Thursday, March 30, 2017

From Longford to Liberty ... Born in Ulster County: Dr Thomas Young of the 'Sons of Liberty' (1729–1777) & Vice-President George Clinton (1739–1812)

(This is an update on a few previous posts. It turns out there were two different John Youngs who emigrated in this era, one from Donegal and the one below from Belfast via Longford. With thanks to Mr Seawright for the inspiration to dig further.)

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Dr Thomas Young was born on 19 February 1731, in Ulster County, New York State. His parents were John Young and Mary Crawford, cousins who had emigrated with another cousin, Charles Clinton (1690 - 1773), from Dublin onboard a ship called The George and Ann. They set sail on 20 May 1729 and arrived in America on 8 October.

According to this recent biography by John P Kaminski, Charles Clinton’s grandfather Sir William Clinton had an estate in Ireland called ‘Glengary’; his son James Clinton was rewarded for his loyalty to William of Orange with an estate in County Longford. This is where James’ son, Charles, grew up.

• From ‘near Belfast' to County Longford
The passengers who boarded The George and Ann were mainly from near Edgeworthstown in Longford, but they were part of a very large extended family community which had relocated there from somewhere ‘near Belfast’ sometime 'around 1700'. The local Presbyterian church building - Corboy (pictured above) - is still there today. According to the church noticeboard the congregation is believed to have been established as early as 1675, with the meeting house having been built pretty much at the same time the community emigrated in 1729. We often forget that Scots settled in parts of Ireland beyond Ulster. This website gives the following description –

This distinctive building is the oldest surviving Presbyterian meeting house in continual use outside of Ulster, and is in use by the oldest Presbyterian congregation in the midlands. It is a highly unusual structure to encounter in the Irish midlands, being of a type that is more commonly found in the north of the island (this meeting house at Corboy is similar in appearance to a meeting house at Dunmurry in Antrim for example). It survives in good condition, retaining its early form and character. 

The congregation’s minister was a Rev. Joseph Bond, who wrote this ‘Christian passport’ for Charles Clinton and his wife Elizabeth, who had married in 1721, to take with them to America:

"Whereas the bearer, Mr. Charles Clinton, and his wife Elizabeth, lived within the bounds of this Protestant dissenting congregation from their infancy, and now design for America; this is to certify, that all along they behaved themselves soberly and inoffensively, and are fit to be received into any Christian congregation where Providence may cast their lot. Also, that said Charles Clinton was a member of our session, and discharged the office of ruling elder very acceptably; this, with advice of session, given at Corbay, in the county of Longford, Ireland.
"JOSEPH BOND, Minister."  

The other surnames in the emigrant group were Armstrong, Denniston and Parks - approximately "some one hundred and sixty of his Presbyterian relations and neighbours from the Longford area” (source here). It is said that Clinton leased his land to the Earl of Granard for 99 years, which raised enough finance for Clinton to fund the emigration.

‘They lived in this vicinity until sometime in the year 1727 or 1728, when the whole connexion growing more and more dissatisfied with the government, resolved to emigrate to the then colony of New York; and as if bound together by the indissoluble ties of consanguinity and friendship, the greatest number of those who had emigrated from the north...'

• From Dublin to Cape Cod to Ulster County
According to Clinton’s account of the voyage, they sailed from Dublin, stopped at Glenarm (where the McClaughry family disembarked), stopped again at Greencastle, and then accompanied another ship, The John of Dublin, for Newcastle in Delaware. Many died on board, some from starvation, one murdered by the captain. Two Clinton children – James (2) and Katherine (4) –  died in a measles epidemic which is said to have killed more than 90 of the passengers.

They first landed at Cape Cod, stayed there for the winter, and then moved to New Windsor in Ulster County (which later, due to county lines changing, was ‘moved’ into Orange County). They bought neighbouring farms and called their community - wait for it - ‘Little Britain’. John Young and Mary Crawford married here, and Thomas came along the year after.

“All through the large district to which the name Little Britain was applied, the great majority of the settlers were Scotch-Irish or English-Irish and nearly all were Presbyterians. Agreeing very generally in their religious views, they were also remarkable for their uniformity of their political convictions…"

Other surnames found in New Windsor most historic buildings still today are Knox, Edmonston, McDowell and Brewster. The records of Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, founded 1729, indicate that Clinton had become an elder there in 1739. In the Indian and French wars of the 1750s, Charles Clinton became a Colonel.

• Vice President George Clinton (1735–1812)
Colonel Charles Clinton’s son George became 4th Vice-President of the USA, serving two terms, under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Unsurprisingly for the son of a one-time Kirk Session member, George Clinton studied under a ‘Scottish clergyman’, according to the website. Other sources identify him as Daniel Thain, a graduate of the University of Aberdeen 'who afterwards became a highly respected minister of the gospel’.  A grandson - De Witt Clinton – published a brief narrative genealogy of the family.

• Tea Party Mastermind
Thomas Young was taught to read by his grandmother Jane, and taught maths by his father. But he lost his Presbyterianism early in life and became a noted Deist, a belief common to many of America’s founding fathers. He came up with the idea of the Boston Tea Party (see here). He is also said to have been the man who shouted “Overboard with the Tea!” - the only man present not disguised as a Native American Indian. He is also said to have been the ‘brains’ of the Sons of Liberty movement.


• Some of these details are from A Genealogical and Biographical Sketch which was written by Thomas Young’s younger brother Joseph Young, in 1807. It was written to General Henry Knox who was mentioned in a post here recently.

• Further details can be found in History of the Town of New Windsor, Orange County, by Edward M Ruttenber (1911) - see here

• The Outline History of Orange County (1846) also contains some excellent information. It was written by Samuel Watkins Eager, the descendant of a Monaghan man whose family were ‘originally Scotch’ but migrated in 1728 - online here

• Article Reason and Revolution: The Radicalism of Dr. Thomas Young on Jstor here

• Article on tourism website here


(Artwork below is from the Thomas Young Gallery in Boston).

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