The Underlying Fabric of Our Area
By Rebekah Karelis
Wheeling’s remarkable writer of the nineteenth century, Rebecca Harding Davis, described the Scots-Irish people: “The character and manners of the Scotch-Irish settler in the Middle States were always different from those of the Southerner and New Englander. Has not the Scotch-Irishman contributed to the national character his shrewd common sense, his loyalty to his wife, his family and his country? He is an able, reticent, pig-headed, devout fellow, and cares little what the world thinks of him.”
The Scots-Irish people were both remarkable and unique. The term Scots-Irish is recognized in the U.S., but not as much in their countries of origin, Great Britain and Ireland, where its meaning is greatly debated. The term refers to people of Scottish descent who had migrated to the northern region of Ireland in the 1600s. England was trying to establish a Protestant population in Ulster to help gain control of wayward Ireland and they did this by sending Scottish people there. These displaced people were not welcome and found themselves in hostile territory, so that when land opened up in the colonies, the Scots-Irish moved in droves to the new land.
The early Scots-Irish went straight to the frontier, leading first to the western borders of settled lands in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and eventually crossing the Allegheny Front and coming here to the Ohio Valley. By the time they made it to the area that would be Wheeling, they were several generations American-born, moving from established settlements in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Many of them were from the Potomac Highland section of then-Virginia, now the eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
Because they were here early in Wheeling’s history, they purchased or claimed land from Elm Grove to Wheeling along Wheeling Creek and the Ohio River. Some examples of Scots-Irish families in Wheeling history were the Todd, Campbell, Warren, Carter, White, McColloch and Baird families, to name only a few.