How When & Why the Scots-Irish came to Pennsylvania

Interestingly, economically, many of the Irish emigrants of this time period fell into one of two categories: weaving and glassmaking and the great glassmaking and textile industries of the U.S. began rapidly developing at this time.

The Celtic Colonies

    Then came the largest of all of the early Scots-Irish and Scots waves of emigration between 1713-1746. This was when the Scottish Stewarts were replaced by the German Hanovers as the ruling family of England and Scotland. The Scots no longer enjoyed as much attention, favor and commercial privileges under the Hanovers. Worse, after the Act of Union became fully implemented, Ulster found itself left out and had none of the commercial privileges enjoyed by Scotland itself. Ulster was not permitted international trade, only trade with England and Scotland, causing a collapse in the economy. At the same time the landlords were allowed, in violation of previous Stewart mandates and restrictions, to drastically raise rents on lands that were supposed to have been sold to plantation tenants but never were. The resulting group of hundreds of thousands of Scots-Irish and Scots emigrants, primarily arrived through what had become the Pennsylvania port of Newcastle, the main port of Philadelphia itself. The group mostly settled initially in the Maryland counties closest to existing Pennsylvania counties, and in Chester and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania and the counties that became Delaware.

EIRE (Ireland)

    However, Pennsylvania was slow to sell or grant lands to the new emigrants and Virginia decided to welcome them instead in the 1730’s. The result was that more than half of the Scots-Irish and Scottish families who first tried to settle in Pennsylvania went south from the Potomac through the Shenandoah Valley into Virginia and settled the Piedmont, Great Valley, adjacent valleys, and the eastern parts of the Blue Ridge in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Some of the post 1713 Scots-Irish and Scots who had arrived at Newcastle, also went to Baltimore, along with Maryland descendants of earlier generations of Scots-Irish and Scots. These groups together built up Baltimore as a major commercial port city, like Glasgow back in Scotland, which became a major trading partner.

    My GGGGGG Grandfather James Hopkins SR  (born 1750) may have been a weaver in Chester County PA. The US census records indicate that a James Hopkins (a weaver) abandoned East Bedford (Chester County) around the same time the James Hopkins of Antis Twp (from a gov’t Military service land warrant was issued 1789 -Military records in the Federal National Archives were burned in a fire during this period) showed up on US Census there. Documents on his page also note that he was  of Scots-Irish descent.

ALBA (Scotland)

     Many Americans of Celtic descent also mistakenly believe they are Irish when in fact they are Scots-Irish. Scots-Irish Americans are descendants of Scots who lived in Northern Ireland for two  to four generations but retained their Scottish character. Because their descendants are mostly unaware of how northern Ireland came to be settled by Scots and know only perhaps that grandpa`s or grandma`s family Bible shows they came to America from Ireland, they believe they are of strictly Irish Descent.

    Briefly, in the 1500’s, England had just turned Protestant under Elizabeth I`s parents: Welsh Henry VIII and English Anne Boleyn. Meanwhile Scotland had become mostly Protestant while its Queen, Queen Mary, spent most of her life either in France or as a prisoner of Queen Elizabeth I in England. In about 1600, the two Irish earls who had been allied with Queen Elizabeth I of England, turned on her and made alliances with her Catholic enemies and stayed Catholic. Bad idea, since England had just defeated the Spanish armada a few years before, and despite the incompetence of a few of its army leaders, still had a large, well equipped army, and was a unified double nation (England and Wales).

    Ireland on the other hand was almost never unified. There were at various times 4 or 5 kingdoms and a couple of strong independent earldoms all about the size of Rhode Island or smaller, fighting for the high kingship of all Ireland. In over 1,000 years of history, the few who made it to that throne never held it securely enough to actually rule Ireland in any modern sense of the term, nor were able to pass it on to a son.

    Needless to say, the two Irish Earls in the north were defeated and as was the custom of those days, they forfeited their lands as well as their freedom. The Earls went off to live in comparative luxury in Europe, but for their family and feudally semi-loyal Irish peasants tied to the lands the future was anything but luxurious if they had a future at all.

    Queen Elizabeth I died while her government was deciding what to do with the forfeited lands. Her cousin, James VI of Scotland became James I of England, made the decision. About this time Scotland, which had poor agricultural lands generally except in the south, was undergoing a population boom. Some chicanery practiced by one of James friends had all but ruined a number of Scottish nobles in southwestern Scotland as they were preparing to ease these population pressures by sending the excess people to Nova Scotia. Unfortunately for thie Irish, Nova Scotia was slow to get going as a colony, and then under the next King, Charles I it was given to the French as a sort of a bride price for Charles` French wife, Henrietta. So, King James began to redistribute the forfeited Irish lands as plantations for these loyal Scots, with long term leases and very low rents. Under Charles I, this distribution of Irish lands to Scots accelerated.

    Most were located in the six northern Irish counties of what is now Ulster and Donegal. Many of the first new Scottish land owners in Ireland allowed Irish families to retain their small holdings by simply swearing an oath of loyal to the English Crown. So, of the first 100 allotments, 60 were to the Irish families who had long lived upon them. During Cromwell`s time in the 1650’s, however, the English were less generous and fewer Irish were allowed to keep their lands. The Irish had continued to back Charles I even when he was ruining England and making life miserable in the American colonies for his subjects, and causing serious confusion among the Scots.

    Cromwell had had enough. As a result, a lot more of Ireland, principally in the east all the way to Wexford and a sizeable part of the center of Ireland became forfeit also, many inhabitants were not just dispossessed but killed, and a mixture of Scottish, Welsh, and English were brought into these areas instead. After Cromwell died, some lands were restored to Irish families by Charles II, and new settlers in some of these regions intermarried with older families, but it was never the same as before Cromwell. The dominant religion in these conquered territories, which gave political as well as economic opportunities, was Protestant.

    Then, as the original leases came up for renewal, the English landlords raised them, and in many cases more than doubled the rent. This was too much for the thrifty Scottish Protestant tenants. They had had enough, and with plenty of land available in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia, land they could own outright and pay no rent, they did as their fathers and grandfathers had done, pulled up stakes, and emigrated again, this time to America. Scholars estimate that between 1700 and 1750 more than 450,000 of these Scots-Irish immigrants resettled in America, a time when the total population was only about 1.5 million. They were self-reliant and industrious, their farms were very successful, and they had large healthy families. One to two generations later, in 1776, their sons and grandsons comprised half the signers of the Declaration of Independence, almost two-thirds of George Washington1s army and about half of his officers.

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…and before this – What happned in Scotland and the Making of Ulster (Wiki)

    Most of the Scottish planters (farmers) came from southwest Scotland, but many also came from the unstable regions along the border with England. The plan was that moving Borderers (see Border Reivers) to Ireland (particularly to County Fermanagh)[citation needed] would both solve the Border problem and tie down Ulster. This was of particular concern to James VI of Scotland when he became King of England, since he knew Scottish instability could jeopardise his chances of ruling both kingdoms effectively.

    Another wave of Scottish immigration to Ulster took place in the 1690s, when tens of thousands of Scots fled a famine (1696–1698) in the border region of Scotland. It was at this point that Scottish Presbyterians became the majority community in the province. Whereas in the 1660s, they made up some 20% of Ulster’s population (though 60% of its British population) by 1720 they were an absolute majority in Ulster.[58]

    Despite the fact that Scottish Presbyterians strongly supported the Williamites in the Williamite war in Ireland in the 1690s, they were excluded from power in the postwar settlement by the Anglican Protestant Ascendancy. During the 18th century, rising Scots resentment over religious, political and economic issues fueled their emigration to the American colonies, beginning in 1717 and continuing up to the 1770s. Scots-Irish from Ulster and Scotland, and British from the borders region comprised the most numerous group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland to the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. An estimated 150,000 left northern Ireland. They settled first mostly in Pennsylvania and Virginia, from where they moved southwest into the backcountry of upland territories and the Appalachian Mountains.[59]

    The average emigrant would find passage aboard a linen trade vessel.  The ships would bring flax seed from Pennsylvania to Ulster, and the captains were happy to have a return cargo that could pay cash.  Some Ulstermen paid their own way, while many had arranged to become indentured servants, selling their labor for a period of seven years.  Many, though, had no way to pay.  These souls, upon arrival in Philadelphia, would have to remain on board the ship until the captain was able to sell their labor and collect payment.

In Pennsylvania and the Great Wagon RoadPhila

        Philadelphia was by far the most popular port for Scots-Irish migrants.  This was due to the pre-established trade routes, the religious tolerance of the Pennsylvania colony, and the good, available farm land.  And there was a great labor shortage there, to boot. 
    Most of the Scots-Irish became farmers in Pennsylvania, as they had been in Ulster.  Beginning around 1730, the population of the colony really exploded and by 1740 good farm land was becoming scarce.  The prices for land rose, and Scots-Irish settlers began to occupy lands in western Pennsylvania.  Here they settled among the Germans, English, Welsh, Swedes, and American Indians. 

    Although Scotch-Irish immigrants arrived all along America’s Atlantic coast, the major flow of newcomers landed in Pennsylvania. That sea route was driven by the important trade that linked the port of Philadelphia with Ulster ports. After unloading their American cargoes in Ulster, ship captains filled their vessels with emigrants for the return trip. As more and more Ulster people traveled to America, encouraging tales of its widespread opportunities flowed back to Ulster. This migration grew steadily until the outbreak of the American Revolution.

    Though they were largely defensive and intolerant of others in Ulster, here they did pick up some things from their neighbors, such as the mountain dulcimer and the practice of building log cabins.  The mark of the Scots-Irish can best be seen in their church.  The first Presbytery in America was founded in Philadelphia in 1706.  By 1718 there were 13 Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania.  By the 1730s the Scottish ministers could no longer fill the demand for pastors and Presbyterian ministers began to be trained and educated at American schools. 

    Most Scotch-Irish emigrants to America traveled in family groups. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, some were forced to accept indentured servitude to pay off their travel costs. But once their indenture ended, typically after seven years, they were free to pursue their own fortunes. Land in America was abundant and cheap. For decades most immigrants could take up enough land to support a family through farming, often paying only minimal fees known as quitrents. The earliest arrivals filled the fertile soils of southeastern Pennsylvania. But as the flow continued, latecomers had to seek land claims further inland. The mountainous geography of Pennsylvania’s western interior, combined with its hostile Indian inhabitants, encouraged many of them to turn southwestward instead

    As more and more Scots-Irish settlers came to Pennsylvania, land became scarce and prices began once more to rise.  Scots-Irish settlers would often squat on a piece of land and never claim it or pay for it.  This was in part due to their poverty, but also due to their use of the land, farming a field until it was barren and then moving on.  This led to them being very mobile.  Since these families did not have roots in the land, so to speak, the cheap and fertile land of the Virginia Valley attracted many Scots-Irish.  There were no hostile Indians there, and Colonial Virginia encouraged settlers in the area.  The Germans were actually the first to stake claims there, in 1726-30, but the Scots-Irish soon followed. 
    Migration was starting to be a hallmark of Scots-Irish culture now.  The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was also a large trade route between the middle and the southern colonies.  There was a lot of traffic on the Great Wagon Road, and settlers here saw men moving north and south all the time.  In time, the Presbyterian missionaries moved south.  Then the cattle drivers began to move south.

    Land in the Piedmont was even cheaper than it was in Pennsylvania or in Virginia.  There were fewer problems with hostile Indians.  There was rich soil and abundant game.  Many in North Carolina did their best to promote settlement far and wide.  Arthur Dobbs was an Ulsterman who was granted land in Mecklenburg and Cabbarus counties in NC.  He actively promoted settlement in North Carolina among the Ulster Scots.  William Byrd II wrote in 1731 that “North Carolina is a Very happy Country where people may live with the least labour that they can in any part of the world.”  Many writers of his day agreed with him, making North Carolina one of the most popular destinations for the emigrant. 
    But this time the Scots-Irish got there first, and got the best of the land.  They continued to use the same agricultural techniques as they had in Ulster.  They maintained livestock, supplemented by crops, using simple tools and an almost wasteful land management policy.  Some of the land taken from the Native Americans had already been cleared for use in farming, and a few settlers used this land for intensive, permanent agriculture.  But the majority of the Scots-Irish preferred instead to clear their own land, farm around the stumps, and when the land was exhausted, clear more.  This slash and burn method of farming was a hallmark of the Piedmont farmers.  The livestock was branded and left free to graze in the uncleared areas, gaining a profit from that land as well. 
    This frontier, advantageous as it was to farming and settlement, gave rise to unique challenges for the Presbyterian Church.  The Calvinist virtues of individualism and self-sufficiency did well here, but the Christian virtues of kindness, compassion and humility suffered.  The Scots-Irish people loved their faith and desperately clung to it.  Yet the Presbyterian Church required an educated clergy, stressed an educated laity, and relied on an organized structure connected through presbyteries and synods.  This simply could not work on the frontier. 
    Presbyterian missionaries from Pennsylvania did establish churches in North Carolina.  The first churches west of the Yadkin river were all Presbyterian.  Yet many of these congregations had to wait years for a pastor to be found.  They were sheep without shepherds, and many strayed.

    In 1767 the Rev. Charles Woodmason, an Anglican clergyman, wrote of the Carolina Piedmont, “Not less than 20 Itinerant Presbyterian, Baptist and Independent Preachers are maintain’d by the Synods of Pennsylvania and New England to traverse this Country Poisoning the Minds of the People-Instilling Democratical and Commonwealth Principles into their minds-Embittering them against the very name of Bishops, and all Episcopal Government and laying deep their Republican Notions and Principles-Especially That they owe no Subjection to Great Britain-That they are a free People-That they are to pay allegiance to King George as their Sovereign-But as to Great Britain or the Parliament, or any there, that they have no more to think of or about them than the Turk or Pope-Thus do Itinerant Preachers sent from the Northern Colonies pervert the Minds of the Vulgar.” The Scots-Irish in the Piedmont struggled often, sometimes violently, against the colonial government on the coast for much of the 1760s, and this was a forerunner of what was to come. 
    More people settling the Piedmont meant more people moving westward towards the mountains.  The British government did not want settlers on Cherokee land, however.  This caused conflict with many Scots-Irish who intended to settle there, and eventually a settlement in Watauga in east Tennessee was established, albeit illegally.  These Scots-Irish settlers were now fighting a British enemy and a Cherokee one.  The British authorities would often entice the Cherokee to violence against the settlers, as in the French and Indian War.  When the Revolution started in 1776, the British once more utilized the Cherokee to attack the settlers.  Gen. Griffith Rutherford, and Ulsterman, led an expedition across the Blue Ridge Mountains that effectively removed the Indian threat.  Marching with him was Rev. James Hall, a prominent Presbyterian minister.  This was the first view many Scots-Irish would have of their future mountain home. 
    The Scots-Irish were heavily involved on the patriot side of the Revolutionary War.  They viewed it as an extension of the conflict they had been having with the British for a long time.  After the Revolution, the new NC state government gave large land grants to Revolutionary War veterans.  This encouraged many of the Ulstermen who had been on Rutherford’s expedition to seek new land in the mountains, and push the frontier farther west.

Scottish Hopkins before they moved to Ireland (Scots-Irish)

The Hopkins surname has been traced back to about the time of the Norman Conquest (1066 A.D.), when William the Conqueror established Norman rule of England.

    The origin of the Ulster-Scots is a familiar story – some 100,000 Scotsmen were resettled by the British government during the Ulster (Northern Ireland) Plantation of the 17th century. After the turn of the next century the descendants of many of these Scots-Irish emigrated in substantial numbers to America opening up a frontier for European settlement. Over the course of the 18th century the Ulster Scots would become the single most numerous ethnic group to settle in America.

    Most of the Scots-Irish were very independent, self-reliant, and very resistant to British rule.  This was a character trait brought with them from the Ulster (Ireland) plantation where they suffered so much at the hands of the ruling British.

The Early Years



    The word Scotch has been used to define Scottish people for over 500 years. The term Scotch-Irish was used in a manifesto written by Queen Elizabeth and issued in April of 1573. The term, however, had been used even before that in similar forms. It has been used ever since that day thousands of times in Ireland and in North America by noted historians and common folks alike. It appears in innumerable books written over centuries.

    It is wrong to say Scotch only refers to Scottish whiskey. What then do we make of Scotch Tape, Scotch Pine, Scotch Guard and other uses of the word common in our language and implying some Scottish connection. There is also Irish whiskey and yet we don’t say the word Irish refers only to a drink.

    The habit of using Scots-Irish is very recent and I have no problem with anyone using it if they prefer, however it is “The Scotch-Irish Society of the USA” not the Scots-Irish Society.

    The real term should be Scottish Irish just as we would say Scottish American or Italian American or African American.

    There has been a lot of useless debate over this terminology and it would solve the problem for everyone to simply say Scottish Irish when referring to Scottish families who moved to Ireland. We’ll see if the world ever catches up to me on this logic.

    From the 13th to 18th century, Irish (and later Scotch-Irish) chieftains or landowners hired elite bands of mercenaries, skilled in the use of heavy, hand-held weapons, to supplement their regular forces. The earliest mercenaries were known as gallogladh in Gaelic, which is often anglicized as Gallowglass. Later warriors were known as Redshanks. Some say this was because of the red legs gained from wearing kilt-like clothing, legs which would become suntanned, or in some cases simply reddish in color from wading in cold streams or being scratched by vegetation. Others say it was from the wearing of reddish deer-hide leggings. Either way, the Redshanks were a bit less formal than the Gallowglass, and often consisted of desparate men looking for any kind of work, even mercenary work. The Gallowglass seem to have been more of an elite group of fighters similar to the Knights Templar, Ninja, or Samurai organizations. They had very specific rules to follow, including the number of troops in each group, the type of weaponry to be used, and the number and nature of the support staff.


    The word gallogladh is usually said to mean “foreign warriors.” These imposing mercenaries wore distinctive long coats of padded cotton or chain mail and conical shaped helmets, which set them apart from ordinary Irish warriors. Many of them settled in Ireland and became the forefront of the Irish war machine with their Claymore, a two-handed sword, and their Sparth, or battle axe.

    The Gallowglass originated in the Hebrides (a group of island just off the west coast of the Scottish Highlands) and were of mixed Celtic and Viking origin. Clan Donald was one of the principal providers and leaders of Gallowglass Warriors, not only in Ireland, but also for King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during his Thirty Year Wars, and in a few other areas of Europe. Other families involved were the MacSweeneys, MacSheehys, MacDowells, MacRorys, and the MacCabes.

    Gustavus was known as the Father of Modern Warfare and it is likely that some of his tactics were learned from the very Gallowglass Warriors that he employed to help fight his battles. It is also very likely that the Gallowglass learned some of their tactics from the Knights Templar.

    Knights Templar are thought to have taken refuge in Scotland, landing on the Isle of Mull in 1313. This would have been well within the kingdom of the Rulers of the Isles, the “Sons of Somerled,” and well within the homeland of the Gallowglass.

    The following year, a few Templars are said to have been led by Angus Og MacDonald, essentially the leader of the Western Isles, and great grandson of the famous Somerled, into the Battle of Bannock Burn, when Robert Bruce’s troops freed Scotland.

     Angus was married to Agnes O’Cahan, daughter of the O’Cahan chief of Dungiven, an Irish community located near Londonderry, thus linking the Scottish Island and Highland families with the Bann River Valley, the hotspot of Scotch-Irish settlement in Northern Ireland.

   Words with gall in them usually denote some type of Viking background. The Hebrides were often called Innes Gall, or islands of the foreigners. Thus foreign warrior really meant Viking warrior, or at least Viking-influenced warrior. DNA research has shown many Highland and Island clans to have considerable Viking bloodlines.

    Galway Bay in Ireland and Galloway in Scotland are also named after their Viking backgrounds. The Galloway area of Scotland is where many Scotch-Irish moved, escaping violence and persecution in Ireland, in the mid to late 1600s. The distance between Ireland and Scotland is not that great to prevent escape from either country to the other, when religious, economic or political reasons would warrant it. Thus many Scotch-Irish families have mixed histories in both countries over several centuries.

    That Knights Templar were in Scotland is proven in many ways. Over 500 pieces of property were recorded as belonging to the Templars. Templar graves dot the landscape from the Isle of Skye to Paisley Abbey, two places where Clan Donald had a dramatic presence.

    Also, on a small island, just off the coast from Caisteal Uisdean, on the Isle of Skye Trotternish Peninsula, are said to be the graves of two Crusaders knights. It was the Crusaders who originally made up the Knights Templar. Not far away was located the chapel and headquarters of the Bishop of the Isles for about 1,000 years until it was moved in 1498.

     It is most likely that Gallowglass Warriors fought with tactics learned from Vikings, Celts, and Templars and were, therefore, the very best, toughest fighting men around, at the time. No wonder they were invited to Ireland!

     The fighting typically took place only in the summertime, when fields were dry. This was especially true for the Redshanks. During the winter, Irish families were required to house mercenaries, and in many cases these Scots, from the Hebrides, married Irish women. Still, it is not generally accepted that the word Scotch-Irish means a combination of Scottish and Irish blood, though in many cases it actually was.

    The marriage of Angus Og MacDonald and Agnes O’Cahan or O’Cathan, was of particular importance in bringing the races of Scots and Irish Celts back together. Both had originated from Celts who were escaping persecution in Europe. Both groups of Celts were attacked by, and intermarried with Vikings. They were and are essentially the same people.

    Scotland got its name from Irish Celts called scotti, meaning invaders. Their scotti-land became Scotland.

    The Wild Scots of the Hebrides and Highlands were often referred to as the Irish, and their language was often called Irish, by lowland or English writers.

    So the Scotch-Irish, in their earliest form, were the same people just moving back and forth in an area that had anciently been called Dalriada.

Ulster Scot

    In the case of Angus and Agnes, her dowry to him was that 140 Irish were to marry 140 Scots to help bring peace to the two regions of the old Dalriada. This means there were at least 141 recorded marriages between the Celtic/Vikings of Northern Ireland and the Celtic/Vikings of Scotland. Of course there were many more, including those of Gallowglass Warriors to local Irish women.

Many Irish family names ended up in Scotland as these dowry marriages spread out across Ulster and the Highlands.

    One of the most important marriages in connecting Ulster with Scotland was that of the grandson of Angus, Jon Mor, to the Bissett heiress of Antrim. This enabled Clan Donald to create what became known as Clan Donald South, led by the McDonnell family that eventually produced the great Sorley Boy McDonnell as their leader.

    The son of Angus, Good King John, married Margaret, great granddaughter of King Robert the Bruce, and this connected two of the most important families and monarchies in Scotland, the Stewart kings and the MacDonald Lords of the Isles.

    The daughter of Robert Bruce, also named Margaret, married the High Steward of Scotland, and their son became Robert II, the first Stewart king. He was born at Paisley Abbey, and his son, Robert III is buried there. Also buried at the Abbey was John, the last official Lord of the Isles. His brother, Hugh of Sleat, first “chief” of Clan Donald, died at the Abbey but was buried on North Uist at a place called Sand or Clachan Shanda.

    Scotch-Irish history is so very tightly associated with the power of Scotland and of Northern Ireland, through Bruce; through Robert II and his daughter, Margaret, who married Good King John of Islay; through the Lordship of the Isles; and through the Antrim kingdom of the McDonnells.

    King John had another son that was the progenitor of the McDonalds of Keppoch. American President Andrew Jackson’s ancestor, Richard Jackson, was a caretaker of horses for the Keppoch McDonalds, when he married Mary McRandall. One of the main sources for the McRandall name was from the Keppoch McDonald chiefs who sometimes used this name as their patrynomic. Richard and Mary moved to Coleraine, Northern Ireland, smack in the middle of the Bann River Valley, where the Scotch-Irish were so entrenched, and not far from Dungiven and Londonderry.

    While there were many Scots in Ireland, some date the beginning of the Scotch-Irish race to the Plantation of Ulster beginning about 1607-1610. However, these people were simply moving into an area where the path to Scotch-Irishness had already been laid centuries before. There is often heated argument about this but the facts are available in many places to show this to be true.


    The Bann Valley is a small 25 mile or so radius of communities, some in Antrim County and some in Londonderry County, that surround the Bann River. One of the bigger towns is Coleraine and it was here that the Jackson family dominated local politics. In the early 1700s they were forced to raise rents on their tenants because of pressure from creditors in England. This was a major catalyst, if not THE main event, that began the immigration from Ulster to America. The first local immigrant to America was a reverend from Macosquin, which is just below Coleraine.

    In addition to Jon Mor, who founded Clan Donald South, and another son who was the Keppoch progenitor, Good King John of Islay also had a son named Donald who followed him as Lord of the Isles and led Clan Donald North from various Hebrides islands.

    Donald had a son, Alexander, Lord of the Isles, Earl of Ross, Sheriff or Justiciar of the Highlands, and father of Hugh (Uisdean MacDonald) of Sleat, from whom I descend, and for whom I am named: Mhic Uisdean equalling the more modern McQuiston. The McQuiston Church, of Belfast, N.I. holds the record for the largest Presbyterian congregation in the history of Ireland.

    Hugh of Sleat’s son, Donald Gallach, married into the Irish branch of the family, once again, being wed to Sorley Boy McDonnell’s aunt. Donald had a son, Alexander, who took our direct line and family name to Ireland, in 1565, to help Sorley fight against the English. Sorley fought them until he was 80 years old and it appears Alexander helped him until he was about 86, dying while leading 100 Gallowglass Warriors. Many other Scots came in 1565 to aid Sorley Boy.

    The great McDonnell/McDonald family, along with many other clans from the Scottish/Irish mix, made up the first Scots in Ireland, the first to be called Scotch-Irish.

    Back on April 14, 1573, Queen Elizabeth of England issued a manifesto containing the oldest known reference to the words Scotch-Irish. She wrote, . . . Sorley Boy, and others, who are of the Scotch-Irish race . . . – those “others” included Hugh of Sleat’s grandson and a few great grandsons .

I feel Scotch-Irish is likely just a contraction of Scottish-Irish and some potential proof:

    In a Lord of the Isle book I purchased in Scotland, the author cites an English diplomat, Ralph Sadler, who, in about 1558, when speaking of Mary Queen of Scots and her attempted alliance with Sorley’s brother, James McDonnell, called James and his people the Scottish Irishie.

This was fifteen years before Elizabeth used Scotch-Irish.

    Since there was tremendous activity between the English, the Scottish government, and this rogue faction of Scottish Irish – the McDonnells of Antrim – my guess is that a term, somewhere between Scottish-Irish and Scotch-Irish was used over and over again when speaking of these people. It just wasn’t recorded a lot – but it was recorded twice!

    This is one more proof that it was the McDonald Clan who was first officially known as Scotch-Irish. My own family was absolutely part of this bunch of Wild Scots.

    Some people like to say Scotch-Irish is an Americanism. Some like to say it should be Scots-Irish, instead. Some like to say the Scotch-Irish were principally lowlanders.


Scots-Irish     The Scotch-Irish, for centuries, were Highland Scots blending into and remolding the character of the average Northern Irelander, principally through Clan Donald. This is why probably half of the Scotch-Irish people carry Mc names like McCormick or McQuiston, etc. a prefix originating in the Highlands and Islands, not in the lowlands. This is why both Queen Elizabeth and Ralph Sadler, two contemporaries of James and Sorley Boy McDonnell, called them, and their people the Scottish Irishie or Scotch-Irish.

    Again, there is no evidence to the contrary. Most detractors of this theory don’t start counting Scotch-Irish history until the early 1600s, hundreds of years after this unique race actually began, and many years after the term Scotch-Irish was first known to be used.

    The Gall Gael race, that gave birth to Somerled, was half Viking (Gall) – half Celt (Gael) and permeated both Ireland and Scotland. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The Scotch-Irish of course!!

    A Scottish book from 1729, which uses the term “Scotch-Irish” in a translation of a Latin book from 1521, where the term “Scotos Hibernicos” is translated as Scotch-Irish – people who are said by the 1521 author to have already been long established in Ireland at least back in the 800’s, if not earlier.

    This means that as early as 1521 there was a distinct race known (as translated from Latin) as Scotch-Irish. This was 52 years before Queen Elizbeth’s usage. So it would certainly seem that the term Scotch-Irish was used with familiarity as early as the 1500s, and the race is said to have been formed or have originated long before that date.

    At the very least, the term was being used in Scotland before most Scotch-Irish came to America. There is no early usage of the word or term Scots-Irish to be found, and the Scotch-Irish Society of America is so against changing history by using Scots-Irish, they won’t even allow an article in their journal that uses the term Scots-Irish. However, they mistakenly adhere to the belief that the Scotch-Irish began only with the Ulster Plantation.

    Scotch is so obviously a contraction of the word Scottish, or perhaps an early alternate spelling. It had nothing to do with alcohol in its original usage, anymore than Irish did, just because of Irish Whiskey. Like I’ve said before, taking the ch off Scotch, to make Scot, would be like taking the h of Irish to make Iris.

    Reminded of the newer definition for “gay”. We wouldn’t want to change the words of the song When Irish Eyes Are Smiling to read anything but “all the world seems bright and gay,” just because the word has an alternative meaning, today. Would we?

So why change the age-old word Scotch to Scots, just because Scotch also refers to a drink, now?

    In saying this, Senator James Webb’s book, “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America,” is one of the best books ever written on our race and follows my own research very closely.

    Scotch-Irish, as a term for a race, is as old as the hills. It is our very race, led by Clan Donald and defended by our families’ blood for century upon century. It is the very race that became the stereotypical American, and led, and won, the War of Independence.

   With the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775 the Scots-Irish, in interesting contrast to many of their Scottish cousins, were among the most determined adherents of the rebel cause.  Their frontier skills were particularly useful in destroying Burgoyne’s army in the Saratoga campaign; and George Washington was even moved to say that if the cause was lost everywhere else he would take a last stand among the Scots-Irish of his native Virginia.  Serving in the British Army, Captain Johann Henricks, one of the much despised ‘Hessians’, wrote in frustration ‘Call it not an American rebellion, it is nothing more than an Irish-Scotch Presbyterian Rebellion.’  It was their toughness, virility and sense of divine mission that was to help give shape to a new nation, supplying it with such diverse heroes as Davy Crocket and Andrew Jackson.  They were indeed God’s frontiersmen.

    At Guilford Courthouse it was the Scotch-Irish who decimated 1/4 of the most crack British troops leading directly to Cornwallis’ surrender a few months later. It was also the Scotch-Irish who fought the first real battle of the Revolution at nearby Alamance in 1771.

    It was only about a week or two quick sail from one end of Clan Donald lands to the other, from Caithness to Dungiven. This race was simply the Sons of Somerled, the Children of Conn (of the Hundred Fights) – the greatest, most romantic, freedom-loving race to ever set foot on Mother Earth.

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Scots Irish (Scotch Irish)

Pennsylvania’s Scots Irish, a hybrid people of Scots and Irish ancestry, were the most numerically predominant group within an Irish diaspora migration that brought between 250,000 and 500,000 Irish immigrants (most of them Protestants from Ulster and predominately Presbyterians) to America between 1700 and 1820. Philadelphia was one of their principal destinations.

As the prototypical “peoples in motion” of their time, the Scots Irish moved first from the Scottish Lowlands to Ulster during the seventeenth century at the behest of the English, who desired them to act as a Protestant colonizing force among Ireland’s native Catholics. After 1700, when faced with deteriorating economic conditions and mounting religious and political persecution as dissenting Protestants (not members of the official, state-sponsored Church of Ireland) in Ireland, and later, after the failed 1798 Uprising (a rebellion of Irish Protestants and Catholics that aimed to overthrow British rule and establish a republic) and the British crackdown that followed it, they chose to migrate again.

This time, the Scots Irish came to America, migrating as servants and free people, individuals and families, and sometimes as political exiles and refugees. They arrived in two major waves at the ports of New Castle, Delaware, and Philadelphia between 1710 and 1776 and then again between 1780 and 1820. After nearly a century of migration, the Scots Irish became one of the largest non-English ethnic groups in Pennsylvania, composing approximately 25 percent of Philadelphia’s population and 15 percent of the state’s population in 1790; they were also among the most influential.

Cradle of Scots Irish Culture

The Mid-Atlantic, particularly Pennsylvania, was thus the first American home of the Scots Irish, serving as the cradle for their culture. Pennsylvania had much to offer them. Because of the value proprietor William Penn (1644–1718) had placed on religious tolerance in planning his colony, Pennsylvania had a pluralistic society where these Scots Irish Presbyterians would no longer be stigmatized as dissenters. The colony’s economy, anchored by the rapidly expanding port city of Philadelphia, was also growing rapidly. An expanding flaxseed trade with Ireland during the eighteenth century, one closely tied to the immigrant trade, offered immigrant Scots Irish merchants abundant commercial opportunities in Philadelphia and encouraged farm families to continue the linen production they had done in Ireland in America. The growing colony and its practice of purchasing lands from Indians also offered newcomers abundant rural lands and a generally peaceful climate in which to settle. Finally, with Philadelphia as the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in America, the Delaware Valley also offered Scots Irish Presbyterians the promise of a spiritual home.

A sepia-tone drawing of a group of men dressed in hats and jackets attacking a group of people in simple clothing in the middle of a street. There is a row of buildings in the background, but they are in the distance behind the group of people.

Popular histories of Pennsylvania’s Scots Irish associate them mostly with the expansion of the colonial frontier, where, as prototypical American backwoodsmen, they built log cabins, farmed and traded, wove flax into linen, distilled whiskey, and fought Native Americans. Because of their participation in the notorious Paxton Boys’ “massacre” of the Christianized Conestoga Indians at Lancaster (1763) and their eagerness to fight brutally against Native American, French, and British enemies during first the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) and then the American Revolution (1776–83), scholars have often portrayed them as violent Indian-haters and frontier ruffians. Their violent resistance against the whiskey tax during the Whiskey Rebellion (1794) and their especially vicious destruction of Philadelphia’s Catholic Irish immigrant neighborhoods during the city’s “Bible riots” (1844) not only confirmed their reputed predilection for violence, but ensured that historians would regard them as racists and nativists, too.

Yet these stereotyped and negative images are only partly correct. In actuality, Pennsylvania’s Scots Irish were a socioeconomically diverse immigrant group from a variety of class, occupational, and educational backgrounds. While many did settle on the Pennsylvania frontier, many others did not; not all Scots Irish were country bumpkins and gun-toting ruffians. Many Scots Irish individuals and families, who ranged in status from impoverished indentured servants, to middling shopkeepers and traders, to wealthy Atlantic World merchants and professional men, made their homes in urban Philadelphia and its hinterlands and in other, smaller interior Pennsylvania towns such as Carlisle, Easton, Bedford, and Pittsburgh. They did not farm, but traded, retailed goods or services, practiced professions or trades, or labored as servants. And while some did live in log cabins, many others resided in stylish stone and brick homes where they enjoyed the kind of cosmopolitan lifestyle that other elite Americans did, albeit with a Scot-Irish emphasis on family, church, and education.

Positive Contributions

Pennsylvania’s Scots Irish thus contributed to the Philadelphia region in many positive ways, including by shaping the religious landscape. Having suffered as dissenters in Ulster, Scots Irish Presbyterians relished Pennsylvania’s commitment to religious pluralism. When the Ulster-born minister Francis Makemie (1658–1708) founded the first presbytery in the colonies at Philadelphia in 1706, Presbyterians claimed the Delaware Valley as their own. The establishment of their first American synod at Philadelphia and the creation of new presbyteries at New Castle, Delaware, and Long Island, New York, cemented these regional ties in 1717. The Presbyterian presence in the region grew quickly thereafter, with new congregations and meetinghouses closely following the founding of Scots Irish settlements near Philadelphia and in the colony’s growing backcountry. The church’s influence continued into the twenty-first century, as the Synod of the Trinity (formerly the Synod of Philadelphia) remained one of the largest synods in the church.

Black and gray illustration of a three bay log building with chimney; Four men standing at the end of a walkway connecting the building to the road.

Scots Irish Presbyterians also had a profound impact on higher education in the region. When the transatlantic religious revival known as the Great Awakening (approximately 1730–60) bitterly split Scots Irish Presbyterians into New Sides who favored conversion and Old Sides who adhered to the primacy of scripture, it heightened Presbyterian commitments to education. New Side Presbyterian evangelicals such as the Ulster-born Rev. William Tennent (1673-1746) bolstered their influence by founding schools to train evangelically minded, converted clergy. The success of Tennent’s boys’ academy (derisively called the “Log College” by critics), which he founded at Neshaminy, Bucks County, in 1726, helped set the stage for the 1746 chartering of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University). Old Side Presbyterians responded by founding their own schools. The Ulster-born Rev. Francis Alison (1705-79) established his New London Academy in 1743 in Chester County (it was later moved to Newark, Delaware, and evolved into the University of Delaware) and served as vice provost at the College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) until his death in 1779. Later, long after the church repaired this schism and reunited, Benjamin Rush and a group of Old Side Presbyterians chartered Dickinson College in Carlisle in 1783. Presbyterians also founded Arcadia, Wilson, Waynesburg, and Westminster Colleges.

Leadership Positions

In politics, the Scots Irish held many critical political leadership positions in the state. Having experienced discrimination under British penal laws in Ireland, the Scots Irish formed the core of the commonwealth’s revolutionary vanguard by leading the resistance movement to Great Britain and volunteering in large numbers for Continental army and militia service. As committed republicans, they drafted a radical state constitution that democratized the new state’s republican political order by establishing a unicameral legislative government. Although that government model lasted only until 1790, it was the most radical state government of the revolutionary period. Scots Irish political participation continued during the early republic when they strengthened their control of state politics with the election of one of their own, the Chester County–born attorney and state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McKean (1734–1817) as the state’s Democratic-Republican governor (1799–1808).

Despite such gains, Scots Irish influence gradually waned during the nineteenth century. This happened in part because the new waves of more predominately Irish Catholic immigrants who began to arrive after 1815, and especially during the famine migrations of the late 1840s and 1850s, challenged what it meant to be Irish in America. The Scots Irish, who could claim a heritage as proud patriots and republicans during the Revolution and its aftermath, reacted defensively by aligning themselves with America’s white, Protestant, and sometimes xenophobic cultural mainstream. Some of their working-class members took to the streets to join other nativists in violent anti-Catholic riots, and they supported the anti-immigrant platform of the Know-Nothing Party during the 1850s. Others acted in less confrontational ways to shed their identity as “Irish,” the label they had long accepted, and to adopt the name “Scotch Irish” as a way to highlight their Scots Protestant heritage, a testament to their status as white American pioneers of the nation. To reinforce their claims as pioneers and weave themselves into the fabric of the nation’s founding, they established organizations such as the Pennsylvania Scotch Irish Society (1889) to preserve their history, “keep alive the spirit de corps of the Scotch Irish people,” and promote their unique contributions to American culture.

Scots Irish influence in the region also dwindled because this “people in motion” continued to move. While some stayed in Pennsylvania, many other families left the region in search of new opportunities elsewhere beginning in the eighteenth century. At first, they followed the Great Wagon Road into the southern backcountries of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Later, they traveled other overland routes across the Appalachian Mountains to pioneer the American Midwest and states such as Kentucky and Tennessee. In moving, they created a “Greater Pennsylvania” culture region that extended Scots Irish influence well beyond the state’s borders, while simultaneously putting a Scots Irish stamp on southern backcountry and Appalachian culture. It is no surprise, then, that according to U.S. Census data from 2015, only 1.1 percent of Pennsylvania’s residents claimed Scots Irish ancestry by the early decades of the twenty-first century. Thanks to several centuries of migration, Scots Irish had become more often associated with the hillbilly culture of southern Appalachia or the cracker culture of the Deep South than with the mid-Atlantic region.