Windham Life and Times – May 10, 2019

Nutfield 300

The Elopement of Susan MacGregor | Wiley’s Book of Nutfield

Clockwise: The first framed house in Londonderry built by the Rev. James McGregor. Rev. David MacGregor was the son of the first minister of Londonderry. The McGregor coat of arms. The “auld” gun owned and used by Rev. James McGregor. “ James MacGregor was “the first minister of Londonderry, was born in 1677, and died in 1729. During his brief pastorate of ten years, his influence in town was unbounded in matters temporal as well as spiritual. A gun carried in the famous siege of Derry, (Northern Ireland) in 1688-89, is now in the possession of A.F. Hall, Esq., of Manchester, N.H. Additional interest attaches to it from the fact that Mr. MacGregor always carried it into his pulpit on the Sabbath, well loaded and primed, to be ready in case of sudden attack by the ‘Indian enemy.’ It is well represented by the artist.” Londonderry Celebration June 10, 1869.

      “Mrs. Ballou remembers this elopement story of the MacGregors: Rev. James MacGregor, first pastor of the church in Londonderry, had died and his son, Rev. David was the pastor of the East Parish church. Alexander, another son, lived on some of the MacGregor lands where the Morrisons recently lived, and where the old MacGregor house, the first framed house in Londonderry, was still standing a few years ago. James another brother had a pew in the meeting-house. Susan a daughter of Alexander MacGregor, fell in love with one Burnside, who kept a store in the East Village and was not liked by the Stricter Presbyterians, especially the MacGregors. Susan’s parent opposed the intimacy between her and Burnside, but their mutual affection ripened and failing to secure the consent of her father and mother, Susan determined to elope. The arrangements were quietly made by procuring a license from the Governor, and the time was set. Susan prepared her wardrobe, tied it in a bundle and on the day of the wedding placed it behind the door that opened into the stairway in the front hall. Burnside gathered his friends on horseback, and halting them a few steps from the house, rode up to the front door in great style. Susan caught up her bundle from behind the hall door, and before any of the family knew what was going on, had mounted the horse behind her lover, and the party had started for a minister. Nothing was done to interfere with the wedding, and Mr. and Mrs. Burnside settled down to housekeeping, to the great indignation of the MacGregors, who refused to visit them. Mrs. Burnside, however, sought to overcome their scruples by taking her husband to church the following Sunday. With great assurance she marched up the aisle a little late, followed by her husband, and stopped in front of her uncle James MacGregor’s pew. He instantly opened the pew door and let her in, but seeing Burnside he suddenly closed the door and shut him out. Burnside, however, did not hesitate a moment, and touching the door lightly with his hand, he vaulted over it and sat down next to his wife, to the amazement of the congregation and the mortification of the MacGregors. Such audacity was unbearable and James MacGregor seized the young man by the shoulders and would have pitched him out of the pew but for the timely remonstrance of the scandalized pastor. Stopping in the midst of his sermon, Rev. David McGregor called out: ‘Brother James, do not disturb the house of God!’ This restored order, and the young couple remained together. But the MacGregors did not visit Susan until after the birth of her first child, when it was commonly reported that she was in delicate health and might not live long. Then they relented, and were in a measure reconciled to the marriage. It is said that the issue of this marriage became renowned in the succeeding generations and one of the sons was a general in the Revolutionary war. This Susan MacGregor and James, 2nd, were the only children of Alexander, the son of Rev. James, first pastor of town. Alexander married and settled in Rhode Island, and died after the birth of these two children. His widow married an Allen and remained in Rhode Island, but the two children were brought to Londonderry and raised in the family of James MacGregor, who figures as the uncle in this story.”


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