The Ringing of the Bells–Part Eight: The Other Patriarch– Col. Ninian Beall (1625-1717) and the Mystery of Sarah Beall (1659-1734)

Col. Ninian Beall (1625-1717)

Col. Ninian Beall (1625-1717)

Col. Ninian Beall (1625-1717) was larger than life–an understatement by most accounts. Born in Scotland, he was captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, transported to Barbados where he cut sugar cane as an indentured servant. From there, he made his way to Maryland where he acquired large amounts of land. He had two marriages: one in Scotland and the second in Maryland. Most of his children came from his second marriage. He was a close associate of Alexander Magruder (1610-1677). Until recent years, most people have accepted that Col. Ninian’s daughter, Sarah Beall (1659-1734) married Alexander Magruder’s son, Col. Samuel Magruder (1654-1711). Samuel Magruder and Sarah Beall were Howard’s seventh-great grandparents. Alexander Magruder and Col. Ninian Beall were Howard’s eighth-great grandfathers. It has been established that Alexander Magruder’s second wife Margaret Braithwaite (1635-1670) was the mother of Col. Samuel Magruder. It has also been accepted that Sarah Beall’s mother was Col. Ninian’s second wife, Ruth Polly Moore (1648-1707).

I am about to upset the apple cart!

But I will provide some background material before upsetting it!

A short account of the life of Ninian Beall appears in the Compendium of American Genalogy:

“From the Compendium of American Genealogy First Families of America, Vol. 6, p.756: “BEALL (Beal, Beale), Col. Ninian (b Largo, Fifeshire, Scot.,1625-d 1717), as prisoner of Cromwell was exiled to Barbadoes, 1650; to Prince Georges Co., Md., ca. 1652; later planter in Calvert Co., Md.; lt., 1668, 76; dep. surveyor, Charles Co.,1684; chief mil. officer, Calvert Co., 1689; maj. Calvert Co.militia, 1689; high sheriff, 1692; col. of militia, 1694; mem.Gen. Assembly, 1697-1701; Md. Gen. Assembly passed “Act of Gratitude” for distinguished Indian services, 1699; ruling elder, and “Father of Presbyterianism in Md.”; m Elizabeth Gordon (d in Scotland); m 2d. 1668-70, Ruth (1652-1707), dau. of Richard Moore, of St. Marys Co., Md., m Jane –.” ” LDS Spouse: Chaddock Gordon Birth: About 1625 in Scotland Death: Scotland He held a commission as cornet in the Scotch-English army, raised to resist Cromwell. He fought in the battle of Dunbar, 9/3/1650 against Cromwell. He was captured and made to serve 5 years servitude and sent to Barbadoes, West Indies. In 1652 he along with 149 other prisoners appeared in the province of Maryland.(1)


Our Summer With Ninian Beall began in May 1992 while enroute to Pennsylvania, where I was beginning my doctoral studies. Howard had been researching him for some time, and he wanted to see and to touch everything pertaining to his ancestor. So we took the long route to Pennsylvania by way of Maryland and fulfilled some of Howard’s ambitions. Our first stop was a place called Calvert Manor.

Calvert Manor in Maryland. Photo taken May 1992.

Calvert Manor in Maryland. Photo taken May 1992.

I wish I could remember its exact location. As I recall, it was owned by a sportsman’s club, and they were in the process of sealing it off from public access. So I imagine we were the last outsiders to walk the grounds and take pictures of it.  It overlooked the Pawtuxent River and probably dated back to the 1670s. I hope that someone has current information about it. I’m not sure whether Ninian Beall ever lived in this place. If so, it may have been when he was the High Sheriff in 1692.



Communion set presented to Presbyterian Church by Col. Ninian Beall. Photo taken Summer 1992

Howard with communion set presented to Presbyterian Church by Col. Ninian Beall. Photo taken Summer 1992



Before leaving Colorado, Howard contacted the Presbyterian Church in Maryland where a portion this communion service set is kept. Colonel Ninian Beall gave it to the Presbyterian Church in Maryland in 1707. We were able to stop there while enroute to Pennsylvania and were allowed to see it–something Howard considers a treasured event.

Dumbarton House, Washington DC. Photo taken Summer 1992. Headquarters of the National Society of Colonial Dames. We visited Dumbarton House on our Washington DC Trip. The house was transferred from Col. Ninian's son, George Beall, to his son, Thomas Beall.

Dumbarton House, Washington DC. Photo taken Summer 1992. Headquarters of the National Society of Colonial Dames. We visited Dumbarton House on our Washington DC Trip. The house was transferred from Col. Ninian’s son, George Beall, to his son, Thomas Beall.


Our trip would not have been complete without our visit to Dumbarton House, which is today a museum owned by The National Socity of Colonial Dames. We walked the grounds and also went through the museum. According to Ruth Beall Gelders: “It is recorded that George Beall, son of Ninian’s son Ninian, was born in 1729 in the home built on Rock of Dumbarton. Another house was built at 1703 32nd Street, at the corner of R Street on “Rock of Dumbarton” by William Dorsey. It is known as “Dumbarton Oaks.” From August through October 1944, the first conference of the United Nations was held at Dumbarton Oaks. Dumbarton Oaks had several owners until it was acquired by Robert Woods Bliss who gave it to Harvard University. A research library has been collected containing about 10,000 volumes relating to gardening, Byzantine and early Christian art. This is one of the finest museums and libraries in the world on Byzantine and early Christian art. The present mansion was built about 1800.(2)

Front photo of Dumbarton House By dbking - Flickr, CC BY 2.0,

Front photo of Dumbarton House
By dbking – Flickr, CC BY 2.0,


St. John's Church, Washington DC with Howard standing in front of it. Taken Summer 1992

St. John’s Church, Washington DC with Howard standing in front of it. Taken Summer 1992

We also visited St. John’s Church in Washington. D.C. where Col. Ninian Beall’s memorial plaque is located. This church is commonly called The Church of the Presidents. The marker was originally placed on a huge boulder in front of the church. It has since been relocated to the side of the building.

Original site of the Ninian Beall Plaque, St. John's Church, Washington, DC. Photo Taken Summer 1992

Original site of the Ninian Beall Plaque, St. John’s Church, Washington, DC. Photo Taken Summer 1992

Ninian Beall plaque on the side of St. John's Church, Washington DC. Photo taken Summer 1992

Ninian Beall plaque on the side of St. John’s Church, Washington DC. Photo taken Summer 1992

The Plaque reads: “”Colonel Ninian Beall, born Scotland, 1625, died Maryland 1717, patentee of the Rock of Dumbarton; Member of the House of Burgesses; Commander-in-Chief of the Provincial Forces of Maryland. In grateful recognition of his services “upon all Incursions and Disturbances of Neighboring Indians” the Maryland Assembly of 1699 passed an “Act of Gratitude.” This memorial erected by the Society of Colonial Wars in the District of Columbia, 1910.”(3)






Ruth Beall Gelders provides a list of some of Col. Ninian’s properties:

  • “Beall’s Pleasure” – The house is up a narrow, private road on the left, 16.3 miles N.E. along Bladenton Road from Old Toll Gate, or at Bladensburg. Rd. and H Street, but is visible from the main road. This early colonial and brick house was built in 1795 by Benjamin Stoddard, 1st Secretary of the Navy, and confidential agent in securing rights for the Capital City. This fine example of Georgian architecture was built of brick burned at clay pits still visible on the grounds. The house was erected on foundations of a still earlier house, probably one built by Ninian Beall when he first patented the land and gave in the name in 1706.
  • “Mackall Place” – On R street between 28th and 29th in Georgetown. Soon after 1717, George Beall came to live on his inheritance called the Rock of Dumbarton, and this small structure may have been his first home here. It consists of a large room with a huge fireplace which was still standing when this description was written. Later, when the Rock of Dumbarton was sold to make part of the City of Georgetown, Beall built, about 1750, the large brick mansion at what is now 3033 N Street, northwest of the oldest brick houses now in the District. This is the house to which Jaqueline Kennedy and her children moved and in which they lived for a year when they left the White House after the death of President Kennedy.
  • “Ninian Beall’s Pleasure Map” – Land around the headwaters of the Anacostia had been patented in 1696 to Ninian Beall who sold it to Dr. John Gerrard. Charles Calvert, descendant of the Lords Baltimore, acquired it through marriage to Gerrard’s daughter. Calvert’s daughter Eugenia sold 60 acres in 1742 for the town of Garrison’s Landing.
  • “Dumbarton – Washington House” 1647 30th Street at R Street. Built by Thomas Beall shortly after he inherited the Rock of Dumbarton from his father George Sr. in 1784. At that time he gave his elder brother, George Jr., the Beall mansion on N Street. The new home “Dumbarton” went to Thomas’ daughter Elizabeth Ridley as a wedding present when she married George Corbin Washington, great-nephew of the President. It was inherited by their son, Lewis Washington, who sold it to Elisha Riggs, co-founder with W. W. Corccoran of Riggs National Bank.
  • “Inspection House for Tobacco” – Ninian Beall received the patent for the Rock of Dumbarton in 1703. Some years later, George Gordon acquired some of the land and also acquired “Knave’s Disappointment’ from James Smith. He renamed the land “Rock Creek Plantation.”
  • “Rosedale,” 3501 Newark, and “Woodley,” 3000 Cathedral Ave. – Both estates were part of a much larger tract, 1300 or 1400 acres west of Rock Creek and extending beyond the Cathedral grounds, which George Beall acquired in 1720 and described as an addition to the Rock of Dumbarton grant to his father.
  • “Dumbarton House” Q street in Georgetown – This red brick mansion was built by the Bealls and occupied by them until 1796. “Dumbarton” later belonged to Joseph Nourse, first Register of Treasury, and to Charles Carroll. It is now the headquarters for the National Society of the colonial Dames of America. Dolly Madison fled here when the British burned the White House in 1814.(4)

We were able to find some of these properties on our excursion, including the Jacquelyn Kennedy house. When we were there in 1992, the owner was a Mrs. Fox, who was connected with the Twentieth Century Fox family. I have a picture in my album, but have not scanned it as yet.

Our Summer of Ninian Beall came to an end in August. While I kept busy with papers, research, classes and discussion groups, Howard continued his quest for Col. Ninian. At that time, he firmly believed his connection to Col. Ninian was through Ninian Beall, Jr. (1674-1710). Since then, “Yours Truly” discovered the connection was through Col. Ninian’s daughter, Sarah Beall (1659-1734), As previously noted, she became the wife of Col. Samuel Magruder (1654-1711). Their daughter, Verlinda Magruder (1690-1745), married John Beall (1688-1742). And John was the son of the immigrant, Alexander Beall (1649-1744), a cousin of Col. Ninian Beall. Sadly, Howard had to pack away Ninian Beall, Jr. and gravitate toward the Alexander Beall-Alexander Magruder group.


What do I know about Sarah Beall?

[NOTE: I am citing a number of sources in this section in order to identify Sarah Beall. I believe her date of birth was 1659, as stated in this article. Other sources provide different birth dates for her, one at late as 1669. I have acknowledged all these sources in this section and discussed them. But I believe she was born in 1659 as stated below.]

I’ve spent the last week trying to answer that question. As a result, I’m about to shake things up all over again. Believe me–this has been a ride!

Sarah Beall was born abt 1669[sic]  in Prince Georges County, Maryland, United States. She was the daughter of Colonel Ninian Beall (1625-1717) and Ruth Polly Moore Beall (abt 1637-abt 1712).

Sarah married Francis Watts in 1678 in Prince Georges County, MD. Francis is the son of Edward Watts (1620-1690) and Anne (Sherman) Watts (1620-1651). This couple had one known daughter, Sarah Watts.

Sarah married Col. Samuel Magruder in 1685 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, United States. This couple had 7 known sons and 4 known daughters: Samuel, Ninean, John, James, William, Alexander, Nathaniel, Verlinda, Mary, Elizabeth and Elinor (or Elenor).

Sarah died on 9 May 1734 in Anne, Arundel Prince Georges, MD, USA. She was 76 years old. (5)

What I posted here is the general opinion people have of Col. Ninian’s daughter, Sarah Beall. The Francis Watts information in this particular biography was new to me because I had never heard of him before reading this piece! And it raised an immediate question concerning Sarah’s age. If she were born in 1669 and if she married Francis Watts in 1678–she would have been only nine years old! And so I discarded Francis–temporarily! A Find-a-Grave Memorial for Francis Watts provided me with a new interpretation:

Birth: 1650
Stafford County
Virginia, USA
Death: 1711
Anne Arundel County
Maryland, USA

Francis Watts was born abt 1650 in Stafford County, VA. Francis is the son of Edward Watts (1620-1690) and Anne (Sherman) Watts (1630-1665). Francis married Sarah Beall in 1678 in Prince Georges County, MD. This couple had one known daughter, Sarah Watts. Apparently, Sarah and Francis were divorced as both remarried and had other children by other spouses.Francis married Margaret Purdy in 1698. This couple had 4 known children: John, Francis, Richard and William.Death 1711 Age: 56 All Hallows Parish, Anne Arundel, Maryland, USA All Hallows Register.Burial 171112 Apr Anne Arundel Co, Maryland Source: SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (All Hallow’s Protestant Episcopal Church Collection) – Parish Register 1700-1724, p. 7 [MSA SC 2458 M 221]; Parish Register 1669-1721, p. 43 [MSA SC 2458 M 221].Probate 1713 Anne Arundel Co, Maryland Source: Abstracts of the testamentary proceedings of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, V L Skinner; Maryland. Prerogative Court. Court Session: 1 August 1713 22:56 Exhibited accounts of John Hardin on estate of Francis Watts (AA).Family links:
Edward Watts (1620 – 1690)
Anne Sherman Watts (1630 – 1665)Spouse:
Sarah Watts Beall Magruder (1659 – 1734)*Children:
Sarah Watts Warman (1679 – 1710)**Calculated relationship
All Hallows Church Cemetery
Anne Arundel County
Maryland, USA
Created by: Stella
Record added: Feb 03, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 104561634 (6)

“All Hallows Church Cemetery–the Brick Church?”

Yes, we were there! But not in 1992. We were there in 1998 after I had graduated with my doctorate and while we were on our way down to North Carolina. Both of us had to do research there. We were visiting a friend in Maryland near Birdsville. She took us to that cemetery! I remember walking around, looking at the stones before deciding no one we knew was buried there! How little did we know.

Sarah’s 1669 birthdate still plagued me however. If born in 1669, she was still nine when she married Francis. Col. Ninian married Ruth Moore in 1668. Perhaps I was missing something.

And what if Sarah wasn’t Col. Ninian’s daughter?

I reread all the research materials I had accumulated over the years about Sarah, including her Find-a-Grave Memorial linked to Francis Watts. It was there where I discovered a birth year for Sarah of 1659! And this discovery led to a new problem.

Ninian Beall did not marry Ruth Moore until 1668!

“Oh dear!”

I was back to the drawing board once again, rereading everything I had collected, including some theories that Francis Watts’ first wife was not Sarah Beall, but Sarah Mills! This Sarah Mills is also projected as the wife of Col. Samuel Magruder!

Here we go again!

People also have Sarah Beall married to James Offutt The Immigrant (1648-1711). Then they twist it around and have her married to James Offutt’s grandson–Judge James Offutt (1690-1782). In the first case, James Offutt The Immigrant (1648-1711) married a Rachel probably in England before coming to America. The marriage record suggests that her surname may have been Beall, but no one seems to know.(7)  Judge James Offut (1690-1782) (the grandson) had two marriages–both of them to Bealls. The first is also to a Rachel??? (Beall), only this Rachel is sometimes described as a daughter of Col. Ninian Beall and Ruth Moore. That is not correct. I will get into that later! Judge James Offutt’s second marriage is to a Sarah Beall (1717-1779). This Sarah was a daughter of Howard’s sixth great-grandparents, John Beall and Verlinda Magruder.

And yes, there is a problem concerning Sarah Beall!

She is not mentioned in Col. Ninian’s will. Making matters worse, many of the Calvert County records were destroyed when they were moved from St. Mary’s to Prince Georges County. They were also destroyed by fire on several other occasions. So there is no primary source stating absolutely and forever establishing that Sarah Beall was a daughter of Col. Ninian Beall! In other words, there is really no way of absolutely proving or disproving it. What we are facing is an accumulation of theories from a variety of informants who build their theories from secondary sources. These sources are used to support their arguments. And that is exactly what I am doing here! Someone suggested that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I am presenting mine.

A number of basic secondary sources support the Sarah-as-Ninian’s-daughter theory. They provide a starting point but are secondary sources since they are record transcriptions. Some of these sources follow:

  1. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900. Sarah Beall and Samuel Magruder married in 1686. (8)
  2. Family Data Collection-Individual Records state that Sarah Beall wsas the daughter of Col. Ninian Beall and Ruth Moore. The records also state that Sarah was born in 1659 in Maryland, and that she married Samuel Magruder in Prince Georges County in 1685. The records also state that she died May 9, 1734 in Prince Georges County. (9)

Virtus Edmondson’s “Notes on Sarah Beall” particularly caught my attention since it cites a number of secondary sources in the text:  ”

ID: I13244

  1. Name: Sarah BEALL
  2. Sex: F
  3. ALIA: /Bell/
  4. Birth: 1661 in Prince Georges County, Maryland?
  5. Birth: 1661
  6. Death: BEF 1 MAY 1734 in Prince Georges County, Maryland
  7. Note:

    Alternate Birthplace: Fifeshire, Scotland
    There is much conjecture abourt Sarah Magruder’s Maiden Name. Many researchers incorrectly idenified her as Sarah Beall, daughter of Ninian Beall. There is a possibility that she was a Beall relative from Scotland. Page 35, Early Settlers of Maryland, Gus Skordas lists a Sarah Bell (i.e Beall) transported in 1675. MD Liber 18, Folio 306. In a biographial sketch on John Beall (of Alexander’s line) on page 215, Volume 6 EFSM it says that John’s wife Verlinda Magruder was “d/o of Samuel Magruder & Sarah Bell (MCW VII.113);” (10)

An article titled “Who Was Mary?” describes the problem in depth. The following is a section from Rick Saunder’s website at

There are several myths that have attributed Mary, wife of John POTTINGER, and Sarah, wife of Samuel MAGRUDER as being children of Ninian BEALL. While that has been disproved, in that the evidence shows that Ninian’s daughter Mary married Andrew HAMILTON, the thought remains among some researchers that they were BEALL sisters, and relatives of Ninian. The couples were related in that Samuel MAGRUDER in his will call John POTTINGER his “brother” [brother-in-law]. Recent research of Brice Clagett (Nov. 2001) concluded that John POTTINGER married Mary MULLIKAN and Samuel MAGRUDER married Sarah POTTINGER, sister to John. This was based on relationships derived from John DEMALL in his 1725 calling Robert POTTENGER, son of John and Mary his “cousin.” Research of mine in Feb. 2002 concluded that he overlooked that Robert POTTENGER’s wife Ann EVANS was niece to DEMALL’s wife, Mary EVANS. While CLAGETT’s research could still be valid, and Mary a MULLIKIN and Sarah a POTTENGER, it cannot be considered as proved. The theory which at present has the most validity is that Samuel MAGRUDER’s wife Sarah may have been the daughter of William MILLS and wife Tabitha, and thus a step-daughter to Tabitha’s second husband Thomas BLANFORD. Some MAGRUDER researchers believe that John POTTENGER may have had a short-lived marriage to Samuel MAGRUDER’s sister Elizabeth. Note, though, that in 1706 the estate of William MILLS, Jr., there was a payment to “John POTTENGER for the use of Martha BLANFORD.” Martha was a daughter of Thomas BLANFORD and wife Tabitha, and half-sister to the MILLS children. Another popular myth is that Ninian BEALL had a daughter Margery that was the second wife of Joseph BELT, who first married Ninian’s daughter Hester/Esther. Margery was nee WIGHT, and the widow of Thomas SPRIGG. Ninian BEALL died between 15 Jan. and 28 Feb. 1717 when his will was written and probated in Prince George’s Co., MD. His wife Ruth was living on 12 Sep. 1713 when she acknowledged a deed with her husband,but probably died before Ninian wrote his will. (11)

The Sarah Mills/Col. Samuel Magruder theory is currently in vogue. I have dismissed the Francis Watts connection, although someone posted a comment on the Francis Watts’ Find-A-Grave Memorial, stating that his first wife was Sarah Mills. I cannot substantiate this claim since people who support the Mills/Magruder theory aligned Sarah Mills’ birth and death dates with the original Sarah Beall’s. As already pointed out, there is no way a young child eight, nine or ten years of age would have married Francis Watts. And there is no way to substantiate the names of William Mills’ daughters (with the exception of Tabitha) since he does not name them in his will:

On January 18, 1663, William Mill patented his first tract of land called Trenant.  In the will of John Boage, written July 8, 1667 and proven on December 16, 1667, legacy was left to his countryman, William Mill. Through this legacy William Mill became the possessor of more acreage of  Trenant, Dunbar, and Haddington which had been patented to John Boage in 1663. These tracts adjoined William Mill’s own tract of Trenant. The property of William Mill is marked today by a point on the Patuxent Bay called “Milltown Landing”. Milltown Landing Road runs through the original William Mill’s property.  

William Mill wrote his will in Calvert County, Maryland. on March 13, 1676.  It was proven on April 26, 1676. In his will he bequeathed his tracts of land, previously mentioned, to his sons after the death of his wife. His wife, Tabitha, was named as executrix.  The will mentioned his eldest son,William Mill Jr., his second son, John Mill, and  daughters# (unnamed – but one known to be Tabitha, who married Edward Willet; another is thought to be Sarah, who may have been the wife of Samuel Magruder). (12)

My attention focuses on the Virtus Edmonston reference to a Sarah Bell who immigrated to Maryland from Scotland in 1675.(13).  This focus is not misplaced.  What follows is my theory!


Sarah Bell/Beall (1659-1734)

Colonial families of the United States descended from the immigrants who arrived before 1700 sets the stage for this scenario:

There really had arrived and recorded in the Land Office at Annapolis at Annapolis, and otherwise disposed of two women immigrants, named Sarah Bell and Mary Bell, as follows:

Mary Bell arrived in 1666. See Vol. X, folio 417, Land Office, Annapolis.

She m. Peter Elzey, Nov. 11, 1672 Somerset County. See Original Court Records, Vol. DBIKL local court, Somerset County, 1672

Sarah Bell arrived 1675. See Vol. XVIII, folio 306, Land Office, Annapolis.

She m. Sept. ____, 1681, James English of Somerset County. See Original Court Records, DBIKL local court, Somerset County, 1681.

It is estimated that a Sarah Bell and a Mary Bell appeared about this time in what is now Prince Georges County, and that they came with these above mentioned 25 immigrant families that came with the Rev. Nathaniel Taylor.

They must have been very  attractive Scottish lassies, for Samuel Magruder (1661-1711), married Sarah Bell in 1686, and John Pottinger (1662-1735), married Mary Bell about the same time.

Colonel Samuel Magruder, in his will of 1711, mentioned “my brother John Pottinger.” This confirms the relationship between Sarah and Mary Bell, as sisters.

Sarah Bell Magruder named two of her children, Mary and John, as a compliment to  her sister, Mary, and her husband, John Pottinger.  Mary Bell Pottinger named two of her children, Sarah and Samuel, as a compliment to her sister, Sarah, and her husband, Samuel Magruder.

The apparent fondness of Sarah Bell Magruder for Colonel Ninian Beall and his family indicates either a relationship or strong friendship. She named her second son for Colonel Ninian; and in her will of 1734, she makes valuable presents to Mary and Samuel Beall, children of Ninian [2] Beall, (1672-1710).(14)

[Note: Ninian Beall, Jr. was a son of Col. Ninian Beall and Ruth Moore. Mary and Samuel Beall were their children. Ninian Beall, Jr.’s wife was Elizabeth Magruder (1689-1764), a daughter of Samuel and Sarah Bell Magruder.]

Based upon her year of birth (1658/1659) and the location of her birth (Largo, Fife, Scotland), I believe that Sarah Bell was a daughter of Col. Ninian Beall and his first wife Elizabeth Gordon.  I know that some contend there was no first marriage for Ninian. I believe there was and Elizabeth Gordon was his first wife.

For one thing, the Gordons were quite prominent in Scotland, as were the Bells/Bealls and the Magruders/McGregors. The Gordons intermarried with the Sutherlands, as noted in a short history:

The Earldom of Sutherland, the oldest extant in Britain, is said to have been granted by Alexander II, to William, Lord of Sutherland, about 1228, for assisting to quell a powerful northern savage of the name of Gillespie. William was the son of Hugh Freskin, who acquired the district of Sutherland by the forfeiture of the Earl of Caithness for rebellion in 1197. Hugh was the grandson of Freskin the Fleming, who came into Scotland in the reign of David I, and obtained from that prince the lands of Strathbrock in Linlithgowshire, also, the land of Duffus and others in Moray. His son, William, was a constant attendant on King William the Lion, during his frequent expeditions into Moray, and assumed the name of William de Moravia. He died towards the end of the 12th century. His son, Hugh, got the district of Sutherland, as already mentioned. Hugh’s son, “Willielmus dominus de Sutherlandia filius et haeres quondam Hugonis Freskin“, is usually reckoned the first Earl of Sutherland, although Sir Robert Gordon, the family historian, puts it three generations farther back.

The ninth earl died, without issue, in 1514, when the succession devolved upon his sister Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, in her own right. This lady had married Adam Gordon of Aboyne, second son of George, second Earl of Huntly, high-chancellor of Scotland, and in his wife’s right, according to the custom of the age, he was styled Earl of Sutherland. The Earl of Sutherland, when far advanced in life, retired for the most part to Strathbogie and Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire, to spend the remainder of his days among his friends, and intrusted the charge of the country to his eldest son, Alexander Gordon, master of Sutherland, a young man of great intrepidity and talent; and on the countess’s resignation, a charter of the earldom was granted to him by King James V, on 1st December 1527. She died in 1535, and her husband in 1537. Their issue were – 1. Alexander, master of Sutherland, who was infeft in the earldom in 1527, under the charter above mentioned, and died in 1529, leaving, by his wife, Lady Jane Stewart, eldest daughter of the second Earl of Atholl, three sons – John, Alexander, and William, and two daughters; 2. John Gordon; 3. Adam Gordon, killed at the battle of Pinkie, 10th September 1547; 4. Gilbert Gordon of Gartay, who married Isobel Sinclair, daughter of the laird of Dunbeath..(15)

In another account of the Sutherlands/Gordons from the same website states:


The name Sutherland originates in the county of Sutherland, the Sudrland or South land of the Norsemen of Caithness and Orkney. It has been suggested that the Sutherlands are descended from the pre-Christian tribe of the Catti. The modern counties of Caithness and Sutherland were formally known as the province of the cat or land of the people of the cat and a wild cat is on the Sutherland crest. The chiefly line descends from Freskin, progenitor of both the Murrays and the Sutherlands. His youngest son, Hugh, received the lands of Sutherland from King William the Lion in 1197. The Earldom of Sutherland, claimed to be the oldest in Britain, is alleged to have been granted to William, Lord of Sutherland about 1228 and the line remained unbroken until 1514. William, 2nd Earl, fought for Bruce at Bannockburn. The 4th Earl also William, married a daughter of Robert the Bruce. Over the following centuries, the Sutherlands had many feuds with neighbouring clans, particularly the Mackays. The male line was broken when John, 9th Earl died in 1514 and was succeeded by his sister, Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland. She married Adam Gordon who took the courtesy title of the Earl of Sutherland. During the 1715 and 1745 Risings, the Sutherlands supported the Hanoverian cause, their estimated fighting strength was 2,000 men, many of whom were later enlisted in the Sutherland Fencibles, raised in 1759. William, 18th Earl who died in 1766 was the last of the Gordon Earls of Sutherland. His daughter, Elizabeth, married George Granville Leveson-Gower, later Marquis of Stafford, who was created Duke of Sutherland in 1833. The Duke’s ill-conceived “improvements” on his estate caused much misery and led to excessive clearance evictions which took almost the whole population of his lands overseas. When the 5th Duke died in 1963, the Dukedom went to the Egerton Earls of Ellesmere, his niece, however became 23rd Countess of Sutherland whose seat is at Dunrobin Castle.(16)

Looking at the ancestral charts for the Bells/Bealls, Magruders/McGregors, and the Gordons/Sutherlands, these people all had common ancestors!

Elizabeth Jane/Jean Gordon was born about 1627 in Sutherland, Fifeshire, Scotland, and she died about 1668 in Largo, Fifeshire, Scotland. She appears to have been the daughter of John Thomas Gordon, 14th Earl of Sutherland (1608-1679) and his first wife Jean Drummond (1609-1637). She married Col. Ninian Beall (1625-1717) about 1646 in Largo, Fifeshire, Scotland. They had two sons and two daughters, per the following:

  1. Major Thomas Bell/Beall (1647-1730)–long regarded as the only child of Ninian Beall and Elizabeth Gordon to immigrate to Maryland. He was born about 1647 in Largo, Fifeshire, Scotland, and he died in 1730 in Calvert County, Maryland. Unfortunately, his records are as confused as the others. He reportedly married Elizabeth Bateman, but there are several marriage records for him. His records appear to be the same as an uncle named Thomas Beall. I can honestly say I don’t know anything more about him.
  2. John Bell/Beall (1647-1725). Appears to have been Thomas’s twin, if the birth dates are correct. I don’t know the origin of the year of death.
  3. Mary Bell/Beall (1657-1720)–already discussed above. She was born in 1657 in Largo, Fife, Scotland, and she died in Prince Georges County, Maryland 1720. Her first husband Peter Elsey died in 1685, causing her to return to Prince Georges that same year. The Elseys had two children:
    1. William Elsey (born 1673)
    2. Ann Elsey (1680-1714).

She married John Pottenger (1661-1735) in Prince Georges, County. They had the following children:

  1. Sarah Pottenger (1688-1743)–Sarah Pottenger was born July 20, 1688 in Marlborough, Prince Georges County, and she died in 1743 in Prince Georges County, Maryland. She has often been confused with her aunt Sarah Bell/Beall. Her husband was Richard Isaac (1679-1759). Their children were: (a) Mary Isaac (1712-1759); (b) Sarah Isaac (1714-1789); (c) Rachel Isaac (1716-1718); (d) Keziah Isaac (1719-1749); (e) Richard Isaac (1720-1792); (f) Drucilla Isaac (1723-1800); (g) Joseph Isaac (1725-1771); (h) Jemima Isaac (1726-1786)
  2. Mary Pottenger (1689-1719)  May was born October 22, 1689 in Prince Georges County, Maryland, and she died in Maryland in 1719. Her husband was William Holmes (1687-1741). Their children were: (a) Phebe Holmes (1711-1712); (b) Edward Holmes, b. 1712; (c) John Holmes, b. 1714; (d) William M. Holmes (1715-1758); (e) Mary Holmes (b. 1718); (f) Clara Holmes (b. 1720); (g) Sarah Holmes (b. 1722); (h) Jemima Holmes (b. 1724); (I) Verlinda Holmes (b. 1726); (j) Rachel Holmes (b. 1728); (k) Elizabeth Holmes (b. 1730); (l) Phoebe Holmes (b. 1732).
  3. John Pottenger (1691-1719).  John was born August 20, 1691 in Queen Anne Parish, Prince Georges County, Maryland, and he died March 1719 in Prince George’s County.
  4. Samuel Pottenger (1693-1735)  Samuel was born April 11, 1693 in Queen Anne Parish, Prince Georges County, Maryland, and he died April 7, 1735 in Prince Georges County. His wife was Elizabeth Tyler (1701-1738). Their daughter was Susannah Pottenger (1719-1779).
  5. Robert Pottenger (1694-1738)–[Now, I’m really excited about this one. Robert Pottenger is the great-grandfather of Jim Bowie who died at the Alamo. That means Jim Bowie was a descendant of Col. Ninian Beall!  More about that in a future article! Robert was born February 25, 1694 in Queen Anne Parish, Prince Georges County, Maryland, and he died June 5, 1738 in Prince Georges County. His wife was Ann Evans (1697-1768).  Their daughter was Elizabeth Pottenger (1717-1775).
  6. Rachel Pottenger (1700-1757).  Rachel was born June 20, 1700 in Marlborough, Prince Georges County, and she died October 15, 1757 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Her husband was Richard Purnell (1698-1754). Their children were: (a) Ann Purnell (b. 1720); (b) John Purnell (1722-1754); (c) Mary Purnell (1726-1776); (d) William Purnell (1729-1777); (e) Sarah Purnell (1743-1761); (f) Benjamin Purnell (1743-1767); (g) Verlinda Purnell (1747-1778).
  7. Jemima Pottenger (1702-1734).  Jemima was born  October 2 1702 in Marlborough, Prince Georges County, Maryland, and she died August 2, 1734 in Prince Georges County, Maryland.
  8. William Pottenger (1704-1720).  William was born May 3, 1704 in Marlborough, Prince Georges County, Maryland, and he died in 1720 in Prince Georges County.
  9. Verlinda Pottenger (1706-1747). Verlinda was born October 18, 1706 in Queen Anne Parish, Prince Georges County, Maryland, and she died March 5, 1747 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Her husband was Zephaniah Wade (1705-1746). Their children were: (a) George Wade (1720-1814); (b) John Wade (b. 1723); (c) Daniel Wade (b. 1725); (d) Robert Wade (1731-1795); (e) Eleanor Wade (1733-1764); (f) Zephaniah Wade (1735-1794); (g) William Wade (b. 1737 and d. either 1815 or 1838); (h) Verlinda Wade (1737-1785); (I) William Zethonia Wade (1737-1785); (j) Mary Wade (1739-1753); (k) Sarah Wade (1741-1742); (l) John Wade (1741-1822).

4. Sarah Bell/Beall (1659-1734)–The subject under discussion here.  Sarah married Col. Samuel Magruder. The next article will deal with their family.

People have speculated that Elizabeth Gordon died around the time of the Battle of Dunbar, which would preclude the two daughters, Mary and Sarah. A significant number of people believe she died in 1668, about the time when Col. Ninian married his second wife Ruth Polly Moore (1648-1707). After the birth of the two sons, Col. Ninian was fightin in the English Civil War and was taken prisoner in the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. He was transported to Barbados where he was placed in servitude. I don’t know how often he was able to correspond with his wife in Scotland, but I am certain he did. By early 1650s, he was in Maryland, where he served the rest of his time for Richard Moore. Once he had served his time and was released, he began buying land in Maryland. The name Ringing Bell appears on several land transactions. He probably planned to bring his wife and sons to Maryland, but that didn’t happen. By mid-to-late 1650s, he began recruiting Scottish relatives to immigrate to Maryland. He returned to Scotland in order to complete his endeavor and to see his wife and sons again. That’s when Mary and Sarah were born. And Elizabeth was not interested in moving to Maryland. So the children remained in Scotland with her, and Ninian returned to Maryland to build his legacy.

Ninian returned to Scotland whenever he could to see his family in the early 1660s and to recruit family members and friends to relocate to Maryland. John remained in Europe. Thomas apparently went to America, but his records have been confused. I am not sure when he arrived or whether he actually married. I am suspicious that Ninian returned to Maryland with his daughter, Mary, in 1666 (14). She would have been around nine years old at that time, and Col. Ninian was a bachelor. He knew the Moore family in Calvert County and their daughter, Ruth. It is possible that Ruth became Mary’s nanny. Col. Ninian and Ruth Moore married after the death of his wife.

Elizabeth Gordon died in 1668. Col. Ninian returned to Scotland to bury his wife and to see that his family was settled. Sarah was around nine or ten at the time of her mother’s death, and she had probably settled into a family. In 1675, as already noted, Sarah relocated to Maryland.

The rest is history!

This series continues with Part Nine: The Family of Colonel Samuel Magruder and Sarah Bell/Beall


[Note: This article has been such a chore to write, I will save Col. Ninian’s second marriage for the last article in this series!]


(1) “Life of Ninian Beall”, first posted to by sharksrus on 05 June 2009., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(2) Ruth Beall Gelders, “Colonel Ninian Beall” (1976). First posted to by scottcotton_1 on 24 Aug 2010., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(3) Ruth Beall Gelders, “Colonel Ninian Beall” (1976). First posted to by scottcotton_1 on 24 Aug 2010., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(4) Ruth Beall Gelders, “Colonel Ninian Beall” (1976). First posted to by scottcotton_1 on 24 Aug 2010., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(5) “Biography of Sarah Beall”. First posted to by beallrose on 07 Feb 2015., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available oline at

(6) Francis Watts Find-a-Grave Memorial. Created by Stella 03 Feb 2013. Website. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(7) U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 about James Offutt and Rachel? Beall., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(8) U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 about Sarah Beall and Samuel Magruder., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(9) Family Data Collection-Individual Records for Sarah Beall., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(10) “Notes on Sarah Beall by Virtus Edmundson. Originally submitted to by twood1111 on 04 Nov 2013., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 13 Feb 2016. Available online at

(11) “Who Was Mary?” Originally submitted to by ladyrodder on 14 Apr 2012., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 14 Feb 2016. Available online at Original source: Rick Saunders; Article available online at

(12) “The William Mill Story”, originally posted to by glyordy on 17 Nov 2015., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 14 Feb 2016. Available online at

(13) Gus Skordas, Early Settlers of Maryland, Liber 18, Folio 306, Maryland State Archives.

(14) Colonial families of the United States descended from the immigrants who arrived before 1700, pp. 102-103., Provo Utah. Date Accessed: 14 Feb 2016. Available online at

(15) “Sutherland” from the ElectricScotland Website. Date Accessed: 14 Feb 2014. Available online at

(16) “Sutherland” from the ElectricScotland Website. Date Accessed: 14 Feb 2014. Available online at

(17)U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s about Mary Bell(Beall)., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 14 Feb 2014. Available online at

12 thoughts on “The Ringing of the Bells–Part Eight: The Other Patriarch– Col. Ninian Beall (1625-1717) and the Mystery of Sarah Beall (1659-1734)

  1. I came across this website while researching the Beall family, to whom I am related. In fact, although I’m not a Beall by name, I seem to share many of the same early Beall and Magruder ancestors as Howard; i.e., John Beall is my 6th great-grandfather, etc. William Dent Beall, a well-known military leader during the Revolution and War of 1812, was my fourth great grandfather, and his granddaughter, Sarah Ann Rebecca Beall, my second great grandmother. You have performed fine, documented research which answers some questions for our family research team, consisting of my cousin, sister and me. You also apparently have run into the same tangled nest that we did regarding the Bealls; hopefully additional research will help clear the way. Thank you for your fine efforts; we look forward to reading future posts.

  2. You have two birth dates for Sarah Beall daughter of Ninian R. Beall and Ruth Polly Moore,1659 and 1669! Which one is correct?

  3. Do you remember the name of the church in Maryland where the communion set is kept (donated by Ninian Beall)? I am a relative and would love to contact the church to see it.

  4. Thank you for this! My research on the ancestry of John Pottenger’s wife brought me here. I had read the “Mary Beall was NOT Ninian Beall’s daughter”. Because, at least, that theory was raised in the last 20 years (rather than say researching google books with theories 150 years old!), I thought it required some investigation. I felt a little sorrowful because I instantly liked his character… and the idea that I had two ancestors in America from the Battle of Dunbar. 🙂 I thought well, I have seen a lot of Bell tombstones and residents as I look through cemetery and censusish records… maybe it was surname “Bell” and that is how I landed on your site. I appreciate your time in the research as well as writing such a detailed examination of the evidence. So. Much. Gratitude.

  5. Just a note that the information linked to in your source 11 is directly lifted from my webpage, and are my words.

    There are unfortunately many myths about Ninian Beall. Several are listed here:

    One not mentioned is that people keep giving his wife Ruth a second name of Polly. Not only were double names virtually unheard of in this time period and culture, but there are no records where she appears as Polly. This is one myth I wish people would stop perpetuating.

  6. Rick: Thank you from your comment and the list of myths. I know there are many myths about Ninian Beall. I made the insertion in my references regarding your site that it is the original source for that information. And that will certainly direct readers there.

  7. Aloha my name is Charles,
    I had genealogist who were sent on a Mission to find a living decendent of ninian beall, swab the inside of my cheek for dna testing.
    The results found that I am the last living decent bloodline to him, not to long after the genealogist who was so close to the breakthrough of truth past away an years of research remains a mystery. What is left out of so many acres of land for such an honerable man’s decendent who is homeless living on the streets in Hawaii. What was the point of dna testing anyway all the time an effort of what will come to past ?

  8. Wow there is so much great information here. My ancestor John Harding the planter born in 1683 in Upper Marlboro, MD seems to have a close connection to the Bealls and Magruders. His daughter Elizabeth marries Alexander Beall in 1730. His son Elias marries Elizabeth Beall in 1711 who is the daughter of William Beall and Elizabeth Magruder.
    My DNA tests have heavy matches on Bealls and Magruders so I am sure of the connection.
    Have you come across any Hardings in your research? They could go by Hardin, Harden, Hardy, MacHardie, etc or possibly Scott. The parentage of John Harding the planter is undocumented but my guess he is related to the Beall and Magruders back in Scotland. Any info is appreciated but regardless this is a great article.

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