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Articles by Stephanie Cruz
Cape Fear Settlement


Sir Robert Heath came to Carolina territory in 1629, but did not make any effort to colonize the area. In 1663 Charles II granted the region to eight proprietors. The region later was divided into two; North Carolina and South Carolina. Cape Fear is located on the coast of North Carolina. In the upper Northwest of Cape Fear River, the Highlanders began to settle as early as 1732. There were reported three Highlander names to be the first settlers; James Innes, William Forbes and Hugh Campbell. Each received a land grant of 640 acres in 1733.

James Innes became the justice of peace in 1734 and Cape Fear rapidly populated over the next forty years. Innes, Forbes and Campbell agreed to transport Highlander families to Cape Fear making Cape Fear majority Highlanders and Gaelic the dominant language.

Many families farmed the land, but there were also numerous other trades, stores, mills, and even a doctor, but Highlanders faced many hardships as well, the climate was tough for them and a lot of people suffered from illness such as “Yellow Fever” and “Malaria.”

There was not a church established so it made weddings and funerals difficult. Duncan Campbell went back to Scotland to request for a “Gaelic speaking” minister to come to Cape Fear. The minister never made it to Cape Fear. Therefore, a minister by the name of Hugh McAden came to Cape Fear, but he did not speak Gaelic and made it difficult for both he and the congregation to communicate.

Over half of Cape Fear was settled by Gaelic speaking Highlanders, which in turn the slaves learned the language. The language was the dominant language until well into the mid nineteenth century. Unfortunately today there is no evidence the language ever existed.

One fourth of Highlanders owned slaves or indentured servants. Innes, Campbell, and Forbes would bring Highlanders who could not obtain land grants to work as indentured servants for those Highland families who had established plantations. There were black slaves who worked right next to indentured servants, so the slaves learned Gaelic. There was an account by Charles W. Dunn of a Highland Lady who had just landed on the shores of Cape Fear;

So she disembarked at the wharf, she was delighted to hear two men conversing in Gaelic. Assuming by their speech that they must inevitably be Highlanders, she came near, only to discover that their skin was black. She knew her worst foreboding about the climate of the South was not unfounded and cried in horror. “A Dhia nan fras, am fas sinn vile, mar sinn?” (O God of mercy, are we well going to turn black like that?)

Last but not least, our famous Jacobite, Flora McDonald came to Cape Fear and lived in Cameron’s Hill, she attended Barbeque Church, but her stay was short due to her husband being arrested for being a Loyalist on the brink of the Revolutionary War. Flora and her children went back to Scotland.

Written by Stephanie Cruz
Taken from The Highlander Scots of North Carolina 1732-1776 By Duane Meyer


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