Guthries in Grenada
Lush tropical rainforests and mountainous terrain cover Grenada and its outlying territories in the Grenadine Islands chain, the most southerly of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean Basin. Its deepwater harbors have provided a safe haven for shipping since colonial times. Nutmeg, cloves, and mace production give Grenada its nickname: The Spice Isle. Situated just north of Trinidad and Tobago not far from the Venezuelan mainland, the Caribs, indigenous people from the region, inhabited Grenada for untold generations before European explorers arrived. Christopher Columbus’ third voyage to the Americas put Grenada on the world map, but the Caribs successfully drove off all would-be settlers until the French gained a foothold about 1650. France ceded the island to Great Britain at the close of the Seven Years War in 1763. Political upheaval, coups, and invasions followed through the years, but today Grenada is considered a stable parliamentary democracy that remains part of the British Commonwealth.
Almost everywhere the British Empire has expanded, you’ll find someone of the Guthrie name including in Grenada. There has been a great deal in the news over the past few years about Western Colonialism, where European nations explored, conquered, settled, and exploited large areas of the world. No matter what your current views on the subject, the modern world has been shaped by those who came before us. Along with the adventure of exploration and heroic efforts of founding families to establish themselves in distant places comes the shadier side of that history. Slavery has left a permanent scar that cannot be ignored as we revisit the past. The British brought in African slaves to work on the island’s sugar and tobacco plantations. After their emancipation in 1834 with the British Slavery Abolition Act, the sugar industry declined and was replaced by cocoa and nutmeg production.
Gathering genealogical data on Grenadian families is a very difficult process because Grenada’s archives are considered endangered after devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Some records have been digitized and are available at the Family History Library or its centers. Property records are unfortunately locked from online searches, so if you have access to the FHL or a local center, consider doing some volunteer Guthrie research on Grenada and sharing it with us.
Two men of the Guthrie name came to Grenada from Scotland during the 1700s, Peter Guthrie and John Guthrie. No familial connection has been identified, but their early lives appear to have been similarly shaped as merchant seamen who conducted their trade in Grenada. John Guthrie was in the sugar trade, while Peter Guthrie appears to have dealt in other commodities. After about a decade in Grenada, John Guthrie returned to Scotland unencumbered by family ties. Read more about John Guthrie in our Research & Resources section. Peter Guthrie lived out the rest of his days in Grenada.
Birth: Abt. 1770 (could be 1760-1770)
Birth Location: Scotland, Reportedly in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Arrival in Grenada: Abt. 1789
Spouse/Partner: Anne Thoy
Children: Agnes (1811), David Robert (1812), Peter (1814), Anne (1817), James (1818), John (1821), Robert* (1823) [*theorized child], Anne (1825), Ellen Jane (1826)
Children: George Edward (1828) by Leah Gibbs
Children: Susan (1836) by Mary Ann Gilling
Occupations: Ship Captain, West India Merchant, Proprietor/Slaveowner, Attorney, Grenada House of Assembly Member, Lieutenant and Adjutant for the St George’s Militia Regiment
Death: After 1843 in Grenada
Birth: Undocumented (Possibly 1786)
Birth Location: Unknown
Death: After 1836 (Possibly 26 Nov 1870 at 84 years of age)
In the Spring of 1899, half a century after Peter Guthrie’s death, a series of queries were placed in the newspapers of Renfrewshire, Scotland, not by a lawyer, but the owners of a company of fabric dyers and lace manufacturers based out of London. Their connection to Peter Guthrie remains unknown.
“Information Wanted as to the Names of Parents of PETER GUTHRIE, a Native of Paisley, Scotland, who Emigrated to the Island of Grenada, West Indies, about the year 1789; also, any other Information. The above may be sent to Messrs. Thomas Adams & Co., Ltd, 16 Old Change, London, E.C.”Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette
Despite that enduring mystery, the inquiry provides some important details: a birthplace and a year of emigration.
Searching for Peter Guthrie’s parents in the Old Parish Records of Scotland resulted in nothing conclusive. Peter was not a common given name for Guthrie men in the 17th and 18th century in Scotland, so you would think that might make it easier to locate his birth/baptismal record. Since he was presumably an adult when he arrived in Grenada about 1789, he was probably born no later than 1771. There are no Peter Guthrie birth/baptisms recorded in Renfrewshire between 1750-1771. It is possible that his birth went unrecorded, or that he went by another name in Grenada. Couples who were living in “Paisely Burgh or Low” and registering their children were: David Guthrie and Marion Blakely, Matthew Guthrie and Elizabeth Robertson, David Guthrie and Jean Mun, and John Guthrie and Martha Smith.
The details about the lives of Peter Guthrie and his descendants have been shared by family researcher, Philip Bellamy.
Although the Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette inquiry informs us that Peter Guthrie was in Grenada as early as 1798, the first discovered appearance in local records for over a decade. During that time he had presumably worked his way through the mercantile shipping ranks to become a ship captain, and was already building his personal fortune in that industry. He settled in St. George’s, the island capital, where he established himself as resident merchant.
His personal life was also flourishing. No marriage record has been found to prove that Peter Guthrie was legally or officially married to Anne Thoy who was mother to at least eight of his children. Common law marriages were quite usual on Grenada, and local Slave Registers annually listed Ann separately from Peter Guthrie as either Anne Thoy or specifically Miss Anne Thoy. The first Grenadian record found with Peter’s name is the christening of their daughter Agnes, born 5 May 1811. They had seven or eight other children born between 1812 and 1826. Children by two other women, Leah Gibbs and Mary Ann Gilling, are documented.
In January 1812, Peter Guthrie was listed as the master of the 53-ton merchant sailing vessel ‘Two Brothers‘, which was built in Argyle, Nova Scotia about 1800. The slip was carrying a cargo of 20,000 wooden staves. He became a part-owner of the ship by December of that year. His firm, Laurie and Guthrie, which may have been that partnership was terminated in 1815 as reported by the St George’s Chronicle and Grenada Gazette. Afterward, he appears to have remained in Grenada to conduct his business. Guthrie also involved himself in local political and municipal matters through the House Assembly submitting proposals regarding taxation of visiting merchants and payment of a local rector. He was assigned duties as a Road Commissioner for street repair in his area. Grenada also had a local militia, and Peter Guthrie served as a Lieutenant and Adjutant.
Local advertisements for goods brought by Guthrie’s shipping business to the island included beef, butter, champagne, mules, saddle horses, muslin, printed cottons, handkerchiefs, dresses, and paint. He posted notices to purchase cattle and sheep for use by the crown’s troops, as well as oxen and bulls. He was also noted to be the Auctioneer General in 1823, where he personally offered for sale a “negro woman slave and cattle.”
On 27 Feb 1827: A deed shows that Peter Guthrie paid Owsley Rowley 1,000 pounds sterling for 20 acres of land and buildings known as “the Villa”. Presumably, the family moved to this newly acquired country setting.
The “Grenada Free Press and Public Gazette” on 11 Feb 1829, printed and published by Alexander McCombie and apparently succeeded the older paper, Peter Guthrie offered for sale 20 Prime English Mules and 10 handsome saddle horses just imported on the Brig “Caroline” and advertised the same vessel sailing 15th March for London.
Slavery was a commodity in the British Colonial Caribbean. Although the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade had been banned throughout the British Empire in 1807, slavery itself would persist in its colonies until is final abolishment in 1834. The Slave Registers for Grenada include ownership by Peter Guthrie and Anne Thoy, listed as individual proprietors. Slaves are listed by name, estimated age, color, country of birth/ethnicity (ie Creole, African), conspicuous marks. Some lists included their mother’s name, how the slave was acquired, or notations about their death with this annual accounting of the Increases and Decreases for each owner. The first year Peter Guthrie, a proprietor in the Town of St. George, is noted on the register is 1820 having purchased two slaves: Tom, 20 and Jack, 25. He owned the same slaves in 1821 without any notations of increase or decrease in ownership. The next list is 1825 listing Tom, now 25, but no notation of Jack. In 1827, Peter acquired a slave named John, 42, black, born in St Bartholomew, in a purchase from Thomas Bigg. The record shows that John died of fever later that year. The register appears to include a certification of the cause of death by a physician or witness in most cases.
Peter Guthrie purchased the Nettle Point Estate in St Mark Parish, Grenada in 1829. With it came the acquisition of slaves associated with the estate and some acquired by purchase elsewhere. In total for 1829, Peter became owner to 9 Male and 12 Female slaves. Nine of the twenty-one slaves were in their 40s-50s, all born in Africa. Most were noted to have “country marks” on their faces, either tattooing or cerimonial scarification. Others were listed as Creole or were noted to have been born in Grenada.
On 23rd June, 1831, a great hurricane struck Grenada; an account of it was printed in the paper six days later. Barbados had apparently fared worse, for in the issue of 31st August was published a list of subscriptions for the “relief of the distressed inhabitants” of that island; Peter Guthrie had given ten pounds, and had collected twentyeight pounds “from the coloured ladies of St. George town”.
Peter Guthrie sat on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which estimated revenue and expenditure, etc.
On 5 Jan 1831: Peter Guthrie was one of a committee of three Street Commissioners for St George’s inviting tenders for specified road repair jobs. One of them was “The street from the fish market, at the foot of St. John’s Street, to be paved, or macadamized, as far as the north end of Mr. Guthrie’s stables”.
10 Aug 1831: The Treasurer gave notice of pew tax due 1 September. Peter and his friend Alexander Mc Combie both had 23foot pews in the Anglican church, which attracted a tax of two pounds eleven shillings and ten pence, while W. Swap had one of 19 feet and was to pay somewhat less. McCombie had just published the latest edition of the Laws of the Colony, and was also Secretary of the Association of Planters and Merchants, and Secretary of the Committee of the
Presbyterian Association, and in this latter capacity he invited tradesmen to tender plans for the erection of a church for 350 to 400 persons. It was he also who directed in 1836 the construction of the first public water distribution system to serve St. George’s.
In 1833 the British Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery in most British Colonies, freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa, as well as a small number in Canada. It received Royal assent on 28 Aug 1833, and took effect on 1 August 1834. Slave owners like Guthrie took a financial hit, which sparked law suits.
“The estimated value of the enslaved persons in the counterclaim is given as £2260 for 31 enslaved persons, including £100 per head for field labourers, £120 for Head People, £30 for children under 6 and £25 for aged, diseased or otherwise non-effective.” Guthrie lost his claim, which was awarded to London merchants Bartley and Milne who were the original mortgagees.Centre for the Study of Legacies of British Slavery
A short while later he was to run afoul of the authorities in respect of money he received in trust being the proceeds of sale of an unseaworthy vessel.
The Florida – Prize – A Portuguese schooner was captured on the 13 th May, 1837, by her Majesty’s brig Harpy, having on board 283 slaves. She was dispatched to the island of Grenada, and being found unseaworthy, was there sold under the superintendence of Peter Guthrie, the agent appointed to act on behalf of the salvors. The proceeds amounted to £318. 8s.1d. The Florida had since been condemned by the Mixed Commission Court; but Mr Guthrie, despite repeated applications to remit the proceeds to this court, still retained possession thereof. The Queen’s advocate prayed for a monition calling upon Mr Guthrie to transmit the amount to the Registry of the High Court of Admiralty. The Court ordered the monition to issue, directing the sum to be paid to the Mixed Commission Court by whom the condemnation had taken place.The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle, 1841 – p.569
A Journal of Papers on Subjects Connected with Maritime Affairs
Both Peter Guthrie and his eldest son, David Robert Guthrie were freemasons. They were at the Nov 10 meeting in 1843 of the Caledonia Lodge No. 324. Peter’s death occurred sometime after that date of 10 Nov 1843.
Online trees list Anne Thoy’s death as Aft. 1836, but without any notation as to the date’s source. There is a Civil Death Registration record for Grenada listing an Ann Guthrie, 84, who died 26 Nov 1870 (est. birth year 1786) who would be a good candidate for Anne Thoy. There is no other woman of that name or age associated with the Guthrie family living on Grenada at that time. She would also be age-appropriate at age 25-40 to be the mother of children born between 1811-1826.
CHILDREN of PETER GUTHRIE
CHILD 1: AGNES GUTHRIE
Born on 5 May 1811 and baptized at the Anglican Church, Agnes was the daughter of Peter Guthrie & Anne Thoy.
No further data.
CHILD 2: DAVID ROBERT GUTHRIE
The eldest son of Peter Guthrie and Anne Thoy was born on 18 July 1812.
The 1829 Slave Register – Annual Return of the Increase and Decrease of Slaves belonging to David Robert Guthrie in the Town of Saint George for the year 1829, by Peter Guthrie as Attorney. Increase: Toby, 17 yrs, black, Grenada, purchased at Marshall sale, marks: none. Decrease: None. Total: One male 31st Dec 1829 – DR Guthrie by his attorney P Guthrie – 15 April 1830.
The 1833 Slave Register – Annual Return of the Increase and Decrease of Slaves belonging to David R Guthrie in the Town of Saint George for the Year 1833. Increase: None. Decrease: Toby, 21, black, Grenada, sold to Jos. Cogins, marks: none, Total Decrease by Sale: 1 – No Slaves 31st Dec 1833 – D. R. Guthrie.
David R Guthrie is listed as the Treasurer of Grenada’s Freemason ‘Caledonia’ Lodge, No. 324 on 10 Nov 1834. His father, Peter Guthrie is listed as W. Senior Warden. There is also a John Guthrie, Senior Deacon listed. Since John Guthrie of Carbeth had long since left Grenada and died before this date, this is a different John Guthrie. Peter’s son John would only be about 13, so this man is an unknown.
No further data on David Robert Guthrie. There is some question as to whether he is the same person as Robert Guthrie, presumed son of Peter and Anne. See below.
CHILD 3: PETER GUTHRIE
Peter Guthrie was born to Anne Thoy on 5 August 1814. The names of both parents appear on his baptismal record dated 22 Jan 1815 by the Rev. Francis McMahon, rector of the Anglican church in St. George’s.
At about 16 years of age, Peter went to sea as an apprentice aboard the brig ‘Caroline’, a vessel on which his father often imported goods into Grenada from England. Like his father, Peter assumed a captaincy. At twenty-three, he achieved his first command in 1837, a vessel called ‘Emancipation’ belonging to the port of London. About 1840, when he was back in Grenada for a time, Peter had relationship with Hannah Jones, who bore him a son, Alfred Guthrie on 24 Jan 1841. He was baptized at the Anglican church on 29 May 1841.
In 1850, the UK Mercantile Marine Act made it compulsory that all masters and mates of foreign going British vessels obtain a certificate of competence either by examination or by satisfying the examiners that they had sufficient practical experience. At the time, Peter was living in Barbados.
Peter was married to Elizabeth Virginia Swap on 11th February, 1852, at Holy Trinity Church, Castries, St. Lucia, by Rev.E.J. Hawkins. A copy of the register obtained by Frank Hudson shows that witnesses were C.H. Wells, James Mc Farlane M.D., George Tench and A. McCombie. The last named is probably Alexander, who was known to his father.
Peter Guthrie’s profession is shown as “master of the vessel ‘Flying Fish‘”.
Peter had been granted Master’s certificate of Service 71,538 and Lloyd’s captains registers show that he skippered no less than ten vessels between 1856 and 1871 on voyages to the River Plate (1867 and 1868), west coast of Africa (1869 and 1871) and the West Indies (1858 to 1863 and 1870).
Elizabeth (Swap) Guthrie was only 31 years old at her death on 23 July 1859 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Peter was now a widower with two young sons and an occupation that kept him itinerant. He brought the boys to Grenada, where he is reputed to have left them in the care of one Miss McCombie, who may have been a schoolteacher and the sister or daughter of his father’s friend, Alexander McCombie. This, however, may not be correct, since Peter had many relatives in Grenada.
The eldest boy was William Noble Fitzmorris Guthrie (1854-1875) whose death at the young age of 21 prompted friends to erect a church tablet in his memory at the kirk in St George’s. The inscription lists his full name as William Noble Jamieson Guthrie. Since his brother has 4 given names, Jamieson may also be part of William’s full name. William was born in Barbados on 13 Feb 1854. He was clerking for a solicitor in St. George’s when he died.
The second son James Ferguson Jamieson McCombie Guthrie was born 19 Oct 1856 in Eastwood, Renfrewshire, Scotland. His name was originally Peter James Hawkins Guthrie, but a legally changed by his parents on 15 April 1857. He was married to Amelia Catherine Amanda Purcell on 4 Dec 1879 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Hanover Duke, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. A witness to his wedding was cousin Ambrose Hayling Guthrie. The couple was blessed with three sons and two daughters. The latter were married in a Double Wedding Ceremony in 1909. See link below for details.
CHILD 4: ANNE GUTHRIE
Likely named in honor of her mother, Anne Thoy, this daughter was born in 1817, but lived only until March 1820.
No further details.
CHILD 5: JAMES GUTHRIE
James Guthrie, son of Peter Guthrie and Anne Thoy, was born in 1818.
No further details.
CHILD 6: JOHN GUTHRIE
Another son of Peter Guthrie and Anne Thoy, John Guthrie was born in December of 1821.
No further details.
CHILD 7: ROBERT GUTHRIE
There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether David Robert Guthrie, born on 18 July 1812 is the same man known as Robert Guthrie.
The latter “died at sea, 23 June , on board schooner Governor Leverock, bound for Puerto Rico, Robert Guthrie Esq., Senior Revenue Officer, aged 48 years. He was for several years in service of the Customs and being in ill health, obtained 6 weeks leave of absence for a trip, in the hope that change of air and scene might prove beneficial, unfortunately, he grew worse and died of the malady with which he had been afflicted 20 days after leaving the island. Leaves a disconsolate widow and 5 young children”Obituary
Being 48 in 1871 would estimate his DOB as 1823 making him nine years younger than his brother who is several times documented as “David Robert” or “David R”in the Slave Registers and the Freemason’s Quarterly Review.
Robert Guthrie was married to Elcey Anne Hayling in Grenada in 1852. Their children were: Henrietta Robertina (1853), Anton Ambrose Hayling (1856), Robert James (1859), Francis McKenzie (1861), and Leopold Albert (1863).
CHILD 8: ANNE GUTHRIE
Named in honor of her mother and her sister who died young, Anne was born in September of 1825.
No further details.
CHILD 9: ELLEN JANE GUTHRIE
The youngest of Anne Thoy’s children with Peter Guthrie, Ellen Jane was born in December of 1826.
No further details.
CHILD 10: GEORGE EDWARD GUTHRIE
George Edward Guthrie, born on 18 Aug 1828, was the son of Peter Guthrie and Leah Gibbs.
No further details.
CHILD 11: SUSAN GUTHRIE
Susan Guthrie is Peter Guthrie’s youngest known child. She was born to Mary Ann Gilling on 4 Feb 1836.
No further details.