Friday, October 21, 2016

"This Hand for our Country" - the Ulster Guard Monument to the 20th New York State Militia at Gettysburg


The 20th Regiment of the New York State Militia (Ulster Guard) volunteered for service at the start of the American Civil War, and was soon re-named the 80th New York Volunteer Infantry. 375 of its men fought at Gettysburg, where the monuments shown here stand today. Around the Hand is the motto "This hand for our country". So the men of Ulster County must have had some understanding of the emblem of the place on the other side of the Atlantic from which their home county took its name.

The regiment was founded by Zadock Pratt, who became a Colonel. His house is a museum today, in the town of Prattsville. Unfortunate name! His ancestors were English, arriving in the USA in the 1630s near Connecticut. He was born in 1790 and served two terms as a US Congressman, and built what was then the world's largest tannery with apparently 30,000 employees. His son George W Pratt also served in the regiment. Grandson George Pratt Ingersoll was a diplomat and became US Ambassador to Siam in 1917.

At their annual reunion in 1912, which was also the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, veterans of the regiment gathered at the Kingston Hotel, the walls of which were bedecked with American flags, a large painting of the Battle of Gettysburg, a photo of the association's previous meeting, and according to the Kingston Daily Freeman newspaper, 'Under these was a shield bearing a hand and the motto, "this hand for our country"'.

• A huge 1879 volume about the Ulster Guard is on here.

• Pratt Rock is a pretty remarkable memorial

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Eagle Wing advertising poster (not the 1636 one sadly)

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Derryfield, New Hampshire and the Scotch-Irish

"Perhaps a nobler race of men never lived, than the Scotch Irish.It is true they did not possess so much that is courteous and refined in maimer, as may be desirable, and in those qualities they might be behind their English neighbors ; but in stern integrity, in uprightness of purpose, in a conscientious regard to truth, they were surpassed by no men who ever lived.

They were the worthy descendants of those who withstood the long and bloody seige of Londonderry, in their adopted Ireland ; worthy themselves to lay the foundation of civil and religious liberty in their chosen country — worthy to be the fathers of those, who afterwards fought at Bunker Hill and Bennington."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Weel, then, sing as mony as there be." /// Rev John Moorhead of Newtown(ards?) - minister of the 'Church of the Presbyterian Strangers', Boston, Massachusetts

It has been said that the New England pulpit was where the American Revolution really began, through the Great Awakening of the time. Englishmen Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield are still famous today, with their sermons and social impact still being studied and cited by historians, theologians and preacher-evangelists - but the Ulster-Scots were thick on the ground and some were also in the pulpits. One of their ministers appears to have been from Newtownards.

“… About the year 1729, a number of Protestant, Presbyterian families from the North of Ireland, came to Boston. They were from the counties of Londonderry, Donnegall, Antrim and Down … they were generally descendants of ancestors, who emigrated from Scotland to Ireland, in the reign of king James I; and settled in the north part of the Island … hence they were called Scotch-Irish...

… Either before they left Ireland, or on their arrival, they invited Mr. Moorhead to be their ministers, and he arrived in Boston soon after them. Mr Moorhead was born in Newton, near Belfast, in the county of Down, of pious and respectable parents. His father, who was a farmer, gave him the best advantages within his power, for improvement in learning. He finished his education at one of the universities in Scotland. He came to Boston about the twenty-third year of his age…'

– 'Memoirs of Rev. John Moorhead, first minister and founder of a Presbyterian church in Boston’. published in The Panoplist, Boston 1807 (online here)

A pretty good biography by one of Moorhead's descendants is online here, from 1857. A wee glimpse of his mode of speech is here – “Ay, I must see to it” – and also this story:

"About one hundred years ago, Jonny Moorhead, upon a drowsy summer afternoon, gave out the one hundred and eighty-seventh psalm. The chief minstrel, with infinite embarrassment, suggested, that there were not so many in the Book – and tradition tells us, that Jonny replied – "Weel, then, sing as mony as there be."

His papers are in Harvard Divinity School.


Other sources specify Moorhead was born in 1703, educated at Edinburgh, and that his congregation was known as the ‘Church of the Presbyterian Strangers’, a name they adopted and even had carved into the pillars of their eventual meeting house. He arrived in Boston in 1727, was ordained as the minister in 1730 and for about 14 years they met in the barn of a John Little, before building their own meeting house in 1744. He died in December 1773.

His portrait below was painted by Boston artist John Greenwood, and was sold at auction earlier this year by Sotheby’s New York. Engraving and line drawing versions, by Peter Pelham and John Huybers, were produced later.

John Moorhead

Monday, October 10, 2016

Louis Bennett (1894-1918) - West Virginian RAF WW1 hero

Louis Bennett

Here’s a brilliant story, touched on in one of Oren F Morton’s books. There is a stained glass window to Louis Bennett's memory in Westminster Abbey, a library in his memory in his home town of Weston. He is the only West Virginian commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The family traced their origins to a Joseph Bennett who had arrived in Augusta County, Virginia before the Revolutionary War. He moved to West Virginia and many generations of the family were influential there. His son William married a Rebecca McCauley; their son Jonathan became a candidate for the US Senate and a brigadier-general during the Civil War under General Stonewall Jackson. Jonathan’s son William George also served in the Civil War, and in turn his son Louis Sr. joined the Confederate States Navy in 1865 aged only 16, just as the war was ending. It was Louis jr. who joined the RAF. 

A History of Lewis County (1920) provides further details about the family.
• Louis Bennett’s Wikipedia entry is a good summary




Sunday, October 09, 2016

The early 20th century writings of Oren Frederic Morton (1857-1926) – "the ark of the covenant of American ideals rests on the Southern Appalachians".

OOren Mortonne of the most impressive validations of Scotch-Irish / Ulster-Scots heritage is when someone who is not - as you might say - ‘of the community’ recognises the importance of the story and sees value in the contribution these folk have made, and as a result writes about them with no ‘baggage’ or ulterior motive. One such writer was Oren Frederic Morton.

You can tell by his name that he’s not obviously of Ulster-Scots ancestry. His lineage, on both sides of his family, seems to have been English, among the first arrivals in Massachusetts in the 1630s.

Oren Frederic Morton was born in Fryeburg, Maine to Harrison G. Morton (1810–91) and Helena Theodate Gibson (1819–97) - they were both from Winthrop, Maine and married in 1841. Helena was descended from a John Gibson who arrived in Massachusetts in 1634; Harrison’s origins were with an Eleazar Morton was born in 1659. Harrison was called into service in the Civil War in 1863, fighting for one of the Maine Union Army regiments.

After the War ended, when Oren Frederic was around 10 years old, the family moved westward to the wide flat grain-growing plains of Iowa and later onwards to Nebraska. He graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1879 and then came back east, becoming a teacher. He also set up a woodworking business but “a severe hurt compelled him to quit”. From 1894 he lived in various towns in the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia where he became a prolific writer and meticulous community historian. He married Helen Louise Moody of Indiana in 1915, and died in Winchester, Virginia on 17 May 1926 where he was buried at Mount Hebron cemetery. Some of his archives are in the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society collection at Handley Library, Winchester.

There is much Scotch-Irish material in his books, and also interesting references to the German settlers, their language and dialects, and the gradual erosion of these. Below is what I think is his complete bibliography:

Under the Cottonwoods: A Sketch of Life on a Prairie Homestead (1900) 337pp

Winning Or Losing?: A Story of the West Virginia Hills (1901) 402pp
• The Land of the Laurel: A Story of the Alleghenies (1903) 240pp
A History of Pendleton County, West Virginia (1910) 544pp
A History of Highland County, Virginia (1911) 452pp
The Story of Daniel Boone (1913) 23pp

• A Practical History of Music (1915) 82pp
A History of Preston County, West Virginia, Vol 1 (1914) 1140pp

A History of Preston County, West Virginia, Vol 2, Biographical (1914) 810pp
A History of Monroe County, West Virginia (1916) 570pp
Annals of Bath County, Virginia (1917) 234pp
A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia (1920) 616pp
History of the church of the United brethren in Christ (1921) 320pp
A Handbook of Highland County, Virginia (1922) 109pp

• Historical Gleanings in the Virginias (1923)
The story of Winchester in Virginia, the oldest town in the Shenandoah valley (1925) 336pp

The local histories follow a similar format to one another, and because of the close proximity of these counties to one another, the same content appears in a number of the books. But there is loads of great content.

In the first of the histories, Pendleton County (1910) he gives details of a William Adamson who was born 1799 in Gilford in County Down who had farmed in Pendleton, with his wife, 9 children, his brother James and family. A John Boggs who was born in 1774 in Ireland and came to WV with a huge entended family. A Calhoun family who came from the north of Ireland in the 1730s; three Cunningham brothers who sailed from Dublin sometime before 1753; a Preston Wilson from Ireland;  an Aaron Kee who was a friends of the Boggs family who became a merchant; a William Smith from Ireland; a Thomas Higgins from Ireland - and a short history entitled The Men Who Settled the Thirteen Colonies which has many references to Ireland and ‘lowland Scotch’. And the quote in the post title here - "the ark of the covenant of American ideals rests on the Southern Appalachians” - is on page 443.

In this book alone the term ‘Scotch-Irish’ appears 56 times. There is a tantalising, almost almost, reference to a much-challenged George Washington quote:

… The most unanimous of the Americans were the Scotch-Irish on the frontier. They stood by the cause of American independence almost to a man. It was they that Washington had in mind when he said that as a last resort he would retire to the mountains of West Augusta and find in its men a force that "would lift up our bleeding country and set her free." By West Augusta he referred to the District of West Augusta in its original boundaries as described in a previous chapter ...

In A History of Rockbridge County (1920) there is an entire chapter entitled ‘The Ulsterman and the Pathfinders’ (click here). ‘Ulster’ appears 68 times in the text, with ‘Scotch’ and ‘Scotch-Irish' peppered throughout. 

His works are a cultural, historical and genealogical gold mine. And all from a man who was not himself of Ulster-Scots descent. 

If you stop to think transatlantically for a moment - these books were pouring out of, and in to, Appalachia in the first 25 years of the 20th century - at the time of the Ulster Covenant, of the Battle of the Somme, of a time when young Appalachians like Alvin York were displaying remarkable heroism at the front alongside Ulstermen (and whose statue stands at the Nashville Capitol, beside Ulster Presidents Jackson and Johnson) a time when Partition would soon draw a line in Ireland and create two states, a time when Woodrow Wilson, a grandson of Ulster folk, was the President of the USA, a time when Ralph Peer would arrive in Bristol - where Virginia and Tennessee meet - to record folk of Scotch-Irish ancestry playing the first country music. What a time to be alive.

Yet, retrospectively, so much transatlantic cultural connection should have been made by the first Government of Northern Ireland, but wasn’t. Would our past 100 years have been different? I hope that this generation doesn’t miss the transatlantic cultural opportunities which are on the horizon.

Four weeks after the Fincastle Resolutions: The Staunton Instructions, 22 February 1775

Yet another document from Scotch-Irish Virginia, given to their delegates to the House of Burgesses. As historian Oren Frederick Morton wrote, “Augusta County had been established by the Scotch-Irish and was dominated by them. The temper of its people will appear in the instructions drawn up at Staunton, February 22, 1775”:

"The people of Augusta are impressed with just sentiments of loyalty to his majesty, King George, whose title to the crown of Great Britain rests on no other foundation than the liberty of all his subjects. We have respect for the parent state, which respect is founded on religion, on law, and on the genuine principles of the British constitution. On these principles do we earnestly desire to see harmony and good understanding restored between Great Britain and America.

Many of us and our forefathers left our native land and explored this once savage wilderness to enjoy the free exercise of the rights of conscience and of human nature. These rights we are fully resolved with our lives and fortunes inviolably to preserve; nor will we surrender such inestimable blessings, the purchase of toil and danger, to any ministry, to any parliament, or any body of men by whom we are not represented, and in whom we are not represented, and in whose decisions, therefore, we have no voice.

We are determined to maintain unimpaired that liberty which is the gift of Heaven to the subjects of Britain's empire, and will most cordially join our countrymen in such measures as may be necessary to secure and perpetuate the ancient, just, and legal rights of this colony and all British subjects."

The meeting which produced that statement is described in detail here, with a fuller version of the statement too. The key men were Donegal-born Thomas Lewis and Captain Samuel McDowell. Others in the gathering whose names were recorded were Edinburgh-born Rev Alexander Balmaine, Sampson Mathews, Captain Alexander McClanahan, Michael Bowyer, William Lewis and Captain George Mathews.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Governor William Alexander MacCorkle of West Virginia (1857–1930)

William Alexander MacCorkle was the son of a Confederate Major, and the ninth Governor of the state of West Virginia, a state which had been created in 1863 and where it has been said "the Scotch-Irish were unmatched. No other ethnic group would be as significant in shaping the culture of West Virginia.” (from this previous post). 

The MacCorkles came from Ulster, and traced their Scottish origins to the Highlands. Initially a William MacCorkle settled at Rockbridge County in Virginia in the 1730s. The famous Revolutionary hero Patrick Henry appointed a John MacCorkle as Ensign in the Rockbridge Militia in the 1770s. Various generations of the family were elders in Presbyterian congregations; an Emmett W McCorkle attended the Pan-Presbyterian Council, visited Britain a few times, and wrote a volume entitled The Scotch-Irish in Virginia. By the time the Civil War of 1861–65 came around, there were 200 MacCorkles in the Confederate ranks, and they were one of the biggest families in Rockbridge.

William Alexander MacCorkle took office in 1893, nearly 30 years after the Civil War was over. Yet ‘carpetbaggers’ has stripped the South in the aftermath of the war, and in MacCorkle’s inaugural speech he pulled no punches:

The State is rapidly passing under the control of large foreign and non-resident land owners. We welcome into our State the immigrant who comes to us with the idea of home seeking and home building with all its profits to the State, with its family ties, with its clearing of the forests, its building of church and school house, its expenditure of all that is made in our State, and its exercise of citizenship. But the men who today are purchasing the immense areas of the most valuable lands in the State, are not citizens and have only purchased in order that they may carry to their distant homes in the North, the usufruct of the lands of West Virginia, thus depleting the State of its wealth to build grandeur and splendor in other States. In a few years at the present rate of progress, we will occupy the same position of vassalage to the North and East that Ireland does to England, and to some extent, for the same reasons.

In this 1908 address, given at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, he traced the valiant men of the South right back to Knox and Calvin, and had this to say:

One more persistent, more earnest, and who exerted a greater influence upon Southern life in the actual struggle for liberty than the Cavalier, was the Scotch Covenanter, the Scotch-Irishman of this day and place … the populations of the colonies of the South were largely homogenous, and after the great Scotch-Irish immigration and the German immigration there was practically no immigration into the South. Men from the South who fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and the War of 1860 were the sons and grandsons of the men who carried arms in the Revolution of 1776.

There are lots of other usages of the term Scotch-Irish in that same address. These American writers of the past had little or no cultural advantage in citing Scotch-Irishness. They referenced it because it was true.

• His Wikipedia entry is here.
• An article on the pillaging of West Virginia is here on