Friday, January 27, 2012

New Online Magazine

I've started a new online Celtic magazine called

Celtic Guide

Check it out and let me know what you think.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Harlaw – The Aftermath

It is generally accepted that the 1411 Battle of Red Harlaw was fought as a result of a competition for the Ross Highlands of Scotland, and pitted the forces of Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isle, against Aberdeen area forces fighting for the survival of their town, under the banner of a Stewart of Albany, typically known as the Earl of Mar – a man who had also laid claim to Ross, sparking Donald's attack.

Though the battle seems to have been a military draw, the Earl claimed and effectively had the victory for at least the next few years to follow. The battle truly was a life or death situation for the combatants, even beyond the battlefield. In the case of the Aberdeen defenders, their industrious and vibrant town stood a chance of being plundered and destroyed. In the case of Donald, if he could not secure Ross and it fell into the hands of the Stewarts of Albany, his island kingdom could be in jeopardy, and it is likely he would have had to retire to Ireland where his bother, John Mor MacDonald ruled a sizable chunk of Ulster.

John and Donald had experienced their own falling out not long before Harlaw, but had seemed to make amends. John was well-loved in Ireland and managed to make allies out of just about every faction in Ulster – the native Irish, the transported Scots, the English king, and even the Anglo Scots. Between Donald and John the northern Irish Sea coastal regions were solidly meshed into one Gaelic kingdom led by Clan Donald. Donald's branch was later referred to as Clan Donald North, whereas John's clan in Ireland and on the Scottish island of Kintyre became known as Clan Donald South.

Adding to the confusion of the day, King James, the son of the deceased Robert III, had been taken prisoner by the English, causing Robert's death from a  broken heart. The Albany Stewarts, led by James's uncle, Robert Stewart, essentially ruled Scotland as the de facto royal family, refusing to pay the ransom that would set James free. Donald had sent emissaries to visit both the English king and King James, and it is likely that he saw James's return to Scotland as a way to save his coastal kingdom and perhaps receive royal sanction for his claim to Ross, a sanction that was eventually offered not to him but to his son Alexander, after the death of Donald in 1423.

Donald's mother was the daughter of Robert II, a king who had complicated many land rights in Scotland by marrying off his several children to families of power throughout Scotland. His goal was to unify the country but, instead, he created unintended internal strife between many of his descendants, including Donald of Harlaw and the Stewart who met him on the Harlaw battlefield, who was Donald's first cousin.

The year after Donald's death, King James was returned to Scotland. It didn't take him long to seek revenge on the Albany Stewarts putting at least the top three to death, with Alexander McDonald sitting on the jury along with 20 other knights of the realm.

On the death of Albany, King James assumed control of Ross, however Alexander began using the title Master of Ross. Apparently this didn't sit well with James as he invited Alexander to Inverness along with several of his top clan members and his mother. The group was promptly arrested though many were released shortly afterwards. However, Alexander and his mother were kept in separate prisons in James's attempt to quell problems in the Isles.

By 1428, Alexander was released on good behavior. This was due, in part, because of the death of his uncle, John Mor MacDonald/McDonnell of Ulster and Clan Donald South. John had been supporting a grandson of Robert III, also named James, as the true king of Scotland, probably because of his nephew's imprisonment. 

King James sent one James Campbell to treaty with John Mor with an offer that if he swore allegiance to King James, the king would acknowledge him as Lord of the Isles, having been the brother of Donald, Lord of the Isles. John refused and Campbell tried to arrest him. A fierce battle ensued and John was killed.

Now the king's reputation was in serious trouble, having imprisoned Alexander and essentially having been responsible for John's death. These were the North and South leaders of Clan Donald, who was, at the time, the most widespread, most powerful clan in Scotland – a clan allied with many families along the coast and throughout the Highlands.

King James had James Campbell tried and executed for murder, and he refused to accept any blame for the fiasco, releasing Alexander on a bond of good behavior. Alexander wasted little time. Gathering his forces and allies, he attacked and burned Inverness, the town where he been taken prisoner, in the spring of 1429. He also swore allegiance to the younger James, the same man his uncle had supported.

However, as luck would have it, this younger James died an untimely death leaving Alexander exposed to the wrath of King James, with no strong leader in Ulster and Kintyre, and no alternate king to raise forces. King James sent a force to hunt down Alexander. The Lord of the Isles turned himself in, in August of that year. He is said to have pleaded for mercy in his underwear, with a sword pointed to his throat and the handle offered to King James.

Through the intercession of many nobles in Scotland, King James forgave Alexander's transgressions and once again released him. Part of James's motive may have been that the son of John Mor, Donald Balloch, had managed to gain the support of nearly all the coastal clans to fight against James. The man sent to capture Alexander was the very same Earl of Mar who had stopped his father at Harlaw. However, the Earl was soundly defeated at the Battle of Inverlochy, by Donald Balloch leading many other clans, along with forces from Ireland.

The king could see the deck was stacked against him. Alexander was not only allowed to assume the title Earl of Ross, but also was made Justiciar of Scotland, essentially the top law enforcement officer in all of Scotland. As such, he appointed sheriffs and other law officers, and oversaw legal proceedings throughout Scotland. He reported only to the king, and next to the king was the most powerful man in all of Scotland.

With these recent developments in favor of Alexander, Clan Donald reached the zenith of its power. Meanwhile, King James had alienated so many nobles throughout Scotland with ruthless attacks, false arrests and executions, that a plot was set to assassinate him. In 1437, the plan was carried out and King James was found hiding in a sewer pipe and summarily put to the sword.

Alexander had been living principally at Dingwall Castle and Inverness, rather than in the Isle, where his ancestors had ruled from. Upon King James's death, Alexander became the most powerful man in all of Scotland, though he had lost support from some of his island kinsman. Eventually a new king came to the throne. Alexander died in 1449, at Dingwall. He was followed by his son, John. John again faced the wrath of the crown and of other nobles to where he eventually gave up the title of Earl of Ross and retired to the Isles. His brother, Hugh of Sleat, became chief of the MacDonalds of Sleat and from him the headship of Clan Donald North descended.

On John's death, and with ever increasing incursions into the Highlands and islands by the new king, the once powerful Clan Donald was reduced to infighting amongst themselves, or with other local clans over the slim pickings that were left. Control of the clan shifted, for the most part, to Clan Donald South. Many clan members moved to Ireland to support their McDonnell cousins and were among the first people known to be referred to as the Scotch-Irish, undoubtably a contraction of Scottish-Irish.

By 1498, the seat of the Bishop of the Isles was moved off the Isle of Skye and out of Clan Donald influence for the first time in roughly 1,000 years. The only northern leader, Hugh of Sleat, also died that year at Paisley Abbey. His brother had become not much more than a pauper and died in Dundee in 1502. The king sent for his body and belongings to have them properly buried. The struggles and power of Clan Donald moved its focus to Ireland, and to some degree to Kintyre. The Campbells slowly annexed much of the old realm of the Lord of the Isles, as a reward for their service to the crown.

Red Harlaw, in many ways, was the beginning of the rise and eventual fall of the Lord of the Isles, and of the great island powerhouse of Celts and Vikings first brought together by the legendary Somerled. Today, Prince Charles, of England, holds the ceremonial title of Lord of the Isles. Sir Godfrey Macdonald is Chief of Clan Donald and Sir Ian Macdonald is Chief of Sleat, known in Gaelic as Clan Uisdean. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Regulators

Thanks to all who sparked my interest in Diana Gabaldon and her mention of James McQuiston. Notwithstanding the Q spelling, it is almost certain this James was the brother of Thomas McCuistion, of Guilford County, husband to Ann Moody. This James is recorded in Leona's book as being born in 1737, with no date for his death.

Since Thomas was also recorded as a Regulator, it seems most probable that both brothers joined this movement. It could not have been Thomas's father, who had already passed away. His son, James, would have only been 13. While thirteen-year-olds undoubtably saw action during the Revolution (note Andrew Jackson) it was not likely that they would have been involved in this short-lived, much lesser rebellion.

The only other conceivable option is that it was James McQuiston, from western Pennsylvania, who was actually paid for being a "spy on the western frontier." He would have been Thomas's first cousin. However, the only records of this James show him near Pittsburgh for most of his adult life.

Common sense points to Thomas's brother James as being his partner in the Regulator movement.

Three of the officers mentioned in Regulator testimonies carry the last name of Hamilton. As we know, the Hamilton family was very closely related to ours, historically, and even through marriage. Margery Hamilton was the sister of James, Thomas and Robert, the "1735" immigrants. In Robert's notebook, Thomas Hamilton writes that Thomas McCuistion, the immigrant, is his uncle. It appears all three immigrants were in fact his uncles.

Going back to the Siege of Londonderry, Daniel McCuistion and his son, John McCuistion (father of the three immigrant brothers), served under Gustavus Hamilton. John further served in Jamaica under Gustavus. His son, James, named a son Gustavus. Gustavus McCuistion, of course, would have been a brother of the Regulators, Thomas and James McCuistion. Perhaps Gustavus was there, too.

The Regulator movement started, for the most part, because of a man named Herman Husbands. He was described as a large Highlander and was a Quaker who, though usually credited with being the leader of the rebellion, was generally proven to be a pamphleteer waging a paper war against governmental abuses.

Husbands was said to be there with James McQuiston/McCuistion, at Yadkin's Ferry, when the Avery gentleman was detained, and informed he was a prisoner by James. The Regulators protested that they only had weapons – mostly makeshift farm implements – to protect their freedom.

Husbands, who was charged with libel by the government, was a regular correspondent with Ben Franklin, who, as we know, reported on Rev. Craighead's revolutionary ideas as expressed at the Middle Octoraro Church sword raising event.

Thomas McCuistion's friend and neighbor, Rev. David Caldwell, was also a leader of the Regulators, but left before the Battle of Alamance (the county next to Guilford) after trying to calm down the "poor farmers" many of whom had no weapons at all. In the end, 10 to 15 Regulators were killed, and 100 to 150 were wounded by a militia raised by the British government.

No less than the United States government built a monument stating that this was the first battle of the American Revolution. It is most likely that two of those Regulators were Thomas and James McCuistion/McQuiston, first generation Americans, sons of the Middle Octoraro "declaration of independence," grandsons of the Siege of Londonderry, descendants of the Battle of Bannockburn and the Battle of Red Harlaw.

Our family – in the front lines at Bannockburn, Scotland's most famous battle for freedom, in the person of Hugh of Sleat's great grandfather, Angus Og; in the front lines at the Siege of Londonderry, the most famous fight for Scotch-Irish freedom, in the person of Daniel and John McCuistion; at the first declaration of independence for Americans, in the person of the Susquehanna McCuist(i)ons, and at the first battle of the American Revolution, at Alamance, in the person of James and Thomas.

This is what I mean when I say we were in the front lines in the fight for personal freedom. An old-time McQuiston lady told my eldest aunt, now deceased, that three brothers came to America and that the McQuistons "always fought in the front lines."
Here is the letter that was read at the Freens of Reid Harlaw meeting today, in Aberdeen, Scotland, in lieu of my being there -

Hello to my Freens in Scotland.

The worthiness of preserving Scotland's history, as in the case of the Battle of Red Harlaw, extends far beyond Aberdeen and even Scotland, itself. Though I may be the first and perhaps only American Freen so far, I am just one of many thousands of Americans who cherish their Scottish roots.

The Germans may have their Octoberfest, and the Irish their St. Patrick's Day, but all over North America, from Nova Scotia to New Mexico, from North Carolina to the Great White North of the Yukon, Scots-blooded freedom lovers quietly honor and remember the role Scotland's people played in the fight for individual freedom.

The very founding documents of the United States of America are undeniably based on the Declaration of Arbroath and the Scottish National Covenant. I am proud to say that my own ancestor, Robert McCuiston, born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1710, was among the first Americans to raise his family's cherished sword in defiance, on November 11, 1743, in a small church in eastern Pennsylvania, declaring his right to live free.

In 2010, several dozen descendants of those brave Scots were led into that very same church by a piper to ceremoniously raised our swords, once again, and to celebrate those words of defiance from so many years ago -

"Some imagine that the sword is drawn for fear of man . . . some pretend that it is drawn in rebellion . . . but the reason of the sword’s being drawn is because our renowned ancestors were constrained to draw the sword in the defense of their own freedom. Our drawing of the sword is to testify to the world that we are one in judgment with them, and that we are, this day, willing to maintain the same war in defending ourselves against all opposers thereof, although such defense should cost us our lives."

My wife's family was there, too, back in 1743. She, a Hamilton, Calhoun, and Montgomery descendant, and I, a McDonald, Davidson and Denny descendant, are just two small specks in the crowd of Americans who's eyes tear up at the sound of the pipes, whose heart longs for just one more visit to the homeland, whose spirit lives free because of brave souls like those who fought at Red Harlaw.

Thank you for the good work you are doing, and thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

Jim McQuiston

Saturday, October 15, 2011

One Big Happy Family

The story of our family's origin takes us from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, over to Antrim County, Northern Ireland, and back to lowland Scotland. It is easy to view the later Scotland McQuistons (et. al.) as a different branch from those in Ulster (Northern Ireland).

However, a closer look at the location of the earliest McQuistons recorded in the lowlands places them near the Stranraer ferry, which, for centuries led to the Larne/Carrickfergus area of Antrim, and, in more recent years, to Belfast. This is the shortest travel distance between these two countries. The closest distance between the countries is actually only about 12 miles, though the ferry travels a bit further.

Larne is where Andrew Jackson's  family and the South Carolina branch of McQuistons all left from, upon immigrating to America. Carrickfergus and Belfast have hosted many McQuiston families. The McQuiston Church is located in south Belfast and holds the record for the largest ever Presbyterian Congregation. The old McQuiston School became the Belfast School of Music. Ian McQuiston has held several high positions in protecting the architecture of Ulster. Billy "Twister" McQuiston was a Ulster Defense League fighter who turned peacemaker after a few years in prison and has been a driving force in that area. Eddie McQuiston's ancestors were reasonably famous drummers in a Fife and Drum group from Antrim. The point is the family has been well-established in the area around the western Irish port of the ferry.

We know, for a fact, that Hugh of Sleat's grandson left the Isle of Skye for Northern Ireland around April 30, 1565, to serve under the McDonnell leader of Antrim. Additional records exist of the family at Ballycastle, home to the McDonnell leader, and in the Bann Valley that straddles Antrim and Londonderry Counties.

On the eastern side of the ferry, in lowland Scotland, we find Jim McQuiston, a principal historian at Dundonald Castle. In Troon, just 30 miles west of Glasgow, exists the golf award known as the McQuiston Cup – Troon being where the first ever "open" golf tournament was held.

My ancestor, Robert McCuiston, was born in Paisley, Scotland, also located west of Glasgow, towards the coast. Our progenitor, Hugh of Sleat (Uisdean) died at Paisley Abbey. Somerled, forefather to so many clans, including ours, died at the location of the Glasgow Airport, which is in fact on the very edge of Paisley.

Just today I was looking over some information and realized something hiding in plain sight all this time.

The second oldest "official" record Leona found on our name was for a John who was living in the parish of Inch, Scotland. I went online to find that he lived only about four miles from the Stranraer Ferry. In a later record, John lists a James as his father, and also as a brother. About the same time, in Ulster, we find a James McQuiston in the service of the McDonnell Earl of Antrim. This is almost certainly one of the same men named James, since these people did not consider Antrim and the west coast of Scotland as necessarily separate from each other.

With religious and political persecution intermittent in either country, the quickest escape was to the other country, via a short trip across the water. Imagine County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and County Ayr, Scotland as two adjoining counties connected by a short boat ride and it becomes obvious that these are not two separate branches of the family, but the exact same family.

Robert was born on the Scotland side in 1710. His brother, James, was born in Londonderry, (just on the edge of Antrim), in 1700. Originally from Scotland, the Jackson's held political power near Londonderry, at Coleraine, and Andrew Jackson, senior, left from Larne.

Add to all of this the island of Islay, which lies to the north of the ferry route. Good King John of Islay was Hugh of Sleat's great grandfather. Islay and Antrim were home to Clan Donald South, while Clan Uisdean represented Clan Donald North from the Isle of Skye. The area of Islay near the famous Mull of Kintyre became home to many McQuistons as Clan Donald South found itself in serious trouble in Antrim. The old McDonnell center of power on Islay became Campbelltown, and our John, mentioned above, is married to a Campbell woman.

Antrim, Ayr, and Islay formed a triangle of escape, and perhaps opportunity, for our family as it held onto its Gaelic identity in a culture bent on adopting the English language and customs.

The short travel distance, the Gaelic and McDonald/McDonnell heritage, the Presbyterian background, the Paisley Abbey connection, all point to one big happy family. Our DNA pretty much verifies that we all came out of the same mould - a mould that covered the very realm of the old Scottish/Irish kingdom of Dalriada.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Top Ten reasons for what we believe

With any ancient history there needs be some conjecture in order to fill in the blanks. In an attempt to eliminate any guesswork, conjecture or wishful thinking, this is what I believe we know to be true of the history of the family McUisdean, in all its spellings and pronunciations.

1) Hugh of Sleat was a real historical figure, known also as Uisdean McDonald, Austin Roy, Hucheon of the Isle of Slet, and many other variations of his name. He ruled, without any doubt, from Dunscaith Castle, on the Sleat Peninsula of the Isle of Skye, off the west coast of Scotland. His sons were McUisdeans.

2) Based on his father's marriages and locations, Hugh seems to have been born in 1436, although this date could move one way or the other a bit. Based again on his father's history, it would seem likely that Hugh was born at Dingwall Castle not far from Loch Ness.

3) Hugh is said, in every record of him, that he died in 1498. A chief of Clan Donald  died at Paisley Abbey in 1498 and we know for a fact it was not Hugh's brother, John, last Lord of the Isles, who died in 1503. We can't be absolutely sure that it was Hugh who died at Paisley Abbey but there is no other likely contender - no other Clan Donald chief of that period. He is said, by all accounts, to be buried at a place called Sand on the Isle of North Uist. There is a churchyard burial ground there called Clachan Shanda, or " the community and church of Sand," in the English language, and so this would seem to be the actual burial place of Hugh.

4) We know that Clan Donald considers our name as a sept of their clan. We know that we were designated, through DNA testing, as a "clear subset" of one group of McDonalds, and that, at least in some cases, we match DNA with other names historically linked to Hugh, including Martin, Harris, Hutchinson and Houston, all names which are also considered septs of Clan Donald.

5) We know that our name, if not our actual bloodline, comes from Hugh of Sleat. His first four sons are recorded with variations of our name. His first son is named with three variants, and his second son with two. His third and fourth are recorded with one version of the name.  At least one later generation used Mac Uisdean. There is no other source given for our name and so at the very least we can be sure this is where the name originated.

6) Hugh's second son married a distant cousin from County Antrim, Ireland, meaning he likely traveled there, perhaps more than once. His son (being Hugh's grandson) definitely went there as recorded in three separate histories and an epic poem. The same general area where Hugh's grandson, and Hugh's great-grandsons, landed is where a handful of more modern spellings of the name appear within just a generation or two.

7) We know that the current chief of Clan Donald of Sleat uses the patronymic of McUisdean, and that Chief of Sleat is now a County Antrim title, not a Scottish title.

8) We know that the lowland Scottish McQuistons say their families came over from Ireland. Most McUisdean branches in America also came from Northern Ireland.

9) We know that on the Isle of Skye is located Caisteal Uisdean and the town of MhicCuithean. In lowland Scotland is the McQuiston Golf Cup and McQuiston Bridge. In Northern Ireland is McQuiston Church and the former McQuiston School. And so we can be sure that the Isle of Skye, the North of Ireland, and the lowland area of Scotland, between the west coast and Glasgow, were the haunts of our family, before coming to America.

10) Tradition from as far back as Leona McQuiston's book of 1937, and of her helper, Ed McCuistion (who began his research in the 1800s), says that the above history is what has been passed down from generation to generation. It is also alluded to in many other books not written by family members, but rather by clan or Scottish/Irish historians.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The year of 1498 appears to have been rather significant in the history of the McQuiston (et al.) family. That is the year the progenitor of our name passed away. Although there is no comprehensive history book to refer to, I have put together these notes to explain Hugh of Sleat and our link to him.

Hugh of Sleat was one of three known sons of one of the most powerful men in Scotland - Alexander MacDonald, 10th Earl of Ross, 3rd Lord of the Isles and Justiciar, or judge, of the Highlands north of the Firth of Forth. Though I say 3rd Lord of the Isles, Alexander's ancestors were known as kings or thanes of the Isles many generations back, however the title of Lord was only officially used for four generations, Alexander being the third.

The first was Good King John of Islay. The second was his son, known often as Donald of Harlaw. Third was Alexander and fourth was Alexander's son, John, brother to Hugh of Sleat.

Hugh's name was also written of as Austin, as Hucheon, and most important to us, as Uisdean. Uisdean was pronounced closed to Ooshdn, and his sons became the first McOoshdns, the first McUisdeans, the first McQuistons of all spellings.

The "Isles" for the most part consisted of the western islands off the coast of Scotland and particularly Kintyre and Islay. Hugh lived on the Isle of Skye and that island came and went as a possession of his McDonald family, through the centuries. One point of interest is that a chapel, which stood near one of our family castles – Caisteal Uisdean – was the seat of the Bishop of the Isle for almost five centuries, until it was abandoned also in 1498.

Coincidentally, or not, the author of the oft-quoted "Annals of Ulster" also died in 1498 of smallpox. This book recorded much of the oral and written tradition of the old kingdom of Dalriada, principally Northern Ireland and the Isles and some of the Highlands of Scotland - all heavily populated with Celts later mixed with Vikings.

There are stories of plagues throughout Scotland in that year, and so perhaps Hugh of Sleat, as he is typically known historically, passed away from smallpox or some other plague in that year.

Hugh was a member of the Highland and Island Clan Donald. Hugh's clan or family would become known as Clan Uisdean, Clan Donald North, and the Macdonalds of Sleat. The McDonnells of the Ulster county of Antrim, Northern Ireland were known as Clan Donald South. Their progenitor was Hugh's great uncle, John Mor, brother to Donald of Harlaw.

Hugh was most likely born in 1436, when his father married his mother, the daughter of Gillepatrick Roy, son of Rory, son of the Green Abbot of Applecross, of the O'Bealon family, former Earls of Ross. The O'Bealon family also has been known as Ross and Rose, and has connections to the Leslie family through marriage. There are conflicting official documents indicating Hugh was legitimate and elsewhere, illegitimate. It may be that he was illegitimate by Rome's standards, but legitimate by Celtic standards.

Hugh was most likely born in Dingwall Castle, just outside Inverness, Scotland, the same castle where Macbeth of Scotland, and of Shakespeare fame, was born. This was long the seat of the Earls of Ross. Hugh most likely died at Paisley Abbey, in Paisley, Scotland, in 1498, and was buried at a place called Sand, on the island of North Uist. Presently this burial ground is called Clachan Shannda, Clachan meaning "a small village with a church," and Shannda meaning "Sand" or "Sand Island" from the Norse.

John, last Lord of the Isles from the McDonald line, was the brother of Hugh and received his title in 1449, when their father Alexander died at Dingwall. There is some controversy over the exact date but it appears John gave Hugh a charter to the lands of Sleat on the Isle of Skye, off the western coast of Scotland, during the year 1449. John would have been about 15 years old and would have needed the blessing of his council. Hugh was likely 13 years old when he first became Hugh of Sleat.

Sleat is pronounced "slate" and this is proven by an old saying, within the McDonald clan, that "In the house of McDonald, the Sleats are on top." This is a humorous comparison of roof slates to the family of Sleat, which still leads Clan Donald to this very day.

Some historians say Hugh did not become "of Sleat" until 1469, however he witnessed a charter for John in 1461, disproving this theory. Hugh received a royal confirmation, by proclamation, of his Sleat land, in 1476, and a written confirmation, from the King of Scotland, in 1495.

It was likely in 1495 that Hugh retired to Paisley Abbey. It is often mistakenly said about Hugh's brother, John, that "the old chief of Clan Donald died at Paisley Abbey in 1498." However, John is absolutely known to have died in Dundee, Scotland, in late January or early February of 1503. He did not live at the abbey nor did he die there.

However, Hugh did die in 1498 and by this time, his lands on Skye were in the hands of his first son, John - the very first McQuiston.  He is likely the "old chief" being spoken of.

There is an interesting story concerning Hugh and the Earl of the Orkney islands, off the north coast of Scotland. While Hugh was still a pre-teen, his father, Alexander, was carousing with the Earl of Orkney and well into the night, the Earl invited Alexander to breakfast in the morning. Alexander boasted that he would have breakfast ready first.

The two men finally retired, however not before the Earl sent 12 men out to make sure no one sold firewood or meat to McDonald's party of men. However, one of Alexander's loyal followers secured some wood for the fire and a deer for a venison breakfast. When the Earl received his early-morning invite for a McDonald breakfast, he was furious. He growled, "Do you think to equal or cope with me in power and authority?"

Alexander explained that he had a young son at home, Hugh, who could in fact equal the Earl in power and would someday prove it. Hugh went to the Orkney Islands to attack the Earl a few years later, in 1460. Alexander was probably trying to insult the Earl by saying his young son, still a minor, could match the Earl in "power and authority". It just took a while for Hugh to become old enough to fulfill the threat.

It was after the Orkney incident that Hugh "got a son by the daughter of Gunn" in Caithness - this being Donald Gallach (meaning of Caithness). Donald was Hugh's second son. Hugh's first son, John, died without issue, although there is a possibility that all his children were killed in an act of revenge.

Hugh had six sons by six different women. Some from the Harris family also descend from Hugh, through his son Donald of Harris. Hugh also had at least one daughter.

All of Hugh's sons died early deaths during the contest over his title, Chief of Clan Donald of Sleat. However, his line has carried down through Clan Donald to the present day.

The present chief of Clan Donald (Godfrey James Macdonald of Macdonald), and the present chief of Clan Macdonald of Sleat (Sir Ian Godfrey Bosville Macdonald of Sleat) are both descendants of Hugh. The chief of the Macdonalds of Sleat bears the Gaelic patronymic MacÙisdein in reference to Hugh.

Donald Gallach's son, Alexander, took our name of McUisdean to Ireland, in 1565, to fight for his first cousin, Sorley Boy McDonnell, leader of Clan Donald South. Sorley Boy "and others" were the earliest known people to be noted as being "of the Scotch-Irish race," in a manifesto from Queen Elizabeth I, of 1573. It is most likely from Donald Gallach that we all descend.

Hugh's Sleat land was in the hands of the McDonalds of Sleat line until 1971, approximately 522 years. The Clan Donald Center on Skye still stands on Sleat land.

I looked further into the events surrounding 1498 in a book I've had for quite awhile. What I learned is that King James of Scotland had been to the Isles several times in 1494-5 in an attempt to settle down the struggles between various factions of the McDonald family over who should be the actual Lord of the Isles, once John (Hugh's brother) basically quit.

John's own son, Angus, fought against John culminating at the battle of Bloody Bay. John finally just gave up and sought protection under a pension from the king. Angus had a son by a Campbell woman, who he probably never even knew about. This son was kept a prisoner for 40 years, perhaps in a Campbell attempt to have a card up their sleeves to finally take over McDonald land.

So that was it for John's line. He was a pensioner, Angus was dead, and Donald Duhb was a prisoner.

Hugh's other brother, Celestine, had a son, Alexander, who, for awhile claimed the title, but was eventually killed. He also had a son named Donald who stuck his nose in this business to no real avail.

The final brother, the final son of Alexander, Earl of Ross, Lord of the Isles, Justiciar of the Highlands - one of the most powerful men in Scotland - the final brother was of course our Hugh of Sleat, who had been invested in his Dunscaith Castle, Isle of Skye land officially at least since 1469, and possibly earlier.

Hugh was followed by the first of our family, written of as John Makhuchone, John Hughson, John McHuistean, and as Eoin mac huistiuin. This John is said to have died with no progeny. Elsewhere, I have told a story that might explain how all of his children were killed in an act of revenge.

John's half bother Donald Gallach was in the background taking whichever side he believed in, in any battle that came along. When John (Hugh's son) gave up all the lands of Hugh to vassals of the king, Donald Gallach took Dunscaith back by force.

It is almost certain that it is from Donald Gallach McUisdean's line that we descend, that the McUisdeans of Ireland found their beginning, and that the current chiefs are said to descend.

Adding to all the confusion of who was the actual Lord of the Isles, Hugh's great uncle, John Mor, had established the McDonnell of Antrim dynasty, and his descendants, who had control of Kintyre and Islay (the main islands of the Lords of the Isles) also claimed that title.

Then there were the Campbells and other clans working for themselves or for the king who were adding to the confusion.

Alexander, Celestine's son, was killed by the Antrim and Kyntire McDonnell leaders in 1494. They were captured and later hung by the king in 1499.

King James came to the Isles in 1495 and met with, among others, John McUisdean of Sleat. Though James was in his minority, meaning under the age of 25, he made deals with nearly all the island chiefs to renew their deeds to their lands, in an attempt to quell the in-fighting and gain their allegiance.

It was probably then that the aging Hugh of Sleat accepted retirement to Paisley Abbey, perhaps even under a pension, like his brother John was receiving. The legend said the "old chief of Clan Donald" had lived at the abbey for about two years prior to his death in 1498. Since we are sure Hugh's brother, John, did not live at the abbey, did not die there, and did not die until 1503, this legend is most likely referring instead to Hugh of Sleat who did die in 1498 and was chief of the clan (but not Lord of the Isles), after John left the scene.

In 1498, something very significant happened. King James revoked all charters extended in his name during his minority, a move that was legal by Scottish law, and which was an obviously planned bit of trickery. This was the first time Clan Donald realized that their fate lay in the hands of Edinburgh lawyers, not in the centuries old claims to the islands.

The king entrusted the Campbells with carrying out law and order in the Isles and the title of Bishop of the Isles, for the first time ever, was held by an outsider. The seat was quickly moved off Skye to another location, probably because there were a lot of very upset McDonalds roaming around. The new Campbell Bishop could never have held court on Skye without fear of death. The chapel of the Isle was closed down in 1498.

James's revocation happened sometime before March 17, 1498, when he turned 25. The writer of the famous Annals of Ulster died in April of 1498. Hugh died before August 5, 1498, at which time his son John, the first McUisdean, signed over the land.

John McUisdean was most likely under some terrible pressure from within the clan, from neighboring clans working for the King, and from the Campbells. The fortunes of the Isle were apparently gone since both Hugh and his brother, John, seem to be living off the king.

John McUisdean may have decided to just walk away from the whole mess. He didn't last long as continued infighting saw five of Hugh's six sons dead over the next eight years.

The last man standing was the evil instigator, Archibald McUisdean, fourth son of six sons of Hugh, who was killed by his own nephews, one of those being Donald Gallach McUisdean, who then took Dunscaith by force. Donald's son, Alexander Gallach, took our name to Ireland to help the McDonnells of Antrim and Kyntire in their battle against the English and the O'Neills.

The title of Lord of Sleat eventually became an Irish title out of Antrim. However, the Chief of Sleat is still seated in Skye, though he lives in England.

There was so much happening from 1476 until the mid 1500s in battles over the remnants of a fallen kingdom - the Lords of the Isles. At least four men with an officially recorded name similar to McQuiston were in the thick of it. This is documented in many books and records, just not focused on specifically until my research and writings on the subject.

These men were Hugh's first four sons listed in the Black Book of Clanranald, written during the lifetime of Hugh's grandchildren. It would have been written in the lifetime of his sons had they not all been killed early. They are listed there as Eoin mac huistiuin (John), Domhnall gallach mc huisdiuin (Donald Gallach), Domhnall hearach mc huisdiuin (Donald Harris), and Giolla asbuig mc huisdiuin (Archibald, the real bad guy.)

One of Donald Harris's descendants was known as Ian Mac Uisdean, though he didn't play any role in the battle for the title.

John is also listed as John Roy Makhuchone in 1494 the first year King James went to the Isles to settle things down. His father was listed as Austin Roy McDonald in addition to Hugh, Hucheon, and Uisdean. So both men had Roy, the maiden name of Hugh's mother, as their middle name. John was also listed as John MacHuistean in another old book.

Donald was also written of as Donle VhicHuiston in an old record of Caithness, where he was born.

Whatever the case is found to be for an ambiguous DNA match with the current Chief of Sleat, there is no doubt that our name came from Hugh of Sleat as there is no other source found, and all tradition, including Clan Donald tradition says it came from Hugh of Sleat.

John, the first known son of Hugh, or McUisdean, was born just before 1460 as that is when Hugh went to the Orkneys on a raid and got a Gunn girl from Caithness pregnant with Donald Gallach. He already had a baby boy at that point, being John, by his first wife Finvola. Hugh also had at least one daughter, though her name isn't known, yet.

Hugh would have been about 24 when he attacked Orkney, still a minor according to Scottish law, but not too young to father a child. If we assume that his first son John was born at least by 1459, that would make our family name about 551 years old as of 2011. It is, at the very least, 550 years old, since Donald Gallach was born or at least conceived in 1460.

For 550 years the history of our family has lain hidden in hundreds of documents and books. Ed McCuistion alluded to some of our history, history that had been passed down by oral and written tradition through many branches of our family.

Now, after, three trips to Scotland and one to Northern Ireland, after purchasing a few hundred books, copying pages from many more at reference libraries, comparing one story to another, to historical timelines and logical motives and analysis, I have presented my best take on Hugh and our family. Though some facts may change with new discoveries, this posting, and other of my writings represent the most comprehensive view ever taken of Hugh of Sleat and his relationship to the McQuiston family of all spellings and pronunciations.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why New Castle?

My McQuiston line in America began 275 years ago, as of August 6, 2010 at New Castle, Delaware. A large number of family members assembled at the docks of New Castle to celebrate that event. We were graced by one of the best speakers we could have found - the Chief Curator of the Delaware Historical Society – Dr. Constance Cooper. Her fee was extremely modest and one of her greatest contributions to our knowledge of family history was that New Castle was not the cobblestoned Colonial village it looks like today, but in fact it was a muddy riverside town with few buildings or empty land for folks to settle on.

Immigration records for New Castle are virtually non-existent and yet thousands and thousands of Scotch-Irish landed in America at this spot. Most were bound for Philadelphia and there are a handful of reasons why they would jump ship early.

First and foremost, New Castle was reached earlier than Philadelphia. After anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks aboard ship, who wouldn't want to touch land again, especially a new land where your hopes and dreams, and probably a lot of your money was invested, just in travel expenses?

Secondly, not only was the extra distance to Philadelphia a factor, but at Philadelphia immigrants were forced to wait up to two additional weeks onboard ship under quarantine, while doctors examined each and everyone of them. Not so in New Castle.

Third, there was a tax or tariff on personal belongings being brought into America at Philadelphia, but again, not so in New Castle.

Fourth, the land most of the immigrants were bound for was cheap, or perhaps free land along the Susquehanna River, set aside, in 1720, by James Logan, Secretary of Pennsylvania. He set it aside specifically for the "families of the brave defenders of Londonderry." The members of our family who came to these settlements were the grandsons, and probably the sons of fighters at the 1689 Siege of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. This land was much easier and more quickly reached traveling directly west from New Castle, rather than going all the way to Philadelphia and then back to the Susquehanna.

These families were to be settled on the east side of the Susquehanna River to protect Philadelphia from Indian attack. Unfortunately, they were the subject of many Indian attacks themselves, and eventually most of our family moved to North Carolina to safer territory.

Daniel McCuistion is officially recorded as being one of the "brave defenders of Londonderry." John McCuistion, father to the 1735 immigrants, most likely was the son of Daniel and most likely fought at the siege at 15 years of age. Both Daniel and John are recorded as serving under the same commander - Gustavus Hamilton. Our family and the Hamilton family have other close relationships, including intermarriage.

One of those immigrants from 1735 was Robert McCuiston. On the ship with him was Thomas McCuistion, said in most records to be Robert's brother. Thomas Hamilton wrote in Robert's personal notebook that Thomas McCuistion was his uncle. The sister of Robert and Thomas, named Margaret or Margery, married a man named Hamilton, and she may have come over with her brothers. So the connection between the families was substantial.

Below is a modern map of the area we are speaking of.

Letter A on the map shows New Castle along the Delaware River, reached long before Philadelphia at letter B. Robert is our source of proof that he and other family members landed at New Castle on August 6, 1735. His son, James McQuiston, was born near letter C, or Darby Township.

There is the tradition that Robert spent time in New Jersey, letter D, and it is obvious how easy this would have been since it was just across the river. He is also said to have been the first Archmason in Baltimore, which would be located below where this map shows.

There is some record of our family around Rising Sun, letter E, which was an area in contention between Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Mason-Dixon line finally solved this argument.

It is likely Robert had to go up to Philadelphia to file his land claim. He married Ann Denny, whose family was already settled near Little Britain - letter G. So he must have first gone to the area around Little Britain, met Ann, got married and then traveled up to Philadelphia, for whatever reason, where his first son was born.

He moved back to the Little Britain area and also near letter H, at Middle Octorara Church.

Robert wasn't the first of our family in this area. Between letter I and Philadelphia lies Chester County where a David McCuistion was recorded as dying in 1732, three years before Robert arrived. Also, there are records of James McCuistion/McQueston filing for a road to be built in the area around Little Britain, letter G, in August of 1735. I have not been able to find the actual date, but it does seem that James would not have made it all the way to Little Britain, purchased land and filed a legal document within the first few weeks of arriving in America, although it could be possible. He is not mentioned in Robert's notebook, but is listed as Robert's brother in most records.

There is a possibility that James and David were brothers of William McQuesten of Londonderry, New Hampshire, who came to America years earlier than Robert. William is known to have a brother James who moved south and was not heard from again. He also had another brother, whose name is not known, but who could have been David.

One branch of our family from Tennessee had the tradition that there were five immigrant brothers and this would account for all of them - Robert, Thomas, James, David and William. It would also account for the two missing brothers of William, and for who David of 1732 was, and for why James was already a land owner and filing legal claims about the time his brothers were arriving a New Castle.

Regardless of when James arrived in this area, he and his two brothers, Robert and Thomas, lived in and around Little Britain and Middle Octorara. In 1751, Robert moved with his wife's family to the Carlisle, PA, area. Substantial Indian attacks were happening around the original settlements at this time. Two years later, James and Thomas moved to North Carolina for the same reason. They were part of the Nottingham Colony formed at letter F.

These brothers had one more brother who stayed in Ireland, named Benjamin, and another brother Alexander who owned the Rising Sun Inn near London, England. Alexander left his fortune to the family, which appears to have been into the millions if converted to modern day dollars. James Denny, a cousin to Robert's wife, signed Alexander's will. 

Benjamin had a daughter named Jean who married Thomas Moody. Thomas Moody is known to have fought at a ripe old age at a Revolutionary War  battle in North Carolina where James and Thomas had moved. If Jean came with him to America, she would be another very early McCuistion in this country. James Denny also moved to this NC community that is now Greensboro.

There are very logical and/or historical reasons why our family and thousands of others took the same path from Northern Ireland to New Castle, many working their way on to North Carolina. Others settled in Virginia. Families from both states ended up in Tennessee and from there up to Kentucky and down to the deeper south.

There are literally thousands of families that followed this same path. For our name to stand out in so many significant ways is pretty amazing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

London and McQuesten

One of the more interesting tales of our family is of how Jack London received many of his ideas and background for his stories of the Northland from Captain Jack McQuesten. We know beyond any doubt that London knew McQuesten as he says so himself. He says where and when they met and he speaks in considerable detail about Captain Jack.

In addition, our name (spelled McQuestion) is mentioned in at least four books, four short stories, and an essay - all written by Jack London. I have a book of his writings and the first two stories are Batard and Call of the Wild, because these are considered his best. McQuestion is mentioned in both of these tales. In Batard, the little town of McQuestion is mentioned, in particular the surgeon at McQuestion. It is interesting to note that some of the best photos we have of Jack McQuesten were taken by a doctor who lived at Jack's town of Forty Mile. I have his complete diary but am not allowed to quote out of it yet. I can use it for reference, but it is in litigation over some of the language used.

In Call of the Wild, McQuestion River is mentioned. From that point on in the book, Buck, the canine hero returns to his wild heritage. It is no wonder. I have been to the McQuesten River and it is remote. It is about a three and a half hour drive from either Dawson (which is very remote in itself), or Whitehorse, nearly as remote. There is an airstrip, basically a clear spot in a field, called McQuesten Airport for bush pilots to land on. At the little "town" called McQuesten there are just a few buildings. One is a very large and nice log cabin lodge called McQuesten Lodge. The owner is of Eastern European descent, with no real connection to Jack or the Yukon, but he built this lodge with the idea of it becoming a shrine, as it were, to Jack McQuesten. The government put so many restrictions on him that he had to slow down to a crawl. Still outbackers and canoeist use it to crash in.

Anyway, back to London and McQuesten. In addition to London's writings about McQuesten, the descendants of Captain Jack say that London was at the McQuesten Mansion in Berkeley quite often. London lived only 10 miles from McQuesten, and attended college only a mile and a half away while attempting to get a writing degree. He finally gave up on the degree BUT he is the first person to become a millionaire from his writing. This happened while he was visiting Captain Jack. In fact, he never published a single Yukon story until AFTER he and Jack McQuesten moved near each other in California.

And, from the very beginning Jack London started including the McQuestion/McQuesten name in his stories. In fact, in Burning Daylight he refers to "those elder giants, Al Mayo and Jack McQuestion."

Over the weekend I found even more "proof." In Call of the Wild London tells how Buck kills a black bear that was fishing in a river and was stung so badly in the eyes by mosquitoes that he couldn't see and was in a rage. Well, this very tale was called "McQuesten's famous yarn" by Lieutenant Fred Schwatka, the first man ever to transverse the entire Yukon River. In this case however, the bear was killed by a man, not a large white dog named Buck. George Snow, the first historian of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, who knew Jack McQuesten personally, elaborates on the story, telling us it was Jack's partners, Joe LaDue and Mickey O'Brien, who came upon the bear and shot it to put it out of its misery.

Here is a case where London used an exact episode as told by Jack McQuesten, only changing the bear killer from one of Jack's partners to the dog hero, Buck. If I had time, I could probably sift through all of London's writings and find other stories lifted from McQuesten's life.

There are two short stories that are said to be based on his life - The Wife of a King, where he refers to the main character as the King of Circle City, which McQuesten essentially was in real life - and - The Story of Jees Uck, which Dick North, curator of the Jack London Interpretive Center, and visitor to the McQuesten Mansion when Jack's children were still alive, says is also based on Captain Jack's life. One of the characters in this story is Spike O'Brien, and Jack's partner was Mickey O'Brien.

Son of the Wolf is the first book Jack London ever had published, and it has our name in it. A Daughter of the Snows is another London story with our name in it, as is Smoke Bellew.

There are at least nine separate stories that London wrote that I have found containing our name. There may be more since he was such a prolific writer. He expressed his admiration for Jack McQuestion in this way -

"Jack McQuestion aptly vindicates the grip of the North. After a residence of thirty years he insists that the climate is delightful, and declares that whenever he makes a trip to the States he is afflicted with homesickness. Needless to say, the North still has him and will keep tight hold of him until he dies. In fact, for him to die elsewhere would be inartistic and insincere. Of three of the "pioneer"pioneers, Jack McQuestion alone survives. In 1871, from one to seven years before Holt went over Chilcoot, in the company of Al Mayo and Arthur Harper, McQuestion came into the Yukon from the Northwest over the Hudson Bay Company route from the Mackenzie to Fort Yukon. The names of these three men, as their lives, are bound up in the history of the country, and so long as there be histories and charts, that long will the Mayo and McQuestion rivers and the Harper and Ladue town site of Dawson be remembered. As an agent of the Alaska Commercial Company, in 1873, McQuestion built Fort Reliance, six miles below the Klondike River. In 1898 the writer met Jack McQuestion at Minook, on the Lower Yukon. The old pioneer, though grizzled, was hale and hearty, and as optimistic as when he first journeyed into the land along the path of the Circle. And no man more beloved is there in all the North. There will be great sadness there when his soul goes questing on over the Last Divide, — "farther north," perhaps, — who can tell?"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Andrew Jackson and the McQuiston family

I have my theories about the family and quite often they are otherwise proven to be true. In the case of Andrew Jackson, I sent all my proof to Professor Rik Booream, then of Rutgers University, and he said there is nothing in our tradition that contradicts any known history of Andrew Jackson. That's a good beginning since he wrote Young Hickory, the most comprehensive book on the youth of Jackson.

Jackson's older brothers were Hugh and Robert, in that order. According to the standard Scotch-Irish naming convention, the first son was named after the paternal grandfather, which in this case was true, because Andy, himself, wrote that his grandfather was named Hugh Jackson. The second son is named after the maternal grandfather. While other names have been floated, this naming convention would indicate that Elizabeth Hutchinson's father was named Robert. We know he was the son of John Hutchinson, signer of the treasure will of Alexander McCuistion. It is most probable, though I am the only one pointing this out, that John's son was named Robert.

This "Robert" Hutchinson married Jean Moody, sister to Ann Moody. Jean, Ann, and one other sister received shares of Alexander McCuistion's treasure. Ann Moody went on to marry her first cousin, once removed, Thomas McCuistion, son of James who was a brother of Alexander. Another brother was Benjamin McCuiston of County Derry, N.I. and it was from him that Ann Moody descended.

It was Benjamin's daughter, Jean McCuiston, who married Thomas Moody. Their daughters included Ann and Jean, plus three others. Thomas Moody came to America and fought at 70 years old, or older, at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. This is proven by a request made for him by the American commander Nathanael Greene for a military pension.

If Moody's wife Jean McCuiston were still alive and with him when he came to America, she would be another of the earliest McCuistons in America, one we have seldom if ever even spoken of.

The treasure was also left to the "children of" another Ann McCuiston, a sister to Alexander, Benjamin, James and Robert (my McCuiston ancestor.) This Ann married Hugh Fleming and the words "children of" indicates at least two children. This would mean the treasure would have had to have consisted of at least 5 parts. Ann Moody's share appears to have been worth about $25,000 based on the worth of gold at the time x the 80 pounds Jackson is said to have estimated the barrel of gold to weigh - and also based on the 10,000 acres of Texas land that Ann's son, another Robert, purchased with it, at the going rate of $2.50 per acre.

This would put the total treasure of Alexander McCuistion at about $125,000 in money of the day, or millions of current dollars depending on which standard you use for the worth of today's money.

D.J. McCartney, in his book on the Jacksons of Ulster, written in conjunction with the Andrew Jackson Centre of Carrickfergus, N.I., says there is absolutely no proof that Jackson ever received any inheritance from anyone named Jackson in Ireland. Prof. Rik Booream says that Jackson most likely received his famous inheritance from his mother. If so, this would have been McCuistion treasure. Even the curator of the Hermitage, Jackson's old home and now a museum, told me she had heard scholars recently speaking of the money having come from Elizabeth Hutchinson's side of the family, not the Jackson side. These three people are substantial historians in the area of Andrew Jackson and all three indicate that the treasure must have been from the Hutchinson side of the family - the McCuiston side, that is.

On the approach of Cornwallis to the Waxhaws, Jackson's mother buried her gold under the floor of their house, just before going to Charlestown, where she died. She told Jackson about it. Later, on the approach of Cornwallis to Guilford County, Jackson went to the home of his great Aunt Ann Moody McCustion to tell her to hide her gold as well.

Jackson, in his own words, says he was above Charlotte on the approach of Cornwallis, and did not leave North Carolina until after Cornwallis did, which would obviously be after the Guilford battle.  Jackson's "ideal officer" Davies (the first person to give Jackson a pistol) was Commissary General at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, meaning Jackson should have been there if just doing his duty to his commander. Jackson was a messenger and thus would have had the opportunity to stop at Ann Moody's house with the message that Cornwallis was coming. He may have been one of the very first to know this fact.

The neighbor on one side of the McCuitions was the McNairy family and Jackson became best friends for life with John McNairy of that family. The McNairy's shared Old Gibson Cemetery with the McCuistions.

On the other side of the McCuistons lived David and Rachel Caldwell. Jackson attended Caldwell's school and passed "through the yard of his old relatives" according to North Carolina historian Eli Caruthers, who followed Caldwell as minister at the Buffalo and Alamance churches. Rachel Caldwell was the sister of Elizabeth Hutchinson's best friend. Ann Moody's husband, Thomas McCuistion, was on the run with David Caldwell shortly before the battle, both with prices on their heads placed by the British.

The Caldwell and McNairy families also have the tradition of Jackson being at their home. There can be little if any doubt that Jackson was at all three homes, the McNairys, Caldwells and McCuistions.

After his mother's death Andy recovered his buried inheritance and went to Charlestown looking for his mother's grave. Afterwards, he moved to the area where the McCuiston home was located and worked at a store owned by his friends Henderson and Searcy. There was a Henderson and McCuiston wedding, and also, Ann Moody McCuistion filed a document in the Guilford County Courthouse stating that she was the wife of Thomas McCuistion and the granddaughter of Benjamin McCuistion. Signed on that document are the names of Searcy and McNairy.

In Cornwallis's own war log he mentions taking over the McCuistion home as his headquarters. This is also mentioned in several records of the Guilford battle.

With all the evidence that Jackson was in the area and familiar with the McCuistion home, and the proof positive that Cornwallis was at the McCuistion home, it would be nearly insane to believe that Ann Moody would "make up" the part about Jackson being there earlier that morning to help her hide the gold. With dozens and dozens of friends and neighbors still living, she would be made a laughing stock for telling such a tall tale, especially since she already had a great story to tell of Cornwallis taking over her home - a proven story.

General Greene approached and left the Guilford battlefield by way of McCuiston Bridge, which crossed the Reedy Fork Creek, and then on up McCuiston road. Andrew Jackson later became caretaker of "the road that leads from the Reedy Fork bridge to the Widow Flack's property." The Widow Flack was Jane McCuiston, daughter of James, sister to Thomas, and sister-in-law to Ann Moody.

The evidence abounds of the connection of Andrew Jackson to the McCuiston family and there is not one single shred of evidence to the contrary. To disbelieve this family tradition would take the most harden of skeptics.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nicholson McQuiston and the Kiski Canal

The former Pennsylvania Main Line Canal connected Philadelphia with Pittsburgh with three canals, a railroad, and the Allegheny Portage Railway, a combination rail road and inclined plane. The Western Division ran from Johnstown down the Conemaugh, Kiskiminetas, and Allegheny Rivers to Pittsburgh. Many traces of the canal can still be found along the trail.

Constructed between 1826 and 1834, the state-owned Main Line of Public Works was the first transportation system to directly link Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the early days, passengers changed back and forth from railroad cars to packet boats. The introduction of sectional packet boats by 1840 made it possible to stay aboard the same accommodations for the entire trip, which took about three and a half days.

The Kiskiminetas River (called the Kiski for short) is a tributary of the Alleghney River, approximately 27 miles (43 km) long, and located in Western Pennsylvania. My sister Sherry McQuiston happens to live nearby. I live on the Upper Allegheny.

The Kiskiminetas Canal was operated by Nicholson McQuiston. Nicholson was most likely related to the Scrubgrass branch (my branch) as a history of Scrubgrass states - "From a comparison of the best evidence it appears that the first settlement of Scrubgrass resulted from the explorations of James Scott, formerly a resident of Westmoreland county. Indian depredations having become frequent in the settlements of the Kiskiminetas, he was sent by the State authorities in company with another scout to ascertain whether the perpetrators were from Cornplanter's people or from the tribes in Ohio. As nearly as can be determined it was in 1793 or 1794 that they were sent on this mission, and nearly a year was occupied in their investigations. On his return to Westmoreland Scott gave his neighbors such a favorable account of the Scrubgrass region that when he removed here ten or twelve of them accompanied him, thus inaugurating the emigration from Westmoreland county which contributed so large an element to the population of the southern townships of Venango county."

Nicholson would possibly have been from a McQuiston branch that stayed behind in Westmoreland County. John and Alexander McQuiston traveled to Scrubgrass in 1802 by paddling up the Allegheny River. They patented their land in 1803. Though I have little to go on for Nicholson, his daughter was married in 1889. Assuming she was about 20, Nicholson was probably about 40-50 years old in 1889 though he may have been older based on the time the canal was in existence – from about 1825-1857.

The canal ceased operation in the 1850s. The State of Pennsylvania sold the entire canal/railroad system in 1857 and received $7.5 million dollars for the $10 million dollar project that brought many Irishmen to America as canal diggers and railroad builders. The buyer only ran the canal for another three months before closing it. In 1866, a flood washed the control dam of the Kiski Canal out.

Today, next to the river is the Roaring Run Trail. It follows the road that was used for a canal towpath from about 1825 to 1850. This site next became the corridor for a railway that carried coal from the Leechburg coal mining station. Pennsylvania Railroad donated the abandoned right-of-way, and the trail opened in 1991.

Once again a McQuiston is found playing an integral role in expanding the frontier of America.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

FDR and Andy

President Andrew Jackson was a blood relative of the McQuiston family and spent many days in his early youth at one of their homes. He figures strongly in the family treasure story where $25,000 in Colonial gold was hidden from Cornwallis, with Jackson's help, and later given to Sam Houston to pay off Texas war debts. Seems Andy Jackson had another famous fan.

 President Franklin Roosevelt found himself in a position fighting the forces of aristocratic money against the common man. His righthand man and speech writer, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, also the Chief Prosecutor at the Nazis war tribunal, actually wrote up a list he called the "Sixty Families." These were the richest U.S. families, including many from the banking industry, that held such a stranglehold on America that it was slipping into the Great Depression.

Robert Jackson, no known relation to Andrew Jackson, was no slouch, having served as Attorney General before his post at the Supreme Court and Nuremberg. He is the only man in history to serve as U.S. Solicitor General, Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice. He also met with the Pope many times in trying to figure out how to rebuild Europe and how to deal with the Nazis during and after the war. He is generally considered the greatest jurist to ever live and wrote many opinions still referred to, today. Point is, he knew what he was talking about.

FDR was no slouch either. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy and, later, Acting Secretary of the Navy. In addition to seeing action himself, he was charged with the Navy's "demobilization" after WWI. He was ordered to dismantle the entire U.S. Navy! He fought, almost single-handidly to prevent this from happening and he formed the United States Navy Reserve. He was a Senator and also Governor of New York State and the only president ever elected to office for four consecutive terms.

FDR wrote a letter in which he states, "The real truth of the matter is, as you know, that a financial element has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson. The country is going through a repetition of Jackson's fight with the Bank of the United States – only on a far bigger and broader basis."

Later, FDR writes, "The trip through the Tennessee Valley was a great success – especially the visit to the Hermitage. The more I learn about old Andy Jackson, the more I love him."

Me too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some news on Captain Jack McQuesten

I am helping recreate a banner once carried by the Yukon Order of Pioneers that will hopefully be carried again at a big celebration in Dawson, this coming August.

I will be recreating the art, and a restoration expert will be recreating the actual banner. The banner was burned in the 1960s and we only had two black and white photos to go by. Luckily, someone found a color photo, shown below, and in looking at it closely, there appears to a man in the center at the top. My guess is that this is Jack McQuesten, since he founded the organization, and was such an incredible influence in the Yukon area.

Ed Jones is going to see if anyone's around that might remember. Regardless, if we do not put Jack's picture there, we will put a generic picture, which anyone is welcomed to assume is Jack. Here's the new photo -

Also, attached is a photo of Jack's store that still stands at Forty Mile. This would have been the actual physical birthplace of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. It is also the most likeliest location of the Mitchell, Alaska Post Office, even though it was located inside Canada. Postmarks from Mitchell are one of the highest prized postal collector items, because of the mystery surrounding its location. Here's the store photo -

I tried to get the Smithsonian to accept an article on Jack as Father of Alaska. They said it was too narrow of an audience, and I'm thinking "Ice Road Truckers," "Alaska Gold Rush," "Alaska State Troopers," "Sarah Palin's Alaska," the new Alaska bush pilot show, the long-time reality show "Greatest Catch," and a gadzillion other shows on survival in Alaska, touring Alaska, working in Alaska - who's not paying attention to TV lately at the Smithsonian? 

In addition to the Alaska connection, Jack also provided over 200 specimens to the Smithsonian, and recorded the first weather reports of the Upper Yukon - about 840 separate temperature readings and several hundred daily observations, all for the Smithsonian. 

I might try an "end run" on this. Had a little luck with that technique in the past.

Jack helped with the first Alaska census, grubstaked just about everyone up there, was called Father of Alaska, Father of the Yukon, Indian Papa, Yukon Jack and he should have also had the nickname "Father of the Klondike" since he sent Cormack (the guy who found the first Klondike gold) there and grubstaked him. Jack first recorded the Klondike River's Indian name, Thronduik,  in writing, three times before anyone else did. He established his first post just six miles away. He sent Joe Ladue to establish Dawson and Jack built the first Alaska Commercial Company store there. No other early pioneer had a greater connection to the Klondike/Dawson area than Jack McQuesten.

I met a very, very successful current Klondike miner (a few million a year!) who told me - "Dawson wouldn't be half the town it is without Jack McQuesten. I feel just as indebted to him as every old miner he ever grubstaked. Jack's bronze plaque faces out to the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers – and rightfully so. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Photo to accompany the previous story.

Note similarity in long face, tight lips, high forehead, jowls on cheeks - also both men were tall and slim, had wide-set ears, both were lawyers first before serving in the White House, both were great orators and writers, both had stern, almost depressed or fatalistic outlooks on life.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

There is strong evidence that President Andrew Jackson had McUisdean blood in him, which is covered elsewhere in my writings and will be expanded on in the near future.

Meanwhile, I just watched a special on the War of 1812 and of course Jackson played a prominent role in that war. Even though a treaty was already in the works, 10,000 British soldiers and sailors were still planning an attack on New Orleans. Though Jackson's men were way outnumbered they succeeded in one of the most lopsided victories in American wars. The battle is widely regarded as the greatest land victory of the 1812 war, and while Jackson lost only 24 men, the British suffered about 300 killed, 1500 wounded and about 500 missing in action.

The thing is these British soldiers and sailors were some of the best England had to offer, having just come from defeating Napoleon and being very battle-hardened. Their defeat by a group of common folks made up of every color and creed and social class you can imagine gave this country the confidence that we could stand on our own as a world power. Jackson became the most popular man in America.

Later, in 1818, he was charged with taking on the Seminole Indian Wars near Florida. Although the previous commander of the campaign had specifically been told not to take the two Spanish towns in Florida, Jackson was only told to do what he had to, to solve the problem. This came directly from President James Monroe, through Jackson's later VP, John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War.

As Jackson chased the Seminole into Florida he realized that it was they who ran the Spanish towns, not the few Spanish authorities there – authorities who were allowing the Indians to use these towns as bases to reorganize and recoup from battle. So Jackson simply took these towns as part of the campaign.

Well, this caused a near all out war with Spain and Monroe had to deal with them and with political enemies calling for his scalp, or at least that of Jackson. A cabinet meeting was held and, when asked his opinion, Calhoun said maybe they should call Jackson in to have him testify as to why he took the towns. Calhoun was not, at the time, anti-Jackson. He just thought this would be proper procedure.

Monroe declined and the vote was to let the situation cool down. Later, a letter came to light from one of Calhoun's political enemies named Crawford. This was at the time that Jackson was President and Calhoun was Vice-President. The letter said that Calhoun had called for Jackson's arrest at that 1818 cabinet meeting, and a copy was made available to Jackson.

Jackson wrote Calhoun a letter asking if this was true. Calhoun took offense that someone he had supported so long would doubt him. Unfortunately, he bagged on forever in the letter trying to prove his innocence. Jackson wrote back that whatever problems he had with his political enemy was between Calhoun and Crawford. But he added he was shocked to learn that Calhoun had even suggested that he testify. A few letters exchanged hands getting uglier every time.

Monroe finally stepped in to suggest that Jackson submit a letter to the War Department outlining why he mistook his instruction for the Seminole War, and Calhoun would submit a letter explaining what Monroe had really meant by his directive, and it would all smooth over.

Well Jackson wrote Monroe saying he would never send such a letter because as he saw it he had every right to do what he did according to the directive Monroe had given him and he would admit to nothing except serving his country.

The letters continued to fly between Jackson, Calhoun and Monroe. Especially those between Jackson and Calhoun got more ridiculous and childish as they went along. Finally, Jackson wrote that the country would be shocked to know that its two top leaders were acting in such a childish way, and he wanted no further letters from Calhoun.

The letter writing was aggravated by Calhoun's stand for State's Rights and Jackson's strong belief in keeping the Union together. Jackson had written much on this that was later used by Abraham Lincoln. In addition, Calhoun's wife and her clique were shunning the wife of one of Jackson's good friends in Washington. His own wife having died from a broken heart because of all the slander thrown at her during Jackson's election campaign, Jackson took personal offense to Mrs. Calhoun's actions.

Bottom line was Calhoun resigned after one term as VP and ran for South Carolina senator. Jackson said, as he left office four years later, that his one regret was that he didn't hang John C. Calhoun. The two had become bitter enemies for the rest of their lives.

As a footnote: There is considerable evidence that John C. Calhoun is the actual father of Abraham Lincoln. This has been discussed at length for over a hundred years. Calhoun, as a young lawyer, used to stop at a tavern run by the father of Nancy Hanks. It is speculated that he got her pregnant and paid a passing pig delivery man named Lincoln to take her away. In the Abbeyville, SC, Courthouse is a document filed where Calhoun promises to pay Hicks so much a year for child support.

Helping substantiate this story is that Lincoln told his law partner and biographer that he was adopted. When that biography came out it was pulled from the shelves and another was printed leaving out the part about the adoption. However, several copies remained in public hands.

As Lincoln was just beginning to make his way in life, one of his mentors was another man named John Calhoun. He made his debut in Springfield, Illinois, which just so happens to have first been named Calhoun after John C. Calhoun. There are other bits of info including eye witnesses that heard or told this tale at or around that time.

As life would have it, Lincoln followed Jackson's lead in keeping the Union together, totally rejecting Calhoun's philosophy, perhaps because he had been rejected by Calhoun as his son.

A quick super imposing of Calhoun's and Jackson's portraits will show the similarities between the men - long face, high forehead, protruding ears, etc. The jury is still out on this controversy, but it just so happens that my wife was related to Calhoun and in their Mormon family history there is at least one other Calhoun and Hanks intermarriage in the Abbeyville area, making the John C. Calhoun and Nancy Hanks story very easily possible.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Road to Guilford Courthouse

Anyone familiar with the McQuiston family history knows how involved we were with the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which took place on the very Ides of March – March 15, 1781, near what is now Greensboro, NC. This date was also the 14th birthday of Andrew Jackson, a McQuiston relative and future U.S. President.

In a nutshell, Lord Cornwallis, the leader of the British troops, took over the homestead of Thomas and Ann McCuistion on March 12th and 13th as his headquarters. This home was right on the edge of the soon-to-be battlefield. However, Cornwallis left on the 13th, heading southwest. As he rode away Nathanael Greene, the American commander, began approaching the Courthouse area to make his stand.

On the late morning of the 15th, Cornwallis returned to the area around the McCuistion home and met two lines of militia and a final line of regulars strung out between his troops and the courthouse. As the battle commenced, the first line of militia fired one to three shots then fell back and regrouped, or hid in the nearby forest as snipers. Then the second line followed the same pattern. Finally the regulars became involved until Greene decided to retreat down McCuiston Road and across McCuiston Bridge.

Cornwallis logged his stay at the McCuistion homestead in his war log diary. The retreat of Greene down McCuiston Road and Bridge was recorded by Cornwallis's war artist.

The names were spelled a variety of ways as is the case with our family. It was in fact a McCuistion home that Cornwallis used as headquarters and the McCuiston Road and Bridge that Greene retreated over, based on the family that lived near the bridge. Both commanders of perhaps the most significant battle of the Revolution are connected to our family name through this story.

However, since nothing happens in a vacuum, here is the bigger story.

In November of 1743, the home church of the McQuiston family, in Middle Octorara, PA, held a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Scottish covenants, along with the congregations from other nearby Presbyterian churches, which ended in raised swords and a declaration of independence against King George. A generation later, these same families played a major role in making that independence possible.

In 1771, Thomas McCuistion, of Guilford County, NC, served as a Regulator in what some have called the real first battle of the Revolution, the Battle of Alamance.

James and Anthony McQuiston of Westmoreland County, PA (near Pittsburgh) signed the Westmoreland Resolves, or basically the areas own declaration of independence, which was written in 1775.

War broke out across the 13 colonies. In New England, the McQuesten families joined the Colonials in many battles, while McQuesten women melted down their own pewter to make rifle slugs.

In Pennsylvania, James McQuiston became a "spy on the western frontier" while Anthony became a Navy bombardier on the Delaware River.

As Cornwallis invaded the south beginning in late 1788 at Savannah, the South Carolina McQuistons became suppliers to the Colonial troops, there. They also, no doubt, fought as militiamen, as Cornwallis made his way up through South Carolina.

His bloody sidekick, Banastre Tarleton, massacred many militia men at the Waxhaws, even though they had thrown down their weapons and surrendered. This became known as "Tarleton's Quarter" meaning no quarter given to prisoners. This would be used against the British through the rest of the campaign, and militia would charge the British crying "Tarleton's Quarter!"

One person to witness the Waxhaw massacre was young Andrew Jackson. He, his mother and his last surviving brother fled to Guilford County, where they mingled with their relatives, the McCuistions and McCuistons. It is said that Andy rode to the McCuiston home on the morning of the the 12th to tell of Cornwallis's approach. He helped Ann Moody McCuistion hide the family treasure – a barrel full of gold worth an estimated $25,000 in money of that time.

Andy was a messenger for General Davies, his "ideal officer" and the man who gave him his first pistol. Davies was Commissary General for Nathanael Greene at the courthouse battle and so this places Jackson in that area on that day. He says himself, he was above Charlotte as Cornwallis approached, and that he did not leave North Carolina until after Cornwallis, which would be after the Guilford Courthouse battle.

Last month (December 2010) I visited the two battlefields leading up to the courthouse battle. Having already been to the Guildford site twice, I thought it would be interesting to see these other sites.

The Colonials had taken a beating at Savannah, at Charleston, and most recently at Camden. It looked like Cornwallis would sweep North Carolina as he had South Carolina and Georgia. He sent a Scotsman named Ferguson to protect one of his flanks, commanding mostly local royalist militia. Tarleton covered the other flank.

At a small town called Cowpens, Tarleton was soundly defeated mostly by local militia. Below is a photo I took of a display at the Cowpens Battlefield showing weapons used on that day by both sides.

The militia had a distinct advantage in that they were using the Pennsylvania or Kentucky type rifle that shot accurately at great distances, while most of the British led troops used the short-range, mostly inaccurate musket. Also, the same war plan later used at Guilford, was put into place, where two lines of militia fired first and then the regulars engaged the enemy. This technique relied 100% on local militiamen and so their worth to the war effort is without contest.

From the Cowpens battlefield I traveled north to just a mile or so over the North Carolina border to the Kings Mountain battlefield. Here is where Andy's brother Hugh died. Also fighting against the British that day was John Crockett, father of Davy Crockett. Andy was only 13 and was charged with watching the horses at the foot of the mountain. Militia from all over nearby states had converged on Ferguson's troops and chased them to the top of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780. With the coming defeat of Tarleton at Cowpens on January 17, 1781, Cornwallis was left with no one on either flank.

Below is a photo of a display just below the mountain peak, and another showing the final climb, where the final battle took place. Though there wasn't a path, I climbed the final ascent to the top, imagining what it would have been like that day, crying out "Tarleton's Quarter," and winning freedom for the colonies.

Cowpens and Kings Mountain had taken out both of Cornwallis's flanks. He charged on north to meet Greene at Guilford Courthouse, where one quarter of his best troops were taken out of action. Though Greene retreated, he truly won the day, and Cornwallis fought no other major battle until his surrender at Yorktown. Though records are sketchy, most evidence points to our family being at the 1743 declaration, at many battles from New England to the Carolinas, as spies and suppliers for the Colonials, and taking part in these last three major defeats of the British - Cowpens, Kings Mountain, and Guilford Courthouse.

Even at Yorktown, Ebenezer Denny, nephew of Ann Denny McCuiston, wrote the most often recorded description of the surrender of Cornwallis. 

We can be so very proud of the role we all played, all spellings, from New England, to Pennsylvania, to the Carolinas, in winning freedom for America.