The Sinclair Family
English Hermit Who Gave His Name to the Norman St. Clairs.By Frances Cowles
[Clan Crest was here]
Clare was an English hermit in Normandy, who was martyred in the year 834 [actually 884], and became St. Clair. The town of St. Clere is near the hermit's retreat, and nearby castle also. took the name St. Clair.
The family which took the castle's name is of Norse origin, and like William the Norman Conqueror trace its descent through Rollo the Viking. In the year 912 [the treaty was in 911; Rollo was baptized in 912] Charles the Simple, King of France met Rollo, who had ravaged the coasts of Normandy, at the castle of St. Clair, and there made him Duke of Normandy.
Richard's son, Richard, was the father of Robert, father of the Conqueror. Richard's son Malger, Robert's uncle and the Conqueror's great-uncle, was the Earl of Corbueil, and he is the ancestor of the Sinclair faimly, after it leaves the royal line.
The Sinclairs soon multiplied to such an extent that they could not all stay at the castle of Sinclair--or St. Clair, as it was always called in Normandy. So they were given various other castles about France. About the year 1006 at the Castle of St. Lo, was born Walderne, Earl of St. Clair, a descendant of Malger, Earl of Corbueil. Walderne, married his cousin Mary, a daughter of Richard, Duke of Normandy and had three sons. Richard, Bretel, and William, all born in Normandy.
However, they all went to England with the Conqueror. The youngest of the three sons, William, did not like the Conqueror, so with some other discontented barons, he went to Scotland and placed himself in the service of King Malcolm III, and his Queen St. Margaret. William married Doratha Dunbar, a daughter of the Earl of March and had Sir William St. Clair of Roslin. Sir William's great-grand-son, his namesake was sheriff of Edinburgh county, and in 1284 was a member of the Parliament of Scone. He had three sons. One of them Sir Henry, a supporter of Robert Bruce when he claimed the throne, was the ancestor of William St. Clair, third Earl of Orkney, first Earl of Caithness, and High Chancellor of Scotland from 1454 to 1458.
The first earl of Caithness, it is said lived like a prince. His wife, according to an old chronicler, was ``served by seventy-five gentlewomen, whereof fifty-three were daughers of noblemen, all clothed in velvets and silks, with their chains of gold and other ornaments and was attended by two hundred riding gentlemen in all journies''. They lived at Roslin castle.
George, the fourth earl of Caithness, their great-grandson, is the supposed ancestor of the Norman St. Clairs, or Sinclairs, in this country and the known ancestor of Gen. Arthur St. Clair, one of Washington's generals, and of John Sutherland Sinclair of North Dakota, who in 1891 became the seventeenth earl of Caithness.
The descent of Gen. Arthur is traced through one of George's sons, John who was the great-grandfather of General Arthur St. Clair.
The descent of John St. Clair, who as John Sinkler appears in Exeter, N. H., in 1656, is not certain, but it is established to the satisfaction of many who have given careful research to the subject. It is said that John, son of George, fourth earl of Caithness, had two sons James and Henry. James is the ancestor of Gen. Arthur. Henry is the probable ancestor of John Sinkler of Exeter.
The first known settler of the name of Sinclair, or St. Clair, on the shores of North America was Salamon, who came on the John and Sara, from London in 1651. John Sinkler, as he called himself, who was, born in Scotland about the year 1630, was in Exeter, N. H. by the year 1658; and is the second known settler of the name in America.
He married twice. His first wife was named Mary. His second was named Deborah. From all accounts, Deborah was a woman ahead of her time, for she formed a business contract with her husband before marriage. John respected this contract, as the first clause in his will testifies. It reads: ``I will that my debts of charges shall be paide and discharged and all my contract with my wife before marriage be performed by my Executors.''
John had James, Mary Sarah, another daughter, and John. These sons, James and John, are the American ancestors of most of the Sinclairs in America who once lived in Normandy.
Not all the Sinclairs in America, however are of Norman stock. Some of them came from Germany. One family of German descent lives in New Jersey, and was founded there at New Holland by Peter Cincleare, who chose yet another way of spelling this variously spelled name. He was born in Germany in 1719, and arrived in Philadelphia in 1753 in the St. Michael, from Hamburg. He settled on a tract of some eight thousand acres of land and for thirty-one years worked the ground as a renter. He had three children, John, Peter, and Mary.
John, born in Germany in 1743, eleven years before his father came to America, bought the property his father had worked, and additional lands at New Holland, and became a prosperous former. He served as a teamster in the Revolutionary war. His wife was Anna Ahlbach, or Alpock, daughter of Johan, who came from Holland in the Hope in 1743. John's son Samuel also married a young woman of Dutch descent, Permelia Vancamp, and Samuel's son, Jesse Sinclair, teacher, farmer and man of affairs, married for his first wife Catherine Welsh, also of Dutch descent.
In early days the name was variously spelled, Sinclare, Sinkler, Sinklaire, Sinclair and St. Clair; in the case of the German Peter, Cincleare. Nowadays it is generally spelled either St. Clair or Sinclair, although in parts of Virginia Sinklers are still found.
The arms of Sinclair, earl of Caithness are blazoned: Quarterly, 1st azure a ship at anchor, sails furled, oars erect in saltire, or, within a double tressure flory, counterflory of the last, for Orkney; 2 and 3 a lion rampant gules for Spar; 4th, azure a ship under sail or for Caithness. Over all a cross engrailed sable dividing the four quarters for Sinclair. The crest is a cock proper armed and crested or. The supporters are two griffins sable armed and beaked or. The motto is ``Commit thy work to God.''
Last changed: 99/11/21 14:37:44