Douglas families in the Carolinas

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Scots—as individuals and in families—have been in North Carolina since the beginning of permanent settlement. The first Proprietary governor of Albemarle, William Drummond, was born in Scotland, and later Scots-such as the Glaswegian Thomas Pollock, who came to North Carolina in 1683-achieved prominence in the mercantile and political life of the colony. The earliest surviving court and land grant records reveal modest numbers of distinctively Scottish names.

The first sizable group of Scots to arrive in North Carolina in a body was the so-called Argyll Colony of 1739, which came from the Highland county of Argyll and settled on the Cape Fear River between Cross Creek and the Lower Little River. Numbering some 350 men, women, and children, the group was led by Highland gentry who provided much of the financing for the venture and received the largest grants of land. Gabriel Johnston, a Lowland Scot and North Carolina governor from 1734 to 1752, was accused of showing favouritism to his compatriots, and the General Assembly exempted the newcomers from taxation for ten years after their arrival.

The second large waThe second large wave of Highland immigrants began in the late 1760s and reached its peak in 1774. It is not known exactly how many Highlanders came to North Carolina, but in 1784 James Knox estimated that 20,000 Highlanders migrated to America during this second wave. Most of the Highlanders who came as part of the second wave settled in the Upper Cape Fear region that includes modern-day Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, and Moore Counties. Many Highlanders lived in the rural areas on the roads leading to the town of Cross Creek (later Fayetteville), which was chartered by the General Assembly in 1760. The abundance of pine trees in the Sandhills enabled these settlers to make their living in naval stores, extracting the sap and processing it into tar, pitch, and turpentine, which they sent down the Cape Fear River to Wilmington on flatboats made of logs. Many Highlanders were also small farmers growing crops and raising horses, cattle, and hogs.

Other individuals and families found their way directly from the Scottish Highlands to North Carolina during the remainder of the colonial era, mainly through the ports of Brunswick and Wilmington. The colony, in fact, came to be extolled as "the best poor man's country" as promotional tracts and letters home praised its climate and soil and the ease with which land could be acquired. Lowland Scots also immigrated individually or in small groups to North Carolina and other colonies throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Because Lowland Scots were widely dispersed and more readily assimilated in the colonies, their story is less easily told than that of their Highland compatriots. While there were far fewer Lowland Scots than Highland Scots in North Carolina, some Lowlanders filled important roles as merchants, high-ranking officials, or military officers. Others ranged from poor immigrants and indentured servants to well-educated teachers, physicians, and clergymen.

The migration of Scotch-Irish settlers to America began in the 1680s but did not occur in large numbers until the 1720s. Pennsylvania was the most popular destination, but Scotch-Irish immigrants also settled in South Carolina, New Jersey, and Maryland. The Scotch-Irish, or Ulster Scots, were descendants of the Lowland Scots, whom James I of England had settled in Ulster, the northern and most isolated and conservative part of Ireland. During the reign of Elizabeth I, the native aristocracy of Ulster had rebelled against the English government and its newly established Anglican Church. The earliest concentrated settlement of Scotch-Irish immigrants in North Carolina was in Duplin and New Hanover Counties around 1740. The Scotch-Irish were also the largest ethnic group among the settlers in the Carolina backcountry in the eighteenth century, and they were the largest group among the pioneers who crossed the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains and settled in south-western North Carolina in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Although the Scottish emigrants, in coming to America, were assured freedom to exercise their Presbyterian religion at a time when the Stuart monarchy favoured spreading the Anglican Church throughout the British Isles, the most important motivation for Scottish emigration was economic. Profound changes in agricultural organization following the Jacobite insurrection of 1745 raised rents to unprecedented heights and resulted in large numbers of evictions. Entire communities often emigrated, with the enterprise many times being organized by "tacksmen"-leaseholders who traditionally held long leases from the landowner and in turn rented to tenants.

Several North Carolina Scots gained prominence in the colony, with Governor Johnston, Royal Council member John Rutherfurd, and official and planter James Murray being examples. Scots were also important in the religious life of the colony, being well represented among both Presbyterian and Anglican clergy. A Scottish immigrant, James Innes, was a notable military leader in the French and Indian War(1754-63). The military prowess of North Carolina Loyalist Scots was put to the test at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in February 1776. Although they suffered a bloody defeat in that contest, Scots constituted the backbone of North Carolina Loyalism throughout the war, and with the establishment of independence many of them sought refuge in the British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

After the Revolutionary War, Scottish immigration to North Carolina gradually resumed and continued until the War of 1812. The number of immigrants who came to the state during this period is unknown, but Scottish port records of the 1790s and the opening years of the nineteenth century list several dozen emigrant vessels clearing for North Carolina, mainly Wilmington. After the War of 1812, at least a trickle of immigration resumed: in 1820, for example, a ship carrying migrants was cleared from Campbelltown to Wilmington. The U.S. Census of 1850 listed some 1,200 Scottish-born citizens in North Carolina, most of them residing in the counties of Cumberland, Moore, Robeson, and Richmond. In the census of 1880 the number was down to some 400. A Scottish corporation in the 1880s purchased land in Madisonand Haywood Counties with a view to bringing in Scottish settlers. The venture was unsuccessful, as was the effort to bring Highland crofters (tenant farmers) to the Sandhills at about the same time. A similar attempt of the early 1890s to attract Scots to the lands of J. Bryan Grimes in Pitt County fared little better.

Immigrants from the Scottish Highlands often retained distinctive elements of their culture. The Gaelic language was spoken by some to at least a limited extent until the mid-nineteenth century. Presbyterianism continues to flourish in the areas of Scottish settlement, and Scottish music influenced the development of local musical forms. Clan societies and the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain and elsewhere in North Carolina continue to help keep alive a sense of the importance of the state's Scottish heritage.

Early arrivals included:

  • Douglas, Alexander, 22 Husbandman, Scotland from London to Carolina on the "Briton"  A. Urquhart, November 1774
  • Douglas, Alexander, clergyman. Edu. Edinburgh Uni. sh. 1750. sett. St. James, South Carolina
  • Douglas, Alexander, 52, B. 1723, Labourer, Perth, from Leith to Philadelphia May 1774 on the "Friendship", T. Jann.
  • Douglas, Alexander. 46. Farmer.  Born in Scotland. Wife Catherine 46, born in North Carolina:  Hugh, aged 14; Mary aged 11; Archibald, aged 9; Sarah, aged 11. Mentions also Nancy Poston, aged 55, born in North Carolina.  Chesterfield County, South, Carolina.
  • Douglas, Angus:  Born in Scotland during 1759.  Died in Richmond County, North Carolina during 1819.
  • Douglas, Anthony. aged 42.  Merchant.  Born in Scotland - Kershaw county, South, Carolina
  • Douglas, Archibald.  Scottish Highlander.  Settled in New Hanover and Bladen Counties, North Carolina.  Allocated land grants during June 1740.
  • Douglas, Campbell.  born in Kirkcudbrightshire during 1782.  Grocer in Charleston, North Carolina.  Nat. 19 October 1813, Charleston, South Carolinall.  aged 69.  an accountant.  Born in Scotland.  Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, Daniel. Born in Scotland ca 1735.  Married Effie McLean.  Died in Richmond County, North Carolina in 1816.
  • Douglas, James, Born in Galloway during 1772.  mariner.  Nat. 10 December 1804, Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, James.  born in the Lothians during 1776.  Turner.  Nat. 16 October 1805, Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, James Kennedy.  Born in Scotland.  Nat. 14 May 1804, Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, Jane. To Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, bef 1766. M. Henry Downs (1708-1778) (3)
  • Douglas, John.  Aged 60.  Carpenter.  Born in Scotland.  Marion County, South Carolina.nbsp; Born near Edinburgh during 1773.  Cabinetmaker.  Nat. 24 September 1802.  Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, John:  Born in Scotland.  emigrated to America during 1788.  Settled in South Carolina during 1790.  Nat. 4 November 1806.  Marlborough, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, John - Labourer, Dundee Angus. .  From Kircaldy to Brunswick, North Carolina.  June 1775 on the "Jamaica Packet".  T. Smith
  • Douglas, John.  Born in Edinburgh.  Nat. 29 December 1799.  South Carolina; Aged 50.  Coachbuilder.  Born in Scotland.  Wife, Rachel, aged 50.  Born in North Carolina.  Elizabeth, aged 19, born in Marion County, South Carolina.
  • Douglas, John 1723-1796 Settled Charlotte, North Carolina, M. 1744 Catherine Marion daughter Nancy
  • Douglas, William, probably from Newton Stewart, Wigtonshire. settled Camden, South Carolina, 1824 (related to James Kennedy Douglas, above?).


(3) Sometimes referred to as Lady Jane Douglas.  No parents have been identified.



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    Last modified: Monday, 06 July 2020