From The Historian's Corner:

From Lifford to America
Scotch-Irish and Pollock Beginnings in America – Part 2

In previous article we described the situation in Ulster which led to the initial exodus of some of our Scotch-Irish ancestors and their arrival in Somerset County, Maryland, in the period 1683-1690. It would really be nice to have a full list of the families who made this momentous voyage. Unfortunately Lord Baltimore had just discontinued the use of the head rights system for allocating land warrants in Maryland in 1680, so the names of Ulster Scots arriving in Maryland with or after Makemie and Trail cannot be obtained directly from headrights cited in warrants and surveys, as they could for arrivals prior to that time. This is a great pity since it would provide a complete record. Instead we have to find these people one by one from citations in the other surviving Somerset records – court, land, and probate – which fortunately are well preserved and readily available at the Maryland State Archives. The author is currently engaged in a project to try to develop a comprehensive list from those records.

As already noted from a contemporary record, several hundred individuals or families probably arrived during this period. And just as in today’s world not all of the prior residents of Somerset were happy with this rather precipitous advent of newcomers. The court records contain one case where such resentment became very overt, and which provides us with the first known use of the term “Scotch-Irish” in the new world. The following testimony was recorded on 15 March 1689/90:

I William Pattent (Patton) was at worke at James Minders and one night as I was at worke Mr Matt: Scarbrough came into the house of sd Minders and sett down by me as I was at work, the sd Minder askt him if he came afoot, he made answer again and sd he did, saying that man meaning me calling me Rogue makes me goe afoot also makes it his business to goe from house to house to ruinate me, my Wife and Children for ever. I made answer is it I Mr. Scarbrough? And he replyed and said ay you, you Rogue, for which doing ile whip you and make my Wife whipp to whipp you, and I answered if ever I have abused (you) at any time, or to any bodies hearing, I will give you full satisfaction to your own Content. You Scotch Irish dogg it was you, with that he gave me a blow on the face saying it was no more sin to kill me then to kill a dogg, or any Scotch Irish dogg, giving me another blow in the face, now saying goe to yr god that Rogue (David Brown) and have a warrant for me and I will answer it. Wm.Patent

The motivation to emigrate from Ireland greatly abated after the successful defense of Derry in 1689 and the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The final removal of the Catholic Stewarts and the ascension of a confirmed Calvinist to the English throne dramatically altered the prospects of the Presbyterians in Ireland. This was a watershed moment in their history and the emigrations to Maryland probably slowed to a trickle at about this time. Nonetheless, the Scotch-Irish community that had established itself by this time had a growing impact on the Chesapeake region. Some of the Ulster-Scot families of Somerset moved northward to the area of Newcastle, Delaware, and adjacent Cecil County, Maryland, where Makemie was establishing additional Churches. It is difficult to say whether their relocation was mainly for economic considerations, or was partly done in consort with Makemie’s missionary efforts. A petition from some Presbyterians in Newcastle to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in February 1705/6 provides some insight. It begins:

"We undersubscribers and the greatest number of us born and educated in Ireland under the ministry of Mr. William Traill presbiterian minister formerly at liford are by a Divine providence setled with our families at Newcastle and about it in the province of pensilvania.”

The petition goes on to ask if they might be supplied with a minister lest they “be cast desolate and to our great griefe we and our posterity left as a prey to superstition and heresies.” Almost all of the 20 signers of the petition (e.g. Ninian Dunlop, John Stahl (Steele), various Wallaces, David and Andrew Miller, John Garner, Morgan Patton, John and Abraham Emmett) will be found in earlier records in Somerset. The mention of William Trail, who left Somerset and returned to Scotland in 1690, is strong testimony to the lasting impact he had on his flock and how his example had led many of them to follow him from Lifford to Maryland two decades earlier.

At nearly the same time, another group from Somerset, the Alexanders, McKnitts and Wallaces, moved to nearby Cecil County, Maryland, on the manor tract known as New Munster between the Big Elk and Christiana Creeks. This was located only about two miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church which traces its foundation back to 1706 when it split off from the Newcastle church. Reverend John Wilson ministered both churches for a time, but the Newcastle petition was eventually answered in the person of Reverend George Gillespie. Gillespie came from Glasgow to serve as minister at Christiana from his ordination in 1713 until his death in 1760. John Steele and John Gardner/Garner, signers of the petition, were among the first elders of this church and closely associated with the Alexanders. In subsequent years the following generations of these same families moved with the frontier, in the classic Scotch-Irish pattern, first to the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania, then eventually on to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where they were the framers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and became the “Hornets Nest” encountered by Cornwallis years later.

By 1706 sufficiently many churches were established in the Chesapeake region that Makemie was able to establish the first Presbytery in America at a meeting held that year in Philadelphia. This is sometimes called the Presbytery of Newcastle, but at the time it was just known as The Presbytery. It was comprised of the churches of Philadelphia, New Castle, Rehobeth, Snow Hill, Manokin and Lewes (Delaware). This event can be regarded as the culmination of Makemie’s mission in America, for he died only two years later and is buried in Accomac County, Virginia, where he had married and taken up residence.

Newcastle and Philadelphia became the major ports of entry when the great wave of Scotch-Irish migration from Ulster commenced about a decade later. This was not a matter of chance. The Scotch-Irish already in the area and the Presbyterian network created by Makemie were in place to welcome, lead, and enliven these new immigrants. In this way, the subsequent Scotch-Irish impact on the American frontier as it pushed through Pennsylvania, down the great wagon road into the valley of Virginia and the Carolinas, and afterwards west beyond the Appalachins, can truly be said to have its roots in the precursor arrival of the Laggan Presbyterians some thirty years earlier in Somerset.

Next time we will look into the family of the first of our Clan in the new world, Robert and Magdalen Polke/Pollock in "From Lifford to America Scotch-Irish and Pollock Beginnings in America – Part 3"

John F. Polk, Ph.D.
Historian
Clan Pollock International
First published in the May 2008 Pollag.