Some Early Irvine Emigrants to America


Many Irvines-Irvines-Erwins of the mid-west are descended from Drum through two of the four sons of the Tenth Laird of Drum. Their emigration was largely the result of the religious Reformation which brought about a change in Scotland that was probably more extensive and profound then that in Continental Europe. In Scotland the revolt from Catholicism was accompanied by political changes that cost Kings Charles I his throne and his head. It cost the Irvines, who had always been Royalists, a promised Earldom.

The union of the crowns of Scotland and England and the sub­sequent move of James VI to London soon resulted in seri­ous neglect of Scotland. The greater size, population, (five times that of Scotland), and foreign relations of England were matters which eclipsed those of Scotland almost completely. Thus, the interests and concern of the smaller na­tion became centered in its religion and it’s Parliament. Under Charles I, both the Pope in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury in England threatened the Presbyterianism of the Scots. The Solemn League and Covenant thus became prominent and politically powerful.

Alexander, Tenth Laird of Drum, rejected the Covenant. Due to the strength of the Covenanters and the weakness of the King and his few Royalists—of whom Alexander was onethe Laird and his estate suffered sadly. The Laird was imprisoned and Drum Castle was occupied by the Covenanters' army under Argyle, a kinsman of the Lady of Drum. After months of plundering the estate, a decree was issued by the Covenanters to demolish the Tower and Castle of Drum, but such was the sympathy of the people of Aberdeen for the Laird that the decree was never carried out.

Robert, the second son of the Tenth Laird, fled to Ulster to escape persecution. He settled at Glenoe near Larne. He was, perhaps, twenty-five years of age when he married Elizabeth Wylie, thus starting a cadet branch of Drum that took roots only through two generations; the third generation in large part emigrating to America. How many of this branch remained in Ulster is not known, and information relating to those who emigrated is not clear.

There is some confusion among genealogists concerning this Robert of Drum descendent and a Robert of Bonshaw descendent who fled from the Border to Ulster ca. 1584. That it is a matter of importance there is no doubt, but insufficient information is available to differentiate and clarify these two Roberts.

Soon after Charles I became king he encountered a troublesome Parliament in London. The result was actual civil war. Charles called upon his Royalist supporters in Scotland for assistance and the English Parliament enlisted the aid of the Covenanters with the promise to impose and enforce their Covenant in England. This produced a rift in Scotland that extended the civil war and had a profound effect on the Irvines at the time, and historically afterwards.

Just prior to this, the King had bestowed upon Sir Alex­ander, Tenth Laird of Drum, a patent, making him the Earl of Aberdeen. The sudden outbreak of civil war prevented the patent from passing the Great Seal. After the civil war and the Restoration of Chares II, Alexander the Younger was offered a confirmation or the grant but he declined to accept it. Charles II is said to have commented: “The Eleventh Laird of Drum" seemed more honorable than the "first earl of Aberdeen."

In 1644 the King commissioned the raising of an army in support of his struggle with Parliament in England. On April 14, 1644 the young Laird of Drum and his brother Robert rode through Aberdeen with two parties, one with the King's colors,  and the other with the Irvine’s colors, to enlist recruits for service in England. Robert had returned to answer the King's call for assistance. The Covenanters, however, being already in force, forestalled the efforts of the Royalists and pursued the young Laird and his brother, making it necessary for them to flee the country.  On June 10, 1644, Alexander Irving, younger of Drum, Marie Gordon, his Lady, Robert Irving, his brother,  Alexander Irving, son of John Irving of Auchtamford, escaped by ship out of Fraserburgh. Young Alexander’s wife was so troubled with sea-sickness, however, that they landed at Caithness, where Francis Sinclair, son of the Earl of Caithness, seized them.

Montrose, now supporting the Royalists, arrived in triumph after his victory at Kilsyth and released all the prisoners from the Tolbooth (jail). Young Alexander of Drum now joined the camp of Montrose, but scarcely had he done so when, on September 13, Montrose was completely defeated at Philiphaugh. The Irvines were again consigned to their dungeons.

"Ye hard befoir of the taking and warding of young Drum and his brother, Robert Irving. This bravo young gentleman (Robert) departit this lyf, within the Tolbudth of Edinburgh, upon Tuysday, 4 Februar, 1646, and that same nicht, being excommunicate, wes buriet, betwizt 11and 12 a clok, with candle licht in lanternis, the young Laird lying sore seik, also in the same chamer, who upon gryt mogan, was transportit in ane wandbed, upon the morne, fra the Tolbooth to the Gas­tell, quhair he lay sore greivit at the death of his well be­lovi t brother, bourne dune by unhappie destiny.”

This Robert Irvine, second son of the Tenth Laird of Drum, who, at the time of his death, left a son David probably as yet unborn by Elisabeth Wylie, his wife. David married Sophia Gault and had a son named Robert who married Margaret Wylie and had ten children. They were: Margaret who married Ephraim McDowell; Mary who married her cousin, John Wylie; Thomas who married and settled in Cushendal, Ireland where he lived and died; Alexander who married a Miss Gault, a kinswoman; George, David, Lillian, Robert, James, and Samuel. The last seven named came to America on the ship George and Anne, sailing from Londonderry 9 May 1729 and landing at Philadelphia.

James Irvine, younger son of the Tenth Laird of Drum, life unknown, had a son Jared born in 1655. James was a Royalist but Jared opposed his father's views and became a Covenanter and had to leave Drum. He settled in Londonderry and had five sons: George, Edward, James William, and Theophilous. All of the sons came to Mount Holy, N.J. in 1720 as Quakers and were received there by letter to the Quakers in that locale. George married Jane Matlack; Edward married Sarah Woodward; and Theophilous married Miss Barr. James and William are known to havemarried but their wives are not known. Leaving Mt. Holly, they all, with the exception of James, settled in nearby Chester County, Pennsylvania. James and his wife Nary settled in Gloucester County, New Jersey and had four children: Margaret, born ca. 1724; Abram, Samuel, and John, who was baptized 1 January 1733.

Charles and Francis, two other younger sons of the Tenth Laird of Drum, have not been accounted for as yet. While both Charles and Francis are not uncommon names among those found in Virginia, none have been found in connection with Drum. Perhaps some information concerning them and their activities will be uncovered in Scotland, Ireland, or America, since a consider­able exodus from Britain was in progress during their younger days. In such a situation, neither would likely have stayed.

The westward movement of settlers in America was facilitated by the policy of making large grants of hundreds of thousands of acres to land speculators, who in turn made the land avail­able to settlers at a very low cost. Two such grants were made soon after the arrival of the ship George and Anne at the port of Philadelphia in 1729. One grant called Beverly Manor and one called Borden's Grant were the sites of several tracts of land obtained by the Irvines in the Valley of Virginia. After about one generation many moved on to Kentucky and Tennessee. Theophilous may have been born a generation later. If such were the case, the fifth son of Jared, son of James, would have been John, as mentioned in some accounts of the  family                                                                                                              »»»


The preceding article appeared in the second-quarter 1978 issue of  The Holly Leaf Chronicle. Barbara H. Loucks is described as a genealogist. While the article is interesting to read, more current research by Donald M. Mackintosh, in his book Irvines of Drum and Their Cadet Lines, 1300-1750, published in 1998, contradicts some of her “connections” and dates.                                                                                                                                -Ed.