Sunday, September 5, 2010

Alexander Clarke- Immigrant Ancestor: Highlanders in North Carolina

Copyright 2010, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

The following article is about the early Clarke families of North Carolina, and my maternal 5th-great-grandfather Alexander Clarke.

Source: Excerpts from "The Settlement of the Scotch on The River Cape Fear; Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical Illustrative of a Portion of Her Early Settlers", Foote, William Henry, originally published 1846, New York, R. Carter. Information Source:

"The time of the settlement of the first Scotch families upon the River Cape Fear is not known with exactness. There were some at the time of the separation of the provence into North and South Carolina, in the year 1729. In consequence of disabilities in their native land (Scotland), the enterprising Scotch followed the example of their relations in Ireland, and sough refuge and abundance in America. From records in the possession of descendants of Alexander Clarke, it appears that he came over and took his residence upon the River Cape Fear in 1736, and that a ship load of emigrants came with him. It also appears that he found a good many Scotch settled in Cumberland at the time of his arrival. "

" Alexander Clark(e) came from Jura (Scotland), one of the Hebrides. His ancestors, particulary his grandfather, had suffered much in the wars that had desolated Scotland, and fell heaviest on the Presbyterians. Being constrained to flee for his life, his grandfather took two of his sons and went to Ireland, and saw many trials and suffering, which were brought to a close by the Battle of Boyne, that decided the fate of the British Dominions. Returning to Scotland after the peace, he sought his family; leaving the vessel, he ascended a hill that overlooked his residence, and gazed in sadness over the desolation that met his eye; to use his own words, "but three smokes in all of Jura could be seen". Not a member of his family could be found to tell the fate of the rest. They had all perished in the persecutions. He returned to Ireland to find his cup of bitterness , overflowing as it was, made still bitter by the death of one of his two sons. After some time he returned, and spent the remainder of his days in Jura, having for his second wife one whose sufferings had been equal to his own. Her infant had been taken from her arms, its' head severed from its' body in her presence, and used by a ruffian twisting his hand in its' hair, to beat the mother on the breast till she was left for dead. Gilbert, the only surviving child of his first wife, returned with his father to Jura, and there lived and reared a family. One of his (Gilbert's) sons, Alexander, married Flora McLean, and reared four sons and four daughters. When his eldest son was sixteen years of age, he (Alexander) removed to America, and settled in Cumberland County, (North Carolina), on the Cape Fear. Some of the descendants of Kenneth Clarke, half brother to Gilbert (also) came to America. From this stock arose numerous families in the south and west".

"When Alexander Clarke emigrated to America, he paid the passage of many poor emigrants, and gave them employment until till the price was repaid. Many companies of Scotsmen came to America in a similar way, some person of property paying their passage, and giving them employ upon their lands until they were able to set up for themselves. "

"North Carolina was long a favorite field for Highlander emigration, most of them exiles from Scotland consequant on the troubles that that followed the downfall of the Stuarts, some of them MacDonalds who had been fugitives from the massacre of Glencoe. The persecution to which the Highlanders were subjected after the scattering of the clans made them eager to escape from Scotland. They were followed by many of their kilth and kin to the plantations of America, till the vast plains and forest lands in the heart of North CArolina were sprinkled with a Gaelic speaking population. "

Alexander Clarke appears to have arrived on Cape Fear, Chatham County, North Carolina circa 1736-1739 according to various published sources; his name is listed on Passenger & Immigration lists for arrival in 1739. He appears in North Carolina census records as early as 1755, and in the Register of Deeds of Chatham County 1780-1783. His will appears in North Carolina Abstract of Wills for Cumberland County in 1794.