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Dr George Bethune

For family tree see Dr George Bethune on Ancestry (subscription required)

Dr George Bethune [1760-1803] and his younger brother Divie [1771-1824 ], sons of Neil Bethune, surgeon, Dingwall, settled in Demerara c1790. Both had earlier been in Tobago [A M Ross, Genealogy of the Families of Douglas of Mulderg and Robertson of Kindeace (Dingwall, 1895), 63; Memoir of Rev George W Bethune]. According to a later account of his family, Divie found ‘the pestilential moral atmosphere was so thoroughly distasteful . . . that at the risk of forfeiting his brother's affection he left him, and in 1791 came to New York City, at the age of nineteen’. Divie founded the New York merchant house Bethune & Smith in 1798 and his wife, Joanna Graham, who he married in 1795, was a noted philanthropist and leader of the Sunday School movement in New York. Their son, Rev George Bethune (1805-62), was a noted preacher in the Dutch Reformed Church, author of a number of books, and writer of 'O sing to me the Auld Scotch Sangs'.

George, who remained in Demerara, died there in 1803. His property, mainly a 'task gang' of 36 slaves, was auctioned at plantation L'Amitie by his executors, John Bethune, Gilbert Robertson and Gilbert Rainy. Later that year Mrs Robertson, the mother of Gilbert Robertson, wrote from the manse of Kiltearn to her daughter:

On Monday we called at Millbank. They are all well there. They had just got home two little Foreigners children of their Brother the late Doctor George Bethune. Their mother was a Brigand. They are yellow, ugly things. I think it would be best to leave them in their own country but their aunt seems very tender of them and much interested. Miss Jenny goes to live with them to her own house at Dingwall at the term. [National Library of Scotland, Anne Robertson, Kiltearn, to her daughter Christian (Mrs Watson), Crantit, Orkney, 20 Apr 1804]

'Miss Jenny' was George and Divie's sister, Janet Bethune [1764-1849], and one of these children, Agnes, was still living with her in Dingwall in 1841. Agnes remained in Dingwall after Janet's death in 1849, described as a pauper in the 1851 census and dying before 1855.

George, Divie and Janet were first cousins of Anne Mackenzie Robertson, who married John Gladstone in 1800.

See Evangelical Magazine for an obituary of Divie Bethune.

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