Earliest Scots-Irish families to the Dark CornerPublished 6:35pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014
“I finally got to see your Dark Corner documentary during the Christmas holiday,” said a friend from Piedmont, “and learned a lot of things I never knew about the place, especially about the first settlers up there.
“I noted particularly that there weren’t too many Scots-Irish among them, since there weren’t any Presbyterian churches up there until fairly recently,” he added.
Not so, my friend.
The on-screen storyteller, who mentioned this sense of reasoning about early settlers, missed a very valid truth about their coming here. And it has everything to do with how the Presbyterian Church is organized.
A minister cannot preach to and lead a Presbyterian congregation unless he is seminary trained. In the 1700s, Scotland had not trained enough seminarians to allow having one on the frontier here in America.
The very first settlers to the Dark Corner area did not come up from the Charleston and Savannah areas. Instead, they came direct from Virginia and Maryland, or they were part of the Great Wagon Road migration from the mountains of Pennsylvania, through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the foothills of northern Greenville County.
The Scots-Irish Presbyterians came from Derry, Northern Ireland to Philadelphia or Chester, Pa., primarily to get away from growing Catholicism. Arriving in these same ports were borderline England families, who, as Calvinist Baptists and Methodists, were escaping the strong hold of the Anglican Church.
Calvinists believe in the Elect, so the Scots-Irish Presbyterians in the Dark Corner felt comfortable in their services, having no trained seminarians of their own. Most converted to the Baptist faith.
One has only to look at family names of the first settlers to learn just how many of them were Scots-Irish. Of the first 29 families, who settled on the four rivers of the area, 16 of them were Scots-Irish. These included the Jackson, Hannon, McDowell, McMillen, McClure, Dickson, Barry, Caldwell, Nesbitt, Wood, Foster, Pedan, Collins, Miller, Anderson and Richardson families.