Select Guthrie Miscellany

Here are some Guthrie stories and accounts over the years:

Alternative Origins of Guthrie

Onr theory is that Guthrie is a corruption of Guthrum, the name of a Scandinavian prince.  Then there is an old story which tells of one of the early Scottish Kings who had taken shelter, along with two attendants, in a fisherman’s hut. The King, knowing his attendants would be hungry, asked the fisherman to prepare two fish for them.  But the fisherman offered to feed the king as well and “gut three;” and so, the legend insists, the Guthrie name stuck.  Neither theory has much credibility, however.

Guthrie Castle

Guthrie castle, located near Forfar in Angus, was built in 1468 under a warrant granted by King James III of Scotland to his treasurer, Sir David Guthrie.  It originally consisted of only the square tower and a yett (entrance gate).  The yett was a symbol of trust in an era when the King wasn’t anxious for his subjects to be heavily fortified.  But the tower had walls 14 feet thick, thick enough to discourage invaders at the time.

It is believed that the family stopped living in the tower and built a house close by around 1760.  In 1848 John Guthrie, with the help of architect David Bryce, connected the tower and the house and subsequently undertook major renovations.  Later, the railroad which ran from Forfar to Guthrie actually had tracks passing along the top of the main gate. 

The castle has a reputation of being haunted.  The ghost was last seen there by one of the present members of the Guthrie family when she was a little girl.

Following the death of Colonel Ivan Guthrie in 1983, Guthrie Castle was sold to the American Pena family. They restored the place and added a golf course to the estate.  After 19 years as their private residence, the Penas then opened the castle for public use.

Thomas Guthrie and the Guthries of Pitforthie

The patriarch of this family, based at Pitforthie near Brechin in Angus, seems to have beenthe James Guthrie who married Janet Lyon around 1620.  They raised five children, four of whom became Presbyterian ministers. 

The eldest son, the Rev. William Guthrie, made over the estate later in life to a younger brother in order to concentrate on his ministry.  But the brother died and in 1665 William returned to Pitforthie to sort out his affairs.  He died at that time at his sister’s home.  According to one account, the male line of Guthries at Pitforthie later died out in 1690.

It is not quite clear what Guthrie line continued in and around Pitforthie, but one clearly did and one still connected to the church.  The line perhaps ran from William’s younger brother David to the Rev. Thomas Guthrie, that great preacher and reformer of the 19th century. 

However, Thomas painted a different story of his forebears in his autobiography. 

“My grandfather, on my father's side, was a farmer, as his father had been before him.  The latter was a tenant of that Earl of Panmure who lost both title and estates for taking part in the Rebellion of 1715.

My worthy ancestor, accounting his lease too dear, saw in the rebellion a favorable opportunity to get rid of a bad bargain.  So, when Panmure mustered his men, be appeared among them on horseback, booted, spurred, and armed for battle.  But he was foiled.

"No, no!" said the Earl, dismissing him to more peaceful toils, "go you home, David, and attend to your farm.""

The Thomas Guthrie Memorial

A fine statue in Portland stone to Thomas Guthrie stands on Princes Street in Edinburgh, facing Castle Street, by the sculptor F. W. Pomeroy.  It was erected in 1910 and bears the following inscription:

"An eloquent preacher of the gospel.  Founder of the Edinburgh Original Ragged Industrial Schools, and by tongue and pen, the apostle of the movement elsewhere.  One of the earliest temperance reformers.  A friend of the poor and of the oppressed."

A Covenanter and An Emigrant to America

According to family lore, their Guthrie ancestor John Guthrie was an ardent Covenanter. So devoted was he to that cause, so active in his opposition to the efforts of the Crown to force Prelacy upon Scotland, that Claverhouse, the Arch-Persecutor, set a price upon his head and hunted him from place to place.

Finally making his way to the west coast of Scotland, he and some of his followers found a hidingplace in a cave, whence, seeking escape to Ireland, a sharp outlook was kept for passing vessels.  At length a French ship was sighted, hailed, and as she hove to, the hunted men put out to her in a rowboat.  Just at this juncture Chaverhouse with some of his troopers came galloping up and fired a volley at the escaping party. Fortunately they had gained a distance from the shore out of musket range, and so, uninjured, made their getaway, landing in due time on the coast of Ireland.

His son John, born in Northern Ireland in 1708 married Ann and they emigrated to America, coming in the same boat with the Gilkesons and Stewarts whose descendants variously intermarried with theirs. They settled on the east side of the Octoraro Creek, a stream forming a part of the boundary between Chester and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania.

Adam Guthrie, Early Frontiersman

Adam Guthrie, born in Cork, was said to have been descended from the Scottish martyr James Guthrie.  He came as a young man with his parents to America in 1774, but lost both of them during the passage across. He found a home in the Scots Irish outpost in Augusta county, Virginia. 

He was one of America’s early frontiermen.  He left Virginia in 1784 and established himself in what was then the Southwest Territory (now East Tennessee).   Adam remained here until about 1809 when he removed himself with his family to Cumberland county, Kentucky.  The family crossed the Cumberland mountains and settled along Illwill Creek in the region of the Upper Cumberland river.  Adam remained in Cumberland county, developing a large plantation there, until his death in 1827. 

A later description of him went as follows: 

“He was a farmer and planter by way of occupation and a pioneer in the truest sense.  His journey which began with the dangerous voyage to America in the 18th century and ended across the Appalachian and Cumberland mountains during the frontier period is a feat worth taking note of.  Also of note is the fact that Adam Guthrie was in Tennessee with family less than twenty years after William Bean who is noted as being the first white settler to permanently live and begin farming in extreme East Tennessee along the Watauga river."

Guthries in America

There are Guthrie towns in America named after noted and obscure 19th century Guthries:
  • Guthrie county in Iowa was formed on 1851. It was named after Captain Edwin B. Guthrie who had died in the Mexican-American War.
  • Guthrie, Kentucky was named after Kentucky Senator James Guthrie who was also the President of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad when the town was incorporated in 1867.
  • Guthrie, Texas began in 1883 when the Louisville Land and Cattle Company purchased several hundred acres there for development in what later became King County.  The place was named after Louisville Land and Cattle stockholder W.H. Guthrie.
  • and Guthrie, Oklahoma originated in 1887 as a railroad station on the Southern Kansas Railway.   The name was later changed to Guthrie, named for jurist John Guthrie of Topeka, Kansas.  Guthrie was the territorial and first state capital for Oklahoma.

This Land is Your Land

This Land Is Your Land is probably Woody Guthrie’s most famous song.  Its lyrics were written by him in 1940 based on an existing melody, in critical response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent.  Guthrie first recorded the song in 1944.

"This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”

The song was brought back to life by the folk movement in the 1960's.

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