Dr James McConnel
The Philadelphia merchant, Jonathan Dickenson, recorded in 1717 that 'a small vessel from Leverpoole brought 135... passengers from the North of Ireland'1 and he added 'they say Considerable Number will follow next summer. In fact, the summer of 1718 saw nearly 700 Ulster Presbyterians arrive in Boston Harbour on five small ships from the North Ireland.'2
During the next two years approximately 2,600 Scots-Irish travelled to New England and over the next half-century an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 of their co-religionists followed them to a New World (at a time when the Presbyterian population of Ulster was probably only half a million).3
Thus, the small company of men, women, and children who landed in 1718 can be regarded as the Scots-Irish equivalent to the 'Pilgrims Fathers'4
The first wave of the ‘Great Migration’ went to New England though most of those who followed over the next two centuries went to the valleys of Virginia and Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and the Piedmont of Georgia. This website tells the story of these early Scots-Irish pioneers: starting with their departure from Ulster through to their settlement in the American northeast. In particular, it tells the story of those colonists who left County Londonderry in Ireland to settle what eventually became the town of Londonderry, New Hampshire, in 1723.
The story of the 1718 migration is retold here not only in the light of recent scholarship (which has freshly illuminated the Scots-Irish contribution to the formation of the British Atlantic world, colonial America, and the creation of the United States), but with an eye to assisting family historians who want to know more about their Scots-Irish ancestors and the links between Ireland and America.
1 Patrick Griffin, The People with No Name: Ireland’s Ulster Scots, America’s Scots Irish, and the creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689–1764 (Princeton, 2001), p. 91
2 Estimates vary, for example, see Samuel Swett Green, The Scotch-Irish in America (reprint, Southern California, 1970), p.8, and Charles K. Bolton, Scotch-Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America (reprint, Baltimore, 1967), p.18.
3 Donald M. MacRaild, Irish Migrants in Modern Britain, 1750–1922 (London, 1999), p. 101.
4 Bolton (1967), p. 132.
In North America, Ulster Presbyterian migrants are known as Scotch or Scots-Irish, whereas in Ireland they are known as the Ulster Scots. In the case of the 1718 migration, this is not simply a question of semantics. One recent authority has claimed that since the 1718 settlers ‘were probably more Ulster than Scottish by 1718, they may be perhaps more aptly termed 'Ulster Scots'’.5
Other historians have, however, argued that many of those who migrated to America were actually natives of Scotland who had arrived in Ulster between 1685 and 1688 and thus had closer links with Scotland than Ulster.6 For the benefit of clarity and because the migrants travelled to America, the term Scots-Irish will be employed here.
5 Desmond McCourt, ‘County Derry and New England: The Scotch-Irish migration of 1718’, in Gerard O’Brien (ed.) Derry and Londonderry: Interdisciplinary essays on the history and society of an Irish County (Dublin, 1999), pp. 304–5.
6 James G. Leyburn, The Scotch Irish: A Social History (Chapel Hill, 1962), p. 238.
Although the Great Migration developed from 1718 onwards, emigration from Ulster to America had actually begun earlier, in the previous century. The first concerted effort was in 1636, when 140 Presbyterians from County Down sailed on the Eagle Wing for New England, though bad weather forced the ship to abandon its voyage. During the remainder of the seventeenth century migration from Ulster to America was ‘spasmodic and individualistic’.7
Most of these early migrants (no more than a few hundred) secured cheap passage on Belfast tobacco boats bound for Delaware and the shores of the Chesapeake. Between 1688 and 1703 at least 12 ships left Belfast for the Chesapeake Bay. However, probably the ‘most significant link’ between Ulster and America in the years before 1718 was that of Presbyterian missionaries. During the 1680s, for example, several Presbyterian ministers migrated to America from the Laggan area of County Donegal.8
Such links facilitated at least one early Presbyterian-organised attempt to transplant Scots-Irish communities to America. In 1685, members of the Laggan Presbytery sought to migrate to New England but this plan was abandoned after certain religious restrictions were lifted following Charles II’s death. The Laggan Presbytery sent Francis Makemie, a native of Ramelton, County Donegal, to administer to the Scots-Irish emigrants on the eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia in 1682. In 1706 Makemie became the Moderator of the first Presbytery, which met in Philadelphia.
Makemie later sought permission from the Governor of New York to preach to the Dutch and French reformed churches but permission was refused. He defied the Governor and preached openly and publicly; he was later arrested on the charge of preaching without a licence. However, he was found innocent at his trial but was obliged to pay the expenses.
7 McCourt (1999), p. 304.
8 Bolton (1967), p. 18.
In 1714, two Presbyterian clergymen, William Homes and his brother-in-law Thomas Craighead travelled along with their families to Boston. In 1715 Homes became the congregational minister of Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard (in which position he remained until his death in 1746) and he remained an important ‘connecting link’ with his co-religionists in the north of Ireland. His son, Robert Homes, became an Atlantic sea captain (Derry was by this time developing as a trading port between Ulster and America) and he was able to apprise his father’s former colleagues and congregants, as well as an extensive kinship network, of opportunities in the ‘New World’.
Another important link was the Reverend Cotton Mather, a prominent clergyman in Boston. Mather’s father had studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and under the Protectorate had been appointed to the parish of Maghera and Ballyscullion in 1657, while two of his uncles were ministers in Dublin. In 1706 Mather had sought to recruit Scottish migrants to settle in New Hampshire and Maine.
In November 1717, William Homes was in communication with the Reverend Cotton Mather, his son Robert, and land speculators who were anxious to develop the area along the Kennebec river. It has been suggested that this correspondence was followed by a meeting in Boston, at which Robert Homes, Cotton Mather and the Kennebec speculators agreed to transport colonists from Ulster.9 Robert sailed for Ireland in April 1718, and returned ‘full of passengers’ seven months later.
However, it would be a mistake to see the 1718 migration as an American-inspired venture. In the summer of 1718, Presbyterians of the Bann Valley commissioned the Reverend William Boyd of Macosquin (a village about three miles from Coleraine) as their agent to ‘enquire after ye circumstances of this country [New England] in order to ye coming of many more’.10 Boyd took with him a petition (dated March 26, 1718) addressed to Governor Shute of Massachusetts seeking a grant of land. Shute provided him with ‘assurances’, though whether these were communicated to Boyd’s co-religionists in Ulster is unknown since Boyd remained in the ‘New World’ until the spring of 1719. Although on his return to Ulster, Boyd and some of his fellow signatories decided not to emigrate, other members of the Bann presbytery had already resolved to do so. For example, the minister of Aghadowey in the north of County Londonderry, James McGregor, along with a large part of his congregation, boarded a ship in Coleraine bound for Boston in the early summer of 1718.11
James McGregor was born in Magilligan, Co. Londonderry, in or about 1677. McGregor’s family took refuge in Derry during the Williamite war and were present during the siege of the city. According to some accounts James himself signalled that the siege had been lifted by firing a cannon positioned on top of the city’s cathedral. As was common at the time, he may have been educated in Scotland. He was ordained as the minister of Aghadowey in 1701. As a fluent Irish speaker, McGregor was commissioned by the synod of 1710 to preach in Irish. Famous for his sermon delivered at Coleraine before embarking for America (in which he emphasised the religious intolerance of the Hanoverian state), McGregor had – like a number of Ulster Presbyterian ministers – not been paid by his congregation for some three years before he left.
9 Ibid, p. 85.
10 Bolton (1967), p. 132.
11 Kerby Miller (ed.), Irish Immigrants in the land of Canaan: Letters and Memoirs from Colonial and Revolutionary America, 1675–1815 (Oxford, 2003), p. 453; see also McCourt (1999), p. 307 and Robert J. Dickson, Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718–1775 (reprint, Belfast, 1988), pp. 21–23.
The Scots-Irish migrants who left Ulster in 1718 hailed from two particular districts in County Londonderry. The first group were from the Bann Valley area north of Garvagh and Kilrea, which included the parishes of Aghadowey, Macosquin, Kilrea, Dunboe, and Ballywillin. The second group came from the Foyle Valley area including the Laggan of co. Donegal and parts of counties Londonderry and Tyrone, north of Strabane.
This geographical division allegedly continued to some extent when the settlers disembarked in Boston: the Bann group headed for the frontiers of Maine and New Hampshire, while the Foyle group made for Massachusetts.
Prior to embarkation for America, the Reverend James McGregor delivered a sermon in which he declared that he and his congregants were leaving Ulster ‘to avoid oppression and cruel bondage, to shun persecution and designed ruin ... and to have an opportunity of worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience and the rules of His Inspired Word.’ The historian Kerby Miller has noted that McGregor’s sermon ‘set the tone for all subsequent popular, and some scholarly interpretations of Ulster emigration as a communal exodus from ‘Egyptian bondage’.12 It is certainly true that the Sacramental Test Act of 1704 excluded Presbyterians from public office and deprived the church’s clergy of legal standing, compounding existing difficulties regarding marriage and the law. In 1719 the act was suspended and toleration was extended to dissenters. However, it has been argued that ‘toleration was as wide in Aghadowey when McGregor left in 1718 as it was after the toleration act reached the Statute book in the following year.’13 Some senior members of the Church of Ireland (a protestant episcopal church – part of the Anglican church which, prior to 1870, it was referred to as the state church) believed that dissenting ministers used the threat of migration simply as a lever to have the Test Act repealed. Indeed, the Anglican Archbishop King (who strongly defended the continuing imposition of religious disabilities) argued that dissenters in Ulster ‘were never more easy as to that matter … they never thought of leaving the kingdom, till oppressed by excessive [rents].’14
The late 1710s witnessed a confluence of economic factors that contributed significantly to the migration of 1718. Between 1714 and 1719 Ulster suffered a succession of bad harvests and by 1718 the linen industry was also in recession. Simultaneously, between 1717 and 1718, 31-year leases on land, which had been let on favourable terms in the wake of the Williamite campaign, expired and higher rents were demanded. One agent, Henry Maxwell of Carrickfergus, informed his undertenants that ‘there leases is now not good, and that they must pay more rent from this Alsants (All Saints Day] or leave the land.’15 The rent-roll of Captain Jackson, a middleman for the Merchant Taylors' Company near Coleraine, increased from £310 to £582. As one correspondent informed the Clothworkers and Merchant Taylors’ Companies: ‘one reason they give for their going is the raising of the rent of the land to such a high rate that they cannot support their families thereon with the greatest industry.’16
Some landlords appreciated that raising rents sharply might be counterproductive. An agent of the Vintners’ Proportion argued in 1718 that while on the lands ‘now out of lease the Proportion might be Raised about £100 per Anno. at the Rack Rent as the Times have been for some few years past’, markets were ‘uncertain in this Kingdom [which] makes it very Doubtfull whether it may be raised so much as the Expiration of the recent lease, and most Thinking Intelligent People are of Opinion that Lands here must fall soon.’17 Even in areas where rents were raised, the amount was sometimes not as much as first proposed. Rents from the land surveyed by Captain Jackson only increased by £1 in 1717 and for houses and tenements valued at £5 or over £10 rents remained at their pre-1717 rate.18 Some landlords were frustrated by the departure of their tenants and the financial consequences that resulted. One northern landlord complained that ‘if they were hindered to goe [to America] … it wod make them the louder to goe’. He asked his correspondent to ‘oblige these Rogues who goes of to pay their Just Debts before they Goe and then Let all goe with their pledge.’19 On the Grocers’ Manor in co. Londonderry in 1718 the agent reported that 20 families had left or were planning to leave.20
The extent to which Scots-Irish settlers fled Ulster as a result of hardship and religious persecution to better their conditions (rather than of their own volition) in 1718 is a difficult question to answer. According to the New England divine, Cotton Mather, there were ‘many and wondrous objects for compassion among ye families arriving from Ireland’ at the port of Boston in 1718.21 Yet, this conflicts with other contemporary evidence. The Boston customs official, Thomas Lechmere, for instance, informed his brother-in-law in July 1718 that the Scots-Irish colonists he had seen ‘have all paid their passages sterlg. in Ireland’, and the following month he declared that it ‘is much out of the way to think that these Irish are servants’.22 Indeed, while a proportion of the 1718 group may well have been indentured, it seems unlikely this accounted for many of them (not least because of the inability of New England to accommodate so many). Instead, the evidence suggests that the majority were farmers and farmer weavers, who made up the migrant company, and were probably able to pay the fare of £6 by realising the capital from unexpired leases or selling possessions. As has recently been observed: ‘No doubt, most [Scots-Irish migrants] had suffered during the periods of dearth, but few from starvation. Food had become dearer, the returns from linen declined, and in some cases rents had risen, if not to unbearable levels, at least to uncomfortable ones, but a stake in the land in market-oriented regions allowed most to pay for passage to the colonies.’23
The evidence suggests that economic and political circumstances certainly exercised considerable influence on Ulster Presbyterians, and that their migration was voluntary and organised; it was not a precipitate flight. Indeed, before their departure many of them prepared carefully and methodically for their new lives. Many of the colonists, for instance, secured testimonials to assist them on arrival in America. These were probably similar to one secured by James and Mary Ralston, who upon leaving the Ballymoney Congregation in 1736 received a certificate which attested that they had ‘lived within the bounds of this Con[gregation] on from their infancies and behaved themselves Christianly, honestly, soberly, inoffensively and free of Scandal known to us now at their removal … to Pennsilvania [sic] in America.’24
Finally, in any assessment of why Scots-Irish migrants left Ulster in 1718, the outlook and beliefs of the migrants themselves must be considered. Patrick Griffin has noted that the Scots-Irish themselves did not ‘compartmentalize political and economic concerns, but viewed them as one and the same.’25 In the providential mindset of the day, the root cause of both the religious and economic problems confronting Presbyterians was the spiritual condition of the community, and the solution in the opinion of some congregations was removal and the creation of a ‘New Ulster’ elsewhere.
12 Miller (2003), p. 436.
13 Dickson (1988), p. 27.
14 Griffin (2001), p. 81.
15 Maxwell to A. Vesey, 18 Nov. 1721, T2524/9, P[ublic] R[ecord] O[ffice] N[orthern] I[reland], qu. in Ibid, p. 68.
16 Jos. Marriott, 12.8.1718, MTC, P. Box 126, Bundle 16, qu. in Dickson (1988), p. 29.
17 Account of the Lands and Rent Rolls on Vintners’ Proportion, D 2094/21, PRONI, qu. in Griffin (2001), p. 76.
18 Jackson as they are now Raised, T656/44, PRONI, qu. in Ibid, p. 68.
19 Letter to Lord Connolly, 13 Nov. 1718, T2825/C/27/2, PRONI, qu. in Ibid, p. 77.
20 Emigrants to New England from County Londonderry, Manor of Grocers, William Connolly Estate, 1718, T 2825/c/11/1, PRONI, qu. Ibid, pp. 77–8.
21 Bolton (1967), p. 136.
22 McCourt (1999), p. 307.
23 Griffin (2001), p. 79.
24 Certificate of James Ralston, 30.5.1736, T 1177/1, PRONI, qu. in Griffin (2001), p. 92.
25 Ibid, p. 82.
At least one historian has speculated about the ‘excitement’ that would have gripped the individuals and families who had resolved to leave for America during 1718.26 In addition to raising money to pay for their voyage, packing, and securing sufficient provisions, there would have been the need to dispose of possessions and items that were not be transported to the ‘New World’. Among the items which many migrants apparently took with them, were their looms and spinning wheels (though this seems questionable given the ease with which these items could be manufactured).27
The belief that Providence was calling them to a new land encouraged unrealistic expectations in many Scots-Irish migrants, which shipping agents did nothing to diminish. As one historian has observed: ‘Their imagined America seemed to offer economic opportunities they had come to expect, religious freedom they had never enjoyed, and the unity they had lost.’28
26 Bolton (1967), p. 130.
27 McCourt (1999), p. 307.
28 Griffin (2001), p. 97.
According to one Irish newspaper in 1729, emigrants travelling to America faced ‘all the Tryles, Hardships, and Dangers of the Seas by storms, shipwrecks, Turks and Pyrates, to be Starved, or cast away by the Villainy of Ship Masters’.29 Little is known about the voyages of 1718, other than that the ships in which the immigrants travelled were small and not built for transporting people. Ten years later, overcrowding was becoming a problem on many ships and provisions were sometimes inadequate. One ship in 1729 took five months to reach America and lost 100 passengers and crew.30
However, one story that has survived from a 1718 voyage is the legend of ‘Ocean Born Mary’. According to one version of the legend, Mary was born to Elizabeth and James Fulton of Londonderry, as they voyaged to Boston in 1718. En route pirates attacked their ship. Hearing a newborn baby’s cries, the pirate captain offered to spare the passengers’ lives if the Fultons agreed to name her after his mother. This they agreed to and the pirate gave the family a bolt of green brocaded silk for Mary’s wedding dress. James Fulton died soon after the family arrived in Boston, but Mary and her mother settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire. According to the legend, she wore a gown of silk brocade when she married James Wallace in 1742. Real-life stories of pirates attacking ships carrying Scots-Irish migrants in the following years had less happy endings. In 1720, for instance, a ship called the Essex was attacked and its female passengers ‘abused’.
29 Dublin Weekly Journal, 7 June 1729, qu. in Dickson (1988), p. 220.
30 Charles Browning (ed.), ‘Extracts from the Journal of Charles Clinton, kept During the Voyage from Ireland to Pennsylvania, 1729’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 26 (1902), 112–14, qu. Griffin (2001), p. 94.
Historians are somewhat uncertain how many ships arrived in America in that year but the emigration is traditionally believed to have taken place in five ships, including a Dublin based ship which may have called in Derry to pick up passengers. Patrick Griffin notes that 'For the early period, no shipping lists exist, nor are all the crossings accounted for.' Based on the incomplete Boston port records, R.J. Dixon names four ships (the William and Elizabeth, the McCallum, the Mary and Elizabeth, the William and Mary) as having arrived in Boston in the summer of 1718. Additionally, the Boston News Letter recorded that two other ships from Ulster arrived in Boston that summer (the Robert and the William).
Therefore, the following vessels arrived in Boston in the summer of 1718:
- The William and Mary from Coleraine,
30 tons, with passengers and provisions.
- The McCallum from Londonderry,
70 tons, 100 passengers and some linen.
- The Mary and Elizabeth from Londonderry,
45 tons, some linen and 45 passengers.
- The William and Elizabeth from Londonderry,
40 tons, passengers and provisions.
- The Robert from Coleraine.
- The William from Coleraine
The Robert from Coleraine and the William from Coleraine, which carried the main contingent of Scots-Irish migrants from the Bann area, arrived on August 4, 1718. The remainder of this group arrived with the Reverend Woodside on the McCallum on September 6.
If the Scots-Irish migrants had somewhat unrealistic expectations of the ‘New World’, their prospective hosts were similarly over optimistic. Cotton Mather hoped that ‘much may be done for the Kingdom of God in these Parts of the World by this Transportation.’31 Mather welcomed the Scots-Irish because they swelled the Calvinist community in New England. ‘We are comforted’, he wrote to a friend, ‘with great numbers of our oppressed brethren coming over from the North of Ireland unto us’. He added that they ‘sit down with us, and we embrace them as our own most united brethren, and we are likely to be very happy in one another.’32 At the beginning of August 1718 MacGregor dined with Mather and William Boyd (who was still in Boston). However, a second reason why Mather welcomed the Scots-Irish colonists was because he wished to see them settled on the insecure frontiers of Maine and Massachusetts. Governor Shute was of the same mind, as was Thomas Lechmere, the surveyor-general of customs in Boston, who hoped the Scots-Irish would ‘settle our frontiers as a barrier against the Indians’.33
Up until 1675 westerly population expansion from the coastal sites running from Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut Estuary had been steady. But towards the end of the century, fighting with Native Americans slowed this process so that even in 1700 the frontier was only 40 miles from Boston. Between 1701 and 1713 there was renewed fighting between the British and the French.34 As a consequence land was cheap and the colonial authorities were anxious to repopulate the frontier.
31 Cotton Matther, ‘Diary of Cotton Mather, 1709–1724’, Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 7th ser., 8 (Boston, 1912), p. 549, qu. in Bolton (1967), p. 136.
32 Griffin (2001), p. 90.
33 Henry J. Ford, The Scotch-Irish in America (Princeton, 1915), p. 222.
34 McCourt (1999), p. 312.
However, after a brief 'honeymoon period', the Scots-Irish quickly found that their newfound friends were increasingly less welcoming. This change was the consequence, in part, of the strain the new colonists placed upon local resources. As Lechmere complained: ‘these confounded Irish will eat us all up, provisions being most extravagantly dear, and scarce of all sorts.’35 Moreover, some of the newly arrived migrants soon proved unable to support themselves. By the following year, Governor Shute had been forced to seek financial assistance from the Massachusetts Assembly owing to the costs falling on the New England authorities due to the arrival of ‘poor people from abroad, especially those that come from Ireland’.36 But difficulties stemmed also from institutional and theological differences within the newly enlarged Calvinist community of New England. Mather soon felt that the Scots-Irish were ‘a marvellous grief unto us … [and] that among our United Brethren who have lately come from Ireland unto us … there have been some who have most indecently and ingratefully given much disturbance to the peace of our churches.’ Anti-Irish sentiment was also a problem which confronted the new arrivals: hostile New Englanders regarded them as ‘papists’.37 Yet a further complaint against the newcomers was that they did not immediately show the pioneer qualities expected of them.
Some of the settlers from the Foyle Valley who arrived in Boston settled in the townships surrounding Boston, while others went straight to the frontier and settled in Worcester, Massachusetts. Among them were Abraham Blair and William Caldwell, who were both veterans of the siege of Londonderry. In contrast, many of those from the Bann Valley who arrived on the Robert, the William, and Maccallum in August and September 1718 were initially persuaded to settle in Maine. Some of Woodside’s party were attracted by the cheap land being offered by the Pejepscot Proprietors (a company of Boston and New Hampshire merchants) and settled near the mouth of the Androscoggin. The remaining Bann migrants were offered a township at Casco Bay and some sailed on the Robert to examine the site.
While McGregor spent the winter of 1718–19 ministering to the people of Dracut (others choosing to winter in Andover and other townships near Boston), his brother-in-law James McKeen and about three hundred Scots-Irish colonists went north and spent the winter in Casco Bay. After a cold and hungry winter, McKeen, his family, and about 20 others sailed south to the Merrimack river, and from there up to the town of Haverhill. The inhabitants of Haverhill did not welcome the new settlers, and so they travelled overland to an unsettled site called ‘Nutfield’ (named after the great quantity of chestnuts, walnuts, and butternuts found there). In April 1719 McGregor joined the new settlement and agreed to become their minister and thus the leader of the first and almost exclusively Ulster-Presbyterian settlement in America. According to tradition, he always carried a loaded gun, for fear of an American Indian attack, though it was claimed that his friendship with the governor of Canada, Philippe, Marquis de Vaudreuil, meant that the community received some protection from American Indian attacks. His successor as pastor of Londonderry, New Hampshire, was Rev. Matthew Clark. Clark was also a veteran of the siege of Derry, and when he died in 1735 he instructed that only veterans of the Williamite war should act as pallbearers.
Among those who helped found the new settlement at Nutfield were:
- James McKeen
- John Barnett
- Archibald Clendinon
- John Mitchell
- James Sterrett
- James Anderson
- Randall Alexander
- James Gregg
- James Clark
- James Nesmith
- Allen Anderson
- Robert Weir
- John Morrison
- Samuel Allison
- Thomas Steele
- John Stewart38
Shute and the legislators of Massachusetts were unhappy that the Scots-Irish had abandoned Casco Bay and when the Nutfield settlers petitioned Boston to formally recognise their new settlement, they were refused. Given that Nutfield was territorially claimed by both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the Nutfield inhabitants then petitioned the General Court of New Hampshire in October 1719 for recognition of their claim. Although Lieutenant Governor John Wentworth acceded to Nutfield’s request, the community were the subject of ongoing attacks by rival claimants to the land. In defending themselves from accusations of being ‘poor Irish’ and Roman Catholics, McGregor resorted in 1720 to petitioning Shute in the following terms: ‘We were surprised to hear our Selves termed Irish People when we so frequently ventured our all for the British Crown and Liberties against the Irish papists’.39 Shute subsequently allowed the Nutfield community to select their own officials and in June 1722 the settlement was incorporated as a town. The following year Nutfield was renamed Londonderry (perhaps in a further attempt to underline their loyalty).
35 Bolton (1967), p. 312.
36 Journal of the House of Representatives of Mass, 4 Nov. 1719, ii, pp. 174-5; also 2 Dec. 1718, 104 and 4 Nov. 1719, pp. 172–3, qu. in McCourt (1999), p. 23.
37 Miller (2003), p. 437.
38 Ford (1915), p. 237.
39 Rev. James McGregor’s petition dated 27 Feb. 1720 to Governor Samuel Shute of Massachusetts (Jeremy Belknap Papers, volume 6I.A.81, Massachusetts Historical Society), qu. in Miller (2003), p. 438.
In the earliest years the immigrant experience of Scots-Irish settlers was one of isolation since transport and communication networks were extremely rudimentary on the frontier. Moreover, the new settlement faced the threat of attacks from Native American Indians. Accordingly, two stone garrison houses were among the first buildings constructed. Defence against Indian attacks was also considered in the construction of the wooden dwelling houses. Houses were located on ‘home lots thirty rods wide, and extending back until they enclosed sixty acres each’.40 Later, sawmills were built and timber-framed homes constructed.
The population of Nutfield-Londonderry grew quickly. In 1721 it was already 360 and by 1740 it was the second largest settlement in the province. By 1767 it had a population of 2,389. Many of these inhabitants were first or second-generation Scots-Irish ‘attracted by the free lands, Presbyterian worship, and refuge from Puritan prejudice’.41 After 1723, Londonderry served as a staging post for many other Scots-Irish settlers in their journeys to Novia Scotia, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.
40 Ford (1915), p. 237.
41 Miller (2003), p. 440.
Today, Londonderry, New Hampshire, is one of a number of New England towns whose name reflects the settlement of migrants from Ulster in the region during the eighteenth century. Indeed, place names are today probably the most conspicuous legacy of the Scots-Irish settlement, since ‘the Derry folk who transplanted … being too few in number [to maintain their identity], were either swallowed up by the expanding Puritan colonies … or became loosely scattered through the frontiers of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.’42 Yet, the legacy of the ‘Great Migration’ of 1718 went beyond the founding of Londonderry.
Matthew Thornton, who signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of New Hampshire, was on one of the ‘five ships’ of 1718 and worked in Londonderry as a doctor.43 And the legacy of 1718 continues to resonate down to the modern day: James McGregor’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.
42 McCourt (1999), p. 303.
43 Ford (1915), p. 229.