Letham Trunk - from Scotland?

In his will of 1853, Woodard D. Holland, 3rd child of Elisha and Patience Holland, wrote in Wayne County, North Carolina, "I give to my son Wooddard [sic.] Holland one Negro Girl called Violet one silver watch lethem trunk and short rifle called his for Ever."

 What is a Letham trunk?  I wanted to find out.  

The will was furnished to the Holland Family History and Tree web site by Darren Niven in April 1998.  Darren wrote in explanation about the Letham trunk as follows: 

The Letham trunk appears to be a key to the origin of this Holland family.  What is a Letham trunk?  Has anybody ever heard of such an item?  Could it be a trunk from Letham?  It could be!  

There is a town in Scotland called Letham.  It is on the east not far from the coast, and about half-way between Aberdeen in the north and Edinburgh.  Although the town was not officially founded until the 19th century -- about 100 years after Jimmie Holland found his way to North Carolina -- the farm, the estate, the region were nevertheless there for many years.  Under normal 18th century conditions, small tenant farmers and villagers would have died where they lived, and be filed tidily away in the village churchyard, neatly docketed in the parish register.  However, Bonnie Prince Charles' attempt to regain the throne of Scotland in 1745 disrupted the normal course of things in no uncertain terms.

Following the famine after the disaster of Culloden, many Highlanders emigrated to the New World; others drifted from the glens and moors toward the cities, in search of food and employment.  Some of the Jacobites and other Scottish prisoners of war captured by the British after 1745, were transported to the American Colonies and sold under bond of indenture for a term of seven years.  Our Jimmie Holland may have been in one of these groups, bringing his Letham trunk filled with his worldly possessions with him.  

So how did Woodard Holland get a trunk from Letham?  Perhaps, no, probably, his grandfather brought it over with him.  This appears to be a strong piece of evidence that Jimmie Holland did, indeed, come from Scotland.  

The web site About Britain says this about Letham:  

Still within the land roamed by the enigmatic Celtic race - the Picts - Letham is a much visited village which attracts hundreds of visitors to its Victorian market each summer.  Nearby is Dunnichen Hill where a famous Pictish stone was found.  Once known as Nechtansmere, this was the scene of a great battle in AD 685, the Battle of Dunnichen, when Ecgfrith, King of the Angles, was defeated and slain.  As a result, Scotland's future as an independent country was at that time assured.  Visiting this part of Angus is like stepping into the history books.  

Another theory about Woodard Holland's Lethan trunk is that it came from Leith, Scotland.  The great highway of Scotland's commerce all through her long, early history was the North Sea.  On its shores were, therefore, her chief ports, Leith, Aberdeen, and Dundee.  Of these, Leith was, as she still is, by far the most important; and indeed, was the chief port of the country until surpassed by Glasgow in the early 19th century.  As the gateway to Scotland, Leith ships did trade with the Baltic, the Low Countries, France, the Americas and the Mediterranean.  So perhaps Woodard's Lethan trunk refers to this seaport.  

Along the same line as the Letham trunk, is Eddie Rumsey's memory of a Scottish song and hearing of Culloden.  Find it in Remembrances

The Picts were the people of ancient Scotland.  The Pictish nation, forged in the blending of the Roman occupiers and the Anglo-Saxons,  was the dominant power in northern Britain for more than five hundred years.  The Scottish people are more recently Britannic, however.   

If you decide to visit, there is a Bed and Breakfast in a 450-year-old castle.  A picture of the castle and description of accommodations are online at Hotel Fernie Castle Letham By Cupar, Scotland. There is also a B&B, High Letham Farmhouse, in a 200-year-old restored stone Georgian farmhouse on 2 acres on the Tweed River.  

Hollands in Scotland

I received the following answer to my inquiry about the frequency of the surname Holland in Scotland.  I wanted to know where the surname ranks in frequency and how many people in Scotland and in the U.K. have the name Holland. 

February 6, 2004:
In the 1901 Census, there were 622 "Hollands" in Scotland, the 1029th most
common surname out of a population of 4.46 million. That is the most
recently available information for the entire population, due to laws on
release of census information. However, we recently sampled our records on
births and deaths over the three year period 1999/2001. There were 77
Hollands out of a sample of over 336,000 events - 763rd on our list.

Neil Bowie
General Register Office for Scotland

In contrast, in the United States, Holland was the 256th most common surname in 1990, the most recent census for which such data is available.

Orkney Islands 

A Scottish lady wrote me that the Holland name comes from the Orkney Islands off the northern coast of Scotland.  This led me to do some research in that area and I gathered some links for you to do your own.  If you find a marriage record of James Holland and Jerutha White be sure an let me know! 

Orkney Genealogy http://www.cursiter.com/
Orkney Island Heritage http://www.orkneyjar.com/index.html
UK & Ireland Genealogy, Orkney Islands http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/sct/OKI/index.html

The evidence is not overwhelming that the Holland name came from the Orkney Islands.  In 1891 the Holland name was only 3% of the population, or 7 out of 259 were named Holland.  The most populous areas in Scotland for the Holland name in 1891 were Ayrshire (45% or 116 out of 259) and Lanarkshire (71% or 184 out of 259).  Down in the U.K. Hollands were more populous.  In Lancashire they were 22% of the population of England and Whales in 1891 (4816 out of 21,892), and 14% of the population in London (3,026 out of 21,892).  This information was compiled by Ancestry.com from UK Census records. 

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Published  10 July 1996  -   This page added 5 May 2008  -  Revised 21 January 2011      Hit Counter