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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2005
Ulster Roots

"An Almost Total Emigration"
by Richard K. MacMaster

            Driving down the main road from Omagh to Derry last summer I saw the small hamlet of Tullywhisker, Co. Tyrone and a sign pointing to it.  Tullywhisker and Whisker Hill are near Strabane.  In the early 1770s so many families there had planned to leave for South Carolina that they advertised for a ship to take them to America.  Is there a community somewhere in the Carolinas settled from Tullywhisker?

            The story of the "near 400 passengers" who sailed with the Rev. William Martin in October 1772 for South Carolina is well-known.  Many of them came from the section of Co. Antrim between Ballymena and Larne.

            Were there other migrations that came close to emptying a rural neighborhood of its people?  Three adjoining parishes near Coleraine in Co. Londonderry were once the location of "an almost total emigration" to America.

Scotch-Irish migration from Ulster to the American Colonies began in 1717-1718 with something like a mass movement from parts of Co. Londonderry.  Some went to South Carolina and Pennsylvania, but most of them settled in New Hampshire and Maine.  Several groups were led by Presbyterian ministers. This pattern sometimes recurred.

The London Livery Companies, as is well known, received grants of much of  present Co. Londonderry at the time of the Plantation. In later years, they generally arranged for a single chief tenant to take the company's entire "Proportion" on a 40 or 50 year lease and then sublet to other tenants.

In 1802 Robert Slade, Secretary of the Irish Society [the corporate body for all of the Livery Companies with Co. Londonderry lands], inspected the different estates, publishing his report as "Narrative of a Journey to the North of  Ireland in 1802." It was reprinted in A Concise View of the Origin, Constitution and Proceedings . . . of The Irish Society, (London, 1842), cci-ccxvi.  Slade noted (pp. ccxii-ccxiii) that the territory from Down Hill to Coleraine was part of the Clothworkers' Proportion, which had been held by the late Rt. Hon. Richard Jackson, general agent for the Irish Society. The Clothworkers Proportion comprised the civil parishes of Killowen, Dunboe and Macosquin.

He went on to report that Jackson "raised the rents of the tenants very considerably in consequence of the large fine he paid, it produced an almost total emigration among them to America, and that they formed a principal part of that undisciplined body which brought about the surrender of the British army at Saratoga."  The mention of Saratoga, rather than King's Mountain or Washington's army in general, suggests that these emigrants went to New Hampshire or western Massachusetts - so "the total emigration" must have been in 1718 when Rev. James McGregor and members of his Aghadowey congregation went to Londonderry, NH. [Aghadowey is in the Ironworkers Proportion, which bordered the Clothworkers estate.]

Thus Richard Jackson is generally considered to have sparked Ulster emigration to America by raising rents on the Clothworkers estate in 1717. R.J. Dickson (in his classic Ulster Emigration to Colonial America (London, 1966, Belfast, 1996), 29) demonstrated that Jackson did indeed raise rents on farms in 17 townlands from an annual rent of 200 pounds 10 shillings to 234 pounds 10 shillings for all 17 townlands. Spread over 17 townlands this would be 2 pounds per townland and only a shilling or two for each individual holding. He also quoted Robert Slade's comment that this provoked "an almost total emigration."

Recently I was reading James Stevens Curl's massive The Londonderry Plantation 1609-1914 (Chichester, Sussex, 1986) pp. 381-384.   I learned from this book that the Jackson family held the Clothworkers Proportion from 1663 and that Captain William Jackson's lease ran for 51 years from 1669 to 1720.  Richard Jackson (his son? grandson?) had the estate before this lease ran out. For some reason he did not renew it until 1727, when he paid a fine (charge for a new lease) of 5,750 pounds and agreed to an annual rental of just 100 pounds for a lease from 1720 to 1771.  Curl repeats the standard understanding that Jackson was obliged to raise rents, resulting in "an almost total emigration." The fine would have been substantial, but it was not paid until ten years after Jackson raised rents in 1717. In this case, the new lease would have contributed to the heavy Scotch-Irish emigration around 1729.

But in 1770 Richard Jackson negotiated a new lease on the Clothworkers estate, which obligated him to "the colossal fine of 28,900 pounds" and an annual rental of 600 pounds. With the large increase in both fine and annual rent, wouldn't Jackson have again raised rents? Let's look again at Robert Slade's "an almost total emigration" comment. The demand for higher rents was made by "the late Rt. Hon. Richard Jackson," who had evidently died a few years earlier. This is certainly the man who made the 1770 lease agreement - who may well be the same Richard Jackson who made the 1727 agreement. But if there were two men of the same name, this must be the younger one.

The emigrants from the Clothworkers Proportion themselves (not their children or grandchildren) "formed a principal part of that undisciplined body which brought about the surrender of the British army at Saratoga." Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga in 1777 fully 60 years after the 1717 increase in rent. Even if the men at Saratoga were carried as babes in arms in 1718, Stark's New Hampshire militia would have been made up exclusively of men over 60 years of age - which of course it wasn't.  The only spanner in my argument is Slade's claim that men from Dunboe, Macosquin and Killowen forced the British army to surrender at Saratoga. I'd suggest that Slade's informants simply picked out a well-known American victory to illustrate the importance of this Scotch-Irish emigration to Washington's army. They unintentionally directed subsequent writers to New Hampshire and consequently to 1718.

Folk memory of a massive exodus about 30 years ago would still be strong, more than it would be about an event nearly 100 years earlier.  So we have (I believe) "an almost total emigration" from the Clothworkers Proportion in 1770-1773 who may have gone anywhere in the Colonies before enlisting in Washington's army at the outbreak of the Revolution.

Were your ancestors among them? There are no church records for this area in the 18th century, but Curl's research indicates considerable estate papers are still extant in London. Perhaps someone will look into the families from Macosquin, Killowen and Dunboe who left Richard Jackson's estate.

Return to February/March 2005 magazine


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