Thursday, October 13, 2011

EmigranThursday - John Chisholm

John Chisholm & neighbors, 1840
Welcome to this week’s EmigranThursday which features John Chisholm of Duncannon, Perry County, Pennsylvania. Biographical information about him appeared on page 560 of the History of Columbiana County Ohio by William B. McCord, published in 1905. Additional research was completed on Ancestry and FamilySearch.

John Chisholm's biography comprises the second paragraph of his grandson's biography in the McCord's History of Columbiana County. The grandson, Samuel Irwin Chisholm, was born in Salem, Columbiana County on September 25, 1841 to John P. and Elsie Bowker Chisholm.

  • The paternal grandfather of Mr. Chisholm was John Chisholm, who was born in Scotland on the Bunchcrew farm, three miles from the city of Inverness, on May 4, 1763. He came alone to America in 1785 and opened up a carpenter and millwright business in Philadelphia, which he followed until 1808, when he moved to Duncannon, Perry County, Pennsylvania. There he built a great, stone grist-mill in 1812-13 and engaged in milling; in 1823 he bought a farm and thereafter operated both mill and farm. He died in 1842. When the British frigates approached Baltimore, in the second war with Great Britain, he served 40 days as an ensign in the militia in defense of the city. Grandfather Chisholm was married twice and he had six children by his first wife and seven by his second, who had two children by a former marriage, so that when the family gathered around the generous fireplace, the parents could count 15 children. As far as we know they all reached maturity and did well their parts in life.

Very little could be learned about John Chisholm from the usual sources. There was no record of him in Family Search and only census entries on Ancestry. According to the latter John was in Rye Township, Cumberland County, PA in 1810 with a household of 7. In the next census he was in Rye Township, Perry County (which had been created from Cumberland in 1820), with a household of 9. In 1830 his household of 9 was in Wheatfield Township and in 1840 his household of 11 was in Oliver Township. While it does appear that he moved around, the different townships might be due to the creation of new townships within the county.

I find three things about John Chisholm particularly interesting. First, he came to the United States in 1785, just a few short years after the end of the American Revolution. Conventional wisdom states that about 250,000 Europeans came to the new country between 1781 and 1815 and that only a minuscule number of those were Scots. However, I have run across enough migrants like John Chisholm to wonder whether the CW actually holds. Second, Bunchrew, a village in Kirkhill Parish, is with the catchment area of emigrants who later went to Scotch Settlement in Columbiana County, which includes the several parishes near Inverness and Nairn. This region of the Highlands is almost universally overlooked in the literature on the Scottish Diaspora. Third, the grandson's biography did not appear until 1905, suggesting that the memory of John Chisholm was important enough to the family to be maintained in oral or written for for at least 60 years after his death. Unfortunately, the names of his wives seem to have been much less important.

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