Thursday, January 12, 2017
In the last half of the 1760s, “itinerant minister” Charles Woodmason was sent by the Church of England into the Carolina backcountry. He kept a diary. Presbyterian meeting houses by that time had become strongholds of isolationist Scots-Irish settlers. A centuries-long history of being on the receiving end of British oppression, these descendants of persecuted Scots had particularly strong resentments towards the British crown, not to mention the Anglican church. In attempts to deliver his sermons, Rev. Woodmason found himself challenged by many of those who gathered to “listen.”
But the Service was greatly interrupted by a Gang of Presbyterians who kept halooing and whooping without [the] Door like Indians. ...they hir’d a Band of rude fellows to come to Service who brought with them 57 Dogs (for I counted them) which in Time of Service they set fighting, and I was obliged to stop.
—Reverend Charles WoodmasonWoodmason continued to suffer interruptions throughout his efforts to preach, but did not seek legal action against his harassers, “as all the Magistrates are Presbyterians, I could not get a Warrant - if I got Warrants as the Constables are Presbyterians likewise, I could not get them serv’d - If serv’d, the Guard would let them escape.”*
* Charles Woodmason, edited by Richard Hooker, The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant, 1953, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Sunday, January 8, 2017
At the time we were apprehensive of the Northern Indians…. I therefore thought it might be provident to plant a settlement of such men as those who formerly had so bravely defended Londonderry and Enniskillen as a frontier against any disturbance.
—James Logan, provincial secretary of Pennsylvania
Many early Scots-Irish immigrants entered America through the port of Philadelphia and were compelled by the Quaker government to settle in the western Pennsylvania frontier. As in most of the crown colonies, non-English settlers were encouraged to populate the backcountry. The pacifist Quaker proprietors of Pennsylvania not only wanted keep the influx of immigrants from excessively populating their port city, they also strove to create a defensive human buffer between hostile Indians and the coastal gentry. (This plan, of course, was not used by the proprietors as a selling point to western settlers.)
The frontier buffer was reminiscent of a similar role lowland Scots played for centuries between England and the, then adversarial, highland Scots. The role was also replayed in the lowlanders’ 17th century deployment to Ireland by King James I of England in his creation of the “Ulster Plantation.” Ulster served, in essence, as a strategic buffer between Anglican England and Catholic Ireland. When Scots-Irish immigrants arrived in American ports, their reputations preceded them. The Pennsylvania proprietors were well aware that the Scots-Irish were not averse to putting up a good fight and were also keen on not having them taint their Quaker lifestyle, yet they were quite happy for them to kill savage Indians on their behalf. Out of sight, out of mind. The tide of Scots-Irish, as well as German, immigrants was kept flowing westward from the moment the multitude disembarked at the Philadelphia docks.
The Quakers concluded that Scotch-Irish immigration ought to be stopped, and in one of their petitions sent to the council of my state, they declared that the Scotch-Irish were “a pernicious and pugnacious people.” They were in perpetual conflict. The truth is, the Scotch-Irish were ever upon the outskirts of civilization. The Quakers lived where they could live in peace. They were a lovely people, and we have the conviction that they founded Pennsylvania in peace. So they did. The truth is, they did every thing to aid warfare, and left the Scotch-Irish to fight it out. They would go amongst the Indians, and trade with them, and give them ammunition and firearms, because they were peaceful brothers, and the Indians would murder the Scotch-Irish, and the Quakers while dwelling in peace did great good in dealing justly with the Indian and getting him to kill the Scotch-Irish. They were in constant conflict.… But the Quaker always protested, always complained, and in every possible way sought to limit Scotch-Irish immigration, or drive it from the state; and they did drive many from the state.
—Colonel Alexander K. McClure of Philadelphia
It was common practice for immigrants to finance their Atlantic crossings with servitude contracts. Scots-Irish and palatinate German settlers that had arrived under such contracts were often commingled in frontier communities. In context of language, ethical, and religious differences, culture clashes ensued. As contracts were fulfilled, many Scots-Irish, outnumbered in population by the Germans, chose to leave Pennsylvania. Their next migration coincided with additional western lands being opened for settlement in the southern colonies. Again, colonial proprietors were hoping for protection from frontier Indians.
By the 1730s, motivators increased for Scots-Irish to consider leaving for points south. These included: rising land prices in Pennsylvania, cash incentives for relocation, competition with German immigrants, and discriminatory practices implemented, or tolerated, by the provincial government.
The proprietaries, in consequence of the frequent disturbances between the governor and Irish settlers, after the organization of York and Cumberland counties, gave orders to their agents to sell no lands in either York or Lancaster counties to the Irish; and also to make advantageous offers of removal to the Irish settlers on Paxton and Swatara, and Donegal townships, to remove to Cumberland county, which offers being liberal, were accepted by many. “Du verfluchter Irischer”* used to be a frequent ejaculation of reproach in former days.
—John F. Watson**
* Translation: “You cursed Irish”
** John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time, 1870, J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
John McDowell (born 1714), youngest son of American McDowell patriarch Ephraim and surveyor of Borden’s Grant in Virginia, married Magdalen Woods in 1734 while the family was still in Pennsylvania. Like so many of the McDowells, she had made the crossing to America from Ireland with her parents and siblings. John and “Magdalena” had three children together before John’s untimely death at age 28 on 14 December 1742.
John received his Captain’s commission in the Virginia militia after numerous Augusta County landholders made a direct plea (in desperate need of spellcheck):
"To the Honorable, William Gooch Esqr His Majestys’ Lieut: Governor &c &c—
We your pittionours humbly sheweth that we your Honours Loly and Dutifull Subganckes hath ventred our Lives & all that we have In settling ye back parts of Virginia which was a veri Great Hassirt & Dengrous, for it is the Hathins [heathens] Road to ware, which has proved hortfull to severil of ous that were ye first settlers of these back woods & wee your Honibill pittionors some time a goo pittioned your Honnour for to have Commissioned men amungst ous which we your Honnours most Duttifull subjects thought properist men & men that had Hart and Curidg to hed us yn mind of — & to defend your Contray and your poor Sobgacks Intrist from ye voilince of ye Haithen—But yet agine we Humbly perfume to poot your Honnour yn mind of our Great want of them in hopes that your Honner will Grant a Captins’ Commission to John McDowell, with follring ofishers, and your Honnours’ Complyence in this will be Great settisfiction to your most Duttifull and Humbil pittioners—and we as in Duty bond shall Ever pray—
Andrew Moore, David Moore, James Eikins, Geroge Marfit, John Goof, James Sutherland, James Milo, James McDowell, John Anderson, Joabe Anderson, James Anderson, Mathew Lyel, John Gray and many others."*
Captain McDowell assembled a Company of thirty-three men, including his father Ephraim and brother James. In early December 1742, a similar number of Delaware Indians entered the McDowell settlement in Borden’s Grant, “saying that they were on their way to assail the Catawba tribe with which they were at war.” John McDowell met with the Indians, who professed their friendship for the whites. He, in turn, entertained them for a day and “treated them with whiskey.” The Delawares then traveled down the south branch of the North River and camped for about a week. Besides hunting, they proceeded to terrorize local settlers and shoot loose horses at random. In response to grievous complaints, Captain McDowell’s Company was ordered by Colonel James Patton of the Virginia militia to conduct the Delaware Indians beyond the white settlements. On 14 December 1742 they caught up with the suspect Indians at the junction of the James and North rivers. The Company proceeded to gather the group together and initiate the escort. About half of the Indians were on horseback, the rest on foot. One was said to have been lame, not keeping pace with the company, and had walked off into the woods. A soldier at the back of the line fired into the trees at him, and the Indians immediately began a full-fledged attack upon McDowell’s entire Company.** John and eight of his men were killed. At least seventeen Indians also died. In the battle’s aftermath, to avoid all-out war with the multiple nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, Lieutenant Governor George Thomas of Pennsylvania negotiated the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744. Agreement was reached that Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor William Gooch would pay the Iroquois a reparation of 100 pounds sterling.
After what came to be called the “Massacre at Balcony Downs,” many referred to the Captain as John “Indian Wars” McDowell. By this time there were numerous McDowells up and down the Great Wagon Road, so it became a way to distinguish him from others in the retelling.
*Petition to Lt. Governor William Gooch of Virginia, dated 30 July 1742, Calendar of Virginia State Papers, i, p. 235
**Joseph Addison Waddell, Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871, 1902, C.R. Caldwell, Augusta County, Virginia. Specifics of the account are from an 1808 letter sent from Judge Samuel McDowell, son of Captain John McDowell, to Colonel Arthur Campbell.