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


  1. This is an interesting blog. Thanks! I have interest in the McQuistons from Guilford County. One Joseph and Rachael McQuiston moved from Guilford to Jefferson County, TN where they helped raise my great great grandfather. I'm still trying to find the connection between this family and my gggrandfather Jacob Oakes from Jefferson Co. TN. Do you have any information linking McQuiston's and Oakes?

  2. Dear James,
    My Great Grandfather was Ralph Hamelton McQuiston; my Grandfather was James E McQuiston; my Father is James Lee McQuiston, and my name is Michael James McQuiston. I would love to talk with you sometime! My Father and I both live in Central Texas (I am in Temple and my Father is in Austin) I have two boys named Ashton Luke McQuiston and Vaughn Edward McQuiston, ages 9 and 5.
    You can contact me at
    Michael James McQuiston