Nov 9, 2018

John 1

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 in  1763 in Kilkinney, Ireland. From there he disappears from written history until midnight of July 15/16, 1779. He appears then on the Hudson River, some 40 miles north of New York City.  We meet him there 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 Stoney Point on the Hudson River  is simply a mystery. Family lore,  plausible but never documented, holds that he arrived in colonial America with 7 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.

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 aristocracy supporting the state-sponsored Anglican church and unwelcoming to the crude Scots-Irish.

It's  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 above, 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 old Hadrian Wall, begun by Roman Legions around 122 A.D to fortify the border between themselves from the untamable  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 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 that they  were not quite Scots, beholden to the nobility further north, nor quite English, loyal to the royal fops of 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 Anglican Church and its counterpart, the Irish church.  As Jim Webb has it, they simply refused to follow secular or religious leaders who were not intimately connected to their local or regional clans. 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."


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 John 1 was almost surely a Protestant (if he was anything at all), and probably a Calvinist of one stripe or a other.  So how did he become a Protestant and a father of Protestants?

The simple answer, and I think probably correct one, is simple: Lust.

Now, if you propose to copulate, the first requirement is proximity to a counterpart. That imperative was satisfied by the migration of ten of thousands of the Scots-Irish across the narrow Irish Sea, settling near the native Catholic Irish of, mostly, Ulster.

On one soft spring evening a svelte immigrant lass espies a handsome young Irish stalwart of the Farrell clan. In the immortal way of the human female she plots to win his notice.  A slightly revealing bodice and a twitch of the hips as she passes him  by on her way to the village well will do it. She succeeds. Jaw agape, he will have her and no other even though she comes with a price. 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 around the 1650s.


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 heirs were John  R. Farrell who died young, never having seen his son, John Ray, my grandfather. John Ray and his wife, Emma Allie Clark,  were parents of my dad, Ottis R. Farrell.

 Geography: Our direct-line family lived in Virginia, then near Boonsboro, Kentucky (1783 until about 1835), then Monroe County, Missouri until about 1930, then northwest Iowa until the 1960s and 1970. At present it is scattered through Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota. One might want to say we arrived and lived in this nation as hillbillies and are only recently emerging as somewhat civilized city folks. I personally would not strongly contest that viewpoint.

John 1 was awarded two small land grants near Boonsboro in the spring of 1783, his reward for three years of military service. He died about 1824. Most of his children, including William, migrated to Monroe County, Missouri in the early 1830s along with most others of that region, fleeing hard economic times.

(The last couple-three paragraphs were dashed off, and I hope to flesh them out before long. This all remains a draft and a work in progress.)

(place holder -- temporary -- showing William as John's son.)

Husband: William FARRELL
Birth date: March 3, 1796
Birthplace: Madison County, KY
Death date: October 1, 1874
Place of death: Monroe County, MO
Father: John FARRELL
Mother: Christina Pursley (her surname, long unknown to us, was added by jf about 2014)

Marriage date: Abt. 1820
Marriage place: Kentucky

Wife: Mariah HAYES
Birth date: 1803
Birthplace: Oldham County, KY
Death date: January 14, 1872
Place of death: Monroe County, MO
Father: Unknown
Mother: Unknown




JohnMXL said...

Farrell is, I presume, a relatively (pardon the pun) common surname, but my paternal grandmother was a Farrell, so I will be interested to see where your journey leads.

Jim said...

Thanks, John. I hope the information is useful to you.

One of the standard references lists "Farrell" as the 40th most common name in Ireland. It is quite prevalent around Longford.