The Little Family

In Kirkpatrick Juxta churchyard, Beattock, stands this group of gravestones:


One is inscribed as follows:

Here lies William Little, Tenant in Tathhill who died 7th December 1767 aged 64 years and also Margrat and William Little, his children. Also Jean Johnston his wife, who died 28th October 1810 aged 90 years.

Opposite William and Jean lie John and Kathrine Little, my great great great great grandparents. It is very likely that William was John's father. The dates fit, they lie buried in a family plot, John and Kathrine's second and fourth children were named Jean and William, as you would expect, and Tathhill farm lies next to Marchbank, where John was the tenant.

I have yet to find documentary evidence, but I am convinced that

William Little

is my earliest known ancestor. He was born in 1703.
His death in 1767 meant that his wife, Jean Johnstone, born in 1720, was a widow for almost 43 years.

In 1740 their son was born. He was

John Little

By 1776 John had married Kathrine Marjoribanks. Kathrine was almost certainly christened on 10th January 1748 at Kirkpatrick Juxta, Dumfries, the daughter of Samuel Marjoribanks.

Her mother is unknown.

John had become a farmer at Tweedshaws, Tweedsmuir Parish, Peeblesshire, having taken over the tenancy c1775 from the Kerr family. James Kerr's wife was a Mary Grieve (1715 - 24-6-1791), who was undoubtedly related to the Grieve family who will appear later in this account.

Tweedshaws farmhouse was replaced in the 1830s. One wall of the barn is all that remains. The "new" house can be seen here. It sits off the present Moffat to Edinburgh road. The original road can be seen on the right, running past the green barn.


Part of John's house is incorporated in the wall of the barn:


On the neighbouring farm, Tweedhopefoot, lived a friend of John's, Alexander Welsh. Alexander must often have told the story of his ancestor, James Welsh, the famous Covenanter, who, in 1685, escaped death at the hands of the dragoons, thanks to his wily old aunt.

Three of John and Kathrine's children were born at Tweedshaws. In November 1783, however, their son, William was born in Moffat. They may have moved by then. At all events, they went at some point to farm at Marchbank, then known as Marchbankwood, seen below:


Kathrine died there on 22nd February 1805.
She was buried at Kirkpatrick Juxta:


John died 19 years later, on 21st January, 1824, and was buried beside Kathrine. He was 84.

On 12th February, 1776, their first child was baptised. He was

Samuel Little

The Old Parish Register for Tweedsmuir states that present at the baptism were "Witnesses Alexander Welsh, Tenant in Tweedhopefoot and John Johnstone, Indweller (ie farm servant) in Tweedshaws."
John Johnson was described as a "servant" when, on 1st August 1777, he witnessed the baptism of Jean, John and Katherine's next child.

The farm servant John and his wife Janet had a son, Francis, who worked for the Littles as a "day labourer." They also had a daughter, Anne. In 1779 Anne married a William Tait, a shepherd, " before these witnesses Alexander Welsh, John Little and many others " Sounds as if it was a good wedding!

Kathrine was perhaps less likely to have entered into the spirit of things that day, as by then she was six months pregnant with the third child, Margaret.
Alexander Welsh was one of the witnesses at Margaret's baptism on 22nd June 1779.

The source of the River Tweed


The source of the River Tweed lies on Tweedshaws land. Samuel must have played there as a child with his sisters Jean and Margaret and young brother William.

Nearby is the "Devil's Beeftub", where the Covenanter John Hunter was shot by dragoons and was buried in Tweedsmuir Churchyard. Alexander Welsh's forebear, James, had a lucky escape.

On 25th October 1801, in Moffat, Samuel married Mary Grieve. Mary was born at Hutton, Dumfries, in 1777.
Her parents were John Grieve , a farmer, and Mary Johnston.

John Grieve may well have taken over the tenancy of Tweedshaws when the Littles moved to Marchbankwood. Certainly he was there by 1785. A son, named after his father, was baptised at Tweedshaws on February 22nd. It seems likely, therefore, that Samuel Little and Mary Grieve, who were to marry in 1801, met when they were children.

Sheila Hale, of Alberta, Canada, also a descendant of the Littles, has gathered invaluable information on the family on a very informative website.
She has found that Samuel and Mary had ten children. Their fourth child was

Cathrine Little

Cathrine was born on 15th February 1809, at Crofthead, Moffat, seen below.


Just as her father must have played in the burn at Tweedshaws, so too Catherine must have enjoyed playing here behind the farmhouse:


Crofthead lies on the Selkirk road, not far from Moffat.


Here it can be seen through the trees from Craigieburn, where Cathrine's brother, George, was born.


The farm manager at Crofthead today is also responsible for the land across the valley at Craigieburn. Perhaps Samuel was, too, for a short time. At any rate, George was born there in 1815. Most of the other children, from Mary (1801) to Janet (1817) - and possibly Jean (1819) - were born at Crofthead.

Below is the farmhouse at Craigieburn.


The youngest child, Samuel, was born in 1823 at Crookburn, Crawford, where my cousin Marion and her husband Raymond were to farm 150 years later.

At some point after 1823, Samuel moved to Campshead, near Crawford. According to the census for that year, they had a "house servant", Elizabeth Brown, aged 14.

Campshead is a remote spot, lying in the hills, some distance from the village of Crawford.


On 29th November 1831, at Dumfries, Cathrine married Walter Boa.

As Samuel and Mary got older, life must have brought much heartache.
In March 1859, he wrote a sad letter to Walter Boa, asking for his advice, and telling him about his daughter Grizel, who had been found to have cancer, and his son George's daughter, Catherine, who had died.

Between 1855 and 1859, they lost two sons, two daughters, and two grandchildren:-

July 1855: Son Samuel died, aged 30, of heart disease.
September 1856: Granddaughter Joan died, aged 13, of "watering of the brain".
October 1857: Son George died, aged 42.
August 1858: Daughter Bess died in childbirth.
March 1859: Granddaughter Catherine died, aged 8, of typhoid.
October 1859: Daughter Grizel died, aged 49, of breast cancer.

Mary died at Campshead three years later, on 1st September 1862. She had lain with paralysis for two weeks. She was 85.

On 27th March 1864, Samuel died at the age of 88.