THE SCOTCH-IRISH OF THE VALLEY OF VIRGINIA
...continued

BY HON. JOSEPH ADDISON WADDELL, STAUNTON, VA.

« previous page | Virginia Scotch-Irish homepage | start of this article | next page »

By the year 1736, four years after the first settlement, many families were located in the region now composing the county of Augusta, and the surrounding country was quite thoroughly explored. So far the settlers were what have since been called " squatters on the public domain." In the year mentioned, however, William Beverley, of Essex County, obtained a grant of more than one hundred thousand acres of land lying "in the county of Orange between the great mountains on the river Sherando." The tract thus granted surrounded the site of Staunton, and embraced all the settlements in the country. But Beverley was a liberal or politic landlord, and speedily made deeds for nominal considerations to all actual settlers for as much land as each cared to have. In the same year Benjamin Borden obtained a patent for a large tract in the forks of James River, west of the Blue Ridge, in the present county of Rockbridge. The first settlers in Borden's tract were Ephraim McDowell and his family, he being then an aged man who had been in Londonderry during the famous siege. He made his home on Timber Ridge, then called Timber Grove.

So far, and for more than twenty years after the arrival of the first settlers, they lived in comparative peace. The Valley had long been deserted by its ancient inhabitants, and the savages who frequently traversed it on hunting or war expeditions were not generally hostile to the whites. The Rev. John Craig, describing the country as it was when he came here, in 1740, says it was " a wilderness in the proper sense," with a few Christian settlers and " numbers of heathens traveling among us," generally civil, but they had committed some murders about that time. They marched about in small companies, calling at any house for food, and sparing nothing they chose to eat and drink.

But the people pined for the ordinances of religion. They could do without roads and wheeled vehicles, fine clothes, and even comfortable dwellings and furniture; these they could wait for; but it was an intolerable deprivation to be without a minister to instruct the living, comfort the dying, bury the dead, and baptize the newborn infants. Being of the Presbyterian faith, they cried to their own people at the North for relief. Accordingly " a supplication from the people of Beverley Manor, in the back part of Virginia," was laid before Donegal Presbytery, in Pennsylvania, September 2, 1737, requesting ministerial supplies. The Presbytery could not grant the request immediately, but the next year the Rev. James Anderson was sent to intercede with Gov. Gooch in behalf of the Presbyterians in Virginia. The Church of England was established by law throughout the colony, but the Governor in his reply assured the people of his good will, and of the ample protection to which they were entitled under the English "Act of Toleration." All their ministers were required to do was to take the oaths prescribed by law, to register their places of meeting, and behave themselves peacefully toward the government. During that year (1738) Mr. Anderson visited the Valley, and at the house of John Lewis preached the first sermon ever delivered in this section of country.

In the meanwhile settlements had been creeping up toward the eastern base of the Blue Ridge.

« previous page | Virginia Scotch-Irish homepage | start of this article | next page »


Library Ireland Facebook