George Duncan was a native of Scotland and at the time of the great exodus of the Scots of Argyle to Ireland, he left Scotland for Ireland. That was during the 1690s when tens of thousands of Scots fled a famine in Lowland Scotland and went to Ulster, North Ireland.
George's son George was born in the valley of the Bann at Ballymony in Country Antrim in Ulster, North Ireland. He and his family came to America in 1729. Before them the Bell family had come to America - John Bell and his wife Elizabeth Todd. Two of George Duncan’s sons married Bell daughters.
John Bell came to America in 1719. He landed at Boston and spent some time in Andover, Mass., before he settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire, in 1720.
George’s son William married Naomi Bell. William was born in Ireland about 1713. William lived his life in Londonderry, New Hampshire. He was a deacon of the church and he was also a captain of the militia.
William’s son John was an early pioneer of Acworth, New Hampshire. John moved to Acworth in 1776. John first married Margaret Dickey and they had seven children. After she died John married Betsy Prouty and had eleven more children. Betsy Prouty lived to be 96 years old. In her old age she lived with her daughter Betsy and her husband Dr. Thomas Stevens in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1851. When her daughter died in 1854 she went to live with her son in Acworth, New Hampshire, where she eventually died.
Three of Bestey and John’s children died in 1812 during the spotted fever epidemic. Harvey, age 6, Milton, age 4, and Solon, age 1 1/2, all died during the month of March in 1812.
John Duncan was a colonel who served in the Revolution and the War of 1812. He was highly respected in Acworth. Here is a quote from the book History of Acworth:
"We remember Col. John Duncan as one of the early settlers of the town. He was a man of superior ability, possessing an extensive knowledge of men and things, and a great fund of anecdotes. He represented Acworth and Dempster in the convention which met in Exeter, when our State constitution was adopted in 1792."
During the Revolutionary War he served as a Sergeant. Here is another quote from the book History of Acworth:
"John, b. 1752, chopped down the first tree on his farm in Acworth, 1773, but until his marriage in 1778, spent his winters in Londonderry. He responded to his country's call when the news reached Londonderry that the British were marching on Concord, and arrived at Lexington at sunrise the next morning after the first blood had been shed for America's freedom. He also, with several other Acworth men, joined Capt. Bellows' company going through the woods to New York State to assist in intercepting Gen. Burgoyne in his march through New York. In 1780 he was elected with Henry Silsby to attend the convention of the New Hampshire Grants at Charlestown and Cornish, receiving $900 in currency for fourteen days' service, $72 being equal to $1 in silver. From that time for more than fifty years he was prominent in all town business. In matters requiring tact and politic management, he was put forward. He was the most efficient in procuring the settlement of Mr. Cooke at a time when ministerial settlements by the town were becoming unpopular. The characteristic by which he was specially distinguished was shrewdness among neighbors in whom that quality abounded."
The people of Acworth delighted in rough practical jokes and boisterous fun. As part of their pioneer life they enjoyed New England rum.
The following incident illustrates their love of practical jokes: While Capt. John Duncan was commander of the military company, some of the younger members headed by Parley Keyes, were guilty of some neglect of duty, and thereby incurred a fine. Keyes had considerable influence in the company, and the Captain foresaw that there might be difficuly in enforcing a collection of the fines. He saw Keyes privately, and unfolded to him a plan whereby he might play a practical joke upon his brother delinquents. At the next training Keyes should step out before the company, acknowledge his fault, pay over the fine, and advise his comrades to do the same. Duncan intimated to him, however, that he would refund to him his own fine. Keyes agreed to play his part of the joke, and the plan worked most admirably, the delinquents following the example of Keyes, walked up and paid their fines. Time pass on, and Keyes not having his money refunded as he expected, complained to the Captain. With a toss of the head, Capt. Duncan replied, "Some I flatter and some I drive."
At a subsequent training, after the above incident had apparently been forgotten, Capt. Duncan, as the custom was, wanting to treat his company, handed some money to Keyes who was a sergeant, and directed him to go to Mr. Henry's store and buy some rum. The liquor came and was used. A few days after Mr. Henry called Capt. Duncan into his store and presented a bill for rum on training day. Capt. Duncan settle the bill, and on meeting Keyes inquired, with much indignation, why he had not paid for the rum. Imitating the captain's manner, her replied, "Some I flatter, and some I drive."
John Duncan Revolutionary War Pension File, National Archives, Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 - ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 - ca. 1900, publication number: M804, National Archives Catalog ID: 300022, Record Group: 15, State: New Hampshire
Merrill, Rev. J. L. History of Acworth, The Town, 1869, page 126, available at the Internet Archive.
Phillips, James Duncan, “James Duncan of Haverhill”, Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. LXXXVIII, Salem, Mass., January 1952, No. 1, pages 240 - 257.
Weeks, Lyman Horace, The Bell Family of America, William M. Clemens., New York, 1913, available at the Internet Archive