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Scotch-Irish in New England

By Linda Merle

The amount of Scotch-Irish blood in New England is often under estimated. Many times, when we've traced an ancestor to Virginia or Pennsylvania, we may be wrong in assuming our next stop is the old country. Instead....it might be Vermont, Western Massachusetts, or Rhode Island that we are looking for. One reason that these people remain obscure is that those who stayed in New England assimilated into the prevailing culture. People today have forgotten that certain towns in New England were entirely founded by Ulster immigrants. This page will attempt to trace some geographic links.

Settlements of Scotch-Irish in New England

The initial five ships of 1718 made landfall in Boston. Initially many stayed there, though they were not welcome. Others went to Andover, Dracut and Haverhill to winter over. After 6 months they had made 3 main settlements:

  • Worcester

  • Nutfield (Londonderry, New Hampshire)

  • Casco Bay, Maine

It's important to know that soon after other ships came directly to the Maine Coast.

They founded a Presbyterian church in Boston on Long Lane (later Federal Street) under the Rev John Moorehead. It became congregational in 1786.

Worcester Settlement

Worcester had about 50 log cabins and 200 people in 1718. The location had been twice abandoned due to Indians. It was the western frontier, now with 5 garrisons to protect it. The Worcester Scotch-Irish consisted of at least 50 families.

Among them was Matthew Gray and his wife Jean. Four generations of the Young family came including John, who came at age 95 and lived till 1730, 12 years. His son was David, who died at 94, and his son William, a stone cutter, erected a monument: Here lies interred the remains of John Young, who was born in the isle of Bert, near Londonderry, in the Kingdom of Ireland. He departed this life John 30, 1730, 107 years. This Young family, of Celtic (Irish) ancestrage, supposedly introduced the potato as food to North America.

However, the local Puritans did not allow them to practice Presbyterianism. In 1740, their meeting house was torn down by their neighbors. Throughout this early period, they were joined by other Scotch-Irish, some of whom settled initially in Framingham and Hopkinton. (Most of this group presumably moved to Blandford).

They founded 4 towns:

  • Colerain, about 50 miles northwest

  • Pelham, 30 miles west (1738)

  • Western (now Warren) in Worcester Co. (1741)

  • Blandford -- 1741.

Families from Worcester to Colrain included: Morrisons, Pennells, Herrouns, Hendersons, Cochranes, Hunters, Henrys, Clarks, McClellans, McCowens, Taggarts, and McDowells.

Pelham settlers included included Robert Peebles and James Thornington (Thornton).

In Blandford, these families were prominent: Blaire, Boise, Knox, Carnahan, Watson, Wilson, Ferguson.

Remaining in Worcester were Caldwells, Blaire, McFarlands, Rankins, Grays, Crawfords, Youngs, Hamilton, Forbushes, Kelsos, Clarks, Duncans, McClintocks, McKonkeys, Glasfords, Fergusons, McGregors.

Later movements carried SI blood to all the towns of Western Mass and most in Vermont.

Londonderry Settlement

Londonderry or Nutfield, New Hampshire, was settled by Casco Bay people in April 1719. They wanted to stay together, so 20 families or about 300 people (Willis estimated) sailed from Boston to Casco Bay in the fall of 1718. Some of them scattered, going on to Worcester or other settlements. Nutfield initially consisted of 16 men with families; 15 years the community had over 700 communicants. Most were descendants of Scots Covenantors from east side of Bann River in Ulster: Colerain, Ballymoney, Ballymena, Ballywatick, Kilrea. Their leader, James McKeen, was brother in law of Rev. McGregor.

Some names found in the early community are: James McKeen, John Barnett, Archibald Clendennin, 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 Stuart.

They paid no money for their land as it was a free gift from King William. Throughout the Indian Wars, the settlement was never attacked, possibly because Pastor McGregor had met Gov. Vaudreuil of Quebec at college and maintained a relationship with him.

A quarter century before Revolution, these people had produced 10 settlements in New Hampshire, 2 in Vermont, 1 in Nova Scotia.

Kennebec, Maine Settlement

This settlement, also, received settlers from the original Casco Bay group. Of those who wintered off of Portland on the first winter, these remained in Maine: John Amrstrong, Robert Means, William Jameson, Joshua Gray, William Gyles, and a McDonald. James was an infant son of John Armstrong. He was born in Ireland in 1717. His brother Thomas was born in Portland in 1719. Joshua Gray removed to Worcester with his large family: Reuban, James, Andrew, John, Samuel, and Joshua.

Robert Temple brought over 5 ships in 1719 with more 200 families.

Pemaquid was destroyed by Indians/French in 1696 and not resettled till 1729 by the Scotch-Irish. By 1730, 150 families move to Pemaquid –some newly arrived. Many were evicted in 1732 by Indians and dispersed. In 1735, Samuel Waldo brought more families to this area.

In 1759, an expedition left Portland to capture the mouth of the Penobscot from the French. Andrew and Joshua Gray were among them. They later settled there and were followed by other brothers and their parents. Apparently, Reuben Gray’s son, Reuben, was the first English child born east of the Penobscot, around 1762. Still living in this area are the Grays, Wears, Orrs, Doaks. Some of these early settlers were born in Boston in 1718.

In 1730 the Scotch-Irish resettled Townsend (Boothbay)Among them were Montgomerys of East Boothbay.

Many settled in Topsham: surnames include McFadden, McGowen, McCoun, Vincent, Hamilton, Johnston, Malcom, McClellan, Crawford, Graves, Ward, Given, Dunning, Simpson.

Many of the Maine settlers were repeatedly dispersed by war to Londonderry and Pennsylvania. Soon SI blood had spread through New England.

Sources and Additional Resources

Scotch Irish Pioneers by Charles Knowles

Ulster-Scots and Blandford [Ma] Scots by Sumner Gilbert Wood.

Scotch-Irish in New England Bibliography

Bratton of Vermont.This family moved to Whitingham, Vermont, in 1770 from Colerain, MA.
(website defunct, March 2009)

Nutfield Doaks with links in Canada, Maine, Donegal, PA, the Carolinas, and so on.

President Chester A. Arthur, birthplace: Fairfield, Vermont.
(website defunct, March 2009)

Clarks in Colerain, MA and beyond.

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