Select Gregg Miscellany

Here are some Gregg/Greigs stories and accounts over the years:

Greggs and Greigs Today



MacGregor and Gregg

The MacGregors were an ancient Scottish clan based at Glenorchy, Argyllshire in western Scotland.  Their early history was fairly lawless and in 1588 they were involved in the killing of John Drummond, the King’s forester.  Further atrocities ensued and this resulted in King James VI of Scotland decreeing in 1603 that the name of MacGregor should be abolished.  All who bore the name must renounce it or die.

The next year Alasdair MacGregor and eleven of his men were captured and hung outside St. Giles kirk in Edinburgh by the tollbooth.  Anyone answering to the name was executed on the spot, with women and children sold into slavery in the American states.

After this proscription of the name, some MacGregors sought the protection of neighboring clans, taking on their names; some moved away from the Highlands; and others took on a similar-sounding name such as Gregg.  Many of these Greggs were to be found in Ayrshire.

The Enterprising Greg Family

The Greg family had originated in Ayr in Scotland.  But John Greg relocated to Belfast in 1715.  With his younger son Thomas he was involved in provisioning the West Indies plantations.

During the Seven Years War (1756-1763), they engaged in privateering.  Afterwards they invested in land and plantations on the island of Dominica.  John Greg the younger was resident in Dominica from 1765 and was the first Government Commissioner following the island’s secession to the British in 1763.  He owned the Hertford and Hillsborough sugar estates.

The Greg family was heavily involved in the slave trade.  Enslaved people on Hillsborough plantation rose up during the Second Maroon War in 1814. Their punishments were brutal and included both execution and transportation.  The family owned the Hillsborough estate until 1928.

Thomas Greg’s son Samuel settled at Quarry Bank near Manchester where he started a cotton spinning mill in 1782 based on slave-produced cotton.  He became a prosperous and enlightened merchant of his time and his family one of the great names of Manchester in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It would perhaps have been interesting to learn more of his attitude to his family’s West Indian estates during the last days of slavery.  He did supply the enslaved Africans on the estate with clothing and blankets made at the Quarry Bank mill.

Three of his sons were notable – Samuel Greg, mill owner and philanthropist; Robert Hyde Greg, economist and antiquary; and William Rathbone Greg, political and philosophical writer.  The last was named after William Rathbone, merchant and reformer.  The Greg and Rathbone families were close friends and Samuel Greg's daughter Elizabeth married William Rathbone junior.  Their grand-daughter was Eleanor Rathbone M.P.

William Gregg the Quaker

William Gregg was known as the Immigrant Friend.  He had met William Penn in the lead mines of Ireland when Penn was visiting Waterford in Ireland in 1678.  Penn converted many Scottish-Irish settlers to the Society of Friends, including Gregg.

William and Ann and their four children came to America sometime after October 1682 with the Colonial Friends Group.  He made the voyage on the ship Caledonia, arriving at Upland, now Chester, in Pennsylvania.  He had with him the silver-studded, ivory-headed cane inherited from his father William Greg.

William went down the Delaware River to Centerville between the Brandywine and Red Clay Creeks. He was granted 200 acres of land in 1683.  William is known to have built a log cabin on a location called Strand Mills in 1684.  He died three years later when he was about forty five.  He was buried on his own plantation near Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware

William Gregg and His Two Mentors

William Gregg has been called “the father of the textile industry in the South."  His textile mill helped to establish the town of Graniteville, South Carolina.  He had two principal mentors in his life, his uncle Jacob Gregg and his early employer Asa Blanchard.

He was born in Virginia in 1800, the son of William and Elizabeth Webb Gregg.  However, his mother died when he was four years old and he was reared by a neighbor woman until he was about ten.  He was then sent to live with his uncle, Jacob Gregg, a successful watch and spinning-machine maker in Alexandria, Virginia.  A few years later, his uncle established a cotton mill in Georgia, one of the South’s first.  But the mill did not survive the War of 1812. 

Following the war Jacob encountered economically tough times and could no longer support the young William.  He apprenticed William under his friend Asa Blanchard.  Mr. Blanchard was from Lexington, Kentucky and, like Jacob, had skills as a watchmaker and silversmith. 

Gregg’s time spent with Mr. Blanchard was exceptional and the two shared an extremely strong relationship and friendship which would stay with William Gregg throughout his entire life.  While revisiting Mr. Blanchard in Kentucky, Gregg constructed a silver pitcher out of the first coins which he had earned individually.  This pitcher began to serve as an heirloom to the Gregg family and was passed down from first son to first son.


William Gregg of Gregg's Club Coffee

Irish-born William Gregg arrived in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1861 and set up shop there at Moray Place.  Primarily a merchant who also roasted and ground coffee, he developed a growing line of products.  Gregg's Eagle Starch and Gregg's Club Coffee became household names in New Zealand.  Eventually his enterprise was shifted to Forth Street, the current site of the Dunedin factory.

However, his speculation in gold shares and slap-dash accounting bankrupted him in 1894.  He had 'too many irons in the fire,' such as buying land up and down the country, running a chicory farm, and manufacturing starch, wax vestas, and sulphates.

Undaunted, he somehow managed to repurchase the slimmed-down firm and even persuaded the Australian firm of Robert Harper to extend him credit.  It became an incorporated company in 1897 with Gregg as managing director.

In his final years he struggled with sickness, eventually dying of apoplexy at the age of 65 in 1901 at his residence in York Street.

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