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Pennsylvania - Scotch-Irish Centre

Pennsylvania - Scotch-Irish Centre

From The Scotch-Irish in America by Henry Jones Ford

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Chapter IX.

If one examines the relief map of the United States issued by the Geological Survey, it will appear that the leading position taken by Pennsylvania in Scotch-Irish settlement has a physical basis. In the color scale of the map the tint which indicates elevation from 0 to 100 feet is a narrow fringe in New England, but south of New York it becomes a broad belt, the greatest width being in the Carolinas, where it averages about 75 miles. During the period of colonization there were numerous swamps in this coast belt of low land, abounding with the germs of malarial fever. This belt does not extend into Pennsylvania, and emigrants arriving in that State had immediate access to salubrious uplands. Moreover, in Pennsylvania the Appalachian Range lies farther from the coast than it does north of Pennsylvania, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century this meant that the French were not such close neighbors as they were to New York and New England. From central Pennsylvania broad valleys stretch to the southwest along the eastern side of the Appalachians and toward the south convenient gaps occur in the mountain barrier. The tints on the relief map indicating elevation from 100 to 1,000 feet broaden from Pennsylvania southward and narrow from Pennsylvania northward. It was along these broad terraces that emigration first moved to the interior of the United States, its trend being southwest. Kentucky became a State in 1792; Tennessee in 1796; while Ohio, immediately west of Pennsylvania, did not become a State until 1803. It was owing to her situation and not because of any favor or encouragement from the authorities that Pennsylvania became the Scotch-Irish centre in the United States, and the chief source from which the race was diffused through the South and West.

The province was so accessible either by New York harbor and across the narrow width of New Jersey, or by the Delaware Bay and River, or by Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River, that it is impossible to determine exactly where the first Scotch-Irish settlement took place. The grant of the country west of the Delaware River to William Penn was made in 1681. Emigrants usually landed either at Lewes or at Newcastle in Delaware, or in Philadelphia. There were Presbyterian congregations in all these ports before 1698. From any of them sections of Pennsylvania are in easy reach, a circumstance which a glance at the map makes plain at once. The earliest record that points to Scotch-Irish settlement relates to the triangular projection between Delaware and Maryland that now belongs to Chester County, Pennsylvania. In 1683 a tract on the east side of Elk Creek, Cecil County, Maryland, was surveyed for Edwin O'Dwire and "fifteen other Irishmen." This tract was known as New Munster, which together with the name of the principal grantee would indicate that this group of settlers came from the South of Ireland. Nevertheless, the New Munster district received so many settlers from the North of Ireland that they founded two Presbyterian churches, "Head of Christiana" and "The Rock." The church at the head of Christiana Creek was organized before 1708. The Rock church, subsequently known as East Nottingham, was at the head of Elk Creek. In the records of the Presbytery of Newcastle, May 18, 1720, the following minute occurs:

"A certain number of people, lately come from Ireland, having settled about the branches of the Elk River, have by Thomas Reed and Thomas Caldwell, their commissioners, supplicated this Presbytery, that, at what time this Presbytery think convenient, they would appoint one of their number to come and preach among them, and then to take such note of their circumstances and necessities as by his report made to this Presbytery at their next session, the Presbytery may the more clearly know how to countenance their design of having the Gospel settled among them."

The Rev. Samuel Young was sent by the Presbytery and made such a favorable report as to the ability of the people to support a minister that the Presbytery voted in favor of organizing the congregation at the head of Elk.

The genesis of this Scotch-Irish settlement, while not definitely known, is readily explained. The grant to Penn overlapped the previous grant to Lord Baltimore. The boundary lines between Maryland and Pennsylvania were not finally settled until 1774. The New Munster tract was claimed by both Maryland and Pennsylvania, but the Maryland authorities were in possession. The opening of lands for settlement in that region drew Scotch-Irish families, among them four that bore the name of Alexander. John McKnitt Alexander, who was active in the Mecklenburg (N. C.) convention of 1775, was descended from one of these New Munster settlers. The Scotch-Irish immigrants, in seeking new lands, moved north of the older Maryland settlements, entering Pennsylvania. The early date at which a congregation is known to have existed there is a strong indication that the first Scotch-Irish settlement in Pennsylvania took place in this region, which is only about thirteen miles west of Newcastle, a port at which emigrants frequently debarked, and which was originally supposed to be in Pennsylvania territory. It was to this section of the country that Scotch-Irish immigration first turned. Writing to the Penns in 1724, James Logan, Secretary of the Province, said that the Ulster emigrants had generally taken up lands on the Maryland line. He refers to them as "bold and indigent strangers, saying as their excuse when challenged for titles, that we had solicited for colonists and they had come accordingly." In a letter of November 23, 1727, Logan says: "The Irish settle generally toward the Maryland line, where no lands can honestly be sold till the dispute with Lord Baltimore is decided."

In this same letter Logan gives some particulars that indicate the great volume of migration from Ulster to Pennsylvania. He says: "We have from the North of Ireland great numbers yearly. Eight or nine ships this last Fall discharged at Newcastle." In 1729 Logan writes: "It looks as if Ireland is to send all its inhabitants hither, for last week not less than six ships arrived, and every day, two or three arrive also." It appears that from December, 1728, to December, 1729, the immigrants numbered 6,208, of whom 5,605 were Scotch-Irish. Later on the arrivals exceeded 10,000 in the year. Proud's History of Pennsylvania, written before 1776, mentions that in 1749 about 12,000 immigrants arrived from Germany, and he adds that there are "in some years nearly as many annually from Ireland." He says that "Cumberland County is mostly settled by the Irish, who abound through the whole province." In 1735-1736 there was a great rush of emigration from Ireland through fear of restrictive legislation. In 1749 it was estimated that the Scotch-Irish population of Pennsylvania was one-fourth of the whole, and in 1774 Benjamin Franklin computed the proportion as one-third in a total of 350,000.

The early emigration followed the river valleys. One stream moved up the Delaware River and it could not have been much, if any, later than 1720 that Scotch-Irish settlers began to arrive in Bucks County. In 1726 there was quite a settlement of Scotch-Irish in Warwick, Warrington, Warminster and Northampton. Among the earliest arrivals were the families of Craig, Jamison, Baird, Stewart, Hair, Long, Weir, Armstrong, Gray, Graham and Wallace. A venerable monument of this settlement is Neshaminy Church, established about 1726 in Warwick Township.* The northern expansion of the Scotch-Irish settlements on the western bank of the Delaware River is marked by the organization of two churches in Northampton County in 1738, one the East Alien Church in the township of that name, the other at Mount Bethel. This stream of Scotch-Irish settlement lay between the Quaker settlements in and around Philadelphia and the Quaker settlements in West Jersey. To the northward there was great risk of Indian incursion. The Gnadenhutten massacre took place in 1755 not far west of the Northampton County line.

The principal field of Scotch-Irish occupation and settlement was the valley of the Susquehanna. From the original settlements on the Maryland line the Scotch-Irish moved into the interior along the east side of the Susquehanna, settling by the side of the creeks whose waters they used for their mills. Marks of these early settlements are Upper Octorara Church, organized in 1720; Donegal, in 1721; Pequa, in 1724; Middle Octorara, in 1727; Derry, in 1729; and Paxtang, in 1729. Thus large Scotch-Irish settlements were made in Chester, Lancaster and Dauphin Counties in the first third of the century. From Dauphin County the stream of settlement crossed to the west side of the Susquehanna. This region was at that time Indian country, and was known as Kittochtinny, a beautiful valley lying between the Susquehanna River and the Tuscarora Mountains, extending southward into western Maryland and Virginia. It is a natural thoroughfare between the North and the South, a fact which during the Civil War made it the scene of the manoeuvres culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg. The upper portion, now Cumberland County, was the scene of the first settlements. The provincial authorities acquiesced in the Scotch-Irish occupation after title had been obtained from the Indians by a treaty concluded in 1736. Under date of 1743, Watson's Annals contains the following note:

"The Proprietaries, in consequence of the frequent disturbances between the Governor and Irish settlers, after the organization of York and Cumberland Counties, gave orders to their agents to sell no lands in either York or Lancaster Counties to the Irish; and also to make advantageous offers of removal to the Irish settlers in Paxton and Swatara and Donegal townships to remove to Cumberland County, which offers, being liberal, were accepted by many."

From Cumberland County emigration turned southward. Cumberland County was organized in 1750; Franklin County, to the southwest, in 1764; Adams County, to the southeast, not until 1800. The main stream of Scotch-Irish emigration to the interior moved northwest up the valley of the Susquehanna to the junction with the Cumberland valley, and thence moved southwest, following the trend of the mountain ranges. Scotch-Irish pioneers penetrated the country west of the mountains at an early date, and in 1750 there were sixty-two inhabitants of this outlying settlement. Their presence there was such a provocation to the Indians that the provincial authorities compelled them to remove, and their dwellings were destroyed. This withdrawal was undoubtedly wise; even the Cumberland Valley settlements were such advanced outposts that they suffered severely by Indian incursions after Braddock's defeat in 1755.

All the Presbyterian congregations organized in Pennsylvania before 1760 were either in the valley of the Delaware or in the arc formed by the junction of the Cumberland valley with the valley of the Susquehanna. From 1766 onward Scotch-Irish emigration pressed further up the valley of the Susquehanna, the familiar place names now making their appearance in the records. The congregations of Tyrone and Toboyne in Perry County were organized in 1766; Derry, Mifflin County, in 1766. Juniata County has a Fermanagh township with a congregation organized in 1766. The Scotch-Irish settlement of western Pennsylvania did not take place until after the stream of Ulster emigration had reached the southwest. The oldest trans-Alleghany congregations date from 1771. The greater number of the first settlers of the southwestern counties of Pennsylvania came from Maryland and Virginia, over what was then known as Braddock's Trail. This trail extended from Cumberland, Maryland, to the valley of the Youghiogheny, crossing the country now included in Somerset and Fayette counties. At Uniontown, Fayette County, where there was a settlement as early as 1767, there was a trail westward to the valley of the Monongahela, along which settlers moved into Greene and Washington Counties. There was another trail, farther north, from Fort Bedford in what is now Bedford County to Fort Ligonier, and thence northwesterly to Fort Pitt. This was known as General Forbes's Route. This trail traversed Westmoreland County, and many Scotch-Irish families settled in this region. Emigration was so heavy that the organization of counties made rapid progress, the most remote of all, Greene County, dating from February 9, 1796, at which time some of the present counties in the eastern section of the State were as yet unorganized. It is a general rule that outside of the original counties the oldest counties lie along the track of Scotch-Irish emigration.

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* The founding of Neshaminy Church has been dated as far back as 1710 by church historians. The evidence has been examined by William W. H. Davis, president of the Bucks County Historical Society, and he concludes that the church could hardly have been in existence much before 1726 when William Tennent became pastor. The assertion that the church dates to 1710 rests upon the fact that Bensalem church, of which Paulus van Vleck was pastor in 1710, had a branch at Neshaminy; but Mr. Davis holds that this branch had no connection with the Warwick Township church, of which Tennent became pastor. See Davis, History of Bucks County, Vol. I, pp. 300, 302.


From The Scotch-Irish in America by Henry Jones Ford

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Chapter IX. ...continued

A letter has been preserved written by Robert Parke, in 1725, to his sister in Ireland, giving an account of the conditions which settlers then encountered. He was living in what is now Delaware County, west of Philadelphia. His sister had written to him that report had reached Ireland that emigrants thence to Pennsylvania were dissatisfied. This prompted him to go into details. He declares it is:

"The best country for working folk & tradesmen of any in the world. . . . Land is of all Prices, Even from ten Pounds to one hundred Pounds a hundred, according to the goodness or else the situation thereof, & Grows dearer every year by Reason of Vast Quantities of People that come here yearly from Several Ports of the world."

He mentions that the rate for passage between Philadelphia and Ireland is nine pounds. Supplies are plentiful, the market price for beef, pork or mutton being two and one-half pence a pound. The country abounds with fruit.

"As for chestnuts, wallnuts, & hasel nuts, strawberrys, bilberrys, & mulberrys, they grow wild in the woods and fields in Vast Quantities. ... A Reaper has two shills. & 3 pence a day a mower has 2 shills. & 6 pence & a pint of Rum, beside meat & drink of the best; for no workman works without their victuals in the bargain throughout the Country. A Laboring man has 18 or 20 pence a day in winter."

He advises his sister to bring plenty of clothes, shoes, stockings and hats, for such things are dear. Stockings cost four shillings and a pair of shoes, seven shillings.

"A saddle that will cost 18 or 20 Shills. in Ireland will cost here 50 Shills. or 3 pounds & not so good neither."

The writer remarks that notwithstanding high prices for manufactured articles, "a man will Sooner Earn a suit of Cloths here than in Ireland, by Reason workmen's Labour is so dear."

The reference to the increasing price of land of course applies chiefly to the region between the Delaware and the Susquehanna first opened to settlement. Scotch-Irish immigration flowed around the Quaker settlements and poured into the interior with a force that annoyed provincial authorities. Writing in 1730, Secretary Logan complains that the Scotch-Irish in an "audacious and disorderly manner" settled on the Conestoga Manor, a tract of 15,000 acres reserved by the Penns for themselves. Logan says the settlers alleged that it "was against the laws of God and nature, that so much land should be idle while so many Christians wanted it to labor on and to raise their bread."

It was, however, Logan himself who introduced them into that country, which took its name from the Susquehannock town of Conestoga, lying northwest of the creek of the same name. The title of the Indians was extinguished by the treaty concluded by Penn in 1718, but Indian towns were still so thick along the valley of the Susquehanna that it was deemed advisable to use the Scotch-Irish as a frontier garrison. In a letter dated November 18, 1729, Logan says:

"About that time [1720] considerable numbers of good, sober people came in from Ireland, who wanted to be settled. At the same time, also, it happened that we were under some apprehensions from ye Northern Indians. ... I therefore thought it might be prudent to plant a settlement of such men as those who formerly had so bravely defended Londonderry and Inniskillen, as a frontier, in case of any disturbance. Accordingly, ye township of Donegal was settled, some few by warrants at ye certain price of 10s. per hundred [acres] but more so without any. These people, however, if kindly used will, I believe, be orderly, as they have hitherto been, and easily dealt with. They will also, I expect, be a leading example to others."

It was the policy of Penn and his associates to make large reservations for themselves. Penn sold nearly 300,000 acres to persons in England who had never seen the land but who acquired it with a view to its prospective value. If their desires had been gratified there might have developed in Pennsylvania a tenant system with absentee landlords like that from which Ireland is now extricating herself. The chief instrument by which this system was frustrated appears to have been the Scotch-Irish. As the available lands in Donegal Township were taken up these people spread into the manor, and the Proprietors had to make terms with them.

Logan's successor, Richard Peters, had a similar experience in what is now Adams County. The Penns had reserved for themselves a tract of some 40,000 acres including the site of Gettysburg and the land southward to the Maryland line. Scotch-Irish emigrants settled in this country, and in 1743 Peters undertook to dispossess them. Seventy of the settlers confronted Peters, who had with him a sheriff and a magistrate, and strongly protested. Peters had brought surveyors to plat the region but the settlers would not allow them to proceed. A number of indictments were brought, but in the end the cases were compromised, the Scotch-Irish settlers being left in possession of their holdings with titles from Penn for a nominal consideration.

The Proprietors, while thus reserving to themselves large manors, and quite willing to use the Scotch-Irish to ward off Indian incursions, were unwilling to help bear the public burdens. This was a chronic issue between the Governor and the Assembly, the Governor importuning the Assembly to lay taxes for the public defense, and yet rejecting all bills that did not exempt the Proprietary estates. In his Autobiography Benjamin Franklin mentions a bill which set forth "that all estates, real and personal, were to be taxed; those of the Proprietaries not excepted." The Governor agreed to approve the bill, with the change of only a single word. His amendment was that "only" should be sustituted for "not." Franklin says that the account of these proceedings, transmitted to England, "raised a clamor against the Proprietaries for their meanness and injustice in giving their Governor such instructions; some going so far as to say, that, by obstructing the defense of their province, they forfeited their right to it."

That was a view of the case upon which the Scotch-Irish were inclined to act. It is noted as a racial characteristic that they were opposed to paying any rent, however small. This aversion is amply explained by their experience in Ulster, where rents had been raised after they had settled the country and made the lands valuable by their industry.

In habits and mode of living there was little to distinguish the Scotch-Irish from other settlers, except their attachment to Presbyterianism. There were some Scotch-Irish among the Quakers, James Logan himself was one of these, but the proportion was very small. Many of the Irish Quakers who emigrated to Pennsylvania were natives of England who had lived only a few years in Ireland. The Scotch-Irish who settled in America had to adapt their ways of life to the new conditions. Their style of dress was that which was common among the backwoodsmen, and in general they fell into the folkways of the frontier. Particular information about their manners and customs is meagre. Journals kept by pioneer ministers have been preserved, but they rarely contain any descriptive matter. In the Diary of the Rev. David McClure there is an entry under date of October 17, 1772, when he was in the Youghiogheny region:

"Attended a marriage, where the guests were all Virginians. It was a scene of wild and confused merriment. . . . The manners of the people of Virginia, who have removed into these parts, are different from those of the Presbyterians and Germans. They are much addicted to drinking parties, gambling, horseracing and fighting. They are hospitable and prodigal."

These Virginia customs have been sometimes exhibited as Scotch-Irish. An account which has been drawn upon for that purpose is one written by the Rev. Joseph Doddridge, whose father settled in Washington County in 1773. His Notes which were prepared for publication in 1824 give a vivid and authentic account of pioneer society. Mr. Fisher, in his Making of Pennsylvania, refers to it as "the best description we have of the colonial Scotch-Irish." But Doddridge did not describe the Scotch-Irish. The people with whom he was reared came from Maryland and Virginia, and he expressly disclaims any particular knowledge of the Scotch-Irish settlers. He says:

"With the descendants of the Irish I had but little acquaintance, although I lived near them. At an early period they were comprehended in the Presbyterian Church, and were, therefore, more reserved in their deportment than their frontier neighbors, and from their situation, being less exposed to the Indian warfare, took less part in that war."

The reference is to the outbreak of Indian hostilities in 1774, known as Dunmore's War. Doddridge attributes to the Presbyterians the introducing of religious worship and the founding of educational institutions in the western country. There is no denominational bias in his testimony, as he was reared in the Methodist Church, entered its ministry and eventually became an Episcopal clergyman. Writing to Bishop White in 1818, to give an account of religious conditions, Doddridge declared:

"To the Presbyterians alone we are indebted for almost the whole of our literature. They began their labors at an early period of the settlement of the country, and have extended their ecclesiastical and educational establishments so as to keep pace with the extension of our population; with a Godly care which does them honor."

Doddridge was educated at a Presbyterian institution, Jefferson College, at Canonsburg, Pa., and he never forgot his indebtedness to it. The account he gives of frontier conditions doubtless describes dress, home crafts and customs which the Scotch-Irish adopted in common with other settlers. They may have made some contribution to the stock, a possible allusion to which is Doddridge's mention that among the dances was one called the "Irish trot." In general frontier customs reflected frontier conditions. The dress of the men showed the influence of Indian example. In colonial times this style of dress prevailed throughout the interior. It should be remembered that the frontier was for a long period close to the coast. There were Indian camps even in Bucks County, the oldest section under European occupation. Doddridge's account, although made from observations in western Pennsylvania in the last quarter of the century, may be taken as characteristic of frontier conditions everywhere before the growth of factories and the construction of railroads transformed living conditions. He says:

"The hunting shirt was universally worn. This was a kind of loose frock, reaching half way down the thighs, with long sleeves, open before, and so wide as to lap over a foot or more when belted. The cape was large and sometimes handsomely fringed with a ravelled piece of cloth of a different color from that of the hunting shirt itself. The bosom of this dress served as a wallet to hold a chunk of bread, cakes, jerk, tow for wiping the barrel of the rifle, or any other necessary for the hunter or warrior. The belt, which was always tied behind, answered several purposes besides that of holding the dress together. In cold weather the mittens, and sometimes the bullet bag, occupied the front part of it. To the right side was suspended the tomahawk, and to the left the scalping knife in its leathern sheath. The hunting shirt was generally made of linsey, sometimes of coarse linen, and a few of dressed deerskins. These last were very cold and uncomfortable in wet weather. The shirt and jacket were of the common fashion. A pair of drawers, or breeches and leggins, were the dress of the thighs and legs; a pair of moccasons answered for the feet much better than shoes. They were made of dressed deerskin. They were mostly made of a single piece with a gathering seam along the top of the foot, and another along the bottom of the heel, without gathers as high as the ankle joint or a little higher. Flaps were left on each side to reach some distance up the legs. These were nicely adapted to the ankles and lower part of the leg by thongs of deerskin, so that no dust, gravel or snow could get within the moccason.

"The moccasons in ordinary use cost but a few hours labor to make them. This was done by an instrument denominated a moccason awl, which was made from the back spring of an old clasp knife. This awl with its buck's horn handle was an appendage of every shot pouch strap, together with a roll of buckskin for mending the moccasons. This was the labor of almost every evening. They were sewed together and patched with deerskin thongs, or whangs, as they were commonly called. In cold weather the moccasons were well stuffed with deers' hair or dry leaves, so as to keep the 'feet comfortably warm; but in wet weather it was usually said that wearing them was 'a decent way of going barefooted,' and such was the fact, owing to the spongy texture of the leather of which they were made.

"The women usually went barefooted in warm weather. Instead of the toilet, they had to handle the distaff or shuttle, the sickle or weeding hoe, contented if they could obtain their linsey clothing and cover their heads with a sunbonnet made of six or seven hundred linen. The coats and bedgowns of the women, as well as the hunting shirts of the men, were hung in full display on wooden pegs round the walls of their cabins, so while they answered in some degree the place of paper hangings or tapestries, they announced to the stranger as well as neighbor, the wealth or poverty of the family in the articles of clothing.

"The fort consisted of cabins, block houses and stockades. A range of cabins commonly formed one side at least of the fort. Divisions 6r partitions of logs separated the cabins from each other. The walls on the outside were ten or twelve feet high, the slope of the roof being turned wholly inward. A very few of these cabins had puncheon floors; the greater part were earthen. The block houses were built at the angles of the fort. They projected about two feet beyond the outer walls of the cabins and stockades. Their upper stories were about eighteen inches every way larger in dimensions than the under one, leaving an opening at the commencement of the second story to prevent the enemy from making a lodgment under the walls. In some forts, instead of block houses, the angles of the fort were furnished with bastions. A large folding gate made of thick slabs, nearest the spring, closed the fort. The stockades, bastions, cabins and blockhouse walls were furnished with portholes at proper heights and distances. . . . The whole of this work was made without the aid of a single nail or spike of iron, and for this reason—such things were not to be had. In some places less exposed, a single blockhouse, with a cabin or two, constituted the whole fort. Such places of refuge may appear very trifling to those who have been in the habit of seeing the formidable military garrisons of Europe and America; but they answered the purpose, as the Indians had no artillery. They seldom attacked, and scarcely ever took one of them."

The settlers were naturally loath to leave their own cabins, abandoning their live stock and other possessions, until absolutely compelled to do so, and usually they did not repair to the fort until actual bloodshed showed that the Indians were on the ground. Doddridge gives a vivid account of his own experience. He says:

"I well remember that, when a little boy, the family was sometimes waked up in the dead of night, by an express with a report that the Indians were at hand. The express came softly to the door, or back window, and by a gentle tapping waked the family. This was easily done, as an habitual fear made us ever watchful and sensible to the slightest alarm. The whole family were instantly in motion. My father seized his gun and other implements of war. My stepmother waked up and dressed the children as well as she could, and being myself the oldest of the children, I had to take my share of the burdens to be carried to the fort. There was no possibility of getting a horse in the night to aid us in removing to the fort. Besides the little children, we caught up what articles of clothing and provision we could get hold of in the dark, for we durst not light a candle or even stir the fire. All this was done with the utmost dispatch, and the silence of death. The greatest care was taken not to awaken the youngest child. To the rest it was enough to say Indian and not a whimper was heard afterward. Thus it often happened that the whole number of families belonging to a fort who were in the evening at their homes, were all in their little fortress before the dawn of the next morning. In the course of the succeeding day, their household furniture was brought in by parties of the men under arms."

From The Scotch-Irish in America by Henry Jones Ford

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Chapter IX. ...concluded

Doddridge's account of the domestic crafts of his region is doubtless applicable to all the backwoods settlements. It depicts conditions that were once general outside of the coast settlements where supplies could be obtained from Europe. In colonial times society in such centres as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Annapolis, Richmond and Charleston was ornate and even luxurious among the well-to-do, but the people who tamed the wilderness and gave the nation its continental expansion lived in the style Doddridge describes, and these include the mass of the Scotch-Irish immigrants. Some extracts from his account will exhibit living conditions:

"The hominy block and hand mills were in use in most of our houses. The first was made of a large block of wood about three feet long, with an excavation burned in one end, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, so that the action of the pestle on the bottom threw the corn up the sides toward the top of it, from whence it continually fell down into the centre. In consequence of this movement, the whole mass of the grain was pretty equally subjected to the strokes of the pestle. In the fall of the year, while the Indian corn was soft, the block and pestle did very well for making meal for Johnny cake and mush, but were rather slow when the corn became hard. . . .

"A machine, still more simple than the mortar and pestle, was used for making meal, while the corn was too soft to be beaten. It was called a grater. This was a half circular piece of tin, perforated with a punch from the concave side, and nailed by its edges to a block of wood. The ears of corn were rubbed on the rough edges of the holes, while the meal fell through them on the board or block to which the grater was nailed, which being in a slanting direction, discharged the meal into a cloth or bowl placed for its reception. This to be sure was a slow way of making meal; but necessity has no law. . . .

"The hand mill was better than the mortar and grater. It was made of two circular stones, the lowest of which was called the bedstone, the upper one the runner. These were placed in a hoop; with a spout for discharging the meal. A staff was let into a hole in the upper surface of the runner near the outer edge, and its upper end through a hole in a board, fastened to a joist above, so that two persons could be employed in turning the mill at the same time. The grain was put into the opening in the runner by hand. . . .

"Our first water mills were of that description denominated tub mills. It consists of a perpendicular shaft, to the lower end of which an horizontal wheel of about four or five feet diameter is attached, the upper end passes through the bed stone and carries the runner after the manner of a trundle-head. These mills were built with very little expense, and many of them answered the purpose very well.

"Instead of bolting cloths, sifters were in general use. These were made of deerskin in a state of parchment, stretched over an hook and perforated with a hot wire. Our clothing was all of domestic manufacture. We had no other resource for clothing, and this, indeed, was a poor one. The crops of flax often failed, and the sheep were destroyed by the wolves. Linsey, which is made of flax and wool, the former the chain and the latter the filling, was the warmest and most substantial cloth we could make. Almost every house contained a loom, and almost every woman was a weaver.

"Every family tanned their own leather. The tan vat was a large trough sunk to the upper edge in the ground. A quantity of bark was easily obtained every spring, in clearing and fencing the land. This, after drying, was brought in and in wet days was shaved and pounded on a block of wood with an axe or mallet. Ashes were used in place of lime for taking off the hair. Bear's oil, hog's lard and tallow answered the place of fish oil. The leather, to be sure was coarse; but it was substantially good.

"Almost every family contained its own tailors and shoemakers. Those who could not make shoes, could make shoe packs. These like moccasons, were made of a single piece of leather, with the exception of a tongue piece on the top of the foot. This was about two inches broad, and circular at the lower end, to this the main piece of leather was sewed, with a gathering stitch. The seam behind was like that of a moccason. To the shoe pack a sole was sometimes added. The women did the tailor work. They could all cut out and make hunting shirts, leggins and drawers."

Such were the living conditions to which the Scotch-Irish subjected themselves as they poured into the country. They were not at all repelled by them, as they were inured to privation, and skilled in self-help through their Ulster training. The abundance of game and wild fruits made the basis of subsistence more ample and varied than they had been accustomed to in Ulster. That they took to backwoods life with relish is shown by the alacrity with which they moved forward wherever lands could be obtained for settlement. The rapid expansion of the United States from a coast strip to a continental area is largely a Scotch-Irish achievement.

The practices peculiar to them as a class belong to their religious system, which was a culture and a discipline whose effects upon American national character have been very marked. From old church records that have been preserved some idea may be obtained of the thoroughness with which religious instruction was diffused through Scotch-Irish settlements. Big Spring congregation, in the western part of Cumberland County, was organized not later than the spring of 1737, for in June of that year a minister was called. This congregation had a succession of pastors, either natives of Ulster or born of Ulster parents. One of these early pastors was the Rev. Samuel Wilson. He was born in 1754 in Letterkenny township, now included in Franklin County, was graduated from Princeton in 1782, licensed by Donegal Presbytery on October 17, 1786, and was installed pastor of the Big Spring Church, June 20, 1787. Some records of his pastorate have been preserved, and they give an instructive view of the workings of the system, the details showing that Ulster traditions were still vigorous after the lapse of over half a century. He used a form of address in the marriage ceremony which illustrates the plainness and directness of speech then still in vogue. After searching inquiry whether or not objections to the marriage existed Mr. Wilson proceeded to address the couple as follows:

"The design of marriage is, that fornication may be avoided, and as our race is more dignified than the lower creations, so then, our passions should be regulated by reason and religion. It is likewise intended for producing a legitimate offspring, and a seed for the church. There are duties incumbent upon those who enter this relation, some of them are equally binding upon both parties, some upon one party, some upon the other.

"First, it is equally binding upon you both to love each other's persons, to avoid freedom with all others which formerly might have been excusable, to keep each other's lawful secrets, fidelity to the marriage bed, and if God shall give you an offspring, it will be mutually binding upon you both, to consult their spiritual, as well as their temporal concerns.

"Secondly, it will be particularly binding upon you, Sir, who is to be the head of the family, to maintain the authority which God hath given you. In every society there must be a head, and in families, by divine authority, this is given to the man, but as woman was given to man for an helpmeet and a bosom companion, you are not to treat this woman in a tyrannical manner, much less as a slave, but to love and kindly entreat her, as becomes one so nearly allied to you.

"Lastly, it is incumbent upon you, Madam, who is to be the wife, to acknowledge the authority of him who is to be your husband, and for this, you have the example of Sarah, who is commended for calling Abraham, Lord. It seems to be your privilege in matters in which you and he cannot agree, that you advise with him, endeavoring in an easy way by persuasion to gain him to your side; but if you cannot in this way gain your point, it is fit and proper that you submit in matters in which conscience is not concerned. It will be your duty in a particular manner, to use good economy in regard to those things which may be placed in your hands. In a word, you are to be industrious in your place and station."

The congregation was regimented under the elders, John Carson, John Bell, William Lindsay, John McKeehan, David Ralston, Robert Patterson, Robert Lusk, Samuel M'Cormick, Hugh Laughlin and John Robinson. One of the elder's duties was to visit the members in his district and catechize them upon questions prepared by the minister, whose duties included not only the conduct of religious worship, but also the systematic instruction of the people; and the elders discharged among other functions, that of district examiners. Lists of questions used by the elders of Big Spring Church in 1789 have been preserved. Here is a specimen:

John Bell's District

1. What do you understand by creation? Is it a work peculiar to God?

2. How will you prove from Scripture and reason in opposition to Aristotle and others, that the world is not eternal?

3. How will you defend the Mosaic account, which asserts that the world has not existed 6,000 years, against ancient history, which tells us of Egyptian records for more than thirteen thousand years, and the Babylonians speak of things done four hundred and seventy thousand years before, and the Chinese tell of things still longer done?

The third chapter of the Confession of Faith also to be examined upon.

The elders did not use the same set of questions, although some questions appear in more than one paper, particularly the following:

What are those called who do not acknowledge divine revelation? What objections do they offer against Moses and his writings, and how are their arguments confuted?

Is the doctrine of the saints' perseverance founded on Scripture? If so, how will you prove it, and defend the doctrine against those who deny it?

What do you understand by the law of nature?

The extracts make a fair exhibit of the range of the questions. The papers were prepared by the pastor, and in view of the large size of parishes in those days it is to be presumed that the elders were coached by the pastor and made the medium of instruction supplementary to his pulpit discourses. It is plain that the questions assume a considerable degree of knowledge on the part of the people. In considering such records the historian feels that he is peering into the source of the extraordinary zeal for education displayed by the Scotch-Irish, which made them as a class superior in literacy and knowledge to the general run of American colonists.


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