Who were the Scot-Irish?
10-26-2001, 11-11-2003, 10-12-2010
Scot-Irish settled Greencastle-Antrim, as well as the rest of the
Cumberland Valley. Who were the Scot-Irish? They were protestant
Presbyterian, Lowland Scots. The Scot-Irish were not Irish
and were not Catholics. The term Scot-Irish is strictly an American
nomenclature. In England and Ireland the same people are called Ulster
Scots, which is much less confusing.
In the early
seventeenth century when James I ascended to the English throne in 1603, one
of his main objectives was to civilize the uncontrollable, autonomous Irish -
the majority of whom were Catholic.
chosen action plan to accomplish this objective was to begin an extensive
colonization plan which emigrated English protestants, Presbyterian Scots,
and even French and German protestants from their homelands into Ireland
during the early 1600's. He especially concentrated on the Ulster region
which, at that time, included the nine present-day counties of Donegal,
Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Armagh, Down, Tyrone, Coleraine (later
Londonderry), and Antrim. The Ulster region is located in the northeastern
part of the island of Ireland and lies closest, geographically, to England
and Scotland compared to the rest of Ireland. Archie Reid, president of the
Ballyclare Historical Society in County Antrim, Northern Ireland wrote the
following about County Donegal. "When partition was set up, Donegal was not
included in the new Northern Ireland. We still feel an affinity and my
Historical Society has close links with the Donegal one and we exchange
that were confiscated had belonged to Irish Earls who had left Ireland
seeking help from Spain and Rome to fight the English crown. The Irish Earls
never again returned to their homeland. The land was first given to the new
immigrants and then to servitors of the King. The native Irish were the last
to receive any leftover land. In the process of settling the Ulster
Plantation, the English displaced masses of Irish peasants, often refusing
them the right to settle on certain lands.
time of colonization, the Scot-Irish built towns and villages, commerce and
industry increased, and new farming methods were introduced. More
importantly, the Presbyterian Church was established in a country very
strongly rooted in the Catholic faith which caused great religious turmoil
and conflict. This conflict was exacerbated when, through the years, the
English monarchs wavered back and forth on their religious policies.
Presbyterian Scots lived in Northern Ireland for a little over a century
before immigrating to the American colonies. The English landlords found the
Scot settlers too similar to the Irish natives and resented them. The
immigration was precipitated by the English Monarchy who tried to exert its
own political and religious authority over the citizens of Ireland,
including the Presbyterian Scots, causing constant struggles for religious
tolerance, civil liberties, and political rights such as holding office or
having representation in government. Economic factors also affected their
decisions to immigrate to the colonies. Anglican ministers made the
majority of their income by imposing tithes on the Irish - Catholic and
Presbyterian alike. The Irish tenants were charged high rents for their
land adding additional economic burdens on their families. Consecutive
potato crop failures in 1724 1725, and 1726 compounded all the preceding
problems and forced many Ulster Scots to seek a new life in America.
immigration of the Scot-Irish took place over a 58-year span between 1717
and 1775. This time period is known as the "Great Migration" and occurred
in five "waves". The immigrants from the first three waves established the
major settlements of the Scot-Irish in the colonies.
immigrants from the first and second waves landed in Philadelphia and the
Delaware River in Pennsylvania. The third wave of immigrants moved beyond
Pennsylvania into Virginia and beyond.
Historical Sketch of Franklin County, "They brought with them a hatred
of oppression, and love of freedom in its fullest measure… The Scotch-Irish,
in the struggle for national independence, were ever to be found on the side
of the colonies."
Scot-Irish did not, unfortunately, avoid political strife in Pennsylvania
with the Quakers and the German settlers in the early part of the 18th
century. The Quakers did not appreciate their interference in politics and
were especially unhappy with them when the Scot-Irish gained control of the
Pennsylvania Assembly in 1756. It is to the credit of the many Scot-Irish
who settled within its borders early on that Pennsylvania is what it is
today. The Scot-Irish were military leaders and prominent lawmakers from
the beginning of the colony's history through all dangers (including
Indians) and especially during our fight for freedom and human rights. They
helped write the constitutions and frame our fundamental laws. Fourteen
United States presidents were descendents from the small northern corner of
the island of Ireland. More than seven Pennsylvania governors were
descendents of the Scot-Irish as well as many U.S. senators, congressmen,
judges, and other prominent people from all walks of life. Davy Crocket,
Mark Twain, Andy Jackson, and Sam Houston were all of Scot-Irish descent.
Some familiar local Scot-Irish surnames are Allison, Irwin, Craig,
McLaughlin, McLanahan, McDonald, McDowell, McCrae, Alexander, Chambers, and
considered themselves to be orderly, industrious, and frugal and thought the
Scot-Irish were impetuous, reckless, and quick-tempered. Because of this,
the Germans and the Scot-Irish often maintained settlements away from each
other and avoided social contact in much the same manner as the Scots did
with the Irish people while living in Northern Ireland.
Scot-Irish who settled in America were descendants of the Lowland Scots who
were robust, adventurous, and rebellious. There is no architectural style
or type of furniture attributed to them so, in turn, there are no known
artifacts surviving that are specific to the Scot-Irish. But the legacy
they did leave behind for future generations is their religion. In each
settlement they built a church in which to practice their Presbyterian
faith. In the early 1700's, the Greencastle settlement was known as the
East Conococheague Settlement. The first church, known as the Red Church,
was built at Moss Spring.
Scot-Irish were nomadic. Those who settled Greencastle had made their way
westward from Philadelphia and then south into Antrim Township and then
again continued west and over the Tuscarora Mountains. Along their route
they left settlements about eight to ten miles apart. These settlements
were quite often near springs or waterways.
the Scandinavian housing of log cabins. They didn't have many culinary
skills and ate mostly mutton, lamb, and oats. Their music, unlike the
Highlanders with their bagpipes, was played on fiddles and dulcimers.
1682, there were only three counties - Chester, Philadelphia, and Bucks –
that were established by William Penn. Chester included all of the land
southwest of the Skuykill River to the extreme western and northern limits
of the state.
- On May 10, 1729,
Lancaster County was established from Chester County land.
- At the May 1741 quarter
sessions court of Lancaster County, Antrim Township was established. At
that time Antrim Township included all of present day Franklin County
except Warren, Fannett and Metal Townships.
- Lurgan Township was
established from the northern part of Antrim Township in 1743.
- On August 9, 1749, York
County was established west of Lancaster from Lancaster County land.
- On January 27, 1750,
Cumberland County was established from Lancaster County land.
- Greencastle was founded
in 1782 by John Allison and was situated in the southern portion of
- On September 9, 1784,
Franklin County was established from the southwest part of Cumberland
County. Any local research for tax records, deeds, or genealogy dating
before September 9, 1784 must be done in Carlisle, the County seat of
Cumberland County. All surviving records after that date can be
researched in the Franklin County administrative offices in Chambersburg,
white man to settle in what we know today as Franklin County was Benjamin
Chambers, a Scot-Irishman. He was from County Antrim in Northern Ireland
and along with his brothers James, Robert, and Joseph immigrated to the
Province of Pennsylvania some time between 1726 and 1730. With permission
from the Indians, Chambers was allowed to settle on the land of his choice.
This was about 1730. On March 30, 1734, the agent for the proprietors gave
him a license "to take and settle and improve four hundred acres of land at
the Falling Spring's mouth, and on both sides of the Conococheague Creek,
for the convenience of a grist mill and plantation." This place became
Township, established in 1741, is named after County Antrim in the very
northeast corner of Northern Ireland from where many of this area's first
settlers came. There is also a town by the name of Antrim located in County
The land that
Greencastle now sits upon was first deeded to Samuel Smith by a land warrant
in 1750. It was then transferred to John Smith, then John Davison, and
finally to William Allison, Sr. in 1763. In 1769, William, Sr. transferred
a portion of the land - 300 acres - to his son, John. If Greencastle was
named for a place in the north of Ireland, there is no doubt the gently
rolling landscape of this area reminded them of their homes in Ireland.
was a colonel in the Revolutionary War and served three terms in the
Pennsylvania Assembly. In 1787 he was a delegate from Franklin County to the
Pennsylvania Convention called to ratify the new Federal Constitution.
founded Greencastle in 1782. Allison, along with the help of James Crawford,
laid out the town in 246 numbered lots of equal size (30' x 250') and sold
them through a lottery at $8 each. Allison owned and ran a tavern in town.
In 1785 he contracted with William Rankin who owned Moss Spring to provide a
fresh supply of water via a wooden trunk line into town for daily uses and
Allison-Antrim Museum is continuing its research into how Greencastle got
its name. There are conflicting references in William P. Conrad's books and
news articles and other history book references. Some indicate that the
immigrants left from the Greencastle on the border of County Antrim and the
city of Belfast. Other references are made to the Greencastle in County
Donegal. A third twist is the fact that there were two large houses in
Elizabethan times in County Antrim - one was called The White House and the
other 'Greencastle'. Although the house Greencastle was not actually a
castle it was quite large in comparison to the cottages dotted about it, and
according to Archie Reid, to the people who lived in its proximity it
probably seemed like a castle. Or, could our town have been named after
General Green of the Revolutionary War? The museum will continue
investigating the Allison family's heritage through connections in Northern
Ireland and will keep this information updated as facts are received.
Bonnie A. Shockey
History of Franklin County 1887,
Warner, Beers, & Co, 1887
Historical Sketch of Franklin County,
Pennsylvania, I. H. McCauley, Publisher - John M.
Conococheague - A History of the
Greencastle-Antrim Community 1736-1971, William P.
Shelter for His Excellency, Le Roy
Greene, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, 1951
A History of Pennsylvania,
Klein and Hoogenboom, Penn State University, 1980
Archie Reid, President of Ballyclare
Historical Society, County Antrim, Northern Ireland,
Various newspaper articles
information on Greencastle-Antrim and John Allison can be found under
History on the Web site.
More information click on