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Walter Kerr

1656 - 1748

Walter Kerr
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Spouse
Margaret
Margaret
1661 - 1734
Children
Margaret Kerr
Margaret Kerr
1691 - 1769

Walter Kerr - Biography of Imprisonment in Scotland

Not far from the grave of William Red ford (about half a mile) upon a little knoll is another Covenanter's grave,—the grave of another "forefather of the hamlet." Here "Old Mortality" would have lingered lovingly, for Walter Ker had been a prisoner in the Whig's Vault of Dunottar Castle, near Stonehaven, on the North Sea, south of Aberdeen. Throughout the long defense of the Covenant the name of Ker had been constantly conspicuous in the low countries among its defenders. Sir Walter Scott tells the story of the prisoners of the "Whig's Vault:""It was in 1685, when Argyle was threatening a descent upon Scotland, and Monmouth was preparing to invade the West of England, that the privy council of Scotland, with cruel precautions, made a general arrest of more than a hundred persons in the south and western provinces, supposed, from their religious principles, to be inimical to government, together with many women and children. These captives were driven northward like a flock of bullocks, but with less precaution to provide for their wants, and finally pamed up in a subterranean dungeon in the Castle of Dunottar, having a window opening to the front of a precipice which overhangs the German Ocean."George Scott, Laird of Pitlochie, a persecuted Covenanter, obtained permission to leave the kingdom of Scotland, chartered a vessel from Newcastle, and, receiving as a gift the banished prisoners of Dunottar, sailed to the plantations of East Jersey. Lord Neil Campbell sold to him one thousand acres of land. The voyage was a pitiful one, and the Laird and his wife died on the passage. John Johnstone, his son-in-law. became his heir- and executor. He settled near the town of Topanemus, Monmouth county, New Jersey. Not until 1689-90 did Walter Ker receive deeds and grants of land. After that time he received lands from James, the son of John Johnstone, beside his own lands at Topanemus. From 1685 to 1689 he probably served John Johnstone to pay for his passage to America. Walter Ker was one of the founders of "Old Scots" or "O'ld Tennent" Church.

•Taken from "The New Jersey Coast in Three Centuries:The History of New Jersey, Volume 2, p176-180http://books.google.com/books?ei=WzchTdbDH5DonQfx0Ym0Dgct=resultdq=john%20craig%20freeholdq=walter%20kerid=WUsVAAAAYAAJots=cx8GALbSusoutput=textpg=PA176

From tftaylor167 from http://mv.ancestry.com/viewer/8f0a8cff-293c-4dd2-aae4-620b7004ff85/28365398/12573355655?_phsrc=aIk1191&usePUBJs=true:

Walter Ker was released from Cannongate Tolbooth into the custody of John Johnstone on 3 Sept. 1685. He was exiled from Scotland for life. {Source: Privy Records of Scotland} Although his name does not appear on any internet published ship's manifest for the Henry and Francis, John Johnstone's name does for the voyage of 5 Sept. 1685. It is therefore prudent to say that Walter Ker also was on that vessel. Cost of passage on the Henry & Francis was 5 pounds Sterling or a period of indentured servitude which on that voyage was 4 years after which each person was to receive a new set of clothes and headlands (I believe it was 50 Acres) {Source: George Scot's broadsheet advertising for colonists to accompany him to America} The Henry & Francis arrived in Perth Amboy Harbor in mid December 1685. In the months of March, April of 1690, Walter Ker begins to obtain Headlands and other properties, and by 1691 is married to Margaret and having children. This would support a 4 year indentured period of service as well as not marrying until the servitude was at or near completion. His lands border those of James Johnstone, older brother of John Johnstone. In 1691, James Johnstone deeds to Walter Ker, 100 Acres, as a bequeathment to Walter's son James, and mentions the reason is personal. Again it would be prudent to say that this is the action of a devoted grandfather giving his namesake grandson a headstart on his adult life. Likewise we may attribute Walter Ker's wife as being Margaret Johnstone, hence making James Ker the grandson of James Johnstone. Jame Johnstone's wife is also named Margaret. Walter and his wife Margaret have a daughter Margaret b. ca. 1691. (Could she be the twin of James?) Whether there was any connection between Walter Ker and the Johnstone family before his arrival in America needs to be researched. Some state that Ker and Johnstone were married by 1677 but do not provide a source or proof. No records that I have found support this claim, rather the facts as above stated support a marriage that occured post arrival. There may however have been a knowledge of each other, else why did John Johnstone go to Cannongate and obtain Walter? Also the matter of James Johnstone's letter to John ca 1684/5 shortly after James' rapid departure from Scotland with his family, ahead of the King's men who wanted his head. In that letter he describes the New Jersey lands and states the need for preachers. In 1684 Walter turned himself in to the curate of Dalserf as pennance for his crime against God when he had been one of the 'Sweet Singers of Israel' (Gibbite) {Sources: "Men of the Moss Hags" a recounting of the papers of William Gordon of 1702 -- Also the volumes of "Six Saints of the Covenant" by Patrick Walker} which he had expressed a desire to do for some time. Was that timing influenced by the departure of James Johnstone and family from Scotland to America? Answer at this point is unknown. Was Walter one of the Covenantors imprisoned in Dunottar Castle, in the 'Whig's hole'. Some claim that he was but do not cite a source or provide any proof.

By 1692 Walter Ker had established what is now called Old Scots Cabin Church and later deeded the land on which Old Tennent Church now stands. Samuel Ker was Walter's son, Aaron Mattison was Samuel's father in law.

On a side note, internet ship's manifests for the Henry and Francis state that George Scot's daughter Eupham died on the crossing. This is incorrect. Eupham Scot married John Johnstone in April of 1686, and over the course of their marriage bore him several children. She filed for her father's lands which were guaranteed George Scot for a successful arrival in New Jersey, and was awarded same. John Johnstone was named guardian of G Scot's son who also survived the voyage. {Source: Records of East Jersey}