Dr. Ralph Buglass

1743 - 4th Oct 1787


Slave-owner in Tobago and possibly St Lucia from a Berwick-upon-Tweed family. Early purchaser of land in Tobago, also holding property in St Lucia. Will proved in Philadelphia PA, USA in 1787, including provision for his natural son Charles Buglass 'a mulatto boy' to be apprenticed to a carpenter in Philadelphia. He bequeathed his two houses and four lots in Carenage on St Lucia to his brother Robert of Berwick-upon-tweed, and the rest of his property including two named enslaved people, a woman Popotte and a young man La Valle 'who are or were lately in the said island of Tobago', to his brother Caleb, of Philadelphia, who in turn left the estate or estates in trust for his wife and daughters.

  1. R. Buglass and A. Scott together purchased: (1) Northeast division (St John parish) Lot no. 29, 09/05/1769 which by 1773 was shown under only Ralph Buglass and which became Lucy Vale; (2) Queen's Bay division (St Paul Parish) 19/05/1769 Lots no. 14-15, which by 1773 belonged to 'J & T Spotteswoode.'

  2. Ralph Buglass was baptised at Holy Trinity, Berwick upon Tweed, 01/12/1743, son of Caleb Buglass senior, a mason. Ralph's brother Caleb Buglass was born in Berwick upon Tweed, son of Caleb senior, where he established himself as a book-binder and married an heiress, Rachel Johnston of Hilton or Hutton, in 1762. He emigrated to the colonies c.1772 and ended up in Philadelphia where he established a business as a bookbinder, being selected to provide the binding for the first Book of Common Prayer of the United States.

  3. A memorial to Caleb Buglass (d. 27/03/1797 aged '57 years and 6 days'), his [second] wife Mary (d. 08/05/1823 aged 66 years) and Dr Ralph Buglass of the island of Tobago (d. 04/10/1787 'aged 40 years') in St Peter's Churchyard Philadelphia was recorded in the late 19th century.


Will transcribed by Ruth Appleby (email 14/07/2015) sourced to Philadelphia Will Book T, page 556, No.66. Copy obtained from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, www.hsp.org.

  1. 'Tables showing the Lots in each Parish, numbered as originally granted - the original Grantee - the name of the Lot, or lots, if one has been acquired, and the present Possessor where there is one' and 'A Table, showing the Estates in cultivation in 1832, and their Owners, in 1832, copied from the list appended to Byres' map of that date, with those in cultivation in 1862', Henry Iles Woodcock, A History of Tobago (Ayr: Smith and Grant, 1867; new impression London: Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1971) [this source shows the purchaser of Northeast division Lot no. 29 as 'R. Douglas and A. Scott']; John Fowler, A summary account of the present flourishing state of the respectable colony of Tobago in the British West Indies illustrated with a map of the island and a plan of its settlement, agreeably to the sales by his Majesty’s Commissioners (London: A Grant, 1774), pp. 48-49, 50-51.

  2. Email from Ruth Appleby 14/07/2015. Hannah D. French, 'Caleb Buglass, Binder of the Proposed Book of Common Prayer, Philadelphia, 1786', Winterthur Portfolio, 6 (1970), pp. 15-32.

  3. William White Bronson, The inscriptions in St Peter's Churchyard Philadelphia (1879) p. 288.

We are grateful to Ruth Appleby and Sean Creighton for their assistance in compiling this entry.

Further Information

[illeg.] Charles Buglass

Will transcribed by Ruth Appleby (email 14/07/2015) sourced to Philadelphia Will Book T, page 556, No.66. Copy obtained from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, www.hsp.org

In the name of God, Amen. I Ralph BUGLASS late of the Island of Tobago Esquire, but now of Philadelphia, being weak in body but of sound mind and memory do make this my last will and testament. First, I give and devise unto my Brother Robert BUGLASS, of Berwick upon Tweed in the Kingdom of Great Britain and to his Heirs and Assigns forever my two houses and four lots in the Town of Carenage in the Island of St Lucea [sic]. Second, I appoint my Friends Charles WIGHTMAN Esquire of Tobago, and Michael Morgan O’Brien Esquire of Philadelphia guardians and trustees for my natural son Charles BUGLASS, a Mulatto Boy to receive his Rents until he becomes of age, and to put him apprentice in Philadelphia to the trade of a Carpenter, and to educate and bring him up until he is of age. Third I give and bequeath my German Flute and Musick proper therefore equal to one half to Willson WOODHOUSE of Philadelphia. Fourthly, I give and bequeath my Violin and Violincello and Musick proper therefore equal to one half to Colonel Michael WENTWORTH, of Boston, New Hampshire. Fifthly, I give, bequeath and devise unto my brother Caleb BUGLASS of Philadelphia my Negro Woman Popotte and a Negro Boy La Valle who are or lately were in the said Island of Tobago, also the sum of Two Hundred Pounds Sterling which Charles WIGHTMAN of the said Island of Tobago by a certain Agreement bearing date the tenth day of November, One Thousand Seven hundred and Eighty six is bound to pay to such person as I shall bequeath and devise the same. Also all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate he the said Caleb BUGLASS paying my debts and funeral charges in Philadelphia out of what I have bequeathed and devised to him. Lastly, I appoint my brother Caleb BUGLASS the executor of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former or other wills by me made. [Signed]

Fixed, sealed, published and declared by the said Ralph Buglass as his last will and testament the second day of October in the year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and eighty seven in the presence of us:


Susannah POWELL

Clement BIDDLE

Witnesses to the foregoing will the former on oath and the two latter on their affirmations do severally depose and declare that they were present and saw and heard Ralph Buglass the said testator sign and seal and publish pronounce and declare the same as and for his last will and testament and at the doing thereof he was of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding [to] the best of their knowledge and belief. Sworn and Affirmed the 10th day of November 1787. Before Geo CAMPBELL R….

The foregoing will being proved probate was granted unto Caleb BUGLASS executor in said testament named being first duly sworn truly to perform the same exhibit a true inventory and render a just and true account when thereto lawfully required. Given under the Seal of the Office the day and date aforesaid.


Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
09/05/1769 [SD] - → Joint owner
1773 [SY] - 1773 [EY] → Owner

Relationships (1)

Notes →
Caleb Buglass was also the principal beneficiary of the will of his brother...

Addresses (2)

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, Northern England, England
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA - United States of America