Thompson Family Tree

Scots & Irish Continued

In 1717, when the leases on the large estate of the Marquis of Donegal in county Antrim expired, the rents were so greatly advanced that scores of tenants could not comply with the demands, and so were evicted from the farms their families had long occupied.
During the next three years nearly a hundred vessels sailed from the ports in the North of Ireland, carrying as many as 25,000 passengers, all Presbyterian.
Thousands of the Scotch-Irish began their New World careers as servants.

In 1728, it was estimated that above 3,200 persons had come from Ulster to America in the previous three years, and that only one in ten could pay his own passage.

Going to America came to mean, by the middle of the century, not launching out into a vast unknown, but moving to a country where ones friends and relatives had a home.
It offered the very exciting chance to own ones own land, instead of holding it on a lease that might end in rack-renting; it meant a heady freedom from religious and political restrictions; it even promised affluence and social prominence to those who were truly ambitious. Every group who went made it easier for others to follow and so by 1775, probably 200,000 Ulstermen had migrated to America.

The southern provinces, Virginia and the Carolinas, were hardly considered, for the impoverished Ulstermen would have seen nothing attractive in a region of plantations and slave-owning, where the Church of England was established. Maryland had been founded for Roman Catholics, was principally a plantation colony, and now had an Established Church; it was therefore not the place for Presbyterians who wanted small farms. New York's governors were reportedly hard on dissenters, and her lands up the Hudson were owned in great estates.

Eliminating these, there remained the Middle colonies and New England. Reports from Penn's settlements were enthusiastic as to the quality of land and the treatment of colonists; moreover, an invitation to settle there had come from the Secretary.

The people who entered America by the Delaware River, found a land of the heart's desire. Their enthusiastic praise of Pennsylvania persuaded others to follow them, and then still others, until by 1720 to go to America meant, for most emigrants from Ulster, to take ship for the Delaware River ports, and then head west. For the entire fifty-eight years of the Great Migration, the large majority of Scotch-Irish made their entry to America through Philadelphia or Chester or New Castle.

With these towns as their starting point, and the western frontier their destination, the immigrants, as they poured in found their path of progress almost laid out for them by geography. The Great Valley lead westward for a hundred miles or more; then when high mountains blocked further easy movement in that direction, the Valley turned south-westward across the Potomac to become the Shenandoah Valley.

From the southern terminus of the Valley of Virginia, it was a short trip, by the time the pioneers had reached it, into the Piedmont regions of the Carolinas, where colonists were now warmly welcomed. Within this seven hundred mile arc of back-country, therefore, from Philadelphia as far as the upper Savannah River, most of the Scotch-Irish made their homes.

It would have been difficult to imagine anywhere, in the world of 1717, conditions more attractive to discontented inhabitants of the Old World, than those which prevailed in the province of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, among the last of the original colonies to be founded, had by 1717 been proving for thirty years its stability and prosperity, its practical liberality and hospitality.

Nothing like the generosity of its appeal was known in other colonies. Penn himself and his friends, set forth to Europeans the advantages of his province. Pennsylvania became the scene of an alternating and parallel movement of two peoples. The Scotch-Irish went to one part of a river valley, Germans on the other; the next years arrivals advanced beyond the settlements to repeat the process.

To the three original counties of Pennsylvania, along the Delaware.
(Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks) the proprietors thought it wise in 1729 to add a fourth, Lancaster. The Scotch-Irish followed the river valleys, keeping north of the disputed border line of Maryland. The provincial government organized still further counties as the frontier was filled up: York in 1749, Cumberland in 1750, and Bedford 1771, not to mention other counties to the north of Philadelphia.

Chroniclers speak of the Scotch-Irish, who arrived in Cumberland during the decade after 1725 as folk of the better sort...a Christian people. It has been called the most important single Scotch-Irish centre in America--the seed-plot and nursery of their race... Franklin County received its first Scotch Irishmen between 1728 and 1740, and York, whose initial settlers consisted of families of the better class of peasantry, between 1731 and 1735.

 It is said that no Scotch-Irish family felt comfortable until it had moved at least twice!

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