An expert on fireworks in the family tree

All the preparations for Bonfire Night and fireworks have just reminded me that there was apparently an expert of fireworks in the family tree.

My 7xg-uncle Logan Henderson (b. ca 1735) from East Lothian was the youngest son of a minor laird John Henderson of Leaston. He was named Logan after his mother Jean Logan, a descendant of the Logans of Burncastle and before that the ancient Logan family of Restalrig. The Logan family were still smiting at having lost their ancestral lands after their ancestor Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig (d. 1606) was convicted, posthumously, of treason.

Logan Henderson was a sickly child and I’ve seen letters in the National Archives of Scotland where his father was writing to wealthy local landowners, seeking financial support to send his son for specialist education and training. John Henderson wrote that the boy was too sick to go into the military, but as a younger son needed a trade.

Despite this Logan became a Lieutenant. But he is mainly remembered in the family for his time in Russia, apparently working as an engineer for Empress Catherine the Great. An ornate ring was left to later descendants which apparently came from Russia.

However I recently found a different spin on Logan, in an old article in History Today. There he was in Russia, rightly enough, but seemed to be a bit of a con man, pretending to have landscaping and garden design skills that he proved not to have. Less contentiously he was reported to be an expert in fireworks.

I also came across Logan Henderson in the research for my PhD because he showed up among the borrowers of Gray Library in Haddington. He was only present as a borrower for a short time, around the time he married the local minister’s daughter.

I’ve seen other references to him, including in the West Indies, and in the London area. But I need to pull them all together to try to make sense of his life. I wish I could find out more about what he got up to when he was in Russia. He does come across as quite a character, con man or not.

About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
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2 Responses to An expert on fireworks in the family tree

  1. Stuart Faed says:

    This is very intriguing. My wife is descended from the Logans of Burncastle and later Logan of Burnhouses (via Margaret Logan m. Wilson of Cumledge, Duns). I see roughly where you fit in having the Logan Home book of 1934. You may know where the Logan sword and china is now, in Denmark in the 1930s? My parents are friendly with the McCullochs of Ardwall in Kirkudbrightshire – it would be interesting to trace the Fowler Bible over ther or Dalbeattie. I am kean to trace the history of the Maxwells of Hills.

    • vivdunstan says:

      Yes I’ve been in contact in the past with a Somner cousin who was in touch with the Danish cousins, who also inherited Isabella Fowler’s 1640 wedding dress. I also sent the Danish cousins some of the family tree history I’d pieced together about our shared Somner ancestry. The McCulloch/Maxwell book in the Scottish Genealogy Society library has a whole chapter about the Maxwell of Hills family, sourced mainly from private family papers held by the McCullochs still. I’d certainly be interested to know if they still have the family bible, or if it is as I vaguely remember in Dalbeattie. Maybe there’s a similar one of another family in Dalbeattie! Anyway thanks very much for writing. And if you want to get in touch with me directly about this, feel free to contact me on my email address at

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