Monday, March 23, 2015

Michael Harshaw 1807 -1876

Ireland was home for Michael for the first 17 years of his life.
Baptism Record for Michael
County Down Near Harshaw Farm?
He was born in the townland of Ballydogherty, Loughgilly Parish, County Armagh, the son of Andrew Harshaw and Sarah Henry. When he was born in 1807, he had 4 older brothers, Andrew, Joseph, Henry, and David. The family lived in a small house several hundred yards down a long lane from Ballydogherty Road.
Possible Harshaw House, Ballydogherty Road

Life was good for this red haired Irish boy for the first years of his life. English rule had been made less difficult for Irish citizens by English need for Irish farm produce. After years of war with France, Irish farm prices, and rents rose sharply. Finally farmers like Andrew had some extra money that allowed them to indulge in such luxuries as a table and chairs, more beds for the children.

Two more children had joined the Harshaw family, William and Sarahm before the war ended in 1815. Hard times had begun for Michael and his family two years earlier when Andrew died.  He was buried in the Presbyterian Church at Tyrone's Ditches, which he had helped found.

The older boys were expected to manage the farm work. Though Michael was only 6 years old when his father died, he was expected to carry an increasing workload as he grew older. Economic necessity made Michael's great yearning for an education,, an impossible dream.

The family managed to cope with the hardships of Andrew's loss. But when the English war ended in 1815, a terrible depression hit Ireland. Crop prices fell, but rents remained at wartime levels. Twice a year, in May and November, all lease holders like the Harshaws, had to appear before the land owner or his agent to pay the rent. Often families like the Harshaws went hungry in order to save enough to pay the rent.

All across Ulster, families began to auction off their leases to get enough money to travel to Canada or the United States. When word came back to Ireland that they had found land in the remote parts of the county, more families joined their friends and families in America. The Harshaws of Loughgilly were one of those who reluctantly made the decision to leave Ireland.

But first, they had to have enough money to pay for passage. Apparently, the Harshaws sold a pig to get ticket money. By this time in 1824, Michael had become a very strong young man. The family decided that he could find a job that would pay enough to help bring the rest of the family to America. But rather than travel alone, it was decided that his older brotherAndrew would go with him.

Usually such partings were permanent. But when Michael set out down the lane with a small satchel and a blanket, he had hopes that he might see his family again in America. They were depending on him to earn enough money to make sure that this reunion took place.

Michael and Andrew walked through Newry and on toward Warrenpoint where the ship was waiting to depart on the first proper tide. He tried to memorize Ireland as he walked, for he knew he would never see the land he loved again.

Warrenpoint was the shipping center for the area. It was possible to travel directly to Canada from there.  The last view of home for Michael was of the mountains of Mourne and Carlingford,
as the brig sailed down the lough toward the Irish Sea.
Carlingford Lough


The passage to Canada was a stormy and long one. Michael was grateful for the extra bag of oatmeal his mother had packed in his bag. So when he first saw land birds and knew that land was near, he was very glad. As the ship sailed down the St. Lawrence River, Michael could compare the land of Canada with the land of home. He first set foot in his new land in the city of Quebec. The city was cramped into a narrow strip of land between the river and the cliffs.

Smaller steamers sailed up and down the river every day between Montreal and Quebec. Michael and Andrew quickly boarded one for the next stage of their trip. They needed to get to their destination before they had no money left. From Montreal, they set out by boat and on foot to reach Lewiston, near Buffalo. There they hoped to find work on the Erie Canal.

Many Irish immigrants had been working for several years to build this canal across the state of New York. The last segment was under construction, In order to raise the boats to the level of Lake Erie, a series of locks were being constructed over the Niagara Escarpment.
Both Harshaws were immediately hired for this challenging project. Men working on the canal signed contracts to work for 80 cents a day, plus all the whiskey they could drink. This was twice the average wage paid at that time.

Michael didn't drink, so this part of his pay was of no use to him. Living conditions were harsh. The men were fed substantial meals, but they lived in wooden sheds that moved with the workers as the canal building progressed. Each man slept of a bare plank of a double decker bed. There was no glass in the windows to protect them from the winter which was colder than any Michael had ever known, or screens to keep out the insects of summer. Still Michael was pleased to have work that would enable him to bring his family to America soon.

His fellow workers enjoyed consuming their whiskey in the evening. But Michael did not drink, and his sober presence made them uncomfortable. So a group of the Irish workers decided to force Michael to join them in their drunken rowdiness. Michael saw the group coming for him, and figured out what they intended. Michael stood almost 6 feet tall, and was strong from years of hard work. He didn't intend to go down without a fight. The leader of the group was a small and stocky Scotsman. Michael walked out to meet the mob. He grabbed the leader by the back of the neck and the seat of his pants, raised him over his head and dropped him to the ground behind him.

Michael's actions knocked the wind out of the leader and his followers as well. They retreated and left Michael alone in his sobriety. This action caught the attention of the supervisors. His whiskey allowance was converted to cash. Michael found himself making the grand wage of $1 a day. Perhaps this was also the reason why Michael was entrusted with the dangerous work of blasting the rock wall to make the lock construction possible. Such dangerous work would command extra money. Michael was undoubtedly pleased to be making such high wages, and viewed the danger as worth the risk.

The Erie Canal opened in the fall of 1825. It was time for the rest of the family to come to America. When they safely arrived, the reunited family left New York and headed to Western Pennsylvania where Michael's uncle William and family already had acquired their own land. Now, it was the hope of Michael's family that they would be able to create a farm of their own too.

Michael Harshaw > William Roseborough Harshaw > Harold McCloskey Harshaw > Marjorie Harshaw (Robie)

(To be continued.)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Martha McAntier (McIntire) 1733? - 1785(?)

Early in the 1700s, many citizens of Ireland found their rents greatly increased when the leases they had held for generations ran out. Rather than pay these exorbitant rents, many decided to emigrate to America where they could own their own land. They risked the dangers of an ocean crossing, and the hardship of creating a new home in a wilderness. But undaunted, they headed west.

Often friends and neighbors emigrated in groups together. One such group lived in the rolling hills of Dromore, County Down in the northern part of the country. When they landed in Philadelphia, the government of the Penn family welcomed them and granted them land in a wilderness beyond the neat houses and fertile fields near the border with Maryland.

Previously, the pioneers moving into this new area were Mennonites and Quakers. The government feared that these pacifist people wouldn't fight incursions across the border from Catholic Maryland. They knew the Irish would. So the Dromore immigrants were granted land, and immediately moved across the settled parts of the state into the wilderness. In 1729, this new territory became the new county of Lancaster.

The Dromore immigrants found this new land rich for farming, and set about creating new homes in their new land. They named their new town, Drumore to honor and remember their own native home in Ireland. It was here in Drumore that Martha McAntier was born around 1733. For her, this new land would always be home.

The names of her parents has been lost. But she was certainly born in a log cabin, the creation of which was one of the first imperatives for the immigrants. The Irish homes were built on the tops of the rolling hills, as the timber was less dense there, and they could view the lovely rolling land that they actually owned.
Pennsylvania Log Cabin

In order to clear land, and keep the family fed, clothed and sheltered, everyone had to work, even children barely able to walk. Easy jobs like gathering acorns every fall in the woods to feed the pigs were assigned her. The Irish stocked their farms in a careful sequence. First were oxen and horses to make clearing their fields possible. Then they bought cows and sheep. Finally hogs were added to the family livestock. The fact that the McAntiers had already acquired pigs is probably proof that the newcomers had in a few short years been able to establish themselves in their new country.

A.rustic log cabin provided Martha's first home. Within a few years, the McAntiers build a new house of stone. This was the home that Martha would remember.
Robert Fulton House, Near the Black Farm

Religion was an important part of the lives of these Presbyterian families. The people of Drumore built their first church at a place called Chestnut Level. Every Sunday, families would gather there, bundled up against the  cold to attend services that often lasted for several hours.

There were dangers in this new land as well. The local Indians were peaceful, but the raiders from Maryland were not. Lord Baltimore who owned Maryland and the Penn family of Pennsylvania fought over a strip of land that both colonies claimed. When Martha was still a child, Lord Baltimore send a raider into the territory to take money from the new settlers, Lord Baltimore viewed this money as taxes, but the Irish settlers saw the intrusion as a theft. When the dispute was finally settled, the Irish families were safely settled in Pennsylvania, just a short distance from the new border. which would later become the Mason and Dixon line.
Map of Area Disputed in Cresap's War

Martha knew nothing of Ireland. But her life in the new country would be much like that of her parents in the old one. Women were expected to work incredibly hard. When she was still young, Martha was taught to make clothes from the flax they grew on their farm and the fleece from their home flocks of sheep. She wore linen clothes in the summer, wool in the winter. Beyond management of the home, Martha often had to help in the fields to when the her father and the older boys were hunting, When the hunt was successful, Martha joined in cleaning the carcass  and preserving food for use in the winter. In the Irish culture, only men had time to sit about the fire and chat over an evening smoke.

Life didn't change too much for Martha when she married Moses Black. Even bearing children provided little time for rest. Martha and Moses's first child was a boy they named Aaron who was born in 1752. Martha had 6 more children, Margaret in 1754, Jean in the same year, Hugh in 1759, Moses in 1762, Martha in 1765 and Mary in 1767. Before the children were grown, Hugh and Martha could look with satisfaction on clear fields, neatly bounded by split rail fences. Barns and outbuildings surrounded their neat stone house.
Modern Landscape Near Black Farm

Early the year after Mary was born, Martha endured a great personal and financial loss. Moses died on March 8, 1768. Fortunately, Aaron was old enough to assume the work that Moses had done. Margaret and Jean were old enough to help Martha manage her work.

Martha soon met a new immigrant from Ireland, James Laird soon became her second husband She had one last child with her second husband, a son named James in 1771.

This child was not full grown when Martha herself died at the age of 52. When Martha died, the farm that she and Moses had created from a wilderness totalled 200 acres. Hopefully, they were very proud.

Martha McAntier (Black) .Aaron Black > Moses Black > Elizabeth Black (Rippey) > Ada Rippey (Harshaw) > Harold McCloskey Harshaw > Marjorie Harshaw (Robie)