Sunday, April 06, 2008

Historical article

I just found this article from the Schenectady Gazette in New York and thought I'd put it on the blog. It's quite interesting and in keeping with some of the historical novels that I've done--and I just might use this piece as a start of the sequel to Clan Gunn: Gerek.

Focus on Mohawk Valley History
Sir William Johnson brings Scots over
By Bob Cudmore
Saturday, April 5, 2008


The year before he died, Sir William Johnson saw to it that hundreds of Scots came to his vast land estate in the American wilderness, an area that today is occupied by the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville.
Johnson came to America in 1738 from Ireland and built an alliance between the British colonial government and the native Iroquois people. He became Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

He constructed a fortified home in Fort Johnson and then a mansion in Johnstown, Johnson Hall. Both buildings are historic sites today. As a military leader, Johnson won a major battle against the French in 1755 at Lake George.
After the victory, Johnson was made a baronet and granted 100,000 acres of land the British previously had secured from the Mohawks. The land parcel was known as the Kingsborough Patent.

To populate this area, Johnson tapped into a tide of immigrants from the highlands of Scotland who were coming to America at a fast clip between 1770 and the American Revolution.

The Highlanders were a proud and strong people, who had strong loyalties to their clan chiefs. Many of their chiefs had been killed in the bloody but unsuccessful effort to install Prince Charles on the British throne in 1745.
The Highlanders fierce but futile resistance in 1745 had the unusual effect of convincing British authorities that Scottish soldiers would be effective in the British Army as the empire expanded in America. Also, times were hard in Scotland and many Highlanders simply opted to take a chance in the New World.
Johnson advertised leased land on his Kingsborough Patent through New York City agents, and convinced 400 Scots of the Highland Clan MacDonnell to settle on his property.
Many of the Scots who settled the Kingsborough Patent arrived in 1773, some of them on board a ship called the Pearl that came to New York harbor.
The Highlanders arrived under four chiefs, the MacDonnells of Aberchalder, Leek, Collachie and Scotas. Their land grants ranged from 100 to 500 acres.
After Sir William died in 1774, many of his Scots tenants were drawn into the Revolutionary War on the British side.
Some 300 of them followed Sir William’s son John into exile in Canada when the war broke out and served in the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, sometimes called Johnson’s Greens or the Royal Yorkers. Their final stand was in 1781 near Johnstown itself.
Those who survived the war lost their lands in New York to the new government. The British granted the Highlanders lands in Ontario, Canada where some of their descendants still reside.
In 1959, an Episcopal priest, Duncan Fraser, came to serve in Johnstown and wrote note cards with the names of each of Johnson’s tenants plus information about some of them.
Wanda Burch, site manager of Johnson Hall in Johnstown, said that people studying genealogy often ask to see Fraser’s notes. This year, Burch transcribed Fraser’s notes and composed an introductory essay. She plans to produce a small booklet for visitors interested in their Scots ancestry.
Burch said that Fraser, who is deceased, was in search of his own history when he began researching the individual names on the tenant list but provided valuable information for others as well. Burch developed a friendship with Fraser’s widow Dorothy who lived on William Street.

Burch said people wonder why the Highlanders, who lost their own lands to the British, fought so fiercely for the British in the American Revolution. One explanation she has heard is that the Highlanders felt that in each case they were not fighting for or against someone—they were fighting for their homeland.

No comments: