Guilford County NC history, Settlement by Scotch-Irish German and English Quakers, First settlers came about 1749, Dissenters seeking religious liberty as well as homes


“In the history of Guilford County only four dates have any-
thing like a general value. These are: 1750, when the first settle-
ment was made; 1774, when the Quakers freed their slaves and
began to agitate the slavery question ; 1840, when the Whig idea
attained supremacy and the internal improvement and educational
wave began to break over the country; and 1865, the close of
the Civil War. Around these dates each of these ideas has
hovered like a shadow with a penumbra fainter and fainter in
effect.”…The History of Guilford County


From The History of Guilford County by Sallie Stockard.

The Settlement

"About 1749 the first settlers came to this section. At that 
time a heavy stream of migration was pouring into North Caro- 
Hna. In the portion of the State marked by the present towns of 
Greensboro, Sahsbury, Concord and Charlotte, the Scotch-Irish 
and German settled. 

To the territory now known as Guilford County people repre- 
senting three nations, the Scotch-Irish, the German exiles from 
the Palatine and the English Quakers, came. These people were 
dissenters seeking religious liberty as well as homes for wives and 
children. From the colony of William Penn, where they had first 
set foot on American soil, they passed on through Virginia, where 
the Church of England was already established, and traveled 
through a wild country to a milder climate and the freedom of 
forest and river to be found in Piedmont North Carolina. In the 
beautiful scope of country that later became Guilford County these 
three peoples settled, building their homes amid the fertile, rolling 
plains and wide ridges of IMiddle Carolina. The houses, manners 
and customs of the lands they had left were soon firmly fixed upon 
the new country. 

In central Guilford the Scotch-Irish settled ; in east Guilford 
the Germans built their homes ; while in west Guilford the English 
Quakers took up their abode. A band of Welsh also came to this 

In central Guilford were : the Archers, the Brannocks, the 
Caldwells, the Dennys, the Donnells, the Foulkes, the Gillespies, 
the Gorrells, the Htinters, the Kerners, the Lindsays, the McAdoos, 
the McjMikels, the Osbornes, the Stokes, the Sanders and the
Weatherlys. (Mr. Robert M. Sloan of Greensboro is authority for 

In east Guilford were: the Albrights, the Clapps, the Cobbs, 
the Cobles, the Fousts, the Holts, the Keims, the Linebergers, the 
Sharps, the Shoffncrs, the Straders, the Summers, the Reitzells, 
the Whitsells, the Whitsetts and the Wyricks. 

In west Guilford were : the Armfields, the Seasons, the Chip- 
mans, the Coffins, the Elliotts, the Edwards, the Gardners, the 
Horneys, the Mendenhalls, the Pughs, the Starbucks, the Stan- 
leys, the Welborns. 

One band of Scotch-Irish came from Lancaster County, Penn- 
sylvania ; another poured into the province by way of Charleston^ 
South Carolina. These two streams met in central Guilford. A 
company called the Nottingham Company of Pennsylvania bought 
a large tract of land on the Buffalo and Reedy Fork Creeks. ( See 
Life of Caldwell.) These were the blue-stocking Presbyterians. 
On the headwaters of the Alamance the * followers of Whitfield 
built their homes. Old Alamance Church was the nucleus of the 

"From the stock of Scotch-Irish in the north of Ireland," say 
Hawks, Swain and Graham in their History of the Revolution, 
page 51, "came the Carolina immigrants. They reached the place 
of their settlement by two different avenues of approach ; the one 
portion came to America by the Delaware River, landing in Phila- 
delphia ; the other touched our shores at Charleston, South Caro- 
lina. They struck into the fertile country of Virginia, and in 
Carolina the two tides of migration met. The line of their settle- 
ments across the whole state from North Carolina to Virginia may 
be traced through Charlotte, Concord, Salisbury, Lexington, 
Greensboro, Milton and the head waters of the Roanoke." "Our 
forefathers," says Dr. C. H. Wiley in his address on the Centen- 
nial of Alamance Church, "came not as adventurers or hunters, 
not as outlaws and wanderers, but as intelligent men, with good 
* These were Presbyterians who had been influenced to emotionalism by John Wesley. 

worldly substance, with needed implements of industry, with civi- 
lization and the church." 

The characteristics of the Scotch-Irish are mainly noticeable 
in thought-movements. From this stock have come our public 
men, soldiers, politicians, statesmen, agitators. Morehead, Gilmer, 
Wiley were Scotch-Irish. In the first battle for American rights, 
that of Alamance, in 1771, and the last decisive battle of the Revo- 
lution, that of Guilford Courthouse, of 1781, the Scotch-Irish were 
most prominent. 

The Germans, who settled east of the Scotch-Irish, had 
come from the Palatine, driven by the scourge of war from 
what was once their happy home. Up the Rhine from 
Cologne the Thirty Years' War had left terrible devastation. 
Thousands of these people came to America upon William Penn's 
invitation. With them they brought that love of domestic life so 
marked a characteristic of the race. For many years their German 
speech excluded them from public offices, but they were among 
the fighters in the Regulation War and among the Whigs of the 
Revolution. Their manners and customs are German, their old 
German Bibles and text-books are extant. 

Unlike both German and Scotch-Irish was the Quaker in his 
territory in western Guilford. It is this element which makes the 
history of Guilford unique in North Carolina. The Scotch-Irish 
and German may be found in many other counties in the state ; 
but not these three together. In the conjunction of these a clash- 
ing of ideas came about which has made history. In the question 
of slavery Guilford County history is vital not only in this State 
but touches national life as well. The aggravating element kept 
the Scotch-Irish niind active. Out of the active Scotch-Irish mind 
came the impulse for internal improvements in North Carolina. 

In England, Quaker and Presbyterian had alike suffered re- 
ligious persecution. They were impelled by the same purpose to 

Note: In time of the Revolution and before it, William Rankin lived in Guilford on the 
North Buffalo; Walter Denny lived near by; Col. Daniel and Col. John Gillespie, Ralph 
Gorrell, Hantz McBride and John Thorn lived in the vicinity of Greensboro ; James Hunter, 
Robert Bruce, James Mendenhall and Henry Ballinger lived north and west of Greensboro

gain for themselves new homes and freedom to worship as they 
chose. About the same time, and probably together, they had 
journeyed to Guilford County. Though they had much in com- 
mon they w^ere yet unlike. In the Quaker settlement the hip-roofed 
houses and the various crafts are manifestations of English train- 
ing. Besides the Quakers who came from Pennsylvania about 
1749, a band of Nantucket Quakers came to this territory in 1771 -J^ 
another band of emigrant Quakers came here from eastern  
North Carolina ; others still were of Welsh extraction. Among 
these last were the Benbows, Brittains, Hoskins and others. 

The followmg, taken from S. B. Weeks' "Southern Quakers," 
pages 107-108, gives us some interesting information concerning 
the Guilford County Quakers : 

■'The island of Nantucket being small and its soil not very produc- 
tive, a large number of people could not be supported thereupon. The 
population of the island still increasing, many of the citizens turned their 
attention to other parts and removed elsewhere. A while before the Revo- 
lutionary War, a considerable colony of Friends removed and settled at 
New Garden, in Guilford County, N. C. William Coffin (1720-1803) was'' 
one of the number that thus removed about 1773. Obed Macy, writing of 
the period about 1760, says that because of the failure of the whale fishery 
some went to New Garden, N. C. About the outbreak of the Revolution, 
because of derangement of their business by the war, soine went to New 
York and North Carolina. 

"In 1764, Friends had begun investigations to find out who were the 
original Indian owners of their new homes, in order that they might pay 
them for the land, as they were trying to do at Hopewell, Va. It was 
reported that the New Garden section belonged to the Cheraws, who had 
been since much reduced and lived with the 'Catoppyes,' Catawbas. In 
1780 two-thirds of the inhabitants of Nantucket were Quakers. Among 
their leaders were the Coffins, Starbucks, Folgers, Barnards, Husseys. 

"During a period of five years there were no less than forty-one cer- 
tificates recorded at New Garden Monthly Meeting from Nantucket out 
of a total of fifty certificates received. 

"In this number there were eleven families, including many that have 
since been prominent in Guilford County. Among them were : Libni 
Coffin, William Coffin, Jr., William, Barnabas, Seth (and wife), Samuel 
(and family), Peter and Joseph Coffin; Jethro Macy, David, Enoch, Na- 

thaniel, Paul (and family), Matthew (and five children) and Joseph Macy; 
William,- Gayer, Paul (and family), and William Starbuck; Richard, Wil- 
liam, Stephen .and Stephen Gardner ; Tristrim, Francis and Timothy Bar- 
nard; Daniel, Francis and Jonah Worth; John Wickersham, William 
Reece, Jonathan Gifford, Reuben Bunker, Nathaniel Swain, Thomas 

The Pennsylvania and Nantucket Quakers did not mingle and 
inter-marry with the Scotch-Irish, whose whole modus vivendi 
was the opposite of their own. 

Almost all the members of the denomination at the present 
day who are '"birth right," can trace their descent from one or 
both of these sources, and those who congratulate themselves upon 
their Nantucket origin may be interested in the following doggerel 
which was supposed tersely to describe those same ancestors. 

The Rays and Russells coopers are, 

The knowing Folgers lazy, 

A lying Coleman very rare, 

And scarce a learned Hussey, 

The Coffins noisy, fractious, loud. 

The silent Gardners plodding. 

The Mitchells good. 

The Bakers proud. 

The Macys eat the pudding, 

The Lovetts stalwart, brave and stern. 

The Starbucks wild and vain. 

The Quakers steady, mild and calm. 

The bwains sea-faring men, 

And the .I'olly Worths go sailing dowh the wind. 

In a letter of Tryon to the Board of Trade, August, 1766 
(Col. Rec, Vol. 7, page 248), he said: 

"I am of opinion that this province is settling faster than any 
on the continent. Last autumn and winter upwards of one thou- 

Note: The greater portion of the county, even within our present boundaries, was at 
this time without white inhabitants. The beautiful middle region was the highway of 
traders from the eastern colonies of N. C. and Virginia with the Indians west and south. 
Dr. Wiley's address on Alamance Church, see also Records at Salisbury N. C, bks. 1-7, at 
Register's otfice. Guilford was a strategic point. Many of those who settled here 
afterwards went west. 

sand wagons passed through SaHsbury with families from the 
northward, to settle in this province chiefly ; some few went to 
Georgia and Florida, but liked it so indifferently that some of them 
have since returned. 

"The dispatch of patents I have granted since my administra- 
tion will show to your Lordships the great increase of settlers in 
the western or back counties. These inhabitants are a people dif- 
fering in health and complexion from the natives in the maritime 
parts of the province, as much as a sturdy Briton differs from a 
puny Spaniard." 

Governor Tryon regarded this territory "as of great value, 
being perhaps the best lands on this continent, particularly Her- 
man Husbands', who had (in May, 1771) on his plantation about 
fifty acres of as fine wheat as perhaps ever grew, with clover 
meadows equal to any in the Northern Colonies." (Col. Rec, Vol. 
8, page 615.) 

These people did not live in crude log cabins. Many of them 
had comfortable homes, hiproofed, with dormer windows, built of 
brick or frame material. They had wealth ; they loved beauty. 
All worked, continually stirring from four o'clock in the morning 
till late at night. Industry at length brought luxury and plenty. 
They were a pastoral and agricultural people such as good living 
never spoils, but, on the contrary, develops in them spirit and 

Spacious fields of wheat, corn, buckwheat and patches of 
flax and cotton surrounded their homes. Sometimes a hundred 
bee hives added another charm to the garden, with its lilacs, roses, 
sweet lavender and daisies. 

The home itself was like a colony of bees in which there were 
no drones. It was a custom that no young woman should marry 
tmtil she possessed forty or more bed-quilts, counterpanes and 

Note: These Nantucket settlers were not the first Friends to come to North Carolina, 
and it is likely that Henry Phillips, who, in 1665, came to Albemarle from New England, 
was seeking a refuge from the tyranny of Massachusetts, where Friends suffered martyrdom 
on Boston Common. 
snowy sheets that she had made herself. These articles of her 
handiwork she embroidered with all sorts of needlework. 

The women wove for the whole family, tow shirts, barndoor 
breeches and silken gowns. They sold great quantities of cloth, 
wagonloads of butter, cheese and honey. They raised silk, flax, 
cotton and wool, and manufactured these products for sale. They 
sold green apples and chestnuts all winter. 

People lived without much expense. They had no fear of work. 
The men prided themselves on their physical strength. A friendly 
fight as a test was not infrequent, while even old men wrestled 
occasionally. It was customary for a company of men and boys 
to collect on Saturday evenings at a mill or cross-roads. One 
described a circle. Upon banter being given two men stepped into 
the ring and they laughed at black eyes and hard knocks. They 
boxed each others' ears as a joke, and gouged and bit each other 
for fun."

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