Carolina - The British Isles Settlers

During the period of the Lords Proprietors, over 95% of the Carolina settlers had roots in the British Isles

In 1707, England and Scotland effectively merged into the United Kingdom. Prior to that, the greatest majority of all settlers in the American colonies were simply English, which of course included the Welsh, who had been long-before integrated into the English system and culture (although they continue to keep a separate culture even now).

Ireland did not join the United Kingdom until 1808, and there was very little opportunity for the Irish to make their way to the colonies, as it was for the Scots before 1707. Scots did emigrate to the colonies prior to 1707, but their numbers were very few, and those were already "ok" in the eyes of the English. Likewise, the Irish also managed to emigrate to the colonies prior to 1808, but their numbers were even smaller than the Scots.

Interestingly, many historians, both professional and amateur, continue to call the people from Scotland - Scotch. Scotch is a whisky, and the people would much rather be called Scots. To help confuse the majority of the non-UK world, there are various names that are used in the British Isles that the rest of the world seem to have great difficulties with.

The Scots are basically divided into two main groups - Highland Scots and Lowland Scots. I think the names speak for themselves, and these are the only groups to be considered as "true" people of Scotland.

Of course, the people from Ireland are called Irish. Period. Or.... are they?

Well, thanks to the English "plantations" in Northern Ireland, most of these inhabitants do not call themselves Irish - nor do the Irish. Those from Northern Ireland have two names - Ulster Irish, and Scots-Irish. And, these two names are a "generalization" of the people who had actually been sent to settle the "Irish Plantations," mostly Scots, but also English and Welsh Protestants.

Therefore, most people in the British Isles, and most sociologists and historians "lump" these people from Northern Ireland into the overall "Scot" category, since "the majority of them" are of Scottish ancestry, and NOT the "Irish" category, as one would expect. Oh well.

Settlers from England

The majority of seventeenth-century English emigrants were poor, young, single men, lacking good prospects in the mother country, gambling their lives as indentured servants in the Chesapeake, Carolinas, or West Indies, where the warmer climate permitted plantation crops that demanded—and generated the profits that permitted—the importation of laborers.

In sharp contrast, most of the New England colonists could pay their own way and emigrated as family groups. They also enjoyed a more even balance between the sexes. At mid-century, the New England sex ratio was six males for every four females, compared to four men for every woman in the southern colonies. This more even balance encouraged a more stable society and faster population growth.

New England’s healthier population sustained a rapid growth through natural increase, while in the southern colonies and West Indies, population growth depended on human imports. During the seventeenth century, New England received only 21,000 emigrants—a fraction of the 120,000 transported to the southern colonies or the 190,000 who colonized the West Indies. Yet in 1700, New England’s colonial population of 91,000 exceeded the 85,000 whites in the southern colonies and the 33,000 white residents in the West Indies.

Despite the proliferation of British shipping, the overall number of emigrants from the mother country declined during the early eighteenth century from its seventeenth-century peak. During the early decades of colonization, when the English economy and state were weak, ruling opinion had regarded the realm as dangerously overpopulated. And to reduce unemployment and social discontent at home, England’s rulers had encouraged emigration to the colonies, where laborers could develop staple commodities for the mother country and dissidents could be exiled from political influence.

Late in the seventeenth century, however, ruling opinion shifted, as the home government became more tolerant of religious diversity; English manufacturing expanded, increasing the demand for cheap labor; and the realm frequently had need of additional thousands for an enlarged military. Thereafter, English emigration became an economic and strategic loss to the mother country.

Hence, in the early eighteenth century, free colonists arrived from elsewhere in Europe, primarily Scotland, Ireland, and Germany. While discouraging English emigration, imperial officials wished to continue colonial development and bolster colonial defenses, and these obligations called for an alternative supply of colonists. Hence, they recruited for colonists from elsewhere in Europe, with the idea of strengthening the colonies without weakening the mother country. More than any other eighteenth-century empire, the British came to rely on foreign emigrants for human capital.

Thus, relatively few eighteenth-century emigrants came from England: only 80,000 between 1700 and 1775, compared to 350,000 during the seventeenth century. The decline is especially striking because, after 1700, the colonies became cheaper and easier to reach by sea and safer to inhabit. But England’s growing economy provided rising real wages for laboring families, enabling more to remain in the mother country, while the growing militarization of the empire absorbed more laboring men into the enlarged army and navy for longer periods. In wartime, many would-be emigrants also balked at the greater dangers of a transatlantic passage.

In 1717, shortly after the military demobilization of 1713–14, Parliament began to subsidize the shipment of convicted felons to the colonies as an alternative to their execution. The Crown generally paid £3 per convict to shippers, who carried the felons to America for sale as indentured servants with especially long terms: usually fourteen years. The shippers’ profits came from combining the sales price (about £12) with the Crown subsidy, less the £5 to £6 cost of transportation.

Between 1718 and 1775, the empire transported about 50,000 felons, more than half of all English emigrants to America during that period. The transported were overwhelmingly young, unmarried men lacking marketable skills—the cannon-fodder of war and the jail-bait of peace. About 80 percent of the convicts went to Virginia and Maryland, riding in the English ships of the tobacco trade.

Convicts provided a profitable sideline for the tobacco shippers, who had plenty of empty cargo space on the outbound voyage from England, and Chesapeake planters were willing to buy convict labor. At about a third of the £35 an African male slave cost, the convict appealed to some planters as a better investment. The majority of the purchasers were small-scale planters with limited budgets. In a pinch, however, large plantation owners bought a few convicts to supplement their slaves.

In time, despite its profitability, colonial leaders regarded the convict trade as an insult that treated the colonies as inferior to the mother country. The colonists wondered why they should have to accept convicts deemed too dangerous to live in England and dreaded the possibility that white convicts would make common cause in rebellion with the black slaves. In a political satire, Benjamin Franklin advocated sending American rattlesnakes to England in exchange. But ultimately the colonists colluded in the convict trade. In 1725 Maryland’s governor conceded, “While we purchase, they will send them, and we bring the Evil upon ourselves.”


Settlers from Wales 


Compared with Ireland, Scotland and England, however, only a tiny number of Welsh people went to America and yet the influence of the Welsh in the new world has been out of proportion to their numbers. Seventeen of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent. Our chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, who shaped our constitution, was Welsh; Thomas Jefferson's family came, as you know, from Snowdonia; a Welshman, George Jones, co-founded The New York Times; a Welsh American named Oliver Evans invented the self-propelled automobile with a steam-powered engine and the great civil war author Harriet Beecher Stowe was Welsh.

The period in Wales, from 1660 to 1689 has rightly been called "The Heroic Age of Dissent." Welsh Quakerism at this time was a militant creed, antagonistic towards the established church and willing to confront its opponents. Quakers would interrupt church services, refuse to pay tithes, or doff their hats to their ‘betters.’ This challenge to secular authority brought them into direct conflict with the authorities, and many were locked up. Puritans from other sects resented their success and violent clashes were not infrequent.

The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 re-established an Anglican Church which was anxious to resume a grip on the spiritual life of the community. Anglican liturgy was re-introduced and Puritan ministers were ejected. Soon after being crowned, King Charles II took action against the Quakers, and his policies were implemented long past his death and until James II was removed in 1689 - these impacting the Welsh Quakers probably moreso than anywhere else.

During the reign of King Charles II, 13,562 Quakers were arrested and imprisoned in England, 198 were transported as slaves, and 338 died in prison or of wounds received in violent assaults on their meetings. The Society of Friends (Quakers) continued to grow and by 1660, George Fox had made more than 20,000 converts and missionaries were at work in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the American colonies.

Faced with continuing persecution in England, a new convert, William Penn, son of Admiral Sir William Penn of the British Navy, used a debt owed him by the Crown because of his father's services and requested the grant of a colony in the New World. Thus there came to birth Pennsylvania, a haven from persecution and an opportunity to practice the Quaker faith as a "Holy Experiment." All the thirteen colonies had Quaker migrations to them in some measure. At varying times, in addition to Pennsylvania, Quakers constituted a controlling force politically and numerically in Rhode Island, North Carolina, and in parts of New Jersey.

A prominent Welshman, William Penn was also a great "marketeer." He convinced many of his brethren Welshmen to leave their homes and sail to the New World. At the close of the 1600s and in the early 1700s, thousands of Welsh sailed to North America, most arriving in Philadelphia and settling across the Pennsylvania frontier. But, some found out about Carolina and quickly made their way south.

Welsh Quakers bought 40,000 acres in Pennsylvania and left for America in 1682. In 1683, Baptists from mid- and west-Wales settled on the outskirts of Philadelphia and soon bought 30,000 acres further down the Delaware River.

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, there were other factors that soon convinced the Welsh to pack up and leave the homeland. These two factors were simply "tolls and tithes." Sounds like a poor reason to head 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, but these were serious issues to the thrifty Welshmen.

Tolls. At the beginning of the 18th century the system of "road trusts" was formalized. The 17th century had seen a revival of road tolls and the setting up of gates or "turnpikes" at which tolls were collected but now local gentlemen could obtain private Acts of Parliament to enable them to borrow money on the security of turnpike tolls and to use this to improve the roads. The system spread quickly and country people disliked the tolls enough to attack and destroy some of the toll houses in the period of the "Rebecca Riots" (which was much later, in 1839)

Tithes. Tithes were traditionally a tax of one tenth of the produce of land, designed to support the church and clergy. In 1836 the Tithe Commutation Act provided for the substitution of an annual tithe rent charge. The collection of tithes (and the extortionate practices of individual tithe owners) caused great anger in an era of economic depression and religious dissent. Tithe maps of parishes were drawn up to apportion responsibility for payment and these maps are amongst the earliest highly detailed maps of Wales.

Thousands of Welsh began emigrating to the New World in the 1720s, again going to Pennsylvania first, then on to the Carolinas.

The Welsh settlements in the two Carolinas had some similarities and some differences. Each was settled by Welsh from Pennsylvania (later some came from New Castle County in Delaware) in the early 1700s.

The Welsh who migrated to North Carolina were Presbyterians from Pencader Hundred and settled along the Northeast Cape Fear River in present-day Duplin County (New Hanover County at that time) as early as 1725. The Mosley Map of North Carolina published in 1738 depicts two Welsh Settlements in North Carolina - one in Duplin County and one in Pender County along the Northeast Cape Fear River.

The Welsh who migrated to South Carolina between the years 1736 and 1746 were Calvinist Baptists who settled along the upper Pee Dee River in present-day Marion, Darlington, and Marlboro Counties.

The first published eighteenth century account of the Welsh who migrated from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas was "An Account of the Cape Fear Country, 1731," written by Hugh Meredith for the Pennsylvania Gazette in two issues, May 6, and May 13, 1731. He traveled from Philadelphia to New Town (later named Wilmington) near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. He described New Town as having an excellent harbor, as well as the potential to become a commercial and government center of the province.

He observed, "Tho' at present but a poor unprovided Place, consisting of not above 10 or 12 scattering mean houses, hardly worth the name of a village." His account is also very descriptive of the terrain, the rivers, the swamps, the trees, and the animals that inhabit the forests. "Most of the Country is well cloathed with tall Pines, excepting the Swamps and the Savannahs, and some small Strips by the Sides of the Rivers."

He noted that the savannahs in present-day Brunswick County (North Carolina), "are good pasturage for cattle; Beneath the Grass there is a fine black Mould....on the bluish white Clay. In moderately wet Summers they might make tolerable good Rice-Ground, as is done with the like in South Carolina." Meredith also described the swamp and river water to be "of a dusky Complection, and it looks much like high-coloured Malt Small-Beer."

About twenty miles inland, he stayed at the home of David Evans, a former magistrate from New Castle County, Delaware. He noted, "The Land he lives on is pretty good and the highest I saw in the Country, but there is only a small body of it." Meredith then traveled with Mr. Evans and two others to the Northeast Cape Fear River, about eighty miles inland. He noted that the Northeast Cape Fear River had a number of Welsh settlers who migrated from Pennsylvania to North Carolina around 1725.

He found those Welsh proficient in the naval stores industry, as well as growing corn. He wrote that the Indians were no longer a threat to the settlers, but, "Thomas James, whose Settlement they plundered and burnt, and murdered him and his Family. But now there is not an Indian to be seen." He concluded his account by noting that "the agricultural goods produced in the region were cheap, but goods imported are 50 and 100 percent higher than than can be bought in Philadelphia, especially rum and osnaburgs."

Meredith's account encouraged the Welsh from Pennsylvania and Delaware to migrate to North Carolina. It appears that the Welsh settlement of the Cape Fear region in the eighteenth century was far more extensive than what previous observers had believed.

In 1964, Harry Roy Merrens, in his book on the historic geography of the state wrote that other than Hugh Meredith's 1731 account, "there is no further information on the Welsh settlers in the colony, which suggests that they could not have been very numerous." Thus, in Merren's view, the Welsh in North Carolina settled in rural areas, and they established no villages or towns that provided a cohesive "focal point of community life and organization, and with farms spread thinly over a fairly large area into which other more numerous settlers came, Welsh settlements probably quickly lost whatever distinctiveness they may have possessed at the outset."

In 1994, Dallas Herring, the director of the Duplin County Historical Society wrote a brief article entitled, "The Cape Fear Welsh Settlements," disagreeing with Merren's observations of the early Welsh in North Carolina. According to Herring, "The land records verify that a bona fide Welsh settlement existed and thousands of Welsh descendents still occupy the region."

Through his genealogical research, he concluded that there were Welsh families who migrated from other colonies to the middle Cape Fear region of Duplin County, and Sarah Meredith owned an eighteenth century Welsh Bible. Herring continued, "The land records document the steady influx of settlers in the following years. A great many of them were Welsh and among them were Bloodworth, Thomas, Davis, Jones, Bowen, Morgan, Wells, James, Williams, and others." Herring concluded that most of the early Welsh settlers came to North Carolina for economic rather than religious reasons, and, "The Cape Fear was to them the long-promised land."

The Welsh settlers were not confined to the Northeast Cape Fear River in Duplin and Pender Counties, North Carolina. Rather, their settlement extended eighty to ninety miles inland, along the creeks flowing into the Cape Fear and the Northeast Cape Fear Rivers. Many Welsh who came to North Carolina in the eighteenth century settled along the creeks that drained into these rivers. These creeks and swamps include such names as Rockfish, James', Swifts', and Smith's Creeks, Black Mingo and Goshen Swamps, and the Black River that runs through southeastern North Carolina.

This region today covers parts of the present-day counties of Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Onslow, Jones, Brunswick, Pender, and Sampson Counties. The reason this Welsh settlement was so spread out was due to the naval stores industry, spurred on by Parliament when in the eighteenth century it granted a bounty on naval stores in North Carolina. This British bounty on naval stores encouraged Welsh settlers to migrate from Pennsylvania and Delaware to North Carolina in the 1730s. Those who migrated to North Carolina were primarily Presbyterians who attended the Pencader Hundred Church in New Castle County Delaware.

The Presbyterian Churches established by these Welsh settlers on the creeks flowing into the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers had a strong cultural influence on the region. This evidence exists in the church minutes and the church graveyards. An example of this Welsh ethnicity survives at Rock Fish and Hopewell Presbyterian Churches in Duplin County.

These churches began in the eighteenth century and the graveyards have tombstones with Welsh surnames, such as Bowen, Morgan, Owen, Edwards, Thomas, Evans, James, Jones, Williams, and Wells. Today, these surnames continue to be prominent in southeastern North Carolina.

There is also a small community in Columbus County, named Iron Hill, perhaps associated with the town of Iron Hill in Delaware.

In 1780, descendents of the early Welsh settlers in Duplin County successfully petitioned the North Carolina state legislature and established the first incorporated town in that county named Sarecta, a Welsh word meaining "wisdom." First settled in 1736, the town of Sarecta was situated on the Northeast Cape Fear River, and today the town no longer exists. Today, it is a crossroads in rural Duplin County. With the coming of the railroads in the 1880s, the town of Sarecta dried up when residents moved to the neighboring railroad towns of Kenansville, Faison, and Beulaville, Magnolia, Rose Hill, and Wallace.

The first student to enroll in the University of North Carolina when it opened its doors in 1795 was Hinton James, a descendent of the early Welsh settlers of Pender County.

In addition, some people of Welsh descent moved from the Welsh settlement in the Welsh Tract of South Carolina to North Carolina. In the 1760s, the Welsh Neck Baptist Church minutes recorded that Valentien Hollingsworth moved his family from South Carolina to Bladen County, North Carolina.

More is known about the early Welsh who migrated to South Carolina in the eighteenth century. Governor Robert Johnson, the royal governor of the province of South Carolina, granted the first Welsh settlers ten thousand acres in northeastern South Carolina that eventually became known as the Welsh Tract. One of the reasons the Welsh received such a large grant of land was perhaps due to Maurice Lewis, a Welshman who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in South Carolina. Mr. Lewis owned 450 acres in Anglesey, Wales and migratred to South Carolina around 1728. His influence among the early Welsh was short-lived; he contracted a fever and died in Charles Town in 1739.

The early Welsh who settled along the upper Pee Dee River in South Carolina were Calvinists who believed in predestination, and became disillusioned by the Arminian practices that included the belief in universal salvation. More than thirty families migrated from Pencader Hundred Baptist Church in Delaware to South Carolina between 1736 and 1746. Some families, particularly the Harry, James, and Jones families, were slaveholders and imported their slaves from Delaware to South Carolina. In addition, a distinct Welsh cultural identity prevailed in the upper Pee Dee River area of South Carolina, at least to 1760.

The Baptist Church known as Welsh Neck, founded by eight families in 1738 near present-day Society Hill in Darlington County, South Carolina, became the mother church of over thirty-five churches on the South Carolina frontier in the eighteenth century. Unlike the Welsh in North Carolina, a more distinct Welsh cultural identity prevailed in South Carolina.

In his 1745 visit, the Rev. John Fordyce, the SPG minister, described these Baptists as being bilingual, since they spoke both Welsh and English when they migrated to South Carolina. James James, Esq., the first leader of the Welsh settlers owned a Welsh Bible.

Before building their church at Welsh Neck, these early Welsh were using the Cyd Gordiad by Abel Morgan in the home of John Jones. The Cyd Gordiad was the first and only Welsh Bible published in Philadelphia in 1730. Some of the first settlers also owned other Welsh books. Nicholas Rogers, at the time of his death in 1760, owned a parcel of Welsh books valued at £1-10s. Mary Devonald, while writing her will in December, 1755, also owned a parcel of Welsh books that she left to her son and daughter.

In the early years of the settlement, the upper Pee Dee River community had a Welsh identity that was well-known in Charles Town and throughout the province of South Carolina. On October 22, 1744, Robert Williams, a planter who resided near Charles Town, advertised a reward in the South Carolina Gazette for the capture of a runaway Welsh indentured servant named Thomas Edwards. Williams believed the servant, who spoke bad English, "had gon up the path towards the Welsh Settlement or on board a ship."

Even earlier, Robert Williams advertised three runaway Welsh indentured servants in the same paper. One of these servants was Jenkins James, who "talks very much Welshy." Advertisements announcing St. David's Day festivities in Charles Town also appeared in the South Carolina Gazette. One advertisement printed in that Charles Town paper appeared in Welsh, announcing the celebration of St. David's Day in that city on March 1, 1771. This announcement read:

Dydd Gwyl Dewi - Mae yr Hold Hen Brittaniad a I Hepil, fydd yn Dewi

Ginauau ii guda I, Guridwir ar Dydd Gwyl. Dewi, Yn Dummuno Rei,

Henuan Pump O Dyddian O flaeny Dydd cynta o Faretth Trwy

Orchymmun Peny Genedl, I William Edwards, igriven Trief siarles y is

Dydd a Chaefrer, 1771

This society was first organized in Charles Town in 1736, and celebrated by local inhabitants of Welsh descent. The coming of the American Revolution could have interrupted this Welsh celebration in 1774, when the Sons of St. David noted in the South Carolina Gazette that they were unable to assemble to celebrate this event.

One of the first Welsh settlers to settle in the upper Pee Dee River region of South Carolina was William James. He called his 350 acres he obtained through the headlight system in 1738, New Cambria, meaning New Wales. In 1746, there were three settlers, William Hughes, James Price, and Job Edwards, who came to South Carolina directly from Wales. But, those men seem to have been the only men to migrate directly from Wales to South Carolina in that decade.

Most of the Welsh settlers in South Carolina were Baptists. These Welsh Baptists kept a distinct cultural identity within their church communities for several years after they arrived in South Carolina. In 1759, a membership list of the church members taken at Welsh Neck Church included the names of sixty-five members. Of those members' surnames, only four were of non-Welsh descent, or English and Scottish origin. Those non-Welsh had surnames such as McDaniel, Desurrency, Poland, and Perkins.

By 1777, the church members had much more diversity as revealed by the 197 members. This ethnic diversity after 1760 can be attributed to the aftermath of the Cherokee War of 1760 that caused more settlers of Scots-Irish descent from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina to migrate down the Great Wagon Road into South Carolina.

The South Carolina census in 1790 revealed that only 6.2% of the entire population of the state had Welsh surnames, thus approximately 8,691 of the total 140,178 whites living in the state represented about the same proportion with Welsh surnames in the other early states.


Settlers from Scotland

Scots emigration to the colonies soared to 145,000 between 1707 and 1775. Generally poorer than the English, the Scots had greater incentives to emigrate, and the union of 1707 (when England and Scotland agreed to form the United Kingdom) gave them legal access to all of the colonies. The growth in Scots overseas shipping also provided more opportunities and lower costs for passage. After a few early emigrants prospered, their reports homeward attracted growing numbers in a chain migration. During a tour of northwestern Scotland, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson saw the locals perform a popular and symbolic new dance called “America,” in which a few original dancers gradually drew in the entire audience.

The Scottish diaspora flowed in three streams: Lowland Scots, Highland Scots, and Ulster Scots.

Assimilated to English ways, the Lowland Scots were primarily skilled tradesmen, farmers, and professionals pulled by greater economic opportunity in America. They usually emigrated as individuals or single families, then dispersed in the colonies and completed their assimilation to Anglo-American ways.

More desperate than the Lowland Scots, the Highlanders responded primarily to the push of their deteriorating circumstances. In 1746, the British army brutally suppressed a rebellion in the Highlands (the end of the Jacobite Rebellion), and Parliament outlawed many of their traditions and institutions. At mid-century, the common Highlanders also suffered from a pervasive rural poverty worsened by the rising rents demanded by their callous landlords. The emigrants primarily came from the relatively prosperous peasants, who possessed the means to emigrate and feared remaining in the Highlands, lest they fall into the growing ranks of the impoverished.

After 1750, emigration brokers and ambitious colonial land speculators frequented the northwest coast of Scotland to procure Highland emigrants. The brokers and speculators recognized that the poor but tough Highlanders were especially well-prepared for the rigors of a transatlantic passage and colonial settlement. Confined to cheap (and often dangerous) lands, the Highland Scots clustered in frontier valleys, especially along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, the Mohawk River of New York, and the Altamaha River in Georgia. By clustering, they preserved their distinctive Gaelic language and Highland customs, in contrast to the assimilation practiced by the Lowland emigrants.

Nearly half of all so-called Scots emigrants came from Ulster, in Northern Ireland, which their parents and grandparents had colonized during the 1690s. Like the Highlanders, the Ulster Scots sought to escape from deteriorating conditions. During the 1710s–20s they clashed with the Irish Catholic and endured a depressed market for their linen, several poor harvests, and increasing rents. The Ulster Scots emigration to the colonies began in 1718 and accelerated during the 1720s. The destitute sold themselves into indentured servitude, while the families of middling means liquidated their livestock to procure the cost of passage. Of course, most of the Ulster Scots remained at home, preferring the known hardships of Northern Ireland to the uncertain prospects of distant America.

The Ulster Scots emigrated in groups, generally organized by their Presbyterian ministers, who negotiated with shippers to arrange passage. Once in the colonies, the Ulster Scots gravitated to the frontier, where land was cheaper, enabling large groups to settle together. In the colonies, they became known as “the Scots-Irish.” At first, the Ulster Scots emigrated to Boston, but some violent episodes of New English intolerance persuaded most, after 1720, to head for Philadelphia, a more welcoming seaport in a more tolerant colony. More sparsely settled than New England, Pennsylvania needed more settlers to develop and defend the hinterland.

Beginning in the 1740s, as the seeds of the upcoming French and Indian War (1756-1763) were being sowed with more and more Indian raids along the Pennsylvania frontier, many Scots-Irish took to the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, through the Shenandoah valley, down to North Carolina and South Carolina. The Scots-Irish immigrated to the Carolinas in droves, from the very-late 1730s to the 1760s, quickly filling up the Midlands and Backcountry of South Carolina, and the Piedmont up to the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina.

Of the colonial governors sent from the British Isles to the American colonies before the Revolution, and of the provincial governors from that time to 1789, upwards of forty were of Scottish birth or descent. Among them may be mentioned: William Drummond (1663), Gabriel Johnston (1734), Matthew Rowan (1753), Alexander Martin (1782), Samuel Johnston (1788), all of North Carolina; Joseph Morton (1682), James Moore (1719), William Campbell (1775), John Rutledge (1779), all of South Carolina.
There were Scottish Lowlanders in the Carolinas before 1700. Tracing Lowlanders is more difficult than tracing Highlanders because the Lowlanders were much more willing to disperse themselves within the various communities than were the clansmen. However, there are clear records of Lowlanders in North Carolina before 1700. Lowlander names appear in pre-1700 Carolina records and the first governor of the colony, William Drummond, was a Lowlander.

The Scots-Irish were Protestant, as compared to the smaller number of Irish in Carolina, who were Catholic. In the seventeenth century a large amount of the Irish immigrants were situated in the West Indies, but in the eighteenth century there were Irish settlements in North America. Pennsylvania was in 1790 the colony that had most persons of Irish nationality, but it was mainly in the nineteenth century that the mass immigration of Irish Catholics to North America started.

Scottish Highlanders also added to the diversity of North Carolina's settlers. The Highlanders immigrated to America because of the laws enacted by the British that were designed to destroy the Highland clan culture and bring them under British control. The decay of the clan system, change in agriculture, poverty, and unrest made the decision to leave Scotland relatively easy for many Highlanders, and thousands flocked to America in the 18th century.

The first Highlanders arrived in North Carolina in 1729, and settled inland along the Cape Fear River. James Innes, Hugh Campbell, and William Forbs were among the first Highlanders to settle in Cape Fear. When the Highlanders arrived in North Carolina, they disembarked at either Brunswick or Wilmington. They then had to travel ninety miles up the Cape Fear River to the Cross Creek area, which was the hub of Scottish settlement.

The first large group of Highlanders to settle in the Cross Creek area was a party of 350 from Argyllshire who arrived in 1739. By 1775 a large body of Highlanders was situated along the rivers on the Sand Hill region of Upper Cape Fear. Most Highlanders settled into North Carolina and became farmers.


Settlers from Ireland 
Governor Richard Kyrle was in office only six months due to his early demise, but while in office there was a great influx of Irish - from the West Indies - into the Charles Town area in 1684. Some historians claim Kyrle was Scots-Irish, but he was actually "knighted" in Ireland proper, not Northern Ireland.
Sullivan's Island in the Charles Town Harbor was named after Captain Florence O'Sullivan who had commanded one of the ships - the Carolina - that brought the first shipload of English/Barbadians to Charles Town in 1670.
Other than the Ulster Irish of Northern Ireland, there is scant historical records of "regular Irish" coming to the Carolinas until well into the 1800s. Certainly, there were "more than just a handful" that did make their way out of Ireland, but there simply isn't much to include here. The Irish just did not have a very large contingent in either North Carolina or South Carolina because most of them were Catholic and the colony simply had no toleration for Catholics until after the American Revolution.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved