THE SCOTCH-IRISH MIGRATION PATTERNS INTO TENNESSEE
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
As early as 1740, the Shenandoah
Valley was the course of The Great Valley Road of Virginia, which continued
as a wagon road as far as big Springs, Virginia (now Roanoke). During
the middle of the 1700s, the route was often recognized as "The
Irish Road," simply because the majority of the travelers were
Scotch-Irish immigrants. At present, the trace of the Great Valley Road
is practically the same line as U.S. Highway 11 (or I-81). In 1746,
travelers on the Great Valley Road at Big Springs had to abandon their
wagons and use pack horses to carry on, either due south into central
North Carolina, or continue into the valleys of the Clinch, Powell,
or Holston Rivers advancing into western North Carolina, now Tennessee.
But in just a few years after the opening
of the Pioneer's Road in 1746, the Upper Road became a wagon road as
well. The Upper Road took off from the Fall Line Road (which is the
same as U.S. Hwy 1 today) at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and paralleled
the Fall Line through Virginia, eventually reaching North Carolina some
60-70 miles west of the Fall Line Road. A present map of North Carolina
shows the chief population centers along Interstate 40 as Raleigh, Durham,
Burlington, Greensboro and Winston-Salem -- all the villages that were
first settled as a result of the Great Valley Road or the Upper road.
The Upper Road is the only pioneer wagon road that does not survive
today as a modern highway -- it crossed several streams and rivers that
are now large man-made lakes. Very little traffic came through eastern
North Carolina into the western regions, due to the lack of wagon roads.
Practically all the entire Piedmont region of North and South Carolina
was settled by means of the Great Valley Road during the latter half
of the 1700s.
The first land grants in north central North
Carolina were in 1746, conjoining with the advent of a wagon route (the
Pioneer's Road) that became feasible in the same year. Before that date,
land sales in North Carolina were limited to the coastal areas and up
a few rivers. North Carolina's land grants came as a result of Lord
Granville, the reigning governor, who opened the northern section of
North Carolina's counties for sale in that year. The area became known
as the "Granville District," which attracted thousands of
migrants from the north, particularly people coming by way of the Chesapeake
region of Virginia and Maryland.
Before 1746, travelers from the Chesapeake
into western Virginia were obliged to first go north to Philadelphia,
then west to Lancaster, then southwest on the old Philadelphia Road
through York and on to the Potomac River, connecting with the Shenandoah
River Valley. A major happening which influenced the migration of people
from the Chesapeake to points west and southwest was the opening of
a wagon road across the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1746. It became known
as the Pioneer's Road, as noted earlier in this text, and permitted
wagon traffic from Alexandria to Winchester, the westernmost town in
Virginia at that time. Winchester was located on the Great Valley Road,
and by traveling from Alexandria overland to Winchester, the route to
access the Great Valley Road had been reduced considerably. The trace
today of the Pioneer's Road is very close to that of the modern U.S.
Hwy 50, which crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains via Ashley's Gap.
The Scotch-Irish ancestor who immigrated
to America during the 18th century without delay headed for western
North Carolina, now known as Tennessee. The first farming settlements
in the interior of North Carolina were created by a group of people
who came from the ocean side area of Maryland and Virginia. They brought
with them a good understanding of how to raise tobacco, the principal
crop of the tidewater region of the Chesapeake This in turn became a
primary crop of North Carolina. Many of these people were second and
third generation Chesapeake residents, however, a sizeable number of
them were newcomers to America -- a group of people who are often called
As a result of the opening of the Pioneer's
Road, thousands of Scotch-Irish immigrants to America changed their
travel plans after hearing from relatives in America. Before 1746 the
primary port of entry to the American colonies was Philadelphia. After
1746, Alexandria, Virginia on the Potomac River became a vital port
of entry for the newcomers from the Irish Sea.
"Scotch-Irish" was a name given
to the people who came to America from about 1717 to 1775 by way of
northern Ireland, or Irish Seaports on either side of the border of
Scotland and England. Although many had lived in Ireland for decades,
these folks did not think of themselves as Irish. Beginning around 1607,
thousands of border clan people were encouraged to leave their homes
along the English-Scottish border and were transported to northern Ireland.
The enticement was a parcel of land, which the borderers could have
as their own for a lease period of 100 years. For the next hundred years,
the system worked convincingly well.
The border clan people established thriving
flax farms in Northern Ireland, and assembled a linen trade that was
the envy of Europe. They didn't change their Scottish ways while they
were in Ireland, and did not see themselves as Irish. In fact, most
of the clans of the borderlands were more Scotch than anything else,
whether their traditional lands were on the English side or the Scottish
side-- they had a history of taking whatever land they wanted and were
famous for their centuries of fighting Scottish kings, English kings,
or each other--it really didn't matter.
A big change in the lives of the border
clan people took place with the merger of Scotland and England into
one kingdom in 1705. The border clans became an unbearable struggle
to the English, and thereby, thousands were by force transferred to
northern Ireland. This time, the clan people were treated adversely
which encompassed higher rents and shorter leases; as earlier leases
ran out, the tenants were replaced with new border clan people at higher
rents. At the same time, dreadful droughts, famine, and the crumbling
of the linen trade in Northern Ireland put the clan people into dismal
situations, and living there became virtually impossible. By 1717, ejected
Scotch-Irish began relocating to America.
During the next 50 years or so, it is
estimated that over 275,000 of them went to the American colonies. Most
of them found themselves traveling into the backwoods of colonial America
and the Appalachian region, extending from western Pennsylvania to Georgia.
These regions were settled almost exclusively by Scotch-Irish immigrants.