John Gibson.

History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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and stout sectarianism has ever produced men
loyal and brave for their country, devout and
heroic in their church. Let me group four
events. In ■ 1607, when Capt. Champlain
entered the gulf of St. Lawrence; when
Henry Hudson pressed into the Polar Sea;
when John Smith and Sir Christopher New-
port sailed into Chesapeake Bay, James I,
of England, resolved on an action that gave
to civilization and God the Scotch-Irish.

You will remember that between Scotland
and England lies a wild and extensive tract
of laud, one-half heath, one-half upland, in
old times called the "Borders." The clans
who had ever dwelt there were composed of

I splendid specimens of hardihood and valor, —
men whose determined purpose and strength
were as astonishing as their feats of daring.
Accustomed, as they were, to wage almost in-
cessant warfare upon each other (those on
the north against those on the south), they
were all great muscular men and of towering
height. It is not to bfe supposed these Scotch
and English bordermen were different in their
characteristics, or that one was less brutal
than the other. It is impossible for two
nationalities to dwell side by side, whether at

I peace or war, without growing like each
other in instincts and habits. So that
while the rugged Englishman might find
some royal veins beneath his garter and the
brawny Scotchman trace far back his High-
land ancestral blood, yet in their dress, their
gait, their accent and manners, it would

; have been difficult to tell the giant with the
broadsword from the every-inch-a-chief who

I swung the claymore. When the glens of

! Scotland would rush down like a torrent upon
the English lowlands, or like a mad whirl-

j wind the lowlands sweep into the Scottish
hills, then would the "debatable border
land " resound with clash and crash of terri-
ble foes. To this day the headless skeleton
of many a Johnstone, mingled with the
skulls and bones of Graham and Armstrong,
is exhumed from the sandy plain 'twixt the
rivers Esk and Sark. On the very night
Elizabeth died, the Clan Graham, thinking
now a Scotchman would] be king- -imagining
the rich plunder they could seize — made a
fierce incui'sion into England toward Perth,
ravaging and destroying in avarice as well as
hate. In this they were anticipated by their
old enemies who, strengthened by a strong

' force of soldiers, met and horribly repulsed
them. Cut to pieces they staggered and fell.
The old clan of Graham, which had fought
many a cruel combat and carried many a
trunkless trophy on their spears, had rained
their last blows of death upon the kith and
kin of the Briton. James (now four years
king), long aware of the tumultuous war-
ring of these unconquerable clans, discern-
ing°that they would yet keep the north of his
kingdom in even greater uproar than in times
past, at last saw his opportunity to silence
them forever. He knew the Grahams were
helpless. He also knew the remarkable re-
cuperative power of such men. Broken and
defeated as the Grahams were, he caused
them to confess to this singular indictment:
"that they were unfit persons to dwell in the
country which they inhabited," and asked
them to pray him to remove them " else-

; where where his paternal goodness should



assign them subsistence." The whole clan,
consisting of many families (a few individu-
als excepted), were thus deprived of their
homes and lands and at once transported out
of the country. Walter Scott says: "There
is a list somewhere in existence, which shows
the names of every one of these people, and
the rate at which the county of Cumberland
was taxed for their exportation."' He further
remarks: "The poor Borderers were driven
away in herds like so many bullocks."
Scotch-Irishmen, behold your ancestors!

In the early spring of 1608 (the same
year of the Graham's removal), the native
chieftains of Ireland at the north broke into
rebellion against the power of the king.
They arose in a most cruel and bloody out-
burst. Their subsequent conquest and ban-
ishment restored a vast territory of hill
country t« the crown. Five hundred thou-
sand acres were thus subjected and seized as
property of England. The wild Irish were
driven into the waste places among the bogs
and fens, and their old province of Ulster
was left empty and deserted. This was the
condition in Ireland at the time the downcast
Grahams prayed to be "taken away else-
where." In the fulfillment of his majestic
laws. God always supplies materials, when
He is ready to accomplish great
Numerous Scotchmen to be provided
and a land to dwell in — Ulster, Ireland,
500,000 acres" vacant! That think ye? Here
was the opportunity of he king. If he was
frivolous, if he was imorous. if he was
shameless in the immf testy he indulged, he
performed his part in the labor set aside ex-
clusively for kings. J he was impractical
and ideal. God gave b n wherewith to perfect
the experiment of h , dream. Born, as he
was, to live in an age when the culminating
changes of a benight d world began to make
history fast and huiT/ on the times, big with
astounding possibilities; born to be the liok
in events welding the old past and joining
the new future: born to be the link, the life,
that would come between the license of the
Tudors and merge the lax morality of the
Stuarts — he was in the hand of Deity. Few
kings have lived ; amid such remarkable
changes — ascending the throne when the
cycles of time were closing an epoch; ruling
when men, like an ocean, were restless,
swelling with the impulses of mighty convic-
tions; ruling when old forms of thought and
feeling were breaking up and being dissolved;
ruling when the boundless realm of truth was
a wild chaos of detached doctrines, theories
and beliefs; swaying the sceptre and attempt-
ing to shape policies, when the immutable

forces of Omnipotent law were crystallizing
marvelous achievements.

Doubtless he little knew that his life stood
in the shadow edge of the dark ages, or that
through the years was dawning the light of a
new era. He did not see the activity of
time, as it began to lead out of the future
strange events. How could he? This
James, pronounced "incomparable for learn-
ing among kings," but whose insincerity
hid from him plain truths. How could he
see wonderful results growing out of his
shrewd schemes and calculations, when he
put the Grahams into Ireland? He did not.
The Puritan had gone to Germany. What
of it? He declared " We are glad to be rid
of them on any terms." No, he could not see
what his action would evolve. In tilling
Ulster Province with Scotch, one thing he
did intend to accomplish. England had
always been entered in time of war by way
of Ireland; Ireland herself has never failed
to aid a foreign foe in his attempts to despoil
the British Isles. James knew and every
other man knew the Celt of Erin ever ready
to stab old England in the back. To over-
come this constant menace, he put the loyal
Scotchmen there to watch treason. The
Irish were lazy; the Scotch would stimulate
industry and thrift. .In order that the few
loyal Irish might be appeased and now more
heartily support the king, he gave them
the level parts of Ulster most easily tilled,
they being indolent. To the Scotch he
gave the hilly northern part. It was rugged
and wild. They made them homes, however,
and were comfortable. Peculiar privileges
were granted. Free schools were erected.
A university was endowed. Linen was their
chief industry. Flax culture tbeir reliance.
In distinction to other Scots they were called
"Irish Scots." After a long residence in
Ireland they came to be called Scotch-
Irish. The wild Irish, whom they dislodged
and upon whose tracts they dwelt, frequently
assailed them. Their old skill in such
affrays would quickly nerve their arms, and
the Irish always got the worst of it. The
prosperity of these old clan warriors was
marked. Their fields were amply tended
and their towns hummed with busy spindles.

March 27, 1625 — King James is dead. A
new chain of circumstances begins. From
1641 to 1649 Ireland is rent from one end to
the other. The heavy tread of Oliver Crom-
well's mailed soldiers is heard by the Scotch-
Irish. They had stood loyal to the crown of
Charles. After the king was beheaded,
Cromwell went among them to subdue them
and confiscate their lands. He drove them out


on the rocky west coast of Conn aught, where
they lived eleven years, enduring most
abject wretchedness. When Charles II.
came to the throne upon the "Restoration,''
he called the Scotch- Irish back to the estates
his uncle James had given them. A formid-
able difficulty confronted them. Many false
claimants had come over from Scotland dur-
ing their absence, and now presented them-
selves as entitled to the lands upon which
they had settled. A compromise was made
and the property redistributed. After the
' ' divide, " those who formerly owned one
hundred acres owned less than twelve. The
population had largely increased. Poverty
began to spread among them. Three seasons
had failed to bring them crops; the famine of
1725 stared thousands in the face. The
Scotch exiles had lived 111) yeai's in their
Irish country happily, and now there was no
work. Mills were closed. The distress
among the laboring class was terrible; grow-
ing poorer and poorer; food grew dearer and
dearer, and gaunt starvation came upon

The Duke of Ulster saw a new disaster
spring up. In haste he wrote thus to London :
"American agents are seducing the people with
prospects of better homes across the Atlantic.
They have been able to excite them the more
by reason of their dire extremities. The
preceding summer 3,100 left for America and
now seven ships are lying at Belfast, which
will carry 1,000 more to Boston and Philadel-
phia. The worst of it all is, it only affects
the Scotch-Irish Protestants " Thus he wrote,
and he wrote the truth. The God- fearing
people who had dwelt (if not always at peace)
for foar generations contented and happy,
were now miserable and almost broken-
hearted. The old grandfathers of the home-
stead long ago were laid under the sod; their
sons and their sons' sons were aged and
infirm, and now in their homes was unutterable
distress. Mothers and fathers besought
alike the young men and women, praying
"Haste away to the new continent; we have
but a little while here to stay; go then, dear ones,
that we may see you go." Thus parental
solicitude urged them. Stern necessity drove
them with remorseless lash. Hope had gone
out of them, and, flying to the free land of
America, it beckoned them there and held
out its arms in welcome. The will of a wise
Creator in the great plan of glorifying Him-
self through the spread of manhood and
liberty in the world was working in strange
ways toward accomplishment.

"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform."

Thus he was employing poverty and wretch-
edness to go into a far country and islant a
vigorous chiu-ch. The wants of their lives,
the claims of the future and posterity, oper-
ating upon them, forced them to the last
resort of the helpless : to leave country and
kindred and seek abode among strangers.
As the Grahams 119 years before had prayed
of James, so they prayed now : ' ' Lord, take
us away where thy paternal goodness shall
assign us subsistence." They, poor, halting
souls, were encouraged on every hand. He
who has to go away leaving feeble parents in
tears behind, knows why they halted. But
the old people (though it was like tearing
the heart from its net of nerves) said, "Go.''
These were the words of advice in the homes
and pulpits. " Well, children, you are gang-
in' awa'. Yotir fathers left bonnie Scot-
land and the auld kirk and kin and came
here to fight the wild Irish and plant religion
and have homelands of their own, and they
got them. Go : with your strong arms and
stout hearts you will yet secure even greater
blessings than they. Had it not been for
their loyalty to their king (which is no sin to
be repented of), their children, you, would
have possessed them still. In your ways you
seem to be gangin' the auld gait they trav-
eled before ye : it is a joy in our cup of sor-
row. Make up your mind for hardships and
fear God. Sure it is, the savages we hear so
much aboitt can be no worse than the wild
Irish by whom so many of us were murdered.
In your grief be of good cheer. Take with
ye the Good Book and always look to Him
out of whom comes every perfect love and
hope, and without whose blessing nothing
prospers. Good bye, God be with ye ; the
seed of the righteous will never be forsaken."
Sad parting. Once again the children of
the Grahams and Armstrongs, the McCraes,
the Maxwells and McDonalds (as their fathers
from Scotland a centtuy before), were com-
pelled to leave the island of their birth and
set out upon a new career toward a strange
land. Bidding the old and feeble, whom
they could not take with them, farewell for-
ever, they turned their backs upon the past,
and with gloomy hearts leaving the green
gardens and flowers behind, they went down
from their native hills to the sea to return no
more save in tender memories.

Almighty Providence is sending them
away to be materials in the wise economy of
the world for building -commonwealth and
great nationality. We will not make the
slow and tedious journey with them on the
perilous oceancrowded as they were to suffo-
cation in leaky ships and beating about from


September to November. We will go to
America, while they make the lonely voyage
hither, that we may see the country they are
sailing toward and be there when they come.

The countr}' to which they were going had
waited long for such as they — poor and lowly
of men. It raised its bold outlines from
what was then the farthest verge of ocean.
Kugged and forbidding, the high coast ranges
of the continent loomed against the horizon
and from seaward descried distant approach.
The tips of these Appalachian ridges in
that remote and indistinguishable period,
when the waters shrunk lower and lower into
the hollow of the sea, were first to expose
themselves above the surf to the power of
light and moisture. Down, down, age by
age, to the base the waters fell, and nest came
forth the foot hills : lands like our York
County hills. Ten thousand times unnum-
bered years sent down their beating rains on
these. And in that age none can contemplate,
when the last departing wave was taken to the
dark Atlantic's restless bosom, there stood
forth, tier upon tier, a chain of mountains ;
a bench of broad plateaus; and nestled
beneath, lovely valleys, leading toward the
rivers and the sea. The rigors of time had
scom-ed the bald old mountains, the
remorseless elements had washed virtue and
fertility from the bench lands and the young
valleys had gathered to themselves the riches
and soil of the depleted hills. Geologically
this was the condition of America and
Pennsylvania at the time of its settlement.
Whoever came first should select its charms
and secure infinite advantage. In 1680, the
Quakers and Swedes made exclusive colonies
along our rivers, erecting towns.

In 1710, the Germans appi'opriated the
rich alluvial vales in the limestone comitry.
The Scotch-Irish, coming last, would find the
available valuable land already pre-empted
and dwelt upon, and nothing but the bench
lands — the older and poorer — unoccupied.
They did not know this, nor did it matter to
them. They were too poor to find fault or
grumble at fate. Be this as it may be, is it
not remarkable when we observe the facts
that the very kind of country the early set-
tlers rejected was the heart's desire and would
have been the first choice of our wanderers?
Pennsylvania through Peon's agents had
sent them greeting and kind invitation to the
province. Indeed. Penn himself had been
among them in 1677, and a few had come
over about 1711. Brotherly love and friends
are what they sought. West from the Dela-
ware and Susquehanna was a land in which
they would find the object of their search.

But three counties, Philadelphia, Chester and

Bucks, comprised this vast region in 1727.
The settlers who had already made them
homes here were a gentle folk, Germans and
Quakers, with Irish and Scotch. The poor,
down-trodden Scotch-Irish could come among
such and find hospitality and friends. In
November, 17'27, toward the capes of Henlo-
pen and May, that bring the tides of ocean
lapping the shores of Pennsylvania, were
pointing the bows of our emigrant ships.
Those who entered the Delaware landed at
New Castle and Philadelphia. Those who
would have gone into Boston were refused;
"No Irish emigrants or ships," were the
words hurled at the homeless strangers by
the authorities. Turning out of the harbor
in theirship.the "Eagle." they went northward
to Maine. The country along the York and
Penobscot, Rivers becEme their abiding
place. Where the towns of Saco and Gor-
ham stand they began their settlements in
dense pine forests. From these sprung that
vigorous New England manhood not already
claimed by the Puritans. It is desired more
particularly to notice those who came to
Pennsylvania. They were kindly received
by the Swedes and Quakers. They were eager
for acquiring location oq lands. They went
at once into the woods and settled on what
are now described as Londonderry, Oxford,
Highland and Wallace Townships in Chester
County. The more enthusiastic and energetic
pressed close up toward the foot hills of the
mountains and occupied territory which Irish
before them had called Donegal. Where-
ever they settled in fertile valleys, they dwelt
but a little while. In no single instance
were they not pressed upon and superseded
by the Germans. Later another part, mi-
grating from the older settlements in Chester
County, came to the southern section of what
is now Lancaster County. Colerain and
Drumore will ever maintain their names as a
testimony to their Scotch-Irish ancestry.
What are now Northampton, Lehigh, Leba-
non and Northumberland Counties were first
settled by the Scotch-Irish. In brief, these
were the first Scotch-Irish settlements in
America. It cannot be said no Scotch-Irish
were here l)efore, — a scattered few had come
fl711 to 1714), but there was no distinctive
immigration prior to 1727. After this time
they began to pour into Pennsylvania and
locate from what is now Snyder County to
Maryland, along the west bank of the Sus-
quehanna River.

In 1729 Lancaster County was organized,
including York County and all the country
lying west. The unbroken wilderness


west of the Susquehanna had ah'eady been
entered from Maryland by intruding survey-
ors and others from Lord Baltimore's colony.
It was a vast tract of land extending from
the river to the Blue Ridge. It was hilly,
interspersed with high plateaus, deep grooved
valleys and ravines; wild streams, bordered
with extensive forests of chestnut, ash, hick-
ory, oak, sassafras, poplar, dogwood, birch
and beech, drained the remote interior and
wound by devious courses through a secluded
country unfrequented and unexplored. The
Colonial Assembly of February 28, 1728,
characterized country like it "barren or un-
inhabited." They designated the uninhabited
parts of Chester County (those near the Car-
narvon Hills) '-barrens." In fact, the unin-
habited portions of the province beyond the
mountains were described thus. I cannot
quibble with those who think the name of
"barrens" a title which has long misrepre-
sented the "Lower End," grew out of the
Indians having burned the timber for hunt-
ing purposes. The character of the Indian
refutes such an idea. The surface and soil were
indeed like to that in old Ulster, Ireland.
The hills were steep and stony. The land,
when cleared, was thin; broken rocks pro-
truded everywhere, and winter swept the
hill-tops mercilessly. It is conjectured by
many that the striking similarity between
the two regions had much to do with winning
the Scotch-Irish to the unkindly country.
Prior to 1720 the country of Chanceford,
Lower Chanceford, Fawn, Hopewell and
Peach Bottom had remained unknown, save
to the prowling Indian, who hunted game in
its fastnesses, or had his solitary wigwam
near its pure springs of water. The dismal
owl and catamount echoed the hills, and fero-
cious wolves roamed the rocky ridges undis-
turbed. Early in 1721 the woodsman and
Maryland surveyor broke the primeval si-
lence with voice and as. The country was in
dispute. The Calverts claimed it by their
charter. The parallel 40° north latitude runs
through Lower Windsor Township. The
grant of Maryland, it was claimed, extended
to it. Among the first surveys of Maryland
was one, "Son James' Park" (named after
King Charles' sou), surveyed along the river
and stretched from "Rapid Creek" to "James
Creek." This tract included the romantic
and picturesque scenery from some stream
near Muddy Creek " flowing into the Susque-
hanna " to the stream with the waterfall at
York Furnace. I have in my possession a
Lord Baltimore survey mark — a copper im-
age — found on Duncan's Island ninety-eight
years ago. It was intended for and was used

in establishing permanent points or corners.
It clearly shows the course and bearing of
one Seldon's compass, surveying north — Sel-
don's name is stamped upon it, together with
degrees and minutes. Disputes multiplied
between Pennsylvania and Maryland. August
17, 1721, Maryland, through Charles II,
granted to Thomas Larkin and Benjamin
Tasker the famous " Solitude '' tract, embrac-
ing the country north of Muddy Creek, west
of Son James' Park, 5,000 acres. The north-
ern point was in a swamp near the large
spring on the property of John Bair, Esq. ;
the western upon lands owned by the Misses
Pedan, sisters. This northern corner was at
one time lost, and another adopted, 100
chains northwest. Through this an impor-
tant series of lawsuits began among the
Scotch-Irish, notably that of "Ankrine and
Mcllhenny." In 1S74, while workmen were
ditching the marsh, the "old corner" was
found buried in muck two feet below the

Troubles were increasing between the set-
tlers and proprietaries. Pennsylvania, in
order to cut off further encroachments on
the part of presumptuous Marylanders,

I began June 19, 1722, opposite the mouth
of Conestoga Creek, to survey the south-
ern boundary of Springetsbury Manor,
including the valley of York and Wrights-
ville. As time went on the feuds became
more violent, and some blood was shed.

j By 1730 the continual uproar between
those claiming title under Baltimore County,
and those under Lancaster County, began to
attract general attention. Such a state of
affairs, such tumultuous excitement, kept

\ peaceable and quiet settlers out of the terri-
tory. Not so the Scotch-Irish: to them it had
allurements. What were they? They would
"rather light than eat." Mitchel and Wor-
ley, their kinsfolk, had been through its
woods. "It looked like Ireland." The
quarreling settlers (interlopers) were already

j called "wild Irish." The land was in con-
tention. Timber was sparse upon the high
lands. A home could be selected without
money. There was an open chance to take
possession where they might find it. No
rents to pay; nor would they be compelled to
recognize authority. The clannish nature

' could be gratified; they could join their lands
and live in common. Together they could
watch the furore of the borders, and evade the
law. To them our "lower end" of York
County was most temptingly desirable; to it
they came. Being a law unto themselves,

, they summarily enforced the squatter law in

I many instances. They chafed under author-



itr, and refused to recognize it. The)^ j
would not pay quit rents. This is proven by
the fact that many of them lived fifteen to
twenty years on their settlements before they
were granted titles to their lands. The
condition and the state of disquiet of the
" barrens beyond the river" was very suitable
to their wishes, and to it they began to move ;
themselves from Northampton, Chester and |
Lancaster Counties in ilo-l. The peculiar
eccentricities of the Scotch-Irish are to be
accounted for. Usage makes habit, and
custom makes law. In Ireland these people
had paid no land rents for 119 years. Their
homes were theirs by right. Taxes there
were none, and over them the only power, |

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 61 of 218)