THE SCOTCH-IRISH OF THE VALLEY OF VIRGINIA

BY HON. JOSEPH ADDISON WADDELL, STAUNTON, VA.

From the Proceedings and Addresses of the Seventh Congress of the Scotch-Irish Society of America, at Lexington, Va., June 20-23, 1895

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Assembled as we are in the midst of the Valley of Virginia, it would be a waste of time for me to give a particular description of the region so called. Look around and see for yourselves. I may say, however, that the Valley is that section of Virginia which lies between the Blue Ridge on the east, and the North Mountain range on the west. It extends from the Potomac River to the southern boundary of Roanoke County. Its length is about two hundred and thirty miles, and its average width about twenty-three miles.

A comprehensive and accurate description of this country is given in the book of Deuteronomy, eighth chapter: "A good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines; ... a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron."

As far as we know, it was not till the year 1716 that Europeans entered or looked into this favored region. Strange it is that for more than a hundred years after the settlement at Jamestown white people of ordinary sense and enterprise loitered in the swamps and sandy plains of lower Virginia without discovering and settling this Valley. There were no white settlements along or near the eastern base of the Blue Ridge, and the mountain range (much higher on the eastern than the western side) loomed up before the few adventurous hunters or explorers as a frightful barrier. In the quaint language of the day the mountain was deemed "unpassable." What lay west of the range nobody knew, and everybody seemed afraid to come to see. There are indications that the mountains were to the more ignorant lowlanders objects of superstitious dread, being inhabited, they supposed, by

Gorgons and hydras and chimeras dire.

At length Gov. Spotswood's curiosity got the better of him. He had an idea that the great lakes lay only a little way beyond the Blue Ridge. The French, hereditary enemies of the English, held the lake country, and the Governor wanted to "satisfye" himself whether it was practicable to come at the lakes by crossing the ridge. Being a brave soldier, he determined to enter upon the hazardous enterprise, and take a look at Lake Brie from the top of the mountain. Accordingly, with his staff of nine gentlemen, a company of rangers, and four Meherrin Indians, he departed from Williamsburg, and on the 5th of September, 1716, scaled the mountain at a low place since called "Swift Run Gap," entering the Valley into what is now the county of Rockingham. The party crossed the Shenandoah River, which they called "Euphrates," and took possession of the country for King George I., of England. The most remarkable thing about this famous expedition is the quantity and variety of the liquors the party brought along. As a part of the ceremony of taking possession, besides firing volleys, they drank the health of the king, all the royal family, and the Governor in champagne, burgundy, and claret, and had besides Virginia red and white wines, Irish usquebaugh, brandy, shrub, rum, canary, cherry punch, cider, etc. The historian of this expedition says, et cetera: What more could there have been?

No wonder the party were disinclined to explore the country farther after such potations. Some Indians whom he met made the Governor understand that if he would go to the top of a western mountain in sight he could see Lake Erie. Indians, you will observe, were not only great liars, but had wit enough to be fond of misleading and quizzing white people. Satisfied with the information thus received, the Governor rode back to Williamsburg. He made no attempt to settle the country he had discovered, and apparently dismissed it from his thoughts. Fortunately, or perhaps we should say providentially, the country was reserved for the the homes of a sturdier and better class of people than the Governor could have introduced here.

Years passed by, at least ten, when we find, in 1726, several families of German people settled on the Shenandoah River not far from Swift Run Gap. They came from Pennsylvania, and that is nearly all we know about them. Being off the track of the main immigration when it set in, comparatively remote from other settlers with whom they did not mingle, and speaking a different language, they were for many years unnoticed and almost unknown. But six years later (in 1732) people of another race began to pour into the Valley.

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