Alexander, 10th Laird of Drum;

and some of his descendants


Alexander Irvine, eldest son of the 9th Laird of Drum and Marion Douglas, was born in 1594, and died in February 1657. He was buried in Drum’s Aisle, at St. Nicholas Church, Aberdeen, Scotland. He became the 10th Laird when his father died in January 1630. Alexander was knighted at some point, probably just before the middle of 1617, for after that date he was referred to as “Sir Alexander Irvine,” or various spellings thereof, in all public records.

Sir Alexander married Magdalene Scrymgeour, eldest daughter of  Sir John  Scrymgeour and Margaret Seton, in July 1617, and they had ten children.

Alexander and his sons were caught in a period of great turmoil and unrest in Scotland. While the old Laird tried to be neutral in the struggle between the Covenanters and the Catholics, he couldn’t hide the fact that he was a staunch Royalist and supporter of King Charles I. By remaining loyal to King Charles he lost most of his fortune (but not his land holdings).

Text Box: Drum Castle, Near Aberdeen
Drum Castle was a royalist stronghold in a predominantly Covenant district, and was thus an obvious target. In June 1640, during one of the Laird’s absences (perhaps in prison), a strong force led by Robert Munro of the Clan Munro (Munroe) surrounded the castle. Even though the attackers had artillery, Lady Irvine and her people defended the castle for two days before finally surrendering. The castle was then looted. Although there were casualties Lady Magdalene was not harmed.

Drum Castle was again sacked on May 2, 1644 by Clan Campbell (A chair with Drum symbols on it is now in the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, and is believed to have been taken from Drum by the Campbells during the raid). Soon after Drum was sacked and looted for a third time.

Alexander, 10th Laird of Drum, his brother Robert Irvine of Fedderet, and as well as his two oldest sons, Alexander and Robert, were imprisoned at Edinburgh Castle several times. Robert died in the dungeons. He had escaped the Covenanters in Scotland by going to County Antrim in Ulster, and while there married Elizabeth Wylie. A few months later he returned to Scotland to join the forces being raised in support of the King by Alexander, his older brother. Robert was soon captured by the Covenanters, however, and died on February 4, 1645 in Tolbooth Prison in Edinburgh (torn down in 1817). David, his son, was born while he was in prison, but he never saw him.

The Laird's eldest son Alexander, near death, was set free after Montrose's victory over the Covenanters at the Battle of Kilsyth in August 1645. Tradition has it that after he recovered he joined Montrose’s army and continued the fight against the Covenanters. He survived the war and married Lady Mary Gordon in 1643. He succeeded his father as the eleventh Laird of Drum when the elder died in 1657.

Robert’s son David married Sophia Gault and had a son named Robert who married Margaret Wylie. Robert and Margaret had ten children: Margaret who married Ephraim McDowell; Mary who married her cousin John Wylie; Thomas who married and settled in Cushendal, Ireland; and Alexander, George, David, William, Robert, James, and Samuel. The last seven came to America on the ship George and Anne. It sailed from Londonderry May 9, 1729, and landed at Philadelphia.

Many of the immigrants who arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1720s and 1730s moved down the Shenandoah Valley into Virginia where less expensive land was being opened for settlement. The seven brothers, who descended from Robert, joined this migration, and settled in Augusta County, Virginia. The McElroy family from the same ship did likewise, as did the family of the Reverend John Irvine, thought to be cousins of the seven brothers.

Borden's Grant, comprising about one hundred thousand acres, and designated Beverly Manor, was what drew many of the settlers down the Valley of Virginia to the area that became Augustus County. Beginning in 1737, numerous family units of Irvines/Irwins/Erwins settled in what was called “A Scotch-Irish Settlement.”

Early writings in Virginia mention a John Irwin, said to be the son of James and Mary Irvine/Irwin.  No mention is made of his family except that he was the son of James. One is lead to believe that his father had died and his older brothers had moved on south and/or westward. It was in Augusta County that he met and married Margaret, the daughter of Robert MacFarlane who had first settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. John’s Revolutionary War military record identifies him only as a private of the Virginia line who married Margaret MacFarlane

It is recorded that in 1772 the Reverend David Jones, of Freehold, New Jersey, outfitted a covered wagon, and in the company of George Rogers Clark traveled to Grave Creek, Virginia (later West Virginia), where they met John Irwin. There they set out in Irwin’s canoe, sixty feet long and heavily laden with goods, to be delivered at the Shawanese Town (now Portsmouth, Ohio). It is  not clear if this is the same John Irwin who married Margaret MacFarlane in Virginia about 1767. If they are one and the same, the episode might explain the lack of information about him in Augusta County. Further, his familiarity with extreme frontier conditions might have led to his military service later.

In 1779 there was a migration to Kentucky of some one hundred and fifty families under the leadership of a George Rogers Clark, undoubtedly the same individual mentioned above. Included in this migration  were numerous Irwin/Erwin families. The McElroy family had three sons who married three daughters of the Rev. John Irvine: Hugh McElroy married Esther Irvine; Samuel married Mary; and James married Margaret. These three couples were part of the Clark party. They settled in an area consisting  mainly of Jefferson, Lincoln, Fayette, and Nelson Counties. This was only a very few years after Daniel Boone had first visited the area. Kentucky, at the time, was only a collection of fortified villages outside of which no one was safe.


John Irwin b. 1/1/1733, d. Jan. 1826, m. c. 1767 Margaret MacFarlane, d. 1795. Their children were:

  1. Elizabeth Irwin, b. 1773 in VA, m. 1/6/1804 Jonathan Keith.

  2. Isaac Irwin, b. 1774 in VA, d. 11/1858, m. 1st 3/5/1799 Athelie Kendall; m. 2nd Eleanore King 3/13/1808.

  3. James Irwin, did not marry.

  4. John Irwin, b. 8/31/1783, d., l1/4/1835, m. 6/20/1804 Sally Kendall.

  5.  Benjamin Irwin, m. 3/30/1796 Katy Lesley.

  6. Joseph Irwin, b. 5/10/1783, d. 1/5/1858, m. 3/30/1808 Sarah Thompson.

  7. George Irwin, m. Pricilla Harned.

  8. Margaret Irwin, m. 1802 John Moore.

  9. Hannah Irwin m. Lutz

Isaac Irwin, b. 6/24/1774 in Augusta Co. VA. d. November 1858 Putnam Co. IN; at his own request, his grave was unmarked in the Irwin Family Cemetery in Madison Twp.; m. 1st Athelia Kendall in Hardin Co. KY and had three children; m. 2nd Eleanor C. King in Hardin Co., daughter of Jeremiah King. Eleanor was born in Natchez, MS c. 1787, d. 1656 in Putnam Co. IN. Isaac and Eleanor had eleven children. They were:

  1.  Athelia Irwin, b. 9/1/1814, d. 1/6/1856, m. 10/23/1835 Hardin Irwin, son of Joseph, in Putnam Co.; nine children.

  2. John Rowan Irwin, m. Elizabeth Patrick; they had twelve children.

  3. William King Irwin, b. 1815, d. 1887, m. 4/13/1840 Louise Vandever; they had six children.

  4. Smiley D. Irwin, b. 1/29/1820 in Hardin Co. KY, d. 8/31/1875 in Putnam Co. IN, m. 1/15/1850 Mary Ann Bicknell in Putnam Co. She was born 2/10/1824 in Philadelphia, died 1909 in Putnam Co.; they had nine children.

  5. Sarah Ellen Irwin, m. Clifford Brittian; eight children.

  6. Carmilla Irwin, d. young.

  7. Melvina Irwin.

  8. Priscilla Ann Irwin, m. Milligan Bratton; two children.

  9. Charles Irwin, b. c. 1825, d. 1898, m. Mary G. Hansell; they bad no children.

  10. Susan Irwin.

  11. Isaac Irwin, Jr., b. 4/19/1817, d. 2/3/1897, m. 1st 12/21/1844 Maria Brittian d. 3/25/1831; four children. He m. 2nd 4/19/1852 Jane Leatherman; 14 children.


The children of Isaac Irwin, Jr. and Maria Brittian:

  1. Christian Irwin, b. 1846, m. John Ball.

  2. Sarah Ellen Irwin, b. 1847, m. Wallace Avritt.

  3. Newport Irwin, never unmarried.

  4. Susan Irwin, b. 1851,  m. William Burlington.

 The children of Isaac Irwin, Jr. and Jane Leatherman:

  1. Maria Irwin, b. 1853, m. Thomas Reynolds.

  2. Mary Irwin, b. 1853 ,  m. George Pearson.

  3. Rowan Irwin, b. 1838, m. Mildred Barnes.

  4. Smiley Taylor Irwin,  b. 1861, m. Nelly G. Wright.

  5. Washington Irwin, b. 1863, m. Ada Shay.

  6. Cicily Irwin, m. Thomas Ring.

  7. John L.C. Irwin, b. 1871, m. Elizabeth Jobes.

  8. Porter Irwin, b.1877, m. Dora Nina Pinnell.

  9. Lavonna Irwin, m. Marcus Boatman.

  10. Rachel Irwin, d. age 18 months, 1874.

  11. Stella Irwin, d. young.

  12. Nora Worth Irwin, b. 1875, d. 1961.

  13. Hetty Jane Irwin, d. young.

  14. Frances Irwin, b. 1867, d. 1949 in WY, married 1885 William Will, b. 1861 in Dakota Territory, d. 1913 in WY.

 The children of Francis Irwin and William Will were:

  1. John Bernard Will, b. 1887 in NE, d. 1969 in OR, m. 1908 Myril Edith Henry, d. 1933.

  2. Ethyl Neva Irwin, b. 1890, m. James Murray.

  3. Loren Irwin, b. 1895, m. 1st Harriet Baker, m. 2nd Ella Svenson.

  4. William Francis Irwin, b. 1897 m. Venice Guernsey; m. 2nd Ann Austin.

  5. Adabelle Irwin, b. 1934, m. Roy Shipp.

  6. Marvin Laverne Irwin, b.1908 m. Ruth Dickensheets.

  7. Nora Irwin, died young.

  8. May Irwin, died young.

  9. Thelma Irwin, died young.

 John Bernard Will and Myril Edith Henry had six children:

  1. Laverne Henry Will, b. 1909, m. 1937 Catherine Mice Lumley.

  2. James Will, d. young.

  3. Gene Eldon Will, b. 1920, m. 1940 Estelle Vi ck

  4. Gerald Will, d. young

  5. John Le Roy Will, d. young

  6. Jason Will, b. 1924 in WY.

 Descendants of Smiley D. Irwin and Mary Ann Bicknell:

  1. Henry Clay Irwin, b. 1850 d. 3/17/1884 m. 11/15/1871 Eunice A. Vanzant & had five children.

  2. George Edward Irwin, d. age 26 unmarried.

  3. John Rowan Irwin, b. 9/23/1854, d. 12/18/1942, m. 10/5/1881 Mary Adeline Vanzant & had 13 children.

  4. Winfield Scott Irwin, b. 12/13/1856, m. Nancy Elizabeth Wright & had one child.

  5. Robert Smiley Irwin

  6.  Isaac King  Irwin

  7. Susan Ellen Irwin

  8.  Mary Louise Irwin, died young, unmarried. 

  9. John Rowan Irwin b. 9/23/1854 in Putnam Co. IN, d. 2/18/42 in Putnam Co. m. 10/5/1881 in Parke Co. Mary Adeline Vanzant, b. 8/13/1804 in Parke Co., d. 7/2/15 Putnam Co.

John Rowan Irwin and Mary Vanzant had thirteen children; they were:

  1. Robert Shields Irwin, b. 6/17/1884, d. 10/28/1881.

  2. Charles Edwin Irwin, b. 1/10/1885 , d. 9/23/1891.

  3.  John.Rowan Irwin, Jr., b. 9/7/1857 d. 10/19/1888.

  4. Ada Alice Irwin, b. 9/19/1889 d. 12/10/1896.

  5. William Roscoe Irwin, b. 7/27/18Dl d. 6/6/1909.

  6. Verna Jane Irwin, b. 5/13/1893 d. 2/8/1906.

  7. Jessie Kemper Irwin, b. 10/3/1895 d. 2/19/1975, m. Opal Northway.

  8. Virgil Oscar Irwin, b. 9/19/1897, m. Dorothea Watkins.

  9. Mary Lucretia, b. 11/18/1899, m. William Dewey Martin.

  10. Amy Lucile Irwin, b. 8/1/01 m. Charles Eiteljorge.

  11. Claude Calhoun Irwin, b.8/2/1903 d. 10/19/1979, m. 8/6/32 Mildred Brant.

  12. Ralph Russell Irwin, b. 10/31/1903 m. 6/10/1933 Margaret F. McLean.

  13. Albert Ray Irwin, b. 10/23/1908, d. 12/27/1908.

 John McLean Irwin, son of Ralph Russell Irwin and Margaret F. McLean, was born October 30, 1943, and married Ann Woodson Cameron June 22, 1968 in Washington, DC. She was born September 3, 1948. They had one child: Heather Ann Irwin, born August 29, 1973. A U.S. Public Records search found no John McLean Irwin, but there is one John M. Irwin, born in 1943, living in Houston, Texas, as well as a Heather A. Irwin, born in 1973, also living in Houston. It is not known if these are the same persons.


 Nathaniel Irwin/Erwin, who emigrated to Pennsylvania from Northern Ireland with his family in 1740, was also a descendant of the 10th Laird of Drum.

As noted previously, Robert—Alexander’s second son—died in Tolbooth Prison without having seen David Irvine, his one and only son. David Irvine married Sophia Gault in 1663 in Northern Ireland, and they had four sons and one daughter. The fourth son was Matthew.

Matthew Irvine was born in 1678 in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, and died in 1755 in Augusta County, Virginia. He married Elizabeth Patterson in 1690 in Ulster, Northern Ireland, and they had six children. All were born in Ulster. Matthew and Elizabeth, and several of their adult children and their families, emigrated Bucks County, Pennsylvania about 1740. 

Nathaniel Irwin/Erwin, highlighted above, was the fifth child of Matthew and Elizabeth. He, with Mary Faulk, his first wife, and the first four of their eventual six children, arrived in Bucks County at same time as did his parents.

The children of Nathaniel and Mary were:

  1. William Erwin, Col., b. 1735 Ulster, d. 1414, York Co., SC; m. Sallie Ross.

  2. Susannah Erwin, b.1736 Ulster, d. 1814, York Co., SC; m 1st. John Graham, m. 2nd. Samuel Johnson.

  3. Arthur Erwin, Col., b.1738 Ulster, d.1821, Burke Co., NC; m. c. 1762 Margaret Brandon.

  4. Mary Erwin, b. abt. 1740 Ulster, d. abt. 1810, Burke Co., NC; m. Abraham Roach.

  5.  Sophia Erwin, b. York Co., SC, d. Tennessee; m. 1st. John Darnell, m. 2nd. Franklin Graham.

  6. Alexander S. Erwin, b. 1750 Bucks Co., PA, d. 1830 Burke Co., NC.


The Nathaniel Erwin family moved to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina about 1768, where Mary died about 1768 or 1769. Nathaniel then married Leah Julian in 1770. He and Leah had three children. The family moved to North Carolina about 1773, and to South Carolina about 1795 where Nathaniel died in 1796.

The children of Nathaniel and Leah were:

  1. Abigail Erwin, b. abt. 1772 in PA, d. 1823 in Robertson Co., TN; m. Thomas Polk, uncle of James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States.

  2.  James Erwin, b. 1774 Burke Co., NC, d. aft. 1858 Drew Co., AR; m. Jean Kennedy.

  3. Nathanial Alexander Erwin, b. 1776 Rowan Co., NC, d. abt. 1845 McNair Co., NC; married Mary Elizabeth Erwin, daughter of John Armstrong Erwin and Alice Brandon, in 1805 in Sumner Co., TN.

All of Nathaniel’s sons served in the Revolutionary War. William and Alexander attained the rank of colonel.

The Erwin Family of Burke County, North Carolina was founded by Nathaniel’s sons, Arthur and Alexander. Arthur’s plantation, Belvedere, was located about five miles northeast of Morganton on a bluff  overlooking the John's River Valley. Arthur’s son, William Willoughby Erwin, built the manor house, completing it in 1802. The main Belvedere manor house burned in 1929.  In the 1970s the plantation was owned by Dr. W. Elliot White of Charlotte, NC.

Text Box: The original Belvederemanor house, with guest house in rear, was completed in 1802.
Arthur Erwin married Margaret “Polly” Brandon (a descendant of Mary Tudor) about 1762 in Burke Co., NC, and they had seven children. They were:

  1. William Willoughby Erwin, b. 1764 Rowan Co., NC, d. 1837 Burke Co., NC.

  2. James Erwin, b. 1766 Iredell Co., NC, d. 1843 Rutherford Co., NC; m. Mary Miller.

  3. John Erwin, b. 1768 Burke Co., NC, d. Habersham Co., GA; m. Catherine Erwin, a cousin.

  4. Alexander Hamilton Erwin, b. 1770 Burke Co., NC, d. 1819 Burke Co., NC.

  5. Frank Erwin, b. 1774.

  6. Arthur Erwin, Jr., b. 1782 Burke Co., NC.

  7. Mary “Polly” Erwin, b. 1782 Burke Co., NC, d. abt. 1860 Burke Co.; m. Joseph Patton.

Arthur Erwin died August 27, 1821, and his wife passed away in 1832, both at Belvedere Plantation in Burke Co., NC, and both are buried in the family cemetery there. Belvedere plantation should be on amust see” list for all with the “name.”

William Willoughby Erwin married Matilda Sharpe May 21, 1788. Both were born in Iredell County, North Carolina (in what was originally part of  Rowan County), and both died at Belvedere, and are buried there. Their children were:

  1. Adolphus Lorenzo Erwin, b. 2/14/1789, d. 11/24/1855; m. 11/27/ 1817 Mary Gertrude Simiana.

  2. William Alberto Erwin, b.4/7/1790, d. 5/29/1847.

  3. Leander Arthur Erwin, b. 5/10/1791, d. 11/10/1845; m. 9/5/ 1816 Eliza B. Marable.

  4. Marquis de Lafayette “Marcus” Erwin, b. 1/25/1793, d. 7/22/1824; m. Margaret Erwin McDowell (a cousin).

  5. Harriet Eloise Erwin, b. 5/3/1795, d. 8/4/1858; m. 6/27/1815 Col. Isaac Thomas Avery.

  6. Mary Elvira Erwin, b. 11/3/1796, d. 11/18,1863.

  7. Sydney Stanhope Erwin, b. 12/31/1798, d. 1849; m. 4/10/1827 Caroline R. Carson.

  8. Catherine Reese Erwin, b. 5/3/1800, d. 1/7/1866; m. 4/8/1828 Dr. Alfred M. Gaither, Jr.

  9. Margaret Caroline Erwin, b. 12/2/1801, d. 7/23/1831; m. 2/22/1821 Capt. James Moffit McDowell.

  10. Elam Alphonso Erwin, b. 3/13/1803, d. 11/8/1830.

  11. Elizabeth Sharpe Erwin, b. 10/17/1804, d. 5/30/1859; m. 7/13/1830 Col. Burgess Sydney Gaither.

  12. Edward Jones Erwin, b. 3/12/1806, d. 7/8/1871; m. 12/6/1837 Ann Elizabeth Phifer.

  13. Alexander Hamilton Erwin, b. 5/11/1808, d. 10/4/1877.

  14. Cecilia Matilda Erwin, b. 5/11/1808, d. 5/11/1894.

  15.  Justina Louisa Erwin, b. 4/11/1810, d. 6/13/1811.

  16. Delia Haywood Erwin, b. 4/2/1812; m. 10/10/1839 Dr. J.F.E. Hardy.

Family members married, moved away, died, and the estate eventually ended up with Alexander Hamilton Erwin, the thirteenth child of William Willoughby Erwin. After Alexander’s death in 1877 the title of the estate passed to  George Phifer Erwin, a nephew (son of Edward Jones Erwin). Cecilia Matilda Erwin, the spinster twin sister of Alexander Hamilton Erwin, lived at Belvedere until her death in 1894.

George Phifer Erwin held title of the estate until his death in 1911 when it passed to his wife, Corinna Iredell Avery Erwin and their five children. Corinna died in 1919, leaving equal shares in the estate to her children. The  children were:

  1. Annie Phifer Erwin Laxton.

  2. Corinna Moorehead Derr Boger.

  3. Adelaide Avery Erwin White.

  4. Edward Jones, m. Mary Brown.

  5. Eloise McCurdy Erwin McKoy.


In 1984 the Belvedere Plantation was owned by William Elliott White, Jr., M.D., a great-great-grandson of William Willoughby Erwin.

The above individuals are only a few of the many descendants of Alexander Irvine, 10th Laird of Drum.