In the early 1700's a group of Scots settled in eastern New York and were a mixture of Highland Scots and those from Northern Ireland. They were stalwart, rugged, independent, knew how to use guns and were not afraid to fight. The colonial governors encouraged people of this type to immigrate because they provided a barrier between the Colonies and the French and Indians. They occupied land east of the Hudson River in Washington County, New York, and had some 40 miles of farm land in the foothills of the Green Mountains.
Their forefathers were Presbyterian Highland Scots living in Western Scotland. They had supported the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and had lost. Economic conditions were bad, crops failed and there were famines. In addition, there was general discontent with their own Church of Scotland. They looked beyond the sea to America in the hope of finding political, economic and religious freedom. Conditions were just as difficult for the “Scottish Nation” in Northern Ireland.
In 1738, a group of people belonging to the Scotch Presbyterian church and living in Argyleshire were offered free land near Lake George. One thousand acres of land given to every adult person who paid for their passage and every child received 500 acres of land if they paid passage. In the years 1738, 1739 and 1740 some 472 persons were brought in groups by Captain Lauchlin Campbell to the New World. Originally there were some legal problems about the land but in 1764 a grant of 47,450 acres known as the Argyll Patent was secured.
On May 10, 1764, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Clark, born in Galloway but now a pastor in Northern Ireland, brought his entire congregation of 300 people to New York. Their plans were to “carry on the linen and hempen manufacture to which they were all brought up.” It is believed that this is the only instance where an entire congregation moved to the New World.
The land near Lake George proved to be unsatisfactory. It became necessary for Dr. Clark to purchase other land which became known as the Turner Patent. It was composed of some 25,000 acres nearly all in Washington County. This land was divided into lots of 88 acres each and given to families. “The land was rent-free for five years, after which a yearly rental of one shilling per acre was to be paid.”
The country was a wilderness. There were no roads. One had to either walk or use a horse. Mary McNaughton, the mother of chief justice John Savage, walked seven miles to attend a church service. (John Savage was a lawyer and politician. He was Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1823 to 1837.)
In 1736, there were one thousand Scottish families in Belfast waiting for ships to bring them to America. This new life in America was not easy. It was very difficult. But they possessed a common bond - their membership in the Presbyterian Church. Many of these families were related to each other before coming to American and as time passed, the younger people intermarried, making the bond even stronger.
To be continued . . .
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
office phone - 630.629.4516
The History Club will meet on Saturday, May 12, 2016. (Please note this is not the first Saturday of the month.) Museum will be open at 9 a.m. and the meeting will begin at 10. We will center our program around the wedding dress given to the museum and the six medals from World War I. It will also be our annual birthday celebration. Reservations are not necessary but helpful in planning. Please call 708.408.5591 and reserve your space.