Browsing Category

Uncategorized

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 https://outlander-online.com

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 (https://www.ncpedia.org/biography/mcculloh-henry : 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr04-0177 : 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr05-0289 : 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr05-0289 : 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 (https://files.nc.gov/dncrarchives/documents/files/ffa_br_privycouncil.pdf : accessed 2019).
9 Stewart E. Dunaway, Henry McCulloh & Son Henry Eustace McCulloh: 18th Century Entrepreneurs, Land Speculators of North Carolina (Lulu.com: 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr03-0060 : 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr01-0098: 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr05-0289 : 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 (https://www.ncpedia.org/land-grants-part-3-land-grants-and : 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 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr01-0098 : 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.”

Drums Of Autumn Fraser's Ridge Outlander North Carolina Season 4 The Homecoming Uncategorized

Fauna at Leatherwood Mountains & WWCD?

July 24, 2019

from Mary Helen Ellis

If you are reading this, you are one of “those” that are sucked into the world of Outlander, and glad of it! The Outlander Vortex–I find I measure a good portion of my everyday life by WWCD, What Would Claire Do? It’s twenty degrees outside my mountain cabin, snow is a foot deep, and I must walk out to the car and clear off the windshield. WWCD–it just makes my “git up and go” a little easier! For Pete’s sake, if I must run out to the mailbox when it is 95 degrees, I stop and think, at least I don’t have to chop wood to cook dinner.

Our lives are a cakewalk compared to the 18th century. Every once in awhile, though, there is a reminder of Fraser’s Ridge time that sneaks up on you. These peeks into their world are very close by in Leatherwood Mountains. The flora and fauna of the North Carolina wilderness assault your senses as soon as you arrive. Owning a cabin in Leatherwood, I will share some of the fauna that I have encountered over the last twenty years. I am from eastern North Carolina, my town literally has 5 streets and 1 blinking light, so I am a rural gal, but it is quite different than being a mountain wilderness lassie…WWCD!

Fauna always makes me think of fairies. My 25-year-old niece has a favorite Leatherwood fairy story: at the bottom of Flag Branch Road is a mountain creek and waterfall. Years ago, when she was 6, Mara saw a fairy at the waterfall. About 6” across with white wings, it fluttered by her and spoke to her–I’m guessing a luna moth, lovely in its own right, but more so as a mountain stream fairy. A not so pleasant recent story involves my blind Yorkie, her daily constitutions, and the redbugs (chiggers) she brought back to my lap! I can’t watch Jamie and Claire rolling around the beautiful green grass without thinking of chiggers and their itchy bites that last for days! WWCD in the NC mountains?

Yep, red bugs, millipedes, ladybugs, oh my! Our ladybugs are of the Asian variety, said to have been sprayed from aircraft by the Wildlife Commission on the mountain ridges to rid the mountains of some other kind of tree damaging insect. These are not the cute red and black variety they named a vehicle after; these orange ladybugs swarm into log cabins and have an odor. Claire would have never seen these. But she probably had plenty of millipedes, cluster flies, and other insects to contend with. I see some different species every time I stay at Leatherwood. I believe there are many more varieties of insects in the mountains than back east.

Leatherwood Mountains is a wildlife sanctuary, no hunting, no ATV’s, no fireworks; just peace and the natural quiet only found in nature. Large game animals such as deer and turkey live happily in the natural environment of the gated 5000-acre resort. Populous game animals also attract the “top of the food chain” critters. I have had a cabin for 20 years and have yet to actually see a bear, a wolf, a panther, but have seen a bobcat. There is clear evidence of scat and tracks to show that they are living with us in the wilderness. The first renters of our cabin in 1999 woke to find a bear on top of their minivan, hoping for the left-over french fries inside. On a January trip to Leatherwood, we arrived at midnight. The next morning, we found wolf tracks by the horse trough. We have seen tracks of coyotes, wolves, panthers, bears, and elk tracks as large as a man’s boot! My husband swears he and his parents saw an actual elk, (not out of the realm of possibility as they have been reintroduced in the southern NC mountains). Remember, I have yet to see any of these animals, only their tracks. I have seen skunks, raccoons, groundhogs, eagles, hawks, owls, turkeys, and more.

WWCD? In the movie “The Songcatcher” the old mountain woman told the Yankee lady…if you hear a “painter’s*” cry (sounds just like a woman’s cry) and he is after you, run as fast as you can while stripping off your clothes. The panther will attack your clothes and shred them giving you precious time to flee. *The Eastern Cougar, panther, or “painter,” as they are called by mountain folk, is said to be extinct in this part of the US by biologists. Many people claim to have seen and heard their bone-chilling cries, especially in the vast swampy places in the coastal areas of North Carolina. Do they or don’t they? Depends on who you ask.

Copperhead with a nearby mothball, said to keep snakes away. The bite of a copperhead usually happens when they are stepped on. It’s easy to see how well their colors and pattern
camouflage them on the ground.

Who remembers the three storylines regarding snakes in Outlander? In 20 years, I have seen snakes three times (four, if you count the dead one on the road). The first time there were two in a pallet of rock with a wire fence around it. I wanted to use the left-over rock to edge a flower bed. It was me or the snakes. Had I known what kind at the time, I may have let them be. I tied a rope around the pallet, attached it to my trailer hitch and yanked the fence and rocks to smithereens. The snakes turned out to be king snakes–the good guys. The second snake encounter was also a good guy. However at 6’-7’, I did not bother the black snake as it scaled a steep embankment! I hope he is still around, guarding against snake number three, a beautifully marked but poisonous copperhead. WWCD with a very large Copper Head?

We sort of chased him off with mothballs and have not seen him for a year. I have learned though, that this fauna is one to watch for; know what is beneath your feet! Thankfully, we don’t have outhouses to contend with (except for one of our cabins, Hemlock Point, that has an outhouse ½ bath in the basement!).

Today’s cabins with AC, WiFi, Netflix, refrigerators, dishwashers, laundry appliances, computers, central heat, etc. are modern and comfortable, just like your home. But, step out the door and you can enter Jamie and Claire’s time. Leatherwood’s motto is “The stars are our streetlights.” It is true in every sense of the word; I encourage rental guests to arrive in daylight hours. At night, however, you can see more stars than you knew existed, because of very little light pollution. On a moonless night, at the right time of year, you can make out the Milky Way! We saw Claire make the startling realization when she first rode behind Jamie and saw the town of Inverness off in the distance, and no incandescent lights anywhere. It is like this at Leatherwood when you look out over the mountains. You are in the Outlander moment.

So, I believe what Claire would do is relish and stand in awe of the fauna she encountered in her life at Fraser’s Ridge in the 18th-century mountains of North Carolina. She had no choice but to fall in love with the area, but we do. We can turn off the television, shut off our phones and computers, and step out the door at Leatherwood Mountains….aka Fraser’s Ridge!

Thank you, Mary Helen, for the preview of what animals we may encounter while we’re at Leatherwood Mountains in October at A Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming!
Why not plan a visit to the NC mountains, and consider the Leatherwood Resort for a cabin rental? Their lovely homes range from one bedroom to five, so you can go alone for a breather, or meet the whole family for a wonderful vacation! The resort also features camping sites if that’s more your speed! Amenities include a swimming pool, horses available for trail riding, tennis, fishing, hiking, and tubing down the creek! Take some time to just be, enjoy the natural surroundings and all of the flora and fauna, and experience the back county much like it was in the 18th century! Your stress hormones will thank you!

Diana Gabaldon Drums Of Autumn Fraser's Ridge Outlander North Carolina Quotes Uncategorized

Comic Relief with The White Sow: John Quincy Myers

July 13, 2019

guest post by Nancy Roach, aka “The White Sow

One of the things we love most about Diana Gabaldon’s writing is her ability to create the most colorful, humorous characters and bring them to life. Although we love the actors who portray these roles on the TV series, we don’t always get the full impact of the images Diana’s written words inspire. Such is the case of one John Quincy Myers, rustic mountain man and comic relief. 

Susan Vaughn’s rendering of JQM

We first encounter John Quincy Myers in Wilmington, NC where Claire, Fergus, young Ian, and Rollo await the return of Jamie from his search for a gemstone buyer.  Imagine Claire’s shock as this spindly, gaunt, buckskin-clad giant approaches her in the streets of Wilmington. His bushy black beard overtakes his face and his hair hangs in “loose, snaky black locks.” Taller than Jamie, he sports a “disreputable slouch hat” with a ragged turkey feather.  When he squats down, “his knee joints pop like rifle shots.” One can only imagine the stench that must have accompanied this hazel-eyed behemoth with the “thin layer of greasy brown dirt” that covered everything. (Ah, if only there were a scratch and sniff version of Outlander.) Claire offers him her hand, but surprisingly he lifts it to his nose, sniffs it, then; breaks into a wide grin that is “nonetheless charming for missing half its teeth.” 

After learning Claire is a “yarb woman,” Myers unabashedly asks her opinion of his mysterious malady, a “great big swelling [that] come up just along behind of my balls.”  He suddenly starts to remove his pants to show Claire! Fortunately, Jamie arrives in the nick of time. Now the “two enormous specimens of mankind size each other up,” according to Fergus, “like two dogs… Next thing you know, they will be smelling each other’s backside.” 

Myers persists in relaying his tale of the “Big purple thing, almost as big as one o’ my balls. You don’t think it might could be as I’ve decided sudden-like to grow an extry, do you?”  Claire fights to keep from laughing. She explains this swelling must be an inguinal hernia that she couldn’t surgically repair unless Myers is asleep or unconscious. Later, Jamie gives Claire one of his famous quips, “What is it [Sassenach] that makes every man ye meet want to take off his breeks within five minutes of meetin’ ye?” 

Now we fast forward to Aunt Jocasta’s formal dinner party at River Run where an inebriated John Quincy Myers (complete with black eye and ripped shirt), suddenly staggers in the doorway insisting he is now ready for Claire to operate on his offending bulge. To which Duncan opines, “I did try to stop him, Mac Dubh.” Claire protests that alcohol is like poison to the body and could result in Myer’s death if she operates.  Someone in the room comments, “No great loss.” Phillip Wylie interjects, “Shame to waste so much brandy. We’ve heard a great deal of your skill, Mistress Fraser. Now’s your chance of proving yourself among witnesses!” Claire finally relents, and Myers’ comatose body is moved to the salon. “Relieved of his nether garb, Myers lay tastefully displayed on the mahogany table, boneless as a roasted pheasant, and nearly as ornamental.” (What an image these words paint!) What follows is an unusual after dinner entertainment; let’s call it “the Claire Surgical Show,” as she diligently works to repair the inguinal hernia amidst a sea of curious onlookers.  These dinner guests have no qualms about commenting during the procedure with such remarks as, “Expensive way to kill lice”, and “Jesus, Lord, it’s true—he’s got three balls!” I wonder how this whole scenario would have played out on the big screen, had the writers and producers the luxury of additional episodes in Season 4. 

There are more humorous antics of John Quincy Meyers to delight the reader. If you haven’t read about him in a while, you might want to review his part in Drums of Autumn to get the full effect of his character. I have no complaints about the actor chosen to portray Myers on the screen, nor his performance.  He did manage to add some humor to an otherwise serious season. However, I urge those who haven’t read the books to take a good look at his character in Drums of Autumn.

John Quincy rides again, thanks to
Claire Fraser’s surgical skills

Pictures are courtesy and copyright of my Twitter friend, Susan Vaughan.  Susan has amassed a wealth of Barbies, Kens, small dolls, and miniatures over the years.  She uses them to recreate scenes from the television series. 

Quotes credited to Diana Gabaldon and her book Drums of Autumn

We love JQM, Nancy–thanks for reminding us how funny hernia surgery can be ! (Only in Outlander, right?!)

Fraser's Ridge Grandfather Mtn Highland Games Outlander North Carolina Scottish Immigration The Fiery Cross Uncategorized

My Trip Down the Rabbit Hole of the 2018 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

June 26, 2019

guest post from Mitzie Munroe

The world of Outlander can be sourced as the inspiration for a number of newly-acquired Scottish-related interests, especially amongst fans. In my family’s case, most particularly, it would be our recent interest in learning more about our Scottish ancestry. We are most notably Munroes. Originally Munro, the “e” was added some time before my husband’s great-grandfather arrived in the US. His Scottish lineage has strong ties in that our first born son had to take the name Angus (either first or middle) to keep with family tradition that goes back hundreds of years. No pressure right? But how does one help their son who carries such a strong Scottish name understand why it was important that we give him that name?

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, credit gmhg.org

Being an avid Outlander reader and show viewer, I have not only started taking note of all the locations mentioned that are related to actual historical sites, but also the Scottish families that are woven into Diana’s world. Her storylines detail the true migration that some of these families made before and after Culloden and found their way to North Carolina.

These emigrated families are directly responsible for shaping our home state of North Carolina, and their influence can still be felt today. One of the most notable ways is the yearly gathering of Scottish-descended clans at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (GMHG) in Linville, North Carolina. Every year, for over 60 years, on the second full weekend in July, people travel from all over to attend this four-day event that has everything from music concerts to cultural lectures, demonstrations like piping and Highland dancing to sporting competitions, specialty food vendors to Highland crafters. Attending this amazing event is on many people’s bucket lists, and last year it was time that I finally see for myself what all the buzz was about and hope that my sons learn a bit about their ancestry.

The first decision that needed to be made was whether or not we wanted to camp on the grounds. This, I have heard, is a major attraction for a number of returning attendees. The camaraderie that forms in the campgrounds during the games is what brings people back year after year. It’s like a mini festival within the Games itself! Seeing as we had teenage boys attending with us and none are accustomed to being without creature comforts for more than a day, we decided to stay in one of the many cabins available for rent all around the mountain and also just a short drive from the Games. Some of the nearby towns, Linville, Banner Elk, Seven Devils, Valle Crucis, Boone and Blowing Rock having ample accommodations available, and we decided on a cabin in Valle Crucis. Not only are the GMHG a huge draw to this area, but also the many other sites that are a must-see if you find yourself in the area. We wanted to drop in at the original and famous Mast General Store that is located in Valle Crucis.  Not to mention one of our favorite wineries, Grandfather Vineyard & Winery, was just a short drive from our cabin, either going to or driving back from the Games, but it is the Games that are the true draw for us.

Enjoying some vino from Grandfather Vineyard & Winery by the Watauga River.

The first day (Thursday) was opening day with a few highlights: Highland dance performances, sheepdog demonstrations, a leisurely picnic and the beginning of the 5K Bear Foot Race that has runners start at the base of Grandfather Mountain and end at the top! I had hopes of running this race as one of my My Peak Challenge goals, but soon found that this race was a bit “unbearable” for me at the time, so contented myself with cheering on those amazing athletes as they funneled through MacRae Meadows before continuing up the mountain.

The definitive highlight, though, is the Opening Ceremony and Calling of the Clans. Come twilight, a representative of each of the attending Clans muster together in preparation for the Torch Lighting Ceremony. It’s at this time too that a reverie of pipers take the track and starts the mountain singing. There’s nothing quite like hearing the sound of the pipes announcing the opening of these Games!

Friday is the first full day of the Games. The mountain comes alive with Highland dance competitions, piping competitions, musical performances in the groves, cultural lectures and exhibitions like the Scottish Cultural Village and much more.

photo credits: GMHG: Rob Randall, James Shaffer, Mike Lacey

Though droves of people come to the Games for the event itself,  we were excited about taking a stroll through Clan Row and getting acquainted with our new-found friends at the Munro tent. I had become acquainted with a few of our US chapter representatives via email and was excited to not only pop in to say hi, but to learn what it is to be a member of a sponsoring clan or society. Those that find they have connections to a particular Scottish clan can visit that clan’s tent and learn about membership opportunities, make genealogical connections, learn about their own events, or simply find interesting information.

While hanging with our fellow Munros, we learned that Clan Munro is one of a handful of clans that still provide scholarships to young men and women who want to learn and perpetuate the Scottish arts of Highland dancing and piping. Recent scholarship winners were stopping by the tent to accept their certificates and took the opportunity to thank the organization for the award. Another interesting fun fact about Clan Munro is that the family seat of Foulis Castle in the parish of Kiltearn, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland is still a working estate that grows barley that just happens to be used for making whisky by Glenmorangie distilleries. Needless to say, we came away with a new appreciation for that particular brand of whisky and I am proud that the Munros have that affiliation! 

Competitions and demonstrations draw to a close by late afternoon in preparation for the highly anticipated Celtic rock concert on the grounds that evening. Our day ended with a bit of exploration of the surrounding areas and just kicking back and relaxing at our cabin.

Saturday is typically the busiest and most popular day of the Games. Attendance reaches max capacity and unless you have a coveted patron pass that allows you to park on the Mountain, you will have an adventure taking one of the area shuttles that winds its way up the mountain to MacRae Meadow. We started our day early, for there was still so much to see and hear. With the majority of the piping competitions concluded (and I can attest that my ears were still ringing with piping music come morning!) the highlights were the field competitions, concerts in the grove, and I was anxious for a special guest to arrive; being an avid fan of the Outlander television series, I was very excited to have had the opportunity to meet David Berry, who was a guest at the Clan Outlander tent!

David Berry, Outlander’s Lord John Gray, and an ecstatic me!

But of course my day’s excitement didn’t stop there (though how do you top meeting David Berry?!). I had the opportunity to be fitted for authentic Highland attire at one of the vendor tents. I had long desired having an outfit that I can wear during one of my many planned events where period clothing is not only welcomed, but expected. I found myself at the Wolfstone Kilt Company tent and fell in love with all of the beautifully-made garments on display for both men and women. One of the wonderful ladies that creates these amazing pieces actually did the fitting, and I can’t recommend enough the importance of having this done. Starting from scratch, I was on the market for not only the basics, but for universal items as well. When I finally pulled myself out of there, (wallet lighter and me heavier), I was donning my new shift, lovely stays, bumroll, stomacher (I chose one with bees in anticipation for Diana’s next book Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone), full skirt in the Wolfstone tartan, jacket and a fishu. I spent the remainder of my day wearing my new Highland attire with pride, but boy, it was it a joy taking it all off when I got back to the cabin! I have such a new-found admiration for the women of the time who not only wore these items all day but while also performing their daily work. 

My wonderful period costume from Wolfstone Kilt Co. Don’t you just love my BEES stomacher?!

Sunday is the day Grandfather Mountain gives a long sigh as the Games draw to a close, but not before a few more field competitions are completed, the kids races commence and the Parade of Tartans. Any attendees that wish to walk with their representing clans gather around the outer ring of the track to take a stroll around the inner track, arrive in front of the announcer’s stage and have their clan announced to the crowd. 

Myself and my family dressed out in our Munro tartan for this occasion and I have to admit I found myself carrying a new sense of pride in being able to truly call myself a Munro while walking with my new “family” and friends!

As our week at the 2018 GMHG came to a close, we said our goodbyes to our friends and to the Mountain, and we decided then that we would come back again, and I have been eagerly counting down the months, weeks, and now days, until the 2019 event.

A year has gone by and in that time we have had another season of Outlander. It was in this season that we got to see Roger and Bree attend these very games set in 1970 in an episode entitled “The False Bride.” While the writers took certain liberties when creating their version of the games, many scenes did have a factual foundation. Bree and Roger traveled to North Carolina for a Scottish festival in the vicinity of Fraser’s Ridge which does coincide with the GMHG’s long standing location. Their festival was full of dancing, music and games; just like our games. Even the calling of the clans and burning of the stag fits right in with our modern games (substitute a the tower of torches for the show’s wicker stag). I have delusions of hoping to find Roger at this year’s Games singing his version of “I Once Loved a Lass.”

Not only do we have this comparison, but we also had Diana’s version of a Highland Gathering in The Fiery Cross. I will have to leave it to the history books to confirm any of the comparisons of this 1770 gathering to what may have transpired in the past, but a little birdie did tell me that in the coming season of Outlander we will see the Frasers attending The Gathering at Mount Helicon (aka Grandfather Mountain).

This year’s Games will no doubt be another memorable event for me and my family. We have decided to explore a new area around Grandfather and rented a cabin in Seven Devils this year. We also decided to purchase the Highlander Patron package to better experience this year’s Games with being able to attend the reception banquet, whisky tasting, secured parking and a few other perks.  I’m also looking forward to possibly seeing another Outlander cast member, Gary Lewis, who played the role of Colum MacKenzie. While he leads Clan Outlander around the track, I hope I have the opportunity to hear him shout “Tùlach Àrd”!

The mountains are calling and I must go–I hope to see you all there!

Thank you, Mitzie, for sharing your first GMHG experience with us!

Have you ever been to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games? Are you planning on going this Summer?

Diana Gabaldon NC Historic Sites Outlander North Carolina Pre-Revolutionary War Period The Fiery Cross Uncategorized

My Weekend in Burlington, NC with Diana Gabaldon

June 17, 2019

Photo essay by Connie McKenzie

I first met my favorite author in Winston-Salem last year.  Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to meet her again!  However, I was fortunate enough to attend two of the events held in Burlington, NC, on April 27 & 28, 2019, thanks to our dear friend, Kimberly Kandros, manager of Development & Special Projects at the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.  She was instrumental in getting Diana back to NC.  

Saturday evening, we met at the Paramount Theater in Burlington. First, there was a speech from “Herself” with Q&A, followed by a book signing.  I was front row, center, for this fascinating event and was in awe with every word.  I visited with friends I’ve made through the Outlander effect. I even met Diana’s husband, Doug.  He is just as kind and friendly as Diana. However, I spent more time with him than her. LOL After the event, several of us walked across the street to grab a bite to eat and drink and visit with each other. Such a lovely evening.

On Sunday morning I was so excited about the brunch with Diana at the Alamance Battleground, that I arrived a little early.  I visited with Kimberly, look around the gift shop, and got first dibs on seating. It wasn’t long before another attendee, Marybeth Krichilsky, arrived and we chatted and started taking pictures.  The tables were beautifully set under a tent on the grounds. One of the first things we saw was a dragonfly which kept landing on Diana’s place setting. How ironic. I was going to let Diana know, but when I finally could talk with her, I totally forgot.  

Diana mentioned how she’d had to take allergy medicine since being here. (North Carolina was in high pollination that weekend!)  She included a little background of herself, her process, how she researches her material for her books. While writing, she sometimes will stop and pick something else up when she needs a break.  She can be working on several projects at one time and does this frequently.

The main topic of the day was, of course, the Regulators and events that led to the Alamance Battle.  This was a taxpayer rebellion. Governor Tryon raised taxes to pay for his palace. The people didn’t want this since they could barely could pay for food, supplies, etc.  When the Governor sent out tax collectors, they started raising taxes on their own and keeping the extra money. The Governor didn’t like this and told them to stop, but he couldn’t enforce it.  This ended up with the Hillsborough Riot and the Alamance Battle. The backcountry people didn’t stand a chance against the cannons. Diana then read from “The Fiery Cross.”

We had the most delicious brunch which included fresh strawberries and fruit, quiches, muffins, dainty squares, salmon, and salad.  It was interesting to know that some of the attendees drove or flew hours to get here! The furthest an attendee traveled was from California. One attendee which I had met at another Outlander event, Thru the Stones, in Iowa, was Lisa Margulies.  It was so good to see her again.  

After brunch, we walked to various parts of the Alamance Battlefield where Diana read to us from “The Fiery Cross” at each location.  We even saw the wild strawberries all over the ground. I was totally fascinated with this whole experience. I also really loved this being such a small group and being able to spend longer in her presence.  The book signing was last, and I didn’t want it to end. Diana is such an educated, talented, beautiful lady, inside & out. She never ages, never meets a stranger, always has a smile on her face, always accommodating, and so loving and generous! All the proceeds from the events go directly to the Battleground. (The land surrounding the historic Battlefield is at risk for development, and purchase of the land by the Save Alamance campaign will keep it in its natural state.)

There are so many wonderfully kind people in this Outlander Fandom.  I’m amazed on how many new friends I have made due to this Outlandish journey.

Connie, thanks so much for sharing your photos and summary of your amazing weekend!