Scotch-Irish of Tennessee

By Rev. D. C. Kelley, D.D.

Taken from The Scotch-Irish in America: Proceedings of the Scotch-Irish Congress at Columbia, Tennessee, May 8-11, 1889.

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In this honorable presence, it is well to express, in the beginning of what I shall attempt to say, my regret that the task assigned me had not fallen into far more competent hands.

I had little dreamed, when I began the inadequate study I have had time and opportunity to make, of the richness of the mine into which I was to strike my pick. My childhood had been amused, my wonder aroused, and my ambition for a virtuous life kindled around the fireside where tales of a Scotch-Irish ancestry were the theme of the winter evening talk. When the true magnitude of the work before me began to appear, I should have quickly withdrawn my promise to speak for the Scotch-Irish of Tennessee, had it not been for a sense of obligation to those teachers of my childhood. The traditions of childhood mingling with ancestral blood bade me do what the race has ever done—"my simple duty as best I could." As my best apology, however, for standing here, allow me to make good my right by blood. Perhaps few of the race have claims of earlier date. My paternal blood speaks for itself, going back to the early Irish chiefs, to which is added the Thompson blood of North Ireland. My maternal claims are as follows:

Before the work of royal plantations in Ireland had begun, as early as 1584, "a thousand Scotch Highlanders, called Redshanks, of the septs and families of the Campbells, Macdonnells, and Magalanes, led by Surleboy, a Scottish chieftain, invaded Ulster. These invaders in time intermarried with the Irish, and became the most formidable enemies of England in her designs of settlement. It was ostensibly to root out this Scottish colony that Elizabeth sent Essex to Ireland; but his failure only fixed them more firmly in their place."

But a more singular settlement than this of the Scotch Redshanks was one effected by private speculation, namely, that of the Montgomeries in the Ardes of Down.[1] The head of this new and important settlement in the Ardes was Hugh Montgomery, the sixth laird (esquire) of Braidstane, in Scotland; his father had married the daughter of Montgomery, laird of Haislhead, an ancient family descended of the earls of Eglintown. The first laird of the name, Robert Montgomery, was second son of Alexander Montgomery, earl of Eglintown.

Hugh, the leader of the Montgomeries into Ireland, was thus a well descended adventurer, and in addition to his good birth he possessed spirit and talent. The circumstances which led to his settlement in Down are these: In 1603, an affray took place in Belfast, between a party of soldiers and some servants of Conn O'Neill, who had been sent with runlets to bring wine from that town to their master, "then in great debauch at Castlereagh with his brothers, friends, and followers." The servants came back with more blood than wine, having got into a melee with some soldiers, who captured the servants and sent home the messengers with a severe handling. They confessed to Conn that they were more numerous than the soldiers, on which, "in rage, he swore by his father, and by all his noble ancestors' souls, that none of them should ever serve him or his family if they went not back forthwith and did not revenge the affront done to him and themselves by those few Baddagh Sassenach." The result was a violent affray, and some of the soldiers were killed. An office of inquest was held upon Conn and his followers, and a number of them were found guilty of levying war on the queen. O'Neill was sent to prison to Carrickfergus, and Elizabeth in the meantime dying, the Laird Montgomery, who knew these matters well, with thrift speed which became his country, made his humble application to the new Scotch monarch for half Conn's estates, leaving the remainder to Conn himself. But the modest proposal was not accepted, and he hit upon a happier expedient, which was to obtain a grant from Conn O'Neill himself of half his lands on the condition of effecting his escape and giving him a shelter.

The grant was obtained. Some change was subsequently made in these letters, by the intervention of a courtier of the name of Sir James Fullerton, one of "the busiest bodies in all the world in other men's matters which may profit themselves," who having an eye for a friend, Mr. James Hamilton, and anxious to obtain for him a share of Conn's lands, represented, in a courtier's way, that the two moieties granted were too large for two men, forgetting or omitting the small circumstance that they were their own by right, and prevailed on the king to make a fresh division. "But the king, sending first for Sir Hugh, told him (respecting the reasons aforesaid) for what loss he might receive in not getting the full half of Conn's estate, by that defalcation, he would compensate him out of the Abbey lands and impropriations, which in a few months he was to grant in fee, they being already granted in lease for twenty-one years, and that he would also abstract, out of Conn's half, the whole great Ardes for his and Mr. James Hamilton's behoof, and throw it into their two shares; that the sea-coasts might be possessed by Scottish men, who would be traders proper for his majesty's future advantage, the residue to be laid off about Castlereagh (which Conn had desired), being too great a favor for such an Irishman."

Whether the Campbells, Montgomerys, and Hamiltons were known to each other in Ireland, tradition does not tell. We find from these Campbells Duncan Campbell, whose son, John Campbell, came from Donegal, Ireland, and settled in Donegal township, Lancaster county, Pensylvania. His descendants passed down the valley of the Shenandoah to South-western Virginia, where we find among the branches on an old family tree, revived and added to from time to time, General William Campbell, of King's Mountain fame, and his grandson, Wm. C. Preston; the brothers, Colonel Arthur and Captain John Campbell, of Virginia (the latter of whom was the father of Governor David Campbell, of Virginia) , Judge David, of the State of Franklin, afterward the State of Tennessee, with their cousin and brother-in-law, Colonel David, of Campbell's station, East Tennessee; his son, General John Campbell, of the War of 1812; grandson, Governor William B. Campbell, of Tennessee. Another branch bears upon it the name of the gallant Confederate, General Alex. W. Campbell, of West Tennessee. Scotch-Irish on both sides.

From these before-mentioned Montgomerys, we find in North Carolina, at Saulsbury, in the Revolutionary War, Hugh Montgomery, who equipped a regiment of patriots for the Continental army—a man with the shrewd business characteristics of his ancestors. From him we trace the children, Hugh and Jane; Hugh, the father of Major Lemuel P. Montgomery, a brilliant young lawyer of Nashville, who fell leading a dashing charge at the battle of Horseshoe, and for whom the fair city of Montgomery, Ala., is called, and Hugh, a lawyer of Chattanooga, for whom the beautiful avenue in that city is named. Jane became the wife of Samuel Cowan, the first merchant of Knoxville; later, was married to Colonel David Campbell, before mentioned, a private in the battle of King's Mountain, the founder of Campbell's Station, near Knoxville. Of this union of the Scotch-Irish Campbells and Montgomerys, your annalist of to-day is, in the second generation, the only living representative. Three of his children have in their veins the added blood of the Hamiltons, Hays, and Cunnynghams. And yet two other Scotch-Irish additions, the history of which is here given as an illustration of the methods by which this blood has been so widely spread in our country:

John Bowen, a wealthy planter of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, as was the custom of the times, at harvest, gathered the lads and lassies of the surrounding country to his harvesting. One of these, Lilly McIlhenny, by her grace and beauty, so attracted the old bachelor's heart that he bowed at the shrine of matrimony. From this marriage came Captain William Bowen, the Indian fighter, and the more celebrated Reese Bowen, who was killed at King's Mountain. Captain William was one of the early settlers of Sumner county; the father of John H. Bowen, lawyer, and idol of his county of Sumner, and of whom the venerable Judge Thomas Barry says, he was the best and most loved man he ever knew. Such was his reputation for probity, that the juries gave him credence when he differed with the court on a point of law; he was elected to Congress before he was of the age to take his seat. His sister married David Campbell, a son of Colonel David Campbell, and brother of General John Campbell, of the war of 1812. This David Campbell and Catherine Bowen were the father and mother of Governor William B. Campbell, of our good State of Tennessee. Speaking, therefore, for our home, your annalist and his wife, daughter of W. B. Campbell, represent, of the Scotch-Irish blood, the united strains of the Kelleys, the Thompsons the Montgomerys, the Hamiltons, the McIlhennys, the Cunninghams, Hays, and Adams.

My only claim to be heard is the blood that tingles in my veins, and the love and veneration in which I hold the race which first spoke for independence on American soil, which poured out the first blood for liberty from "taxation without representation," and which, in the language of Bancroft (Ransey, p. 102), when defeated in the first battle of the Revolution (Alamance), "like the mammoth, they shook the bolt from their brow and crossed the mountains." Of this mammoth, Tennessee is the child—I speak for this goodly child on her own soil in the fairest domain of America—in old Maury, par excellence the home of the race, which, having spoke first for American independence, made good her words with the first blow to tyranny. The race which gave to liberty not only the first blood, but if we are to accept the authority of the author of the "Rear Guard of the Revolution," twice at the most critical juncture of the Revolutionary struggle,


of the anaconda, which, with its head on the lakes and its extremities in Southern Georgia, combined in one gigantic plan, embracing British power and pelf combined with Indian hate and lust of gain, threatened to crush by a single concerted movement the hopes of the young America. Nursed in the heart of this race, the mammoth of liberty has proven thenceforward not only too strong to be held in restraint by the coils of the anaconda of tyranny in America, but has become the apostle of freedom to all the world.

The contribution the Scotch-Irish of Tennessee have to bring to this honorable gathering would he a meaningless fragment without a few words showing the origin of the race, and tracing the source of their marked characteristics.


In the little sketch of the immigration, as early as 1584, of the Scotch Campbells, MacDonnells, Montgomerys, and Hamiltons into Ireland, given in our introduction, we have the settlement of a hardy, industrious, sturdy, and liberty-loving population, in the midst of a brave, reveling, quick-witted, emotional, and law-hating race. The two begin to act and react, the one upon the other. Henry the Eighth's contest with the religion of his realm brings a new element to the compound. More Scots come over, to escape wars and persecution at home. Henry VIII. sets up religious persecution, and begins the long-continued and oft-repeated attempt to transfer the possession of Irish lands to the hands of Englishmen. When Elizabeth had come to the throne of England, she continued the work begun by her father. By conquest or by contract, she gave to her favorites, Raleigh and Essex, and other English adventurers, vast estates in Ireland, to be peopled by English.

Following upon her imperfect work, came the more extensive plan of Lord Bacon, under James the First, by which hundreds of thousands of acres of Irish lands were parceled out by allotments to "English and Scots, requiring the Irish to remove from the precincts allotted to them."

During the reign of Charles I., no scruples were felt by the king in awarding to adventurers who had been of service to him estates in Ireland as a reward, nor did the adventurers hesitate as to the morality of the methods used to possess themselves of their estates. But the great settlement of Ireland by English and Scots came about under the government of Cromwell. I have taken from first hands.[2]

"From the days of the first invasion, the king and council of England intended to make English landed proprietors in Ireland the rulers of Ireland, as William the Conqueror had made the French of Normandy landlords and rulers of the English. Though the government of England were interrupted in this course by the wars of Edward I. for the subjection of the Scotch, by the wars of Edward III. and his successors for the crown of France, and finally by the civil wars of England, called the 'Wars of the Roses,' the design was never abandoned. And when Henry VIII., disencumbered of any foreign war or domestic treason, had time to destroy the house of Kildare, he projected the clearing of Ireland to the Shannon and colonizing it with English. But the new conquest of Ireland only really began in the reigns of his three children, Edward VI., Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth, when the conquest of the lands of the Irish for the purpose of new colonizing or planting them with English was resumed, after an interval of more than three hundred years. During this interval, the English Pale, or that part of Ireland subject to the regular jurisdiction of the king of England and his laws, had been gradually contracting—partly by the English of Ireland throwing off the feudal system, and partly by re-conquests effected by the Irish, until in the reign of Edward VI., the Pale was nearly limited by the line of the Liffey and the Boyne. Beyond the Pale the English and the Irish dwelt intermixed. And in all the plans for restoring the regular administration of the king's laws in Ireland it was proposed that these English should be brought back to their ancient military discipline, and should conquer from the Irish the lands in their possession, in order that they might be given to English under grants on feudal conditions by the king.

"But the English of Ireland clearly foresaw that the effect of the complete conquest of the Irish would be to give the government of Ireland to the English of England. Their armed retainers, called Gallowglasses and Kerne, would be put down, as there would no longer remain the pretense of defending the land from the king's Irish enemies. With the regular administration of English law would come back wardships, marriages, reliefs, escheats, and forfeitures, which they were only too happy to have thrown off in the days of Edward II.; and the final result would be to bring over new colonists from England who would be rivals to supplant them in the favor of the government and in all the offices of the state. The English of Ireland, consequently, were secretly indisposed to effect the reconquest, and it was not until they were subdued that the second conquest began.

"The first blow to the English of Irish birth was the limiting the power of the Parliament. In the reign of Henry VII., Sir Edward Poynings forced from the Irish Parliament a statute whereby the Privy Council of England were made virtually a part of the Parliament of Ireland; from thenceforth it could originate no statutes, and could pass only such as had been first approved by the Privy Council of England. The Parliament had, in fact, long become devoted to the earls of Kildare, who had thereby become too powerful for the kings of England. The next and final blow to the power of the English of Ireland was the fall of the House of Kildare, when Silken Thomas, Earl of Kildare, and his five uncles, were executed at Tyburn for treason, at the end of Henry VIII.'s reign. The head of the ancient English of Ireland had now fallen; their parliament had been already deprived of its power; the main obstacles to the design of England were removed, and in the following reigns the reconquest of Ireland by plantation began.

"At first it was the native Irish that were stripped, as the O'Moores, the O'Connors, and the O'Neils. The earl of Desmond's great territories, extending over Limerick and Kerry, Cork and Waterford, were next confiscated and planted. Finally, in James I.'s reign, the native Irish, not only of Ulster, but of Leitrim and where-ever else they continued possessed of the original territories, were dispossessed of portions of their lands, varying from one-third to three-fourths, to form plantations of new English. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the old English of Ireland, though they agreed in point of religion with the native Irish, always adhered to the English in any rebellion of the Irish, as in a national quarrel. In James I.'s reign, as all the planters were of the new religion, the old English found themselves supplanted by them in all the offices of the state, as the Irish found themselves supplanted by them in their native homes.

"It is needless here to recapitulate the long continued injuries and insults by which the ancient English of Ireland were forced into the same ranks with the Irish in defense of the king's cause in 1641. Chief among them were the attempts to seize their estates under the plea of defective title, in order to plant them with new English. It was thus Lord Stafford got Connaught and parts of Tipperary and Limerick into his power, with the intention of forming a new plantation at the expense of the DeBurgos and other old English. One of the old English in 1644 thus graphically expresses their feelings: 'Was it not the usual taunt of the late Lord Stafford and all his fawning sycophants, in their private conversations with those of the Pale, that they were the most refractory men of the whole kingdom, and that it was more necessary (that is, for their own crooked ends) that they should be planted and supplanted than any others,' and that 'where plantations might not reach, defective titles should extend.' He had known many an officer and gentleman, he adds, who had left a hand at Kinsale in fighting in defense of the Crown of England, when the Spaniards and the Earl of Tyrone were defeated by Lord Mountjoy, to be afterward deprived of his pension for having refused to take the oath of supremacy and allegiance in the Protestant form, though, as one of them answered, on being questioned before the state for matter of recusancy (as they termed it), 'it was not asked of me the day of Kinsale what religion I was of.'

"The Scotch and English, however, having rebelled against the king in 1639 (for the march of the Scottish rebels to the border in that year was on the invitation of the leaders of the popular party in England, though they themselves did not openly take the field till 1642), the Irish rose in his favor. They were finally subdued, in 1652, by Cromwell and the arms of the Commonwealth, and then took place a scene not witnessed in Europe since the conquest of Spain by the Vandals. Indeed, it is injustice to the Vandals to equal them with the English of 1652, for the Vandals came as strangers and conquerors in an age of force and barbarism, nor did they banish the people, though they seized and divided their lands by lot; but the English in 1652 were of the same nation as half of the chief families in Ireland, and had at that time the island under their sway for five hundred years.

"The captains and men of war of the Irish, amounting to 40,000 and upward, were banished into Spain, where they took service under that king; others of them, with a crowd of orphan boys and girls, were transported to serve the English planters in the West Indies; and the remnant of the nation, not banished or transported, were to be transplanted into Connaught, while the conquering army divided the ancient inheritances of the Irish amongst them by the lot."

This writer, in speaking of old English, includes under that term Scotch as well.

Space does not allow more detail. Our object has been to show you the original training which made of the Scotch Irish the race we find then afterward.

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