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One Scottish Immigrant's Story

I recently posted this to a Facebook group called "The Land Called Scotland"

The Grass is Always Greener?

I find it interesting that my ancestors chose to leave Scotland and Ulster (Northern Ireland), chose to make the perilous and lengthy journey to the America, and yet, two hundred and three hundred years on, without ever having been there, I miss my homeland, I miss Scotland so much.

It attracted many comments and some discussion, including those who stridently pointed out that not all *chose* to leave Scotland, but were forced. Some even suggested I should learn history.

I understand all too well that many emigrants who left Scotland did not do so willingly, but I was speaking of my ancestors, and I know of only one instance of any of my Scottish or Ulster Scots ancestors leaving under duress.

The most detailed story I have is of my 5th great grandparent John Marjoribanks and his son. I am fortunate in that my 3rd great-grandfather Rev. William Banks was well known in the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina, so upon his death a small book was published, entitled "A Sermon Description of The Life and Labors of the Rev. William Banks, Preached and Published by Order of The Presbytery of Bethel, Tirzah Church, October 9, 1875" by Rev. James S. White, Columbia, S.C., Printed at the Presbyterian Publishing House, 1875.

It begins:

In Memoriam
Rev. William Banks
Born April 26th, 1814 ... Died March 17th, 1875.

and goes on for 40 pages. I am excerpting only the portion of his family history that deals with his grandfather and father coming to America.

The paternal ancestry of the Banks family were from Scotland. The circumstances under which they came to this country are somewhat remarkable; and in this connection they seem to require special notice, not only as a matter of interest, but as an evidence of providential direction.

Just after the war of the American Revolution, when the colonies had established their independence of the mother country and were favorably attracting the attention of nations beyond the seas, many individuals came over to cast in their fortunes with the new and rising nation. The climate was excellent; the laws offered protection and encouragement ; the soil was rich and productive ; the land, principally forest, invited the axe and the plough ; while the wild and unsettled state of an extensive tract toward the west promised entertainment to those who were fond of enterprise and adventure.

About this time, (1785-'88,) there came to these shores the grandfather of William Banks. He had left his family and his country to secure a new place of abode for him and for them. Finding his way to South Carolina, he settled for the time at a place in Chester District, now known as Blake's Mill, where he diligently worked at his trade — that of clothier, fuller, and dyer — hoping soon to be able to bring over his family who were then in a far off land.

These anticipations, however, were doomed to disappointment, for in a short time — three years after leaving home — he sickened and died at the residence of Thomas White, Esq. Away from home, away from old friends, "a stranger in a strange land," and at Fishing Creek church, by comparatively strange hands, he was buried.

This sad event was unknown to his family for a considerable length of time.

Receiving no tidings from [his father], his son, Samuel Banks, Esq., who was then about twenty-five years of age, and holding a lucrative position as clerk in the Bank of England through the influence of his pastor, the Rev. Henry Hunter, D. D., bade farewell to the household and sailed in search of the silent father.

He arrived at Charleston, probably in the year 1793 or '94, only to learn that the person he was seeking had gone to his long home. He fortunately met James Peden, Esq., who happened to be in the city, and by invitation came with him to his home on Little Rocky Creek, near Catholic church, of which Mr. P. was a ruling elder.

On the following Sabbath, we are told, he accompanied the family to church in Scotch dress - short pants, with long hose above the knees, shoes with broad straps and large silver buckles - and, to his gratification, he saw that the people and their public worship differed very little, if any, from that to which he was accustomed at home.


Contrary to his expectations at first, he remained in this country, living at Blake's Mill, and making his support by the trade his father followed; and on the 6th of November, 1797, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Robinson, whose parents were Scotch-Irish, and resided in Fairfield District. He still entertained his purpose of returning to Scotland; and, accordingly, soon after their marriage, he and his wife started and went as far as Charleston, but on account of her unwillingness to go and other considerations, no doubt providential, they proceeded no farther, but returned to Fairfield.

There are a few details I'd like to add, that I have learned from other sources.

When Samuel and Elizabeth went to Charleston to return to Scotland, at the dock Elizabeth reportedly said something along the lines of, "I have never seen a river so wide, and I am NOT getting on that boat!"

I also have several letters transcribed by my great-aunt Lizzie, between her and cousins in Scotland, exchanged about 1909. The cousins were sister, Jeannie and Jesse Low. They lived in Forfar, and following is an excerpt from one of their letters:

We had our holiday last month. We spent most of the time in Stirling. It is within 10 miles of Thornhill and being so near we thought we should like to visit it, hearing mother (?) speak so plin(?) o it. What an out-of-the-way place it is. No railway line into it, only a car which leaves Stirling twice a week. The village itself consists of one long street of houses, most of them very old but very clean. There is a church and hotel, a post office and one shop. There is still one family who claims to be of the same lineage as ourselves living in the village, a Mr. & Mrs. Graham. This old man's grandmother was a Margaret Marjoribanks. She was married in 1820; so she must have been of the same line as our Grandmother (Mary MarchBanks, sister of Samuel Marjoribanks or Banks). We had a chat with the old couple who informed us that the rest of the Marjoribanks relations are out of Thornhill and are all mostly in the farming line. Your Great Great Grandfather's name was John Marjoribanks. He it was who lived in Thornhill who was the father of Samuel Marjoribanks of Fairfield District, S.C. The other names of the family were Mary Katie & Bill. Your Great Great Grandmother's name was Ellen Murdouch. We can not give the name of our kinsman who fought on Culloden, only we have heard mother speak of one of her ancestors being there. Yes, Mother was very proud of her name. (She was a Wallace) and used to say her father could trace back in the direct line to Sir William. Am sending you in with this mail a picture of the old home in Thornhill and a photograph of Mother. Also some post cards of Scottish scenery. We hope you will like them.

Great-Aunt Lizzie's notes reference an earlier letter:

In the first letter they said that the father of Samuel Marjoribanks - or Banks as he became in plain democratic America - was brought up in Thornhill, the family having returned there from Dunfries' Shire about the time of the "Covenanter Finds." This man (John Marjoribanks) was a dyester - or dyer - this business being much more lucrative then than it is now. His house is still standing in Thornhill, and is know as the -:Dyster- House." Hoping to mend his fortune John Marjoribanks came to America and settled in Fishing Creek S.C. The family history on this side of the water says that he died of fever, and not hearing from him his son Samuel gave up a clerkship in the Banks of England to come over to look for his father. He fell in love with a pretty face in Fairfield district and married Miss Robinson. The started back to England or Scotland, but she was frightened by the ocean & the frail craft that plied it at the port of Charleston and refused to go. Returning to Fairfield, they settled and raised a family of a dozen children.

The photo at the top of this blog is supposed to be of The Dyster House. I'd like to find out if it still exists.

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