The Ties that Divide

Like many grand narratives, some of the best were often rooted in legends and a bit of mystery. This tale was no exception. As details emerged, so did the many questions that raced through my mind as I hit one brick wall and then another.

This story began with folklore and legends that took place in faraway Scotland in the year 1745 when the Earl of Mar and Prince Charlie plotted and led the Scottish Highlanders on a doomed Jacobite uprising in the efforts to place their rightful Scottish King on the throne. After their defeat, the fallen prince and the Earl of Mar returned to France.

According to customs and some robust anecdotal suggestions, the Earl of Mar was the Highland chieftain, Sir John Francis Mar, the brother of Lawrence Marr. The tale continued to mention that Lawrence Marr also fought in the war of 1745. Since he was viewed as a traitor for his actions in the Jacobite uprising, Lawrence alluded his enemy, taking refuge in Ireland.

In time, Lawrence sailed to America to start a new life in the colonies, and he finally found refuge, for a time, in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Family tradition contended that Lawrence Marr not only fought for the Stuart King but also had royal blood in his family line when Robert II married the Countess of Mar. Lawrence Marr of Paisley, from Renfrew County, Scotland took asylum in a new land, and with him, he brought heirlooms from his Scottish line, silver shoe buckles, and knee-buckles. Still, his peaceful life was short-lived, for once again his life took a turn as another war began on another continent, and this time he found himself embroiled in the American Revolution.

And here my current family story began to take shape. While I uncovered many Patriots in my family tree during the American Revolution, I discovered the tale of a family that shared divided loyalties during this historical period. Lawrence Marr, Sr. and his eldest sons were Loyalists during the Revolution, and his youngest sons supported the Patriots and their cause for freedom. Family division over this conflict ran rampant, for some colonists remained loyal to their king. Even founding fathers discovered dissent among their own. George Washington’s mother stayed loyal to the crown, and the son of Benjamin Franklin, William, against his father’s will remained in British service as the Royal Governor of New Jersey. He was arrested in 1776 and released in 1778. Later, William fled to England, and he and his father never reconciled. – The Freeman’s Journal or The North-American Intelligencer – 1781-11-14 – Page 3

One historical incident in the Revolution pointed to Lawrence Marr’s son, Lawrence Marr, Jr. This 7x great uncle rose in the ranks of the New Jersey Volunteers under the leadership of James Moody, a member of Colonel Barton’s Tory Regiment. On November 2, 1781, under a plot devised by Benedict Arnold, Lieutenant James Moody, along with his brother John, and Lawrence Marr unsuccessfully tried to steal secret papers and journals associated with Congress as they broke into the State House in Philadelphia. While in hiding, Lieutenant Moody discovered that an ally had betrayed this plot. His men were taken into custody, but he managed to flee, and within a week, he was reunited with the British military.

U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930

On November 8, 1781, John Moody and Lawrence Marr faced court-martial charges for being spies. Under the direction of a board of officers, including Major-General Marquis de Lafayette, the two men were sentenced to death for treason. Moody was hanged, but Marr found postponement, and after serving nearly two years in prison, he was released with a promise of good behavior. According to some family accounts, his father Lawrence Marr Sr, and a family friend paid to have him freed. – The Pennsylvania Packet – 1781-11-15 – Page 3

Lawrence returned to Pennsylvania and briefly stayed in Canada. However, he returned to Pennsylvania and married a woman named Elizabeth, and the couple had two children: Mary and Alem. Lawrence Marr, Jr. died on August 8, 1821 in Columbia County, Pennsylvania.

Independence Hall – Photo by RDsmith4


  • “Founders Online: Amendment to Report on Thomas Edison, [3 December] 1781.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration,
  • Grant, James. “Grant’s Novels: Violet Jermyn. The Scots Brigade.” Google Books, George Routledge, and Sons, London, 1882,
  • “History of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry.” Google Books,
  • Miller, Donald. “Lafayette: His Extraordinary Life and Legacy.” Google Books, IUniverse, Bloomington, IN, 2015,
  • Owen, Egbert Americus. “Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement.” Google Books, W. Briggs, 1898 , lawrence%2 Bmarr%2Bfamily%2Bbible&source=gbs_navlinks_s.
  • RDSmith4. Independence Hall. Wikimedia Commons, 27 Apr. 2005,
  • Shenstone, Susan Burgess. “So Obstinately Loyal.” Google Books, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, Canada, 2000,
  • Siebert, William H. “The Loyalists of Pennsylvania.” Google Books, The Ohio State University Columbus, 1913,
  • “U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Operations Inc, 2014,

12 thoughts on “The Ties that Divide

  1. As always, great research, Ann Marie. I really enjoyed reading Lawrence Marr, Jr.’s story. FYI: I just wrote a story about my 7th great-grandmother during the American Revolution and the clashes between the Loyalists and the Patriots in New Jersey:

    Also thanks for cluing me on this week’s 52 Ancestors prompt. For some reason, I have not received the theme emails, so I rely on other participating bloggers to keep me current. Believe it or not, I just posted a piece that would fit right into the “At the Courthouse” theme, two days early but better sooner rather than later, I guess: It’s about my 2nd great-grandmother who stood tall when others would break her down. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you have such a rich heritage Ann Marie. I know very little of my family history beyond my grandparents and am almost afraid of of what I would find if I dug some. We’re such a group of mutts on one side and some questionable ranchers on the other. The family I grew up around were great – very very family oriented, but should one part the curtains to look beyond if one is not ready for what might lie in wait just a few step in. . . ?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Cousin, I just discovered this story and have been absorbing as much of it as I can. You are an amazing writer.
    Lawrence Marr and his father are my 5th and 6th great grandfathers. I’m working on a historical novel of the Eveland family (my 3rd GGrandfather, John Edward Eveland, married Susanna Marr) and am hoping to devote a good portion of it to the Revolutionary War.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello,
    I, too, am related to Lawrence Marr, Jr, through his sister Mary. I have never found any evidence that the Marrs were extremely prosperous in Pennsylvania so am skeptical about his father paying to save him from execution, but why wasn’t he executed? And after the war he briefly went to Canada, that is where most of the Loyalist Marrs ended up, but then settled in Pennsylvania. I think that is odd for someone considered a traitor. Is it possible he was actually a spy for the Patriot side? Has anyone in the family ever mentioned that possibility?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello from a descendant of Eleanor’s younger brother William Marr. I found the the story and references very interesting. Thank you. My go-to reference has been Harriet Marr Wheeler’s “William Marr of Northampton County Pennsylvania and His Six Children” 1983. I need to get to the library for her “Lawrence Marr, Loyalist” 1992.
    Best, Scott
    Carmel, IN

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s