Lauderdales in North America

If your family tradition states that you are of Lauderdale descent, then you probably are of such descent, and as such are related to the Chief, albeit distantly. We have good reason to believe that all Maitlands, and hence Lauderdales, are descended from a single individual, who witnessed charters in Yorkshire, England  in the 1140s, and was in turn descended from the Mautalents of Normandy, one of whose number was present as an officer at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Lauderdales have a distinguished record in colonial America and the early Republic, and Maitlands are proud of that association.

We have done extensive research on the Maitland line, which is well documented thanks to our ownership of land in Scotland from the early Middle Ages, and close connections with our feudal superiors of that period, which results in the names appearing regularly in the charters from 1138 onwards in England and Scotland. However, there has been no such research on the Lauderdales in Scotland.

To the best of our knowledge, the Lauderdale family in America is of Maitland descent, though there is no documented link between them and the Maitlands of Scotland. The "Maitland Lauderdale" usage does not exist in Scotland, the family name of Maitland has over the centuries been associated with various properties, depending on the lands owned by the Maitland in question. The senior line - i.e. that descended through the eldest sons in each generation has been associated with Lauderdale, and based in that area since before 1250.

Family name of Lauderdale first recorded in Britain 1703

Lauderdale as a family name, not connected with the title, first appears in the records in 1703 when Robert Lauderdale registered the birth of a son in Bellingham, Northumberland. His descendants think he was a Jacobite Maitland who fled to England from Scotland and changed his name. It next appears in the Scottish parish records in south west Scotland in the early 18th century with the birth of Jean Lauderdale in 1737, the daughter of James Lauderdale at Beith, Ayr.

Maitlands have lived in or been connected with Galloway since 1360, and our understanding of James the Emigrant is that he came from that part of Scotland, so the combination of geography, name and his family tradition makes it almost certain that he was a Maitland by origin, and as such, related by blood to the Earls of Lauderdale, but not descended from them.

The story of the Lauderdales of North America starts with seven Lauderdale brothers who in 1641 emigrated from Scotland to Ulster, Ireland and settled in County Down some near Gillhall at Dromore and some near Drumbo, across the Lagan River from Lisburn. They asserted their origin as Maitlands.

Around 1714 James Lauderdale, The Emigrant settled in Pennsylvania. He told his children he was by origin a Maitland, and we think we probably came to America via Northern Ireland, probably from south west Scotland.

We don't know from whom James Lauderdale, The Emigrant was descended, and he made no claims to be descended from the Earls of Lauderdale. However, James was firm in his assertion that he was a Maitland by origin, and this is the tradition which he handed down to his children and grandchildren and which was formally recorded by James Shelby Lauderdale in 1880, and refers to a meeting between his uncle Sam Lauderdale and Dr David Lauderdale who met in 1830, and discovered that they shared a common family tradition. Another Lauderdale from New York was found in 1880 in St Louis with a similar tale.

These traditions are almost certainly reliable. Nearly 40 years ago the Chief verified a 900 year old tradition, first recorded in 1760 that the Maitlands, originally Mautalents, had originated in France, where Mautalents live to this day.

Clint Lauderdale's book History of the Lauderdales in America 1714 – 1850, pub 1998 is the best work on this topic. Second hand copies are available from time to time and cost about $40.

There is a book by Charles Lauderdale, "The Lauderdales of Scotland and America", pub 1937, which contains a number of errors. In particular he created the names Maitland Lauderdale and DeMautlant for the Maitlands of Thirlestane. Our family never bore these names then or at any other time. Likewise the use of “de Mautalent” only occurs 4 times in the 75 recorded charters between 1138 and 1600. “DeMautlent” and “Maitland de Mautlent” never appear.  There are many claims that early Maitlands or Mautalents were born in Lauder in the 14th and 15th centuries – the fact is that there are no records of their birthplaces, and the family did not live in Lauder in the Middle Ages, but at Lethington near Haddington.   In the 18th century, the family lived at Hatton, near Edinburgh

This all means that if you are descended from the Lauderdale family of America, and hence of Maitland descent, you are related to all of us, and the Maitlands are your family

The Lauderdales of South Carolina

We have found another branch of the Lauderdale family in the USA. Sarah Hopson of Alexandria Va joined the Clan society recently and we realised that another new member had joined a few weeks before, also from Alexandria, so we offered to put Sarah in touch with her kinsman John Sorrells. She replied "I know John Sorrells well, actually. He's my first cousin, once removed"and went on to say that she was in the UK, so we invited her to dinner with her mother.

Thus we learned more of the family history – which is not related in Clint Lauderdale’s excellent book History of the Lauderdales in America, although his text gives some hints of this.  Sarah’s uncle, George Lauderdale tells us that:

Family tradition holds that in 1641 seven Lauderdale brothers emigrated from Scotland to Ulster, Ireland and settled in County Down some near Gillhall at Dromore and some near Drumbo, across the Lagan River from Lisburn.

From Drumbo (Hill Hall) William Lauderdale (1762-1835), his wife, Jane Milling Lauderdale (1771-1827), and their four children arrived in Charleston, South Carolina on November 1, 1817 after a voyage of a little over six weeks. Jane had been invited by her uncle, Hugh Milling who had emigrated from Drumbo earlier and who served as a Captain in the 6thRegiment of the South Carolina Volunteer Infantry during the Revolutionary War. (He was captured by the British during the Siege of Charleston and held prisoner until the end of the war.)

William and Jane and the children lived on the farm of Captain Milling in Fairfield County, South Carolina for three years before they were able to purchase their own land. They were members of Jackson's Creek Rock Presbyterian Church and are buried there. William is remembered for his strong literary taste and love of books, and Jane is remembered for her kindness to the poor.

Their four children were:

  • Thomas, born in 1793, married Mary McMullen, but they had no children. Devoted to the study of the Bible and Christian literature, he died in 1881.
  • Mary Ann, born in 1801, married James Lemmon, Sr. Also, born in County Down, he was a large land owner. They had five children, two of whom were Confederate soldiers.
  • David, born in 1805 and died in 1879, practiced medicine. In 1852 he married Mrs. Jane Russell Lemmon, the widow of Montgomery Lemmon who was the nephew of Jane Lemmon. She and Dr. David inherited the large store established in 1844 by Montgomery Lemmon in Winnsboro, South Carolina. Descendants operated the store almost until the end of the 20th Dr. David and Jane had five children.
  • William, born in 1808, went from Fairfield to Texas where he died near Prairieville in 1869.

The Civil War wiped out the fortunes of many family members. Some were rendered homeless since Sherman's forces destroyed much of Winnsboro, but they began anew.

Many of the descendants of this Lauderdale family to come to South Carolina have distinguished themselves in the fields of commerce, industry, medicine, politics, education, journalism and as members of the clergy. They are known for their philanthropy. I am reminded of kindness shown to a family who came to Winnsboro from Syria in the 1880s. The Lauderdales assisted them in setting up a store.

This links in with the statement on page vii of Clint’s book:

'William Francis of the Northern Lauderdales. while sojourning in Alabama, wrote a letter to his brother James in Wisconsin in 1847, and said that when he passed through Sumner County, Tennessee, he met several families of southern Lauderdales…. “They are all quite partial to their name (and) boast that no one has that name except relations”   He didn’t say what the relationship was – just that there was one; he may have assumed it, just as Samuel D (son of James of Sumner County) and Dr. David (of Fairfield, South Carolina, whose parents immigrated in 1818) assumed they were related when they met in 1830.'

Here we have Dr. David, born in 1805, and are now in touch with his descendants.

The interesting new facts are

Family tradition holds that in 1641 seven Lauderdale brothers emigrated from Scotland to Ulster, Ireland and settled in County Down some near Gillhall at Dromore and some near Drumbo, across the Lagan River from Lisburn.

This was not available to Clint. It sheds new light on the origins of this branch of the family.

  1. The name goes back to the early 17th This is new – until now our earliest records of the name in England and Scotland were 18thcentury. The first official records of the use of Lauderdale are of Robert Lauderdale in Bellingham, Northumberland in 1703 and the baptism in 1737 of Jean Lauderdale, daughter of James Lauderdale of Beith, Ayr.
  2. The name was in use in Scotland before the family moved to Ulster
  3. There were seven brothers of that name, and hence seven separate families -

Can we rely on family tradition? I see no reason why not. Having validated in 1979 the tradition dating back 900 years that the family came from Normandy, I have no trouble in accepting an oral history that a branch of the Maitlands began to call themselves Lauderdale early in the 17th century, especially when there is nothing to gain from it. 

Some family traditions claiming descent from this earl or that one are suspect when the earl in question would have been quite old when the particular child was born. Here there is no reason to be doubtful.

The Ulster Plantation of Scots was in full swing in 1641, and County Down, though not part of the official settlement received many migrants. It was not a good year as there was a Catholic rebellion in 1641.

The Maitlands of Thirlestane got their first Lauderdale title in 1616 as Viscount of Lauderdale, so the Maitlands who adopted Lauderdale as a surname did so  at an early stage. 

Clint concludes his introduction

'The Maitlands in America can mostly be traced to three men who emigrated over a period of a century (1714, 1800, 1818). There are a few cases of Southern Lauderdales who moved to the North , but the Northern and Southern Lauderdales are separate branches and if there is a connection between them and Maitland- Lauderdales it must be in Scotland. It seems possible that they are all traceable to one family, some of whom migrated from Scotland to Ulster, and thus became what history calls Scots-Irish.'

Research will now be needed in the Irish records.  Our thanks are due to Sarah Hopson and David Lauderdale for sharing this with us.


Lester J Maitland    Aviator,  Brigadier General  and Priest

Early history and World War I

Born  in Milwaukee Wisconsin on February 8th 1899, Lester J. Maitland graduated from Riverside High School in 1917.   He joined the United States Army Air Corps three days after the United States joined World War I, and undertook  his flight training at Rich Field in Waco, Texas, after which  he was assigned to the School of Military Aeronautics in Austin, Texas. By the age of nineteen he had become a flight instructor and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1918.F



Between the two wars

After the first World War Maitland remained in the military and was sent to Pearl Harbor where he served as a member of the 6th Aero Squadron.

By 1921, Maitland was serving as an aide to General Billy Mitchellthe aviation advocate, and later to the first Assistant Secretary of War for Air, Truvee Davidson.

He was chosen as one of the pilots to take part in the sinking of the battleship Ostfriesland, which was a military experiment, set up by Mitchell in order to prove the effectiveness of air power against ships. As a result of this experiment's success aircraft carriers began to be built.

During the 1920's Maitland competed in many air races and exhibitions.  On October 14, 1922 he became the first pilot in the United States to fly faster than 200 MPH.  For this feat he received a letter of congratulations from Orville Wright.   As a member of an Army racing team, he would later break the World Absolute Speed record when he flew at a recorded speed of 244.94 MPH on March 29, 1923.


First flight from the United States mainland to Hawaii.

Lester  Maitland, then an Army pilot, earned the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1927 when he made the first flight from the United States mainland to Hawaii.

He and his co-pilot and navigator, Albert F. Hegenberger, flew a three-engine Fokker, the Bird of Paradise, from Oakland, California to Wheeler Field on Oahu on June 28 1927.   The 2,400-mile flight took 25 hours 49 minutes 30 seconds. Their navigation was aided by a radio beacon set up by the Army on the island.


''The big thing about that feat was to find the island,'' said Ted Hankey of Indian Wells, California,  a family friend, ''It didn't allow for any mistakes. They didn't have the equipment we have today.''   Both fliers received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Their success was celebrated at a huge reception in Honolulu.


Turns to writing

Becoming a writer was Maitland's next path in life. In 1928 his first (and only) book, Knights of the Air was published. Skyroads, a serialized comic strip about aviation was his next project. With artist, and fellow World War I pilot Dick Calkins, Maitland began this series in 1929.   The pair continued to release Skyroads until they passed the writing and drawing duties to Calkins' assistant Russell Keaton in 1933.


World War II

Maitland was stationed as a commanding officer on Clark Field in the Philippines. An attack on the field on December 8, 1941 by Japanese forces compelled him and his men to retreat to Bataan. From there he was ordered to Australia.

Reassigned to duty in the mainland United States, Maitland began to train the pilots of the 386th Bomb Group. At age 45, and one of the oldest pilots to fly in World War II, he and his men were one of the first groups to arrive at Boxted Airfield in England.He rose to brigadier general,in the European Theater of Operations, and Mr. Ted Hankey was his operations officer.


He would go on to fly forty-four combat missions over the course of the war. He received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross (his second to go with the one he received in World War I), five Air Medals and the Distinguished Unit Citation.


After World War II

In 1949, Maitland accepted the position of State Aeronautics Director, for the state of Wisconsin. He  resigned two years later over his view that there was a lack of priority given to airports and flying. 

He accepted a similar position in Michigan in 1950 where he remained until 1956 and and became that state's Director of Civil Defense.

Retiring from what was then the Michigan Air National Guard  Maitland ended his military career as a Brigadier General. 



Then, in an abrupt change of careers, he was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1957. 


He served two churches: St. John's in the northern Michigan community of Iron River (where he had served as lay minister and deacon for the past two years) and St. David's, 30 miles to the north at Sidnaw.

His interest in the 386th remained and in May 1987 he accompanied a group tour back to England and the continent. where they visited the site of the old Boxted airfield. He was then a twinkling 88. His last take-off was in March 1990, then in his 92nd year.

The quiet village of Little Easton near Dunmow in North Essex was the site of RAF Dunmow in 1942, later called RAF Little Easton. With the arrival of the American 386th Bomb Group (known as the Crusaders) it was anything but quiet.

Near the village is the American chapel dedicated in 1987 to the several hundred US servicemen who lost their lives during the 13 months they were stationed in Essex. Harry Guinther who flew with the 386th as a wireless operator and gunner was project director for the installation of the stained glass windows  which were made by American artist Douglas Phillips and his team in isn’t clear in the photograph, that the Bible reading is Isaiah 40.31 “But they that worship the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles’. An apt description for Lester, the pilot turned vicar who revisited the site in 1987, the year the commemorative windows were installed.



Vancouver Maitlands

Lt Cdr John Douglas Maitland RCNVR     1916 – 1997  

DSC & Bar, Croix de Guerre avec Palme, Mentioned in Despatches      


            Much of this is based on an article written by Heather Dickson (Maitland), his daughter, who commented on his life-long friends Tom and Corny..

            JDM commanded the 56th MGB/MTB Flotillain the Adriatic from 1942 to 1944. It was based on various ports, at Bastia, Brindisi, Komiza and Ancona.

The 56th Flotilla had a distinctive Canadian character despite being part of the Royal Navy.   He is best known as one of the famous “Three Musketeers” (the others being Lt Cdr Cornelius “Corny” Burke and Lt Tom Ladner) who commanded Fairmile D motor gun boats in the Adriatic.  A Daily Telegraph obituary (of Neil Mills) on 15 April 2007 commented that Mills had served under "a highly decorated daredevil Canadian commander, Douglas Maitland".

The boats themselves were of wooden construction, 115 ft long, with a draught of 4.5 feet (three times the length but with less draught than the yacht your Chief skippers). They had two Packard engines, max speed 29 knots (33 mph) and range 500 miles (three return crossings of the English Channel), so needed frequent refueling. Your Chief has briefly served on a vessel of similar size (though much slower) and can assure you that they are very cramped with a crew of 30.  They are described as            boats because they are small enough to be carried on a ship.                                        Douglas  Maitland

His own command from 1943 was MGB 657, ordered on 18 Nov 1941, built by Woodnutt & Co. Ltd.St Helens, Isle of Wight, but only commissioned on 9 February 1943. She was damaged by a mine on 12 September 1944 and declared a total loss.   JDM was posted to HMS Fabius, a shore establishment at Taranto. 

We don’t have much detail on the activities of the ship, but JDM’s decorations tell part of the story

For actions in the Adriatic and off the west coast of Italy 

DSC For Operation Gun - an operation off the west coast of Italy 27/3/1944

            Attacks on a convoy near Capraia Island, 30 miles SW of Genoa

MID For actions in the Adriatic  8 & 9 Sep/1944 

DSC* 23/1/45 For attacks on enemy shipping in the Tyrrhenian Sea 

Croix de Guerre avec Palme  no citation, but the boat was engaged in landing 

French commandos in raids in the Tyrrhenian Sea in 1943.

The descendants of another crew member note that the boat was engaged on the Sicily campaign of July/August 1943 and bombarded (with a 6 pounder gun!) the railway station and sidings of Taormina.  

Post war, as most people do, he worked for a living, was a keen yachtsman  and the twenty-second Commodore of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.  


Royal Lethington Maitland, and Robert L Maitland 

Several years ago the Clan was offered the “opportunity” to buy for several thousand dollars the papers of R.

Royal Lethington Maitland

L. Maitland, of Vancouver. Robert was a figure of some importance to the City of Vancouver, so we recommended that the archive be given to the City.  The British Colombia Archives contain a wealth of Maitland material, though not apparently the documents which we were offered.  


            John Richard Maitland (1822-1873) married Mary Walker (1827-1908) in Johnstown, Ontario on September 16, 1847; both were born in Ireland. 

Robert Reid Maitland(1855 – 1921)

Robert Reid Maitland, born Brockville, Ontario was a clergyman, real estate broker and lawyer  who lived at 2030 Haro Street, Vancouver. Thereafter the Maitland family resided primarily in Vancouver

Royal Lethington Maitland (Pat)

Royal Lethington Maitland was born in Ingersoll, Ontario January 9, 1889, and came to British Columbia with his parents the following year. After reading law with Burns and Walkem (1908-1913) and presiding over the Vancouver Law Students Society (1910-1911), Maitland was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1913; subsequently, he entered legal practice with his father, RLM, interestingly,lived at 2036 Haro Street, a few doors from his father’s home.His papers include a substantial file on the trial and appeal of Frank Davis, co-defendant charged with the murder of Constable Archibald in 1913. This appears to have been a turning point in his career because in 1915, Maitland became City Prosecutor for Vancouver. He served in this capacity until 1919. In 1928, he was appointed King's Counsel. 

He was a prominent criminal lawyer and law professor, and was active in the Canadian Bar Association.

He entered active politics in 1924 when he ran for provincial office as an MLA for Vancouver; but was defeated. In 1928, he ran for office successfully and was appointed Minister without Portfolio in the Tolmie Cabinet where he remained until November 1933.  In 1937, he was chosen leader of the provincial Conservative Party. In 1941, Maitland was re-elected and with Premier John Hart formed a coalition government, serving as Attorney-General.  He died in office on March 28, 1946. The R.L. Maitland papers were presented to the Provincial Archives of British Columbia by his son, Robert L. Maitland. 


Robert L. Maitland

Robert was evidently fascinated by the sea.  He was a Lieutenant in the Canadian Navy. Amongst theRobert L Maitland documents offered to the Clan for sale included membership cards for jazz clubs called The Nut House, London, dated 1941, the Knightsbridge Studio Club in London, dated 1942, and The New Deanery Club, dated March 18, 1943.  However, apart from an interest in jazz, there is more on record.

After serving at HMS Raleigh for Officer Training he was appointed as a Sub-Lieutenant (Temp.). He was on MTBs in the English Channel, appointed as a Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR seniority dated 31/12/1942 and first served in HMCS HMC ML-070. He commanded HMCS ML-066 from 1943, a Canadian Fairmile built in 1941 by Vancouver Shipyards Limited. She was 112 ft long, draught 4’ 10”, speed 20 knots, range 1500 miles, armament a 3pdr quick firer anti-aircraft gun, two machine guns and twelve depth charges, with a crew of 16. Vessels of this class were mainly employed on coastal escort duties. Navigation on the English East coast was especially tricky with many minefields and shallow waters to contend with. He was sent to resume service in Canada after his brother was killed in the Air Force.

Canadian Fairmile

Post war Robert became the Commissioner of the Vancouver Parks Board during which time Vancouver saw the most expansive, important work done in the cities’ history.  He brought the North American Yachting League/Association to Vancouver.

A notable feature of his tenure was his successful campaign to bring the RCMP Schooner, St. Roch, to Vancouver, to be preserved in the new Vancouver Maritime Museum,

RCMPV St. Roch is a Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner, the first ship to completely circumnavigate North America and the second sailing vessel to complete a voyage through the Northwest Passage. She was the first ship to complete the Northwest Passage in the direction west to east (Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean), going the same route that Amundsen on the sailing vessel  Gjoa went east to west, 38 years earlier.

The ship was most often captained by Henry Larsen who  described being locked in the ice for 3 weeks, not far from where Franklin met his doom in 1846, under similar circumstances.

Maitland’s negotiations produced an offer for drydock and restoration of St. Roch, by Burrard Shipyards of Coal Harbour at no cost.