Friday, December 30, 2016

"proud of his Scotch-Irish heritage" - Vick's VapoRub & the Richardson family of Greensboro, North Carolina

Product Vicks Vaporub

Lunsford Richardson II (1854–1919; Wikipedia entry here) is a name not many people know today. But his product is a world-famous brand. Here’s an article from the latest edition of the official North Carolina magazine, His original name – Richardson’s Croup and Pneumonia Cure Salve – was too long for the small jar, so he gave the honour to his brother in law, Dr. Joshua Vick.

Richardson’s son Jacob Henry Smith Richardson (1885– 1972) was a successful salesman for the firm, and he is said to have been "proud of his Scotch-Irish heritage” (source here). The Richardson-Vicks Collection is held at Greensboro Historical Museum.

Lunsford was a renowned advocate of African-American rights, borne out in October 1944 by the WW2 liberty ship S.S. Lunsford Richardson being named after him with a plaque affixed stating it had been at the "special request of the leading Negro citizens of North Carolina to honor the memory of a white friend." 71-year-old Watson Law, a Black friend of the Richardsons, was present at the official launch event at Brunswick, Georgia. Henry's attitudes seem to have been similar:

... Richardson was proud of his Scotch-Irish heritage and considered the South more "American" than other regions whose populations included more immigrants. He named North Carolina's racial heritage as one of its assets in an article about how the state could survive the Depression and improve its economy. His correspondence and writings contain numerous references to his racial attitudes, including a letter to the South African Information Service comparing apartheid to segregation in the American South ...

The Richardsons were of course Presbyterians, very involved in First Presbyterian Church in the town. According to this 1980 source, the first Ulster-Scots settlers in the Greensboro area arrived in 1753, a direct 'church plant' from Nottingham Presbyterian Church in present-day Maryland. Rev David Caldwell (bio here) was one of the town's outstanding historical figures - today an Historical Centre stands in his memory.

NB: Lunsford Richardson I (1808–56) had been a Democratic Senator in the North Carolina State Legislature for a time around 1854. He owned a mill on Little River in Johnson County, which was at risk of collapsing during a flood on 14 July 1856. He tried to save it but was drowned, a tragedy witnessed by his wife and daughter, and some men who were trying in vain to rescue him. A general biography of the family is included in Makers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action which is online here. It traces the Richardsons to England and Scotland; the Scotch-Irish element must have been intermingled through the generations. The same book says this:

… the men have proven themselves capable, combining the shrewdness of the Scotch and the wit of the Irish. For two hundred years and more, the Scotch-Irish race has been a potential and beneficent factor in the development of the American Republic. All things considered, it seems probable that the people of this race have given color, to a great extent, to the history of the United States ...


Our difference 1890 vicks croup pneumonia salve mobile

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Avett Brothers - Away in a Manger

The words have been attributed to Martin Luther, the other more familiar tune written by Ulster-born William James Kirkpatrick. Here are the wonderful Avett Brothers of North Carolina playing it. It is a bit of a cliché perhaps, like most Christmas songs it has been over-done and the familiarity can breed contempt. Yet underlying the schmaltz is a deep eternal truth - that through Jesus Christ, God provides what He demands. And through faith alone in Christ alone we are made right with God. He didnt come as a moral teacher. He came to be Mediator and Substitute. The Gospel is truly ‘Good News’ because the pressure is off. Christ has done it all. Amazing grace.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Duncan MacNab (1820–96) and Saint Patrick's Scottish origins

440px Duncan McNab 1820 1896

Duncan MacNab (also spelled McNab) was a Catholic missionary to the Australian aborigines. Born in Morven in the Scottish Highlands, nearly 100 miles north of Inverness, he arrived in Melbourne on 29 July 1867 along with the Archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, on board the ship Chariot of Fame. McNab became a great champion for aboriginal rights and he features in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

His entry there gives a clue as to his departure from what had been 20 years of parish life in Scotland – "He dabbled in Gaelic literature and at Airdrie in 1862 fell foul of Irish parishioners, probably by arguing the Scottish birth of St Patrick”.

There is a huge full-page letter from McNab in the 28 June 1862 edition of the Glasgow Free Press newspaper where he lays out his case and counters his critics. Some weeks previously McNab had been accused in the pages of the paper by a fellow Catholic priest as follows – “I know well he hates everything Irish … [he is] a fair type of his Scottish order, in his contempt for, and opposition to, everything Irish: people, politics, habits, all except the Irish faith … an anti-Hibernian spirit in our Scottish friends? And yet where would they have a church today … were it not for the always open purse of poor despised and sneered-at Pat?" It is pretty rough stuff.

If the subject was controversial, McNab wasn’t going to lie down as he gave a lengthy ‘archaeological dissertation’ address on the subject in St Margaret’s schoolroom in Airdrie on 25 September 1865, which was published in Dublin by James Duffy the year after (online edition here). According to the history section of the church’s website, McNab had given a similar talk in Bathgate too.

Matters came to a head after he published a pamphlet to prove that St. Patrick was born in Scotland, and followed this with a lecture at Bathgate that was seen as being anti-Irish. Certainly rivalry between Scots and Irish Catholics was common at the time, among the clergy as well as the laity, and Father McNab was undoubtedly one of its victims.

There are some other brilliant stories about McNab there:

He dealt with repeated rumours that the Orangemen were preparing to attack his church and raze it to the ground, by letting it be known that he kept gunpowder in the house and would blow the church up rather than have it desecrated. It appears that this was no idle threat either, as Father Van Stiphout records that he found a small keg of gunpowder in a press in the house when he came there in 1893. 

• A 1989 thesis about McNab can be found here.
• His Wikipedia entry is here.

I really do need to pull together all of the Patrick-related Scottish and Ulster-Scots material I have gathered up over the years and get it published as a booklet or online.

NB: Many other writers, before and after McNab (such as Professor James H Todd of Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Irish Academy, who was also a Treasurer of St Patrick’s Cathedral in the city) have agreed with him that Kilpatrick near Dumbarton is the most plausible birth place for Patrick. However, the birth place issue is just one small part of a larger collection of Scottish Patrick traditions which today’s storytellers and tourism initiatives choose to ignore.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

William McKeague and "The Star Spangled Banner", 1750

Music travels. It turns out that around 1750 a Fermanagh man, William McKeague of the Sixth Enniskillen Fusiliers, composed a tune called “The March of the Royal Inniskillings”, probably based on an earlier Irish tune called “Squire Bumper Jones” from 1723. “The March of the Royal Inniskillings” was later picked up by John Stafford Smith in England and travelled across the Atlantic where it went on to become a world-famous anthem. Article here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ballyrawer, 1930s

My Wilson ancestors lived in a wee house at Ballyrawer/Ballyraer outside Carrowdore for generations. It was sold out of the family and was bulldozed just a few months ago. My aunt Betty supplied me with these photos just a few weeks ago. One shows the house, photographed from just across the Woburn Road within the old Crommelin ‘plantin’ of Carrowdore Castle which I mentioned here before in this post, around 1930. My great uncle Henry Wilson (1923–2003) and his sister Rhoda Wilson (1927-201?) are standing at the front gate, then just weans. Also below are the Wilsons’ maternal grandmother, Lizzie Kerr (1889–1966, who married Hugh Wilson, 1886–1967) and her mother Mary Kerr (d. 1945), presumably photographed around the same time.

My thanks are due to distant relative John Blair from Ajax in Canada (he is a descendant of these same Kerrs) who was able to confirm for me the tradition of a generation of our ancestors living in the house at no rent for a generation. John has pinned that down to a timeframe from 1879 (the houses were described as 'free for 17 years) until at least 1930 (described as 'free').

Ballyrawer1930 HRMary Kerr and Lizzie Kerr 1930

Monday, December 12, 2016

'Roots and Wings" - Reformed University Fellowship, Nashville, Tennessee

I posted about these folks years ago, and have just recently been reminded of them thanks to Sandra McCracken's new album entitled God's Highway. She has an earlier song called 'Portadown Station', inspired by, yes, our very own Portadown railway station. In 2015 she released Psalms, a collection of her own reworking of some of the Psalms. She has a certain Iris DeMent or Emmylou Harris quality; she is one of the Indelible Grace collective, whose album Live at the Ryman Auditorium is absolutely superb. Listen to the whole 18 track concert here; documentary film is below.

Cool heads and sharp minds

I like having friends with all sorts of opinions. It is good to stretch a bit to listen to what others think. It's even more impressive when somebody leaves a former opinion and changes their mind. A high-profile person who has done just that recently is Glasgow-born economic historian Niall Ferguson - recent Boston Globe article here.

Back in September he intriguingly suggested that the incoming President of the USA should appoint a 'Council of Historians', because history is the only example we can learn from, and understanding history and culture is very very important - article here. People in high office in Northern Ireland would do well to pay attention.

Ferguson was pro-Remain, an advisor to the Remain campaign, but has now changed his mind and is publicly announcing that on reflection he should have supported 'Brexit', the campaign to Leave the European Union. Here are some video clips from YouTube.

Denis Kearney was a new name to me but the parallels are fascinating; Kearney's great rival in Irish-American Californian politics was Frank Roney, someone who has featured on this blog previously. Niall Ferguson is a man worth listening to.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

"the greatest realignment in modern politics could take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scotch-Irish and African-Americans to the same table"

After the circus that was the US Presidential election, here's a man with something to say. This might be the best speech I've heard from any American politician in a very very long time. Former Senator James Webb is the author of Born Fighting (2005) and has visited Northern Ireland on many occasions.

"...I think of a great friend of mine, a fellow marine named Mac McDowell, who served in my company in Vietnam. In fact, we were wounded on the same day. Mac has been very loyal to me, even though he was a conservative Republican. He runs a gun shop on a shooting range in Erie, Pennsylvania.

When I decided not to continue the attempt at the presidency, he sent me an email. He said, “This guy Donald Trump,” he says, “the Republicans hate him, the Democrats hate him, the media hates him, I think I found my guy.”

His sentiment of uniting Scotch-Irish and African Americans will seem to some like pie-in-the-sky. That is until you read Carter G Woodson of course. And Barack Obama. And Rosa Parks. And Gianno Caldwell. And I suspect many many others. Values can unite above ethnicity.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Rosa Parks' Scotch-Irish great-grandfather, James Percival


Yes, that Rosa Parks. As this article from 1992 about her autobiography entitled Rosa Parks, My Story, states that her "Scotch-Irish great-grandfather was imported to Charleston, S.C., as an indentured servant". Similar comments are here in an article in The Washington Post in 1995.

He was James Percival (1832–1920), an indentured servant on the Wright estate of the town of Pine Level, Montgomery County, Alabama. He married African-American Mary Jane Nobels, who was a midwife and slave on the same estate. They had nine children.

Like everyone, Rosa Parks would have had 8 great-grandparents, of which James Percival was only one. Yet James Webb saw fit to mention her in his book Born Fighting, because, like Barack Obama, she apparently mentioned her Scotch-Irish ancestry in her own writings. That is surely significant. If anybody out there has the original source I would be very interested.

NB: There can however be an unhelpful 'elasticity' with the usage of the term Scotch-Irish, so it's always important to verify the sources. Sometimes it has been used too broadly, being used to mean someone whose ancestry was from either Scotland or Ireland, so not necessarily Ulster at all.

Alexander Mahood (1878–1968) - from Portavogie to Kansas

Emigration to America is a constant stream. People I went to school with live there, I have two cousins who live there. Obviously they emigrated within the past generation, not in the 1700s. They’ve never shot a musket or fought in a Revolution but they are just as important (maybe more important) than earlier migrations. We should try to connect better with those folk. I wonder if stats exist somewhere?

Outgoing President Barack Obama has re-stated his Scotch-Irish roots in a major interview in The New Yorker magazine. Here's the extract, and it's even more direct than the speech he ave back in the summer:

Obama will go down in history as the first African-American President, and he derives immense pride from that, but he never fails to insist on the complexity of his story. “I’m half Scotch-Irish, man!” he said. “When folks like Jim Webb write about Scotch-Irish stock in West Virginia and Kansas and so on, those are my people! They don’t know it, always, but they are.” (full article here)

Kansas is in the Mid-West, disparagingly described as 'flyover country' to the urban elites on the west and east coasts. Our people live there too. Below are two clippings reporting on a Portavogie man who was born around 1878 who emigrated to the USA around the turn of the century I assume, and lived in Kansas City. I am pretty sure my ancestors would have know him before he left. I wonder did Mahood ever encounter Obama's grandparents?...

Mahood 1 Mahood 2

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dorchester and the 'Eagle Wing' association

In February 1634 our Eagle Wing minister Rev. John Livingstone and his former schoolteacher William Wallace travelled to Dorchester on the south coast of England to meet with Rev John White (1575–1648). White was an enthusiastic supporter of emigration to America and organised a number of voyages. Around 1623, just two years after the famous 'Thanksgiving' arrival tradition, White became actively involved with the 'Dorchester Adventurers'.

He secured a patent from King Charles I for a tract of land about 40 miles long, stretching from the Charles River at Boston up to and just beyond the Merrimack River at Newburyport, which is where later documents show Eagle Wing was bound for. In 1629 the Massachusetts Bay Company was formed, its shareholders including John Winthrop who would become the first Governor of the colony and whose son came to Ulster at least twice during 1635 to help with the planning of Eagle Wing, meeting with Livingstone & co at Sir John Clotworthy's castle in Antrim in October of that year.

The first ship White's company was associated with, the George Bonaventura, sailed in May 1629. A fleet of 11 ships was soon assembled. By 1640 about 10,000 people emigrated. So, rather than a one-off ‘solo run’ episode (which is how I have heard it described) Eagle Wing was in fact very carefully planned to be part of a large organised and successful wave of emigration from Britain to America.

White was one of those at the Westminster Assembly of 1643 and a firm advocate of the Solemn League and Covenant, a role which would have renewed his acquaintance with the Ulster ministers and Eagle Wing would-be emigrants.

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester is near White's rectory, his church - Holy Trinity and St Peter's - is still in the town, and the doorway of his birthplace at Manor Farm in Oxford has his name inscribed above the doorway.

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Before 'Literally Hitler' – meet 'Bluidy Clavers', John Graham of Claverhouse (1648–89)

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‘Literally Hitler’ has become the tired insult of 2016. Everybody who ‘progressives’ in particular don’t like is described in impassioned tone as ‘Literally Hitler’. Often for relatively minor things such as a difference of opinion, not the actual invading of neighbouring countries and suchlike. Whilst many are getting excited about ‘post-truth’ being the buzz-term of the year, for me it pales in comparison with this very worn-out Adolfian accusation. It is little more than Godwin’s Law 2.0. It’s pretty grotesque to belittle the slaughter of the millions who were rounded up, gassed and burned in ovens during the Holocaust in particular. I’ve been to Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Before the arrival of Hitler on the national and world stage in 1933, there must have been other commonly-understood personalities who were up until then regarded as the embodiment of unimaginable evil. For Lowland Scots and Ulster-Scots, the obvious one that springs to mind is John Graham of Claverhouse (1648–89), a.k.a ‘Bonnie Dundee’ by his supporters, and ‘Bloody Dundee’ by his opponents and victims. In Scots he was ‘Bluidy Clavers’. 

He was the first Viscount Dundee, prior to which he had been the 7th Laird of Claverhouse. At some point in the 1680s King James II gave him military command of all of the King’s forces in Scotland. In James’ previous office as Duke of York he had announced that:

"there would never be peace in Scotland till the whole of the country south of the Forth was turned into a hunting field.” (source here)

Not hunting for stag or pheasants, hunting for humans - Covenanter Presbyterians. And Claverhouse got the job. His name occurs time and again on the gravestones of Covenanter martyrs across Scotland. A now-deceased friend of mine told me of having been at a folk music event in Wigtown in the south coast of Galloway some years ago, and a visiting singer began a rendition of the old Jacobite song in praise of Claverhouse called ‘Bonnie Dundee’. He told me that there was shall we say a heated reaction. No wonder.

Claverhouse was killed in the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 when the Jacobites famously defeated the forces of King William III (William of Orange) which were led by General Hugh Mackay. Claverhouse was buried at the church of nearby Blair Castle. There have been attempts to rewrite Claverhouse as maybe not having been as bad as his legend has painted, but the legendary image has stuck. Of the many soldiers who were tasked throughout the 1661-1688 period to hunt down Covenanters, his name stands above them all - according to Professor Michael Montgomery's exhaustive research, even as far as County Tyrone and also America with the warning to errant children that 'the Clavers will get you' (source here). James Leyburn’s landmark volume The Scotch-Irish: A Social History has further examples of the same expression (see here).

In the early 1900s, Millisle-born missionary Amy Carmichael wrote of one of her maternal Dalzell ancestors, probably the notorious Thomas Dalzell of Binns, being “a friend of Claverhouse, who persecuted the Covenanters. My father’s people were Covenanters”. I know an elderly couple who live outside Portaferry, the wife of whom told me one night at a talk I was giving in Portavogie that her family tradition was that her ancestors had fled from Scotland to Ulster to get away from Claverhouse.

PS: I remember being on school Scripture Union summer camps in the picturesque town of Moffat on three occasions in the late 1980s (when I was 14, then 17 and finally 18) at a place now called the Well Road Centre, and being pretty horrified that the Black Bull Hotel had a plaque on the wall which told some of Claverhouse's story, a photo of which I’ve added below.


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.




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The return of satire?

It's about time that somebody started to make fun of what has happened to western culture. These are three recent videos which folk have been sharing online, and which I hope ware just the start of a tidal wave that sweeps all of the stupid away.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Women of the Revolution – Jane White of County Antrim

"... The anecdote of her in the sketch of Mrs. Wylie illustrates this trait of character. Major Kennedy, who is still living, mentions another. In the war of 1812, he wished to raise recruits for his troop of horse, and knowing that Mrs. White had a fine supply of sons, he rode to her house to make known his business. All her sons were in the field at work except the youngest, whom she called, and in her broad Scotch-Irish dialect, bade him "rin awa' ta the fiel' an' tell his brithers ta cum in an' gang an' fight for their counthry, like their father afore them." ..."

Rev William Martin sermon extract, South Carolina, Sunday 11 June 1780: "unresisting Americans, praying for quarter, were chopped to pieces.”


The content of this sermon is very grim. The appeal back to the times a century before of the Covenanters in Scotland is deeply significant. You can read more about the incident here, with the memorial monument shown above. A young Andrew Jackson was among those who tended to the wounded and mutilated survivors who were brought to the church:

'... At eleven o'clock precisely, the venerable form of Martin, the preacher, came in sight. He was about sixty years of age, and had a high reputation for learning and eloquence. He was a large and powerful man, with a voice which it is said might have been heard at the distance of half a mile. As he walked from the place where he had hitched his horse, towards the stand, it being customary, when the congregation was too large to be accommodated in the meeting-house, to have the service in the open air, the loud and angry words of the speakers must have reached his ears. The voices ceased as he approached, and the congregation was soon seated in silence upon the logs around the stand.

When he arose to speak, every eye was fixed upon him. Those who had been most noisy expected a reproof for their desecration of the Sabbath, for their faithful pastor was never known to fail of rebuking those whose deportment was unsuited to the solemnity of the day. But at this time he too seemed absorbed with the subject that agitated every bosom.

"My hearers," he said, in his broad Scotch-Irish dialect— "talk and angry words will do no good. We must fight! As your pastor—in preparing a discourse suited to this time of trial—I have sought for all light, examined the Scriptures and other helps in ancient and modern history, and have considered especially the controversy between the United Colonies and the mother country. Sorely have our countrymen been dealt with, till forced to the declaration of their independence—and the pledge of their lives and sacred honor to support it. Our forefathers in Scotland made a similar one, and maintained that declaration with their lives; it is now our turn, brethren, to maintain this at all hazards."

After the prayer and singing of the Psalms—he calmly opened his discourse. He cited many passages from Scripture to show that a people may lawfully resist wicked rulers ; pointed to historical examples of princes trampling on the people's rights; painted in vivid colors the rise and progress of the Reformation—the triumph of truth over the misrule and darkness of ages—and finally applied the subject by fairly stating the merits of the Revolutionary controversy. Giving a brief sketch of the events of the war from the first shedding of blood at Lexington, and warming with the subject as he went on, his address became eloquent with the fiery energy of a Demosthenes. In a voice like thunder, frequently striking with his clenched fist the clapboard pulpit, he appealed to the excited concourse, exhorting them to fight valiantly in defence of their liberties. As he dwelt on the recent horrid tragedy—the butchery of Buford's men, cut down by the British dragoons while crying for mercy—his indignation reached its height. Stretching out his hand towards Waxhaw—

"Go see," he cried— "the tender mercies of Great Britain! In that church you may find men, though still alive, hacked out of the very semblance of humanity: some deprived of their arms—mutilated trunks: some with one arm or leg, and some with both legs cut off. Is not this cruelty a parallel to the history of our Scottish fathers, driven from their conventicles, hunted like wild beasts? Behold the godly youth, James Nesbit—chased for days by the British for the crime of being seen on his knees upon the Sabbath morning!" etc.

To this stirring sermon the whole assembly responded. Hands were clenched and teeth set in the intensity of feeling; every uplifted face expressed the same determination, and even the women were filled with the spirit that threatened vengeance on the invaders. During the interval of divine worship they went about professing their resolution to do their part in the approaching contest; to plough the fields and gather the crops in the absence of the men—aye, to fight themselves, rather than submit. In the afternoon the subject was resumed and discussed with renewed energy—while the appeals of the preacher were answered by even more energetic demonstrations of feeling. When the worship was concluded, and the congregation separating to return homeward, the manly form of Ben Land was seen walking among the people, shaking hands with every neighbor and whispering in his ear the summons to the next day's work...'

- from The Women of the American Revolution. v.3 by EF Ellet (1848). All three volumes have tonnes of great Scotch-Irish material.


• the quote in the post title is from an account published just 5 years later by David Ramsay in his History of the Revolution of South Carolina. Ramsay's parents were both from Ulster.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

North Down Museum Covenanters talk - women and slaves // 350th anniversary of the Pentland Rising a.k.a the Battle of Rullion Green

I gave an illustrated (by Powerpoint) talk last week at North Down Museum for Bangor Historical Society on the Covenanters, covering mainly 150 years and broken into 5 chapters:

1. Background 1560-1606

2. The Ulster Dimension 1606–1638

3. The 2 Covenants: 1638–1644

4. Persecution: 1661-1688

5. Legacy: 1688-present

Almost 100 people turned up, and all were attentive and quiet throughout. Most acknowledged that they were shocked by the story - both by the barbaric actions of the state at that time, and also shock that a story which was once so well-known was fairly new to many of them.

Two important questions from the audience at the end were:

a) Did women experience similar sufferings as men did? The answer is yes, and a good book on the subject is the 1862 book Ladies of the Covenant (online here) which gives 23 biographies of women of the Scottish gentry. I had of course told the story of the Two Margarets, and touched on other stories featuring women throughout.

b) Slavery. One man objected to the idea that the 257 male prisoners who had been onboard the ship The Crown Of London (which was shipwrecked at Orkney in 1679 en route to the plantations of Barbados and the Carolinas) were actually experiencing ‘slavery’. He was concerned at an implicit drawing of equivalence between the Covenanters’ experience with the scale and experience of African slavery.

A 1908 book entitled Exiles of the Covenant by WH Carslaw is a good source on the topic, but I can’t find it online anywhere. J.K. Hewison’s two volume set The Covenanters (1913: Vol I here / Vol 2 here) contains numerous references – for example to John Mathieson of Closeburn, a slave-master called Malloch who wanted the young Patrick Walker as his personal slave, that there was even a ‘white slave mart in Scotland’ and that 'inscribed slave-collars were still in use in Scotland’. And many more references in Hewison alone.

There’s no equivalence between Covenanters and Africans. But neither should the Scottish experience be disregarded. Later editions of A Cloud of Witnesses, first published in 1714, include a section entitled ‘A List of the Banished’ (see here), with numerous women mentioned throughout the lists of men.


On 28 November it will be 350 years since the atrocity at Pentland or Rullion Green. In 1866, the young Robert Louis Stevenson made this one of his first stories. The two ministers named on the ancient memorial stone which still stands there today were from Ulster - McCormick from Magherally and Crookshanks from Raphoe. They were hacked down by troops led by Thomas Dalzell who was the only man to refuse to sign the Solemn League and Covenant at Carrickfergus in 1642. They were led by Colonel James Wallace, a former Sovereign of Belfast and resident of Ballycarry in County Antrim.

Why was a group of 900 civilians set upon by 3000 troops? What was the threat of something which today we might call a 'civil rights march'?

• Charles Terry Sanford's 1905 book on the subject is online hereDescription of The Pentland Rising by the Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association • a more detailed account can be read hereWikipedia entry here • the site is an historic battlefield, according to Historic Scotland

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Re-digging the old wells

A recent sermon at Millisle Baptist was based on a passage from Genesis 26. Verse 18 jumped off the page at me:

'And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.'

The recovery and restoration of old things is a endless task, but an important one. They get forgotten or purposely neglected, and with the extraordinary pace of change in the past say 50 years or so a lot has been almost lost.

There remains a lot of really strong oral history among the older generation. It constantly hits me that unless these things are recorded, written down, then to future generations the stories may as well never have existed at all - they will be completely lost. It is hard to do, as with recording stories of older people there is an implicit message to them of their own mortality. It's one of the sensitivities that prevented me from recording my own mother in her latter years, body wrecked but mind pin-sharp. I wish now I had done it, but I knew at the time I just couldn't.

Keep reading old things. Keep bringing the stories back. Keep re-digging the wells.


(ps the sermon was theological, the need to re-visit the old foundational Gospel truths – not about recording local history!)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

America's cultural blend: Scotch-Irishness as a broader influence

Gianno Caldwell

So we wake up today and the world looks different. Everyone's talking about Trump.

I sat up last night to watch the coverage, reflecting on our 3 week trip to the USA back in the summer. One of the things that struck me then - especially in Washington DC - was the enormous ethnic diversity. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Indian Asians and Chinese Asians all there in pretty much equal proportions, visiting the great heritage sites of the nation such as the White House, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museums and so on. Yet all very much American. It was also the case at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia for the 4th July fireworks celebrations (which included the best flute band parade I have ever seen - in period costume carrying flaming torches).

Last night's coverage on Sky showed that again. The pic above shows a commentator who is African-American, with an Italian first name and a Scottish/Scotch-Irish surname. All of these cultural influences coming together.

I think that we in Northern Ireland make a mistake when we look back to an America of yesteryear, to say around 100 years ago when the Scotch-Irish Society was in its heyday, and Ulster had provided a long list of Presidents. Scotch-Irishness was probably more 'distinct' back then, more easily identified, for all sorts of social reasons.

Today, over a century on, multiple waves of immigration have added Italians, Eastern Europeans, Hispanics to name but three, social barriers have broken down - and so Scotch-Irishness, whilst probably more 'diluted', is also more widespread as an influence. And not just in terms of surnames or ethnicity or geographical settlement areas, but in terms of general core values, attitudes, and so on.

We need to widen our view - and open up to this far broader story of the Scotch-Irish influence in the present and future, and so not rely solely on narrow somewhat ethno-centric impressions of how the past once was. When we're narrow we leave too many people out. When we're broad we tell our true story.

There are millions and millions and millions of people like Gianno. They have many influences and ancestries, but Scotch-Irishness is an important part of their mix.

So not just Appalachia, not just the South, not just rural, not just Presbyterian, not just bluegrass, not just religious, not just by surname, not just 1700s, not just caucasian. Think bigger.

Monday, November 07, 2016

"I don’t think we don’t place a high enough value on what we’ve inherited."

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been described as the ‘Paris of Appalachia’. Here’s an interview with journalist Brian O’Neill, author of a book of the same name. William Crawley’s Brave New World series is once again on BBC television, exploring the Scotch-Irish story in America, and last night’s episode touched on Pittsburgh. This is now another town I’ve gotta see. Next time I do Appalachia it’ll be the northern states, and on up into New Hampshire and Massachusetts. 

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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Baptists and Burns in Tennessee, 1800s.




The photograph above is of a classic Appalachian river baptism. Much colder than the warm immersion-heated indoor baptismal tank I experienced in a gospel hall in Bangor when I was 18! The Presbyterians get far too much coverage and it’s about time the Baptists got a look in. 

The flamboyantly-named Jesse Montreville Lafayette Burnett was born near Asheville in North Carolina in 1829. His paternal grandfather was known to be ‘of Scotch descent’ and his mother was a Montgomery, described as ‘partly Irish’. The family - two parents and 13 children - moved westwards to Cocke County, Tennessee, in 1835. J.M.L. was converted aged 13 and preached his first sermon at Pleasant Grove on the Pigeon River near today’s Pigeon Forge.

In Illustrated Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers, 1775–1875, by James Jehu Burnett D.D. (1919), it says that J.M.L. took delight in the poems of Robert Burns -

“he had the ability too to read the great poet in dialect… it was a revelation to me to hear him recite "Tam O’ Shanter” … I have never since heard anybody who could do it in his style … I sometimes hear his tones through these long years as he would say

Ah Tam! Ah Tam!
Thou’ll get thy fairin’
In hell they’ll roast thee
Like a herrin"

The extract continues ‘a charming interpreter of the Scotch poet and a delightful lecturer on “Bobby Burns”’. Now the abbreviation ‘Bobby Burns’ is prone to send a purist into orbit with rage, but it is significant that Burns’ works were so admired in rural Tennessee. 

Illustrated Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers, 1775–1875 contains biographies of maybe 100 preachers, many of whom are described as Scotch-Irish. I suspect that in fact the great majority of them were. Those who are specified as such have the surnames Anderson, McGinnia, M’Carrell, Smith, Russell, Love, Moore, Snead, Craig, Taylor, Montgomery, Bryan, Baker, McCallen, Snead, Ross,


Monday, October 31, 2016

Davy Crockett on the Presidency : "I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the white house, no matter who he is"

This is from 1835. Spectacular.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pennsylvania, 1944

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The endpaper of Wayland F. Dunaway's book The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (1944) might to some today appear to be a cliché, but as recently as 2010 it has also been described as one of 'the best books' on the subject.

He was born in the town of Kilmarnock near the coast of Virginia in 1875. As well as an academic he was a Baptist pastor, and wrote an article defending what he called 'Scriptural Baptism or the Immersion of Believers'.

Dunaway published A History of Pennsylvania in 1935 (online here). He was Professor of American History at Penn State University, where his papers reside still.

The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania is a great book and is available online here

• I presume that this book is by Dunaway's father, of the same name, a Confederate army veteran.

• An unpublished 2009 PhD thesis by Peter E. Gilmore, superbly entitled Rebels and Revivals: Ulster Immigrants, Western Pennsylvania Presbyterianism and the Formation of Scotch-Irish Identity, 1780–1830 is a source I come across fairly often and is online here.

• Gilmore's paper From Rostrevor to Raphoe: An Overview of Ulster Place-Names in Pennsylvania, 1700-1820, also looks brilliant.

• His article on the music of Western Pennsylvania is packed with information.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Jane Sibbett from Co Armagh – "Scotch ballads" in Pennsylvania, early 1800s

“There’s rednecks north of the Mason-Dixon Line” – Aaron Lewis, ‘Northern Redneck’.

The Mason-Dixon line was drawn in the 1760s to resolve a territorial dispute. It pretty much defined the southern border of the state of Pennsylvania, and the northern borders of Maryland and Virginia. It also bisected the Delmarva peninsula (where Delaware, Maryland and Virginia all meet) and so has become a shorthand for the division between North and South. Culturally, there are many many Scotch-Irish above that line, throughout history and still today.

Samuel Sibbett (born 1773) and his wife Alice Lowry/Laurie are thought to have lived in County Armagh. Samuel was ‘a man of decided political convictions and on account of his pronounced sentiments 50 guineas were offered for his head’. They fled Ulster in the aftermath of the failed post-1798 Rebellion Robert Emmet rising, with Samuel going first and Alice and their children following some time later:

“… Samuel’s political activities made enemies for him of the British king and Parliament who ordered his arrest. His fellow Masons heard of it and brought him that information, and Robert Emmet advised him to leave Ireland at once. This was in 1800. There was a price on his head, dead or alive. After hiding under the pig-sty at home, hiding in a friend’s house—under a log or in the bushes, each time seeing the men who were seeking him; he escaped as Robert Kennedy, a linen merchant, going to New York. When he reached America, he gave the Captain of the Ship a blow in the face, saying, “Take that to the King with my compliments. I am a free man on free soil and you can’t touch me. I am Samuel Sibbett.”…” (source here)

Samuel ‘reached Baltimore in the early part of 1800, in a concealed manner, being connected with the Order of Freemasons’. A few months later Alice and the three children arrived. The family ended up in ‘the Scotch-Irish settlement in the Cumberland valley in Pennsylvania, they proceeded to the head of Big Spring, where they were welcomed by numerous Presbyterian friends’.

A Presbyterian Church had been founded in Cumberland County in 1738. Big Spring is about 80 miles north of historic Winchester, where fellow ‘rebel’ Presbyterian Adam Douglass sought refuge (see previous post), and just 15 miles west of Carlisle where John André had a less than positive view of the Scotch-Irish inhabitants (see previous post). Western Pennsylvania was pretty much as far away from the King as it was possible to be.

One of the Sibbetts’ children was named Hugh Montgomery Sibbett, a meaningful name in Ulster-Scots history. Another child, or maybe grandchild, was called Robert Emmet Sibbett, a name again harking back to the family’s homeland and sympathies. Many of Samuel Sibbett’s siblings followed him across the Atlantic to frontier Pennsylvania. His sister Jane, her married name Copley, was among them. In later life her son Josiah (1803–85) recalled her:

“… noted for independence and ardent patriotism. She was possessed of a strong religious nature … the first germs of thought I gained from hearing her read, especially the Scriptures. She read poetry admirably, and no one I ever knew surpassed her in reading or reciting poetry and ballads, or in singing Scotch ballads, with which her memory was well stored."

• a biography of Josias Copley is online here; he is pictured below.
• some details on Samuel Sibbett is online here 

Copley josiah hac1914 300x

Middle Springs Pennsylvania Presbyterian Church Plaque

Sunday, October 23, 2016

"the Scotch-Irish, sticklers for the Covenant, and utter enemies to the abomination of curled hair, regal government" – Lt. John André, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1780

John André (1750–80) was English, of Huguenot parents, a multi-lingual and erudite man. He was a British Army officer and was far from happy with his new-found circumstances as a prisoner in a Pennsylvania jail in 1780. He wrote to his mother that the town of Carlisle was

“inhabited by a stubborn, illiberal crew called the Scotch-Irish, sticklers for the Covenant, and utter enemies to the abomination of curled hair, regal government, minced pies and other heathenish vanities. A greasy committee of worsted-stocking knaves.”

He was hanged as a spy a few months later. A memorial in Westminster Abbey commemorates his life - and where he is now buried, with his remains being brought back across the Atlantic in 1821.

Again we have the term ‘Scotch-Irish’ in a primary source from the 1700s. It is about time that the myth of ‘Scotch-Irish’ being of later invention was ditched forever, and in fact ’scotched' when it arises in future. And we can now assert an historical cultural objection to the heathenish vanity that is the mince pie.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Looking the wrong way

New england colonies 1607 1760

Much of Ulster-Scots / Scotch-Irish thought has been on the pioneering spirit, the move southwards into the mountains, or the move west towards the open plains and eventually the western coast. California has one of the highest census figures for Scotch-Irish awareness. These places were settled in the later 1700s, the 1800s and afterwards. Very little published work has been done to see what stories survive in the original landing places of New England, which was settled from 1718 onwards. There is a vast well of material lying there, easy to access, and as yet untapped.

In the mid 1800s, when the Great American Narrative was taking place in the South, the Mountains, the Plains or even multiple Civil War Battlefields - and reinforced ever since in books, songs and movies – back up in the north east even the littlest towns in the New England states were celebrating their centennials, having been founded 100 years beforehand. The obscure little publications which survive are scattered through with great references to Ulster and the Scotch-Irish.

There are so many places to visit there, historic buildings and landscapes of relevance to us.

The name ‘New England’ has maybe put us off, with the assumption that the only people and story there is an English one. There were of course many Europeans there. In his seminal 1903 two-volume set Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, historian John Fiske had this to say:

“The earlier writers on American history were apt to ignore or pass over in silence the contributions to American civilisation that have been made by other people than the English. Perhaps this may have been because our earliest historians were men of New England whose attention was unduly occupied with their own neighbourhood … the non-English elements in our composite civilisation were not so much denied as disregarded … Your Ulsterman is clear that the migrations of Englishmen to Virginia and New England were small affairs compared with the migration from Ulster to Pennsylvania …"

Fiske’s writing is important as, for his time, he seems to have been re-thinking both the Anglocentric view of America by drawing attention to non-English nationalities, but then also countering the reactive ethnocentric view of America which had arisen in the 1800s (of which the Scotch-Irish Society of the USA was just one organisation). Fiske’s work is more nuanced, bringing recognition to the often-overlooked Dutch colonisation of the early 1600s, and also showing how various cultures blended into something new: 

“Accordingly, in spite of a very rigid theology, they [Ulster Presbyterians] stood for a liberal principle, and other Protestant sects such as Lutherans, Mennonites and Dunkers, found it possible to harmonise with them, especially in the free atmosphere of Pennsylvania. The result was the partial union of two great streams of immigration, the Ulster stream and the Palatinate stream”.

The Ulster role in the USA can be seen in more places than is normally assumed. There is a big job to be done in New England, in today's states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. We were there too. We are still there today.

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


Thursday, October 06, 2016

'Liberty and Union': The Taunton Flag, 1774 - the first flag of American devolution and independence

It looks like a son of Ulster emigrant parents was the mastermind of a pre-Revolution movement called the ’True Born Sons of Liberty’, founded in the 1760s. In 1774 they unfurled a huge version of this flag on a 112 foot flagpole in the town of Taunton, Massachusetts, which is still celebrated there every year with re-enactments and a weekend festival. Earlier that year they issued a document from New York under the noms-de-plumes John Calvin and John Knox!  There is a massive Scotch-Irish story in between the bookends of the 1718 arrivals and the Revolution of 1776. A regular reader is going to love the reference to 'meet under the Liberty Tree' in the document below :). More to follow when I’ve done all the reading.

• Meanwhile why not buy a t-shirt?
• Or enjoy the poem by Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905)
• Here’s PD Harrison’s account of the story : “no thought of severance from the mother country, their only thought being liberty of action’.
• In an interesting twist that deserves more research, Harrison says that in March 1775 a similar flag was raised in New York 'which bore "No Popery", the words of Janet Geddes, as she hurled her stool at the surpliced ministers in the High Church of St Giles’s, Edinburgh, in 1637'

319600 taunton

Pumpkin Patch


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

"500 Scotch-Irish settlements across the American Colonies" - Charles Augustus Hanna, 1902

Sometimes I think that there is a lot of exaggeration around the story and scale of influence of the Ulster-Scots in America. However maybe many of the claims are justified, and it's our modern-day cynicism, and what CS Lewis called chronological snobbery which makes us question.

"... But the position of the Scotch-Irish in the New World was peculiar.

They alone, of the various races in America were present in sufficient numbers in all of the colonies to make their influence count; and they alone of all the races had one uniform religion; had experienced together the persecutions by State and Church which had deprived them at home of their civil and religious liberties; and were the common heirs to those principles of freedom and democracy which had been developed in Scotland as nowhere else.

At the time of the American Revolution, there were nearly seventy communities of the Scotch and Scotch-Irish in New England, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut ; from thirty to forty in New York; fifty to sixty in New Jersey; over one hundred and thirty in Pennsylvania and Delaware; more than a hundred in Virginia, Maryland, and Eastern Tennessee; upwards of fifty in North Carolina ; and about seventy in South Carolina and Georgia : in all, above five hundred settlements (exclusive of the English Presbyterian congregations in New York and New Jersey), scattered over practically all the American colonies..."

– Charles Hanna, The Scotch-Irish; or, The Scot in North Britain, north Ireland, and North America, (1902)