History of the Graham Family

The Grahams, like many of the early settlers of the Valley of Virginia, were of Scotch-Irish descent and came from counties Donegal and Londonderry, in the northern part of Ireland. The term, Scotch-Irish, does not necessarily mean a blending of blood between the Scotch and Irish nations, but implies the Scotch who emigrated from Scotland and settled in Ireland. During the years beginning shortly after the middle of seventeenth century, there was a large emigration from Scotland to Ireland, having been brought about on account of religious persecutions the Scotch received at home. 

The treatment and torture dealt out to these pious religious people, who held tenaciously to the principles of the Presbyterian faith, by the [2] church of England, under the false cloak of religion, would of itself fill a volume much larger than that contemplated in these pages, and reference is merely made to show the stern and unwavering character of a people who were driven from post to pillar, and suffered almost unendurable hardships and degradations, rather than depart from a principle which they believed to be the teachings of the Bible, as well as having the approval of their conscience. Thus, more than two centuries ago our ancestral parents left their beautiful homes in their native land, and looking for the last time on the green sloping swords of the Grampian Hills and bid farewell forever to the graves of their fathers and mothers, and left behind all that was near and dear to them, even as their own lovely Scotland, and took up their march for the Emerald Isle, in the vain hope that the persecutions and trials which had hitherto made life hideous, would cease and they would be free to exercise their faith[,] which had so long been the desire of their conscience. [3] But alas! for human expectations. Their sojourn is but for a while, until the broad and inviting land across the Atlantic bade them once more take up their line of march and plant their homes in the New World, where they would be free to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, unhindered by church or state. Among the many families who thus emigrated from Scotland to Ireland and later from Ireland to America, we might mention the following names: Forbesses, Stuarts, Hamiltons, Montgomerys, Alexanders, Grahams, Shaws, Moores, Lewises, Pattons, Mathews, Prestons, Baxtons, Lyles, Grigsbys, Crawfords, Comminses, Browns, Wallaces, Wilsons, Caruthers, Campbells, McClungs, McCues, McKees, McCowns, Lockridges, Boyds, Barclays, McDonals and Baileys, described as, “knights and gentlemen of Scotland, whose prosperity holds good to this day.” They were Irish Presbyterians, who, being of Scotch extraction, were called Scotch-Irish. 

[4] These names are to-day familiar house-hold words of the names of our own land and are but a repetition, and of the same lineal descent of their noble ancestors, who, more than two centuries ago stood ever firm to the Magna Charta of Scottish rights, and rallied under their brave banners, emblazoned with the faith of their own creed, in the famous golden letters, “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant,” they waited undaunted, the tyranny of their foes. 

As we have said, their sojourn in Ireland was but temporary, as to a large proportion of those who emigrated there. Of course, many hindered by poverty and other causes no doubt, made that their permanent home. 

The relief which they sought, they found but temporary in their new found homes in Ireland. Under the rule of tyrant kings, their suffering and punishment was endurable only for its contrasts with their former suffering. Tithes and taxes demanded from their wrecked estates to support a church, not of their own choice; restrained [5] from speaking their own opinions; living in a strange land; dwelling among enemies of their faith, all combined to make them an unhappy and restless people. Longing for new homes, the silent whispers came across the ocean that the Mayflower, years before had landed others, persecuted like themselves, safely on the other side of the blue waters. This gave them hope. “For thou, O, God, hast proved us, and thou hast tried us as silver is tried; thou broughtest us into the net; thou layest afflictions upon our loins; thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but though broughtest us out into a wealth place.” Gathering together what little worldly goods they possessed, which was very meagre, and often nothing, save their Bible. They embarked for the New World, landing upon the banks of the Deleware, [sic] and many rested for a season in the land of Pennsylvania. 

William Penn, having been formerly a subject of the King of England, and witnessed the perse- [6] cution of his own church (though he himself was a favorite of King James) it was but natural that these people should seek out in the New World, those that had been persecuted for conscience sake in the old world. 

Among those who sought fresh relief and new homes amid the untrodden forests of America, few stood higher or occupied positions more exalted than the Grahams. During that bloody, treacherous, and ever memorable struggle in England, Ireland and Scotland, in which King James was dethroned, and William, Price of Orange, a presbyterian, became his successor — a time when no man could remain neutral, but, all must declare, either for the time honored established church of England; the papistry of King James; or for that faith which they believed to be taught in Holy Writ. According to the dictates of their own conscience, the Grahams occupied prominent positions on either side. 

One Richard Graham, known as Viscount Preston, held the position of Secretary of State of [7] Scotland, under King James, about the year 1685; and history tells us that he was one [of] the privy council, and most trusty advisers of the king; that his plans and recommendations were often adhered to, rather than those of the king himself. As a leader of the House of Commons, he counseled King James to reassemble the Houses of Parliament, in order to secure a peaceful settlement of differences between church and state. He was also made Lord Lieutenant for both the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland, a position very rare and remarkable for one man to occupy. 

During the absence of King James from the throne, who, on account of his fear of opposers, had fled to Salisbury, Richard Graham and four associates were appointed a committee, known as the Council of Five, to transact the business of the Throne until such time as might be deemed expedient for the king to return. 

The positions of high honor and trust, held and occupied by this one man were many, and to rehearse [8] them all in detail, would require more space than it is our purpose here to consume in this brief sketch; suffice it to say that he seems to have been a leader of his party in both civic and military affairs; a minister at the courts of foreign countries; honored, trusted and adhered to, and we might add, obeyed by kings; feared and esteemed by the House of Commons, and held in the highest respect by the common people. While he was true and devoted to King James, in the sense of patriotism, it does not appear that he was a persecutor of those who differed from the king’s religious views. 

James Graham, of Claverhouse, viscount of Dundee, was also a noted character in that eventful struggle, and while his persecution of those who differed from the religious persuasions of King James, must ever be deplored, we take consolation in the fact that he but carried out the dictates and decrees of his Master. That his fidelity to the king was ever true through life, and even in the hour of death, is fully substantiated [9] in his last utterance, after having spent an eventful life in the king’s cause. 

After King James had vacated the throne, and William and Mary had been triumphantly crowned, and the armies of James abandoned and scattered, General Graham, with his indomitable will and ever-to-be admired energy, hoping against hope, collected together such as he could of the remaining fragmentary army of his escaped master and repaired to the Highlands of Scotland, where he succeeded in interesting the Scottish Chiefs of those Highland Clans, in behalf of the cause of the late king. The remoteness of these semi-barbarians from the active scene of war, coupled with their disinclination to inform themselves of the nature of the conflict, soon led them through the fluency of Graham’s speech to espouse his cause. Having sought and obtained the sympathy of all the principal chiefs of the various clans, he assembled them together and a council was held to decide the mode of warfare. The detached fragmentary of the army whom [10] Graham hitherto commanded, chagrined with former defeats, protested against a battle with those who espoused the cause of King William. While the leaders of the Highland Clans urged immediate assault, saying their men were ready and eager for the fray. 

General Graham was influenced by the counsel of the Highlanders, assuring them that he would lead them to victory; that he himself would march in front of his army; to this, his subordinate officers objected, saying, he was too valuable a leader to expose his person in front of the battle, and urged him to remain in the rear and dictate the movements of his army in the on-coming conflict. To this Graham replied, “your people are accustomed to seeing their leader in the van of battle, and there I shall be seen this day, but after the decision of this day, I shall be more careful of my person and not expose myself in action as heretofore has been my custom.” After that statement, his army was commanded to move forward, himself being in the lead. [11] 

Soon the foe was met and the battle of Killikrankie was fought. Early in the engagement Graham was shot, having raised his hand above his head and standing erect in his stirrups, giving command, his shield or armour raised above his waistband, exposing his person, when the ball took effect, he fell from his horse and one of his subordinate officers coming up to him, inquired if his injuries were fatal, Graham answered by saying, “How goes the cause of the king?” The attendant answered, “the cause of the king is well; how is your lordship?” Graham replied, “it matters not for me, so the cause of the king is safe.” These were his last words. Though dying on the field, his army won a great victory and the battle of Killikrankie has passed into history, as one of the most memorable events of that time. History hands down to us other names of the Grahams, who were more or less noted in their day and time, of which we might mention, Malcolm Graham, who is last, but by no means least, stood high in society and was [12] bound with a golden chain by King James the II to Ellen Douglass, the girl he loved so well; dishonoring thus thy loyal name. 

    Fetters and warden for the Greame (Graham) 
    His chain of gold the king unstrung; 
    The links o’er Malcolm’s neck he flung, 
    Then gently drew the glittering band, 
    And laid the clasp on Ellen’s hand.

SCOTT’S LADY OF THE LAKE.From the above selection it will be noticed that the name is spelled Greame. Whether the author drew upon his poetical license for this misnomer or whether the name was sometimes so spelled by the Scotts, we are unable to determine. 

In the early settlement of this country, when people paid but little attention to the orthography of names — the name was often spelled Grimes. There seems, however, to have been no authority whatever for this contortion of the name. 

The only excuse that might be offered for this misapplication of the name is that the names of the early settlers were scarcely, if ever, seen in print and but seldom in writing, but were handed [13] orally from one to another, thus giving plenty of opportunity for misunderstandings. We can recall many names, which in our youth were pronounced differently from what they now are. To illustrate, the name Stevenson was called “Stinson”; the name Withrow was called “Watherow”; Stodghill was called “Stargeon” and so on. We even find in this day a few of the old-styled fathers and mothers who do not like to discontinue the old-fashioned way of expressing these names. 

The Graham name in all English history and in the history of our country, as well as in all the legal writings pertaining to the family, from the earliest settlement in America down to the present time, is spelled as we now have it — Graham. 

The people of Scotland of the same family tree were known as clans; and these clans seem to have been bound together by very strong and endearing ties. 

Such were the adhesion of these family clans that they kept themselves almost entirely aloof [14] from other clans; marriage and intermarriage by members of one clan to another was scarcely admissible. If a member of one clan provoked or insulted a member of another clan, the insult was resented by the clan whose member had been insulted; thus we find arose many of the clan feuds, with which Scottish history so much abounds. 

Each clan had its official head chief or leader, whose duty it was to dictate to his people such a course as seemed to him most wise and discreet or that happened to please the whims of his own fancies. In military affairs this leader or chief was expected to occupy the most dangerous positions and to perform the most daring of the exploits in the heat of battle. He must either win a victory, in which he performed some noble part, or die in defeat. 

The Graham clan was a very large and influential one, and, perhaps, at the time of its greatest power, had for its official head James Graham, the Earl of Montrose, who laid down his life for love to his king. 

[15] It is claimed in Scottish history that the Graham family dates back for a thousand years, and has been conspicuous in the annal of their country, “from hovel to the palace, in arts, in eloquence and in song”. “It was a daring man by the name of Graham that first broke through the walls of Agricola which the Roman general had built between the firths of the Clyde and Forth to keep off the incursions of the Northern Britons, and the ruins of which, still visible, are called to this day the ruins of Graham’s Dyke”.

From Scotland to Virginia

The first immigration of the Grahams to this country, of which we have any account, occurred about the year 1720 to 1730, the exact date of which cannot now be known. 

It is, however, a matter of history that one Michael Graham settled in Paxtong Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, about the date referred to and that he was a direct descendant of the Earl of Montrose, who was beheaded. The descendants of Michael Graham afterwards settled in the Valley of Virginia and became noted [16] for their scholarly attainments, as well as their religious zeal. 

Of these, however, we may speak further on. It is known that at or near the same period of the coming of Michael to this country other members of the same family, kith and kin, also settled in this country, among whom were John Graham (the writer’s great grandfather), who settled for a time, it is believed, in Pennsylvania and later moved to the Great Calf Pasture River in Augusta county, Virginia. It is to be regretted that we cannot give the exact date of the settlement on the Calf Pasture River, but conclude that not earlier than the year 1740, nor later than 1745. 

We find that he purchased a tract of six hundred and ninety-six acres of land in the year 1746, from John Lewis and James Patton. It will be remembered that John Lewis was the first settler in Augusta county, or rather in the territory which afterwards became Augusta, having planted his home in the then remote wilderness in the [17] year 1732, at Belle Fontaine Springs near Staunton. He was the father of General Andrew Lewis who commanded in the famous battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. John Graham (whom we will call senior) reared a family of four sons and five daughters on the banks of the Calf Pasture and died there about the year 1771, born about the year 1700. His oldest son’s name was Lanty (Lancelot). The names of the other three were John, James and Robert. His daughters’ names were Jane, Elizabeth, Anne, Rebecca and Florence, who was the writer’s grandmother on his mother’s side, she having married James Graham (her cousin).

Travel with the Grahams to Virginia

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