|HISTORY OF THE "SCOTCH SETTLEMENT"
JEFFERSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
|Jefferson County researcher, Andy Miller, shared the first two documents with me, as he
has with so many others. I am very grateful for his generosity. They are a treasure, a
window into the lives of our ancestors - who they were and how they lived - in antebellum
Mississippi. The author of the first sketch is Rev. C. W. Grafton, long-time minister of
Union Presbyterian Church; it was written in 1906. It's followed by notes from Anabel
Power, a descendant of one of the Scottish settlers. The second article was written by
Mary Barker, in about 1950, and presented to the Natchez Historical Society. The third
piece was shared with me by a Robeson County, NC researcher.. It resembles, in most
respects, the first two articles, however, it provides another possible migration route from
NC to Union Church and so I include that portion of it her. In all of the sketches, I've
been faithful to the original words. Any explanatory notes added by me are italicized in
brackets. Nancy Brister
From the publications of the Mississippi Historical
Society, 1906, Edited by Franklin L. Riley, Secretary:
This is the name given to a large section of country in the eastern end of Jefferson County, Mississippi. It
extends about twenty miles from west to east, running over into the present county of Lincoln for several miles.
It's average width is perhaps ten miles from north to south. It embraces the two Presbyterian churches of
Ebenezer and Union and at a later date, two Methodist churches, Nebo and Galatia. It has figured in civil and
church councils for nearly one hundred years.
In 1805, just after the Louisiana Purchase, four men with their families came from North Carolina to Tennessee
and remained there for one year. Thence by way of the Mississippi River they came to Bruinsburg, in Claiborne
County. So far as can be found out these were the first settlers in the section known as the Scotch Settlement.
These four persons were George Torrey, his son Dougald Torrey, Laughlin Currie and Robert Willis. They made
two crops in Claiborne County and in 1806 settled in Jefferson County, near the present site of Ebenezer Church.
They were soon followed by the Galbreaths, Gilchrists and Camerons. A few years later all the country around
Union Church, which is twelve miles east of Ebenezer, was filled with Scotch settlers who came mainly from North
Carolina. Some of them is it said, spoke the Gaelic language and to this day there is extant in one of our homes,
a book of the Psalms and Westminister Shorter Catechism in that old dialect. These Scotch people were nearly all
Presbyterians and the history of the settlement is mainly a history of the two Presbyterian churches that were
organized at the very beginning of the period. These two churches were Ebenezer and Union Church. Thirty
years ago Ebenezer Church and the building were sold to our Methodist brethren. This was caused by the constant
removals from the neighborhood to cities and town. The records of the old church are not accessible to the writer
and therefore details must be omitted from this sketch.
The church [Ebenezer] was organized by Rev. Jacob Rickhow. During all its palm days its pastor was the Rev.
William Montgomery. It was a church of great wealth and influence. One of its members stated not long ago that
in the days of its prosperity it represented property worth millions of dollars. This is not difficult to believe when
we recall the names of some of its prominent families. There were the Darden families, including Jessie Darden,
Buckner Darden, Samuel Darden and George Darden. There were two or three families each of Camerons,
Curries, Montgomerys and Torreys. There were the families of Malcolm Gilchrist, Duncan McArn, J. J. Warren
and quite a number of others. Now, when we remember that the soil was in its virgin state, that these men owned
a great many slaves and that they were very valuable, we readily credit the statement concerning the wealth of
this part of the Scotch settlement. This section of the county furnished its full share of representatives in the
state and county government. George Torrey was for a long time sheriff of the county. His son, W. D. Torrey and
M. M. Currie were at different times members of the state senate, while Daniel H. Cameron represented his
county in the lower house of the legislature.
The people of Ebenezer were refined and cultivated and to them the Civil War with its result was exceedingly
disastrous. When their slave property was lost their lands became useless. Their splendid carriages, wagons and
teams rapidly disappeared. The price of cotton was not renumerative, the old men gradually died and the young
men left the farms, so that the glory of this part of the Scotch Settlement is mainly in the past. Some of the old
houses remain and there are good citizens in the community, but the Scotch element has almost passed away.
Union Church was organized in 1817 by Rev. Joseph Bullen before the state was admitted into the Union. The
earliest settlers came in 1808 and 1810. They were mainly from North Carolina. The pioneer missionaries sent
out to the Synod of the Carolinas began preaching here in 1811. After several years Rev. Joseph Bullen gathered
the Presbyterian families that had collected from different parts of the country and organized them into a church
which has ever since been known as Union Church. In process of time a post office was established and a village
grew up which took the name of Union Church and which at one time was incorporated with its mayor and other
offices. In 1880 the Union Church High School was organized under a liberal charter and has been maintained
with more less success for more than twenty years.
The people in the early days were noted for the simplicity of their manners. They were not wealthy as were their
neighbors at Ebenezer. They were plain, unpretentious, honest people. Father Montgomery, who preached so long
at Ebenezer, was likewise the pastor of Union Church. He served in this position from 1820 to 1848 and was a
most faithful minister. In a marked manner he was punctual in his appointments for this long period of
twenty-eight years. Owing to the sickness and death of his daughter he missed one Sabbath during this period.
He was an earnest self-denying man. On one occasion he refused a large salary offered by the people of Pine
Ridge, preferring to give his life to the Scotch people at Union Church. He died in 1848, but his name lives in the
memory of our oldest people who speak of him with the deepest veneration.
At a later period in the history of the church, his son, the Rev. Sam Montgomery, filled the pulpit for seven or
eight years. He was a man of great talent, with unusual power as a public speaker. The stories told of his
eloquence are remarkable. Thirty years ago the writer saw him in the pulpit, and though he was infirm in body
and in declining years, no one could have helped being thrilled by the fascination of his address during this period.
In 1883, Rev. J. J. Wheat, Professor of Greek in the State University, asked the writer, who was on a visit to
Oxford, what had become of Sam Montgomery. The answer was, "The old man is living about among his friends."
Said he, "I once heard Sam Montgomery preach, and for power and impressiveness and command over an
audience, I have never seen him surpassed," or words to that effect. Father Montgomery lies buried in the
neighborhood of Ebenezer. His son went to the Yazoo Delta in 1884 and died soon after in the home of his
Union Church was supplied several years ago by Rev. Angus McCallum, next by Rev. John Smiley, next by Rev.
Thomas H. Cleland. These three served the church for just a few years each. Father McCallum bought a piece of
land near the village of Union Church and opened up a good, productive farm. He was a man of fine judgement,
and an excellent manager and was very thrifty in the conduct of his business. He had a most excellent wife and
they reared a family of ten sons and daughters, five of whom are living today. This venerable brother died in 1885
and with his good wife lies in the graveyard at Union Church. [I have heard it said that Rev. McCallum first served as
the pastor of the Union Presbyterian Church in Moore County, NC, but I don't know if this is true. NB]
Rev. John H. Smiley was from New England and was a man of great force of character. He was a rigid Calvinist
of the highest type and for many years after his death his strong presentation of doctrine remained fresh and
green in the memory of the people.
Rev. Thomas H. Cleland was a mild and gentle man. He died not long since in Louisiana.
Rev. C. W. Grafton became pastor of Union Church in 1873. Thirty-two years have passed away and he still
abides going out and coming in among the descendants of the ancient Scotchmen.
The church has been blessed with a faithful body of Ruling Elders and Deacons. During the hundred years now
closing the following have served the people as Ruling Elders:
Angus Patterson; Neil Buie, Jr.; John Buie, Sr.; Matthew Smylie; Charles McDougald; Murdock McDuffie; John
Watson, Sr.; John Buie, Jr.; Archibald Baker; Reuben Lee; Malcolm McPherson; Lewis Cato; Daniel Grafton
Buie; Daniel H. Cameron; William B. Alsworth; Samuel Davis McCallum; Allen Baxter Cato; N. R. C. Watson;
David G. Gailbreath; John A. Smylie; George S. Torrey; Peter Wilkinson; L. A. Cato.
Here, too, is a list of the Deacons' names:
Gilbert M. Buie; Daniel N. McLaurin; Isaac N. Buie; Joseph Josling Warren; John A. Galbreath; John L. Scott;
S. d. McCallum; E. E. Smiley; Allen B. Cato; Dr. Schaefer; John Lee Scott.
There have been in all three buildings. The last one was erected in 1852, has been repaired two or three times
and stands today upon the old site surrounded with venerable oak trees and crowned with blessed memories.
During its existence many hundreds have been received into its communion. All its friends will recognize these
leading family names. To begin with there are twenty-three sets of Mc's enrolled within its sacred register of
McArn, McArthur, McBride, McCall, McCallum, McCure, McClutchie, McCormick, McCorvey, McDonald,
McDougald, McDuffie, McEachern, McFatter, McIntyre, McLaurin, McLean, McMillen, McMurchie, McNair,
McPherson, McQueen and McRae.
These Mc's would establish the claim to the title of the "The Scotch Settlement" if nothing else did.
There were six different sets of Buies whose sons in a few years married and formed a large number of Buie
Alsworth, Baker, Barnes, Blue, Brown, Buckels, Cameron, Clark, Currie, Fairley, Galbreath, Gilchrist, Knapp,
Knox, Lee, Legette, Newman, Patterson, Ray, Scott, Smiley, Smylie, Smith, Torrey, Warren and Wilkinson.
The period between 1820 and 1830 may be called the romance period of the Scotch Settlement. Everything was
young, bright, fresh and full of life and vigor. The country abounded in game and the streams in fish. The
lowlands and sometimes the hills were covered with canebrakes. Farming was an easy matter at that day. Burn
away the brakes, plant your corn and you would be sure of a harvest. Natchez was the market town for all the
country and Union Church was a point on the highway between the eastern counties and Natchez, and in the fall of
the year long trains of wagons pulled by trains of heavy oxen were strung out a hundred miles from the interior
of the state to the Mississippi River. It was a great occasion for a farmer to yoke his oxen and start to market
with the whole week before him for going and returning. Some of the Scotch were not averse to strong drink, and
coming back with a jug of Scotch whisky their animal spirits would be stirred on the way and their homecoming
would be loudly advertised. But such a one would unfailingly be brought before his brethren in the church and he
would be certain of a reprimand and would probably be excommunicated for awhile. The old records of Union
Church abound in illustrations of the faithful dealings of the elders with their brethren. Let a man be overtaken
in a fault, such as violating the Sabbath day, or taking God's name in vain, or becoming intoxicated and he was
certain of discipline by the church and this faithful attitude of the Ruling Elders doubtless saved many an erring
Surely in the coming day when the King takes the roll of his people, it will be said, "This and that man was born
Father Montgomery, Zebulon Butler, Jacob Rickhow, Joseph Bullen, James Smylie and other Godly men who
were faithful Heralds in the old Scotch Settlement passed away long ago but "they being dead still speak." They
live today in the monumental churches which they founded and fed in those early days. Many men of very fine
talents were born and reared in this old heart of the Scotch Settlement.
There was one old Buie family out of which came some wonderful men. There was the Rev. Whitfield Buie, who
took first honors at Oakland College. He was a man of fine intellectual power. He studied at Princeton College,
but he had scarcely begun his earthly ministry when it was closed by death. He had a brother, Dr. William E.
Buie, who for intellectual ability and skill in the medical profession was easily the peer of any man in all the land.
He was a man of great gentleness and self-denial, of chaste speech and behavior, and lived for the good of his
fellow man. He had calls to lucrative positions in distinguished medical institutions but he declined them all and
gave his life to his humble friends of the Scotch Settlement. He moved with his brother, Newton Buie, to Texas
during the war, but returned like a pilgrim to the old spot that gave him birth and died a man of stainless name
and sleeps with his fathers in the sacred dust of our Scotland.
Rev. William G. Millsaps was also a man of unusual power and influence. He studied theology at Danville,
became a minister in the Methodist Church and for a long time served his people faithfully and effectively. He
was the brother of our friend Major R. W. Millsaps of Jackson.
When the Civil War broke out, the first company that left Jefferson County for the seat of war was Charley Clark
Rifles, from the Scotch Settlement around Union Church. It was a sad and long-to-be-remembered day when those
young men paraded in the shade of the trees close to the old church and received a silken banner of the Southern
Confederacy. Dr. J. J. McLean was the first Captain of the company and Dr. Rufus Applewhite was his successor.
Of the 105 men who formed that first company there are now just twelve living. Their names are worthy of at least
a mention in this short sketch of the old community and I gladly put them here on record. They are: Dr. Rufus
Applewhite, Captain B. L. Applewhite, C. C. Jake [Jacob] Garrett, Joe [Josiah] Garrett, Sam King, Winston King,
F. Krauss, S. D. McCallum, Tom McNair and Lewis Vaughn. Their comrades lie all the way from Sharpsburg in
Maryland to the Rio Grande.
The men of those former days were men of great faith and prayer. A few old people now living tell many stories
of the fervency and length of their prayers. They were deeply devoted to the Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible
and to the traditions and memories of the old Church of the Covenant, the Presbyterian Church, the church of
their love and veneration. Here is an instance:
Mary McDougals was received into the church in her young girlhood. Quite young, she married a Scotchman
named McEachern and moved with him to Carroll County, where they formed a new home. She carried with her
all her love for the church of her fathers. She was earnestly solicited to join a church of another denomination
which at that time held the field in her neighborhood. Said she, "No, I will help you all I can. I will sing with you
and pray with you and give money to you, but I am a Presbyterian and can never be anything else, and when we
have a chance, we will organize one right here." This good mother in Israel died in 1903, leaving behind her one
hundred and twenty-one children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and nearly every one of whom that has
reached mature years is now a member of the church in full communion. She lived to see seven white
Presbyterian churches and one colored organized, all of which trace their origin directly to her influence. The life
of this good woman spans the whole century of the Scotch Settlement at Union Church.
Another noted good woman was Aunt Mary Wilkinson. She was the daughter of Ruling Elder Matthew Smylie,
the brother of Rev. James Smylie. She married Daniel M. Wilkinson of find Scotch parentage. She was a true,
outspoken member of the Presbyterian Church, perfectly loyal to the last in her love for the old settlement at
Union Church. With her husband, she moved to Jackson in 1842. She gave one of her daughters to Col. J. L.
Power, another to John D. McArn, another to J. B. Cadwallader and she, too, spanning nearly the whole century
passed away two or three years since, wearing a crown of sweetness and joy, triumphant in the hope of gospel. Her
children and grandchildren and all her friends bless her memory.
There are many others whose names are found upon our gravestones who had in them the stuff to make them
stand in Senate halls or wear the crown of martyrs, but "like in sweetness on the desert air," they rest sweetly in
their quiet beds with no sculptured urn or monument to tell their story.
Like Ebenezer, Union Church has suffered immensely by the loss of its sons and daughters. During the last
thirty years, more than seventy families have moved away from this community. Memphis, Vicksburg, Port
Gibson, Natchez, Jackson, Hazelhurst, Wesson, Brookhaven, different parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas
claim the sons and daughters of our old Scotch settlement. It seemed at one time as if the entire settlement was
destined to share the fate of its twin sister, Ebenezer. But the school and the church are wonderful conservators of
neighborhood life and these two factors have worked hand in hand to keep alive this old community. The school
bell still rings and pupils and teachers meet in the school house. Sabbath after Sabbath the congregations assemble
at the old church and sing the old songs - Arlington, Mear, Rockingham and Uxbridge. The doctrines of grace still
sound from the pulpit. Girls and boys make love, as of old, and evergreens and flowers adorn the marriage alter,
while again and again people weep in the houses of mourning.
It might be asked how the neighborhood still lives if its families move away and none ever move in. The answer is,
it grows from within. The Scotch settlement is an endogen. John D. McArn married Lizzie Wilkinson and he has
twelve children, Peter Wilkinson married Mary Faris and he has ten living children. J. E. Lamb married and had
thirteen. Clint Faris and Jim Currie have ten each. Would not Queen Victoria, the model mother of Great
Britain, have smiled on these descendants of the ancient Highlanders? Would not the men who love large families
feel at home at Union Church? So the church still lives and has two hundred members on its rolls.
The settlement is twenty-five miles from Brookhaven on the east and twenty-one miles from Fayette on the
west. Port Gibson is twenty-eight miles north and Meadville twenty miles south. The Scotch Settlement,
therefore, with Union Church as a nucleus, has been in the center of a wide influence for one hundred years.
They talk of building a railroad from Hattiesburg to Natchez, a route has been surveyed through Union Church.
That road may be built and we may get more strength. We may be opened up better to the commerce and methods
of the world, but the history of Union Church for these one hundred years past is beyond the reach of change. It is
embalmed in precious memories that lie hidden away on old tombstones and in Bibles all over the land.
With reverent hearts we bid adieu to the past and with courage born out of that past, we hope for the future.
NOTES BY ANABEL POWER:
Dr. Grafton, as all Southern Presbyterians knew, was one of the truly great leaders of the Presbyterian Church.
Not only a great theologian, but a man of broad intellect, first honor graduate of the University of Mississippi. He
had calls to the presidency of more than one great university or college, but he preferred to spend his days
ministering to the people of the Old Scotch Settlement so dear to him and gave his life to the people of that little
community. His influence spread wherever his name was known - one of the consecrated, Godliest men the
Presbyterian Church has ever known.
The writer knew him from her childhood days. Every foot of the old Union Church settlement has precious
memories. Her maternal grandparents, "pure Scotch," settled there from Amite County in the early '80's and
here our mother was born and spent the first eight years of her life, coming to Jackson with her parents, Daniel
and Mary Campbell Smylie Wilkinson, in 1842.
Our adored Aunt Dodie, our mother's younger sister, Elizabeth Wilkinson, was the wife of John Duncan McArn
of the old community and from the time we as children, were old enough to stay away from home, we spent our
entire summers at the old McArn Plantation home. The great rambling house was overflowing with children but
there were plenty of servants, sons and daughters of former slaves that overran the place during slavery times.
On Sundays, the closed curtained windows and driver's seat in front, drawn by two mules or horses and less
pretentious vehicles, were loaded with men, women and children for the 8 mile drive to the old Presbyterian
Church to hear Dr. Grafton preach. The great occasion of every summer was the three-day "meeting," when
people came from many miles distant. After the morning sermon, dinner was served on long tables under the
mountains of fried chicken, potato salads, buttered biscuits, pies, cakes and everything that those wonderful
homemakers knew best how to prepare, with the aroma of steaming coffee blown by the wind to hungry people.
After dinner, and a rest period, a sermon in the afternoon, then home eight weary miles through the summer dust
and the glory of a setting sun
I can see now, in the memory, the old spring at the foot of a gentle slope back of the church, and we drank its
cooling thirst quenching-water from cups made of the old "cowcumber" leaves that grew in luxuriance on all sides.
The antebellum McArn home was destroyed by fire, with all its priceless relics, at the turn of the century, but
another took its place, a big rambling two-story, twelve room house set in broad acres, and it is here that the
children of the second, third and fourth generations call "down home," and where they gather on all occasions,
especially on Sundays, for the day.
The writer is one whose great pleasure is to join her cousins on these occasions. On one Christmas day recently
when she was with them, twenty-nine were seated in the dining room, the little children at smaller tables and
fourteen adults at a table loaded with every delicacy that a successful plantation could yield.
The name "Union Church" is precious to all who have ever lived there. The old church stands on the original site
and across the roadway is the well kept cemetery where lie the bodies of generations of the old Scotch Settlers and
their descendants, many of the writer's own loved ones.
The "Aunt Mary Wilkinson" of whom Mr. Grafton writes so beautifully is the writer's maternal grandmother,
"Grandma," who lived to the rich old age of 92, and spent her last years in our home, blessing every soul with
whom she came in contact.
| HISTORY OF THE EARLY SCOTCH SETTLEMENT AT UNION CHURCH
by Mrs. Mary Barker
[I've removed the material Mrs. Barker quoted from the above sketch by Rev. Grafton to avoid repetition. NB]
The first settlers in Union Church were Neill Buie and his wife, Dorothy Mercer Buie, and his son, Gilbert Buie, and
his brother, Gilbert Buie. In reading of the Buie families, you will find that the hereditary names of old Scotch seem
to have been carefully preserved. There were no less than three "Neill Buies" at Union Church at one time. There
were four "John Buies," one known as "John of Hurricane Creek," one as "Captain John" (who had served under
Gen. Jackson in the War of 1812); one as "John the Shoemaker," and one as "John the Beloved." Many of the
Scotch families came to Jefferson County down the Mississippi River, but there is some evidence that the Buie
family came by way of the Natchez Trace. The name Buie in the old Gaelic was "Buidhe" which meant "the yellow
haired one." These Buie families cut their way through the cane brakes from the Natchez Trace and made their
first camp at what is now the George S. Torrey home, just a short distance from the village. This is the oldest house
now standing of the original settlement.
The Buie families were followed by many other Scottish families, a hundred families in all, and it is in the second
group that came the Pattersons, Newmans, Wilkinsons, Watsons, Smylies, Browns and Barnes.
The first church building at Union Church was built on the property of Gilbert Buie, about two miles west of the
village, and was built by Matthew Smylie. It was made of hewed logs. The first school house was also built on the
lawn of one of the Buie families' homes, where the John Torrey house now stands. The first meeting was held in
front of where this house stands, under the arbor.
Camp meetings became famous and popular over the country, and Union Church was noted for such meetings. At
the spot where the present Presbyterian Church now stands, rows of wooden sheds and benches were built, and in
the fall of the year, the people came together for meetings. The best preachers of the old Mississippi Presbytery
assembled, and for many days at a time, the voice of song, praise and prayer was heard in the village. It is said
camp meetings from points as far as fifty miles distant, went to their own homes and spread the gospel teachings
learned at these camp meetings.
On the old church rolls at Union Church, kept prior to the War Between the States, are the names of many colored
members. Once each month, the Negroes all went to the Presbyterian Church, where the elders and the paster, the
Rev. William Montgomery, held a service for them. These were always called "Servants," never "Slaves." It is said
that the singing on those occasions was so beautiful that the people always came out and sat on their porches to
listen. Miss Lottie Warren says that her mother, Mrs. Mary Inez Torrey Warren, taught the children of the slaves
the catechism in her father's home. In later years, one of the house girls from the John Clay Torrey home went as
a missionary to Africa.
When I first attended services there, Dr. Cornelius W. Grafton was its pastor and had been there for over fifty
years at the time. He completed sixty-three years as paster of that church and died while their pastor, serving both
the church at Union Church and church at Ben Salem over in Lincoln County.
Many people of my generation have said that Dr. Grafton made Union Church. Others from an older generation
say that Union Church made Dr. Grafton. I like to think that the village and the minister made a nice compliment
for each other. The honest and deeply religious folks of Union Church would have been great and good anywhere.
Judge Jeff Truly of Fayette, now deceased, once said that he believed if all the Bibles in the world were destroyed,
that Dr. Grafton could rewrite it from memory.
Connection Between Robeson Co., NC and the Scottish Settlement of Union Church, MS
Shortly after the 1790's, many Scotch in North Carolina began to heed stories of a land of plenty to the south.
There, along the higher eastern banks of the great Mississippi River lay a land that could be had for the taking. A
land where transportation was not a problem that it was in North Carolina, where a ton of freight sometimes cost
fifty dollars to move from Brunswick to the Scotch villages of Cumberland County; for these goods could be brought
up the great river by sea-going boats, and bought from merchants at a big price.
The first Scots from Robeson County who explored these new lands along the Mississippi River were George
Torrey, son Dougald Torrey, Laughlin Currie and Robert Willis in 1806. Most likely they took the wagon trail from
Greensboro, NC to Jonesboro in Tennessee and then west to Nashville. There the trail turns south to Columbia,
then west toward Savannah, TN. Cross the Tennessee River to Purdy, now called Selmer; at Selmer, a wagon road
leads south to Corinth, Mississippi. From Corinth you travel south and pick up the Natchez Trace and follow that
southwest to Union Church. This probably took them 3 months to travel one way.