The Scotch-Irish in New York and the Jerseys

Henry Jones Ford

When the Dutch colony of New Netherlands became the English colony of New York by the Peace of 1674 there was a movement of population thither from the older English colonies. The Rev. John Livingston, whose ineffectual attempt to go to America on the Eagle Wing has been narrated, became progenitor of an illustrious American family through an immigrant who settled in New York at this period. Robert Livingston, born in 1654 while his father was pastor of Ancrum, Scotland, emigrated to Massachusetts in 1673. The next year he removed to New York and proceeded to Albany, then a frontier settlement doing a large trade with the Indians. Livingston had lived several years in Holland, while his father was a religious exile there, and his knowledge of the Dutch language was now of great service. He obtained employment as clerk to the Board of Commissaries which then governed the Albany district, and thus began a prosperous official career in the course of which he acquired an extensive tract of land still known as the Livingston Manor. He had numerous descendants and it is doubtful whether any other family in the Revolutionary period contributed so many of its members to the army and navy. There were certainly seven and probably eight Livingstons of his blood among the officers of General Gates' army at Saratoga, three of them in command of regiments. Among his descendants are William Livingston, Governor of New Jersey throughout the Revolutionary War, and a framer of the Constitution; Chancellor Livingston, a member of the committee that framed the Declaration of Independence, who administered the oath to Washington as first President of the United States, and who as Minister to France began the negotiations which resulted in the cession of Louisiana; and Edward Livingston, United States Senator from Louisiana, Secretary of State under Jackson and a jurist of international celebrity.

About 1682 a Scotch migration to East Jersey set in, promoted by a group of eminent Scots who had acquired Proprietors' shares in that Province. George Scot, of Pitlochie, whose colonizing activity has been heretofore noted, was one of the movers in this enterprise. Samuel Smith, the first historian of the Province, says: "There were very soon four towns in the Province, viz., Elizabeth, Newark, Middletown and Shrewsbury: and these with the country round were in a few years plentifully inhabited by the accession of the Scotch, of whom there came a great many." It is quite probable that this Scotch immigration had Ulster ingredients, but this is a matter of inference and not of positive knowledge.

It is not until the great wave of Ulster emigration in 1718 that Scotch-Irish settlement in New York and New Jersey becomes distinctly noticeable. In 1720 Scotch-Irish settlers in the vicinity of Goshen, Orange County, New York, were numerous enough to form a congregation. In the succeeding decade some forty families from the North of Ireland settled in the country west of the Hudson in what became Orange and Ulster counties. A congregation was formed at Bethlehem, Orange County, and one also at Wallkill, Ulster County; and in 1729 a call for ministerial supply was sent to the Philadelphia Synod. These settlements, which were in the valley of the Wallkill River, were augmented in 1731 by a body of emigrants from the North of Ireland in whose number were Charles Clinton and his sister, Christiana Clinton Beattie. Clinton was the founder of the New York family of that name, that produced two Revolutionary generals and two of the early Governors of New York. Mrs. Beattie was the mother of two noted Presbyterian clergymen. In 1742 another company of Scotch-Irish families arrived in Orange County, settling in Monroe Township. In 1740 sixteen families from Ulster made a settlement as far north as Glen Township, Montgomery County, but the danger from Indian attack was so great that the settlement was eventually abandoned.

A marked infusion of Scottish blood in New York came through settlements made in response to a proclamation issued in 1735 by the Governor, inviting "loyal Protestant Highlanders" to settle the lands between the Hudson and the Northern Lakes. Attracted by this offer, Captain Lauchlin Campbell of the Island of Islay brought over eighty-three families of Highlanders by November, 1740, but his expectations in regard to land grants were disappointed, and some of the people left the country. It was not until 1764, after Lauchlin Campbell's death, that tardy justice was done to these emigrants by grants of land in Washington County. This county borders on western Massachusetts, from which at this period Scotch-Irish emigration had . penetrated New York. Scotch-Irish settlements were made in Salem Township, Washington County, in 1762. The lands granted to the Highlanders were in the township immediately west of Salem.

A strong addition to this Scotch-Irish settlement made in 1765 illustrates the motive of religious freedom that operated so strongly on American colonization. The Rev. Thomas Clark of Scotland had been called to Cahans, near Ballybay, County Monaghan, Ireland, as the result of a split in the Presbyterian congregation there. Clark ministered to the seceders, and had to encounter much opposition. In 1754 he was arrested through the agency of some elders of the rival Presbyterian church at Ballybay. He lay in Monaghan jail for ten weeks, meanwhile preaching to as many of his people as could attend. The charge against him was eventually dismissed. In 1763 he received calls from America which he was inclined to accept. An emigration movement ran through his congregation and when he went to sail from Newry, on May 16, 1764, some three hundred persons were ready to go with him. They arrived in New York, whence some removed to the Abbeville district of South Carolina. The majority went to Stillwater on the Hudson, pending arrangements for their permanent settlement. At Stillwater James Harshaw, one of the elders, died during the summer of 1765. From him descended at least ten Presbyterian ministers, among them the Rev. Dr. William W. Harsha, professor of systematic theology in the Presbyterian Seminary of Nebraska.

Clark procured a grant of twelve thousand acres of land in Washington County, New York, free of charge for five years after which there was to be paid an annual rent of one shilling an acre. The congregation removed thither in 1766, settling at a place variously known as White Creek or New Perth, but which in 1786 became definitely known as Salem. An interesting feature of this settlement was that it was the transplantation of a congregation. The pastoral relation between Clark and his people remained unbroken. There was little if any interruption in the regular services, and when the congregation was settled in Salem Clark was pastor of eight ruling elders and 150 communicants who had come with him from Cahans. The first church building was the usual log cabin; in use only three years, it then became a school house and finally, in 1777, its timbers were used in building a block house as a defense against attack by the Indians. The second meeting house, built in 1770, has also disappeared, but the third one, built in 1797, is still standing, much altered and enlarged, with a congregation including some eighty families of the original stock. Among names connected with the original congregation are Adams, Armstrong, Beatty, Boyd, Carswell, Crozier, Cruickshank, Graham, Harshaw, Henderson, Lytle, Matthews, McClelland, McDougall, McCrea, McFarland, McMillan, McMurray, McNish, McWhorter, Reid, Rowan, Steele, Stevenson, Stewart, Williams.

Dr. Clark severed his relation with the Salem congregation in 1782, owing to difficulties in which he was involved because he was in a way landlord as well as pastor. He had made himself responsible for the shilling an acre rent and in making collections he pressed tenants in arrears, causing hard feelings that made his position uncomfortable. It is said that the congregation voted, with only two dissenting voices, that he should remain, but he resolved to leave. He appears to have resided at Albany for several years and then he removed to the Abbeville district in South Carolina, where a portion of his original flock had settled. He organized the Cedar Spring and Long Cane congregations over which he was installed pastor in 1786. The records of these early congregations have perished. Dr. Clark died on December 26, 1792, and was buried at Cedar Spring.

Washington County, New York, became a strong Scottish centre through repeated colonizations both from Scotland and Ulster. From 1764 to 1774 the township of Hebron, lying north of Salem, was largely granted to the officers and men of Montgomery's Highlanders, who had served in America for seven years and had received their honorable discharge. In 1761 Cambridge Township in the southern part of the county became the scene of Scotch-Irish settlement, the emigrants coming probably from Massachusetts and Connecticut. The settlement of all of the country east of the Hudson was largely due to immigration from New England. Central New York was first occupied by settlers moving up the Hudson River valley. Emigrants from Scotland, with some from Ulster, settled in Albany in such numbers that in 1760 a Presbyterian Church was organized there. A Presbyterian settlement was begun in Boston township, Saratoga County, in 1770, by the Reverend Eliphalet Ball and some members of his congregation who removed from Bedford, New York. Emigrants went to this settlement from New Jersey, New England, Scotland and Ulster. Stillwater Township, in the same county, was settled largely by Scotch-Irish emigration from New England.

In pursuance of the same design of garrisoning the frontier by Scotch-Irish settlements as was pursued in New England, a tract of 8,000 acres in what is now Otsego County was granted in 1738 to John Lindesay and three associates. The grant covered the present township of Cherry Valley in the upper watershed of the Susquehanna. Lindesay, a Scottish gentleman of some fortune, bought out his associates and addressed himself to the work of attracting settlers. While in New York City he became acquainted with the Rev. Samuel Dunlop, a minister of Ulster birth, and pursuaded him to take part in the enterprise. Mr. Dunlop visited Londonderry, N. H., and induced some of his friends there to accompany him to Cherry Valley, where, about 1743, he opened a classical school in his home. People came from both Scotland and Ulster to settle in this region. Middlefield was established by Scotch-Irish families in 1755, but the settlements grew slowly because of their exposed position on the frontier. In 1765 there were about forty families at Cherry Valley, and there were also some small settlements in the vicinity along the valley of the upper Susquehanna. The fears that retarded settlement were sadly justified by the Cherry Valley massacre, on October 11, 1778, when many of the inhabitants were killed, others carried off as prisoners, and all the buildings in the settlement were burned in an attack by Tories and Indians. It was not until 1784 that people began to return and rebuild.

Ulster participation in the settlement of New York, although distinctly marked, seems to have been inferior in extent to that of Scotland, from which country schemes of New York colonization were actively promoted. It seems probable that emigration from Ulster to the interior counties of New York was incidental to emigration from Scotland, which usually took in Ulster ports on the way. To this day Londonderry is a regular port of call in the voyage between America and Scotland. At one time it looked as if New York was about to become New Scotland. Sir William Johnson, an Ulster man, belonging to an English family that took part in the Plantation and settled in County Down, came to America in 1738. For his services in the French and Indian War he received from the Crown a grant of 100,000 acres north of the Mohawk River in what is now Fulton County. Sir William induced over 400 of the Highland Clan MacDonnell to settle on his lands, coming from the districts of Glengarry, Glenmorison, Urquhart and Strathglass. It was a complete transplantation, the Highland families going out under four chiefs, the MacDonnells of Aberchalder, Leek, Collachie and Scotas. The settlement, which was made in and about the present town of Gloversville, was after the feudal pattern, with tenantry grouped about the lord of the manor. These Highlanders strongly attached themselves to the interests of Sir William Johnson and when he died in 1774 their allegiance was transferred to his son, Sir John Johnson.

When the Revolutionary War broke out they followed him into the British army, the majority of them serving in the first and second battalions of the King's Royal Regiment of New York. In recognition of their loyalty and as a compensation for their losses the British Government granted them lands in Canada. They settled in districts of Ontario, which still remain intensely Gaelic. The Scotch element in Canada eventually became proportionately larger than in the United States. The colonies of Highlanders once established were augmented by emigration from among friends and neighbors in the home country. Nova Scotia, which as its name implies originated as a Scotch colony, has been even more retentive of the folk ways of old Scotland than modern Scotland itself. The Scotch settlements in Canada attracted emigrants even from the United States. Emigrants from Londonderry, N. H., took part in a settlement at Truro, Nova Scotia, in 1760, while on the other hand there was some migration from Nova Scotia to New England. But in general the Canadian provinces became and still remain a favored field for Scottish emigration while Ulster has always favored the United States.