FIRST SETTLEMENTS OF SCOTS-IRISH
Agricultural and frontier historians agree that Scots-Irish settlers in the New World tended to carry on the same settlement patterns, livestock practices and cultural attitudes that they had held in Scotland and transplanted to northern Ireland.
John Solomon Otto has described the clachan settlement of Ireland in this way: “Clachans were clusters of related farm families that communally worked a piece of ground. They continuously cultivated the best lands, or “infields,” maintaining soil fertility by manuring. On the poorer lands or “outfields,” they practiced shifting cultivation, cropping temporary fields that were returned to fallow pasture when yields declined. Beyond the outfields lay the unclaimed wastes that served as common grazing land for livestock.”
When the Scots-Irishmen came to York County, did their settlements closely resemble the “clachans” of northern Ireland?. Only partially. The land that would become York County, South Carolina was much more fertile and the population more sparsely settled than that of northern Ireland. The first settlers here, naturally seeking the best land possible, were far more scattered–sometimes a mile or more separated homesteads. But the settlers usually came south from Virginia or Pennsylvania with kinsman and tended to settle as near them as possible. Neighbors helped each other clear the land for crops, building houses, and harvesting crops.
It was the early practice to fence the crops and let the animals graze freely. Bottomlands along creeks became the York County version of “infields”. The “outfields” were the forested upland areas that had to be cleared for crops which when worn out became pasturelands.
Many early plats have notations such as “old field” with some saying “Indian old field.” Occasionally a corner of a survey might be a “lick,” or “stony lick.” These were naturally-occuring salt licks which attracted deer and cattle. If there were no natural licks, the farmers put out salt in order to keep their animals tame.
Because the cattle roamed the countryside, it was important to brand the animals. Nicking the ears in a special pattern was practiced, just as in northern Ireland. Each fall there were roundups for branding the calves and to cull the surplus animals. The farmers often drove the surplus to market or hired drovers to drive them as far away as Philadelphia.
Unlike the situation in northern Ireland, the hated English people and the detested Anglican Church were far enough away from the Scots-Irish Presbyterians of York County to not disturb them to any degree but the English form of government, which was head-quartered in Charleston, was imposed on the area. The county, with the sheriff as chief officer, was English in origin. The court’s judges and the justices of the peace were appointed by the Royal Governor. It was an alien system to the Scots-Irish who hated it–especially the power of the sheriff to collect taxes.
Source: March 1990