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History of Ryegate, Vermont
Chapter VIII


WE have mentioned that most of the early settlers of Ryegate, and of Barnet as well, came from the west of Scotland, and from portions of the shires of Renfrew, Stirling, Dunbarton and Lanark, from parishes and hamlets of which Inchinnan is a center. Two volumes published near the end of the 18th century give much information concerning most of these localities, which, supplemented by later authorities, and personal information from some persons who have lately visited them, we gather a few particulars which will interest those whose ancestors came from any of them.

In 1782, Mr. William Semple issued at Paisley a new and enlarged edition of a descriptive and biographical work upon these counties, which had been published many years before by George Crawford. In 1792, a Mr. Heron, who seems to have been a very observing man, with a wide experience which renders his observations not only descriptive but comparative, published the narrative of his journey through the west of Scotland and made some remarks upon many places and institutions.

Of Inchinnan, whence came David Allan, Alexander Miller, the White-hills and others, we have already spoken at some length. Newmains, Gateside, Rashilie, Broomlands, Braehead, and others are the names of farms in that parish which they have borne for centuries. Rev. Archibald Davidson was minister of the parish from 1761, till he demitted the charge in 1786, to become principal of the University of Glasgow, where he died in 1803. Several of our early settlers were married by him, and he baptized their children who were born in Scotland. Dr. Davidson published a volume of sermons, copies of which are probably preserved here. He was eminent in the Church of Scotland in his time.

Mr. McClelland gives the names of the elders of the congregation of Inchinnan from 1722 to 1816, among whom are some familiar names: Alexr. Stewart, Alexr. Park, David Allan, Duncan McKeith, James and John Fulton, William and John Gibson, John Duncan, and several named Smith. A tombstone in the churchyard records that David Smith "performed the duties of an elder in the Parish of Inchinnan for 70 years." "On the 3d of February, 1685, James Algie and John Park were hanged at the Cross of Paisley for refusing to take the Test and Oath of Abjuration." [Church and Parish of Inchinnan, p. 18.]

From Erskine, which adjoins Inchinnan on the west, came Hugh Gardner, Edward Miller, John Ritchie, William and James Neilson, and others. The lands of Erskine, says Crawford, were the most ancient possessions of the family which assumed that surname, and afterwards become Lords Erskine and Earls of Mar. In 1638, it was sold by the Earl of Mar to Sir John Hamilton, from whom it was purchased in 1703, by the Blantyre family, which is now extinct. The manor house of Erskine, anciently the seat of the Earls of Mar, and called, in 1782, one of the finest mansions in Scotland, was replaced about 1820, by a more modern structure, upon another site. Lord Blantyre, whom we have mentioned before, was patron of the parish in 1773, and Rev. Walter Young, who succeeded Rev. James Lundie in 1769, was minister for many years. He corresponded during his life with his old parishoners who had settled among the Vermont hills, and Mr. Mason records that a very affectionate letter from him was read to the Ryegate congregation, congratulating them upon the settlement of Rev. David Goodwillie. Glenshinnock, Kitts, Langhaugh and others are hamlets and farm-steadings in Erskine, whose principal village in 1782, contained but thirteen houses.

On the other side of the Clyde from Inchinnan lies Old Kilpatrick, now an important place. Part of it is hilly and picturesque, but along the river the land is level. This parish is in Dunbartonshire, and is said to have been the birthplace of Saint Patrick, the tutelar saint of Ireland. Andrew and Robert Brock came from this parish, their birthplace being a small hamlet called Barns of Clyde. Kilpatrick contained several small hamlets in 1782. The old Roman wall of Antonious passes through this parish, which is rich in beautiful scenery, especially, along the Kelvin, famous in Scottish song. This place must not be confounded with New Kilpatrick which is in Renfrewshire, whence came the Robens and others.

From Baldernock, on the south border of Stirlingshire, the Kelvin forming its southern boundary, came William, Walter, and Andrew Buchanan, the Wylie family, and Walter Buchanan of Newbury. The parish church of Baldernock, one of the oldest in Scotland, has been replaced by a modern edifice. A curious feature of this old kirk was a tower erected for the use of a watchman employed to guard the church-yard from the robbers of graves. Rev. James Cowper was minister there in 1801, and James Duncan its session clerk more than fifty years. A small hamlet in this parish is called Barochan Mills. The remains of some curious structures, which are older than history, and are believed to be the work of the Druids, are in this parish.

From Kilmalcolm, in the lower ward of Renfrew, which lay, a century ago, on the great road from Paisley to Greenock, came John Holmes, James Caldwell, William Warden, and others. Part of it is described by Crawford as bleak and barren land, and part as excellent pasture. The patron of Renfrew, in 1782, was the Earl of Glencairn. The village contained about fifty houses.

Several individuals came from Leshmahago, a very large parish, containing six villages, in 1782. The falls of the Clyde are along the borders of the town. The village of Abbey Green is built around the site of an old monastery, which dates from the 6th century. The ruins of the castle in which Queen Mary slept the night before the battle of Langside, are in this parish.

From Elderslie, celebrated in Scottish history as the birthplace of Sir William Wallace, came John Gray of Ryegate, and Robert Fulton of Newbury. A small hamlet, called Brigg o’Johnstone, where a bridge spans the Black Cart, had but ten residents in 1781, but cotton manufacturing being established there, it had grown rapidly in 1792. Johnstone adjoins Paisley on the west, and from here came Alexander Cochran and the Gibsons.

Houston and Kilallan were separate parishes till 1760, when they were united under the former name. Rev. Robert Carrick was minister of Houston, and Rev. John Monteith of Kilallan. The former died in 1771, and Mr. Monteith became minister of both parishes. Church certificates, in both Ryegate and Barnet, are signed by these ministers.

Several who settled in this county came from Renfrew, which is two miles north of Paisley, and a royal burgh of great antiquity. The barony of Renfrew was the first possession of the Stewart family in Scotland, and gives the title of Baron Renfrew to the Prince of Wales. In 1782, it contained about 200 houses, most of which lay along a single street, with a few short lanes. Mr. Patrick Simpson was minister of Renfrew at that time, and had been longer in office than any other Presbyterian minister in Scotland. In Renfrew are Yocker, Scotstown and Gordonhill, which had very fertile soil in 1782.

Several who settled in both Ryegate and Barnet came from Kilbarchan, of which Mr. Heron in 1792, gives rather an unpleasing picture. The village contained about 1500 inhabitants, who were mostly weavers, and very poor, as drinking was universal. On the tenant farms the houses were almost uniformly covered with thatch, and it was not uncommon for a farmer and his cattle to come in and go out at the same door, and to lie under the same roof, but at different ends of the house. Kilbarchan is now a prosperous town, and doubtless all these survivals of an earlier day have long disappeared.

Lochwinnock, whence came John Hunter, Walter Brock and others, is the name of a lake, and of a parish as well. The former is very beautiful, and surrounded by highly cultivated land. The village was inhabited chiefly by weavers.

Several of the signers of the Bond of Association were from the parish of Govan, of whom only John Scot of Hillsheadholm and James Whitelaw. of Whiteinch, in Old Monkland, came to Ryegate. Govan is now a great ship-building place.

From Paisley came the Renfrews, James Esden, John Park, the Orrs, James McKinley and others. Paisley lies on both sides of the Black Cart, three miles from its junction with the Clyde. The old part of the town, called the Barony Parish, is on rising ground, on the west bank, while the new town is built on the level land to the east, on lands which formerly belonged to the Abbey of Paisley. The buildings inhabited by the monks are all gone, but the nave of the Abbey church remains entire, and has been fitted up for a place of worship, and in the cemetery around it lie many Gibsons, Renfrews, Gardners, and others, early representatives of the same names in Ryegate, their gravestones lying flat upon the ground.

Mr. Heron in 1792 says, "The highway from Paisley to Glasgow led through a highly cultivated country, villas, gardens and decorated fields covering its whole face, with hardly a cottage to be seen, and this has been from ancient time one of the most highly cultivated districts in all Scotland." Just outside of Glasgow he came upon one of the first developments of a power destined to revolutionize the manufactures of Great -Britain, which he mentions thus: "Near Glasgow a cotton work was pointed out to me, the machinery of which was wrought by steam. It is impossible to conjecture how far human ingenuity may yet advance!"

Of Glasgow so much has been written that no particular description need be given. It is notable that in 1773, Dr. Johnson made his celèbrated "Tour to the Hebrides," and describes some of the prominent features of the city. Several settlers of both Ryegate and Barnet came from Glasgow, and one member of the Company, John Gardner, a mathematical instument maker, constructed for James Whitelaw the surveyor’s compass long used by him, now preserved in the capitol at Montpelier.

Both the publications we have cited speak of the emigration to America from the parishes we have mentioned, as having attained alarming proportions, and that the prosperity of Glasgow depended largely upon the American trade. The effects of the revolutionary war had been disastrous in Glasgow, but commerce was reviving in 1782 and its volume had almost doubled, ten years later. A great many business houses had been established in America, managed by a brother, son, clerk or partner of the Glasgow house.

From Balfron, in Stirlingshire, about eighteen miles northwest from Glasgow, came James Henderson, William Nelson, 2d, the Gilfillans of Barnet, and others, and its description from the pen of Hon J. B. Gilfillan of Minnesota, who has lately visited it, differs very little from that of George Crawford, a century and a half ago. "Balfron lies in the region of Strathendrick, or valley of the Endrick, a river somewhat smaller than the Passumpsic, flowing through the bottom of the valley, and emptying into Loch Lomond. It is a village of eight or nine hundred inhabitants, lying on the northerly slope of the valley, overlooking much of it on both sides. Both slopes of the valley are much extended, picturesque and beautiful, the landscape being made up of field, forest, and farm house. Balliwickan castle and grounds are near the village. The present kirk of Balfron has been built within a century, and in the kirk-yard are found the names of many Gilfillans, Hendersons, Bachops, and others."

Near Balfron, in the valley of the Endrick, lie Buchanan, Kilmarnock, and Drymen, whence came many Ryegate and Barnet people.

From Gargunnock, in the north part of Stirlingshire, adjoining Balfron, came Col. Alexander Harvey, and others of Barnet. This is a very picturesque parish, lying on the Forth, which is here remarkably sinuous.

The Leitch and Ritchie families originated at Roseneath, a most beautiful place on Gairloch, the Firth of Clyde and Loch Long.

It has been stated in more than one publication that the Scotch element in Newbury was an overflow from the Ryegate colony. That the Scotch who settled in Newbury were attracted there by its proximity to the settlement of their countrymen is probable, but the fact remains that nearly all in that town came from Fifeshire, on the east coast of Scotland, and most of them from the neighborhood of Markinch. The Goodwillies were the only prominent family in Ryegate or Barnet, which originated in Fife.

A journey through those portions of Scotland, whence our colonists came, would take us among some of the most interesting scenes of a land where, upon every hill and valley, glows the light of history and song. There is no more attractive section in Great Britain, and we may wonder how people could bring themselves to leave it for the wilderness of North America.

A very few sentences taken here and there from the works which we have cited, explain much of this:

"Lace-making," says Mr. Semple, in 1792, "is much carried on at Renfrew, and girls are apprenticed to learn the work. Many of them are taken from hospitals and other establishments for the care of destitute children. It requires three or four years to learn the work, and when learned one may earn 10d, or one shilling a day." "In a return made some years ago of the rates of wages paid agricultural laborers in the different counties of Great Britain and Ireland, it was found that Renfrewshire men were the highest paid. The wages for out-workers in 1792, were one shilling per week in winter, and five shillings in summer. Wages for servants are £9 per year for men, and £4 for women. In 1772, they were just one-half those sums."

No wonder that men and women in those highly favored localities turned their thoughts toward emigration, but it is probable that comparatively few of those who contemplated the change were able to surmount the difficulties attending it. It was not easy to sever the ties which bound them to their native land, and not a few turned back at the last moment.

The expense of the voyage to America, in those days, varied as widely as now. The newspapers of the time, in Glasgow, and other seaports, contain advertisements of ships about to sail for American ports, and refer the inquirer to the captain, or the owners, for information, as to rates of passage. . It would seem that people made individual bargains for their conveyance. The young men, usually, worked their way as common seamen. Few, probably, could pay for a cabin passage; most went in the steerage, which, in the best of weather, must have been dismal enough. In storms the hatches were battened down, and the emigrants had, for days, no light or fresh air. Six weeks was a quick passage, which calms or contrary winds sometimes stretched to six months. Only the young and hardy attempted the voyage, and the records of. some of our families give, after a name— "Died on the passage to America." Some contracted ship fever, from which they never entirely recovered.

The journal of Rev. David Sutherland of Bath, in his voyage to America in June-August, 1803, gives some interesting particulars. The passage occupied eleven weeks, in which there were eleven days of calm, when they made no progress; thirteen days of head winds, when .they were driven out of their course; eight of fog, and seven of violent tempest, leaving only about forty days of favorable weather. Yet the voyage was considered a very good one. We can only imagine what a fearful thing a winter passage must have been. Most of the emigrants, in after life, remembered the voyage with little pleasure. When the subject of laying a telegraph cable between England and America was first contemplated, two elderly Scotch people in Newbury were discussing the idea, and one said, "Mr. Ross, you and I, who have crossed the ocean, know that such a thing canna be!"

Mrs. John Barron, who lived on the river road, in Bradford, used to relate how the Scotch people, on the way to Ryegate and Barnet, used to stop to rest at her house, men, women and children, and of their insatiable thirst for buttermilk.

Their ports of landing were, usually, Portsmouth, Newburyport, Boston, and New York. Later emigrants came to Hartford, completing the journey on foot, sending their goods by boat.

Col. William Wallace kept tavern in Newbury, and never failed to welcome his country folk with a bountiful meal, and other creature comforts, while all were sure of rest and rejoicing at the end of their long journey.

We do not know how many emigrants left Scotland for Ryegate in the earlier years, or the number who finally reached here. In the letters written to Scotland by James Whitelaw from 1773 to 1800, he mentions many names not given by Mr. Mason or Mr. Miller as residents, and his correspondents in Scotland mention several persons as having left the country for Ryegate. Of Hugh Gemmell and family, Patrick Reid and sons, George Oswald, William and James Wilson, who were among those that came here we know little or nothing.

In 1824, Gen. Whitelaw prepared an account of Ryegate for Thompson’s Gazetteer, in which he says that in 1775 sixty persons left Scotland for Ryegate, at one time, and reached Boston just before the battle of Bunker Hill. Only one of the company—Elizabeth Shields who married James Smith—was allowed to proceed on her journey, the rest were detained in Boston by General Gage, who gave them their choice—to join the British Army, go to Nova Scotia, or return to Scotland. Most returned to Scotland; a few went to Nova Scotia, of whom only two, John and Robert Hall, are known to have, many years later, come to Ryegate. Letters written from Scotland about that time give the names of some of them—William Bowie and family, James McBride and wife, Thomas Halley, William Tassie and sons.

Mr. Mason, in one of his sketches, contrasting the portions of Scotland which we have described, whence the Ryegate colonists came, with the untamed wilderness which lay before them here, almost wonders that they did not give up the task in despair and go back to their native land. There were, no doubt, some misgivings, when they contemplated what must be done before the dense forest could give place to fruitful farms, but they had not come here just to go back again. In their journey from the seaports where they had disembarked, they had passed through portions of New England where they could observe the successive advances of civilization into the wilderness. In 1773, the older portions of the country had been settled as long as Ryegate has been settled now. As they advanced into the interior they would be informed that periods of peace with the Indians were marked by wide areas of new settlements. In the older places the country and its dwellings had the aspect of long established communities. As they proceeded, the country became new and newer, till they came to Newbury and Haverhill, whose remarkable advance had been the work of only ten years. They found there a condition which had surprised the commissioners, where people seemed to have an abundance of the necessaries of life, and lived in a state of plenty which they had not known in Scotland. What Yankee grit had done in Newbury, Scotch grit could do in Ryegate, and they bent their minds and bodies to the task before them.

Some of the young men who came to this town worked for awhile near the sea coast, or among their countrymen in the vicinity of Londonderry, N. H. Others worked for a season or two in Newbury or Haver-hill and earned money to pay for their land, or took their pay in cattle or sheep with which to begin farming for themselves. Meantime they learned Yankee ways. It will be remembered that only part of those who settled here were members of the Company, and thus entitled to shares of the land; the others were outsiders who purchased land where they could get it.

If the whole territory of Ryegate was now covered with such a forest as clothed its hills in 1773, the lumber would be worth more than the assessed value of the real estate and personal property now in the town. Such has been the rise in value of a product then considered as an incubus, to be disposed of in the easiest way.

No one could have foreseen then, or predicted the changes which time was to bring. Many farms were cleared in Ryegate, on which there were once happy homes, surrounded by fields where men worked; firesides around which the household gathered; where the father "took the Book"; whence the evening psalm and the evening prayer ascended; and, later, the stars and the hills watched over the sleeping farm house, where there is now only a cellar with a few apple trees keeping guard over it and broken walls show where once were well tilled fields. The old people went to their long rest; the younger ones scattered; the farm sold; the buildings went to decay. Many such the sad memories of the older people recall.

It has been often suggested that Whitelaw and Allan might have selected a better location than Ryegate for their colony, and their reasons given for their choice have seemed inadequate to many. It is easy, in the light of subsequent events, to criticize the actions of people so long ago, but it seems to us that their choice was a prudent one. It must be remembered, that in 1773, only a narrow strip along the eastern edge of the continent, had been settled. At that time, what is now the great state of Ohio, had not a single English settlement. It would not have been safe to push far beyond the settled parts of the country. The lands in the Mohawk Valley were then the frontier of civilization, and were rich and valuable, but the commissioners did not like the people, and their impressions of the inhabitants are like those recorded in the journal of Gen. Jacob Bayley, of Newbury, and Rev. Henry True, of Hampstead, who passed along the valley in the Old French War.

Had they formed a settlement there, they might have perished in the revolution, as did the settlers of Cherry Valley, a Scotch-Irish colony, in the massacres of 1778.

The commissioners chose Ryegate because it lay in the midst of a country which was rapidly filling up with inhabitants more like themselves than any other which they had visited, and where they felt that the civil and religious ideas, in which they had been trained, would be best preserved.

They were doubtful of this result elsewhere, and doubtful of the influences in other localities. The first settlers of Newbury were a religious people, and had hardly become settled in their log cabins before they had obtained a minister, and stated preaching of the gospel, and the church, organized in 1764, the oldest, but one, in the state, has always been one of the strongest in the Connecticut Valley. The Scotch settlers of Ryegate liked the English settlers of Newbury, the Newbury people liked them, and their minister, Mr. Powers, took them under his pastoral charge, while he remained.

Among the papers of Col. Thomas Johnson, preserved in Newbury, are many letters from the early settlers of Ryegate and Barnet, which indicate the regard and esteem with which the people of the whole valley held these colonists, and we can only consider it as a favorable circumstance that their lot was cast among congenial people. Had they settled in an unfriendly community, with whom they could have had little intercourse, where their religious views had met with opposition, it is certain that dissatisfaction and removals would soon have depopulated the colony.

Other considerations, as well as fertility of soil, mildness of climate, or ease of cultivation, make a place desirable for the residence of people -like the settlers of Ryegate and Barnet.

In a previous chapter we mentioned some of the causes of the emigration from Scotland, which first settled the town. As the years went on, other reasons for leaving the old country contributed to increase the tide. The conscription which attended the wars of Napoleon caused many young men to come to America in order to escape service in the army.

The introduction of spinning machines, and later, of the power loom, threw thousands of weavers and spinners out of employment, many of whom found means to come to this country. But the strongest inducement to emigration was the prosperity of their friends who had been here for some years.

The letters which Mr. Whitelaw received from Scotland, and are preserved, indicate to what an extent the idea of emigration had taken hold of the public mind, and how carefully each point had been considered. His abilities had raised him to a prominent position, and it was with pride that his relatives and friends told that James had become a great man in America. Mechanics, clerks, clergymen, schoolmasters, farmers, men of every sort, rich and poor, wrote to him for advice as to what part of the country the particular calling which each followed, would find the best place for its exercise.

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