Isabella Douglas


A Romance in Real Life - The Isabella Douglas Stories

In the year 1707, as near as can be told, a daughter was born to Sir Charles and Lady Douglas, in Scotland, who was destined to become the progenitor of one of the old New Jersey families. As this daughter grew toward womanhood she evidently was beset with some of the difficulties that have ever been strewn along the pathway of womankind, for she had a stern father who thought himself best fitted to chose a life partner for his daughter, while she, with the individuality born of the Royal blood that flowed through her veins, disdained to marry aught except from love’s dictation.


She had a lover whom she loved in return, but Sir Charles would have none of him for his daughter, but would give her hand to a man higher in the scale of what he considered to be nobility. Isabella, for this was the name of the daughter, finally resolved that something would have to be done if she was to wed according to her own fancy, and after many conferences with her lover and many sleepless nights it was decided that they take the matter in their own hands, and what better course could they pursue than to go together to the ‘’new world, America,” where they could live in happiness and contentment. A night was appointed when a ship bound for America was to be lying offshore, and then Isabella and her lover were to go on board, separately, and join each other when the ship was well underway. Isabella was true to her purpose, but whether her lover was finally too faint-hearted to make the attempt, or whether he mistakenly boarded another ship, was never known, but certain it is that “‘the course of true love did not run smooth,‘’ even in those days. The ship sailed on; the sorrow of Isabella now almost an agony, as she had lost both home and lover; but nothing could change what had been arranged before the beginning of time.


The ocean was infested at that time with bands of pirates, who made a practice of overhauling ships and despoiling the passengers of whatever of value they possessed, and during the passage of this ship it was unfortunate enough to become the prey of one of these bands of outlaws, and Isabella Douglas, who had lost so much that was dear to her, was now to lose everything of value that she had brought with her to remind her of the home she had left behind, and she was left penniless.

As the ship drew near the landing place, Philadelphia, the passengers were asked to pay for their passage , but as they had lost their money, and the fashion was at that time to pay when you disembarked, there was nothing to do but submit to the laws then in operation, which gave the ships company the right to sell the passengers time to the highest bidder, that they might work out the amount of their passage, and those who were passengers on this trip were duly advertised after the custom of the times. A farmer named Fortner living in Sussex County, New Jersey, was in need of some domestic help, attracted by the notice of the sale of the these passengers, went to Philadelphia to be present, and Isabella Douglas was bought by him. It was a long drive to his home from Philadelphia, and during the trip Mr. Fortner became impressed with the fact that his purchase was no ordinary person, and upon his arrival at his home, when he was greeted by his son Benjamin, who was a young man, he made a remark , ‘’Ben, I have brought you home a wife.’‘ This remark, probably made in jest, proved prophetic, for Ben prevailed upon the mourning Isabella to let him console her, and she became his wife.


In the course of time ten children came to this couple, their names being Louis, Andrew, James, Benjamin, Jonas, Abigail, Sarah, Elizabeth, Francina and George. Abigail Fortner married William Garrison, probably somewhere about 1770, and it was he who was the ancestor of the Garrison family who has been well known in the locality for over one hundred years. William Garrison and Abigail Fortner had only one child, who was later known as ‘’Major’‘ and whose remains now lie in the Old School Baptist Graveyard in Hopewell. Major William Garrison married Ose Roberts, and had five children, John, Ursula, Abigail, Sarah and Naomi. John Garrison married for his first wife, Johanna Sutphin, and had six children, Ann, William, Peter, Ose, James, and Margaret. His second wife was Martha Titus, and the result of this union was seven children: named Joseph, John, Charles, Ose, Sarah, Benjamin, and Spencer, all born and have always lived in the western states. Urusla Garrison married Walter Skillman, and one of her children, William Garrison Skillman, late of Philadelphia, was well known here. Andrew Garrison removed to Minnesota and was murdered. Elizabeth married Samuel French of Chicago, Abigail married John Sorter. Sarah Garrison married Spencer Stout Weart and lived all of her life at ‘”Hill Top”’ where George A Weart now resides. Of her children, and there were nine, only four are now living, namely William A. of Blawenburg, George W. of Ocean County, Mrs. Jonathan H. Blackwell of Trenton, and Mrs A.L. Holcombe of this place. Naomi Garrison married Robert Phillips and moved to Algonquin, Ill., and had six children. One Dr. Edward H. Phillips, of Cape May is still living and is well known here. Peter S. Garrison married Hannah Boggs and lived at Blawenburg on a farm that was part of a tract that belonged to Peter Sutphin his grandfather, and this farm is still in the possession of his son John B. who is a practicing physician in New York City. James married a Miss Cleve and two of their sons are living, Benjamin of Philadelphia and Wellington of Trenton. Ose Garrison married the late John Van Horn Whitlock and lived and died at Blawenburg. Their son Spencer W. still lives at that place. Margaret married Abner Hageman, and had one son James G., who is now living at Rocky Hill, N.J.


She married a second time, Abraham J. Voorhees, and two sons by this marriage are still living, namely William of Trenton, and Charles of Chicago. Hopewell N.J. Herald, December 18, 1907


Bloomsfield Herald

Harry H. Garrison, a former resident of town, and his sister Elva F. Garrison, now residing at Philadelphia, have recently become heirs to a fortune of $52,000,000. They are direct descendants of the famous House of Douglas of Scotland and are the children of Samuel W. Garrison, a great, great grandchild of old Lord Sholto Douglas, according to whose decree made when his daughter Isabel ran away to America in 1647, the younger Garrisons, Miss Elva and Mr. Harry, are just in time to receive the inheritance.


In 1647, according to the story told by the records in possession of the Garrison family, Lady Isabel Douglas ran away from the Bonjedward Castle, Scotland, to America because of her new stepmother, whom she hated. Lady Isabel was only nineteen years old and was very good looking. That she possessed the fiery spirit of her war like forefathers was evident when she braved the perils of the ocean in a sailing ship, without money to pay her passage. "She came over as an indentured servant and was compelled to work on a farm in upper New Jersey, then a most unsettled wilderness, to repay the captain of the ship. "Later she married an Englishman by the name of William Fortner and to them was born eight children. The oldest of these, Elizabeth Fortner, married a grandfather of Samuel W. Garrison and Lemuel Garrison, also a former resident of town having resided on Eighth Street. "Lord Sholto died in the meanwhile. But just before he expired he heard of his daughter having ran away to America. He swore then that neither she nor any of her immediate descendants should touch a penny of his money, but that it would go undisturbed to the fifth generation. "This brings it directly to Elva and Harry Garrison." The Morning Press, Bloomsburg, August 13, 1914


Biographical Sketches of Welland County, Ontario Printed in 1887, page 559

Lady Douglas, the daughter of the Earl of Douglas, fell in love with a young man whom the Earl forbade her to marry. The couple sailed for America in separate ships and Lady Douglas arrived safely in New York, but never heard of her lover again, his ship is supposed to have foundered. Lady Douglas found herself destitute except for her jewels which she decided not to sell. She found employment as a servant in the household of a wealthy New York merchant named Fortner. The Fortners realized that she was occupying a position subordinate to her birth, and made of her an equal. She was persuaded to marry the merchant's son and a large family was born to this couple. The History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania by JH Battle, 1887


BENJAMIN P. FORTNER, of the town of Catawissa, was born in Locust Township, Columbia Co., Penn., October 31, 1811, a son of John and Sarah B. FORTNER. Natives of Pennsylvania, the FORTNER family are of Scotch descent, being the descendants of Lord Archibald DOUGLAS, of Bothwell Castle, Scotland, whose only daughter, Isabella, having a desire to see this continent, prevailed upon her father to consent to her coming to America, in company with a lady friend, which they did, and while on the passage the vessel in which they were was seized by a piratical crew of Algiers and robbed of all their effects, and they were landed in New York destitute of friends or the wherewith to support themselves. It happened that a farmer from New Jersey met them, of whom they inquired what they should do, and he replied he would take them home with him, which he did. Isabella DOUGLAS resided with his family and married a man by the name of FORTNER, and resided in New Jersey until their death. They had twelve children,


Columbia And Montour Counties

Elizabeth Fortner Garrison’s father, was a son of Benjamin Fortner, His wife Isabelle Douglass, was a daughter of Lord Archibald Douglass (a son of James Douglass), born in 1691, at Bothwell Castle, Scotland and died in 1781, at Glasgow. Her coming to America and subsequent experiences before her marriage were very trying. Her father first married Jane Edmunds, who bore him the following children; Isabelle, James, Sholto, Joseph, Jane and Charles. When he remarried the stepmother practically made a servant of Isabelle, who finally decided to leave home. She started for America with a lady bound for Philadelphia but the vessel was captured by pirates, who brought the passengers to Philadelphia, but released only those who could pay ransom. Isabelle was practically sold as a slave, her time being bought by a man from Amwell Township, Hunterdon Co. N. J. then at Philadelphia on business. He took her to his home, expecting her to work out the sum he had paid. There she met Benjamin Fortner, who fell in love with her, and they worked to accumulate enough money to redeem her. After their marriage the lived for a number of year in Hunterdon County, N.J. where nine children were born to them; two more children were born after their removal to Sussex County NJ where both Mr. and Mrs. Fortner died.


Descendants of James Brown

Isabel quarrelled with her stepmother and ran away from home in the year 1742, and having a desire to see America sailed with a lady friend for this country, and while on the way over the vessel she was on was seized by Algerian pirates and they were robbed of all their effects and were landed in this country destitute of friends or the wherewithal to support themselves. In the city of Philadelphia they met a farmer by the name of Amos Thatcher to whom they told their story and he took them to his home in New Jersey. Isabel resided with him for a long while and married one of his farm hands by the name of Benjamin Fortner, and they resided in New Jersey for the balance of their lives. They had twelve children, and Benjamin the seventh child in order moved to Columbia County, Pennsylvania, near Mifflinville. He had three sons and four daughters, George, Andrew, John, Naomi, Frances, and Mercy.


Isabel Douglas's daughter Elizabeth also came to Columbia County and married Joseph Garrison's grandfather, 'Mathias Garrison. She is buried in Browns graveyard near Mifflinville, Pa. The father of Isabel Douglas wrote for her to come back home, but refused to let her bring her husband with her, to this she would not consent, and upon his death disinherited her, but left 140,000 pounds sterling on interest, the principal to go to her heirs in the fifth generation. In a pamphlet on unclaimed money printed by Robert Gun in London in 1879 appears the name of Lord Archibald Douglas. His brother James Douglas was a wealthy merchant in Edinburgh, left her also 22,000 pounds sterling upon his death in that city in 1799. In the year 1836 Isabel Fortner's son Andrew Fortner, and Joseph Garrison, the said Joseph Garrison being a son of Elizabeth Garrison the oldest child of Isabel Douglas Fortner, sent Clemuel G. Ricketts, Attorney, to Scotland to look up this estate, I believe on a second trip in 1841 or 1842, but no money was ever collected from the estate for the heirs. I had with me the original will of Andrew Fortner, son of Isabel and Benjamin Fortner in which he speaks of this fortune in Scotland, and his mother's father, Archibald Douglas, and her brother, James who died in Edinburgh.


Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, connection

Janet Garrison Chiocchi of Lincoln, Nebraska is a direct decendant of Isabella Douglas b 1723 in Scotland and her husband Benjamin Fortner b abt 1720 who lived in New Jersey. She writes: 'Their daughter Elizabeth b 1744 in NJ married Mathias Garrison b abt 1740 in NJ. After her husband died, Elizabeth moved with her son and other family members to Luzerne County, PA. Many decendants of this Fortner/Garrison family, including my father, live in the Luzerne/Columbia County area of PA today (1998)'.


Bonjedward, a village in Jedburgh parish, Roxburghshire, ¾ mile above the influx of the Jed to the Teviot, and 2 miles N of Jedburgh. It occupies the site of a Roman station, and was long a place of some note and strength. Bonjedward House, hard by, was the dower house of the Dowager Marchioness of Lothian (d. 1877).


See also:
•  The Forum discussion on Isabela

•  Documents related to a genealogy search



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