Fact Friday 39 - The Scots-Irish Influence on Early Mecklenburg

Fact Friday 39 - The Scots-Irish Influence on Early Mecklenburg



Happy Friday Everyone!

St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick's Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, "the Day of the Festival of Patrick"), is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick's Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Lutheran Church. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilithe, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday's tradition of alcohol consumption.

Speaking of which, Rich & Bennett’s 16th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, noted as the “World’s Largest,” is tomorrow, March 12 in Uptown.

Significance of the Shamrock

On St Patrick's Day it is customary to wear shamrocks and/or green clothing or accessories (the "wearing of the green"). St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided St Patrick in his evangelization efforts.

Regional History

During the 18th century many Europeans set sail for America. Among them were between 145,000 and 250,000 Scottish and Scots-Irish seeking freedom and new opportunities. Many of them could not afford their passage; without any other options they were often forced to become what were known as indentured servants, bond servants, or redemptioners; a fate little better than slavery. Most of them came to the Southern colonies. By signing an agreement to work a number of years under an “owner” who had paid their passage, the servants were compelled to work at anything for any amount of time needed, often being poorly fed and beaten at the will of their master. Due to this harsh treatment, many attempted to flee their fate.

Many Scottish emigrants to the Carolinas moved inland towards the “Backcountry”, as most of the coastal land was already occupied. Many of the Highland Scots were middle class landowners, spinners and weavers, and military pensioners. According the author and historian Edward Tunis: “These people were by temperament the utter antithesis of Quaker calm and of German thrift. They took the land they wanted and dared anybody to move them; seldom did anyone do so. They were fiercely independent and stubbornly belligerent. It is said that when the break came with England, there was not even one Tory to be found among the Scots-Irish.” The last statement, while a slight exaggeration, could certainly be applied to the large Scots-Irish community of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Almost all of the signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence came from this group. The Mecklenburg Declaration was signed on May 20, 1775. This document was the first of its kind in Britain’s North American colonies - a fierce and defiant breakaway from English rule. In 1775 it was judged as premature; it did give expression to timeless principles of freedom and liberty, which appeared again in the national Declaration of Independence one year later.

In recognition of the contributions made by the Scots and the Scots-Irish to the development of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners issued a resolution proclaiming April 6 as Tartan Day and April as Scottish Heritage Month in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

The idea of a special day to honor early Scots and the Scotch-Irish settlers was first conceived in 1988 by the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia, Canada. As in the United States, many Scots had come to Canada against their will and had gone on to become exemplary citizens. Many of the other provinces also felt that such a day of recognition was needed and passed Private Member’s Bills or Premier's Proclamations in support of the resolution. Scots and their descendants were encouraged to wear tartan to their places of work, play or worship in honor of their forbears and in recognition of the hardships they endured.

The date chosen, April 6th, has special significance. It is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence. In 1320, the Scottish Barons, locked in a struggle with Edward I of England vowed that they would follow Robert the Bruce but, "it is not for riches, or honors, or glory that we fight, but for liberty alone, which no man loses save with his life." and further more should the Bruce waver they would cast him out and make another king.

It was appropriate that Mecklenburg County also chose this date to recognize its Scottish and Scots-Irish citizens. There are many signs of those early Scottish settlers still found in the metropolitan Charlotte area. The flag of the City of Charlotte is made up of the flag of Scotland, (known as a St. Andrew’s cross) with the City of Charlotte's seal in the center. Even a brief study of area town and street names becomes a list of Scottish surnames and place names.

Caption: The first flag was adopted by the City Council on May 6, 1929. The round emblem on the flag is the seal of the city. The tree represents growth. A hornet's nest can be seen on the left tree branch. The hornet's nest has long been a symbol for Charlotte, because in the American Revolution, her citizens fought so fiercely that a British general compared being in Charlotte to being in a hornet's nest. A Liberty cap, such as the kind worn by patriots from the area during the Revolution, hangs from the right tree branch. The hands signify friendship, and the year, 1775, is when the Mecklenburg Declaration. 

Check out Carolina Tartan’s local and regional list of Scots-Irish organizations and businesses.

Until next week!


Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

Information taken from:




Additional commentary added.

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass


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