The Tracy Family History
Off to Virginia, 1734

The Scots in America

"There is only one thing wrong with Scotsmen,
there are too few of them."
--Winston Churchill, during England's darkest hour

    Historians can only speculate as to why our people, in 1734, with Michael Woods still head of the clans, left Pennsylvania and moved to Virginia. One could certainly live and prosper in Pennsylvania as witnessed by the fact that other families have lived their quite happily for generations.
   Were they looking for better land? Pennsylvania at the time had the best farmland in America.
Were they looking for religious liberty? Ruth Petracek tells us "Religious (also financial) persecution, was responsible for the change in their style of life. This, we know, was the impetus for the Woods, Wallaces, and Campbell families to seek haven in the wild and upstart colonies of America." The Quakers pretty much left the Scot Presbyterians alone, at least in Lancaster County.
    Were they fleeing oppression? I think not. Pennsylvania at the time was one of the most enlightened places to live on the face of the earth. They could have moved to Rhode Island, which was even more liberal than Pennsylvania. Where they headed, Virginia, was under direct British control. This meant the Church of England, once more, with all of its problems. Virginia still had a “Test Act."
    Some think it is because they could still not gain land title after ten years.
    I think there was another reason as stated quite simply by one historian. Most of the Presbyterians fit in well to the Quaker way of life. However, there were those who could not adjust: frankly, they could not fit in. I guess you could call our people dysfunctional Scotch-Irish. These were the ones who pushed on to the frontiers and opened America.

    The following article is taken from the The Daily Progress newspaper of Charlottesville, Virginia (1762-1962). It quotes a book by Mary Rawlings, published in 1935. Therefore, the article had to be written after that date.

Michael Woods Led A Band of Settlers

    Most of Albemarle's first settlers followed a gradual westward movement from the Tidewater.
    Mighty Michael Woods did not.
    In 1734 this ancestor of countless local residents and scores of western pioneers brought a band across the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Valley of Virginia.
    They had come from Pennsylvania, traveling over 200 miles, and are believed to have been the first whites to come through Woods' Gap -- by the old Indian trail.
    There were 25 or 30 of them. Michael's wife, Mary Campbell, his sons and his sons-in-law and their families.
    They took up large holdings from Greenwood to Ivy. In 1737 Woods entered a claim for 1,300 acres on Mechum River and Lickinghole Creek. He also purchased 2,000 acres on the head waters of Ivy Creek.
    Woods was born in the north of Ireland in 1684 and came to this country "sometime in the decade of 1720. Landing on the banks of the Delaware, he spent some years in Lancaster County, Pa., thence ascended the Valley of Virginia and crossed the Blue Ridge."
    His home was near the mouth of Woods Gap and there he was buried in 1762 in the family burying ground a short distance from the dwelling.
    His will mentioned six children, three sons and three daughters. Historians say there is evidence that there were four other children, two sons and two daughters.
    Miss Mary Rawlings, in her book Ante-Bellum Albemarle, wrote that the family was Scotch or Scotch-Irish, a family of education and refinement.
    One of Michael's daughters, Hannah, was married to William Wallace who settled on the Piedmont plantation in the Greenwood neighborhood. This land remains in the hands of the Wallace family.
    While many of the family descendants remained here, many more joined the westward movement. They went to the other areas of Virginia then being settled, and they went west and south--to Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio--where they were prominent in the early affairs and government of those areas.
    Of Michael Woods home, Miss Rawlings wrote "the original name of the plantation was Mountain Plain, the Mountain Plains Church having been built on a part of the land and named in commemoration.
    "With the passing of the property to Chief Justice John Blair prior to 1788, the name of the home was changed and it has since been known as Blair Park."

                                             Illustration from DANIEL BOONE by Laurie Lawlor. Illustration
                                             © 1989 by Bert Dodson. Used by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.

    Use your imagination and see Michael Woods, the Englishman, guiding our clan through the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have used this illustration because it accurately portrays our people coming through the gap, without wagons, using pack animals and moving single file.
The Scots took over Virginia…then the Scots took over the Carolinas…then the Scots took over America.
    There is a fascinating book titled Mark of the Scots, by Duncan A. Bruce. If you now have an interest in what the Scottish people have contributed to the history of mankind, then it is a must read.
    The author starts off with the premises that we would all be still living in the stone age if it were not for the contributions of the Scots throughout history. When the author refers to the Scots he means not just those with 100% Scottish blood, but this includes all of those who have a marked amount of Scottish blood. That is you and me, cousins. Example: Winston Churchill's American mother was half-Scottish.
    Then the author spends the next 300 pages proving his point.
    Scotland is a very small country. The population today is five million. These, of course, are the pure Scots. Around the rest of the world, there are only 28 million of us who have a significant amount of Scottish blood. That is less than one half of one percent of the world population. Twelve million of us live in America; four million in Canada; a few million in Australia; and quite a few in New Zealand. The rest are scattered like the lost tribes of Israel.
    Yet, what the Scots have done in all fields is astounding: science, military, medicine, inventions, the arts, literature, education, politics, business, finance, industry, 11% of all Nobel Prize winners. They excel in virtually all areas that have advanced humanity.
    The percentage of Scots in America during the Revolutionary War was no more than 7%. George Washington descended, distantly, from a Scottish king. There were twelve Scots advisers around him for every one of other nationalities. His entire cabinet was Scottish. As many as one-half of the officers in George Washington's army were Scottish.
    Ten of the Revolutionary War Governors were Scottish. There were none from the New England Colonies during the war, for obvious reasons. 38% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Scots. 75% of our presidents were Scots. All five members of the first US Supreme Court were Scottish. The first man to walk on the moon was honored at the White House by the President, both were from the same clan. Five of the twelve men to walk on the moon were Scots.
    In 1776, Major Patrick Ferguson, a Scot in the British Army, patented the first practical breech-loading rifle. It could be loaded four times faster than the standard musket, loaded even in a prone position. It could operate in wet conditions, and be reloaded while advancing. The only time the rifle was used in combat was at the Battle of Brandywine where it was very effective. The British army did not use it again because it used too much ammunition. At Brandywine, (With this rifle?) Major Ferguson took aim at an American officer who was riding with his back turned. He did not fire because it was dishonorable to shoot another officer in the back. The officer was George Washington. Major Ferguson comes back into our story.
    A Scot, who did not take out a patent, invented the reaper. Cyrus McCormick, another Scot, who did take out a patent and founded International Harvester Corporation, re-invented it. Cyrus McCormick comes back into our story.
    The list goes on and on with every paragraph telling you of the famous things done by Scots: Things you never knew existed until reading the book. Once you start reading you can't put it down. The book is now out of print. If you are lucky enough to find a used copy, buy it and pass it down through the generations with this family history as an heirloom.

    The English had been in Virginia for over 100 years. Yet, their settlements had never expanded inland any farther than the tides could ebb and flow. The Royal Governor of Virginia, a Scot, wanted to develop his colony.
    The governor knew what all English rulers knew, you do not develop a primitive land with the English. You do it with the Scots. This is what the English did in Ulster. This is what the Quakers did in Pennsylvania. This is what the governor was going to do in Virginia.
    He offered the Scots liberal terms. Due to his position, the governor was a staunch supporter of the Church of England. However, he was willing to look the other way when necessary.
    The Scots would be placed on the frontier, far away from the English settlements. It was in the land of the Piedmont that Michael Woods settled our clan. As in Pennsylvania, the frontier was not that far away, 100-125 miles inland. But in those days it was a great distance with a 50-mile barrier of wilderness separating the English from the Scots.
    The Scots were allowed to have their own churches, their own militia, as the English regular army in Williamsburg was too far away to provide protection. Those who held official positions would be required to take the oath to the Church of England, a mere technicality. There were other mere technicalities.
    From the beginning of the English settlements in Virginia there were Indian troubles. “Tolerating” the Scots was a way to provide a buffer on the frontier to protect the English from the Indians.

    Michael Woods' first land grant in Virginia was called Mountain Plains. I will not try to trace the history of all of our people's land grants in Virginia. I will just tell you the stories that I find interesting.
    There is one land grant to Michael Woods dated "…the fourth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and thirty seven in the fourth years of our reign." He purchases 400 acres for a sum of five shills. I do not know how much five shills was, however the English gave very liberal terms to get the Scots to settle Virginia. One historian says the land was “ridiculously cheap.”
    (In our story I will sometimes give prices in pounds and shillings. Some of you cousins who are mathematical geniuses might wish to go back into history and try to convert these amounts into present day dollars and cents. However, we are not talking of English pounds and shillings. We are talking of Virginia Colony pounds and shills, which was another system.)

    The grant…"to wit: Beginning at a black oak and running thence south eighty six degrees; east three hundred and twenty five poles, crossing the creek to Pointers; south nine degrees; east two hundred and fifty poles, crossing Licking Hole Creek to Pointer, north sixty eight degrees; west three hundred and ninety six degrees to a pine sapling…" (I wonder if the "black oak" still stands? The sapling must now be a mighty tree.)
    In addition to the purchase price, Woods was also to pay an annual "fee rent" (quit-rent) in the amount of one shilling per fifty acres. That would be eight shillings per year rent, for a piece of property that he originally purchased for five shillings. (Sounds like Ulster. In the famous words of Yogi Berra, "It is de ja vu all over again.")
    Never-the-less, the land was his to do with as he pleased. The grant spelled out all of the things to which his land entitled him, including "hawking."
    As was the custom of the times, soon a Presbyterian Church was established on the property. The pastor's name was Campbell. "…he undoubtedly was well educated, probably in Glasgow."
    America, that great land of liberty, was Protestant. There were no (very few) Catholics in the Colonies outside of Maryland. At the time of the Revolutionary War the estimates as to their population in Maryland vary from 1 in 5, to 1 in 12. The Colonies were Protestant, although of different sects. The Catholics were not welcome, nor did the Catholics want to come to America. They were not given equal rights.
    An eighteenth century scholar observed: "The Catholics never went; they seem not only tied to the country, but almost to the parish in which their ancestors lived."
    When the Catholics did immigrate it was to other Catholic countries such as France. It was not until the 19th century that the Catholics would come pouring into America.
    The Presbyterian Church from its beginning was very strict on doctrine, but surprisingly liberal socially. It was a Congregational church, a democracy where men had the right to vote, elect, and remove its officials.
    Such was the power of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, at times during English control, it became a shadow government. The Church, through elected leaders, ruled on all matters, be it religious or secular.
    To the Presbyterians, church and education were almost the same. It was the basis for the Presbyterian faith that one should have the right to read the Bible and interpret the scriptures for themselves. To read the Bible meant that you had to be educated. Thus, the Presbyterians put enormous emphasis on education.
    The idea of educating the masses started in Scotland before the Presbyterian Church came into existence. Many Scottish towns had schools as early as the 1200's. By 1500, Scotland had three Universities, one a medical school. Scotland dominated the world in training physicians. In 1800, 87% of the British doctors were Scottish educated.
    By 1560, free education was started but not always provided for everybody. In 1690 every Parish was to have a non-denominational school. There were not always schools or enough teachers to go around, but the thought was there. The schools were co-educational and all students were treated equally, the poor sitting next to the rich. There was a scholarship system so all that were worthy would not be denied an education.
    In order to conform to the law, sometimes the nobility were forced to send their children to Universities on the Continent.
    The Scottish Universities were the most respected in the world. It was known in the colonies that if you were upper class and wanted to send your children abroad to be educated, you sent them to Scotland. A few of the English aristocrats would send their sons to Cambridge, or Oxford in England, where they would learn "gambling and fighting." The ruling class of the world used Scottish scholars to tutor the children.
    In Scotland, all were educated while at the same time in England only the upper class could afford to go to school.
    The famed English literary genius, Dr. Samuel Johnson, who disliked Scots, said that in Scotland “... never encountered a house in which he did not find books in more languages than one.”
    These were Presbyterian schools. The church and the schools were the same.
    The colonists set up their own lower-level schools to train their children. Universities were established to train seminary students "…in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and in Biblical interpretation." There were 207 permanent colleges founded in America before the Revolution. One-forth had their origins as Presbyterian seminaries. That is 25% of the colleges were founded by 7% of the population.
    The pattern in the colonies was to establish a settlement, then a church, then next to the church a school. The teacher was often the pastor, or a theology student, an elder, or "pillar" of the church who had a certain knack for teaching.
    This education system migrated with our people from Scotland to Ulster, to the colonies, which gave the Scotch-Irish in America a literacy rate that was astounding.
    The church records from Pennsylvania and Virginia indicates that our people were strong supporters of the Church. On March 29, 1747, Michael Woods, with many of our other kin pledged money to the Mountain Plains Church. Michael committed himself to one pound and 10 shillings. Of the 56 donors, only one pledged more. This would indicate the social standing of Michael Woods' family.
    The other nationalities had a tendency to immigrate as a congregation. The Scots did not. Nor did the Presbyterian ministers immigrate with their flocks from Ulster. They stayed behind. So there were few, qualified, highly educated Presbyterian ministers from Ulster or Scotland in the colonies. Imagine how many ministers there were on the frontier.
    Do not delude yourself into believing that all of our Scottish ancestors went into battle with a rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other. Many Scots were simply "irreligious."
    Not all of our people were dysfunctional. It is clear from church and official records (land dealings, marriages, etc.…), also family tradition, that some of our people stayed behind in Pennsylvania. Some would migrate to Virginia later.
    Our clans left Ulster in 1724. They lived in Pennsylvania for ten years in Lancaster, and the surrounding counties. Because families in those days tended to be large, they would have grown like rabbits. It is also possible that other members of the family immigrated from Ulster after 1724. Some of our people traveled back and forth between Pennsylvania and Virginia. It can be assumed that we have cousins in Pennsylvania today.               

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