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.
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.
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.
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
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