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Chapter 10

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of North Carolina

The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York, 1919
Volume I by
R. D. W. Connor

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 12

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. I
p162
Chapter 11
The Coming of the Scotch-Irish and Germans

While the Highlanders were moving up the Cape Fear River, two other streams of population were flowing into the province and spreading out over the plains and valleys of the Piedmont section. Though flowing side by side, they originated in widely separated sources and throughout their courses kept entirely distinct one from the other. One was composed of immigrants of Scotch-Irish, the other of immigrants of German descent.

The term Scotch-Irish is a misnomer, and does not, as one would naturally suppose, signify a mixed race of Scotch and Irish ancestry. It is a geographical, not a racial term. The so‑called Scotch-Irish were in reality Scotch people, or descendants of Scotch people who once resided in Ireland. Into Ireland they came as invaders and lived as conquerors, hated as such by the Irish and feeling for the Irish that contempt which conquerors always feel for subjugated races. From one generation to another the two peoples dwelt side by side, separated by an immense chasm of religious, political, social, and racial hostility, each intent upon preserving its blood pure and uncontaminated by any mixture with the other. Thus the Scotch in Ireland remedy Scotch, not term "Irish" as applied to them is merely a geographical term used to distinguish the Scotch immigrants who came to America from Ireland from those who came hither directly from Scotland. In fact the term "Scotch-Irish" is American in its origin and use, and has never been known in Ireland, where the descendants of the Scotch settlers are distinguished from the Irish proper by the far more significant terms of "Irish Protestants" and "Irish Presbyterians." Another name, "Ulstermen," often applied to them, especially within recent years, is derived from the province in which they are chiefly found.

The ancestors of these people came originally from the p163Lowlands of Scotland, and were introduced into Ireland by James I in pursuance of his policy of displacing the native Irish, always so bitterly hostile to the British Crown, with a new people upon whose loyalty the government could depend. For the success of his plan he needed a people whose aversion to the Irish and to their religion would operate as a barrier to any intermingling of the two races. Of all his subjects, the Scotch Presbyterians of the Western Lowlands were best suited for his purpose. Possessed of intense racial pride, they would not intermarry with the Irish. The most uncompromising of Protestants, they would resist to the uttermost the attacks of Catholicism. Tenacious of their property rights which they would owe to the generosity of the king, they would maintain and defend his Crown at all hazards. Accordingly, having confiscated the Irish estates in Ulster, in 1610, James brought from Scotland a colony of Lowlanders whom he settled upon them. This was the beginning of a great migration from Scotland to Ireland. During the decade from 1610 to 1620, 40,000 Scotch Presbyterians were thus settled in Ulster. They were among the most industrious, thrifty and intelligent people in the world. In Ulster they drained the swamps, felled the forests, sowed wheat and flax, raised cattle and sheep, and began the manufacture of linen and woolen cloth which they were soon exporting to England. As Greene says: "In its material result the Plantation of Ulster was undoubtedly a brilliant success. Farms and homesteads, churches and mills, rose fast amid the desolate wilds of Tyrone. * * * The foundations of the economic prosperity which has raised Ulster high above the rest of Ireland in wealth and intelligence were undoubtedly laid in the confiscation of 1610."1

From Ireland descendants of these Scotch settlers came to America. Anomalous at it may seem it is nevertheless true that the immediate causes of this second emigration arose out of the fact that the Scotch settlement in Ireland had succeeded too well. Planted there in 1610 to develop the country industrially and establish a strong Protestant civilization, a century later the success of their industrial enterprises was the envy of their competitors in England, while the tenacity with which they held to their religious convictions gave offense to the bishops and clergy of the Established Church. By the close of the seventeenth century, the linen p164and woolen manufactures of Belfast, Londonderry, and other cities of Ulster had grown so prosperous that English manufacturers complained of the competition, and at their solicitation, the British Parliament passed a series of acts that greatly restricted the output of the Irish factories and placed them at the mercy of their English rivals. About the same time, the High Church party in England secured the passage of laws making it illegal for Presbyterians in Ireland to hold office, to practice law, to teach school, and to exercise many of their other civil and religious rights. "All over Ulster there was an outburst of Episcopalian tyranny."

In these two sources, one economic, the other religious, originated the Scotch-Irish emigration to America. During the fifty years preceding the American Revolution thousands of thrifty Protestants left Ireland never to return. In 1718 there was mention of "both ministers and people going off." In 1728, Archbishop Boulter, Primate of Ireland, stated that above 4,200 had sailed within the past three years. In 1740, a famine in Ulster "gave an immense impulse" to emigration, and during the next several years the annual flow to America was estimated at 12,000. During the three years, 1771 to 1773, emigration from Ulster is estimated at 30,000, of whom 10,000 were weavers. This movement, says Froude, "robbed Ireland of the bravest defenders of the English interests, and peopled the American seaboard with fresh flights of Puritans. Twenty thousand left Ulster on the destruction of the woolen trade. Many more were driven away by the first passing of the Test Act. * * * Men of spirit and energy refused to remain in a country where they were held unfit to receive the rights of citizens; and thenceforward, until the spell of tyranny was broken in 1782, annual shiploads of families poured themselves out from Belfast and Londonderry. The resentment which they carried with them continued to burn in their new homes; and, in the War of Independence, England had no fiercer enemies than the grandsons and great-grandsons of the Presbyterians who had held Ulster against Tyrconnell."2

Occasional settlers of Lowland Scotch and Scotch-Irish descent were found in North Carolina at a very early date. In 1676, William Edmundson, the Quaker missionary, records his visit to James Hall, who with his family "went from Ireland into Virginia," whence he removed into North p165Carolina. John Urmstone, the missionary of the Church of England, in 1714, lists among his numerous grievances the fact that three of his vestrymen were "vehement Scotchmen Presbyterians." The Pollock family was of Lowland stock, and while Thomas Pollock himself came to North Carolina, some of his brothers emigrated to the North of Ireland. But one must be careful not to make too much of the presence of these pioneers of the Lowland Scotch and Scotch-Irish in North Carolina. They were simply isolated instances of individuals of an adventurous spirit who broke away from their home ties to seek their fortunes in a new land, and cannot be considered as a part of the great Scotch-Irish immigration of the eighteenth century.

The first of these settlers who came to North Carolina as an organized group were brought into the province by land companies. In 1735 Arthur Dobbs and "some other Gentlemen of Distinction in Ireland," associated with Henry McCulloh, a London merchant, presented a memorial to the Council of North Carolina "representing their intention of sending over to this Province several poor Protestant familys with design of raising Flax and Hemp." For this purpose they sought a grant of 60,000 acres of land on Black River in New Hanover precinct. The grant was made and in the following year the immigrants arrived and were settled in what is now Sampson and Duplin counties where they organized themselves into two congregations called Goshen and the Grove. Others followed, sent hither by Arthur Dobbs, himself a Scotch-Irishman, who in 1753 was appointed governor of North Carolina. In November of that year they arrived at New Bern a brigantine "from Belfast, in Ireland, sent hither by his Excellency Governor Dobbs, with a great Number of Irish Passengers, who are come to settle in this Province." A small colony of Swiss was also settled in the same community. In the meantime, in 1736, McCulloh, in association with Murray Crymble, James Huey and others, among them Arthur Dobbs, had embarked upon a much vaster scheme. Upon their petition, an order in Council was issued, May 19, 1737, under which warrants for 1,200,000 acres were allowed them to be located in the back country chiefly along the Yadkin, the Eno, and the Catawba rivers. Under the terms of his grant, McCulloh, the moving spirit in the enterprise, was to settle within it a large number of "substantial people" who were "to carry on the Pott Ashe Trade" and to raise "hemp and other naval stores." But these p167grandiose schemes were never realized. As late as 1754, McCulloh had actually settled but 854 people within his grant. Innumerable difficulties arose, especially in Mecklenburg and Anson counties, between his agents and the people. There were disputes over boundary lines, quit rents, and titles, which led to frequent riots and bloodshed, and finally in 1767, forced McCulloh and his associates to surrender their grants to the Crown.

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Arthur Dobbs

Of the Scotch-Irish immigrants who poured into North Carolina from 1735 to 1775, a few landed at Charleston and moved up the banks of the Pee Dee and Catawba rivers into the hill country of the two Carolinas, but the great majority landed at Philadelphia whence they moved into Western Virginia and North Carolina. High prices of land deterred them settling in Pennsylvania. In 1751, Governor Johnston expressed the opinion that Pennsylvania was already "overstocked with people." In 1752, Bishop Spangenberg, the Moravian leader, declared that many settlers came into North Carolina from England, Scotland, and the northern colonies, "as they wished to own lands and were too poor to buy in Pennsylvania or New Jersey." To the same effect wrote Governor Dobbs who, in 1755, said that as many as 10,000 immigrants from Holland, Britain and Ireland had landed at Philadelphia in a single season, and consequently many were "obliged to remove to the southward for want of lands to take up" in Pennsylvania. Many of these immigrants were induced to pass through Virginia into North Carolina because of the severity of the Virginia laws on religion in comparison with those of the latter colony. But there was still another reason why the Scotch-Irish were attracted to North Carolina in such large numbers. During the thirty years from 1734 to 1765 the chief executives of North Carolina were Gabriel Johnston, a native of Scotland, and Matthew Rowan and Arthur Dobbs, who were both Scotch-Irishmen from Ulster, and all three exerted themselves personally and officially to induce Scotch-Irish immigrants to settle here. The route which these settlers followed from Pennsylvania into North Carolina is plainly laid down on the maps of that day as the "Great Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia." It ran from Philadelphia through Lancaster and York in Pennsylvania, to Winchester in Virginia, down the Shenandoah Valley, thence southward across the Dan River to the Moravian settlements on the Yadkin. The distance was 435 miles. Commenting on p168the movement by this route, Saunders says: "Remembering the route General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee took when he went into Pennsylvania on that memorable Gettysburg campaign, it will be seen that very many of the North Carolina boys, both of German and of Scotch-Irish descent, in following their great leader, visited the homes of their ancestors and went hither by the very route by which they came away. To Lancaster and York counties, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina owes more of her population than to any other known part of the world,3 and surely there never was a better population than they and their descendants — never better citizens, and certainly never better soldiers."4

This great tide of Scotch-Irish immigrants rolled in upon that section of North Carolina drained by the headwaters of the Neuse and the Cape Fear, and by the Yadkin, the Catawba, and their tributaries. As early as 1740 scattered families were living along the Hico, the Eno, and the Haw. In 1746, according to the family records of Alexander Clark, a few families removed from the Cape Fear to the "west of the Yadkin," where they joined others who had already broken into that wilderness. But prior to 1750 immigration into that remote region was slow, after that date, family followed family, group followed group in rapid succession. In 1751, Governor Johnston noted that "Inhabitants flock in here daily, mostly from Pennsylvania and other parts of America, and some directly from Europe. They commonly seat themselves toward the west and have got near the mountains." Bishop Spangenberg, in 1752, declared that "there are many people coming here because they are informed that stock does not require to be fed in the winter season. Numbers of [Scotch-] Irish have therefore moved in." In 1775 Governor Dobbs, writing of seventy-five families who had settled on his lands along Rocky River, a tributary of the Yadkin, said: "They are a colony from Pennsylvania, of what we call Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who with others in the neighboring Tracts had settled together in order to have a teacher [i.e., minister] of their own opinion and choice." This was a typical pioneer Scotch-Irish community, held together on p169the frontier by common religious sympathies. A good index to the rapid increase of such communities in North Carolina, from 1750 to 1755, is found in the number of "supplications for ministers" which they sent up to the annual Synod of Philadelphia. In 1751, Rev. John Thompson, whom the Synod had directed to correspond with "many people" of North Carolina who desired to organize congregations, visited the Scotch-Irish settlements along the Catawba. He was the first preacher of any church in all that region, yet when Hugh McAden came through the province four years later, he preached to more than fifty such Scotch-Irish congregations most of which were west of the Yadkin. How rapidly the number of these immigrants increased is shown by a letter from Matthew Rowan, acting-governor, in 1753. He writes: "In the year 1746 I was up in the Country that is now Anson, Orange and Rowan Countys. There was not then above one hundred fighting men: there is now at least three thousand for the most part Irish Protestants and Germans, and dayley increasing." This means that within six years the population of about 500 had increased to at least 15,000.

Still another indication of the rapid increase of population on the western frontier is the dates of the formation of new counties in that section. One should bear in mind that these counties as they now exist, though still retaining their old names, have not retained their original boundary lines: the frontier county in colonial days had no western boundary, but ran as far westward as white population extended. Accordingly every time a county was formed from the western end of an existing county, we know that white population had moved farther westward. In 1746, Edgecombe, Craven, and Bladen had such far-reaching western extensions. But so fast was population increasing and the colony expanding that in that year Granville was cut off from Edgecombe, Johnston from Craven, and three years later, Anson from Bladen. The boundaries of the new counties extended to the mountains and beyond. In 1752, Orange, still farther westward, was taken from Granville, Johnston and Bladen; and in 1753 Rowan was cut off from Anson. Nine years later another part of Anson, still farther to the westward, was taken to form Mecklenburg, which had become the center of the Scotch-Irish settlements. Thus within sixteen years, as a result of the influx of Scotch-Irish and German immigrants into Piedmont p170Carolina, six new counties were found necessary for their convenience.5

It is difficult to arrive at a just estimate of the character of the Scotch-Irish. There is perhaps no virtue in the whole catalogue of human virtues which has not been ascribed to them; no great principle of human liberty which has not been placed to their credit; no great event in our history in which they are not said to have played the leading part. Eulogy has exhausted the English tongue in their praise. But eulogy is not necessarily history, and history must strive to preserve the true balance between praise and censure. We know that the Scotch-Irishman was domestic in his habits and loved his home and family; but we know also that he was unemotional, seldom gave expression to his affections, and presented to the world the appearance of great reserve, coldness, and austerity. He was loyal to his own kith and kin, but stern and unrelenting with his enemies. He was deeply and earnestly religious, but the very depth and earnestness of his convictions made him narrow-minded and bigoted. He was law-abiding as long as the laws were to his liking, but when they ceased to be he disregarded them, peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary. Independent and self-reliant, he was opinionated and inclined to lord it over any who would submit to his aggressions. He was brave, and he loved the stir of battle. He came of a fighting race; the blood of the old Covenanters flowed in his veins, and the beat of the drum, the sound of the fife, the call of the bugle aroused his fighting instincts. His whole history shows that he would fight, that he might be crushed but never subdued. In short, in both his admirable and his censurable traits, he possessed just the qualities that were needed on the Carolina frontier in the middle of the eighteenth century, qualities that enabled him to conquer the great wilderness of the Piedmont plateau, to drive back the savages, and to become, as Mr. Roosevelt has said, "the pioneers of our people in their march westward, the vanguard of the army of fighting settlers, who with axe and rifle won their way from the Alleghanies to the Rio Grande and the Pacific."6

Moving over the same route as the Scotch-Irish, and also coming from Pennsylvania, flowed the stream of German p171immigrants who came into North Carolina from 1745 to 1775. Various motives prompted their migration. Some came in search of adventure and good hunting grounds. Others were looking for good lands and, like the Scotch-Irish, turning their backs on Pennsylvania because of the high price of lands in that colony. Still others were inspired by religious zeal. The first and smallest of these groups became hunters and trappers, and in the vast unexplored forests extending along the foothills of the Alleghanies and covering the mountain sides, they chased the fox and the deer, hunted the buffalo and the bear, shot the wolf and the panther, and trapped the otter and the beaver. With the opening of spring, they would gather up their stores of furs and skins and seek the settlements, frequently going as far north as Philadelphia and as far south as Charleston, to dispose of their winter's harvests. Typical of this class of immigrants was Daniel Boone, who, though not of German ancestry, was born in a Pennsylvania-German settlement and came to North Carolina along with the tide of German immigration. Those who came in search of land found it of course plentiful, cheap and fertile. The only capital needed on the Carolina frontier was thrift, energy, and common sense, and these the Germans possessed in a marked degree. Accordingly many thousands of them, driven from the Fatherland by unfavorable economic conditions, carved handsome estates for themselves and their children out of the Carolina wilderness, dotting the banks of the Yadkin and Catawba rivers with their neat, pleasant farms, and their plain but comfortable cabins. A third class of Germans came to North Carolina in search of religious freedom and fields for missionary activity. Like their neighbors, the Scotch-Irish, they were inspired by a fervent religious zeal, but many of them came not so much to seek religious freedom for themselves as to carry the Gospel to the Indians. They represented three branches of the Protestant church, — the Unitas Fratrum, or Moravian Church, the Lutheran, and the German Reformed.

The most distinct of the German settlements in North Carolina was the one made by the Moravians in Wachovia. In 1752, the Moravians at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, moved by a desire to find a home free from all religious interference, by a purpose to carry Christianity to the Indians, and by a wish to develop a community on their own peculiar principles without outside meddling, determined to plant a settlement on the Carolina frontier. With that thoroughness which p173was one of their most marked characteristics, they first dispatched an exploring party under the leadership of Bishop Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, to view the land and select the site for the colony. Spangenberg's party proceeded first to Edenton, thence crossed almost the entire length of North Carolina, and ascended to the very summit of the Blue Ridge Mountains where they viewed the headwaters of streams that rise in North Carolina and flow into the Mississippi River. A journal in which the good bishop recorded the minutest details of their expedition tells us in simple and impressive language the story of the dangers and hardships which the members of his party encountered. Sickness, cold and hunger were among the least of their sufferings. After a thorough and painstaking survey the party selected a tract of land in what is now Forsyth County containing about 100,000 acres. "As regards this land," wrote the bishop, "I regard it as a corner which the Lord has reserved for the Brethren. * * * The situation of this land is quite peculiar. It has countless springs and many creeks; so that as many mills can be built as may be desirable. These streams make many and fine meadow lands. * * * The most of this land is level and plain; the air fresh and healthy, and the water is good, especially the springs, which are said not to fail in summer. * * * In the beginning a good forester and hunter will be indispensable. The wolves and bears must be extirpated as soon as possible, or stock raising will be pursued under difficulties. The game in this region may also be very useful to the Brethren in the first years of the colony."

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Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg

It was Bishop Spangenberg who called the settlement Wachovia. The word is derived from two German words, "wach" a meadow, and "aue" a stream. Wachovia lay within the possessions of Lord Granville and from him the Moravian Brethren purchased it in August, 1753. Two months later their plans were all completed, and on October 8, 1753, twelve unmarried men set out from the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to break ground for the settlement in North Carolina. No better evidence is needed than the simple fact that this small band, whose mission was to lay the foundation of civilization in the wilderness, consisted of a minister of the Gospel, a warden, a physician, a tailor, a baker, a shoemaker and tanner, a gardener, three farmers, and two carpenters. In the community which they went out p174to establish there was to be no place for drones. It is also interesting to note that they were fully conscious of the significance of their undertaking. Looking far into the future they foresaw the growth and development of their community and the intense interest with which posterity would inquire into its beginnings. Accordingly from the very beginning they recorded their daily doings to the minutest and most trivial details.

The little band of Moravian Brethren made their journey from Pennsylvania to Carolina in a large covered wagon drawn by six horses. Nearly six weeks were required for the trip. When they left Pennsylvania they were oppressed with heat; when they reached North Carolina the ground was covered with snow. At 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon, November 17th, they reached the spot where now stands the town of Bethabara, better known in its immediate neighborhood as "Old Town." There they found shelter in a log cabin which had been built but afterwards deserted by a German trapper named Hans Wagoner. It was an humble abode, without a floor and with a roof full of cracks and holes, but in it the Brethren held their first divine service and had their first "love feast." Sunday was observed as a day of real rest, but was followed by weeks of earnest, manly toil. One of their first cares was to enlarge their cabin and to lay in a supply of provisions for the winter. Their rifles supplied them with game in abundance. Salt was procured from Virginia, flour and corn from the Scotch-Irish settlements on the Yadkin, and beef from those on the Dan. In December they sowed their first wheat. A few days later came the Christmas season, and on Christmas Eve they gathered around the great open fire in their log cabin to hear again the wonderful story of Bethlehem. "We had a little love feast," says their faithful journal, "then near the Christ Child we had our first Christmas Eve in North Carolina, and rested in peace in this hope and faith. * * * All this while the wolves and panthers howled and screamed in the forests near by."

Throughout their first year the Moravian Brethren kept steadily at their tasks, and before the year had gone they had in operation a carpenter shop, a tailoring establishment, a pottery, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a tannery and a cooper shop; had harvested wheat, corn, tobacco, flax, millet, barley, oats, buckwheat, turnips, cotton, garden vegetables; had cleared and cultivated fields, cut roads through the p175forests, built a mill and erected several cabins. They made long journeys to Philadelphia and to Wilmington. The physician, Doctor Lash, made trips twenty, thirty and even a hundred miles through the forest to visit the sick and relieve the suffering. The Brethren had many visitors who came long distances to consult the physician or to secure the services of the shoemaker or the tailor. Within three months, during the year 1754, 103 visitors came to Wachovia. The next year the number was 426. Visitors were so numerous that the Brethren decided to build a "strangers' house." This was the second building in Wachovia. Four days after it was finished it was occupied by a man and his invalid wife who came to consult the physician. Travel between Wachovia and Pennsylvania was frequent and later a few married couples came from Pennsylvania, and by 1756 the Bethabara colony numbered sixty-five souls. Until the outbreak of the French and Indian War, the Moravians were on friendly terms with the Indians. Indeed, one of their purposes in coming to North Carolina was to preach the Gospel to the Indians who soon began to speak of the settlement at Bethabara as "the Dutch fort, where there are good people and much bread." But with the breaking out of the war the savages became hostile, and their enmity gave the Moravian Brethren much trouble. The Brethren were compelled to build forts, to arm every man in the colony, and to place sentinels around the settlement. The Moravians were frequently called upon to go to the defense of their white neighbors. From thirty to forty miles around families sought refuge at Bethabara where all learned to love and respect the Moravian Brethren, and not a few applied for membership in the Moravian Church.

After the close of the war the settlement grew more rapidly. Two towns, Bethabara and Bethania, were founded before 1760, but from the first the Brethren intended that the chief town should be in the center of Wachovia, and they thought the closing of the Indian war and the re-establishment of peace a favorable time to begin it. The first act in the founding of this new town, which received the name of Salem, took place January 6, 1766. During the singing of a hymn, work was begun by clearing a site for the first house, and on February 19th eight young men moved into it. Other houses were then erected in quick succession, and during the next years many of the Bethabara community moved to p176Salem, where they were joined by more Brethren from Bethlehem, and by a goodly number directly from Germany. Salem soon became the principal settlement of the Moravians in North Carolina. In 1773, an Englishman who visited Salem, left an interesting description of the town and its people as they appeared just upon the eve of the Revolution. "This society, sect or fraternity of the Moravians," he wrote, "have everything in common, and are possessed of a very large and extensive property. * * * From their infancy they are instructed in every branch of useful and common literature, as well as in mechanical knowledge and labour. * * * The Moravians have many excellent and very valuable farms, on which they make large quantities of butter, flour and provisions, for exportation. They also possess a number of useful and lucrative manufactures, particularly a very extensive one of earthenware, which they have brought to great perfection, and supply the whole country with it for some hundred miles around. In short, * * * they certainly are valuable subjects, and by their unremitting industry and labour have brought a large extent of wild, rugged country into a high state of population and improvement."7

As a rule the Germans came into North Carolina as organized bodies. The Moravians, as has been seen, kept their organization intact and distinct from all others, but Reformed and Lutheran congregations frequently united to build churches and support ministers. Two such congregations, desiring to build a church in common, drew up an agreement in which they stated as their reason for uniting that "Since we are both united in the principal doctrines of Christianity, we find no difference between us except in name." Prior to the Revolution many such union churches were built throughout the present counties of Guilford, Alamance, Orange, Randolph, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Cabarrus, Stanly, Union, Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Catawba, and Burke. The first of these settlements was made about 1745. In that year Lutheran congregations were organized on the Haw River. In the same year Henry Weidner, a Pennsylvania-German, entered what is now Catawba County as a hunter and trapper; before 1760 he had been joined by other German settlers in number sufficient to form a congregation. The first Germans in Rowan County appeared about 1750. Three years later, Matthew p177Rowan, acting-governor, wrote that "our three fruntire County's are Anson, Orange, and Rowan. They are for the most part settled with Irish Protestants and Germans, brave, Industrius people. Their Militia amounts to upwards of three thousand Men and Increasing fast." We are not without evidence of how fast this increase was. A correspondent of the South Carolina and American General Gazette, writing from Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1768, says: "There is scarce any history either ancient or modern, which affords an account of such a rapid and sudden increase of inhabitants in a back frontier country, as that of North Carolina. To justify the truth of this observation, we need only to assure you that twenty years ago there were not twenty taxable people within the limits of the county of Orange; in which there are now four thousand taxable. The increase of Inhabitants, and the flourishing state of the other adjoining back counties, are no less surprising and astonishing." Four thousand taxables means about 16,000 people. Most of these, of course, were Scotch-Irish, but the Germans formed a large percentage of the total. In 1771, the vestry of St. Luke's Parish, Salisbury, stated that in Rowan, Orange, Mecklenburg, and Tryon counties there "are already settled near three thousand German protestant families, and being very fruitful in that healthy climate, are besides vastly increasing by numbers of German protestants almost weekly arriving from Pennsylvania and other provinces of America." According to Governor Dobbs, the frontier families generally embraced from five to ten members each; on this basis, therefore, allowing for probable exaggeration, the total German population of Rowan, Orange, Mecklenburg and Tryon counties in 1771 must have been not less than 15,000.8

Like the Scotch Highlanders, the Germans in North Carolina endeavored to preserve their language and customs. In 1773, an English traveller who had lost his way in the vicinity of Hillsboro, records in his journal: "It was unlucky for me that the greater number of the inhabitants on the plantations where I called to inquire my way, being Germans, neither understood my questions nor could make themselves intelligible to me." It was not until years after the Revolution that English became the common language in the German settlements. The first English school among them was p178opened in Cabarrus County in 1798. English made its way slowly against the opposition of the older people who clung tenaciously to the language of their cradles, and finally won only because their children, wiser than their parents, were unwilling to go through life under the handicap of being ignorant of the very language in which they had to transact their daily affairs. In one respect the fate of the Germans was harder even than that of the Scotch Highlanders, — the former lost not only their language, but their names also, for as time passed, most of the German names became Anglicized. Thus Kuhn became Coon, Behringer became Barringer, Scheaffer became Shepherd, Albrecht became Albright, Zimmerman became Carpenter, so that many families in North Carolina today whose names indicate an English ancestry are really of German descent.

Estimates of the population of North Carolina prior to the census of 1790 vary widely, and when attempts are made to go still further and estimate the proportion of the various racial elements in that population the divergences are greater still. Nevertheless, taking all these estimates into consideration, and adopting a very conservative course, one can scarcely resist the conclusion that, placing the total population in 1760 at 130,000 is certainly not open to the criticism of exaggeration. The same data on which this estimate is based lead to the conclusion that the number of negro slaves in the colony at that time was about one-fourth of the total population. Doubling Faust's estimate of the German population, which the data seem to justify, accepting Hanna's estimate of the Scotch as one-third of the total, and rejecting all other elements, i.e., French, Swiss and Welsh, as too small to be taken into account, and the Indians, who were not included in any of the estimates, we arrive at the following analysis of the population of North Carolina in 1760:

English 45,000
Scotch 40,000
German 15,000
Negroes 30,000
Total 130,000

The English and Scotch were born subjects of the British Crown, and the Germans, therefore, were the only important foreign element in the white population. To place them, and p179those who claimed titles to property derived from them, upon an equality with the English and Scotch, the Assembly, in 1765, enacted "that all Foreign Protestants heretofore inhabiting within this Province, and dying seized of any Lands, Tenements, or Hereditaments, shall, forever hereafter, be deemed, taken, and esteemed to have been naturalized, and intituled to all the Rights, Privileges, and Advantages of natural Born Subjects."


The Author's Notes:

1 A Short History of the English People, Revised Edition, p458.

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2 The English in Ireland, Vol. 1, p392.

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3 The accuracy of this statement is open to question; most of the Scotch-Irish and German settlers, who came thence into North Carolina, merely passed through Pennsylvania without ever residing there.

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4 Prefatory Notes to Colonial Records of North Carolina, Vol. IV, p. xxi.

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5 Hanna estimates the Scotch population in North Carolina in 1775 at about one-third the total population, i.e. 65,000. — The Scotch-Irish in America, Vol. I, pp82‑84.

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6 Winning of the West, Vol. I, p134.

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7 Smyth, J. F. D.: A Tour in the United States of America, Vol. I, pp214‑17.

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8 Faust estimates the German population in North Carolina in 1775 at 8,000 — manifestly an under-estimate. — The German Element in the United States, Vol. I, pp284‑85.


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Page updated: 19 Oct 11