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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - October/November 2003

An event at the SDFA tent at Grandfather Mountain Highland Games sparked the intent to write this issue's article on the District of Nithsdale.  Vice-President, Jeff McDaris, was assisting at one point with the people looking up names in the clan sept lists and in the Tartan for Me book by Philip Smith when a couple stepped up and said that they were told they were associated with the Nithsdale District.  So he took them off to the side to talk to them about Nithsdale, so that I could help the next people in line (we had several people lined up looking for assistance at that point).  The next couple also had ties to the Nithsdale District so I had them sit with Jeff and the other couple while I went on to the next people in line.  To make a long story short these couples were associated with Nithsdale through the same name (Mullikin).  Both men (one from South Carolina and one from Maryland) knew their genealogy and in their discussions with Jeff discovered that their ancestors were two brothers who lived in Maryland together and had actually come from the Nithsdale area to the U.S.   Philip Mullikin wrote the following in an email after the Games.   "Here is what I know about Mullikins. (all of it was researched by someone else).  James Mulikin came from Blackmyre estate in Nithdale first. Patrick came several years later. Some research shows them to be brothers. In other research they are distant relatives. I think that they were brothers, and that there were two Patrick Mullikin's.  If not then he made at least two maybe three Atlantic crossings, which would be unlikely.  Anyway, for those not familiar with MD the state is divided in half by the Chesapeake Bay.  The half east of the bay is called the Eastern shore the other the Western shore  Patrick settled on the Eastern shore, and James on the Western shore.   I am the 10th generation of Patrick Mullikin.  Lee Powers, the man I met at the booth, is the 11th generation of James. " 

Nithsdale in southwestern Scotland, meaning "valley of the new river" was occupied by the Maxwells.  The 10th Lord Maxwell became the Earl of Nithsdale when he surrendered the title of Morton, which had been given to them after the execution of the regent, Morton.  There were apparently only 8 Earls of Nithsdale (they held the title less than a century - from 1620 to 1716), all Catholic, and whose support vacillated from the English to the Jacobites.  The story of the rescue of the fifth Earl of Nithsdale, William, by his wife from the Tower of London the day before his execution is very well known.  He had been jailed and sentenced to death for his part in the Jacobite rebellion.  The Countess confused the guards with a 'flurry' of women attending her in to see her husband and departing with her.  The guards paid no mind, apparently, to her final departure with the Earl disguised as a woman.  They did not realize that one more woman came out of the room than had gone in.

The Earls of Nithsdale intermarried twice into the House of Traquair.  Charles married Lady Mary Maxwell, who was the daughter of the 4th Earl of Nithsdale.  A generation later, Catherine Stuart, daughter of the 6th Earl of Nithsdale, married the Earl of Traquair.

The geography of Nithsdale is varied, with sandy low areas where the Nith, which is a 50 mile long tidal river, empties into the Solway Firth to forests and hills in its northern area.

Dumfries is situated on the Nith.  It is very near here that Robert the Bruce killed the Red Comyn, removing a rival for the position of King of Scotland.  The fact that he killed the Red Comyn is not as much disliked as the fact that he did it on church grounds at the Church of the Minorite Friars where the Red Comyn should have been safe on 'holy ground'.  Dumfries was also the final home of Robert burns.  He built Ellisland Farm near there. This farm exists today with a museum dedicated to him.

Nithsdale is also known for the fact that Annie Laurie, who was made famous by Willliam Douglas song of that name, lived there.  Additionally John Paul Jones was born in the village of Kirkbean in the area and the bicycle was invented at Keir Mill.

Article by Judith Lloyd

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