Thursday, November 24, 2016

Rural Virginia knows us best - Joseph A Waddell's account of 'The Scotch-Irish' (1902)


The Annals of Augusta County, published in 1902, has a very good summary of Ulster-Scots history. Its introduction is simply entitled 'The Scotch-Irish’ which in 15 pages sweeps through two centuries of history from the late 1500s up to the late 1700s when Ulster-Scots emigrant families - who he described on page 5 as ‘Ulster Scotch’ - were making an impression upon frontier Virginia. Page 8 includes a long footnote about the Covenanter slave/prisoner shipwreck of the Crown of London in 1679 (click here).

The author, Joseph A Waddell (1847–1925), claimed descent from one of the men who survived and fled to Ulster for refuge, a William Waddell. This biography says that the Waddells lived in County Down for three generations and emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1739.

Another account traces the family specifically to Newry where Rev James Waddell, known as ‘The Blind Preacher’ had been born also in 1739, presumably just before the family emigrated (Wikipedia entry here). James’ parents were Thomas Waddell (b 1707) and Janet Bruce (b 1710). The Covenanter William Waddell was Thomas’ father. Some of this genealogy is included in the Annals on page 329 (click here).

• The Annals of Augusta County is available online here
• Rev James Waddell was tutor to Donegal-born Rev Charles Cummings, the author of Virginia’s 1775 Fincastle Resolutions (see previous post here)
• Rev James Waddell had been tutored by Armagh-born Rev Samuel Finley at the famous ‘Log College’ (Wikipedia entry here)
• He was the subject of a story by William Wirt, who was fascinated by the power of his oratory (link here

"... Guess my surprise, when, on my arrival at Richmond, and mentioning the name of this man, I found not one person who had ever before heard of JAMES WADDELL! IS IT NOT strange that such a genius as this, so accomplished a scholar, so divine an orator, should be permitted to languish and die in obscurity within eighty miles of the metropolis of Virginia! ..." 

A tablet, containing the following inscription, in commemoration of the Rev. James Waddell, was erected in the Courthouse of Lancaster County, Virginia, in 1905:

IN MEMORIAM Rev. James Waddell, D. D. Son of Thomas and Janet Waddell, of the County Down, Ireland. Born on the Atlantic Ocean, in 1739, when his parents emigrated to America. Died in Lousia County, Virginia, Sept. 17, 1805. Licensed as a Probationer April 2, 1741, by the old Presbytery of Hanover.

Resided on Corratoman River, Lancaster County, Virginia, in 1762, and had three preaching places, viz: Lancaster C. H., the Forest Meet- inghouse, and the Northumberland Meetinghouse.

In 1768 married Mary Gordon, daughter of Col. James Gordon, of Lancaster County, an elder in the church, and a member of the Court, and the maternal grandfather of Gen. William F. Gordon, of Albemarle.

Taught Meriwether Lewis and Governor James Barbour.

Was at one time minister of the Tinkling Spring Church, Augusta Co., Va., and as a patriot, in the Revolution, addressed Tate's Com- pany at Midway, Rockbridge County, Virginia.

Immortalized in Wirt's British Spy, when in a sermon of thrilling oratory and magic eloquence on the passion of our Saviour, he electrified his hearers by the beautiful and sublime quotation from Rousseau: "Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ like a God."

This tablet is presented to Lancaster County through the Circuit Court, by Capt. Geo, P. Squires, Ocran, Lancaster, County, Virginia.