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.