Chapter 1: the Scotch-Irish of New Hampshire.

  • Londonderry in Ireland
  • -- the siege -- emigration to New England -- settlement of Londonderry, New Hampshire -- the Scotch-Irish introduce the culture of the potato and the manufacture of linen -- character of the Scotch-Irish -- their simplicity -- love of fun -- stories of the early clergymen -- Traits in the Scotch-Irish character -- zeal of the Londonderrians in the Revolution -- Horace Greeley's allusion to his Scotch-Irish ancestry.

New Hampshire, the native State of Horace Greeley, was settled in part by colonists from Massachusetts and Connecticut, and in part by emigrants from the north of Ireland. The latter were called Scotch-Irish, for a reason which a glance at their history will show.

Ulster, the most northern of the four provinces of Ireland, has been, during the last two hundred and fifty years, superior to the rest in wealth and civilization. The cause of its superiority is known. About the year 1612, when James I. was king, there was a rebellion of the Catholics in the north of Ireland. Upon its suppression, Ulster, embracing the six northern counties, and containing half a million acres of land, fell to the king by the attainder of the rebels. Under royal encouragement and furtherance, a company was formed in London for the purpose of planting colonies in that fertile province, which lay waste from the ravages of the recent war. The land was divided into shares, the largest of which did not exceed two thousand acres. Colonists were invited over from England and Scotland. The natives were expelled from their fastnesses in the hills, and forced to settle upon the plains. Some [20] efforts, it appears, were made to teach them arts and agriculture. Robbery and assassination were punished. And, thus, by the infusion of new blood, and the partial improvement of the ancient race, Ulster, which had been the most savage and turbulent of the Irish provinces, became, and remains to this day, the best cultivated, the richest, and the most civilized.

One of the six counties was Londonderry, the capital of which, called by the same name, had been sacked and razed during the rebellion. The city was now rebuilt by a company of adventurers from London, and the county was settled by a colony from Argyleshire in Scotland, who were thenceforth called Scotch-Irish. Of what stuff these Scottish colonists were made, their after-history amply and gloriously shows. The colony took root and flourished in Londonderry. In 1689, the year of the immortal siege, the city was an important fortified town of twenty-seven thousand inhabitants, and the county was proportionally populous and productive. William of Orange had reached the British throne. James II. returning from France had landed in Ireland, and was making an effort to recover his lost inheritance. The Irish Catholics were still loyal to him, and hastened to rally round his banner. But Ulster was Protestant and Presbyterian; the city of Londonderry was Ulster's stronghold, and it was the chief impediment in the way of James' proposed descent upon Scotland. With what resolution and daring the people of Londonderry, during the ever-memorable siege of that city, fought and endured for Protestantism and freedom, the world well knows. For seven months they held out against a besieging army, so numerous that its slain numbered nine thousand. The besieged lost three thousand men. To such extremities were they reduced, that among the market quotations of the times, we find items like these:—a quarter of a dog, five shillings and six-pence; a dog's head, two and six-pence; horse-flesh, one and six-pence per pound; horse-blood, one shilling per quart; a cat, four and six-pence; a rat, one shilling; a mouse, six-pence. When all the food that remained in the city was nine half-starved horses and a pint of meal per man, the people were still resolute. At the very last extremity, they were relieved by a provisioned fleet, and the army of James retired in despair.

On the settlement of the kingdom under William and Mary, the [21] Presbyterians of Londonderry did not find themselves in the enjoyment of the freedom to which they conceived themselves entitled. They were dissenters from the established church. Their pastors were not recognized by the law as clergymen, nor their places of worship as churches. Tithes were exacted for the support of the Episcopal clergy. They were not proprietors of the soil, but held their lands as tenants of the crown. They were hated alike, and equally, by the Irish Catholics and the English Episcopalians. When, therefore, in 1617, a son of one of the leading clergyman returned from New England with glowing accounts of that “plantation,” a furor of emigration arose in the town and county of Londonderry, and portions of four Presbyterian congregations, with their four pastors, united in a scheme for a simultaneous removal across the seas. One of the clergymen was first despatched to Boston to make the needful inquiries and arrangements. He was the bearer of an address to ‘His Excellency, the Right Honorable Colonel Samuel Smith, Governor of New England,’ which assured his Excellency of ‘our sincere and hearty inclination to transport ourselves to that very excellent and renowned plantation, upon our obtaining from his Excellency suitable encouragement.’ To this address, the original of which still exists, two hundred and seven names were appended, and all but seven in the hand-writing of the individuals signing—a fact which proves the superiority of the emigrants to the majority of their countrymen, both in position and intelligence. One of the subscribers was a baronet, nine were clergymen, and three others were graduates of the University of Edinburgh.

On the fourth of August, 1718, the advance party of Scotch-Irish emigrants arrived in five ships at Boston. Some of them remained in that city and founded the church in Federal street, of which Dr. Channing was afterwards pastor. Others attempted to settle in Worcester; but as they were Irish and Presbyterians, such a storm of prejudice against them arose among the enlightened Congregationalists of that place, that they were obliged to flee before it, and seek refuge in the less populous places of Massachusetts. Sixteen families, after many months of tribulation and wandering, selected for their permanent abode a tract twelve miles square, called Nutfield, which now embraces the townships of Londonderry, [22] Derry and Windham, in Rockingham county, New Hamp shire. The land was a free gift from the king, in consideration of the services rendered his throne by the people of Londonderry in the defence of their city. To each settler was assigned a farm of one hundred and twenty acres, a house lot, and an out lot of sixty acres. The lands of the men who had personally served during the siege, were exempted from taxation, and were known down to the period of the revolution as the Exempt Farms. The settlement of Londonderry attracted new emigrants, and it soon became one of the most prosperous and famous in the colony.

It was there that the potato was first cultivated, and there that linen was first made in New England. The English colonists at that day appear to have been unacquainted with the culture of the potato, and the familiar story of the Andover farmer who mistook the balls which grow on the potato vine for the genuine fruit of the plant, is mentioned by a highly respectable historian of New Hampshire as ‘a well-authenticated fact.’

With regard to the linen manufacture, it may be mentioned as a proof of the thrift and skill of the Scotch-Irish settlers, that; as early as the year 1748, the linens of Londonderry had so high a reputation in the colonies, that it was found necessary to take measures to prevent the linens made in other towns from being fraudulently sold for those of Londonderry manufacture. A town meeting was held in that year for the purpose of appointing ‘fit and proper persons to survey and inspect linens and hollands made in the town for sale, so that the credit of our manufactory be kept up, and the purchaser of our linens may not be imposed upon with foreign and outlandish linens in the name of ours.’ Inspectors and sealers were accordingly appointed, who were to examine and stamp ‘all the hollands made and to be made in our town, whether brown, white, speckled, or checked, that are to be exposed for sale;’ for which service they were empowered to demand from the owner of said linen ‘sixpence, old tenor, for each piece.’ And this occurred within thirty years from the erection of the first log-hut in the township of Londonderry. However, the people had brought their spinning and weaving implements with them from Ireland, and their industry was not once interrupted by an attack of Indians.

These Scotch-Irish of Londonderry were a very peculiar people. [23] They were Scotch-Irish in character and in name; of Irish vivacity, generosity, and daring; Scotch in frugality, industry, and resolution; a race in whose composition nature seems, for once, to have kindly blended the qualities that render men interesting with those that render them prosperous. Their habits and their minds were simple. They lived, for many years after the settlement began to thrive, upon the fish which they caught at the falls of Amoskeag, upon game, and upon such products of the soil as beans, potatoes, samp, and barley. It is only since the year 1800 that tea and coffee, those ridiculous and effeminating drinks, came into anything like general use among them. It was not till some time after the Revolution that a chaise was seen in Londonderry, and even then it excited great wonder, and was deemed an unjustifiable extravagance. Shoes, we are told, were little worn in the summer, except on Sundays and holidays; and then they were carried in the hand to within a short distance of the church, where they were put on I There was little buying and selling among them, but much borrowing and lending. ‘If a neighbor “killed a calf,” ’ says one writer, ‘no part of it was sold; but it was distributed among relatives and friends, the poor widow always having a piece; and the minister, if he did not get the shoulder, got a portion as good.’ The women were robust, worked on the farms in the busy seasons, reaping, mowing, and even ploughing on occasion; and the hum of the spinning-wheel was heard in every house. An athletic, active, indomitable, prolific, long-lived race. For a couple to have a dozen children, and for all the twelve to reach maturity, to marry, to have large families, and die at a good old age, seems to have been no uncommon case among the original Londonderrians.

Love of fun was one of their marked characteristics. One of their descendants, the Rev. J. H. Morrison, has written—‘A prominent trait in the character of the Scotch-Irish was their ready wit. No subject was kept sacred from it; the thoughtless, the grave, the old, and the young, alike enjoyed it. Our fathers were serious, thoughtful men, but they lost no occasion which might promise sport. Weddings, huskings, log-rollings and raisings—what a host of queer stories is connected with them! Our ancestors dearly loved fun. There was a grotesque humor, and yet a seriousness, pathos and strangeness about them, which in its way has, perhaps, never been [24] equalled. It was the sternness of the Scotch Covenanter, softened by a century's residence abroad, amid persecution and trial, wedded to the comic humor and pathos of the Irish, and then grown wild in the woods among their own New England mountains.’

There never existed a people at once so jovial and so religious. This volume could be filled with a collection of their religious repartees and pious jokes. It was Pat. Larkin, a Scotch-Irishman, near Londonderry, who, when he was accused of being a Catholic, because his parents were Catholics, replied: ‘If a man happened to be born in a stable, would that make him a horse?’ and he won his bride by that timely spark.

Quaint, bold, and witty were the old Scotch-Irish clergymen, the men of the siege, as mighty with carnal weapons as with spiritual. There was no taint of the sanctimonious In their rough, honest, and healthy natures. During the old French war, it is related, a British officer, in a peculiarly ‘stunning’ uniform, came one Sunday morning to the Londonderry Meeting House. Deeply conscious was this individual that he was exceedingly well dressed and he took pains to display his finery and his figure by standing in an attitude, during the delivery of the sermon, which had the effect of withdrawing the minds of the young ladies from the same. At length, the minister, who had both fought and preached in Londonderry “at home,” and feared neither man, beast, devil, nor red-coat, addressed the officer thus: ‘Ye are a braw lad; ye ha'e a braw suit of claithes, and we ha'e aa seen them; ye may sit doun.’ The officer subsided instantly, and old Dreadnought went on with his sermon as though nothing had happened. The same clergyman once began a sermon on the vain self-confidence of St. Peter, with the following energetic remarks: ‘Just like Peter, aye, mair forrit than wise, ganging swaggering about wia a sword at his side; ana a puir hand he made of it when he came to the trial; for he only cut off a chiel's lug, ana he ought to haa split down his head.’ On another occasion, he is said to have opened on a wellknown text in this fashion: ‘ “I can do all things;” ay, can yo Paul? I'll bet ye a dollar oa that (placing a dollar on the desk). But stop! let's see what else Paul says: “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me;” ay, sae can I, Paul. I draw my bet,’ and he returned the dollar to his pocket. They [25] prayed a joke sometimes, those Scotch-Irish clergymen. One pastor, dining with a new settler, who had no table, and served up his dinner in a basket, implored Heaven to bless the man ‘in his basket, and in his store;’ which Heaven did, for the man afterwards grew rich. ‘What is the difference,’ asked a youth, ‘between the Congregationalists and Presbyterians?’ ‘The difference is,’ replied the pastor, with becoming gravity, ‘that the Congregationalist goes home between the services and eats a regular dinner; but the Presbyterian puts off his till after meeting.’

And how pious they were! For many years after the settlement, the omission of the daily act of devotion in a single household would have excited general alarm. It is related as a fact, that the first pastor of Londonderry, being informed one evening that an individual was becoming neglectful of family worship, immediately repaired to his dwelling. The family had retired; he called up the master of the house, inquired if the report were true, and asked him whether he had omitted family prayer that evening. The man confessed that he had; and the pastor, having admonished him of his fault, refused to leave the house until the delinquent had called up his wife, and performed with her the omitted observance. The first settlers of some of the towns near Londonderry walked every Sunday eight, ten, twelve miles to church, taking their children with them, and crossing the Merrimac in a canoe or on a raft. The first public enterprises of every settlement were the building of a church, the construction of a block-house for defense against the Indians, and the establishment of a school. In the early times of course, every man went to church with his gun, and the minister preached peace and good — will with a loaded musket peering above the sides of the pulpit.

The Scotch-Irish were a singularly honest people. There is an entry in the town-record for 1734, of a complaint against John Morrison, that, having fund an axe on the road, he did not leave it at the next tavern, “as the laws of the country doth require.” John acknowledged the fact, but pleaded in extenuation, that the axe was of so small value, that it would not have paid the cost of proclaiming. The session, however, censured him severely, and exhorted him to repent of the evil. The following is a curious extract from the records of a Scotch-Irish settlement for 1756: ‘Voted, to [26] give Mr. John Houston equal to forty pounds sterling, in old tenor, as the law shall find the rate in dollars or sterling money, for his yearly stipend, if he is our ordained minister. And what number of Sabbath days, annually, we shall think ourselves not able to pay him, he shall have at his own use and disposal, deducted out of the aforesaid sum in proportion.’ The early records of those settlements abound in evidence, that the people had an habitual and most scrupulous regard for the rights of one another.

Kind, generous, and compassionate, too, they were. Far back in 1725, when the little colony was but seven years old, and the people were struggling with their first difficulties, we find the session ordering two collections in the church, one to assist James Clark to ransom his son from the Indians, which produced five pounds, and another for the relief of William Moore, whose two cows had been killed by the falling of a tree, which produced three pounds, seventeen shillings. These were great sums in those early days. We read, also, in the History of Londonderry, of MacGregor, its first pastor, becoming the champion and defender of a personal enemy who was accused of arson, but whom the magnanimous pastor believed innocent. He volunteered his defense in court. The man was condemned and imprisoned, but MacGregor continued his exertions in behalf of the prisoner until his innocence was established and the judgment was reversed.

That they were a brave people need scarcely be asserted. Of that very MacGregor the story is told, that when he went out at the head of a committee, to remonstrate with a belligerent party, who were unlawfully cutting hay from the out-lands of Londonderry, and one of the hay-stealers, in the heat of dispute, shook his fist in the minister's face, saying, ‘Nothing saves you, sir, but your black coat,’ MacGregor instantly exclaimed, ‘Well, it shan't save you, sir,’ and pulling off his coat, was about to suit the action to the word, when the enemy beat a sudden retreat, and troubled the Londonderrians no more. The Scotch-Irish of New Hampshire were among the first to catch the spirit of the Revolution. They confronted British troops, and successfully too, before the battle of Lexington. Four English soldiers had deserted from their quarters in Boston, and taken refuge in Londonderry. A party of troops, dispatched for their arrest discovered, secured, and conveyed them [27] part of the way to Boston. A band of young men assembled and pursued them; and so overawed the British officer by the boldness of their demeanor, that he gave up his prisoners, who were escorted back to Londonderry in triumph. There were remarkably few tories in Londonderry. The town was united almost as one man on the side of Independence, and sent, it is believed, more men to the war, and contributed more money to the cause, than any other town of equal resources in New England. Here are a few of the town-meeting ‘votes’ of the first months of the war: ‘Voted, to give our men that have gone to the Massachusetts government seven dollars a month, until it be known what Congress will do in that affair, and that the officers shall have as much pay as those in the Bay government.’—‘Voted, that a committee of nine men be chosen to inquire into the conduct of those men that are thought not to be friends of their country.’—‘Voted, that the aforesaid committee have no pay.’—‘Voted, that twenty more men be raised immediately, to be ready upon the first emergency, as minute men.’— ‘Voted, that twenty more men be enlisted in Capt. Aiken's company, as minute men.’—‘Voted, that the remainder of the stock of powder shall be divided out to every one that hath not already received of the same, as far as it will go; provided he produces a gun of his own, in good order, and is willing to go against the enemy, and promises not to waste any of the powder, only in self-defense; and provided, also, that he show twenty good bullets to suit his gun, and six good flints.’ In 1777 the town gave a bounty of thirty pounds for every man who enlisted for three years. All the records and traditions of the revolutionary period breathe unity and determination. Stark, the hero of Bennington, was a Londonderrian.

Such were the Scotch-Irish of New Hampshire; of such material were the maternal ancestors of Horace Greeley composed; and from his maternal ancestors he derived much that distinguishes him from men in general.

In the New Yorker for August 28, 1841, he alluded to his Scotch-Irish origin in a characteristic way. Noticing Charlotte Elizabeth's ‘Siege of Derry,’ he wrote:

‘We do not like this work, and we choose to say so frankly. What is the use of reviving and aggravating these old stories (alas [28] how true!) of scenes in which Christians of diverse creeds have tortured and butchered each other for the glory of God? We had ancestors in that same Siege of Derry,—on the Protestant side, of course,—and our sympathies are all on that side; but we cannot forget that intolerance and persecution—especially in Ireland—are by no means exclusively Catholic errors and crimes. Who persecutes in Ireland now? On what principle of Christian toleration are the poor man's pig and potatoes wrested from him to pay tithes to a church he abhors? We do hope the time is soon coming when man will no more persecute his brother for a difference of faith; but that time will never be hastened by the publication of such books as the Siege of Derry.’

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