A GAELIC SETTLEMENT IN NORTH CAROLINA
The article on this page was published in the November 07, 1860 issue of the Weekly Standard, a newspaper
printed in Raleigh, North Carolina. W. W. Holden, Editor. Transcribed by Myrtle Bridges
January 31, 2003
In a letter which the Inverness Courier has received from a friend in North Carolina, are the following
It may be interesting to some of our readers to learn that the Scotch Highlanders were among the first settlers
of the State of North Carolina. The majority of them were from the Hebrides, from Italy, Jura, Mull, Coll and
Skye, and not a few from the mainland of Argyll. The precise date of the landing of the first Scotch emigrants
in the Carolinas cannot be well ascertained. It appears that Scotch families were settled on the Cape Fear
river previous to the division of the province into North and South Carolina in 1779. Sometime between 1741
and 1746 a Highlander, named Niel Macneil, from Argyllshire, visited North Carolina.
He returned to Scotland in 1748, and in the following year landed in Wilmington, North Carolina, with his
family and about 800 emigrants (some say 600) from the district of Kintyre, Argyllshire. It is said that upon
the arrival of so unusual an importation at Wilmington, the authorities, struck with the dress and language
of the newcomers, required Macneil to enter into a bond for their peaceful and good behavior. Perhaps the
warlike spirit of the Celtic race struck the Wilmingtonians with such terror as led to the demand of the bond.
Our intrepid countryman managed to evade the demand, and ascended the Cape Fear with this band of countrymen.
From this period the emigration was yearly on the increase.
Mr. Macdonal, of Kingsburgh, and his lady, the far-famed Flora MacDonald, famous for her adherence to the
unfortunate Pretender, Prince Charles, in his forlorn condition after his defeat at Culloden, emigrated with
a number of others from the Isle of Skye; so that every year added to the number of the Scotch Highland
emigrants until they soon formed the majority of the population and controlled the civil and ecclesiastical
interests of no less than seven counties, viz: Cumberland, Bladen, Robeson, Richmond, Montgomery, Moore and
The Gaelic language is spoken in its purity by many in these counties, and in both my churches I preach
in it every Sabbath. On last Sabbath I assisted at the dispensation of the Lord's Supper in a congregation
40 miles distance from my home; and preached and served a table at which upward of 150 had taken their seats,
who have not heard a sermon in the language of their childhood for the last ten years. Many a tear was shed
during the service, many a warm shake of the hand, such as a Highlander can give, was given, and many a
blessing was bestowed upon your correspondent as parting with the warm-hearted people. The Rev. Collin Maciver,
a native of Stornoway, Lews, was the last preacher who could preach in Gaelic till I came to the State two
years ago. He died in this town in 1850, much respected and regretted by his countrymen in North Carolina.
It will state an instance of the preponderance of the Scotch Highlanders in this State.
The North Carolina Presbyterian, a religious paper, and the organ of our synod, published in the town
of Fayetteville, has upwards of 800 Macs on its list of subscribers, besides those who claim the honor of
pertaining as much to the Celtic race as those who bear that ancient patronymic.
The Presbytery of Fayetteville, of which I and one of my sons are members, has 13 Macs among its clerical
members, and seven others who will not yield the palm to their brethren of the Mac families in tracing their
Celtic origin; and thence our Presbytery has the cognomen of the Scotch Presbytery given us by our brethren
of the Synod of North Carolina.
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