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.