Most people when they meet me online think I’m from somewhere in Europe or maybe Canada, except for those who happen to look at my hometown info on my Facebook profile. Even some of those think I’m lying about that. I’ve even had people around here ask me where I’m from sitting at a bar or somewhere else. My professors at the university were all from up North and my accent adapted naturally, so I sound like I’m from the Midwest. Normally, that is.
Recently, I’ve learned my accent unconsciously alters to match whatever subject I’m talking about.
If it’s home and family or high school, I take on a Southern drawl. If it’s Scotland, I shift to a brogue. If Ireland, I shift to a lilt. And yes, even a Cajun-Creole accent if I’m talking about the food or the area. Until about a year-and-a-half ago, I didn’t even realize I did it.
I can assure my national and international friends, as well as those more local, that I am indeed from here. I even qualify for First Families of Tennessee and possibly similar groups in several other states.
I first got interested in geneaology when I watched the miniseries “Roots” during its first showing on television. I was thirteen, I think, at the time and my favorite character was Chicken George. My parents had always told me we were English (Hamiltons) and Dutch (Hicks and Buchanan), but just the little bit of digging I managed at 13 told a different story.
It turned out that the Hamiltons originated in Scotland, same with the Buchanans, while the Hicks originated in northern England. The Stewarts (my paternal grand mother’s family) we knew originated in Scotland from some research one of my dad’s uncles had done. So, for most from early adolescence until just a few years ago, I identified as Scottish-American.
I became and remain a staunch Scottish nationalist. I joined the Scottish Nationalist Party on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and remained a member until they forbade international membership following a change in UK law. I’m still a member of the cross-party Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, though not as active in the years since June 2009, and also friends with many members of the very nationalist Scottish Socialist Party, and I still have many friends in the SNP.
Besides the new UK law, another reason for the SNP’s prohibition of international members was the attempted infiltration of its ranks by white supremacists cloaked in tartan and using the label “Anglo-Celtic”. If there’s one thing Scottish nationalists can’t stand, it’s “Brigadooners”, especially of the variety in the League of the South and organizations associated with it, like the Southern Party and the Conservative Citizens Councils.
The term “Anglo-Celtic” is an affectation, not a historical reality. I am quite sure the League of the South knows nothing of the Clan Singh either. The Clan Singh is officially recognized by and registered with the Lord Lyon King-of-Arms and the Council of Scottish Chiefs, with its own elected chief, tartan, and coat-of-arms, and its membership is all South Asian.
Clan membership is a big part of Scottish identity, especially among nationalists, but not an absolutely necessary part, and is more about name and allegiance than it is genetics and biology. Scottishness is just as much urban “Trainspotting” as it is the plaid-clad “Braveheart”.
Under the old Brehon/Brieve laws, servants and even slaves were counted as part of what is now considered the clan. The Brehon Laws, the old Celtic body of laws dating from the oral laws of the druids, lasted in Ireland in central and western Ulster and in all of Connacht until the Flight of the Earls in 1607. The Brieve Laws, the Scottish version, lasted in the Isles and Western Highlands until the end of the Rising of the ’45 in 1746.
In other words, the descendants of Frederick Douglas, should they wish, are entitled to join the Clan Douglas Society as full members by virtue of their name. That probably surprises nearly as many people as the fact that a huge percentage of African-Americans are entitled to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans as full voting members in their own right, by descent from a freedman or slave ancestor who was a veteran.
Incidentally, Barak Obama is entitled to join both the SCV and its Military Order of Stars and Bars as a descendant of Jefferson Davis, just like his cousin, Dick Cheney. And anyone may join the SCV, or its Sons of Union Veterans counterpart, as an associate member, even recent immigrants with no prior connection to America, by the way.
I am Robert Charles Hamilton III, my father is Robert Charles Jr. and my grandfather Robert Charles Sr. And that’s as far back as the “legitimate” line goes. Legally, Hamilton is indeed my name, but biologically I’m not a Hamilton. However, under the modern rules in Scotland governing clan membership, I am a member of Clan Hamilton.
By descent I am American, and before that Irish and Scottish, with some bit of English and smidgens of German, French, and Cherokee. Growing up, I had Jewish godparents nextdoor who ate “kosher” bacon, and today I have Muslim goddaughters in Rasht, Iran, who eat “halal” hot dogs, as well as a Palestinian niece in Gaza City. Then there’s all my Filipino former in-laws who still consider me part of the family; friends of my son have nicknamed him “Asian”.
That reminds me of this story. A Palestinian, an American, a French Iranian, and an Israeli got onto a boat in Paris…wait. That isn’t a story; that really happened. I was there, as the American. I have pictures. It was on a crowded public Batobus tour boat cruising the Seine River through the city in May 2011.
I have 74 lineal and collateral ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, according to the reckoning of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, in units of the Army of Tennessee, Army of Northern Virginia, Army of Trans-Mississippi, Department of East Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia, Western District of North Carolina, and Department of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
I qualify through a few others for the Sons of Union Veterans, not a unique situation by any means. One (from Snowhill, Georgia) served in the 22nd Indiana Infantry and the rest (from Sand Mountain) with the 1st Tennessee and Alabama Vidette Cavalry, politely termed a “partisan ranger” unit.
I mention the Civil War right off because here in Chattanooga, you have to ignore it to get away from it. It surrounds you everywhere. The U.S.A.’s first and largest military park is the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, after all. Same for the country’s first National Military Cemetery. Civil War monuments spread over downtown, along Missionary Ridge, and across Lookout Mountain and a few other places. Less than a mile from my high school is a Confederate cemetery; another is in the middle of downtown.
The neighborhood where I lived until recently is one through which ran the Army of Tennessee’s retreat from Chickamauga Station (across the rails from where Lovell Field is now) to Ringgold, Georgia, the day after its disastrous route from Missionary Ridge. Maybe President Lincoln had a foreshadowing that would be happening on that first Thanksgiving Day, instituted in October 1863 as a PR distraction from the Union debacle at the Battle of Chickamauga and the almost Pyrrhic losses in the “victories” of Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
I was raised in the East Brainerd area for most of my childhood before we moved east a few miles to Ryall Springs. The community that was called Concord until Birds Mill-Parker Gap Road had been rechristened Brainerd/East Brainerd Road in 1926. The only remaining evidences of the former name are Concord Road and Concord Baptist Church.
Concord Road was once part of the stage route from the county seat of Harrison, where the mail and stage road from Old Washington (Tennessee, not D.C.) crossed the Tennessee River. The road came southward along the west side of the valley until the former Shepherd mansion, then crossed to the east side. The first section is now called Hickory Valley Road, the second is Concord Road. Concord Road crossed Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek) at Lomenack’s Ferry before continuing southwest to the Old Federal Road.
Concord Baptist Church was established in 1848 as the Baptist Church of Christ at Concord. Its founders included former members of the Church of Christ at Chickamauga, the congregation attached to the Brainerd Mission. The mission sat on land bought from former British Indian Superintendent John MacDonald, whose trading post was across Chickamauga River from Old Chickamauga Town of the Cherokee.
Old Chickamauga Town had lain where the sub-divisions of Brainerd Hills and Brainerd Heights now sit and the late 19th century whistle-stop of Whorley once lay. Whorley is another post name which never really took, except for the now-defunct Masonic lodge which my paternal grandfather used to belong to. Before it was named Whorley, it had been called Ellis’ Crossing after the crossing of the railroad tracks by Bird’s Mill Road, and before that it was called Vinegar Hill, after the place in Ireland.
The railroad engineer who laid out the town of Whorley was W. T. Worley, whose large two-story house sat where East Brainerd Church of Christ is now. Well within Concord community and three miles from the post station. In the early, ante-bellum days of Concord community, the local “meeting house” was there. “Meeting house” was a 19th century euphemism for a tavern and inn, often with prostitutes and gambling in addition to booze and beer and food.
The euphemism was not without basis. Often taverns were the only public building other than churches in which local men could get together and discuss community issues, politics, and business. There are a lot of public buildings in the East Brainerd area these days, but the closest that would qualify as a meeting house is the Hardees. And only in the mornings, but pretty much every morning.
An earlier rail stop than Whorley had been planned closer to the midst of Concord just before the Civil War, a mile or so down from the station at Graysville, Georgia. It was at or near the intersection with John D. Gray’s planned Harrison (Tennessee)-Lafayette (Georgia) Railroad, and was to have been named Johnson. Part of the railbed that had been laid for the aborted project became Gunbarrel Road, now the modern shopping mecca of the region.
I can remember when Gunbarrel was a tar-and-gravel, sometimes dirt, road not even two lanes wide. We sometimes played stickball and other games there because there was never any traffic.
I went to school in the local area throughout my educational career. I went to East Brainerd Elementary for six years, which was less than half a block from our house on North Joiner/ Walnut Grove/Ryan Road. At time, the school was first through sixth grades. I had gone to St. Nicholas Kindergarten at Grace Episcopal Church.
East Brainerd Elementary began its life a hundred years ago in 1912 on land donated by William T. Walker, the station-master at Chickamauga Station, who lived across the road. The house still stood until a decade ago. The school’s first name was Walnut Grove, the name it had had when it met in its old building a mile away on South Gunbarrel Road. One section of the current school dates from the original Walnut Grove School.
After leaving East Brainerd Elementary, I went to Tyner Junior High for three years, Ooltewah High School for one year, and after my final two years graduated from Tyner High in 1981. I studied political science, with minors in psychology, religion, and history, at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, graduating in 1985.
So, you can’t say I’m not from around here. In fact, my roots in the area go deep.
My mother’s parents both went to Tyner in the latter years of the Great Depression. The school gets its name from the village that used to be there before the coming of the now-defunct Army TNT plant in 1940. The continued existence of that plant during the Cold War made the area one of the top ten sites for the Soviet ICBMs in the event of a global thermonuclear war. The real thing, not a video game played by a young Matthew Broderick.
My son and I drove through the 2200-acre Enterprise Nature Park that’s now part of the complex there one weekend. On one part of the drive, we found two-foot thick walled concrete bunkers from that era, a couple of which were open to the public. David’s reaction was, “Holy cow! The Cold War was real!!”
Naw, we Americans were just kidding and so were the Soviets. Right?
Tyner High and Junior High got their names from the village of Tyner, which in turn got its name from the whistle-stop built in the mid-19th century when the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad first laid tracks through the area. The village included a redoubt built by soldiers of division of the Confederate Army of Tennessee commanded by Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, formerly of Co. Cork, Ireland.
The whistle-stop got its name from its station master, Capt. J. S. Tyner. The U.S. Army took the village of Tyner but not the station, which operated mostly as a passenger stop until the 1960’s. The village formerly sat at the crossroads of Hickory Valley Road and Chattanooga-Cleveland Pike (now Bonny Oaks Drive). All of its houses were destroyed, but the redoubt remains.
Another redoubt built by Cleburne’s troops had been previously destroyed to build the original Tyner High School. Cleburne’s troops built three more redoubts built in that area of Hamilton County, two between Hickory Valley and Chickamauga Station and one at the then county seat of Harrison.
Of these, one was destroyed by a descendant of the Shepherd family who inherited Altamede through selling off the top of Dupree Hill for fill dirt. The opposite redoubt on Stein Hill was destroyed to make way for a water tower, though you can still see the base of the wall and the rifle pits. The third, at Harrison, is under the waters of Chickamauga Reservoir along with the old town.
Altamede, the former Shepherd mansion christened built in the 1840’s by Col. Lewis Shepherd (modeled on James Vann’s Diamond Hill at Springplace, Georgia), reigned over 7000 acres of land at one time. The narrow valley bordered by Trading Post Hill-Stein Hill-Dupree Hill (all part of Milliken Ridge) on one side and Concord Ridge on the other through which the old post road ran is called Hickory Valley. That was also the first post office in the area, but the name didn’t stick.
After their village was taken by federal eminent domain, many of Tyner’s residents moved just south of their former homes, taking the name Tyner with them, encroaching upon the hill where the original high school, the one my grandparents attended, sat. Others moved slightly east to the area called Silverdale. My Hadden great-grandparents moved out east to Ryall Springs.
Tyner wasn’t the only community obliterated to make way for the plant; the African-American community of Hawkinsville, along Hickory Valley Road north of Chattanooga-Cleveland Pike, bit the dust as well. However, its residents also managed to recreate their community, a few miles southeast (centered on Pinewood Road). Part of the community of Shot Hollow in what became the northern section of the Army reservation was expelled as well.
Smack dab in between the village of Tyner and the community of Hawkinsville, in the southwest corner of the crossroads, sat the store of my great-grandfather L. B. Hadden, Sr., father of my grandmother Pauline Hadden Hicks, until 1940. L. B. was married to Sarah Oliver, descended from the Cades Cove Olivers of Upper East Tennessee.
L.B. Sr.’s father, Civil War vet William A. of the 8th Georgia Home Guards, was married to Sarah’s older sister, Minnie, his second wife. For years, my grandmother went to visit “Grandpa and Aunt Minnie”. Minnie and Sarah were the daughters of George Washington Oliver, who served in the Civil War with both the Confederate 4th Tennessee Cavalry and the Union 22nd Indiana Infantry.
The Cades Cove Olivers, Minnie and Sarah’s family, had been among the first Euro-Americans to settle in Carter Valley, now Carter County, west of Sullivan County, prior to relocating to the cove in Blount County for which they are famous.
My grandfather Nathan A. Hicks Jr. lived several miles to the west of Tyner in East Chattanooga, what the city now calls “Glass Farm District” (just as they have redubbed North Chattanooga as “North Shore”), but walked from there to Tyner and back every day because at the time Tyner had the best football team and Nathan A. Jr. wanted to play football, and did.
One of great-grandma Sarah’s maternal uncles, Adolphus Horn, gave his name to the village of Hornville in southern Hamilton County which is now the Chattanooga community of East Dale. My mom’s paternal grandmother (Eunice Bethemia-Jane Buchanan Hicks), along with her father (Nathan A., Jr.), her mom (Pauline), uncles (Paul, Freed, David) and aunt (Irene) all lived there with their spouses (Pauline, Dean, Marjorie, Ruth—later Jean—and R.L. Buckner).
Great-great-grand-uncle Adolphus later owned a thousand-acre strawberry plantation which ultimately became the town of Lakesite, north of the Tennessee River; he himself founded another town called Gold Point which eventually dissipated.
Eunice Bethemia-Jane was one of the results of the union of two lines of Buchanans, both descended from two brothers, John and James, who first lived in Virginia in the mid-to-late 18th century.
James migrated to North Carolina where his descendants lived until well after the Civil War, in which his grandson Benjamin S. Buchanan was a sergeant in the 25th North Carolina Infantry.
In 1768, John, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, sold Evan Shelby, father of later Kentucky governor Isaac Shelby, the land that became Sapling Grove, the first of the North-of-Holston settlements (later called Pendleton District) which ultimately became Sullivan County, Tennessee.
Evan Shelby may have been the first white man to have a homestead in what is now Tennessee, but John Buchanan already owned, or thought he owned, the land upon which it was later built, so how you define resident would determine which of the two gets the title of First Citizen. One of the signatories of the Cumberland Compact, John Buchanan was also one of the pioneers around 1780 in the Cumberland Basin settlements centered around Fort Nashborough at the Great French Salt Lick, former site of France’s Fort Charleville.
In the generation before James and John, our Buchanans split from the line which later begat James Buchanan, future President.
Nathan Andrew Hicks, Jr., my mom’s dad, was the latest in a long line of Nathan Hicks extending back into the 18th and maybe even 17th centuries, or even farther. In every generation of that line of Hicks, there was a Nathan, sometimes the oldest son but not always. My granddad was the oldest among his siblings, likewise with father, but Nathan Andrew, Sr.’s father, Nathan Edward, was the youngest of his.
The Hicks lived in Sullivan County from the 1780’s, and there are still many there. Nathan Edward’s sister Jennet married Nathan Gregg, who became commanding officer of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia’s 60th Tennessee Mounted Infantry. Jennet’s and Nathan Edward’s father, Nathan Renatus, had died shortly before the outbreak of the war, and their mother took them and their siblings to live near her birth family in Blount County, bordering the State of North Carolina.
Close by the Hicks in Blount County during the war lived the family of another Confederate soldier, Nimrod Jarret Smith, a sergeant in the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders of the Western District of North Carolina. Years after the war, when Nathan Edward, then working on the railroad which ran right through Swain County, North Carolina, where it included a station named “Cherokee”, he married Jarret’s eldest daughter, Mary.
Not long after the wedding, Mary became sick and her nearest age sister, Cordelia, travelled to Sullivan County, to which the Hicks family had returned after the war just as the Smiths had returned to Qualla Boundary, to care for her. Unfortunately, Mary died, and Cordelia, who had become close to her brother-in-law while caring for her sister, married him and became my great-great-grandmother.
Delia and Nathan Edward had eight children together before she died, after which he re-married to Mary Roberts of Columbus, Georgia, whom he met while working another railroad, and moved his whole family to Flint Springs in Bradley County. Nathan Edward and Mary had eight more children, giving him a total of sixteen, and they are buried next to each other at Flint Springs Church, him as Edward Nathan, no doubt since he used his middle name due to the multiplicity of Nathans in the various Hicks families.
Nathan Edward’s oldest son Nathan Andrew, Sr. was the Hicks who married Eunice Bethemia-Jane Buchanan.
Nathan Andrew and Eunice Bethemia-Jane’s marriage was not the first encounter between their two families. That occurred on the evening of 30 September 1792.
That night a young Cherokee warrior, Aganstata (Ground Hog), Jarrett Smith’s grandfather, and Aganstata’s older brother, Nunnehidihi (Pathkiller), were part of a 300-plus strong force of Cherokee, Muscogee, and Shawnee led by Cherokee war chief John Watts trying to massacre a small group of 14 barricaded inside a fortified blockhouse in the Cumberland Basin called Buchanan’s Station, named for its owner, John Buchanan. So, one night about two hundred and twenty years ago, two of my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfathers were doing their very best to kill each other, and since there’s a historical marker there I know exactly where that spot is.
My dad’s ancestors were a bit less colorful, so far as written history is concerned, anyway. At least where his mother is concerned. Although, it is interesting to know that I am related by intermarriage or by blood to everyone in Dade County, except for the newcomers. His mother Nelle’s family, the Stewarts, and her other families, the Tittles, Cases, Murphys, Adams, and Martins, came to the area on the heels of the Cherokee, mostly from Warren County, Tennessee, after the Removal in 1838, settling the Georgia county known since the Civil War as the State of Dade.
The Stewarts were one of the first families in Rising Fawn and the Tittles and Cases two of the first in Salem, or Trenton as it soon came to be known. The Murphys gave their name to the hollow coming into the northwest of the county from the Tennessee Valley, while the Martins owned a large plantation straddling the Georgia-Tennessee state line. Later ancestors helped establish the communities of Stewart-town, Hooker, and New England.
“My” Adams are the same bunch that produced Presidents John and John Quincy Adams, making me a distant cousin of Provisional Irish Republican Army and later Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. The Adams originated as the MacAdams of Galloway in Scotland, a sept of the Clan Gregor. The Martin who built the house near the stateline was married to an Adams, and they in turn were cousins of the Hale for whom Hale’s Bar was named.
I find it amusing that the leader of the largest republican movement in Northeast Ulster (aka Northern Ireland) is what might otherwise be called an Ulster Scot. The same is true for the most famous northern republican of all, Bobby Sands, whose family originated in northern England before migrating into Lowland Scotland and later to Ulster.
The Martins, who had a large farm or plantation straddling the state line and whose house I managed to see before it was destroyed, owned a few slaves, two small families, and it is through them that I have African-American relatives that I know of, possibly by blood. Two of my Case great-great-grand uncles had common-law wives who were nominally slaves, so there may be more. The Martins came from Ulster, specifically Tir Eoghain, where they once followed the Cenel Eoghain that became the O’Neills of Tyrone.
The original antebellum house of the Stewarts (and that of the Curetons, whom some Stewarts married) is still standing in Rising Fawn. I know because I’ve seen it. It even survived the tornado of 27 April 2011 that devastated so much of Dade Co.
After the war, the Stewarts moved some distance away to the area in the county now called by their name, Stewart Town. No one with the name Stewart lives in the county anymore, having all moved away, mostly into Tennessee. But the Murphys, who intermarried with the Stewarts so many times they consider any Stewart a cousin, own the house in Stewart Town.
One of my dad’s uncles, Dick, traced the Stewart line back to Scotland, to the royal line of Scots through the Stewarts of Appin. This, of course, makes us descendants of the Kings of Scots and of the Lords of the Isles too. Of course, the Stewarts were so prolific, at least in regard to their “illegitimate” offspring, that being their descendant is not all that notable and the number now includes possibly the entire population of Scotland.
During the Civil War, my ancestors from every family in Dade County fought in all four companies that the county provided to the Confederacy in the 6th, 21st, 34th, and 39th Georgia Infantry regiments. One was an officer, Lt. James Alexander Case, in Co. F, 34th Georgia Infantry. Two, possibly three, were named George Washington Tittle, one buried in Cash Canyon (the Tennessee River Gorge). By the way, I also have two Confederate ancestors named George Washington Oliver.
I have ancestors buried the length of Wills and Lookout Valleys, from the mouth of Wills Valley in Alabama near Fort Payne to the foot of Lookout Valley at the Tennessee River in the river gorge named Cash Canyon.
My dad’s family on his father’s side is a bit more colorful, though for reasons not many of our older relatives wanted to talk about until it was too late to get much more information.
My great-grandfather Hamilton, David M., was one of the nicest, most caring people I’ve ever met. He’s one of the two reasons I gave my son the first name David (the other being an otherwise unknown boy I met on the side of the road in Mexico; David’s middle name, Nicholas, comes from his mother grandfather in the Philippines). He’s also not really my great-grandfather, at least biologically. We didn’t find that out until I was at university and my grandfather, Robert C. Sr., in a nursing home with dementia and paraplegia. He told me himself in one of his more lucid moments.
After arriving home following that visit, I told my mother and she called Aunt Margaret, my dad’s sister, who confirmed it. She had known for quite some time but hadn’t ever gotten around to sharing the information. Margaret had learned it from Lorraine, Uncle Lee Stewart’s wife (we never called her Aunt Lorraine because she always said she was too young to be an aunt), who had heard it from Grandma Hamilton (my great-grandmother).
It turns out my “real” great-grandfather was surnamed King, and Papa Hamilton (R.C. Sr.) knew this because he’d worked for him at the A&P grocery in Muncie, Indiana, which is, or was, considered by sociologists to be the archetypical city of “Middle America”. King’s family came from Co. Galway in the western province of Connacht, the name having originally been MacConroy, or MacConraoi.
Along with the O’Malleys of Umaill, the O’Flahertys of Connemara, and the O’Dowds of Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe, the MacConroys of Gno Mor (and their cadets the O’Heeneys of Gno Beg) were one of the clans of sea-kings in Connacht. The earliest designation for the family and their followers in Irish was Delbhna Thira Da Locha, Delbhna of the Land of Two Lakes, the Debhna being a large population group dominating central Ireland during the Late Ancient and Early Middle Ages that later broke into seven dispersed groups in Connacht, Leinster, and Meath.
The title of The MacConroy as chief of the name was Mac Mheic Con Raoi, and as ruler of his territory was King, later Lord, of Delbhna Thira Da Locha. After the year 800 CE, they were nominally subject to The O’Flaherty as King of Iar Connacht and Lord of Moycullen. Iar Connacht took in not only the O’Flaherty’s base of Connemara but Moycullen as well, a medieval barony contiguous with Thira Da Locha. In practice, the MacConroys were independent, probably called kings by their followers and even by the O’Flahertys.
I suspect that nearly all of Papa (Robert Charles Sr.) Hamilton’s ancestors, including both his “adoptive” father and his “biological” father, descended from Famine Irish.
Grandma Hamilton, Anna Roach, certainly was, on both sides, her mother being from the Rice family (either Rhys from Munster or O’Mulcreevy from Ulster) and her dad from the Roach family (de la Roche), descended from Godbert, the first Cambro-Norman knight to cross the Irish Sea in 1167, two years before Strongbow, Richard de Clare, came at the invitation of the deposed king of Leinster. Anna’s two grandfathers fought together in the 10th Tennessee Infantry of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, an all-Irish unit nicknamed the Sons of Erin. For at least a time, the Sons of Erin served in Irish-American Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne’s Division. The two former comrades moved west together to still open lands of Arkansas, from which Anna’s parents moved to the Holy Land of Indiana.
Grandpa Hamilton, David M., may have come from Famine Irish as well. For all I know, the surname Hamilton could be Anglicized from O’Hamill. His father, John, died in a coal mine accident when he was just five and his mother, Ida, of pneumonia a few years later. His grandmother, Henrietta Van Winkle, left him standing on a rail station platform with a quarter in his hand as she boarded the train going off with her sixth husband around 1903. He joined a circus for several years which eventually made its way to Muncie, where he met and fell in love with single mother Anna Roach some time in 1914.
Legally, as far as state records go, David M. Hamilton is Robert Charles Sr.’s biological father. What the records don’t say is that the birth certificate wasn’t recorded until my grandfather was six and needed one for school. Nor that his “parents” hadn’t even met until he was three.
Before the Famine, all those who came from Ireland, no matter what their religion and ancestry, were considered Irish. In the 18th century when the Great Migration took place, there was no Orange Order of all non-Catholics. There was just a Protestant (Anglican) Ascendancy lording it over a population of Catholics and Dissenters (non-Anglican Protestants, including Scottish Episcopalians as well as Presbyterians, Methodists, congregational Puritans, Quakers, etc.).
For instance, the Protestant (loosely, anyway) Doc Holliday considered himself every bit as Irish as his very Catholic cousin and love interest Mary McCarthy, just as Anglican Pat Cleburne, scion of an Ascendancy Anglo-Irish family in Co. Cork, considered himself every bit as much Irish as his Catholic soldiers in the 10th Tennessee Infantry.
Doc’s cousin Mary eventually became Sister Mary Melody at a convent, where she befriended a younger cousin named Margaret Mitchell and became enshrined in literature as Melanie Hamilton, while her romanticized cousin became Rhett Butler.
When refugees from the Famine in Ireland came flooding into America in the 1840’s, many of their predecessors invented the notion that they themselves were not Irish but rather “Scotch-Irish”. To distance themselves from the wretched newcomers who were often Gaelic-speaking, desperately impoverished, and, God forbid, Catholic. They were aided and abetted in their self-delusional pretensions by the Anglican Ascendancy in Ireland.
The Ascendancy had realized its precarious position of being a wealthy 1% on top of a poor tenant 99% population united in its hatred of its gentry. It therefore opened the doors of its exclusively Anglican Orange Order to not-so-well-off Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and other disreputable Nonconforming Dissenters. Before that, Dissenters had suffered nearly as many legal disabilities, though usually in different areas of law, as Catholics.
The Orange Order was founded in 1795 as the Ascendancy’s defense against the United Irishmen, the first group in Ireland to advocate republicanism. The Society of United Irishmen, ancestral to the Irish Republican Army, was founded by two Anglicans and nine Presbyterians in 1791 inspired by an English-born American, Thomas Paine.
Partly because of the sectional divide and partly because most Famine Irish landed in the North, the custom of using “Scotch-Irish” didn’t make it pass the Mason-Dixon line until the late 19th century at the earliest. Its use became more widespread after the birth of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915 and the rise of “hooded Americanism”.
Sean Connery, whose family’s roots are in Munster, is a proud Scottish nationalist, and James Connolly, the famous Irish republican, was born in Edinburgh.
A few years back, I began to learn that no matter what their family’s ultimate origin, nearly all my ancestors, with a couple of exceptions, were in Ireland before coming here to America. Most crossed during the Great Migration of the 18th century, others during the Famine of the mid-19th century. That bit of interesting information began to integrate with what I had learned earlier about the identity and origin of my biological great-grandfather. After nearly three decades of me thinking I’m Scottish, I find out I’m Irish.
It took me a while to get my head and my heart wrapped around that one. I don’t think it finally clicked into place until I went to the Coolin bar in Paris. It’s right off the Mabillon station of the No. 10 Metro line. It’s not your typical phony touristy Irish-themed joint with manufactured quaintness. It’s the real thing. Good food, balanced between Irish and French cuisine, and good selection of beer and wine and Irish whisky, single malt Scotch too. The inside is like an Irish pub, the outside like a French bistro. The staff has one Aussie and a couple of French but is mostly Irish. Great people, all of them.
I also recommend the Cours du Commerce Saint Andre (St. Andrew’s Alley of Commerce) in the Saint Germain-de-Pres neighborhood and the Place de la Contrescarpe in the Faubourg Saint-Médard area near the Latin Quarter. And the café Le Bouquet de Grenelle on the northwest corner of Avenue de la Motte Piquet and Rue de Pondichery.
On the Rue de l’Odeon in Paris where Thomas Paine lived for several years, there is a plaque that reads: “Thomas Paine. English by birth. American by choice. French by adoption. Citizen of the world.” Seeing that plaque in person was one of my favorite moments during my first trip to Paris. I would have to say that seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at night beats it though. The boat ride on the Seine River as the American with the French Iranian, the Palestinian, and the Israeli was more memorable too.
Geneaology and family history are interesting, but regardless of what my DNA is and where it comes from or where I was born and raised, I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth. The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins.