Nov 21, 2018

John 1 (repost to restore lost material)

Caution:  With this the TMR becomes quite personal, a series of reports and speculation on ancestry. It's a family thing I wish to do, and for technical reasons this old and dusty blog is the most convenient way.


John Farrell is our first known ancestor, a Scots-Irish man born in1763 in Kilkinney, Ireland. From there he disappears from written history until midnight of July 15/16, 1779. He appears then at the Battle of Stony Point  on the Hudson River, some 40 miles north of New York City.  We meet him as a 16-year-old soldier of the Virginia Continental Line, serving as a drummer to Captain Robert Gamble's  8th Company of the 7th Regiment of Virginia Volunteers.  As a drummer, essentially a signal man,  he would have ranked as a junior staff non-commissioned officer, perhaps just slightly above a corporal.

How he made his way from his Irish birthplace to the  Battle of Stony Point on the Hudson River  is unclear. Family lore,  plausible but never documented, holds that he arrived in colonial America with seven brothers. All we know firmly, beyond the obvious Atlantic crossing,  is that John landed here after 1763 and before 1779 as part of the very large 18th Century Scots-Irish immigration from Ireland, primarily Ulster.

The most typical of these emigrant families landed at Philadelphia and trekked inland to the east slope of the Appalachians in southern Pennsylvania. Many, perhaps most, sooner or later drifted southward to high lands of Virginia and beyond. Only a relative few settled along the coast,  tidewater country, where the land and culture already belonged to earlier English colonists, an English aristocracy supporting the state-sponsored Anglican church and not welcoming the crude Scots-Irish. 

It is probably safe enough to imagine our John as solid member of these hill people or,  as I once heard it said by a prominent journalist in the region,"...a good old Piedmont boy, not no low-country snob." In any case, he was there somewhere, growing from boy to young warrior to Kentucky land owner and direct progenitor of nine generations (and counting) of American Farrells.

John would have been 12 or 13 when the Revolution broke out, 1775/76.  As said, we don't know exactly where or how he lived  
before he  joined the anti-English Virginia army. One hint, however,  points to the Piedmont country of the northern Shenandoah Valley. His rifle company, the 8th  Co. of the Seventh Continental Regiment, was apparently raised on that Virginia frontier by Captain Gamble.

If we care to reasonably speculate more about John, we need a quick review of general history.


The Scots-Irish are, loosely, just what the name suggests, a mixture of the two Celtic nationalities.  Importantly, they also include a north-English population, also more or less Celtic, who, over the centuries, refused to kneel before the Crown of England and its feudal-system nobility.

The Scots were generally Celtic lowlanders, clans around  the western reaches the old Hadrian Wall, begun by Roman Legions around 122 A.D to fortify the loose border between themselves and the untamable lowland Celts to the north. Unable to conquer them,  Rome chose a Plan B; wall them out, harassing them occasionally in a way reminescent of rattling the zoo cage of a dangerous carnivore.   

For some 15 centuries more, until the 18th Century, the lowlands were scarred by back-and-forth war. Both shifting alliances and bitter combat flourished among northern English clans and the nearby, often intermixed,  Scottish tribe and clans. They are often known as the "Lowlanders," recognizing they were not quite Scots nationals, beholden to the nobility further north, nor quite English, loyal to royal fops in far-off London.  It was probably this defiance of distant aristocracy that led to them to become a separate and testy  group, a nation without home.

The Scots-Irish also refused organized religion as it existed in feudal times, declining rule by the Popes of Rome or, after Luther and the Reformation,  Rome's Protestant offshoots, primarily the established Church of England  and its counterpart, the Church of Ireland.  As Jim Webb has it, they simply refused to follow secular or religious leaders who were not intimately connected to their local or regional clan groupings. Webb, revealingly, calls his history of the Scots-Irish Born Fighting.

Anyone insisting on an oversimplified explanation of these ancestors of ours can safely use the term "anti-authority."

It is a mistake to understand Irish history as strictly Catholic versus Protestant, but that centuries-long cat fight is useful context. And it gives us a shorthand way to broadly distinguish our Farrell line, Protestant, from the other and much larger group of Catholic Farrells. If you meet a Protestant Farrell the odds suggest a person associated with the Scots-Irish immigration to colonial America in the pre-Revolution1700s. A Catholic Farrell is more likely to be part famine-driven migration of the 19th century.


Back to our John 1 of Kilkinney.  "Farrell" has been a native Irish Roman Catholic name for some 11 centuries. It often occurs among the war-like revolutionaries opposing English colonization, English theft of Irish property, and anyone's Protestant faith.  But, since our John 1 was almost surely a Protestant (if he was anything at all), and probably a Calvinist of one stripe or a other, how did the conversion happen?  

The simple and, I think, probably correct answer is "lust." We can pretty safely rely on a common folk observation that when two societies collide, "First they fight, then they (fornicate)." 

The Lowlanders crossed the narrow Irish Sea and settled in the Irish north, among the native, Catholic, Irish with whom they often battled.  

But then on one soft spring evening a svelte immigrant lass espies a handsome young Irish stalwart of the Farrell clan. In the immortal womanly way she schemes to win his notice. A  twitch of tidy hips as she passes him on her way to the village well may do it. Her's does. Jaw agape, he will have her and no other. He leaps from his horse, approaches, and whispers in her ear. She smiles.

"Aye Sir, but ye must abandon Rome if ye would hope to enter here."

He asks himself what the Hell the Pope has done for him lately. A  Protestant Farrell line begins.

We don't know when this -- or something with the same result -- happened. It could have been John's father, grandfather, or earlier, likely during the centuries of  heavy Scots-Irish presence in Ireland. My personal guess would be somewhere in the1600s.


A few years after the Revolution our John 1 married Cristina Pursley and sired several children.  One was William who married Mariah Hayes and fathered my great-great grandfather, Richard, who fought for the Confederacy in the War Between the States. Among Richard's sons were John  Richard Farrell who died young, about 29, never having seen his son, John Ray Farrell, my grandfather. John Ray and his wife, Emma Allie Clark,  were parents of my dad, Ottis Rollin Farrell.

Geography: Our direct-line family lived in Virginia, then near Boonsboro, Kentucky from about 1783 until about 1835. John was awarded land there (Kentucky Land Warrants numbers 885 and 886 totaling 300 acres) for his three years of service in the Virginia Continental Line. Most of his children moved to Monroe County, Missouri in the middle 1830s.  About 1930 our direct line moved to northwest Iowa (Luverne et al. then Fort Dodge)  until the 1960s and 1970s. At present it is scattered around Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. It might be said we arrived and lived as hardscrabble country people for nearly two centuries in this nation and are only recently emerging as somewhat civilized city people. I would not strongly contest that viewpoint.

John 1 died about 1824. His William, migrated to Monroe County, Missouri in the early 1830s along with most others of that region, fleeing hard economic times.

(This all remains a draft and a work in progress.)

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