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Extracts re the Fergusons in the early years of Belfast (from George Benn's work)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1689 to 1729
Location: Belfast, county Antrim, Irelandmap
Surname/tag: Ferguson
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Extracts from the book, A History of the Town of Belfast from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Eighteenth Century With Maps and Illustrations, by George Benn (London: Marcus Ward & Co.; Belfast: Royal Ulster Works, 1877); transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick.

Extract no. 1 (pp. 168–70):

The Ferguson Family.—The family of Ferguson is one of the very few in Belfast who have legitimate claims to a long standing in it. The late John Francis Ferguson informed the writer that, so far as he knew, the first of them who came to this country was an army surgeon to the forces of William the Third. If so, he was probably the Dr. Victor Ferguson who appears, in Dr. Kirkpatrick’s work of Presbyterian Loyalty, in a conspicuous and honourable light as a defender of John M’Bride of Belfast when persecuted for his opinions, and otherwise as an advocate of liberality and of the opinions held by the Belfast Society. This Dr. Victor Ferguson is claimed indeed as the direct ancestor of the late Mr. Ferguson. His son was also a medical man,[*] but connected also with the linen business, in which he made great improvements. He lived in the last century. His son was John S. Ferguson, who was a still more extensive linen merchant.

[*] Transcriber's note: The writer was referring to Dr. James Ferguson, who might have been the son of Dr. Victor Ferguson.~Kilpatrick-1128

Mr. John S. Ferguson, at the beginning of this century, was the owner of the Bleach Green at Ballysillan, the nearest to the old town on the old Antrim Road; he had also a paper mill at Antrim, and was likewise among the principal gentry of Belfast when it was a more aristocratic place than it is now—at least the Marquis of Donegall and family chiefly resided in it. He [John S. Ferguson?] resided in Donegall Place, the very last last house next the Linen Hall, and the last but one of the private residences of which Donegall Place was once entirely composed.

For some notice of Dr. Victor Ferguson, and notable facts respecting the position of theological differences at the time, see Presbyterian Loyalty, pp. 529–564.

We append a copy of Dr. Victor Ferguson’s Will, from the Record Office in Dublin, which, though not coincident in point of time with our present publication, is at least a town family document, and will probably be acceptable to many of our readers as a genuine Belfast will of more than 150 years ago.

The Will is dated 1723; he describes himself as a Doctor of Physic, and appoints Colonel Upton and Colonel Brice of Belfast his Trustees:

He leaves his dearly beloved son-in-law, Captain James M’Cullogh, and his dearly beloved daughter, his wife, six of his best Chairs in his parlour, with his large Silver Salver, six Silver Spoons, six Silver Forks, and six Silver-handled Knives; Forty Shilling per annum during her natural life to his dear sister, Mrs. Corry of Newton; £5 to the poor of Belfast, to be distributed among them as Colonel Brice and the Revd. James Kirkpatrick think fit; £650 to buy real estate for his son.

Mr. John S. Ferguson had several sons, now all dead, the last of them, John Francis Ferguson already mentioned in this sketch, having died in September, 1879; and a very few weeks after, a great placard appeared in front of this house, once so secluded, and always so beautiful, announcing an auction sale of all its contents.

The members of this family are interred in the burying ground behind the Poor House, as many of the old Belfast families are. We are conscious this is a most unfinished and imperfect sketch of the Fergusons of Belfast, and it is much to be regretted that those in this town and elsewhere, who possess an ancestry worthy of being remembered, seem entirely regardless of this fact; and in the absence of all written records such families are forgotten in a few years.[**]

Extract no. 2 (pg. 342):

Numerous bleach-greens arose around Belfast in the last century, some of which in enlarged forms remain to this day. Respected inhabitants of the town participated in the linen manufacture. In 1764 Dr. James Ferguson, of Belfast, received a premium of £300 from the Linen Board for the successful application of lime in bleaching. [Footnote:] Dr. Ferguson above-mentioned was grandfather of the present J.F. Ferguson, Esq., of Belfast, and a probable connection also of Dr. Victor Ferguson, of the same place, of the early part of the eighteenth century, though no account has been obtained of the relationship if it existed.[**] Dr. Victor Ferguson is highly praised in Presbyterian Loyalty for veracity, probity, and moderation. The first of this family, however, is said to have come to Ireland as surgeon with King William’s army.

[**] Emphasis provided by the transcriber.

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