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The Scotch-Irish in America
Chapter 3


As already said, a strong stream of Scotch-Irish emigration flowed over the Alleghenies into southwestern Pennsylvania before the Revolutionary War. During the continuance of that war, it slackened somewhat, as the times were troublous, and men's minds were full of doubt. Besides, owing to the dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia as to which had jurisdiction over that territory, titles were very uncertain. But as the war drew to a close, and particularly, immediately after its close, the flow greatly increased, and within a very few years large numbers of these people followed their friends over the mountains. Many of them had been soldiers in the war, and came out to locate their land warrants. It is hardly too much to say that they were the pick of their people. They exhibited in an intensified degree the typical traits of their race. They were venturesome, fearless, hungry for good land, and bound to get on in the world; not learned in the schools as a rule, but clear-eyed, level-headed, with what one might call, enormous common sense, practical sagacity and understanding of the times; deeply serious, even stern in their piety; resolute and unfaltering in their belief of the gospel of our Lord as expounded by John Calvin and John Knox; not underestimating the difficulties in their way and the dangers that beset them, and yet not in the least intimidated by them, nor by the certainty of hard toil, severe privations and manifold perils in their front, these were the people who redeemed southwestern Pennsylvania from the wilderness and the savage. They pushed out boldly to the extreme frontier and plunged into the deep forest, where there were no settlements, no clearings, no roads, no conveniences, where nature was utterly wild and the woods swarming with savages. They were the buffer between the Indians in front, and the Quaker and German who crept along quietly in the rear, and who thus saved their hands from rough toil and their hides from being punctured with arrors by keeping well in the background. These were quite content to follow softly in the rear and take quiet possession of lands that braver men had to fight for. What wonder that these hardy pioneers should have had so hearty a contempt for the stolid "Pennsylvania Dutchman," and sleek and oily Quaker? They reasoned that if nobody but these and their like had come to the country, it would have continued to be a howling wilderness. The Quakers did not like the Scotch-Irish, and no doubt the feeling was reciprocated with interest. Col. M'Clure says, "The Quakers wanted the Scotch-Irish immigration stopped, and sent a petition to the council of Pennsylvania asking for this, and declaring that these Scotch-Irish were a pernicious and pugnacious people." The Quakers provoked warfare, and then left the Scotch-Irish to fight it out. They would go among the Indians and trade with them, giving them firearms with which to kill the Scotch-Irish, who settled many counties on the border simply because they wanted to get away from the Quakers. The Quakers complained that the Scotch-Irish wanted to dominate everything round them. Well, of course they did. There never was a Scotch-Irish community anywhere that did not want to dominate everything round about it. They dominated simply because in the nature of things it could not be otherwise.

These southwestern settlements for a number of years, had much trouble with the Indians. Even after they had been driven across the Ohio, the Indians made frequent return forays, burning the cabins, laying waste the settlements, and massacring the people. I have heard my grandfather tell of such an invasion as late as 1784, when within a few miles of the present city of Pittsburgh, the whole country was devastated by a sudden incursion of savages. He was a little fellow of five, and, with his two elder sisters and three little cousins, was playing in the edge of the clearing, while the parents were scutching flax across a ravine. The Indians broke from the woods, barbarously tomahawked two of his little cousins, and took their sister, a girl of fifteen, prisoner, while he and his sisters by swift flight escaped. The poor girl was kept in captivity, taken to Canada, there redeemed, brought back to Philadelphia and turned loose to find her way home across the mountains as best she could. She reached home after an absence of three years. As places of refuge in times of danger, large block-houses were built at various points, into which the settlers could run when the Indians made a foray, and there the women and children were safe, while the men went out to fight the savages off. Yet despite all these hardships and perils the people stuck to their clearings, and their posterity are there today. Probably there is no other section of this country which for a century and a third has been so completely dominated by this race as has the region round Pittsburgh, including that great city itself. Judge Chambers, a high authority, says, "The great district of Pennsylvania for the development of the Scotch-Irish character, in its energies, and enterprises, religious and moral principles, as well its educational tendencies and usefulness, was southwestern Pennsylvania." They took that region at the beginning, and their image and superscription are on it to-day. The city of Pittsburgh, with all its mighty and world-embracing industries, carries most clearly to-day the type given it by its Scotch-Irish founders. Its standing as a city of solid wealth, of commercial integrity, of vast but sane and substantial enterprise, is surpassed by no other city on the continent or in the world. Its banks seldom break, its great merchants do not fail, its huge mills, factories and other immense industries very rarely fall into bankruptcy. To an unusual extent, the business remains in the family, and things pass on from sire to son without change, except in growth and scope, the same in principle, policy and method. That city and its immediate environs make up a community which is not surpassed on the continent in those things which are essential to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of any community. The like is true of the entire region round about. True enough, within the last few years, there has been a fearful invasion of aliens and foreigners, many of them of the vilest class, who have brought a new and very great peril to all that is most valuable and precious, but it still remains true that in the homes, the churches, the schools, the business methods, the social customs, the individual characteristics, the very vernacular and provincialisms of the substantial and really governing classes, the type so deeply set a century and more ago, is still distinctly marked. That section of Pennsylvania is one of extraordinary natural resources, and while our fathers did not know half the truth, they knew enough to satisfy them that the land was well worth holding. When they invaded it they found a broken country, made up of hills and valleys, and wholly covered with magnificent forests of hard wood, at that time of no value to them, but only a fearful incumbrance; extremely fertile soil, underlaid with stratum on stratum of sandstone and limestone rock; beneath that, immense treasures of coal; still lower, vast reservoirs of natural gas and oil; a land abounding in springs, brooks, creeks and rivers. Of course they did not see all its treasures, but they saw enough to make them determined to seize and hold it.

I select that section of the country, especially Washington county, as a sample of a large community from the first dominated by the Scotch-Irish, and where the idiosyncrasies of this race, personal, social, educational, industrial, political, and especially religious, are exhibited, and for more than a century have been exhibited, more strikingly than in any other populous section of this land. What is true of that section is true of every other where these people have settled and remained in sufficient numbers to secure control of things. And they do not require a majority to gain control, for they make up in force what they lack in numbers.

These people have invariably given a decided and characteristic type to every section in which they have been dominant, and that type is a reproduction of the one so strongly set in Washington county, Pennsylvania. Hence in describing this race in that county, I am describing it wherever it is found in force. The mines and other great industries have of late years drawn to that section a horde of ignorant, debased and reckless people, alien in race, religion, habits and ethical ideas, with their lawlessness, debauchery and crime, and already they have worked great changes in the conditions that formerly existed. It is to be hoped, however, that there is stamina enough left in the posterity of our forefathers to beat back this peril, and to preserve to that community the type it has so long borne.


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