Katie, who works at the post office, asked what I was working on this week.
“A few things are on the schedule,” I said, “but the first is a story about the Irish heritage in the Carolinas.”
She quickly replied: “I’m part Irish.”
Katie went on to tell me about her family that settled in Pennsylvania. Her great-grandmother did not want her sons working in the coal mines. Her husband was no longer in the picture, so she planned a move to Detroit, Michigan, where safer employment was available. This would prove to be a good move for the family. As time passed, she sponsored and helped other families make the same move. The positive impact of lives saved is countless.
The Scotch-Irish influence in the Carolinas is profound. It is reported that in the 18th century as many as 250,000 Europeans sailed to America. Some would become indentured servants as they did not have the funds to pay for the voyage. Unfortunately for many, the life of an indentured servant was little more than slavery.
Settling in the eastern part of the Carolinas was not an option for large numbers and for this reason many settled in the backcountry of the Carolinas. The feel of the land was not unlike that of their homeland.
Many were craftsmen such as spinners and weavers. They worked hard and cared for the land. The making of whiskey was skilled and would not be uncommon.
Mecklenburg County also became home to many Scotch-Irish. So many in fact that in 1775 when the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was signed almost all the signers were Scotch-Irish.
It was the fighting tenacity of the Scottish and Irish immigrants that fueled the victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain, which was a turning point in what would become American Independence.
President Andrew Jackson was born in the Carolinas with Scotch-Irish parents, as was Vice President John C. Calhoun from Abbeville.
The folk traditions and culture of the Irish and Scottish will forever influence who we are in the Carolinas. Many of us are aware of our connection and many are discovering via DNA tests that tell us where we come from.
I always feel a closeness to the people when I attend the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The gathering of the clans is a gathering of families with common interests and pride in their heritage. It happens every year without regard to weather — or anything else. The people make a way to come together. Maybe that’s a good lesson for all of us.
What would happen if we all started to come together more often and celebrate just being together?
Maybe that small or large piece of Irish or Scottish DNA will give us the will to fight against the obstacles that keep us apart. And just maybe we can defeat the problems of life, or at least sleep a little better knowing that another kinsman has our back.