Search results for

From Scotland to North Carolina Part 1

Outlander North Carolina

From Scotland to North Carolina ~ Part 1: Scottish Emigration

January 17, 2018
Post by Contributing Author, Traci Wood Thompson

We all love the fact that Diana chose to send Jamie and Claire to North Carolina.  Undoubtedly, Diana made this decision due to her research findings; any investigation into Highland Scot emigration will reveal North Carolina as a major destination. But why did they come, and why did they choose NC?

First, let’s explore the circumstances that set the migration in motion. There were many of them! The following information is from Douglas F. Kelly’s Carolina Scots: An Historical and Genealogical Study of Over 100 Years of Emigration (Dillon, SC: 1739 Publications, 1998), Chapter 2, “Winds of Change.”

The first catalysts were changes in estate management and farming practices. The old Highland way of farming was unfortunately somewhat inefficient, but this was not considered very important, as long as it could sustain large numbers of clansmen to form potential armies. But over time, as the clan patriarchs aligned themselves more with the English, the Scots aristocracy became more like English landlords, and a “fewer people and more money” mindset dominated.

The result of this change was a social restructuring.  Traditionally, middlemen, or “tacksmen,” gathered the rents for the clan chiefs and kept a certain amount of the profit (we see Dougal filling this role in Outlander.)  As more money was needed, the chiefs raised the tacksmen’s rent, which burden was then passed on to tenants. Then, a movement to get rid of the tacksman position altogether occurred; this was to give land leases directly to tenants, with the entire rent payment going to the chief. While probably a sound financial move, many found it to be “a shocking abrogation of the time-honored kinship system; an undercutting of the values of extended family” (p. 53). While the raising of the tenants’ status was supposed to be a benefit, this was ruined by other factors coming to play at the same time.

One big factor was sheep. Large-scale sheep farming was introduced to the Highlands in the latter third of the 18th century. As the idea took hold of land as a means of revenue, not just to support the clan, landowners found that sheep were more profitable than tenants. English demand for wool helped fuel this change. By the 1770s time period, 136 persons on board the ship Jupiter bound for Wilmington, NC, gave displacement by sheep as a major reason for their emigration.

Forced and complete displacement was not the norm originally. Due to a rise in the kelp industry, many tenants were relocated to the coast to work there, while their former homes were used for sheep pastures. Resentment at being moved around still prompted many to emigrate. When the kelp industry went under, tenants were then forced out, an event known as the Highland Clearances.  The Clearances do not play a large role in the emigration to North Carolina, however; these events came later, from 1800-1820, while the major migrations to NC came in the 1730s to the 1770s from the other problems discussed.

On to these other problems…the next factor at work was a depression in cattle prices. We see and hear in Outlander a bit about the importance of cattle to the Highland culture. “Cattle were, after all, the lynch-pin of the Highland economy. There was usually little else to pay the rents…and a sharp fall in price or a severe winter…could be disastrous to tenants – and lairds.” (p. 63.) Low market prices and disease and death in cattle are seen in the records from the 1730-1740 time period, a time of massive emigration from Scotland to NC.

Another change beginning around the 1750s was a steady population growth.  It is speculated that this was spurred by the introduction of potatoes and kale into the Highland diet; with a healthier diet, more children survived, and the effects of disease lessened.  (Thanks, Claire!) Unfortunately, population growth in a country with limited land, a shaken societal system, and an economic depression led to high unemployment. “Problems of low wages, high rents, and unemployment are frequently mentioned as the main reasons for which Highlanders were emigrating to North Carolina…” For example, “John McBeath Aged 37, by trade a farmer and shoemaker, married, hath 5 children from 13 years to 9 months old. Resided last in Mault in the Parish of Kildonnan in the County of Sutherland, upon the Estate of Sutherland. Intends to go to Wilmington in North Carolina; left his own country because crops failed, he lost his cattle, the rent of his possession was raised, and bread had been long dear; he could get no employment…” (p. 66.)


Despite the Battle of Culloden serving as a plot device in Outlander to begin the movement of the characters toward emigration, whether voluntary or forced, in reality this event was only an indirect cause. Emigration to Carolina was well underway by the late 1730s, before Culloden, and rebel soldiers who were exiled to the colonies did not come to Carolina. The battle certainly was the final blow to the already-changing clan system in the Highlands, with the end of the clan chiefs’ judicial power, disarming, banning of Highland dress, etc.  As Kelly says, “Hence the failure of ‘the ‘45’ did not by any means start the process of disintegration, but it certainly strengthened and in a sense institutionalized it.” In other words, “it reinforced the process of social and economic changes which were causing such major upheavals.” (p. 70.) Although there were undoubtedly some Highlanders in NC with “Jacobite sympathies and displeasure at the continuing union of Scotland and England,” “Governor Gabriel Johnston denied in 1749 that any Jacobites lived in the colony.” (p. 71.)

So, as we see, the major reasons that the Highlanders left Scotland were more social and economic than political. The social was “particularly hard because of the innate conservatism of this Highland populace: To persuade a peasantry to abandon an age-old method of cultivation is seldom easy…not least because of a wide-spread and justifiable suspicion that the proposed change would not be for the better.” (p. 61.) The economic obviously created a pressing need to seek opportunities to make a living elsewhere, in order to keep families from starving.

Next time, we will explore the question, why North Carolina. What questions do you have regarding Scottish emigration to America? Please post them in the comments. And as always, thank you for reading Outlander North Carolina!


Traci Thompson is a married mother of two who lives in eastern North Carolina, and is, of course, an avid Outlander fan.  Traci is a Certified Genealogist and Local History & Genealogy Librarian. She is a contributing author for Outlander North Carolina.
Burns Night Outlander North Carolina

Robert Burns Night–Scotland Style

January 25, 2021

special guest post by Mhairi Jarvie

Our special guest post is from Mhairi Jarvie, a valuable member of the Inverness Outlanders, as well as  the Outlander North Carolina Clan. We are excited to bring her knowledge to ONC–read on as she shares a bit about Burns Night!

Robert Burns, or Rabbie Burns as he’s more commonly known here in Scotland – poet and songwriter extraordinaire. World renowned and celebrated. Quite simply, one of the best writers that ever existed, in my humble opinion. So, who was this guy, and what does he mean to Scotland, Scottish emigrants, the world, and little old me?

He was born on 25 January, 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, in the west of Scotland. He was the oldest of seven children borne by William Burns and Agnes Broun. I could go on and tell you all about the man, but that’s what Wikipedia is for! It’s no secret he had a very tough childhood, full of hardship and poverty. It’s also no secret that he *ahem* had an eye for the ladies! But I was asked to put together a piece on my own experience of Burns, what he means to me, Scotland, and the world.

Thatched roof with a dark sign with gold lettering Burns Cottage Robert Burns the Ayrshire poet was born in this cottage 25 January AD 1759 and died 21 July AD 1796 age 37 and a half years

As a child, in what we in Scotland call primary school (aged 5 to 11), it was practically the law, every Burns night, that we recite a verse of his poetry. It was usually from “To a Mouse”, as it’s quite an easy one, and children can relate to it. A scared wee mouse, running away from the farmer’s plough. Looking at it now, as an adult, I see it as a man’s awareness of the damage humans can do to the natural habitats of animals, apologising for same. John Steinbeck obviously identified with Burns, and a line from this poem specifically, as he named his best selling novel “Of Mice and Men”. The line from the poem is “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, an’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain for promis’d joy!”. Basically, rough translation from Scots, even the best laid plans can go astray and leave us with grief and pain instead of joy. When I reached secondary school, or high school (aged 12-18), I read that book, but never knew the connection. It makes perfect sense. Sadly, although Scotland has its own education system, to this day more time is given over to Shakespeare than Burns. Anything I know of Burns poems, I’ve been self taught. I’ve no idea why he isn’t taught more in Scottish schools, as we can learn such a lot from his writings.

As part of that primary school Burns tradition, we were also challenged to write a poem of our own. Now, writing poetry is something that’s in my blood! My Dad, and his Dad, wrote poems in English and Welsh. On my paternal grandmother’s side, I’m descended from a Welsh bard. It’s the same on my maternal grandfather’s side, I’m descended from a Scottish Gaelic bard. I’ve written poems and songs since childhood, inspired by Burns, and other Scottish writers. So yes, he’s inspired me. I love singing his songs too.

Burns night, 25 January, his birth date, is celebrated more than that of our patron saint, St Andrew (on 30 November), in Scotland and in all Scottish communities throughout the world. Scots are spread all across this globe, whether that be by choice, or, through the 18th and 19th centuries, some by force. Wherever they settled – America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, etc. – Scottish societies were formed; Scottish churches were established; streets, towns and villages were built and given Scottish names. Scottish music, stories, songs, language and dance also went with them, and Burns continued to be celebrated. The very first Burns club, or association, was set up in Greenock, to the west of Glasgow, in 1801, only 5 years after Burns passed away. It was set up by some merchants, some of whom knew Burns and counted him as a friend. This club is known as The Mother Club.

Every official Burns night has a set format – piping in the guests, chairperson’s welcome, Selkirk or Burns grace, piping in of the haggis, address to the haggis, toast to the haggis, then you tuck in to the meal. The Selkirk, or Burns grace, is this –

white plate holding haggis, neeps or rutabagas and tatties or potatoes with a small glass of whisky beside the plate

Haggis, neeps & tatties with a bit of whisky to wash it down


“Some have meat and cannae eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit”

Address to the Haggis poem imposed on black stone plaque in gold lettering

First verse, Address of the Haggis by Robert Burns

In your every day common household though, most families will just tuck into the haggis, neeps and tatties, – or haggis, turnips (swedes), and potatoes. Someone will maybe say the first verse of the “Address to a Haggis”, but there’s not very much pomp or ceremony involved. In this house, it’s the only time of year I’ll eat haggis, but it must be mashed together with the neeps and tatties, or I can’t eat it I’m afraid! Shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not really a fan! Nor am I a fan of whisky! Anyway, I digress!

Burns poems and songs are known around the world, and some are more famous than others. The most famous, by a country mile, is Auld Lang Syne. This has become synonymous with New Year, or Hogmanay, celebrations absolutely everywhere. There won’t be many places on the planet where this song is not known. A lot longer than the normal two verses sung, it’s a song of friendship and remembrance. Strangers cross arms and join hands during the second verse, and they dance together as they sing the rest. Please, please note though, for the sake of Scots everywhere, that the word “syne” starts with an S and not a Z! It’s pronounced sign, and not zine. The collective hairs on the back of all Scottish necks go up, and teeth grind, as they hear zine!

I mentioned earlier the influence Burns had on John Steinbeck, but he has been an influence to so many. Bob Dylan cited “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose” as one of the songs that touched him the most, that was one of his greatest sources of inspiration. It’s said that Michael Jackson was a Burns fan too. In the 1990’s, he recorded twelve of Burns’ best known poems set to music. US fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger was the 3x great nephew of Burns. Apparently it wasn’t spoken about due to Burns womanising and boozing, but Hilfiger later embraced the connection through his love of plaid in his designs. There’s a folk festival held in Scotland every January, for the last 30 years now, called Celtic Connections, featuring musicians, singers and poets from all over the world (it’s online this year for obvious reasons). Every year, without fail, Burns songs are sung and poems read out. Some are sung or recited in original form, some are adapted, translated, or interpreted as something else like dance.

Burns is also responsible for a lot of tourism to Scotland, specifically the areas he was born in, grew up in, and farmed in. The cottage he was born in is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and houses approximately 5000 artefacts, including original manuscripts. Burns also saved a bridge! There’s a film called Brigadoon, from 1945, which features American tourists who stumble across a mysterious Scottish village that only appears for one day every 100 years. There is a real Brig O’ Doon though, in Alloway, where Burns was born. It was built in the 1400’s, rebuilt in the 1700’s, but a newer one was built in 1816 to cope with increasing demand of traffic (horses and carts). The old one was due to be demolished, but there was such an outcry at this from Burns fans. The bridge features in the Burns magnificent poem, “Tam O’Shanter.” To me this is his best work. It’s long, but it’s just brilliant! Tam returns home from market in Ayr, drunk, when he comes across a coven of witches and warlocks in the grounds of the Auld Alloway Kirk. He’s seen, and chased by them. By tradition, a witch won’t pursue anyone over running water, so Tam rides his horse at full sped towards the bridge, and escapes with his life – and his horse without its tail.

snow covered sign that reads Brig o' Doon with snow-covered stone bridge beyond the sign

It’s been 225 years this year since Burns died, yet he is still held in very high regard in Scottish life, culture and tradition. His songs and poems are the stuff of legend. The stories of love, heartbreak, life in general, are enough to make anyone stop and think. Yes, he may have been as Tommy Hilfiger’s family portrayed him – a man of womanising and booze. But he was a literary genius, a caring soul, an egalitarian who spoke out about the slave trade during his time working on a plantation in Jamaica, just before abolition. I challenge you to find one person who can’t hum or sing Auld Lang Syne (S, not Z, remember!). He has statues in Russia, New Zealand, America, and elsewhere. His portrait has adorned postage stamps, shortbread tins, tea towels and lots more!
As I say and watched the inauguration of President Biden today, and listened to his speech, it was Burns that sprang to mind, from his poem “A Man’s a Man for a’ That’ll -“

“Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree an a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be fir a’ that”

painting of a man with dark hair, slightly receding hairline, full sideburns dressed in jacket and shirt with open collar and undershirt tied in a knot at the neck

Mhairi, thank you so much for this wonderful and interesting lesson on Burns Night and a bit o’ Scottish history!

Will you be celebrating Burns Night? Tell us about it in the comments!

Mhairi meets Sam Heughan

Mhairi Jarvie was born in Edinburgh, and currently lives in Inverness with her husband Alan and German Shepherd dog Abby; she is stepmother to two adult “children.” Mhairi loves her job as a civilian police support staff in Inverness.   She did not discover Outlander until 2016, thanks to two Orlando, Florida hotel employees! Needless to say she is now a devoted fan, and is part of the Inverness Outlanders group. Mhairi has been lucky to meet Diana Gabaldon, Graham McTavish, and got to snap a photo with Sam Heughan! Mhairi loves her husband, her pets, music,  photography, travel, family research, writing poetry, Disney, Nike shoes, and Scottish history. 

Fraser's Ridge Outlander North Carolina The Homecoming Uncategorized

A Special Invitation, All the Way From Scotland

February 3, 2020

Gary Lewis invites you to the Ridge, October 8-11, 2020! He, along with Annette Badland and Graham McTavish, will be our extra-special guests this year! Our celebrity guests are just a wee part of what makes Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming such a special event. The military encampments with the Mecklenberg Militia and the 71st Highlanders, the historical activities, Cherokee culture with The Warriors of AniKituwha, the workshops, great food, traditional NC and Celtic music, combined with Outlander–not to mention the Blue-Ridge-Mountains-in-Autumn atmosphere–create a magical and truly unforgettable long weekend!  We want you to join us! Please take advantage of our $99 reservation offer–it runs through February 7, 2020! Click/tap here for terms and more info! 

Learn more about the Homecoming, join the Outlander North Carolina group on Facebook, and like the Girl on the Ridge page for a bit of North Carolina history as well as historical events around the state, as they relate to the Fraser’s time in North Carolina.

Diana Gabaldon Drums Of Autumn Fraser's Ridge Native Americans NC History Outlander North Carolina Pre-Revolutionary War Period Season 4 Uncategorized

Memories of Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming 2019

October 26, 2019

It’s only been three weeks since we left the Ridge after an amazing second Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming, but it seems like months! We have to apologize for a somewhat lengthy absence, but the second Homecoming event was worth all of our time and energy. We’d like to share some attendees experiences and photos with everyone, as well as our exciting news for Homecoming 2020!  Today’s experience is from Debbie Morelock!

“So, what was it like to go back in time for a few days and get in touch with my inner Sassenach and for my husband, his inner Highlander? Aye lass and lassie, it was awesome!  Getting to Leatherwood Resort wasn’t a bad drive from TN and GPS kept us on track. After a lot of curvy roads, some paved and others not so much, which helped make us feel like we were being transported back in time, pulling in to Leatherwood was a welcome sight. Let me tell you, it is an absolutely gorgeous place. Tucked neatly on the side of the mountain with a little creek and horse barns, it’s peaceful and beautiful!

Checking in was simple and quick. In no time, we had the keys and directions to our cabin. My husband and I resisted the urge to go on to the Fraser’s Homecoming check in and drove on to our cabin to unload and freshen up.  Then it was off to registration and begin our Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming 2019 weekend!

First impression of checking in for the weekend’s activities? I was in awe at how well it was streamlined! And the tote bag full of goodies that we each got was a nice surprise! From an Outlander 2020 calendar, to a zippered notepad with pen, to a book of short stories from a local author, to cute themed pins and a sticker, there was just so many things! The best part of all during check in was hearing the bagpipes being played! And seeing Highlanders dressed in their kilts marching up and down the field calling commands only added to the sights and sounds. Talk about having the hair on your arms and back of your neck stand up! Were we still in NC or did we really go back home to Scotland? You know the old saying “The devil is in the details.”? Well, I could tell after checking in, Beth and her crew were certainly going to beat that devil to death over this weekend or die trying. I knew we were in store for an amazing time! There is no way I can begin to name every little detail I noticed that went into everything, there were so many!

We spent the rest of Thursday afternoon on the scavenger hunt looking for charms that depicted different parts of the Outlander series. The finale was getting up to Craigh na Dun cabin and the standing stones!  From where we were, we could also see Grandfather Mountain off in the distance. All I can say is WOW! Soon it was time for the Hello the House Welcome Party. There was lots of yummy hors d’ oeuvres, live music and what we had all been waiting for: The Calling of the Clans! It was so fun to hear all the different clans being represented as each flaming torch was placed in the fire. Sadly, we were too tired to stay for the ghost stories and headed back to the cabin.

Friday brought several different workshops that we had signed up for oh, and did I mention it was hot yesterday? It was in the mid 90’s and Friday turned out the same. We were sweating buckets, but we had so much fun! Probably my favorite workshop was listening to The Tale of the Regulators. Lunch was a wonderful beef stew and at dinner the barbecue and fixings was so good. During dinner we officially welcomed Shaun Alexander, world traveler and YouTube vlogger and his wife, Teka to the gathering. It’s so cool that they came across the pond to be here and share this weekend with us and with his fans around the world! When the costume contest took place, I was so impressed with everyone’s costumes. The contestants came dressed and ready to win. Then we watched the Druid Lantern Dance performed just like in the opening scenes of Outlander! AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL is all I can say.

Saturday brought a complete change in weather. It started to mist and temperatures dropped! I think somehow Beth planned it that way to give us a real feeling of being in the Scottish Highlands! The workshops Saturday were even better! I enjoyed having a one on one with the genealogist and gathered some tips on researching more of our family history. My husband had a great time with the hawk and knife throwing. Lunch was so good! I had shepherd’s pie and my husband had the smoked pork tacos. After lunch I went to hear the 18th century doctor. I could have stood there in the drizzling rain all day. It was so interesting! My husband participated in the flint fire building class and really liked it. I have a feeling he will be building his own hawk throwing target before too long and a place to practice his flint fire making skills.

Soon it was time to go warm up and change for dinner. This was the evening we’ve been waiting all year for! I dressed in my Scottish skirt and blouse and my husband looked so dashing in his kilt.  The tables were set and decorated in a rustic fall foliage and a mixture of different plaids. We enjoyed tender venison, chicken and mashed potatoes with roasted kale. Dinna fash, I’m getting to the dessert. Warm toffee sticky pudding and apple dumplings. Do I need to say more? The music by Celtic Connections was hauntingly beautiful. But the icing on the cake was the surprise Beth had for us all. A video giving us the dates for next year’s gathering as well as the guests who will be attending with us next year!!! Yes, I screamed along with everyone else when we saw who it was. Welcome to Fraser’s Ridge 2020!!!!  Annette Badland (Mrs. Fitz), Gary Lewis (Colum Mackenzie), and Graham McTavish (Dougal Mackenzie)!!!! How are we supposed to sleep after this? Much less wait for next October to hurry and get here?

Sunday, time to pack up and check out of our cabin. No, I did not want to. We closed out our time at the Homecoming listening to Capt. Robert K. Rambo (U.S. Military, Ret.) portraying Attakullakulla, Peace Chief and First Beloved Man of the Cherokee from 1761 to 1775. WOW, just WOW! I don’t know what else I could even say.

After all the goodbyes and see ya laters to our new found friends, it was time to head back to our time and to life off the Ridge. I can’t begin to thank Beth and her crew enough for all of the time they spent planning and getting everything together and ready for us. I was right though, the devil in all the details sure was beat up one side and down the other.  How will they possibly outdo this year? I have no clue, but I have no doubt they will!”

Debbie, thank you so much for recapping your weekend with us at Leatherwood Mountain Resort! We can’t wait to be with you and your husband again next year!

Dates for next year’s Homecoming are October 8-11, 2020.  The projected date for ticket sales to begin is February 1, 2020.  This date gives us plenty of time to be sure that plans are finalized, and the big stuff is in place!  We do know that the 71st NC Highlanders will be returning, as well as the Warriors of AniKituhwa. Our special guests next year include television series cast members Annette Badland, Graham McTavish, and Gary Lewis!  Saying we’re already looking forward to next year is an understatement!

Drums Of Autumn Fraser's Ridge NC History NC Land Grants Outlander North Carolina Pre-Revolutionary War Period Quotes Scottish Immigration Season 4 Uncategorized US Colonial Land Grants

Fact or Fiction? Jamie Fraser & North Carolina Land Grants

August 16, 2019

Guest post from Traci Thompson

“It has long been the policy both of the Crown and of myself, Mr. Fraser, to encourage the settlement of land in the Colony of North Carolina by intelligent, industrious, and godly families, to the furtherance of the prosperity and security of all.” He lifted his cigar, took a deep lungful and exhaled slowly, pausing to cough. “To this end, sir, there is established a system of land grants whereby a large acreage may be given to a gentleman of means, who will undertake to persuade a number of emigrants to come and settle upon a part of it under his sponsorship. This policy has been blessed with success over the last thirty years; a good many Highlanders and families from the Isles of Scotland have been induced to come and take up residence here. Why, when I arrived, I was astonished to find the banks of the Cape Fear River quite thick with MacNeills, Buchanans, Grahams, and Campbells!”

The Governor tasted his cigar again, but this time the barest nip; he was anxious to make his point.

“Yet there remains a great deal of desirable land to be settled, further inland towards the mountains. It is somewhat remote, and yet, as you say, for men accustomed to the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands – “

“I did hear mentions of such grants, sir,” Jamie interrupted. “Yet is not the wording that persons holding such grants shall be white males, Protestant, and above thirty years of age? And this statement holds the force of law?”

“That is the official wording of the Act, yes.” Mr. Tryon turned so that I saw him now in profile, tapping the ash from his cigar into a small porcelain bowl. The corner of his mouth was turned up in anticipation; the face of a fisherman who feels the first twitch on his line.

“The offer is one of considerable interest,” Jamie said formally. “I must point out, however, that I am not a Protestant, nor are most of my kinsmen.”

The Governor pursed his lips in deprecation, lifting one brow.

“You are neither a Jew nor a Negro. I may speak as one gentleman to another, may I not? In all frankness, Mr. Fraser, there is the law, and then there is what is done.” He raised his glass with a small smile, setting the hook. “And I am convinced that you understand that as well as I do.”

“Possibly better,” Jamie murmured, with a polite smile.

~Drums of Autumn, Chapter 7, “Great Prospects Fraught With Peril.” (Circa 1767)

These paragraphs from Drums of Autumn introduced a long-running source of conflict for the story by giving Governor Tryon a certain leverage over Jamie – if Jamie doesn’t toe the line with Tryon, will Tryon play the religion card, “expose” Jamie as a Catholic, and take his land away from him?

But how much weight does this threat really carry…and are the details historical fact, or historical fiction?

First, as a land grant is central to the story, let’s take a brief look at what a North Carolina land grant was. Although “land grant” is the term often used, the technical term was “land patent.” Land patents transferred vacant land from a granting authority to a private person. North Carolina patents did not convey “free” land; grants were for some kind of service to the colony, or for a required payment of fees. There were two land grant systems in North Carolina: one was headright patents, in which land was granted for the service of bringing settlers into the colony, with a certain number of acres granted per transported person. This system ended by 1754, before Jamie and Claire’s time in NC. The second was purchase patent, land in exchange for fees paid at every step in the process. By the mid-1750’s, this was the only kind of patent granted in North Carolina, and thus the kind of grant Jamie would have received if he were really here in the 1760s.(1)

There were in fact a few, but not many, of enterprises such as Tryon describes: “…a large acreage may be given to a gentleman of means, who will undertake to persuade a number of emigrants to come and settle upon a part of it under his sponsorship.
” These were a type of headright patent, as the stipulation was bringing in emigrants to populate the colony. Harry Merrens states in Colonial North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century, “Grants were generally small…A few persons did manage to obtain large quantities of land either for speculative purposes or for building up large estates. Extensive holdings of land were so rare that neither practice was common…”(2)

The most notable person who engaged in this rare land speculation in NC was Henry McCulloh, a London merchant and colonial official whose family roots were in Scotland. He received two grants in his own name of 60,000 and 72,000 acres, and a third under the names of two of his trustees for 1.2 million acres. The condition of these grants was that quitrents on the lands be paid, and that settlers be installed on the land (3):

“At a Council held at Wilmington [NC] the 24th day September 1741… His Excellency having informed the Board That it was His Majesty’s Pleasure signified in some of his Majesty’s Instructions to Mr. McCulloh, that for the future all persons taking up lands should be obliged to seat the same according to their rights, i.e. with the person in whose right the land shall be taken up; But that such as have already obtained Warrants, shall only be obliged within three years from the date of their respective Grants to put a white man on every Tract 1,000 acres or under And two on a tract of 2,000 or above a thousand…And that the Secretary draw up a proclamation to give publick notice thereof…His Excellency…took notice of the absolute necessity of encouraging white persons to settle in this Province particularly the back parts of the same…” (4)

Pamphlet by Henry McCulloh, which he wrote after returning to England, hoping to impress the King, and get another appointment to the Colonies. (from NCPedia)

Merrens calls McCulloh “the unrivaled leading speculator in North Carolina” and reports that he was “’hawking it [the land] about in small quantities thro’ all the back parts of the Province and quite thro’ America even to Boston’”(5) as well as transporting Ulster Scots and Swiss emigrants into the colony.

But what of the “Protestant” requirement? McCulloh’s petitions for his grants in the 1730s do include wording such as “…Praying for a Grant of Twelve hundred Thousand Acres of Land in North Carolina in Consideration of Settling 6000 Protestants…” (6) and “…praying for a Grant of Lands upon the heads of the Pedee Cape Fear and Neus Rivers in North Carolina, and proposing to make a Settlement thereon of six thousand Swiss Palatines and other Foreign Protestants within the space of Ten years from the Date of {the} Grant…” (7) Other earlier petitions have the same wording, such as a 1679 petition to the British Privy Council to transport “about 80 Protestant families to Carolina aboard the frigate Richmond” and a request from Normandy seeking “sanction and assistance in projected planting of about fourscore Foreign Protestant families, being skilled in the Manufactures of Silks, Oyles, Wines, etc. who are willing to settle in Carolina.” (8) What is the reason for this? The religious situation in Europe was one of many reasons for emigration during this period, especially the desire to seek freedom of worship. Speculators such as Henry McCulloh were aware of the need to transport Protestants – particularly Scots-Irish, Swiss, and Germans – to the colonies. And as the Crown needed settlers and revenue, this was a win-win situation for all involved. (9) Another consideration for the Crown may have been loyalty, as Protestants were less likely to have divided allegiances. The greater number of Protestant settlers in North Carolina led to the statement made by the real Governor Tryon in 1765 that “every sect of religion abounds here except Roman Catholicism.” (10)

What is important to realize is that these references to settlement of Protestants in North Carolina did not refer to land law. In fact, North Carolina, especially as compared to the other colonies, was liberal in regards to religion. While there certainly was anti-Catholic sentiment, the only specific discrimination against them in legal policy regarded holding public office, and instructions given to the Royal Governor in the 1730s to permit “a liberty of conscience to all persons (except papists).” (11) It is likely that such instructions fell under Governor Tryon’s assertion that “there is the law, and then there is what is done,” as many such instructions relating to the Church of England were never able to be enforced in North Carolina. In 1679, the instructions of the Lords Proprietors to the Governor of Albemarle County, NC stated, “You are to take notice that wee doe grant unto all free persons that doe come to plant in Carolina before the 25th day of December, 1684…sixty akers of land…” and makes no mention of religion. (12) And not all of the land speculators’ petitions included the “Protestant” wording – McCulloh’s proposal of 1735/6 mentions sending over workmen and “such people as I intend to send there from Europe” to North Carolina and does not mention religion. (13)

A far more important consideration to the Crown regarding land patents was, as with most enterprises, money. Much of the energy and focus of the government documents relating to land grants of the period revolve around revenue generated or, most notably, the lack thereof. Even money took a back seat at times to the pressing need to simply have people in the colonies; in 1715, by decree from London, even impoverished families that could not pay rent were not to be deprived of their land, and those that had been were to have their property restored. (14) Also, land grants were a clear title in fee simple; the owner could sell or devise land absolutely at his pleasure and without consultation with government officials. (15)

These questions having been discussed, what of the age requirement? The 1679 document mentioned earlier made the specific provision for “sixty akers of land” to any free person who was “above the age of sixteen yeares.” (16) North Carolina, being an English colony, followed English common law; under English law one could buy or be granted land at any age but could not sell it in his own name until he arrived at the age of 21. (17)

As this overview shows, populating the colony and generating revenue were important considerations to North Carolina officials of the colonial period. To purposely attempt to divest a settler of his land would run contrary to the goal and would in fact be illegal; to do this for religious reasons in a tolerant colony would be difficult if not impossible, and there was no legal age restriction on land ownership. Happily, were Jamie actually here in the 1760s, he would not have had these issues to worry about.

The case: Are the details historical fact, or historical fiction?
Verdict: FICTION.

There you have it–straight from a North Carolina genealogist’s pen! Thanks, Traci, for this insight about land grants and the many different cultures that emigrated and settled here to make up this great state!
Traci Thompson is a married mother of two who lives in eastern North Carolina, and is, of course, an avid Outlander fan.  Traci is a Certified Genealogist and Local History & Genealogy Librarian. She is a contributing author for Outlander North Carolina.

Still shots of Jamie/Gov. Tryon are from

Reference notes:
1 Margaret M. Hofmann, “Land Grants,” in Helen F.M. Leary, editor, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd edition (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), chapter 31.
2 Harry Roy Merrens, Colonial North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Historical Geography (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1964), p. 25-26.
3 Mattie Russell, “McCulloh, Henry,” NCPedia ( : accessed 2019), citing William S. Powell, ed., The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1991.)
4 “Minutes of the North Carolina Governor’s Council, September 21, 1741 – September 29, 1741,” “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( : accessed 2019); citing volume 4, p. 597-603
5 Merrens, Colonial North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Historical Geography, p. 26.
6 “Declaration by Murray Crymble and James Huey concerning their actions as agents for Henry McCulloh,” in “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( : accessed 2019); citing volume 5, p. 769.
7 “Order of the Privy Council of Great Britain concerning Henry McCulloh’s land grants in North Carolina,” Great Britain, Privy Council, May 19, 1737, in “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( : accessed 2019); citing volume 4, p. 253-254.
8 Finding aid to the British Records: Privy Council, citing Office Register, 21 April 1679-29 May 1680, Public Record Office, London, England, P.C. 2/68, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh; digital images ( : accessed 2019).
9 Stewart E. Dunaway, Henry McCulloh & Son Henry Eustace McCulloh: 18th Century Entrepreneurs, Land Speculators of North Carolina ( Dunaway, 2014), p. 16.
10 Anne Russell & Marjorie Megivern, North Carolina Portraits of Faith: A Pictorial History of Religions (Norfolk, VA: The Donning Company, 1986), p. 136.
11 “Instructions to George Burrington concerning the government of North Carolina George II, King of Great Britain, 1683-1760; Great Britain. Board of Trade,” in “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( : accessed 2019); citing volume 3, p. 90-118.
12 “Instructions to the Governor of Albemarle County Carolina. Lords Proprietors. February 05, 1679,” in “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting the American South , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( accessed 2019); citing volume 1, p. 235-239.
13 “Proposal by Henry McCulloh concerning his efforts to settle people in North Carolina,” in “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting the American South , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( : accessed 2019); citing volume 4, p. 156.
14 David Southern and Louis P. Towles, “Land Grants and the Recruitment of Settlers to the Carolina Colony,” NCPedia ( : accessed 2019), citing William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2006.)
15 George Stevenson, “Foreword” (Raleigh, NC, June 1982) to Margaret M. Hofmann, Colony of North Carolina, 1735-1764, Abstracts of Land Patents Volume One (Weldon, NC: Roanoke News Company, 1982).
16 “Instructions to the Governor of Albemarle County. Carolina. Lords Proprietors. February 05, 1679,” in “Colonial and State Records of North Carolina,” Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( : accessed 2019); citing volume 1, p. 235-239.
17 Lee Albright & Helen F.M. Leary, “Strategy for Land Records,” p. 43, in Helen F.M. Leary, editor, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd edition (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), chapter 2, “Designing Research Strategies.”