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Scottish and Scots-Irish Celts
Founders of the United States of America
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
You may may not realize that more than half of ALL Americans today have many Scots, Scots-Irish, Anglo-Scots or Irish/Anglo-Irish ancestors. You may may not realize that our American Independence was born of the pain and oppression the majority of our founding peoples experienced, for centuries, here in America as in these well as in Ireland and Scotland. In fact, our U.S. Constitution, and the very government we live under, arose as a direct result of the abuse these Celtic ancestors received, primarily under English rule.
Scots and Scots-Irish comprised either fully or partly the ancestry of about half the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and nearly three-quarters of Washington’s army and more than one-half of his officers corps, were Scots, Irish, and Scots-Irish. These revolutionary leaders, the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, were determined such tyranny would never happen again. Many of our cherished rights are the direct result of such bullying.
For example, in 1707, the citizens of Scotland lost their right to representative government. The ‘shot-gun marriage ‘Act of Union’ was imposed on Scotland under the credible threat of English invasion, should the Scottish parliament not approve the Act. In so doing, the Scottish parliament dissolved itself, Scotland ceased to be a nation, and the ‘United Kingdom‘ was created in it’s place. At that time, Scotland had about 2/3 the population of England, but received only 4 seats in a parliament of over 100 members, fewer seats than tiny Cornwall! Scottish citizens were thus stripped of any influence in the so-called Union parliament, and also how their taxes were to be disbursed. No wonder that their descendants created our U.S. Constitution guaranteeing ‘one man, one vote‘ in our new nation.
You may not realize that in at that time, Presbyterians in America were virtually all Scots and Scots-Irish. Their influence on our revolt was strong and pervasive. One of the most eloquent and influencial was Rev. John Witherspoon, a Scots-Presbyterian minister and later President of Princeton University, but also a former friend and mentor of England’s Prime Minister, Horace Walpole. In fact, upon hearing the news of the rebellion in America, King George III of England asked his Prime Minister, what had happened. Walpole replied, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson, and there is no help for it.”
However, Witherspoon himself had been influenced by Scots-Irish Rev. Alexander Craighead, who as early as 1748, wrote in his ‘Renewal of the Covenants, National and Solemn League; “… To the Calvinistic system of principles and the Presbyterian form of government, this nation (the newly evolved American people) is largely indebted for its civil independence and republican polity.”
Rev. Craighead had been in Pennsylvania, Virginia and finally North Carolina leaving adherents in all three colonies, including other prominent ministers and members of colonial legislatures. His father, Rev. Thomas Craighead, held similar views, and had been in Massachusetts, New Jersey, what became Delaware and then Pennsylvania. They also expressed strong beliefs in religious freedom and that all religions should be treated by government equally and protected, made secure from persecution and harm to its leaders, but none should be part of government. The Presbyterian churches had elected councils of churches and both men and women voted and could serve as elders. Similarly, Quakers also had male and female elders elected from their meetings. Additionally, both of these churches believed in educating sons and daughters so neither men, nor their wives would be cheated in contracts they could not read, nor become impoverished through not being able to understand basic arithmetic and money and through ignorance, then become charity burdens on the churches and their communities. Public education started with the Scots, Scots-Irish and Quakers, who included Scots and Irish. ‘Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure had its roots in part in the political persecution and imprisonment of people who were members of anything other than the official Church of England, especially the leaders.
The most numerous and worst of such persecutions took place in Scotland and Ireland, the worst starting in the mid-1600’s. There were also more sinister experiences of searches, seizures, trials and imprisonments instigated by ‘secret accusers,’ and trials by secret accusers, using false-front witnesses and secret evidence. Neither the secret accusers nor secret evidence could be confronted or rebutted by the victims. People were tried and imprisoned in this manner on the cause of treason, which support of a non-official religion was, and could lose their entire means of sustenance or their lives without ever knowing who accused them and on what basis. The worst experiences were suffered by those who were not among the highest gentry. This led to a strong belief in the right of individuals to know their accusers and the evidence in trials and be able to refute them and to have an objective jury of their peers. ‘None of these so fundamental rights guarenteed in our American Constitution and Laws originated in England. English monarchs, often supported by their parliaments, had spent centuries denying and violently suppressing any expression of these now universally accepted human rights. As for the notion, sometimes expressed in PBS documentaries, that at the least the English kings were responsible for setting up the colonies and allowing the Scots and Irish to emigrate to them is also a distortion. The first king to set up and strongly support colonies in North America was James VI, who had been king of Scotland for about 15 years before being given the second crown of England as James I of England. This dual king was a Scot of the family name Stuart who spoke with a pronounced brogue and besides English, could speak Erse, Scots Gaelic, fluently. ‘ All but one of the North America colonies were created/established under these Scottish-Stuart kings, in part as a deliberate effort to relieve the overpopulation of largely unarable Scotland and parts of Ireland as well. Until just about the mid-19th century, between 80 and 90% of all persons made their living by farming and at home ‘cottage industries’ related to their, and their immediate neighbors’, farming products. Even small town and village tradesmen and craftsmen all had small farms to supplement their business incomes and feed their families.
In the American Revolution, about 2/3 of the enlisted men in the entire Continental (patriot) army were Scots, Scots-Irish or Irish. More than half of the officer corps was likewise. The budding navy under John Paul Jones was nearly entirely Scots and Scots-Irish. Most of the members of the Continental Congress who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and later most of the members of the Constitutional Convention were of Scots, Scots-Irish and Irish descent. Thus the United States of America is in reality, the greatest Celtic nation of them all and a testament to the perseverance across milennia of Celtic thought, culture and will. Its people should never forget who they and their nation are.
Celts in the American Revolution
by Thomas Fleming
Originally published in Journal of the American Revolution (allthingsliberty.com)
Portrait of Patrick Henry by George Bagby Matthews (c. 1891) after Thomas Sully.
Source: U.S. Senate
‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ shouted Patrick Henry to the members of the Second Virginia Convention in 1775. His words became the first great war cry of the American Revolution. In 1776 this backwoods lawyer was elected governor of Virginia, the largest state in the new American union.
Henry was descended from Scottish Presbyterians who had settled in Virginia’s back country. They had brought with them from their homeland a profound suspicion of British rule. For centuries Britain had oppressed Scotland and crushed her attempts to rebel and win independence.
That undoubtedly explains why Patrick Henry’s fellow Scottish Americans were well represented in the revolutionary ranks.
Perhaps their best known warrior was Commodore John Paul Jones, the naval hero who was born in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. In 1779, the slim, hot-tempered Jones commanded a five warship flotilla that circled the British Isles, capturing seventeen merchant ships. He capped this performance by defeating the British man of war HMS Serapis off the English coast, while thousands of dismayed Englishmen watched from the shore.
Another bold Scot, big beefy bookseller Henry Knox, fought as a volunteer at the 1775 battle of Bunker Hill. A few weeks later, General Washington met Knox in Cambridge, and was so impressed with his military knowledge that he asked him to join his headquarters staff.
The American army was desperately short of cannon. In the winter of 1776, Knox organized teams of men and oxen who hauled over sixty heavy guns from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to Boston – a 300 mile journey up and down the steep snowy slopes of the Berkshire Mountains. Some of the guns weighed more than a ton. Washington used the cannon to drive the British out of Boston. Knox soon became chief of artillery in the Continental Army.
The Irish were not far behind the Scots in the boldness game. John Sullivan of New Hampshire was the son of a schoolteacher from Ireland’s County Limerick. In December 1774, four months before the shooting war began, Sullivan learned that the British planned to station a regiment at Fort William & Mary in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s capital, to intimidate the patriots.
Sullivan led a raid on the fort early the next day. His men overwhelmed the small British garrison, hauled down the flag, and carried off one hundred barrels of gunpowder. Some of that powder was used with deadly effect six months later at the battle of Bunker Hill. Sullivan was soon a major general in Washington’s army, famed for his fearlessness under fire.
Another Irishman – in fact – a whole family of them – struck the first blow against the English on the sea. In May, 1775, a month after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British sloop-of-war, HMS Margaretta entered Machias Bay, Maine, home of Maurice O’Brien of Cork, and his five sons. The O’Briens organized a group of local fishermen who put to sea in their boats and captured the befuddled British sailors by boarding them in a wild rush. In Boston, the infuriated English admiral sent two more sloops north to regain Margaretta. The salty O’Briens and their neighbors captured them too.
Portrait of Charles Caroll by Michael Laty via Wikipedia
Probably the most famous Irish-American leader was Charles Carroll of Maryland. Writing under the pen name ‘First Citizen,’ he persuaded Maryland to join the Revolution. Carroll was educated in France by his wealthy father and came home to become the richest man in America by 1776. Yet Carroll did not hesitate to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Carroll knew he was risking a death sentence for treason and the confiscation of his wealth if America lost the war. He took the risk because he knew from his family’s experience in Ireland what would happen if Britain was allowed to oppress Americans with taxes and laws passed by a parliament in which they did not have a single representative. Americans would have been as ruthlessly exploited as the Irish in Ireland.
Less well known is the story of a working class Irishman, big hearty Hercules Mulligan. He shocked his American friends by welcoming the redcoated British regiments when they captured New York in 1776. A skilled tailor, Mulligan was soon making money outfitting British officers and wealthy Americans who had remained loyal to the king.
Beyond the city limits, Americans shook their heads. Who could believe Mulligan had become a traitor? He had seemed to be a fervent patriot.
Mulligan still was, but only a few people knew it. One of these insiders was General George Washington. Another was Washington’s aide, Colonel Alexander Hamilton, who was a close friend of Mulligan. Throughout the war, the Irishman was one of America’s most valuable spies. Among other things, he warned Washington of a well-organized British plot to kidnap him.
At the end of the war, the British evacuated New York. Not a few American hotheads vowed that they would make Mulligan sorry for his treachery. Imagine their surprise when General Washington rode into the city at the head of his troops and announced that the following morning he planned to have breakfast with his friend, Hercules Mulligan.
Celts in the American Revolution – Part 2
Tarleton gives no quarter in South Carolina
The Service of the Wallaces of Rockbridge County Virginia
by Celia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
Six Scottish brothers, Samuel, Andrew, John, James, Malcolm and Adam Wallace from Rockbridge (formerly Botetourt, and Augusta) County Virginia served in the American Revolution, all but one in Southern Campaigns of the American Revolutionary War. Five of them died as a result of their service.
The youngest brother, Adam Wallace, died in a famous American Revolutionary War Battle, Bufords Defeat aka the Battle of Waxhaws.
On that day, May 29th, 1780, the treatment of Patriots by Loyalists under the command of British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton lead to the coining of the rallying cry that came to define British brutality for the rest of the War for Independence: ‘Tarleton’s Quarter‘.
After the surrender of Charleston on May 12, the 3rd Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Abraham Buford, was virtually the only organized Patriot formation remaining in South Carolina. British commander Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was given the mission to destroy any colonial resistance in the colony. At Waxhaws on the North Carolina border, a cavalry charge by Tarleton’s legion broke the 350 men Buford by the time Tarleton caught up with him. Patriots under Buford. Buford tried to surrender, but Tarleton and his Tories continued shooting, slashing and bayoneting the Patriots.
Buford’s Continentals lost 113 killed and 203 wounded or captured; British losses totaled 19 men and 31 horses killed or wounded. Although the Continentals were routed, the loss became a propaganda victory for the Continentals: wavering Carolina civilians terrified of Tarleton and their Loyalist neighbors were now prepared to rally to the Patriot cause, and Patriots throughout the remaining months of War used the battle cry ‘Tarleton’s Quarter,’ which to the Patriots meant no quarter would be given.
Mass Grave at Washaws, including Capt. Adam Wallace
There are several eye-witness accounts of the Battle of the Waxhaws. Historians have had to go through them and find the consistencies. The two most consistent accounts are those of Col. Abraham Buford himself, and Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton’s account appears in his own memoirs, “Campaigns of 1780-81,” which partly appears in the biography about him called The Green Dragoon, by Robert D. Bass, (first published 1957, Rhinehart and Holt, New York.) The best descriptions of the disaster has been more recently published in 2004. Click Here: the Southern Campaigns newsletter, Vol. 1 # 2 (2004). Among the several eyewitness accounts, these comprehensive, well credentialed research reports mostly cite Buford and Tarleton.
Henry Bowyer was a nephew of Col. John Bowyer, the third husband of Adam Wallace’s maternal aunt, Mary Magdalena Woods-McDowell-Borden Bowyer. Henry Bowyer claimed to be an eye-witness to the Battle of the Waxhaws, and that it was he who bore the personal property of Captain Adam Wallace back home to his family near Lexington, Virginia, after the Battle. Shortly after the battle, he wrote an account which was published in the Virginia Gazette. In this report, Henry Bowyer says he was an aide to Captain Adam Wallace, (one of the two captains under Buford, the other four officers being lieutenants) and the bearer of the flag of truce at the Battle. Bowyer wrote that the truce flag was raised, but was ignored, whereas in his account of the truce flag, Buford wrote simply that he ‘was not sure it was seen‘.
Seige, Surrender and Chase
In the weeks preceding the Battle, Buford had set out from Virginia with two companies of Virginians, (about 400 men), heading South to relieve the siege of Charleston with wagons filled with supplies. It took weeks of marching with slow wagons and communications was equally slow. The Virginians were in South Carolina before they heard that Charleston had surrendered. As Charleston fell, Governor John Rutledge of South Carolina and two of his “councillors” escaped, also bringing with them some supplies to avoid having them fall into the hands of the British. Governor Rutledge met with Buford and accompanied him for a number of days, and then parted company taking some wagons and a different route.
Cornwallis learned of the escape of Rutledge some days later and sent Col. Tarleton to try to intercept Rutledge and also eliminate any other Patriot forces in the area. Tarleton and his force came upon Buford at the Waxhaws, while Buford and his men were still marching back to Virginia at an even slower pace than before, as the roads had been turned into thick mud from heavy rains, which forced the Patriots to begin abandoning wagons which only slowed them more in these conditions. Though Tarleton had covered 105 miles in two days, his cavalry that were well supplied and fresh, in comparison to the Americans who were mostly infantry and had been marching for weeks, and were more lightly supplied.
Illustration of Bufords Defeat aka Battle of Waxhaws
Battle and Slaughter
Tarleton sent a note to Buford demanding surrender, with terms that were more reasonable than many. However, he also bluffed about the size of his force, which was actually about the same as the Americans, though mostly cavalry and one artillery piece. Even while the surrender note was being brought to him under a white flag by Tarleton’s man, Buford continued marching, and believing he was about to be attacked by mostly British infantry and recently trained Tories, refused to consider the surrender. Buford did nothing to improve his deployment. He became aware of the true nature of his situation when the sergeant and four dragoons he’d designated as a rear guard, and very near to the main force, were overwhelmed by Tarleton’s men in plain view of the rest of Buford’s column. Buford, inexplicably also did nothing of the usual such as using wagons as blockades and felling trees to delay Tarleton’s men and give his own men time to organize and load their fire arms.
After learning that his order to surrender had been refused, Tarleton immediately organized a charge of over 200 cavalry, against the 350 unprepared American infantry at a time when loading a musket took over a minute. During the charge, Buford delayed giving the order to fire far too long, then, as his men were being shot and rapidly cut down, Buford belatedly decided to raise a white flag of surrender. It wasn’t seen by Tarleton and his men, mostly Tories. Buford was right about one thing: the Tories were not well trained and disciplined. Adding to the misfortunes of the hapless American Patriots, one of their own bullets had killed Tarleton’s horse, which fell on Tarleton, rendering him unconscious for several minutes. His men, including those Tories, thought he had been killed and began hacking and shooting the Patriots, even men who at this point had stopped firing and were indeed trying to surrender. Worse, even some of Buford’s own men had not seen the surrender flag as Buford’s man attempted to carry it through the fighting and were continuing to fight. This only gave further incentive to Tarleton’ men to continue the killing. In this confusion, compounded by a lack of discipline by Tarleton’s men who sought revenge, 113 Americans were killed and many more wounded.
These included Captain Adam Wallace, one of the two captains under Col. Buford. Adam Wallace had not taken flight as others had done and in the fighting had one arm completely severed from his body, in addition to several other wounds.
Waxhaw’s Monument with inscription
To his credit, once Tarleton revived and saw what was happening, he stopped the battle and Buford and the rest of his men were allowed to surrender. Tarleton had his own surgeon tend some of the wounded and, upon learning of Henry’s connection to Adam, personally returned the sword, silver shoe buckles, and other personal effects of Adam Wallace to Henry Bowyer, to bring them home to Adam’s family. The surviving officers were allowed to return home as Tarleton honored his own original terms in his order of surrender.
The wagons of supplies that had not gone on with Rutledge fell into British hands. Mercifully, for the Americans, Rutledge and his wagons did find their way to remaining Patriot forces. So the one success of the Waxhaws, was that Buford’s forces had kept Tarleton from catching up with Rutledge and some important supplies.
As a result of the combined circumstances, the 113 were, indeed, largely butchered. Cornwallis himself later reprimanded Tarleton’s units for the unnecessary slaughter, and this massacre was readily admitted by one of his officers. ‘Charles Stedman, who was serving as chief of Cornwaillis’s commissary on this expedition, said of the battle: “The king’s troops were entitled to great commendation for their activity and ardour on this occasion, but the virtue of humanity was totally forgot“. This condemnation, coming from a British officer who served alongside Tarleton and his legion, serves as authoritative confirmation of the American accusations of brutality leveled against Tarleton and his troops after this battle. – from The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook, edited by Frances H. Kennedy.
Buford later married a relative of Adam Wallace, shocking his family, as many, even then, felt he had been as much to blame for the horrific loss of 113 men, mostly men of Wallace company, under Adam Wallace, who had stood firm despite the confusion, and then had tried to surrender when they saw Buford’s white flag. Wallace Company took the brunt of both Buford’s stupidity and the lack of discipline of Tarleton’s men when he fell. The battle and the terrible loss of men became serious propaganda for the Patriot cause, as well as the noticeable loss of so many related men out of Augusta-Botetourt county.
Rout of Ferguson’s Tories at the battle of Kings Mountain
The battle of King’s Mountain occurred later that same year, in the fall of 1780, and many of Adam’s kin, including remaining brothers, came south from Virginia with William and Arthur Campbell for the rematch.
Tarleton was originally to meant to accompany Major Patrick Ferguson, as he swung northwest through the Piedmont, but Tarleton had contracted a tertiary fever (now believed to be malaria) that periodically laid him low. When he became so weak he could not ride, he and his men were set aside until he recovered, with the expectation that Tarleton would rejoin the mission when he had recovered in a few days.
Ferguson unwisely issued a threat that riled the over-the-mountain men of Western North Carolina. If the Rebels “did not desist from their opposition to the British arms,” he would “march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders and lay their country waste with fire and sword.” To the rallying cry of ‘Remember Tarleton’s Quarter‘, they made rendez-vous with the Virginians, who included many relatives of Adam Wallace, and chased Ferguson, catching him at Kings Mountain while Tarleton lay sick in bed. The password the night before the battle of King’s Mountain was ‘Buford‘, and the battle cry was ‘Remember Tarleton’s Quarter‘. The result was another massacre, and this time the Tories were the victims.
The battle of King’s Mountain was the turning point in the Southern Campaign. It proved that the Americans could win. The remaining men of the Shenandoah flocked to the Continental army and militia when the heard about it.
For more about the battle of Kings Mountian, see the video “The American Spirit, 1780” below.
Fate of the remaining 5 Wallace Patriot Brothers
Adam Wallace’s grandmother on one side was a Campbell. His mother was a Woods. Cousins included Wallaces, Woods, McDowells, Campbells, and many others whose names are familiar to those who are acquainted with the following battles at Guilford Courthouse and King’s Mountain. Most lived in the central and southern Shenandoah Valley and adjacent western foothills of the Blue Ridge.
There is no picture of Adam Wallace but there was a description provided by Henry Bowyer which has some merit, as he did know Adam and was at the battle. Adam Wallace was born in 1756 as the youngest brother and was 24 when he was killed. He was 6’4′ tall, with black hair and bright blue eyes and loved life. Adam was the favorite of all his brothers and large number of young ladies in the area he lived. His sword and personal effects were bequeathed by his will to his brother John, who gave them to the family of his oldest brother, Samuel (1741-1785).
Adam had 5 brothers: Samuel (1741 – 1785), Andrew (~ 1744 – 1781) John (1748 – 1832), James (~ 1750 – 1778) “also called Hugh” and Malcolm (1754 – 1775). Four, including Adam, died in the American Revolution, leaving no children:
Captain Andrew Wallace was killed at the battle of Guilford Courthouse in March, 1781. Though the Americans left the field because they were running out of ammunition, they had actually won by inflicting many more casualties on the British, in the eyes of the English parliament itself which stated ‘another pyrrhic victory like Guilford Courthouse, and Cornwallis and Clinton would lose the whole of the Americas. Andrew Wallace had also been at the Battle of Point Pleasant, also with William Campbell in 1774. Lieutenant James Wallace died of smallpox as the Patriots were re-entering Philadelphia in 1778. Ensign Malcolm Wallace died “near Boston,” in 1775, having been the first to enlist. Col. Samuel Wallace was wounded at Yorktown and died a few years later, in 1785, having never fully recovered. Only the third son, Ensign John Wallace survived, more intact than not.
Samuel had several children, but died earlier than John, who had 3 wives, left more. John inherited the bounty lands for service of his brothers, James, Adam and Andrew in Kentucky, but mostly sold those and settled first in West Virginia, where his first wife had been killed in the Revolution and an infant son taken prisoner by native allies of the British at the same time, never more to be seen. However, Virginia and West Virginia held too many painful memories, and he wasn’t comfortable living on the lands of his dead brothers in Kentucky, so he then moved to what became Tennessee, and after his third marriage moved to Indiana where he died, near Stilesville, in 1832.
Celts in the American Revolution – Part 3
Video:The American Spirit, 1780
by award-winning author Randell Jones
During the American Revolution, backcountry militiamen, overwhelmingly descendants of Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants, turned the tide of the War with their unexpected victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780.
This entertaining, engaging, and enlightening video tells the story of these heroes coming together from what is today five states and pursuing British Major Patrick Ferguson and his army of loyalists for over 200 miles across the mountains of North Carolina. That route is today the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
Award winning author Randell Jones transports you through this dramatic and daring episode of America’s Revolutionary War history. Jones illustrates the story with images from 12 years of photographing 18th century reenactors portraying America’s backcountry heroes, as well as historical artwork graciously provided by Richard Luce, who also contributes to the naration.”
The video includes the original Celtic music performed by The Forget-Me-Nots of Banner Elk, NC. Randell Jones, is the recipient of the 2013 National History Award Medal from the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.
To watch the ‘The American Spirit 1780‘ video, Click Here https://youtu.be/2mMDddd242w. Also find a link at Randell Jones home page at www.DanielBooneFootsteps.com, as well as information on his books, including ‘Before They Were Heroes at King’s Mountain‘ and ‘In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone‘.
Enjoy just a few minutes of the video right now or watch the entire 40-minute story unfold with art, music, narration, and the original Celtic music of The The Forget-Me-Nots.
Celtic Immigrants & Cultural Influence
Before and After the American Revolution
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
Celtic influence upon the development of America is pervasive. There were Celts coming to the American colonies from the time of Jamestown, but after the 1715 and 1745 rising, Irish (and Scots!) immigration to America accelerated, and after the famines of the 1840’s, there was a huge spike. Although between 1707 and into the late 1800’s, Irish Catholics continued to be denied land ownership, and Scots continued contend with the poor rocky and thin soils left by glacial erosion, and cold climate, these Celtic people continued to increase their numbers with their many children.
Freed from class limitations, in America, Irish, Scots and Welsh advanced on their merit, largely developing the manufacturing industries of America, and machinery to make its manufactured goods. The old cliche figure of Scottish engineers or Irish glass makers and weavers is real. They are based in the real history of people who could not own and otherwise find enough land to make a living by farming. To stop competition with English manufacturers, the English did not encourage or promote industrial development in Scotland or Ireland. Scots and Irish packed up their energy, skills and ideas and brought them to America. As a result, in early America, these Celts became extremely self-reliant, especially on the young countries frontiers. They were able to grow or make just about everything they needed to thrive, as well as a few ‘cash crops’ they could sell to have money. Like ‘homespun’, aka hemp based fabrics.
Celtic Crafts: Hemp Cultivation in Early America
Buried in the middle of a few newspapers late in December 2018 and in a very brief announcement on cable news was an event that should be of great interest to millions of Scots, Scots-Irish and Irish descent in the U.S. Some of us still have many relatives east of the Mississippi, including in America’s original ‘thirteen colonies’.
The President of the U.S. signed into law a bill passed with bi-partisan support in both Houses of Congress (news in itself), and not the one you heard about. This new Law legalizes the growing of hemp throughout the U.S. This kind of hemp is not the usual drug form of the species, though it is the source of one chemical compound that has now been proved to help children and adults known to suffer from epilepsy for whom there is little or no other effective controlling treatment. It is the form of the hemp plant species once known for many other things made from its fibers: paper, rope, and fabric in particular.
Hemp Cultivation was Required
‘In colonial times, the hemp plant was so important to Virginia, that farmers here were required to grow it. Advocates for industrial hemp say it could be just as important today for everything from fiber and feed to bio-fuel and health supplements, such as CBD oil. ‘(WVTV–Virginia Public Radio).
What most people don’t know is that hemp was one of the three or four plants/trees that made Scots, Irish and Scots-Irish the proud, prosperous self-sufficient farmers and light manufacturers, that George Washington so admired and whose example he wanted others to follow. Home grown and home-spun hemp made us were less dependent on England. This was especially important the closer we came to Revolution, and in the first decades afterward when we needed trade and value added goods to pay off creditors like France, for their assistance during our Revolution, as well as our own American men and women who had fought for our independence and provided supplies for our troops.
The original copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were printed on hemp paper. The thousands of American, British and European sailing ships sails were made of hemp. Some of the toughest shirts and trousers, women’s shifts and skirts, capable of standing up to the elements and heavy activity on the frontier were made of hemp fabric, or some combination of hemp and linen or hemp-linen-wool, etc.. If you think about the fact we had no weaving factories at that time, and for some decades afterward, just individual looms, spinning wheels and spindles, and our lack of hygiene and sanitation and how many changes of clothing most people really had, durable clothing was VERY important. This stuff also stood up better to the cleaning compounds, like lye soap, we did have.
The British NEEDED our American hemp and finished fiber production and PAID valuable cash for it, and we paid our county governments for licenses to grow it. Americans were required to get licenses and devote a portion of land to growing it in many colonies. See the earliest records in Augusta County, Virginia, for example, one of the largest counties of the Shenandoah Valley and adjacent Appalachian foothills and eastern piedmont in the 1740’s to understand how important this plant was to the prosperity of our American Celtic ancestors. You can find copies of these records and see all the families with familiar surnames who obtained licenses in Chalkley’s Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish, 3 volumes of abstracts of most of the county records of Augusta County and several ‘daughter counties,’ in Virginia, then the most populous colony, later state. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009029527
Hemp fabric also made durable quilt ticking, curtains to keep out winter’s drafts (many houses didn’t have glass windows) and the rags from linen and hemp fabric made rugs for the often unfinished (beyond sanding and maybe a little linseed (flax seed) oil) floors.
The other important fabric materials included, linen from flax, which also grew well in the Piedmont area and lower elevations of the Appalachians where most of our Celtic ancestors lived, from New York south to South Carolina, and wool from sheep. We didn’t know about how enjoyable Roquefort bleu cheese (made from sheep’s milk) might be for various culinary uses, but we knew wool was warm in winter and if tightly woven, made decent water repellent cloaks and men’s clothing.
With the return of hemp to increase interest in growing things and prosperity in the traditional areas where our mostly Celtic relatives still live in the U.S., can flax growing and a return to natural fabrics made in the U.S. be far behind? Will we see durable paper also being made again from the hemp fiber, rope–and the industries being located in the areas who need the jobs the most?
For more information on hemp and the early U.S. economy, here is a link to an article by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/Winter15/hemp.cfm
Celtic Crafts: Glassmaking
From the late 1700’s until just before the Civil War, many Scottish and Irish new Americans were not farmers, but skilled craftsmen and engineers in new industries that they had largely created, including fabrics, metals, ceramics and glass. In earlier America, industries started as crafts in the home and light or small scale industry of extended family coops and small communities, where particular resources were most plentiful. The products regularly displayed these Celtic American’s cultural beliefs in form and decoration of their manufactured goods including those of fabric, ceramics, wood, stone and glass. In fact, glass was considered so important to early settlers, that the very first glass making efforts were made at Jamestown, Virginia, between 1607 and 1610. Ditto ceramics. While Europe was pre-occupied with the Napoleonic Wars, Americans, mostly Celtic, were creating the first purely American industry of the Industrial Revolution; table and decorative glassware.
These primarily Scots, Irish, and French immigrants and their descendants created molds for molten glass and a new molding process, including the final wheel cutting and polishing of pressed glass that resembled cut crystal popular in the upper classes of England, but cheap enough for American households. The styles and decoration were from their iconic Celtic beliefs and traditions familiar to their American compatriots. Over the next 75 years, this developed into a hugely successful American industry. By the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century glassware for table and decor was so abundant and varied, that this man made magic crystal could be molded and cut to realize the memories of those of ancient folk tales like no other product.
That molded glassware became so abundant and so detailed was due to an invention in the British isles; a two or more part metal mold for blowing and pressing glass. These original molds were made of bronze or iron and every one of them was a piece of art. They could only be used for so many pieces and then had to be re-cut or re-sharpened, or melted down and made into a new mold. The molds themselves started with carefully sculpted clay models and then were detailed in ways that resembled the finest intricate carvings of the old Celtic crosses and other ritualistic ornamentation and other stone and wood decor that had already made the Celts famous. After the molds were made of these metals, they themselves were hand-cut more and polished as though they were jewels and then the molten glass was poured into these metal jewels and finished by more cutting and polishing. There is nothing like what was produced in the heyday of glass 1870’s to 1930’s. Pressed glass pattern molding began in the early 1800’s in Massachusetts, among persons of Anglo-Scots, (northern England) and Scottish descent. It spread rapidly to parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and about the middle of the century took root in Ohio, where the Scots-Irish who had arrived earlier were moving, with their large families.
At the same time, new generations of Scots and Irish were arriving and joining them as the best combination of land and climate for agriculture is in these mid-western states east of the Mississippi. There were also abundant deposits of two things in the Ohio River valley: coal plus sand with high silica and calcium content; just what is needed for making glass. Later generations of Scots, Irish and Welsh were quick to develop other industries, besides farming, for a livelihood, and incorporate their own traditions into them. This particularly appears in fabric arts, ceramics and glass. Look closely at the 19th century quilts, embroidery and glass. In glass, see the heather, the laurel, the oak, and holly in pattern glass. Look at the spirals and stars and remember the ancient sites like New Grange. Look at the quantity of detail in the glass, and crosses, columns, and more and remember the Book of Kells and the famous Celtic stone crosses of Scotland and Ireland. Look at the decorative seams of cottage flowers and wreaths in the ceramic, and even ships and boats. Look at the patterns in quilts. All of this has come to us from Celtic ancestors, many hundreds of thousands, even millions of them, from 1650 to 1850.
Textiles, glass and ceramics were American alright–but Celtic American. So was furniture making. It’s sad that these very same industries are the same ones that were most quickly sent to China and have not returned. So where are the expressions of our cultural traditions now?