The Winter of 1718-19 in Worcester

The following is a chapter excerpt from Charles Knowles Bolton’s Scotch Irish Pioneers

 Cotton Mather had in mind very early that the emigrants from Ulster would be useful settlers on the frontier. In 1718 the village of Worcester could claim a position on the Massachusetts frontier, although it lay only forty miles from Boston. First settled in 1674, it was deserted in King Philip ‘s war, 1675, and again in Queen Anne’s war, 1702. In 1713 Jonas Rice courageously built a cabin at the northern end of Sagatabscot Hill, south east. of the centre of Worcester and near the Grafton line. Two years later his brother Gershom settled at Pakachoag Hill in the south western part of the township, near a corner of the present Auburn. These English settlers and others built a fort or garrison house of logs in 1717 on the west side of the present Main Street, near Chatham Street. The same year Obadiah Ward built his mill a little south east of the garrison house, and a year later Joshua Rice finished a garrison house on the Jo Bill road, north of the Main Street garrison house. At the north east corner of Main and Exchange streets already stood Daniel Heywood’s fortified tavern, a landmark even in those days on the great highway into the wilderness. The little company of Scotch Irish settlers, poor, weary, laden with blankets and tools, flax-wheels and cradles, watched this sandy path as it ran on through woodland and meadow, and dotted at intervals with garrison houses, which must have reminded them of danger. They came to act as a buffer against the Indians, and instead of welcome they received surly conversation from the few inhabitants who turned out to meet them.

At the head of the party of emigrants was the Rev. Edward FitzGerald from Londonderry, of whom less is known than of the other ministers of the migration. James McClellan was one of the leaders, and he may even have been in Worcester when the band of emigrants came slowly out from Boston, if he landed on July 28th, as seems possible.

It was on Saturday, August 9th, of the week after the ships entered the harbor, that McClellan made terms with Gershom Rice of Worcester for a farm of seventy five acres. The price was forty one pounds. The land was bounded partly westerly by land in the possession of Captain Prentice, easterly by land of Mr. John Smith, and every where else by common land, a country road six rods wide running through the farm. April 23rd of the next year McClellan purchased from Nathaniel Jones another large tract of land bounded on the south by the town line and on the east by Gershom Rice’s land and common land. These and later purchases formed a large farm between Pakachoag Hill and the Leicester line. McClellan at once became a factor in the Worcester of 1718, with its fifty-eight dwellings and its two hundred souls. Log cabins were built rapidly on the common land. Mr. Wall in his Reminiscences of Worcester indicates on his map the probable sites in 1718 of the homes of the settlers, most of them Scotch Irish men who came with their families and so had to provide houses for them. Professor Perry thinks that at least fifty families of the old fashioned size settled in Worcester that autumn, doubling the population of the town. Religious services under the Rev. Mr. FitzGerald began in a garrison house near the intersection of the Boston and Lancaster roads, at the north end of the town.

In the autumn of 1718 or the summer of 1719 the Presbyterians began to erect a church of their own, on the west side of Lincoln street, ‘near the top of the hill, a little north of the Paine house.’ Through ignorance as to the religious views of the Scotch Irish, or more probably from a desire to force all the inhabitants of the town to attend and support one church, the rougher element came together one night and destroyed the frame before much progress had been made. It is said that Deacon Daniel Heywood of the orthodox church lent his influence to this movement and that the ‘best people in town’ were present. The destruction proved a crushing blow to those who clung tenaciously to their own form of worship. Many moved north onto a tract of land known as the settlers’ part of the town. When, in 1722, forty or fifty families had gathered there this territory, six miles square, was incorporated as Rutland. Many also went elsewhere, some gathering at Sutton to be under the Rev. John McKinstry, who began his ministry there about 1720; others moving to Londonderry in New Hampshire.

The Scotch Irish did not entirely desert Worcester, although so few remained that they had no control of affairs in the annual town meetings, nor could they bear the burden of a minister of their own faith. The Rev. Mr. FitzGerald left them, but returned occasionally to preach, being referred to as late as 1729. A few years later the Presbyterians again attempted to form a church, and they called the Rev. William Johnston who is said to have come from Mullowmale, or Mullaghmoyle, county Tyrone. In 1737 John Clark and nine others, finding it  burdensome to support Mr. Johnston and at the same time aid the town’s minister, asked the town to free them from taxation for the support of religious services, but ‘ye Irish petition’ was voted down by ‘a grate majority.’  Evidently the designation ‘Irish’ still clung to these Scotch and English settlers from Ulster. Through adversity and isolation of old they had grown clannish and they did not assimilate well with the older New England blood.

If we could go back to these early years we should probably find that after FitzGerald’s departure the Presbyterians attended the Congregational or town services, except when an itinerant or a passing minister of their own communion gathered the loyal band in a cabin to unite them in prayer or to baptize their children. The orthodox church was built in 1719 in front of the site of the present handsome city hall. At this period it was plain, without steeple, and at first filled with benches. The committee on seating in 1724 had no Scotch Irish members, nor did they grant any places for private pews to these new settlers. In the fore seat or bench was John Gray ; in the third seat were Matthew Gray, John Duncan; in the fourth seat was William Gray; in the fifth seat were James Hamilton, William McNal, Robert Peables, J. McClellan, Andrew Farrend, Alexander McConkey, John Killough and Robert Lothridge or Lortridge; and in the sixth seat William McClellan, David Young, J. Bety or Batty, W. Mahan, James McClellan and [Thomas] Beard, or Baird, all or nearly all of them Scotch Irish. 1 In 1733 there were in the “fore seet” John Gray with five English sitters ; in the second seat William Gray, James Hambleton, Andrew McFarland, John Clerk, Robert Peables; in the third seat, Matthew Gray, Alexander McConkey, William Caldwell, John Duncan, William Gray, Jr., Matthew Gray, Jr., An- drew McFarland, Jr., and John Gray, Jr. ; in the fourth seat Moses Harper, James Thornington or Thornton, John Batty, Oliver Wallis, and Robert Blair ; in the fifth seat James Furbush, Robert Lortridge, John Alexander, William Mahan, John Stinson, Duncan Graham, John McFarland, and Joseph Clerk; in the sixth seat John Patrick, James Glasford, John Sterling, and Hugh Kelso. In the fore seat in the long gallery were William and James McClellan, 2 and Robert Barber; in the second seat were Patrick Peables, John McConkey, John Peables; and in the second seat of the ‘frunt galiry’ were Samuel Gray, Thomas Hambleton, and Matthew Clark. In most of the seats were other sitters who were probably not of the Scotch Irish stock.

It will be seen that in 1733 there was a considerable Scotch Irish colony within a church-going radius of the Worcester church. In 1737 the Irish petition had been voted down. The lands now included in the town of Pelham were being opened for settlement, and on the 21st of January, 1738-39, John Stoddard arranged to settle a number of families ‘such as were inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland or their descendants, being Protestants.’

Their names were:  James and John Alexander; Adam Clark; Ephraim and George Cowan, the latter being of Concord; John and Thomas Dick; John Ferguson of Grafton; James Gilmore of Boston; John Gray, Jr., Samuel, and William Gray, Jr.; James Hood; Adam Johnson; John Johnson of Shrewsbury; Robert Lotheridge; Thomas Lowden of Leicester; Alexander and John McConkey; James McAllach; Abraham Patterson of Leicester; Patrick and Robert Peibols; John Stinson; James Thornton; James Taylor; Samuel Thomes; Alexander Turner. The proprietors registered in 1739 included also Andrew McFarland, James Breakenridge, Robert Barbour, William Johnson and Matthew Gray. John Gray, Jr., had 3-60 of the rights, Robert Peibols 5-60 and James Thornton had 14-60. All the others had one or two rights.

As the place was to be called Lisburn after the town in County Antrim a natural inference would be that Thornton came from that ‘mother town.’ He was a man of ability and his son was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Exact information may be had in regard to a few of the Worcester settlers. James McClellan, whose early purchase of land has already been mentioned, was a very religious, industrious and thrifty man. His will, on file at the Middlesex Probate office, was signed September 29, 1729, when he made his mark. It was probated October 31st. The will was written apparently by Samuel Jenison, who with Moses and Jane Harper were witnesses. McClellan mentions ‘Margaret my dearly beloved wife’; the son William to have lands at Boggerhoage, 1 104 acres with buildings, and to give his mother yearly 100 weight of beef and 100 weight of pork ; the son James to have 95 acres and one half the buildings, the other half to be Margaret’s for life; James to haul and cut her fire wood, and to provide yearly ten bushels of Indian corn, three of English corn, two of malt, one barrel of cider, fodder for two cows, and a horse in the winter season, and also to fit (?) him in order whenever she wants to ride. To Margaret he gave the use of the orchard for life. To William’s children William, Samuel and Ann he gave three pounds each, and to James’s children James and Rebecca like sums. James he made executor. It is an excellent will, clear, simple, and thoughtful through all its details, worthy of the Worcester colony, and of the emigrant’s distinguished descendants General Samuel McClellan, General George B. McClellan, and the mayor of Greater New York.

The Young family have left on their grave stones valuable evidence of their Irish home. John and David both came from the Londonderry neighborhood, and this suggests that the Worcester company was from the valley of the Foyle; while the New Hampshire and Falmouth people were from the Bann Valley. John Young was born in the Isle of Bert or Burt near Londonderry, and died at Worcester June 30, 1730, aged 107. David was born in the parish of Taughboyne, Donegal, between Londonderry and Lifford on the west bank of the Foyle, and died December 26, 1776, aged 94.

The will of Daniel McFarland, who died in Worcester in 1738, states that he had a daughter Margaret Campbell living in County Tyrone, Ireland. Daniel may have been a brother of John McFarland, mentioned in a paper in the Suffolk County Files, number 163,586, which shows that three emigrants of the name, probably those of Boothbay a  little later, appear to have come from Ardstraw, County Tyrone, in 1720. The paper reads:

‘This Bill bindeth us

John McFarland, Sr.
John McFarland, Jr.
Andrew McFarland

in the sum of £ 13. 16. for the payment of £ 6. 18. unto Rev. Mr. Isaac Taylor or order within 30 days after arrival at New England for value reed. Dated 10 August 1720. In presence of Robert Temple, Alexander Hamilton’

Taylor was assistant to the Rev. Mr. Haliday, minister at Ardstraw, Ireland. He may, however, have been at Brunswick for a few months in 1719 and 1720. 1 Matthew Gray who came over as a child in 1718 and Robert who came as a youth of twenty-one are both referred to as ‘of the Company of immigrants who settled here in 1718.’ John Gray had land laid out to him by the town’s committee November 26, 1718, and these were his children: Robert (born 1697, ancestor of Asa Gray the botanist), Samuel, William, Matthew (ancestor of Professor Bliss Perry), John, Mary (called wife of William Blair of Aghadowey, and later wife of Matthew Barbour) , and Sarah (wife of Robert Barbour, who was born at “Koppra,” County Tyrone). It is evident that those with families were obliged to build log cabins and clear spaces for planting ; but two families no doubt often lived together under the same roof. There were also many young men and girls who went from place to place in search of employment. Some of these in the course of ten years returned to Worcester to buy land. Others married and settled elsewhere. The chief Worcester Scotch Irish settlers bore the following names, but many others were transient dwellers in Worcester and will be referred to under Rutland, Pelham and Palmer. Thomas Baird

Rev. Edward Fitz Gerald
Robert Barbour
Samuel Fleming
John Batley [Betty?]
James Forbush
Abraham Blair
Mrs. Isabel Gilmore
Robert Blair
John Gray
William Caldwell
James Hamilton
Robert Crawford
James Heart
John Duncan
Hugh Kelso
illiam Dunlap (1731)
Archibald Lamond (1731)
Robert Lollard
Robert Lortridge
James McClellan
John McClintock
Alexander McConkey
John McConkey
Daniel McFarland
William McHan
John McKachan
Robert Peables
David Thomas
James Thornton
William Walker
Matthias Wallis
David Young
John Young

Many men bearing these names will be found mentioned in the excellent history of Pelham. Most of the Rutland settlers came with the Worcester colony, and the names of the chief Scotch Irish families there belong almost as certainly with the Worcester as with the Rutland list. Some of these Rutland settlers brought letters of dismissal from their church in Ireland. That of Malkem Hendery was from the Rev. Mr. Haliday at Ardstraw in County Tyrone, the home of the McFarlands. The Stinsons, Hamiltons and Savages were closely allied, and it is possible that a large number of the Rutland colony came over from Ardstraw together. Of the following those with an asterisk prefixed probably represent Ardstraw colonists.

*Alexander Bothwell
James Browning
*John Browning
James Clark
John Clark
*Aaron Crawford
*John Crawford
*William Fenton
Robert Ferrell
Robert Forbush
Duncan Graham
Patrick Gregory
*John Hamilton (of Brookfield 1726)
*Malkem Hendery
John Lecore
William McCarter
Thomas McClanathan
John McClanathan
[Duncan McFarland]
John Mclntire
*Robert McLem
Daniel McMains
James McPherson
*John Moor
John Murray
*Robert Patrick
Edward Savage
Matthew Slarrow
William Sloan
James Smith
William Spear
Robert Sterling
John Stinson
William Watson

Edward Savage mentioned above was the grandfather of the Philadelphia painter and engraver of portraits of Washington.

The chief Palmer settlers, who came largely from Worcester, were:

James Breakenridge
Andrew Farrand
Thomas Farrand, Jr.
Robert Ferrell
Joseph Fleming
John Glasford
James Lamont
Thomas McClanathan
William McClanathan
John McMaster
William McMitchel
Alexander McNitt
James Moore
John Moore
John Patterson
William Patterson
John Peables
Duncan Quinton
Robert Rogers
Samuel Shaw
Seth Shaw
Alexander Tackels
James Shearer
John Thomson
Robert Smith
Robert Thomson
John Spence

At Palmer and on lands across the Ware River in the present town of Ware the population grew rapidly. Sons and daughters from Worcester and Rutland did the first rough work of the pioneer. To their numbers were added those of the later immigrants who withstood the allurements of a warmer climate. There was Alexander McNitt from County Donegal whose son Barnard served as clerk and treasurer of the Proprietors of Common Lands. Several miles east of Palmer William Sinclair, born in the parish of Drumbo, County Down, in 1676, lived at this period in Leicester and Spencer. 1 His daughter Agnes became the wife of the chief man in this Scotch Irish neighborhood, William Breakenridge, the first representative to the Provincial Congress, and town clerk of Ware for eighteen years. He came to America from Ireland in 1727 when four years of age, with his father, James, a native of Scotland. Mr. Hyde in his address at Ware, says : ‘There is in the Brakenridge family an ancient manuscript music-book upon the fly-leaf of which is written, “Mr. Jacobus Breakenridge, His Music Book, made and taught per me, Robt. Cairnes, at Glenreavoll, 1 Sept. 1715.” Besides the scale and rudiments of music, it contains the date of his marriage, 1720, and the births of his children, giving the day, the hour and the time in the moon, with other memoranda. On one page is written, “We departed from Ireland, July 16, 1727, and my child died on the 19th of Aug.” ‘

The newer towns drew from almost every county in Ulster. The evidence relating to the origin of the Worcester-Rutland colony, however, seems to point to the valley of the Foyle as the home of its pioneer members. If McClellan had not come in the ship from Londonderry, John Wilson, master, which arrived July 28th he would have come on August 4th. In those days the space of time between August 4th and the 9th, Monday to Saturday, would have been short for the labors of bringing his family goods ashore, journeying out to Worcester, selecting a farm and looking it over, waiting for a deed to be drawn, and attaching his signature. All this could have been done in six days, but a careful, provident man would have felt hurried in so important a task in a strange land. If, however, McClellan arrived on the ship from Londonderry he had from July 28th to August 9th to reach Worcester and buy his farm. With him in Worcester were settlers from three counties, Londonderry, Donegal and Tyrone, but most of them came from County Tyrone. The Foyle, made broad by the union of two streams, flows by Lifford on the Donegal side, and Strabane on the Tyrone side, northward between the counties until it approaches the city of Londonderry. There the county of Londonderry seems to throw itself across the Foyle to encompass the city. These twenty miles of the Foyle from Strabane to the city drain a territory which has been a nursery of strong men ‘who fought naked for King William, our liberties, our religion, and all that was dear to us.’ These men from the valley of the Foyle proved themselves sturdy of body and brain. They were, however, if we may judge from minor evidences, less prosperous and possibly less well educated at the time of arrival than those of the Bann companies. In this opinion I am supported by Professor Perry, who writes: ‘I entertain the opinion, gathered from scattered and uncertain data, that it was the poorer, the more illiterate, the more helpless, part of the five ship-loads who were conducted to Worcester.’ Under these circumstances their success in the New World was remarkable.”

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