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From: "Irene Underwood" <>
Subject: A Scotsman Discovered America?
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 09:04:55 -0700

Interesting article from the Eastman Newsletter. Standard Edition is a free subscription if you're interested. This is the note on each of the weekly newsletters.

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A Scotsman Discovered America?

Every schoolchild learns that Christopher Columbus discovered America. In fact, a quick study shows that the Italian who sailed for the Spanish did reach some islands in the Americas and possibly what is now South America. However, he never set foot in North America.

There is mounting evidence that a number of Europeans reached North America prior to the year 1492. Vikings probably reached what is now New England and eastern Canada nearly 500 years before Columbus' voyage. Other rumors have circulated about British, Irish, Dutch, Spanish, and even Phoenician explorers before the year 1492. Such visits were possible; many groups had the technology to cross the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, it is possible that Christopher Columbus' only claim to fame is that he was the first to document his travels and have those documents preserved for future generations.

Many believe that a Scotsman was the first European to discover North America in the year 1398. Sir Henry Sinclair was a 14th century Scottish nobleman, Baron of Roslin near Edinburgh, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland, and Admiral of the Seas. The King of Norway also confirmed him as Earl of Orkney, endowing him with 200 strategically positioned islands over which he was to all intents and purposes an independent king.

Sir Henry Sinclair was known to be a traveler and adventurer. He also was known as "Henry the Holy'" because he had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Some say he even fought in a Crusade, like his ancestors before him. In 1398 Sir Henry, sometimes described as Prince Henry because of his royal connection, reportedly sailed to Nova Scotia in a fleet of 12 ships.

After spending the winter in the new lands, Sir Henry set sail for home; however, a storm drove him south to Massachusetts. The evidence for Sir Henry's presence can be seen in the figure of a medieval knight carved into the rock near the summit of Prospect Hill in current day Westford, Massachusetts. It appears to be a grave marker in the style of the Templars, which was hand-chiseled onto a rock slab.

A rubbing of the image was made in 1954 and sent to T. C. Lethbridge, a British writer, archeologist, and curator of the University of Archeology and Ethnology at Cambridge, England. The research done by Mr. Lethbridge established that the knight's armor dated from the 1360's to no later than the mid-to-late 1400's. The coat of arms was determined to be that of the Gunn clan, which was allied to the Sinclairs. Ancient records in Scotland claim that Sir Henry's lieutenant and supposed cousin, Sir James Gunn, died while in the second summer of their voyage. The assumption is that the figure of a knight in armor bearing the Gunn coat of arms is that of Sir James Gunn.

Sir Henry Sinclair may even have reached as far south as Rhode Island, where some evidence suggests that he built Newport Tower. This circular stone tower is of the same design as the round churches of the Knights Templar, of which Sir Henry was a member. The tower in Newport has eight arches, the same as the round churches of the Knights Templar. These churches are rare; the only one remaining in Scotland was built in Orkney, the home of Henry Sinclair.

Sir Henry sailed back to Scotland. He was killed by the English in a battle in Orkney either in 1400 or 1401. His grandson William, first Sinclair Earl of Caithness, immortalized the voyage in stone at Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh. The symbols can still be seen today.

You can read more about Sir Henry Sinclair and his adventures at, and at

You can also read a contradictory report that claims Sir Henry never went to Nova Scotia. You can find that at

Remember that Sir Henry Sinclair was a member of the Knights Templar. Adding to the intrigue, this order reportedly had possession of the Holy Grail, supposedly captured in or near Jerusalem in 1127 A.D. A German book in the 1990s speculates that Sir Henry gained possession of the Holy Grail and took it to Nova Scotia and buried it there for safekeeping. This may be pure fiction, but it makes for interesting reading. The book is Die Ewigkeits-Maschine, or (in English) The Holy Grail: Chalice or Manna Machine? by Dr. Johannes Fiebag and Peter Fiebag. You can find more at

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