I have been researching an article for a few months now that I am finally ready to write. This is about my 7th generation grandparents and their children. If we don't share their stories, they are lost.
Isobel Wilson, born around 1716 married William Moore, born around 1717. They lived in Donaghmore, Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
The winter of 1766 was horrible for crops. The crop loss was so bad that it was written about in newspapers and sanctions were put in place by the king to preserve the food supplies. Stills of certain sizes were ordered to cease production. (It has to be bad when governments are shutting down stills!) It was noted that people with less than an acre of land would have already run through their food supply at the time the letter was published.
I can only imagine the anguish that William and Isobel were going through. They were parents. No one wants to watch their family starve to death before their eyes. The mood was very dark in the Moore household. Hope was something that surely was fading day by day as they ran through whatever resources that they did have. Northern Ireland is not known for warm, balmy winters. We will leave them huddled over a small fire, worrying about what their future holds for a moment.
In another part of the world, a ship had been completed in the largest fresh water port in the world, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The ship was completed in 1766, the same year of the crop failures in Europe.
William Ray, of Ballyroney, Ireland was one of the three owners of the ship, named Nancy. The ship needed to start making a profit as soon as possible. The Captain, Samuel Hannah traveled with William Ray where they recruited poor Irish in northeast Ireland to take the trip. Why poor Irish? The South Carolina government was offering incentives. It was called the Bounty Act. For the passengers, passage would be free to those who signed up.
For William and Isobel, 1766 had to be a hellish nightmare. I can only imagine their joy when they either read the ad in the Belfast paper or, more likely, heard about the trip from either Hannah and Ray or neighbors sharing the news. Either way, word came of a program that would send you to the United States at no cost to you if you were poor, a Protestant and got a letter from your church basically vouching for your character and membership in a non Catholic church.
Sorry, you read that right, Catholics were not eligible.
There were amazing stories being shared. Tales of two crops being harvested off the land in one season. 100 acres of land for every man, 50 acres for all the members of his family. No taxes on the land for 10 years. After that, texas would be 3 shillings per year FOREVER. There would be ample food on the trip.
For a husband and wife with 4 children, 2 sons and 2 daughters, I am sure that the choice was not a hard one. Yes, it would be heartbreaking to leave everything you know and never come back, but the alternative was gruesome.
Nancy was advertised as being a 300 ton ship. In actuality, she was registered in Philadelphia as 80 tons. According to the laws and rules for human transport at that time, Nancy should only have taken on 80 adults, maximum. Instead, she left with over 300 passengers and brought appx. 291 into Charles Town, South Carolina. (Not called Charleston until later.)
The decision was made to take the trip. Belfast was nearly 50 miles away. A few days walking for a family. When William and Isobel boarded the ship with their children in Belfast, Ireland, I am certain that their hearts were soaring about their miseries being over. Robert, 18, Martha, 16, Agnes, 14, and James, 12 had to lighten their meager possessions to get on the ship. I can imagine that the thought of starvation made it easy.
Everyone made it to Charles Town in the Moore family. No one perished on the way. Sometime before the end of the year, Isobel would be dead at the age of 51. The stories from those who survived the trip on Nancy were a tale of shameful abuse. Many of those aboard her were sick and dying when they reached land. Complaints were made that Captain Hannah nipped them of provisions and heaped them upon one another.
The ship was so crowded. It would be referred to by some as a Protestant bounty ship, and by others as a coffin ship because of the amount of dead and dying aboard her. Conditions were abominable. Henry Laurens of Charles Town witnessed the ship and its' pitiful passengers. He wrote that in the 10 or 12 years of experience as a slave trader, he "never saw an instance of cruelty in that branch equal to the cruelty exercised upon those poor Irish."
Some of those who arrived were housed in what was called the Old Barracks. Church wardens would discover them and write of their findings. They write of deceased in the same room as sick and dying, and children with no clothing. I could go on, but the descriptions do not become any kinder.
The people of Charles Town were so appalled by what happened that they raised money for the victims of Nancy that had survived.
The treatment was so bad that the authorities refused to pay the bounty to the Nancy's owners, since they had so exploited those people for their own profits.
Fortunately for me, the children of Isobel would reach maturity into adulthood, or I would not be here.
For the owners of Nancy, amazingly, it would not be her last trip hauling passengers from Ireland. She would sail again from Belfast to America, but this time, she would go to Philadelphia, far from Charles Town, South Carolina. I am sure the reason is that the people who had survived the Nancy as well as those who cared for those survivors would not have welcomed them. The following year, the Bounty Act would be rescinded because of what happened aboard the Nancy.
South Carolina Gazette June 5th, 1767
General Gazette June 5th, 1767
The Journals of the Council of the Colony of South Carolina, names and land allotments under the Bounty Act of 1761 By Janie Revill, Pub 1939, Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland.
Council Journal, Page 201 July 10, 1767
South Carolina Immigrants 1760-1770
Irish in the Atlantic World by David T. Gleeson
Eighteenth Century Ireland 1703-0800 Society and History By Desmond Keenan
Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin
South Carolina Gazette July 24, 1767
Belfast Newsletter, the following issues:
30 Dec 1766 Page 3
2 Jan 1767 Page 4
6 Feb 1767 Page 3
20 Feb 1767 Page 3
3 Mar 1767 Page 3
30 Dec 1766 Page 3