Category Archives: 18th century history

Abroad and at home

This May, I had the privilege of visiting the Archives Research Centre in Inverness, where I took a peak at Croy Parish Church registers. The Kirk, as it was known in those days. Unlike modern church sessions (at least, those of the mainline denominations with which I’m familiar), these Kirk sessions included provincial trials of misdeeds such as fist-fighting on the Sabbath.

Here’s an excerpt from one such record:

Croy July 13 1740 James Mitter Gardiner in [Cabrach] & Margaret Gordon in Mitten Delated for undecent correspondence are appointed to be cited to our next meeting of the Elders appointed to enquire into the grounds of such report. …
Croy July 20th 1740 Compeard James Mitter & Margaret Gordon & refusing their keeping any undecent correspondence the Elders were enquired if they searched into the grounds of such report & answered that they found there was such a flagrant story passing at that part of the Parish but that after diligent search they could find no ground for it. Closed with prayer.

Can you imagine such a meeting of sessions at a mainline church today? People might actually turn out for the show. Strange words appear in the text: Delated. Compeard. Then again, it’s fortunate I didn’t have to decipher them from Gaelic.

“Delate” does appear in the Merriam-Webster, an archaic word that means to denounce or accuse. Not so the word “compeard.” Perhaps it is dialect? I don’t believe it is a misreading of the handwriting–here’s a sample of transcribed text of another such record I found in Google books:
book scots regional dialect

Back home, I found another tidbit of Scots 18th century history in the oddest place — the Genealogical Abstracts from Newspapers of the German Reformed Church 1830-1839, collected by Barbara Manning.
book genealogical abstracts
In an abstract from the Weekly Messenger of the German Reformed Church dated Aug. 9, 1837, is the following:

//LONGEVITY. RICHARD TAYLOR, the oldest pensioner in Chelsea Hospital England, died on the 10th of June, aged 104. He was a drummer boy at the battle of Culloden in 1745; his last action was that of Alexandria in Egypt where SIR RALPH ABERCROMBIE fell. //

Other than the fact that the Battle of Culloden occurred in 1746, let’s give this the benefit of the doubt and assume the rest is correct. The announcement tells me several things. First, that Richard Taylor was most likely a drummer boy for the British side of that engagement. Second, that if Taylor did live 104 years, he was a drummer boy in the King’s service at the young age of 13 years. Third, back in the day the Battle of Culloden was so well known that the editors of  this small German denominational newspaper in the U.S. felt this news from England worthy of note. Yet today, many people I talk with have never heard of Culloden.

Stumps in the road

When it comes to historical research, it’s all too easy to follow one thread, then another, until progress slows to the pace of a journey by horse and wagon in the 18th century.

Ohio near St Clairsville 2015

Ohio near St. Clairsville, 2015

Currently, in my studies of Scots immigrants to Ohio, I’m on the trail of pre-canal, pre-railroad travel. Via interlibrary loan, I’ve checked out a copy of Margaret Van Horn Dwight’s diary, published under the title “A Journey to Ohio in 1810.” A delightful account of an arduous trip delayed again and again, due to weather, flooding rivers, and a horse too exhausted to go on. Margaret and her companions were traveling from New Haven, Connecticut to Warren, Ohio. Below is a sample entry:

“Thursday night — Allegany (sic) Mtn Nov– 16 [1810]
We have had a warm & pleasant day till towards night, when it began to rain, as it has done every day for a fortnight — we are now at a tavern half a mile from the top of the Allegany Mt- this Mountain is 14 miles over- At the highest part of it is a most beautiful prospect of mountains- 5 or 6 ridges one after the other- … I pick’d a sprig of ivy from the top, which … came from the very backbone of America, as they all tell us — We have walk’d a great deal to day, & indeed we are oblig’d to every day, for the whole country seems one continued mtn…”

Because of the steep terrain, to spare the horse, Margaret and her companions climbed the mountains on foot, walking next to the wagon.

Another route over the Allegheny Mountains started out of Baltimore, Maryland. By the end of the 1700s, this road reached well into the Northwest Territory (present-day Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana). The first leg of the route from Baltimore went to Uniontown, Pennyslvania, a road cut in the 1750s by General Braddock’s troops during the French and Indian War. The second leg, Gist’s trace, was cut by white trader Thomas Cresap and his friend the Delaware Chief Nemacolin, and stretched from explorer Gist’s plantation in Uniontown as far as the Monongahela River at present-day Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

The third leg was cut by Ebenezer Zane around 1796. Called Zane’s Trace, it was a narrow, clumsily cut path through giant trees of the Ohio wilderness. Eventually, Zane’s trace extended from present-day Wheeling, West Virginia to Maysville, Kentucky. As the trees were felled by Zane’s men, the story goes, little care was taken about the tree stumps. As a result, wagons sometimes high-centered on stumps, or got stuck between them. It’s said that Zane’s Trace is where people first used the expression “to get stumped,” as in, stuck and going nowhere.

Huh. I know the feeling. Time for me to get off my research duff and start writing.

Are you here because of “Outlander”?

imageDave and I started off our morning at the harbour at Nairn. After we’d soaked up a little sunshine (and rain and hail), we dined on fish and chips at the Dolphin, then stopped in at the Nickel and Dime, me still clutching a cup of coffee.

“I don’t blame ya,” the shopkeeper said when I apologized. “Ya need somethin’ to keep ya warm.”

Time to head back to Edinburgh. On the way through Cairngorms National Park, we paused to stretch our legs at the Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore.

image“Are ya here because of Outlander?” the exhibit interpreter asked as we entered the 17th century Highland village. She seemed so pleased about this connection I felt embarrassed to tell her not entirely.

Check out the gorgeous vest she’s wearing — the fleece of it was spun, dyed, woven and sewn on site.

imageThis living history museum was a serendipitous joy, real fires burning in the crofts, careful attention to every aspect of the buildings, artifacts, and the grounds, a replica of a village uncovered at an archeological site a few miles away. And also providing Dave and me with the added status of being able to say that, while in Scotland, we visited a genuine film location from the first season of Outlander. Not to mention the gorgeous forest path one takes to access the village. What a treat.

Family history and archive at Inverness

imageInverness, Scotland is a land of rainbows. We’ve seen at least half a dozen during our short stay here. Despite the breathtaking beauty, the weather–forty degrees, wind gusts and intermittent, torrential rain–drove us inside. (Conversation in the Ladies WC:
She: “Having a good day?”
Me: “Excellent, regardless of the downpour.”
She: “You mean, downpours! It’s usually so much nicer in May and June. It’s just been so cold this year.”)

imageFor shelter, I sought out the Highland Archive Centre, housed in a sleek building right beside the Ness River Islands. This is great. Apparently, enough family history types have come calling to warrant an investment in this state-of-the-art facility. No appointment necessary. I was helped by really knowledgeable, and patient, assistants.

imageMy favorite hour was the last, spent browsing through the church session minutes of Croy Parish (1730-1775). Lest you roll your eyes at the dryness of it all, these were steamy pages, accusations and confessions of fornication and adultery, or attempted same, quite detailed accounts in session after session. Gives one a whole different perspective on the Presbyterian Kirk of old.

Culloden Battlefield

imageWe’ve made it up to Inverness, where our first stop yesterday was the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre. In April of 1746, a loose coalition of Highland clans mustered to the call to restore the Catholic Stuart dynasty to the Protestant Hanoverian English throne. The ill-fated political and military manuevres of Prince Charles Edward Stuart failed at this very place called Culloden. Not always a student of history, I had no idea how large this event loomed in Highland memory.

imageUntil recently, I mainly knew about this battle from family lore, which goes that my ancestor Daniel Mackintosh was a newborn infant in a croft (a thatched peasant hut) on that very Culloden field where the battle flared up that day. When it was clear the Highlanders were in retreat, his mother (my 4x great grandmother) was forced to gather up her babe and run for it.

imageNow Culloden is an uninhabited field, but this artwork of the battle depicts a manor and homes on the grounds. (Double-click on the image for a large view). It was a chilling day for the 13,000 Highland and British men who engaged in the rout, which ruined Jacobite hopes and started the final demise of the Gaelic Highland clans.

imageIt was a productive visit, especially since  this Scotsman helped me arm for battle as a Highlander. I tried on a shield and sharp dirk (dagger) with my left arm and hand, and clumsily practiced wielding a heavy, basket-hilted sword with my right. The Scotsman only flinched once.

Later, we visited the Inverness Museum, where they had an excellent display of the round, leather and metal Highland shield and array of dirks and swords.
image

Dawn in Edinburgh

imageMy first trip ever to Scotland! Morning dawns, and I’m psyched. We’re staying on the Royal Mile, a tourist mecca that I’m told extends in some places four-five stories under the ground.

Driving into town last night on the left(!) side of the road, the map was not clear about the three dimensions of the streets, a logic puzzle made of stone. It took us about five, random, winding times down Cowgate to assemble in our minds how our hotel was actually located on the bridge above us, up over our heads.

imageAfter 26 hours of planes, trains, buses and automobiles, here we are!

So what are you finding out?

As I talk with friends and writers about research progress for my current novel about Scottish immigrants to America in the 18th century, their eyes light up. “So what are you finding out?” they want to know.

I flounder for an answer to this question, because very little is straightforward. I’ll stumble upon a thread of historical interest here, another there. In isolation, the info doesn’t mean all that much. Woven together, though, a tapestry begins to emerge.

scots banishedFor instance, a book I came across at Fairview Park Library in Cleveland. When I arrived, I went first to the reference desk.

“I’m looking for information about Scottish immigrants,” I said.

“You’re talking to one,” said the librarian. Her accent wasn’t overt, but she still had a trace of that charming Scottish burr. “What do you want to know?”

Delighted, I introduced myself and we chatted over topics such as the Orange Walk, Hogmanay and cultural differences between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Until her phone rang, that is, at which point I moved on to browse the genealogy stacks, where one title in particular grabbed my interest: Scots Banished to the American Plantations, 1650-1775.

Banished. Even in genealogy circles, that word doesn’t crop up every day. I wondered how many McIntoshes, Smiths and Stewarts had been banished. Any of them from my region of Inverness-shire? As it turned out, quite a few. Regarding McIntoshes, a Jane, John, and Peter–a knitter, fiddler, and laborer–had all been transported/banished by the Brits from Inverness to the “Leeward Isles” in 1747. (But a French privateer intercepted the ship and took them to Martinique instead.)

1747. Just one year after the 1746 failed Jacobite rebellion that occurred at the Battle of Culloden, on McIntosh clan land, in Inverness. What struck me too was the number of banishments listed in the 1600s and early 1700s, and well beyond 1746 into the 19th century. Pages and pages of names. Each of these persons–whether soldier, merchant tailor or housebreaker–was sent, nay banished, to the Americas against his or her will.

Then this morning as I browsed through a book about John Knox and the Scottish Reformation (a movement that began in the 1500s), a similar thread emerged. After the aborted revolt in Scotland of Prince Charles Stuart in 1746, the book notes, “the English instituted a policy of stern repression in Scotland, and many of the adult men left that country.” (p.212-213, Douglas Wilson, For Kirk and Covenant)

Hmm — “many of the adult men left.” A tad misleading, yes? It seems to me many, if not most, of both men and women were banished against their will. Expediently shipped to a place of no return, torn from their families and a land they dearly loved.

Hence, I’m finding out the Scots endured a radically different experience than the Puritans, Quakers, Protestants, Jews and so on, those early settlers who made their exodus to the American colonies due to religious persecution, yes, but in solidarity, and mainly in search of liberty. The Scots, on the other hand, were transported, suffering isolation from their clans and disaffection from their captors and British colonial authorities. When these Scots arrived in the land of liberty, they came to serve a jail sentence. Perhaps a miscalculation on the part of the British crown? Scots rapidly grew in number to become a hefty chunk of the population.

a body of about 600,000 Scots made up about one-fourth of the population [of the American colonies] at the time of the Revolution. [p. 19, Morton Smith’s Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology]

And, as brave warriors, they fought valiantly in the American Revolution. In his book For Kirk and Covenant, Wilson posits that these same Scots brought with them a stubborn conviction in representative government, the rule of law, and separation of church and state. Could one go so far as to claim the U.S. government was founded by Scots Presbyterians? Well, they ought at least to be in the running, along with the Transcendentalists, the Freemasons, the Illuminati …