Gazlay Family History

BiographiesBiography: David McGregor

David McGregor

MANY AMERICANS have no knowledge of their family history beyond their first immigrant, and frequently even his country of origin is unknown. Indeed, the trail beyond the port of entry can be well hidden in the sea-foam of time. The earliest immigrants to America were true pioneers who braved untold hardships, both in the voyage to, and the settlement of, the New World. Those of the late nineteenth century were no less pioneers to their descendents, forging into the industrial revolution and establishing the firm first roots of their family trees in American soil.

David McGregor was one such pioneer, the first of our McGregor family to leave his native Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland for America. The prosperous hand loom weavers of early and mid-1800 Scotland were quickly being supplanted by power looms. David’s father William saw this transition during his long 97 years, and David undoubtedly recognized that a brighter economic future lay across the ocean. David immigrated 9 January 1889 to the United States on the USS Devonia, carrying two bags. David started his American employment in the linen industry, having been similarly employed in Scotland, and he worked the next 15 months anticipating the arrival of his wife-to-be, Nellie Birrell Patterson, also from Dunfermline. Nellie immigrated 21 April 1890 on the SS Etruria with her father and her brother John (curiously, her mother is not shown on the passenger list), all as intermediate passengers embarked at Liverpool. Four days later, David and Nellie were married by the Rev. S. M. Hamilton, D.D., at the Scotch Presbyterian Church in New York City.

A wonderful synopsis of David’s life is contained in a Biographic Study of David McGregor, copies of which survive among family members.

Although his fraternal affiliations began rather late in life, he was a Past President of New Brunswick Aerie No. 1329, F.O.E.; Past Chief of the Perth Amboy Caledonian Club; Past Chief of Progressive Council No.12., Universal Craftsmen’s Council of Engineers of Newark; member of the National Electric Light Association; Historian, and Past Master, of Union Lodge No. 11, Free and Accepted Masons, Orange, New Jersey; Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Masons in New Jersey; honorary member of the Clan Drummond of Orange, O.S.C.; Trustee of Newark Caledonian Club; and President of the Saint Andrew’s Society of New Jersey. A study of the early settlement of the Scots in New Jersey was his hobby of late years, and he had through addresses and contributions to magazines made public some of the interesting results of that study. He wrote several books and articles for periodicals, including a History of Free Masonry in New Jersey, and a history of transportation in New Jersey. David was largely instrumental, with the aid of the Perth Amboy Caledonian Club, in having a memorial erected in memory of Thomas Gordon of Pitlurg and Perth Amboy, the foremost of the first citizens of the First City of New Jersey.

David made several important contributions to masonic research which are recognized in the definitive masonic reference, “Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Feemasonry.” Quoting exerpts from page 1299:

“Bro. David McGregor holds for the second quarter of this Century in the United States a record for the brilliancy of his coups in Masonic research, two or three of them of fundamental importance... Among his discoveries: That John Skene, who came to Jersey in 1682, was a Freemason, a member of the Aberdeen Lodge in Scotland... Most important was Bro. McGregor’s discovery of the records of Col. Daniel Coxe” [firmly establishing him as the first Provincial Grand Master in America and therefore the Father of Freemasonry in America].