s gems, and allows me to sit in the cemetery, at least in the imagination, telling this story.
3 Mansion House History, 1801 – 2018; Maryland Zoo
4 Rogers Mansion in Druid Hill Park; Explore Baltimore Heritage; Johns Hopkins
5 Druid Hill Park Master Plan, p. 5
6 Mansion House History, 1801 – 2018
9 Strathendrick, and its Inhabitants from Early Times ; John Guthrie Smith; James Maclehose and Sons; Glasgow; 1896; p. 332-333
10 ibid, p. 330
11 ibid, pp. 332 – 333 and National Library of Scotland, Historical and Genealogical Essay on the family and surname of Buchanan, p. 220
13 McKean Genealogies, from the Early Settlement of McKeans Or McKeens in In America to the Present Time; Cornelius McKean; The Kenyon Printing and Mfg. Company; Des Moines, Iowa; 1902; p. 121
15 Druid Hill Park Master Plan
16 Baltimore County Families,1659-1759; Ancestry.com; p. 79
17 Strathendrick, and its Inhabitants from Early Times, p. 333
18 Druid Hill Park Master Plan, p.5
19 Neighborhood tour may shed light on Druid Hill Park’s ‘under-appreciated jewel’; Jacques Kelly; Baltimore Sun; 29 April 1992
20 Finding the Charm in Charm City: Affectionate Views of Baltimore; Anthea Smith; The Johns Hopkins University Press; Baltimore & London; 1998
22 McKean Genealogies, from the Early Settlement of McKeans Or McKeens in In America to the Present Time; p. 121
23 Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties
24 Baltimore County Families,1659-1759, p. 79
28 The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Volume 2; October 1847 p. 241
29 Druid Hill Park Master Plan, pp. 5-6
30 North American Family Histories 1550 – 2000 Ancestry.com, pp. 129 – 130
32 Druid Hill Park Master Plan, p. 6