Sunday, July 8, 2012

Behind-the-Scenes: A Tale of Two Sentences

Moy and Dalarossie Parish
On one of my first research trips to Columbiana County, I visited the Salem Public Library. Sitting on their shelves was a photocopy of "A History of the McBane-McKenzie Clan" published in 1955. I gave it a cursory examination and what stuck in my mind was the opening section: two paragraphs on the great and the good of Moy and Dalarossie parish, then, the seventeenth century misadventures of the McDougall family. The worked seemed to be just anecdotes about fighting Clans (how American!) and unsubstantiated stories about high-ranking individuals who lived a century before those I was interested in. I put the book back on the shelf.

The following summer, Mr. Woodrow handed me a collection of papers from his collection that he thought I would find useful. Among them was "A History of the McBane-McKenzie Clan." Oh my. This time I read  it much more carefully. The first half was the story of Donald McDougall's family and their association with the Church of Scotland in Moy and Dalarossie parish. His daughter Elizabeth, her husband Lachlan McBean, and their children emigrated to Scotch Settlement in 1817. The original history had been written in a small notebook by William McDougall on his visit to Ohio in 1888. Subsequent research confirmed much of what was contained in this history, particularly regarding the Church of Scotland.

Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, was an Inverness lawyer, MP, and advocate for Gaelic during the second half of the 19th century. He also amassed an enormous collection of documents relating to the landed families from the southeastern Highlands (now at the National Records of Scotland, GD/128). Much of this data he published in a series of volumes in the late 19th century. In An Account of the Confederation of Clan Chattan. It's Kith and Kin published in 1898, he relates the history of the McQueens of Corrybrough, a small estate in Moy and Dalarossie Parish. He provides a list of tenants on the estate in 1811 when the estate was cleared and the tenants evicted (GD128/37/12). His point was that in 1811 probably 100 people lived on the estate and in 1898 nobody did.

I was much more interested in what followed: "The dispossessed people emigrated chiefly to the United States, and in the year 1890 their settlement in Ohio was visited by one of the respected Macdougall family, who reported "that they had formed a prosperous colony in the State of Ohio, and he found that many of them spoke Gaelic well." I suppose it's really only one sentence, but it certainly seemed like two when I first found it.

My next step was to see if these refugees from the only large-scale clearance to occur in Moy and Dalarossie parish actually turned up in Ohio. I haven't completed my investigation, but it seems at least two of the tenants might have turned up in Scotch Settlement, Alexander McQueen and Donald McPherson; two tenants, Donald McQueen and James McQueen, remained on the Corrybrough estate; two tenants, John Davidson and Alexander McIntosh, seem to have relocated to other farms in the parish. If this is a major clearance, it seems to be a bit of a bust. And actually, this is quite common: tenants either negotiated with their landlords or simply didn't go.

Why then would Fraser-Mackintosh and residents in Moy and Dalarossie parish say that there was one sizable eviction and everyone went to America, particularly Ohio? My research has shown the Moy and Dalarossie had been steadily loosing population since at least 1790, if not earlier, and that much, but not all, of this out-migration was directed to Scotch Settlement in Ohio. Therefore it is not surprising that those remained would believe that those evicted had gone to the "heart of it all." The 1870s saw a rise in the demand for land reform in the Highlands and a call for security of tenure. This movement culminated in the Napier Commission of 1883. Fraser-Mackintosh, a noted supporter of crofters rights and the Gaelic language, was a member of this commission. So, it suited his purpose to state that the 100 people had been pushed out of the Highlands who became productive Gaelic-speaking citizens in America, could just as easily done so in Scotland if it weren't for shortsighted landlords.

For my part, while I'm disappointed the connection between those "warned" in 1811 and Scotch Settlement isn't more robust, I am delighted by the confirmation of William McDougall's visit to Ohio ca. 1890, the continued use of Gaelic in the Settlement, and the strong ties between Moy and Dalarossie parish and Ohio.

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