Thursday, February 03, 2011

Sketches of North Carolina by WH Foote (1846)


It's important that we recover almost-lost history, and that the achievements of significant people from years ago are made known once more. Previous generations knew, wrote, and told our story - we need to do the same today to ensure that the scandalous cultural loss of the past is not repeated in the future. Rev William Henry Foote (1794 - 1869) is a man who could perhaps be described as the James Webb of his generation.

He was born in Colchester, Connecticut in 1794. He was of English descent and could trace his roots back to Nathaniel Foote and Elizabeth Deming who arrived in America in 1633. Foote's father, Stephen Foote (1758 - 1843) had been a soldier during the American Revolution of 1776.

WH Foote graduated from Yale University as a Presbyterian minister in 1819 and was installed at a church in Shenandoah County, Virginia. He spent many years on mission outreach in North Carolina, during which time he collected much local history.

In 1822 Foote married Eliza Wilson Glass (1800 - 1835) from the adjacent Frederick County. She was a minister's daughter of Ulster-Scots descent. Her parents were Rev Joseph Glass (1773 - 1821) and Ann McCallister (1780 - 1831). Rev Glass's father, who was also called Joseph, and his grandparents Samuel Glass and Mary Gamble, had left Banbridge in 1735. They sailed across the Atlantic, eventually settling in Opequon, Virginia in 1736. Their gravestone records their exodus:

To the memory of / Samuel Glass / and his wife / Mary Gamble
Emigrants from Banbridge / County Down, Ireland / A.D. 1735
and / Their Children / John / Eliza / Sarah / David / Robert / Joseph
Were all born in Ireland / And came with them.

In 1824 W H Foote and his wife settled in the old town of Romney in what is today West Virginia. He became minister of Romney Presbyterian Church. However, Eliza died in April 1835 and was buried in the Glass family plot in Opequon Cemetery. Her gravestone records her last words: "Tell them I am not afraid to die, it is easy to die, for a christian to die." There are other Ulster emigrants buried there, such as a James Hamilton whose gravestone states that he was originally from Tyrone. In 1838 Foote married again, this time to Arabella Gilliam of Petersburg, Virginia.

His writings are full of admiration for the Ulster-Scots who came to America and who made up the Scotch-Irish communities and congregations with whom he shared spiritual conviction and cultural values, and among whom he spent his life. The notes he collected in North Carolina formed the core of his 600 page epic Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical, Illustrative of the Principles of a Portion of Her Early Settlers which was published in 1846. It's freely available online. The first four chapters are about American history, but chapters 5 - 9 are a detailed retelling of Ulster-Scots history and seem to be largely based on James Seaton Reid's account. Chapter 5 is entitled "Origin of the Scotch-Irish": –

"...Ulster began to send out swarms to America; shipload after shipload of men trained to labor and habits of independence, sought the American shores; year after year the tide rolled on without once ebbing; and many thousands of these descendants of the emigrants from Scotland, disdaining to be called Irish, filled the upper country of Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas. Ulster, in Ireland, has been an exhaustless hive, a perennial spring..."

There are also some chapters on Scottish history, but most of the rest of the book is made up of detailed accounts of the activities of the Presbyterian Church in different regions across North Carolina.

Four years later his second epic, the 616 page Sketches of Virginia, Historical and Biographical was published, containing an entire chapter entitled Siege of Londonderry. It includes a story of Mary Gamble Glass, named on the gravestone above, who 'used to speak with tears of that memorable siege, and lament in bitterness "two fair brothers" whose death filled up in part the measure of sufferings at Derry... the names of the "Apprentices" are familiar names in the Valley of the Shenandoah.'

When war broke out in 1861, Foote covered vacant pulpits in south Virginia, worked as a chaplain within the Confederate Army.

Foote was buried in November 1869 at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney, West Virginia.His 630 page volume entitled The Huguenots, or Reformed French Church was published posthumously in 1870.

If any readers have portraits of him, or photos of his grave, I would appreciate it if you could get in touch with me.

- Sketches of North Carolina on GoogleBooks
- Sketches of Virginia on GoogleBooks
- The Huguenots on GoogleBooks

- short biography in "Yale's Confederates"
- short biography from the Presbyterian Heritage Center, Montreat, North Carolina
- Glass gravestone inscriptions in Opequon Cemetery


Lee said...

"Civil war"?

War of northern aggression or war between the states ;)