Early Emigration to North Carolina

The modern traveller who visits Nor h Carolina makes the journey in a smooth comfort which is in stark contrast to the experience of the 18th century highland emigrant. A little stiffness of the legs, perhaps a touch of dehydration, but the journey takes just a few hours. Back in the early days small wooden sailing ships took 4 to 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic. Storms could make the journey distinctly uncomfortable, and drive the ships well off course. Catering standards were low, and hygiene practices are best left to the imagination.

Scots began to arrive in the late 17th century, and the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 added a small wave of reluctant immigrants, transported to the colony as punishment for their audacity. Archibald MacIlwain of Glendaruel (near Dunoon) is recorded as being transported in 1685. One of the earliest organised groups to make the crossing was led by an Alexander Clark from Jura, who arrived in 1736, landing at Charleston.

In 1739 a group from mid Argyll planned to emirate to the Carolinas, to join the 'Argyll Colony'. At this time the only regular church services were those held in Bath and Edenton, and this group asked that their minister go with them, adding their voices to the 'call' from North Carolina. The Presbytery of Inveraray vacillated, and the request eventually fizzled out. The group travelled to Saltcoats, on the Ayrshire coast, where they set sail on the 'Thistle'. It is not clear where they settled, but among them was a D Campbell, who was to become one of the first magistrates of Bladen County.

The Governor of North Carolina at this time was Gabriel Johnston, from Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. The history books record that he was an advocate of modern management methods, and that much of his address to the 1736 Council was based on the need to encourage the killing of vermin so that less farm output might be lost. He greatly encouraged Scottish immigration to North Carolina, and it was Colonial Government policy of the time to encourage small holdings. Those with greater wealth could establish the larger plantations which became so common further south, and perhaps North Carolina attracted those of more modest means and more independent spirit.

Between 1763 and 1769, there were four sailings from the island of Islay alone. In August 1776, the ship 'Ulysses' arrived, one of the last ships to arrive before the War of Independence. Taking passage on the ship were Neil MacNeil and John Gilchrist. Neil MacNeil was born in 1710, and was a farmer from Kintyre, in the south of Argyll. He moved to Raft Swamp, not far from Laurinburg. John Gilchrist also moved to what is now Scotland County, married Marion Tyler and built the Millprong House.

In 1787 and 1790 ships from Appin and Lismore sailed for Cape Fear, carrying MacColls and MacIntyres, Stewarts and Carmichaels, MacLucases and MacLeans. Other ships sailed from Tobermory on Mull, from Skye, and from Greenock on the river Clyde. There is much in the Stewartsville Cemetery which is poignantly familiar to the visitor from Argyll who knows only too well both the names and birthplaces recorded on the tombstones. A large modern marble column commemorates the various MacColls in the cemetery, and helpfully explains where Appin is.

Today, the legacy of the Scots is everywhere. Scotland County was formed in 1899. The map shows Glasgow Road, Appin Drive, Oban Court, and a host of others. The Laurinburg phone book has an impressive collection of 'Macs', Scotland High School's fighting song is 'Scotland the Brave', and the town boasts shops such as the 'Plaid Piper'.

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