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The Scotch-Irish in America
The Scotch-Irish of Pennsylvania. By Ex-Chief Justice Hon. Daniel Agnew, of Beaver, Pa.


Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen—

The settlers of Pennsylvania all have had their memorials written except the Scotch-Irish. The English, Swedes, Germans and Welsh have had earnest friends to collect and preserve the records of their coming, occupancy and acts. Even varieties, the Quakers, Moravians, Huguenots, and others have been sketched and their histories told, but as yet no friendly hand has gathered and garnered the memorials of that hardy race, the Scotch-Irish, which did so much for Pennsylvania in planting cabins, breaking up the virgin soil, and subduing the earth— none has recounted all the hardships endured, the dangers met, the defenses against the red men, and the battles fought for liberty, independence, and free institutions. The men of no nation have done more for permanency and wealth of the state.

The purpose of this brief sketch is not to perform this meritorious work, or to trace the race to early centuries, in search of the causes which formed its character. Be it, that long before John Knox, its virtues began and settled in a strain of men, patriotic, zealous in pure religion, undaunted in courage, fixed in principle, endowed in body, and endued in mind, with strength, vigor, endurance, clearness, and readiness. We know them as they came here.

The province of Ulster in the north of Ireland found them, invited by James the First to settle on the escheated estates of rebel earls, and to improve a country infested by, robbers. They were Protestants, drawn thither by the king to occupy the places theretofore filled by the adherents of the church of Rome. But persecution and distrust setting in, and vexed by burdens and injustice, they fled, and many found homes in Pennsylvania in the early days of its settlement.

Though scarcely tolerated at first, their industry, firm principles, religious convictions, unbounded courage, personal vigor and superior knowledge, made them leaders and impressed their qualities on every soil they occupied. Time has long passed, until now the gray of twilight is settling on all their early events, obscuring them until it is difficult to redeem much from oblivion. Yet something remains, and to rescue it before night has veiled it in darkness, is the duty of those who can lift any part from the gloom of the past. Scotch-Irish societies are forming, and some have met to assist in this work of love. Perhaps among the results of this late activity a partial history will spring from the seeds of investigation, clothe it with verdure, and prevent the memorials of a noble race from dying out and its achievements from being lost to the world.

Hoping to furnish a small contribution to this stock, and to the cultivation of a long deserted field, I pen this short sketch. In the early settlement of the province, the Scotch-Irish were found in the eastern counties in Chester and along the Maryland line, and in Northampton, Lancaster and Northumberland, then filling all the eastern part of the province. Their advent into Northampton was very early, and chiefly in Allen township. Among them are Boyds, Browns, Craigs, Walkers, Kings and McNairs, Hays, Latimore, Wilson, Young, Gibson, Riddle, Armstrong and Gray. Another collocation, known as the "hunter settlement," located near the mouth of Martin's creek.

But the German emigration from the Palatinates on the Rhine, beginning as early as 1700, and continuing into the middle of the century, brought to our shores a race equal in industry, but more local in habits. As this people came the Scotch-Irish gradually retired, inclining westward. A fact aiding this result was the evident unfriendliness of the Quaker proprietaries, who looked upon the Irish more as squatters than colonists. In 1724, James Logan, secretary of the province, said of them: "As they rudely approach me to propose purchase I look upon them as bold and indigent strangers, giving as their excuse, when challenged for titles, that we had solicited for colonists and they had come accordingly."

It is true they often located without pre-emption, but they were bold and hardy, and the very men to meet the privations of the wilderness and stand against the incursions of savage foes.

The following extract from Logan's letter to John Penn, of November 25, 1727, throws light on the subject. He says: "We have many thousands of foreigners, mostly Palatines, so called already in the country, of whom fifteen hundred came in this last summer, many of them surly people, divers papists among them, and the men generally well armed. We have from the north of Ireland great numbers yearly. Eight or nine ships this last fall discharged at New Castle. Both these sets frequently sit down on any spot of vacant land they can find, without asking question. The last Palatines say there will be twice the number next year, and the Irish say the same of their people. Last week one of these latter (the Irish) applied to me in the name of four hundred as he said, who depended all on me for directions where they should settle. They say the proprietor invited people to come and settle his country; they came for that end, and must live. Both they and the Palatines pretend they will buy, but not one in twenty has any thing to pay with. The Irish settle generally towards the Maryland line, where no lands can honestly be sold till the dispute with Lord Baltimore is decided'."

This claim that Penn invited settlers was true, and is evident from Logan's letter; for nothing less could have induced so many to sail from Germany and Ireland.

Many of the Irish settled in Paxton and Donegal townships, then in Lancaster, now in Dauphin county. It was the violent conduct of the "Paxton boys" at Conestoga and Lancaster toward the Indians, which perhaps caused much prejudice to arise against the race. It is difficult now to defend wholly their conduct toward the Indians, yet it must not be forgotten that many of the inhabitants of these townships had been most barbarously killed and scalped by the savages, who were looked upon as implacable foes.

Collisions between the Germans and Scotch-Irish occuring, induced the proprietaries, in 1755, to encourage the Germans to locate in the east, while the Irish went westward.

Among the settlers in Lancaster county were the parents of John C. Calhoun, who lived in Dromore township, but afterward found their way to South Carolina, where the senator was born. Robert Pulton, the inventor of the modern steamboat, was of this stock and born in Lancaster county. Some settled about Marietta and below Columbia.

"The Barrens," as a part of York county was called, contained a large settlement of this people. From York county came Judge Hugh Henry Breckenridge and James Ross, of Pittsburg, Senator Rowan, of Kentucky, and James Smith, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Judge Ellis Lewis also came from this stock. In that part of York, now Adams county, we have the McPhersons, McLellands, Campbells, Allisons, Wilsons, Morrisons, Stewarts, Worrells and others, claiming extraction from the same source.

Gradually this aggressive race made its way up the Juniata and its tributaries, finally crossing the Alleghany mountains. It is said that in 1748, the Kittoctinny valley was well settled by them, and they still pressed westward. The Indians claimed the lands along the Juniata, and complained of their encroachments. This led to measures on the part of the proprietaries to dispossess the Irish. In 1750, Richard Peters, the secretary, made an elaborate report to Governor Hamilton, on the subject of these alleged encroachments and the steps taken to dispossess the settlers, ending in numerous convictions and expulsions.

These proceedings brought to light the names of many of the Scotch-Irish of that day. Among them, George Cahoon, George and William' Galloway, Andreas Lycon, David Huddleson, James and Thomas Parker, Owen McKeeb, William White, John McClure, Richard Kirkpatrick, James Murray, John Scott, John Cowan, Simon Girtee, John Killough, James Blair, Moses Moore, Andrew and Arthur Dunlap, Andrew and Alexander McCartie, David Lewis, Felix Doyle, Robert Baker, John Armstrong and John Potts. At Big Cove were found Andrew Donaldson, John McClelland, Charles Stewart, James Downey, John McMean, Robert Kendall, Samuel Brown, Roger Murphy, Robert Smith, William Dickey, William Milliron, William Cowall, James Campbell, William Carroll, John Martin, John Morrison, John McCallin, James and John Wilson. These names strike me forcibly, as many are names (christian and surname) of persons I knew in my early practice in Beaver county. Doubtless these were descendants. In the proceedings against the Irish many cabins were burned. Hence the name of the "Burnt Cabins" a locality formerly well known.. These troubles led to the treaty of 1754 at Albany, which however was-disputed by the Indians and gave no satisfaction, and Juniata valley, especially its upper portion, became the scene of many Indian incursions and barbarities.

Among the early settlers of the valley was George Woods, once-captured and given to an old Indian, who was unable to control him, and finally consented to let him go. He became a surveyor, finally settling in Bedford. In 1784, he laid out Pittsburg, on one of the manors retained by the Penns, under the order of Tench Francis, their agent and attorney. His son John Woods, became one of Pittsburg's most eminent lawyers, and a daughter married James Ross, also eminent, and a senator of the United States.

Aughwick, a valley looking out upon the Juniata, between 1750 and 1755, brought into notice a remarkable character, Captain Jack, known as the "Black Rifle," or "wild hunter of the Juniata," a giant in stature and strength, active, skillful, brave and familiar with the woods.

Late in an evening of the summer of 1752, returning to his cabin on the Juniata he found it in ruins, and his wife and two children victims of the tomahawk and scalping knife. Prostrated at first, soon desolation gave place to revenge, and raising a small band he pursued the savage marauders of the valley from time to time, like a hound on the panther's track. Many a warrior, overtaken by his merciless and unflagging pursuit, fell before his unerring rifle, and the scalp-lock hung from his girdle. Many whites, too, were saved by him from a dreadful death. The offered services of himself and his band were refused by the foolhardy Braddock, whose disaster followed his ill-timed rejection of it, and of the counsels of Washington. The life of Captain Jack (whose real name seems to be unknown) was the foundation of a historical tale intensely interesting, told by a Pittsburger, the late Charles McKnight. Its leading scenes revolve around Fort Duquesne and the head of the Ohio.

Another man of mark of Scotch-Irish descent came into public view from the same valley, Colonel George Croghan, Indian trader and agent, often employed by the proprietaries. His conferences with the Indians at Logstown in 1751, Fort Pitt in 1759, and Redstone in 1768, and his journals of these events remain as lasting memorials of his strong character and attachment to the province.

Probably the most beautiful valley lying on the Juniata, looking out upon Lewistown and extending many miles westward, is the Kishi-coquillas. A varied scene of sun and shade, prairie and stream, carpeted with grass and flowers, intermingled with trees and shrubs, it was the favorite haunt of the Redmen until reached by the Scotch-Irish, who soon dispossessed its early owners and made it their own. It is celebrated as the early home of Logan, the Mingo chief and white man's friend, but who was afterward found on the Ohio, where all his kindred were murdered by the whites, making him an enemy; and whose speech was made famous by Jefferson, telling the world of his wrongs, and that not a drop of his blood ran in the veins of a single human being.

Among the early Scotch-Irish settlers about Lewistown and westward, were the McClays, McNitts, Milliken, Larking, Wilson, Bratton, and Stockpole. Farther on and nearer Standing Stone (now Huntington), were Elliott, Hayne, Cluggage, McMurtrie, Anderson, Mc-Guire, McElevey, McCormick, Donnelly and others. Still westward were the Caldwells, Tussey, Ricketts, Bell, Travis, Dean, Donaldson, Mitchell and many others.

Besides those on the Juniata, many Scotch-Irish ascended the Susquehanna, and were found in Northumberland county, some around Fort Augusta (now Sunbury). Then, ascending the west branch, they tirade their way westward and northward, facing the hardships of those regions, which were many and cruel. Others found their way into the present counties of Clinton and Centre, and spread over Lycoming. All this region was infested by the northern Indians of the Six Nations, under the influence of the French and then of the English, who came down bringing desolation upon the unprotected settlers, many of whom became victims of the rifle and scalping knife. Especially numerous were these descents during the Revolutionary war. The principal incursion was that of 1778 (known as the "great run away,") when all the settlers of that region fled.

The names of many of the Scotch-Irish of this region are found in the history of Otzinaehison (the name of the west branch valley) and in Mcginises Biographical Annals. Among them are the Armstrongs, Antes, Aliens, Bradys, Brysons, Bairds, Crawfords, Campbells, Camer-ons, Davidsons, Douga's, Elliotts, Fricks, Flemings, Griers, Gambles, Grenoughs, Irwins, Jourdans, McClays, McCormicks, Stewarts, Taggarts, and others.

Crossing the Alleghany mountains and Laurel Hill, the Scotch-Irish spread over Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette, and Allegheny counties; and when the counties west of the Allegheny river were laid off in 1800, they were found already settled there from Beaver to Erie. Even when west of the mountains and dwelling in the valleys running toward the Monongahela and Alleghany rivers, these brave men were still compelled to face the hardships of the wilderness, and the cruel visitations of the Indians. So late as 1782, the valley of Turtle creek was not safe from their barbarous incursions. In Neville B. Craig's "Olden Time," of 1846, is given the narrative of his captivity by James Lyon, then living, and long an honored citizen of Beaver. Taken with his brother when quite young on his father's farm, lying five or six miles from Turtle creek, where the Pittsburg and Greensburg turnpike afterward crossed, his father and sister having been killed and scalped, they were carried into Ohio to a town on White Womans creek, and there compelled to live until restored by the Indians at Fort Mcintosh (now Beaver), and then taken home. A slit in an ear was a momento of his captivity.

In Westmoreland and Allegheny many became eminent, such as Alexander Addison, H. H. Breckenridge, James Ross, John Wood, Colonel Gibson, James O'Hara and others. If any one would see the Scotch-Irish in form and feature let him view them in the portraits of their descendants as seen in the history of Washington county. For example, the portraits of William McLain, Robert Stewart, S. N. Proudfit, Walter Craig, William Smith, Parker Reed, John S. Barr, William Lee, and Samuel Barnard. Personally they were hard visaged, angular, square shouldered, stalwart, and generally large men; rough in exterior, strong minded, religious and even severe in disposition. Warren county, on the New York state line, also furnished a large contingent, who settled on the Conewango and Brokenstraw as early as 1795. Here we discover the names of Miles, Russell, Frew, Marsh, and Jones. Then James Morrison, followed by Barnett, Faulkner, Wilson, Smith, and others. When came the McKenzies, Andrews, Kirks, Kinnear, and Quay.

The event which brought the Scotch-Irish in western Pennsylvania into greatest notoriety was the whisky insurrection of 1794. As a people all had known from experience or tradition the hardships of the excise duty. Among Irishmen of all persuasions, the killing of an exciseman was considered as scarcely a crime. Even the assembly of Pennsylvania, by a resolution of June 22, 1791, declared the collection of revenue by excise duty subversive of peace, liberty, and the rights of the citizen, and a violation of the fundamental rights of the government. At that early day whisky was the only article commanding cash. The person who may be said to have been the leader in this so-called "rebellion" was David Bradford, a lawyer of Washington, Pennsylvania. He was finally compelled to flee at the coming of Washington, Hamilton, and the militia, leaving his papers in the hands of James Allison, Esquire; who afterward settled in Beaver, and became its leading and honored lawyer.

At his death his descendants thought no benefit would arise from their publication, and the contents of the unopened box remain unknown. Perhaps much valuable matter has thus failed to see the light; yet, on the other hand, much unnecessary harm has been saved.

Judge H. H. Breckenridge attended the meetings of the insurgents, but for the purpose, as was alleged, of preventing extreme measures. He was however strongly opposed to the excise law, and expressed the opinion that the danger lay in the western men swarming over the Susquehanna instead of being repressed. This is seen in his letter to Tench Cox, Esquire, of August 8, 1794. Secretary Hamilton, however, excused him, on the plea suggested by Mr. Ross, of his properly intended purpose.

Among the memorable events of the insurrection was the burning of the house of General John Nevelle, the United States inspector and collector of the revenue for western Pennsylvania.

This insurrection, not justified, but in some measure extenuated, by the severity of the excise law, is a striking evidence of the indomitable character of the Scotch-Irish, and of their courage when any measure, believed by them to be hostile to liberty and good government, is attempted to be forced upon them. Indeed, it required the militia of three states, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey, under the command of President Washington in person, accompanied by Secretary Hamilton, to subdue their determined opposition. My grandfather, Major Richard Howell, then governor of New Jersey, commanded the contingent of that state, camping at McNairs, near the present town of Wilkinsburg.

To this race the state owes much of its progress in the West to wealth, civilization, and republican institutions. It was only in the spring of 1796, after General Wayne's treaty with the Indians at Fort Greenville, in August, 1795, and its ratification by the Senate, December 22, 1795, it became safe to cross the Allegheny river for settlement. In the spring of 1796 the settlers, most of them Scotch-Irish, rushed into these western counties in great numbers, and began the work of building, clearing, planting, and cultivating. The mode of doing so was governed by the circumstances, and is to be remembered by their descendants. Armed with a trusty rifle, and carrying on a single horse, his provisions, his ax, an augur, and sometimes a drawing knife and a saw, but without nails, or latches or locks, he felled the trees, built the cabin, and girdled trees for fields. These done he returned to the older settlements for his wife and children, and his means for working the ground and planting his crops. When one considers the wild and tangled woods, the heavy timber, the lair of the bear, wolf, and wild cat, and even of the child-crying panther, and neighbors miles away; the courage, fortitude and privations of these men can scarcely be conceived by their descendants, now living in the comfort and luxuries of the end of the nineteenth century.

In those early days the whisky still was planted beside the spring of pure fountain water, and its product was almost the only means of paying taxes, and purchasing those things that money alone could buy; yet the descendants of these distillers have lived to see a marvelous change, the effect of education and enlightenment. The fact is noticed because it is another evidence of the inflexible principles of this race, when convinced of an evil affecting the public welfare. They voted to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors. It also marks a difference between the two early populations of the state, those coming from Scotland and the north of Ireland, and those from the Palatinates on the Rhine. This difference is well illustrated by the Philadelphia Press (not intentionally) in a map whose white divisions mark the Scotch-Irish counties in western Pennsylvania, and the counties along the New York line, settled largely by them and the Puritans of New England. On the hand the dark surfaces in the map denoted the counties settled by the German Palatines, indicating their customs and traditions. All the western counties and those along the New York line voted for prohibition, except Armstrong, whose opposition majority was but one hundred and seventy-five, in a poll of nearly seven thousand. The large cities were exceptions, of course, for reasons which are obvious.

Another marked feature of this race is seen in its influence on the higher interests of the state. The common school system owes its initiation and progress largely to them, while Palatinate counties stood in the rear. Berks county rejected the system for nearly twenty years. One of the first moves in favor of this system came from N. P. Fetterman, Esquire, who, leaving the office of Baldwin and Fetterman in 1825, went to Bedford to practice law. Soon he was elected to the General Assembly, and in the session of 1830, as chairman made a report on the common school system, which was the incipient step toward the result. Thaddeus Stevens, from the Scotch-Irish county of Adams, carried it onward with his accustomed power.

Having noticed the German emigrants from the Rhine, I would distinguish a different emigration from Germany. Any one who passes out Penn street, Pittsburg, up Ohio street, Allegheny, or along the main street of South Pittsburg, to Birmingham, will notice the signs which denote this numerous immigration. Many are found also in Beaver, Butler, and adjoining counties. This population came in at a late period, beginning in 1830, and continuing several years. In 1820 the population of Pittsburg was under eight thousand, and the foreign was altogether Irish, excepting a few Germans, such as Charles Von Bonnhorst, Charles L. Volz, Anthony Beelen, the Negleys and others. Since 1830, the German element has become influential and important.

The following description of the Scotch-Irish, in the last century, is given by a well-known writer.

"The Scotch-Irish, as they were called, were emigrants from the northern part of the sister kingdom, descendants of the Scotch colonies planted there by Cromwell. They were a hardy, brave, hot headed race, excitable in temper, unrestrainable in passion, invincible in prejudice. Their hand open as impetuously to a friend, as it clenched against an enemy. They loathed the pope, as sincerely as they venerated Calvin and Knox. If often rude and, lawless it was the fault of their position. They hated the Indian while they despised him, and it does not seem, in their dealings with this race, as though there were any sentiments of honor or magnanimity in their bosoms, that could hold sway against the furious tide of passionate, blind resentment. Impatient of restraint, rebellious of any thing that in their eyes bore the resemblance of injustice, we find these men readiest among the ready on the battle fields of the Revolution. If they had faults, a lack of patriotism or of courage was not among them."

Though this description is evidently not by an impartial hand, allowing for abatement, it touches upon the stronger features of the race.

Welcome the day when a master hand shall collect the remains of this people, place them in proper form, and redeem from the ravages of time a memorial to stand a monument to their virtues, high character, independence, and influence.


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