The Royal Colony of South Carolina

The Scots-Irish Settlers During the Royal Period (1729 to 1775)

Scots emigration to the colonies soared to 145,000 between 1707 and 1775. Generally poorer than the English, the Scots had greater incentives to emigrate and the union of 1707 (when England and Scotland agreed to form the United Kingdom) gave them legal access to all of the colonies.

The growth in Scots overseas shipping also provided more opportunities and lower costs for passage. After a few early emigrants prospered, their reports homeward attracted growing numbers in a chain migration. During a tour of northwestern Scotland, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson saw the locals perform a popular and symbolic new dance called “America,” in which a few original dancers gradually drew in the entire audience.

The Scottish diaspora flowed in three streams: Lowland Scots, Highland Scots, and Ulster Scots (most commonly referred to as Scots-Irish).

Nearly half of all so-called Scots emigrants came from Ulster, in Northern Ireland, which their parents and grandparents had colonized during the 1690s. Like the Highlanders, the Ulster Scots sought to escape from deteriorating conditions. During the 1710s–20s they clashed with the Irish Catholics and endured a depressed market for their linen, several poor harvests, and increasing rents. The Ulster Scots emigration to the colonies began in 1718 and accelerated during the 1720s and 1730s. The destitute sold themselves into indentured servitude, while the families of middling means liquidated their livestock to procure the cost of passage. Of course, most of the Ulster Scots remained at home, preferring the known hardships of Northern Ireland to the uncertain prospects of distant America.

The Ulster Scots emigrated in groups, generally organized by their Presbyterian ministers, who negotiated with shippers to arrange passage. Once in the colonies, the Ulster Scots gravitated to the frontier, where land was cheaper, enabling large groups to settle together. In the colonies, they became known as “the Scots-Irish.” At first, the Ulster Scots emigrated to Boston, but some violent episodes of New English intolerance persuaded most, after 1720, to head for Philadelphia, a more welcoming seaport in a more tolerant colony. More sparsely settled than New England, Pennsylvania needed more settlers to develop and defend the hinterland.

Beginning in the 1740s, as the seeds of the upcoming French and Indian War (1756-1763) were being sowed with more and more Indian raids along the Pennsylvania frontier, many Scots-Irish took to the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, through the Shenandoah valley, down to North Carolina and South Carolina. The Scots-Irish immigrated to the Carolinas in droves, from the very-late 1730s to the 1760s, quickly filling up the Midlands and Backcountry of South Carolina, and the Piedmont up to the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina.

The Scots-Irish were Protestant, as compared to the smaller number of Irish in Carolina, who were Catholic. In the seventeenth century a large amount of the Irish immigrants were situated in the West Indies, but in the eighteenth century there were Irish settlements in North America. Pennsylvania was in 1790 the colony that had most persons of Irish nationality, but it was mainly in the nineteenth century that the mass immigration of Irish Catholics to North America started.

Other than the Ulster Irish of Northern Ireland, there is scant historical records of "regular Irish" coming to the Carolinas until well into the 1800s. Certainly, there were "more than just a handful" that did make their way out of Ireland, but there simply isn't much to include here. The Irish just did not have a very large contingent in either North Carolina or South Carolina because most of them were Catholic and the colony simply had little toleration for Catholics until after the American Revolution.

The great influx of the Scots-Irish to South Carolina began in the late 1730s, but mostly took off in the mid-1740s because of increased hostilities of the Native Americans along the Pennsylvania frontier - that eventualy led to the French and Indian War (1756-1763).

The first Scots-Irish came to South Carolina soon after Governor Robert Johnson's "township scheme" of 1730. Click Here to learn more about this important historical event. They settled in the new townships of Williamsburg, Kings Town, Queensborough, and Fredericksburg.

In 1730, a group of Scots-Irish from Virginia arrived in Fredericksburg, along with a group of Quakers, and they established the town of Camden (first named Pine Tree Hill) in 1732, the first town in the interior of South Carolina, more than ninety miles from the seacoast.

Kings Town Township was first settled in 1734, and Williamsburg Township was first settled in 1735, both by Scots-Irish from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Queensborough Township was first settled in 1735 by Scots-Irish and Welsh from Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Between the 1730s and 1750, these settlers had spread outward with increased immigration to the present-day counties of Horry, Williamsburg, Marion, Florence, Kershaw, Clarendon, and Orangeburg.

By 1750, the Scots-Irish came down the under-construction Great Wagon Road (not completed in South Carolina until 1763) and made their way to the present-day counties of York (1750) and Union (1749). Also in 1749, a small contingent of Scots-Irish managed to eke out a small settlement in what is present-day McCormick County. In 1750, another group settled in what is present-day Lee County

During the 1750s, the greates influx of Scots-Irish made their way down the Great Wagon Road to South Carolina to the midlands and even a little further west and they settled in what are the present-day counties of Lancaster, Chester, Fairfield, Newberry, Laurens, Spartanburg, Marlboro, and Edgefield.

With three new townships created in the early 1760s, a group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians from Virginia were allocated the Boonesborough Township in 1762, and they began settling the area that is present-day Greenwood County. By the start of the American Revolution, this group had expanded into what is present-day Abbeville County around 1775.

By 1790 - only fifteen years after the Royal Period - the first United States census indicated that the State of South Carolina included roughly 32.9% Scots and 11.7% Irish - at the time the appellation "Scots-Irish" was apparently not heavily used, or those who were of the Ulster Scots (aka Scots-Irish) merely claimed to be Scots.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved