I have been collecting genealogy on the Wham Family for the past twenty years and it has been stored in a large filing cabinet in the form of “bits and pieces” of information which can be difficult to make any sense of. The source of the information is wide and varied, but most of it came from members of the Wham family that were willing to share what they knew of their ancestors. There are errors in some of the stories which is to be expected considering they were passed on to family members by word of mouth over a period of 300 years. I am going to attempt to combine the known history of Scotland, Ireland, England and America with the family traditions that I have discovered over the past twenty years and hopefully come up with a comprehensive and factual story of how the Wham family made it to the present day. I fully understand that time has erased most of the information, so some assumptions on our ancestors will be made. If in error, I hope that future family genealogist, as more data is available, will put us back on the right track and correct my mistakes, for our ancestors deserve the truth about their lives.
From time to time, I will refer to associated families in the process of tracking the Wham family across the world. These families are connected by marriage, clan relationship, location at any given time, religion or a particular event. The associated families are Woodside, Gault, Rock, McMillan, Morton, Gaston, Kell, Rainey, Coleman, Blair, and Peden.
This effort is a labor of love which will culminate in the completion of a promise I made to my three sons. Some years back, I told them I would present them with a history of their ancestors before I joined them.
The name Wham can be viewed as a benefit or a detriment, but no one can argue that it is not unique. If you do good things or bad things, the name is always remembered and you reap the rewards of your efforts. My Grandfather, Franklin L. Wham, always made a point of correcting people on the historic pronunciation of the name. He would say: “It is a long “A”, consider it to have two dots (an umlaut) over the “A” and do not pronounce it with a short “A” like you hit something. My Father and I rarely corrected people on its proper pronunciation, and as a result we have borne the brunt of many jokes. A phrase that I have heard many times is “Wham Bam, Thank You Mam!”. On a worldwide basis, there is a variation in its proper pronunciation, but I think my grandfather was correct. (Editor's note: rhymes with "bomb".) The definition or meaning of the word WHAM holds some interest for those of us who have it attached to the end of our name, so let me give you what I have learned:
In the language of the Scots, Wham is a substitute for the word WHOM in our language. “Place Names and their meanings-Tadcaster to York” lists the following as a definition of Wham: This place near Butterknowle in County Durham was recorded in the fourteenth century under the names Quwam and Qwhomm. The name derives from the old Norse word Hvammr meaning a short valley or depression surrounded by high ground, although the word has also been used to refer to the corner of a house or room. The word Wham occurs in both northern field names and place names. A usual feature of Wham is that there is an opening on one side of the steep hollow, which provides access for farmers. Wham is still used as a dialect word in Northumberland, Cumbria, Scotland and Yorkshire to describe a marshy hollow or a hollow within a hill or a mountain. A number of Whams can be found in Northumberland including Ulwham and Ulgham (originally Ulweham) and Whitwham. The first two both mean the hollow frequented by an ul or an owl, the latter means white hollow and may have the same meaning as Hvitar Hvammar found in Iceland.”
The next reference I have is a partial copy of a page out of “American Surnames”: “It states that many names originated from geographic locations where people lived. “Such English names as Engle, Bey, Byers, Corner, Croke, Crooker, Hearn, Hernon, Hoke, Hooker, Hooks, Horn, Sheets, Shortall, Wham, and Yale. All these names have to be mentioned together because the exact meanings overlap. Dutch cognates are Haack, Hoekstra, and Van Hoek. German names are Eck, Eckman, and Ziff. The Slavic corner dweller was Kalata. A polish name is the short, distinctive Rog. The ancestor of Thackeray originally lived at the corner where thatch grew or was stored. The thatched roofs found everywhere in medieval times required immense quantities of the material.”
According to family stories, the name Wham has an association with a swamp. Sue (my wife) and I visited Monroe, Louisiana on a return trip from Florida. There is a Wham Brake (swamp) located about 5 miles NE of Swartz, Louisiana which is renown for its excellent duck hunting. Early maps reflect a town by the name of Wham (no longer in existence) at the intersection of Hwy. 134 and a railroad track overlooking a swampy area which is the beginning of Wham Brake. There is a old cemetery by the name of Wham Cemetery near the intersection of Hwy.139 and Hwy. 134 near the Loch Arbor Church. No Whams are buried there. One of the early settlers was a Scot by the name of Morehouse who owned a large track of land near Wham Brake. He most likely named the area close to his holdings which are reflected today. After a considerable period of time working with local genealogists and the Parish Land Records, no Wham was found to have occupied lands in this area. This information adds credence to the meaning of Wham and its association with a swamp. The earliest reference to the name of Wham that I have found is the following: WHAM: Nicol atte Wamme 1296 SRSx; John atte Whamme 1327 ib. ‘Dweller in the corner, angle or small valley’ (OE hwamm).
There are a number of families in Great Britain’s archives with the surname spelling of Whame, Whaum, Whan, Whann and some others with that sound. I suspect they are related, but choose or were given a different spelling after the “Mac” was dropped (will be discussed later).
An example of the different spellings of our name is reflected in the birth of Mary Whaum in 1760 in Hospital Endell Street, Holborn, London, England to James and Mary Whaum. Three years later, they had a son, James Wham , in the same hospital and the spelling changed to Wham. A second example is the marriage of Elizabeth Whame to Robert Hutchison in 1775 in East Lothian, Scotland. In an effort to change a mistaken marriage location of Midlothian to East Lothian the clerk also changed Elizabeth’s name to Wham. There were a number of Whams located in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, Scotland in the 1700’s. Family histories have the Whams located near Dumfries, Scotland prior to their move to Ireland. Ballantrae is a coastal village situated on Ballantrae Bay on the South Ayrshire coast at the mouth of the River Stinchar. It was for many years a fishing port, with smuggling a popular activity.
In early times the smuggling of tea, tobacco, salt and brandy formed one of the staple industries of Ballantrae. Large pirate vessels called Buckers, carrying 20 or 30 guns, were frequently in the bay to discharge their cargoes at Ballantrae. The arrival of one of these vessels was the signal for the smugglers, who were called lintowers, to proceed in a large body to the shore, with their horses and wagons, ready to receive the contraband goods, and convey them through out the country. The lintowers numbered about one hundred men, all of them stalwart fellows, armed with cutlass and pistol ready to fight if resistance was offered them in the discharge of their illegal calling. The old church was a favorite place for hiding the contraband goods.
The smugglers concentrated on the import of staple goods that were heavily taxed. Salt in particular was an essential item for preserving meat and fish for the harsh winter months, and great quantities of salt entered the country principally from Ireland, via the west coast of Scotland. Along with the salt, came other contraband from the European Continent, Asia and the Americas. Most of the time the smugglers used Ireland as a warehouse and staging area to the British mainland. Tea and tobacco came in this way, and were then transported to the Scottish and English cities on horseback: moving a box of tea or a bale of tobacco from Galloway to Edinburgh in the early 18th century cost 15 schillings.
The character of Scottish smuggling was changed by the Act of Union of 1707 which effectively united Scotland and England. Prior to this date, there was a wide discrepancy between duties north and south of the border, and the Scots had taken advantage of this situation to smuggle highly taxed goods into England. When the two countries were united, duties on some products north of the border increased sevenfold. The taxes were seen by the Scots as oppressive, and resistance to them was considered positively patriotic.
The details on our Wham ancestors in the Ballantrae
Janet Wham was born about 1711 in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, Scotland. She married Andrew Gallaway in about 1732. The Glasgow Commissary Court lists a Ninian Wham as a merchant in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1718. Ninian Wham may have been selling some of those smuggled goods that came into Ballantrae.
Margaret Wham was christened on 1 Sept 1734 in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, Scotland. Her father was James Wham and her mother was Ann Earle.Just up the coast from Ballantrae and a short distances inland is the town of Old Cumnock where we find Anna Wham born about 1771 and married to William Hair on 14 Aug 1785.
It is interesting to note that village of Mawhillen, Tyrone, Ireland in Bassett’s Directory 1888 lists eighteen residents, including Post Master Thomas Haire, brick manufacturer Robert J. Haire and the Reverend R. J.W. Wham. The Reverend died on 2 Oct 1929 in Clare Manse, having at one time been Armagh Deputy County Grand Master of the Orange Order, an organization that was troublesome to the English government. The Reverend was possibly a descendant of William Wham who was born 1745 in Elagh, Arboe, Tyrone, Ireland and married Eliza about 1787 in the same town.
Old Cumnock has some relevant history concerning religion which I believe eventually ties to the Wham family. Alexander Peden, a Covenanter (Covenanter cause will be discussed later) Presbyterian minister, who avoided authorities many times for many years in order to illegally preach his brand of religion in Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire and Galoway, Scotland died from natural causes in 1686. Troopers from Sorn Castle, angry that they had never managed to capture Peden, exhumed his body with the intention of hanging the corpse from the gallows on Barrhill in Old Cumnock as a warning to others. The Earl of Dumfries stopped their hideous plan, so to show contempt for Peden the soldiers buried him at the foot of the gallows. A granite monument erected in 1891 now covers the grave.
Brice Blair was born about 1600 in Old Cumnock. He married Esther Peden in 1624. She was the aunt of Alexander Peden. In 1625, Brice and Esther, also Covenanters, and their infant daughter, Nancy, escaped the persecution they were experiencing by emigrating to Ireland. They made their escape in a coal sloop and reached Larne on the Irish Coast.
If you look at the concentration of Peden family members in Ireland in the late 1600’s and 1700’s, they are in the Ballymena, Antrim area. Their ancestors belonged to clan Lamont to which I believe the early Wham family were aligned. John, Samuel, and David Peden were some of the founders of the Fairview Presbyterian Church, Greenville, South Carolina in 1786, where many Whams attended and are buried.
The same concentration for the Blair family seems to be around the village of Raloo west of Larne where Brice Blair built a home and the first flax mill in Ireland. While I am discussing the Blair family, I must relate the charming story of Samuel Blair’s escape from the hangman’s noose in Ireland. He was born in Ballyvallough near Raloo in 1738. Samuel “The Renegade” Blair was a member of “Hearts of Steel Men” an organization that perpetrated violent acts against English authorities and landlords to protest unjust taxation and “Rack Renting”. Our ancestors if not members were probably supportive of their actions. Samuel was captured and condemned to death, but escaped through the cleverness of his twin sister, Mary. Mary had just had her first child when the news of his capture and death sentence reached her. She rose from her bed, dressed, and mounted her horse, riding for her farewell visit with her twin brother. She was permitted but a short stay with him, but when she left the prison she was so upset that she could hardly mount her horse. The execution was set for several days after their meeting. At the scaffold, he threw open his coat to expose fair white breasts dripping with excess milk. The soldiers quickly reacted to the substitution, but Samuel had sailed for America. As the story goes, Mary was taken before the King and there she told her story. The Monarch bowed his head and the tears ran heavy over his cheeks as he bade her go away back to her babe. He said under his breath as she was leaving, “Would to God that some one loved me so!”
If you look at land records in Ballymena in the 1870’s we find John Wham owning 25 acres and Joseph Wham owning 22 acres at the same address Carnlea, Ballymena. There is a large group of Whaums (Whams) in Carnlea, Ballymena with birth record ranging from 1796 to 1821.
Another early gathering of the Wham family was in Northern England near Houghton Le Spring, Durham, England in the 1600’s. Durham is a northern county of England, bounded on the North by Northumberland, on the East by the North Sea, on the South by Yorkshire, and on the West by Westmorland and Cumberland. It is almost directly west of Dumfries, Scotland on the east coast of England.
The presence of coal, iron, lead, zinc and limestone,
plus river transportation to the sea, coupled with marginal land for agriculture,
compelled this area to industrialize into mining and manufacturing.
It is likely that the early industrialization of this area provided a livelihood
to our ancestors after being driven from Argyle, Scotland, the ancestral
home of clan Lamont, by the clan Campbell (will be discussed later).Information
on this group of Whams follows:
Margerye Wham was christened on 23 Apr 1630 in Houghton Le Spring, Durham, England. Her father was Will Wham.
Margrett Wham was christened on 28 Apr 1633 in Houghton Le Spring, Durham, England. Her father was Will Wham.
Ursula Wham was married to Robert Woodeman on 28 Nov 1636 in Bishopwearmouth, Durham, England.
A third group of Whams were in the Whitechapel neighborhood of London, England. By the late 1500’s Whitechapel had become the less desirable part of London. It naturally attracted the more fragrant activities of the city, notably tanneries, breweries, foundries, slaughterhouses and such. The population shift from rural areas to London and other large population centers began in the 1600’s and resulted in great numbers of more or less destitute people taking up residence amidst the industries and mercantile interests that would supply them with a meager living.
The information on the Whitechapel Whams follows:
Elizabeth Wham was christened on 15 Jul 1722 in the St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, London, England. Her father was William Wham and her mother was Rebecca Wham.
Minian Wham, a male child, was christened on 5 Dec 1720 at St. Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, London, England. He was an older brother to Elizabeth.
William Wham was christened 2 May 1725 at St.Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, London, England. His parents are William and Rebecca Wham.
James Wham was christened on 17 Mar 1763 while lying in Hospital Endell Street, Holborn, London, England. He was born on 8 Mar 1763 to James and Mary Wham.
A William Wham had his scull fractured in 1750 by Captain James Lowry aboard the “Molly” a merchant ship returning from Jamaica. Captain James Lowry was executed at Execution Dock, London on 25 Mar 1762 for the murder of Kenith Hossack, a fellow sailor of William Wham. The “Molly” was well known as a privateer and slaver. The “Molly” transported slaves to Virginia from Bermuda in 1741, 1742, and 1762. In November 1772, customs officers seized the sloop “Molly”, suspecting a cargo of foreign rum. The Captain and others boarded the vessel, forced off the customs officers, and made for open sea. The “Molly” transported Palatine immigrants from Rotterdam and Deal to Philadelphia in 1727 and 1741.
I believe there is a direct connection between the Ballantrae Wham family and the St Mary Whitechapel Wham family. The name Ninian and Minian are to similar and unusual to be a coincidence. The name is derived from St Ninian, the earliest known Scottish Saint who was born in the area of Galoway, Scotland. I suggest that the “M” was transcribed incorrectly and it should be an “N”. The Ninian Wham that received his merchant license from the Glasgow Commissary Court in 1718 could have been an older gentleman and the grandfather of the Ninian Wham that was christened in 1720 in London. This would follow the naming tradition of the time, where the first son carried the name of his grandfather. Therefore, Ninian Wham of Ballantrae could be the father of William Wham of Whitechapel who is the father of Ninian, Elizabeth and William. William being the sailor that had his head split open by his Captain.
If you view a timeline only, William Wham, the sailor, could be the father of Benjamin Wham the progenitor of the Wham family in America, who was born in Londonderry, Ireland in 1750, a major seaport of the day.
Let us take a quick look at the location in Scotland of all the associated families in hopes that it will give us confirmation of the Wham family origin in or around Dumfries, Scotland as family stories reflect. I covered the Peden and Blair families in previous paragraphs. The intermarriage of these associated family members was very common, in fact, it is a wonder that we do not have genetic problems in the family. The frequency of intermarriage results from of a common religious base, and the tendency for church groups to form communities and move together when needed.
The Woodside surname and its variations are found in England, Counties Londonderry and Antrim in Northern Ireland, but its roots are in Ayrshire, Scotland with possible ancient ties to the Clan Cunningham. Woodside means “dweller by the side of the woods” and originated in the parish of Beith, Ayrshire, Scotland. An early reference to the surname Woodside is made to one Robert del Wodsid in 1332 in the Subsidy Rolls. Another reference is to one James Wodsyid who was a witness in Glasgow, Scotland in 1550 and to one James Woodsyd who appears in Hunterstown, Scotland in 1583. Janet Woodsyd, daughter of John Woodsyd, was heir to two tenement houses in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland in 1658. There is a large concentation of Woodsides in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland throughout the 1700’s.
There was a Rev. James Woodside who was the minister at the First Dunboe Presbyterian Church in Articlave, county Derry, Ireland. The Rev Woodside and his family sailed on the ship “McCollom” fromLondonderry to Boston in Sept 1718. He returned to Ireland about 1722. Some say, he could not stomach the brutality of the Indian Wars. Some of his children remained in America. One became a highly respected Captain in the military. This fact places the Woodside family in county Derry where Benjamin Wham was born in 1750.
The reason the Woodside family is particularly important in our genealogy tracing process is that we have good documentation through family stories that Benjamin, the progenitor of the Wham family in America, married the widow Woodside in Ireland and her sons, Thomas and James Woodside, followed the Whams to South Carolina. It appears that both the Woodside and Wham families were late to the party in Ireland. There is no data as yet indicating that they were involved in the Ulster Plantation of the 1600’s in Ireland.
The Gault (Galt) family were French Huguenots who emigrated
from France to Scotland for religious reasons. John Galt was born
to John Galt and Mary Strang on 8 Nov 1688 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.
He married Anna Crauford about 1700 in Kilmarnock where her family was
from. There was a heavy concentration of Gaults around Kilmarnock
and Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Mary Strang’s family was deeply involved in the Covenanter Presbyterian movement, in fact, one of her family members lost his head for the Covenanter cause.
There was a letter written in 1857 by James McCullough telling about a bible purchased by a William Gault in 1663. The bible was said to have been thrown in a thicket of briars by a little daughter of the Jannet family when the “bible burners” were coming to search for books to burn. The Gault family left their homes in Scotland in the time of persecution and settled near Corn Castle , a seaport in county Antrim, Ireland. Dunluce Castle was called Corn Castle by the locals because of a corn drying operation that was set up in the castle ruins. The Jannet family were originally from France and probably shared the same religious beliefs as the Gaults.
The Rock family were probably Huguenots. They went directly to Waterford, Ireland in the late 1500’s, a known settlement for Huguenots. The Huguenots for the most part brought useful trades from France and added significantly to the economy of Ireland. The family slowly moved to Antrim, Ireland most likely to work in the linen or wool industry of that area. In addition, the commonality of their religion with the Scots would have be a benefit to them.
Clan McMillan was an ancient Scottish clan overtaken by more powerful clans and eventually dispersed over Scotland. The portion of the clan that we are interested in is the McMillans that settled in Galloway in the 1600’s from the north of Scotland. This group was largely responsible for the spread of the radical Covenanter Presbyterian religion. They eventually settled in Ayrshire where they were joined by many distant cousins from the highlands who could no longer make a living from the land or by selling their sword to others which they were noted for. The definition of Covenanter and McMillanite was synonymous in the early days. A story which survived in the McMillan family, has a young couple with an infant child passing their baby through the bars of a prison to a friend before they were to be hanged for practicing their religion. The child grew to manhood and accompanied other family members to Northern Ireland as part of the Ulster Plantation and then on to America.
The concentration of McMillans in the 1600’s and 1700’s is in Ayrshire, and Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The McMillans were closely aligned with the Black Douglases in Galoway. The Morton family was a sept or sub-branch of the Douglas Earls of Morton in Dumfriesshire. The Douglases were the pre-eminent family of southwest Scotland, with significant power and political influence from the 12th century on. The family includes the Earls of Douglas (Black Douglases), Earls of Angus (Red Douglases), the Earls of Morton, the Viscounts of Drumlanrig and the Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Queensberry. There was a heavy concentration of Mortons in Ayrshire in the 1600’s and the first part of the 1700’s.
The tendency of intermarriage within a religious community is supported when you view John Morton marrying Mary Peden on 22 Sept 1725 in Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland. Their son James Morton born about 1730 in Broughshane, Ballymena, Antrim, Ireland married Jane Peden and all their chidren ended up in Fairview, Greenville, South Carolina. Alexander Morton born about 1710 and Margarite Stuart born about 1714 both in County Antrim, Ireland had five children. Two of them, Jane Morton and Thomas Morton are buried in Pauls Graveyard, Chester, South Carolina, a Covenanter burial site.
The Gaston family may have had a little French royalty in their blood. Jean Gaston l was born about 1600 in Foix, France. His father was thought to have been the Duke of Orleans. Jean Gaston l married Princess Agnes, de Navarre “the Witch” about 1639 (There must be a good story about that, but I could not find it.) in Roxbourghshire, Scotland which is next to Dumfriesshire. They were French Huguenots. John Gaston, one of their three sons, was born in 1645 in Scotland and died in Ireland. John’s son, Alexander, was born in Ballymena, Antrim, Ireland. The Gaston family concentration in Scotland was in Ayrshire, Roxbourghshire, and dumfriesshire.
The name Kell is derived from the old Norse word “ketill” meaning cauldron. The origin of the Kell family is uncertain, but most likely, it was from Scotland or England. There was a large group of Kells in Durham, England during the 1600’s and 1700’s while the Whams were there. According to Maxine Wormer, “The Kell Family”: In 1772, members of the Kell family came to South Carolina from Ballymena, Antrim, Ireland. On 20 Jul 1772, six of them petitioned for land under the “headright” system. They were John Kell, James Kell, Matthew Kell, Jannet Kell ( who married Robert Rainey ), Mary Kell and Henry Kell. My grandfather, Franklin L. Wham, farmed on land near Kell, Illinois that belonged to their descendants.
The Rainey family were French Huguenots. The name is thought to have come from Rene. They came to Ireland direct from France. We see William Rainey in Kellybegs, Antrim, Ireland in 1600 when his first son, John, is born. His wife was born in Kellybegs in 1578. Samuel Rainey Sr. was born in Chester, South Carolina about 1747. He married Mary Fondren about 1772 and they remained in Chester.
The Coleman family was a sept of clan Buchanan and was originally MacColman. The Buchanans, MacColmans, and MacMillans have early family ties. The name of MacColman, at its origin, meant the “Son of the Dove”. The Buchanan clan is thought to have originated in 1016 A. D. when Anselan O’Kyan fled Ireland to western Scotland. He was the son of the reigning Ulster monarch and was forced to leave Ireland by Canute the Dane. He was then employed by the king of Scotland to defend against Norse attacks in the west of Scotland. Through marriage and the gratitude of the king, he was awarded lands on the east bank of Loch Lomond, just outside of Glasgow, which remained in the clan for nearly seven centuries. James Coleman moved to Ballymena, Ireland from Scotland. According to his ancestors, he built the first foundry in the British Isles. His son, John Coleman, went to college in Belfast and became a teacher. John and his wife, Jane Blair, sailed for Canada in 1849 with six of their ten children.
In the 1700’s the Colemans are generally located around Glasgow, but quickly dispersed to Dundee and Aberdeen which are ports on the east coast of Scotland. Maritime activities may have been their chosen field of endeavor. In Ireland, they are scattered all over the country. Mostly in county Mayo, but some in county Antrim. We do know that there were Colemans in Ballymena, Ireland in the early 1700’s.
If you look at the associated families concentrations within Scotland, Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire seems to win the prize for the most logical areas our ancestors could have departed from to reach Ireland. My personal choice would be Ayrshire because that was where most of the Woodside families were from. Wham family tradition favors Dumfriesshire. I guess it really does not make much difference when you consider they are within walking distance of each other. If you look at the Wham family and associated family concentrations in Ireland, Ballymena wins hands down. However, there is another possibility we must consider. William Wham, the sailor from London with the fractured skull, may have sailed into Londonderry and found an Irish lassie that made him give up the sea. Benjamin Wham was born in 1750 in Londonderry, Ireland.
There is a persisting story throughout the family ( both Northern and Southern Wham families) that our name was once Macwham. The information that Paul Wham of London gave to Richard Wham on WWW.WHAM.ORG makes perfect sense in this matter. Paul stated that his father, who had an interest in genealogy and had done some research into the origin of the name Wham, believed that it was Macilwham (earlier Macklequam) which is a sept of the clan Lamont. This same information was given to me by Jim and Celie Hayes some years ago. Jim is a Antiquarian and has some expertise in genealogy. Celie is a Wham from the southern clan and shares Jim’s expertise and interest in genealogy. It is encouraging that two sources came up with the same information while an ocean apart. The name change most likely came when clan Campbell declared a blood oath to kill all of the members of clan Lamont.
I found it interesting that the origin of clan Lamont was in Northern Ireland very close to where our ancestors ended up in the middle 1700’s or earlier. The following is a brief history of the clan Lamont:
Around 500 AD, a migration to Southwest Scotland from the Irish kingdom of Dal Riata in Northern Ireland took place. Oral traditions and written history state that this invasion was led by the three sons of Erc, the King of the Irish Dal Riata. This action was the start of the Scottish Kingdom of Dalriada. During this time it is said that the Stone of Destiny was taken to Scotland by the Gaels that migrated to Argyll, and it became the Coronation Stone of the early Dalriadan kings at Dunstaffnage. Then, in the ninth century because of increasing pressure from the Vikings , the stone is believed to have been transported to Scone, the capital of the Southern Picts. It is here that the Picts and the Scots became unified in 844 AD under Kenneth MacAlpine. Among the clans that dwelled within this Dalriadan kingdom, which included the Outer and Inner Hebrides, and the region of Argyll were the Lamonts, MacNeils, MacEwens, Gilchrists and MacLachlans.
These clans are said to have descended from the royal line of the O’Neil high kings of Ireland who resided in the area of county Tyrone in Northern Ireland. The Lamonts are believed to have descended directly from Anrothan O’Neill, who gave up his leadership role in Ireland and moved to Argyll, located in present day Southwestern Scotland. From Anrothan’s line came a man named Aodha Alainn O’Neil who had three sons: Gillachrist, Neil, and Dunslebhe. Gillachrist had a son, Lachlan, who is the ancestor of the MacLachlans; Neil, who is the ancestor of the MacNeills; Dunslebhe had two sons, Fearchar and Ewen. From Fearchar came a son named Laumon and it is from him that the clan Lamont received it’s name. Ewen is the ancestor of the MacEwens.
In 1235 AD, Sir Laumon, signed a charter granting lands to the Paisley Abbyll. This charter is still in existence. Few clans can document their existence at such an early date. Sir Laumon’s mother is believed to have been a daughter of the great Somerled, ancestor of the MacDonalds. Tradition, supported by a genealogical work in 1682 AD at Inveraray Castle, suggests that a son of Sir Laumaon, had to flee Cowal as a result of a murder; and founded the Lyons of Glamis. He took the name of Lyon from the Lamont arms, and chose as his arms, the reverse of the Lamonts, a blue lion on a silver field.
At this point, a story of two clans and highland hospitality will be interjected because it has to do with clan Lamont and the murder mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Alasdair MacGregor of Glenstrae became Chief of Clan MacGregor in 1570 after the execution of his father by Grey Colin Campbell of Glenorchy. In 1600, Alasdair’s only son was out hunting in the vicinity of Tyndrum when he happened to meet up with a son of the Chief of Clan Lamont who was traveling from his home in Cowal. After dining together that evening, an argument erupted between Lamont and the young MacGregor. In the fight that ensued, Lamont stabbed MacGregor to death and then immediately fled the scene. Other MacGregors in the hunting party gave chase, but Lamont eluded them and sped away into the night. Reaching Stronmilchan, the residence of Alasdair MacGregor, shortly after dawn, Lamont sought and received shelter from Alasdair himself, who still knew nothing of the death of his only son.
Shortly afterward, the pursuing MacGregors arrived and related the terrible tale of the murder, angrily demanding that Lamont be given to them so they could administer swift justice. Heartbroken though he was, Alasdair refused to hand Lamont over, stating: “I have promised him safety and, as I live, he shall be safe while with me”. Knowing that his command could not assure Lamont’s safety if he were let go there in the heart of MacGregor territory, Alasdair personally escorted him back to Cowal. Having delivered him safely, Alasdair warned Lamont to keep clear of MacGregor lands because he could not guarantee his safety. Not long after, Alasdair’s fortunes plummeted and he was a fugitive from justice, or rather injustice. As an outlaw, Alasdair could not expect help from anyone for those who aided outlaws could themselves be outlawed for doing so. Nevertheless, upon hearing of Alasdair’s terrible misfortune, clan Lamont immediately offered help and protection and gave shelter to Alasdair as well as other MacGregors. This episode, not to mention the mutual sufferings at the hands of clan Campbell, created an enduring bond between the two clans. In the early 1300’s, came a great down turn in the Clan’s fortunes. Laumon’s grandson, Sir John, supported the MacDougalls of Lorne against Robert the Bruce. The Lamonts of Ardlamont, however, who held their land as vassals of the High Steward in Bute, may have fought in Bruce’s bodyguard at Bannockburn.
My grandfather claimed that our ancestors fought with Robert the Bruce, in fact, Sue and I named one of our sons after the Scottish hero. So much for family stories! When Bruce was secure on the Scottish throne, clan Lamont and the House of Lorne lost land to the king’s loyal supporter, Campbell, Black Knight of Lochawe.
During this period, the Campbell’s swore an oath to eliminate every member of the clan Lamont. Many clan members escaped massacre by simply changing their names and moving away from the traditional clan territory. This situation may explain our name change from Macilwham to Wham. The Campbell’s, acting as a government police force for the Scottish and later for the English government, hunted down the Lamont clansmen and killed them. While the government was looking the other way, they stole their lands and possessions as “booty”. This true Celtic Clan Lamont, with a little Norse blood flowing through it, was almost annihilated.
In the 17th century wars of Montrose, Sir John ( who had been knighted by King Charles ) joined Argyll’s Covenanting army which was defeated at Inverlochy in 1645. As a result, Sir John and his brother were taken prisoner. He then threw in his lot with Montrose, the Royalist general. Archibald, the chiefs brother, with Colkitto’s fighting Irish, crossed Loch long in boats provided by the Lamonts and landed at the Point of Strone. After defeating a Campbell force in the heights above the point, the Royalist army mustered at Toward and then harried far and wide in the Campbell lands.
The Lamonts had their share in this killing and plundering particularly in North Cowal, and they attacked the old tower of Kilmun and the bishop’s house in Dunoon. Dunoon is a place of grim memory for the Lamonts. There the Campbells carried out one of the massacres which stained their clan’s history. In 1646, the Campbells made a concentrated attack on the Lamont castles of Toward and Ascog. When the garrisons surrendered under written guarantee of liberty, the Campbells ignored the terms of capitulation. The survivors of the defenders were carried in boats to Dunoon and in the church were sentenced to death. About 100 were shot or stabbed to death and another 36 of the special gentlemen of the Lamonts were hanged from a tree in the churchyard. The dead and dying were then buried in pits. The Chief and his brother were kept prisoner for five years. It was 16 years before the ringleaders of the massacre were brought to justice, and Sir Colin Campbell was beheaded.
After 1646, the much reduced Clan Lamont had a fairly peaceful history, finally having the good sense or luck to not get involved with any more losing causes. We stayed out of both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings. This may have been due to the fact that they were now pretty well surrounded by Campbells, who always sided with the English government. In addition, the Lamonts were Presbyterians and the last thing they wanted to see was a Catholic King return to power.
With the destruction of the Clan system in 1745, the structure of Highland society was changed for all time. When the power of the clan chiefs was eliminated, so was their need for dedicated clansmen to protect and expand the clan lands. The results of this, in time, was the infamous highland clearances; where chiefs cleared the land of crofters, and substituted the more profitable sheep. As was the case with the Lamonts, some chiefs tended to sell off the clan lands instead of shifting to sheep. As a result of this policy, Lamonts have tended to disperse, and are now one of the most widespread of clans.
According to Mary Wilma Wham Monroe, one of our family genealogists, our early ancestors were from Southwest Scotland near the town of Dumfries which is to the North of Solway Firth and close to the border with England. This area is the home grounds of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, but a little South of the clan Lamont’s center of activity even at the zenith of its power. It is likely that by the 1600’s our ancestors had left the clan and moved on with their lives in other areas. Our family genealogist, also, stated that the early Whams were staunch Presbyterians and strictly observed the Sabbath, thus no cooking, no frolicking, no dancing, no working, only praying, reading the Bible and singing hymns.
I believe that our ancestors were Covenanter Presbyterians, a more radical group of religious fanatics then either the Scottish, the Irish, or the English Church could accept and as a result were persecuted by all. The path that our ancestors took followed one of the historic movements of the Covenanter Presbyterian Church from Southwest Scotland to Northern Ireland to South Carolina to Tennessee to Illinois. A little historical background on what the Whams choose in the way of religion.
On 31 Oct 1517, a headstrong German monk named Martin Luther denounced what he considered the abuses of the church hierarchy in Rome. Luther than established Protestantism in Europe, a movement based on his systematic disagreements with the Catholic church. Thousands joined the new movement, including King Henry Vlll, who in 1534 devised his own form of Protestantism called the Anglican Church of England. Another offshoot of the Protestant Reformation was built on the teachings of John Calvin, a Frenchman. His followers were called Calvinists or Puritans. One of these Calvinists was a Scot named John Knox. His teachings opposed any rigid hierarchy within the church and also advocated militant opposition of irreligious or immoral government leaders. John Knox built upon the Calvinist model as he taught in Scotland, particularly in Lowland Scotland. Due to the appearance of the Wickliffe translation of the Bible, which the Lowlanders could easily read, the reformed doctrines spread rapidly so that most lowland Scots were Protestants by the time of John Knox.
The new religion gained wide support by the people because of its emphasis on equality and education. It favored an independent elected leadership from the church community instead of bishops and priests appointed by the King. Presbyterians developed a system of presbyters ( elders ) popularly elected by the members of the congregation. Thus, the church administration was not allowed to misstep from the control of the faithful as a whole. Because of emphasis on bible study, literacy among lowland Scots was astonishingly high.
The Reformation took a different form in Scotland from that taken in England. Instead of taking King Henry Vlll’s Church of England as their model, the Scottish Protestants followed the standards of the Huguenots of France. This was brought on in part by a view of the Catholic church hierarchy as living immoral lives and grossly abusing their spiritual authority.
The Gaston, Rainey, Rock and Gault (all associated families) were originally Huguenots from France who moved to Scotland than to Ireland or directly to Ireland and followed the Wham family to South Carolina, Tennessee, and Illinois with intermarriages along the way. The Huguenots migrated from France when the French government revoked the Edict of Nants, which had protected religious liberties since 1598 in France.
It appeared the power of the Church of Rome, headed by the Roman Catholic Pope, had been broken by King Henry Vlll so our Protestant ancestors might enjoy a little peace and prosperity for a change. Mary, Queen of Scots, the last Catholic Scottish monarch, was forced to abdicate to her son, James Vl of Scotland. He was raised a Presbyterian, eventually became King of England, and was designated James l.
This event suggested Presbyterian peace in Scotland, but unfortunately it did not work out that way. James l became enamored with the control and high style of the Church of England. He considered the independent nature of the Presbyterian religion as disruptive and the relatively low style of their presentation not suitable for a King. He considered Bishops much easier to influence than an army of strong willed, independent Presbyterian ministers. So, in addition to having a King over them, the Church of Scotland soon found the system of Bishops forced on them.
When Charles l attained the throne, he continued this same controlling process over Scotland. His views of himself, theology, and politics became increasingly contradictory to the beliefs of the Presbyterians. Charles tried to bring together the laws and churches of Scotland and England, a Herculean task at best. In 1637, he produced the Book of Common Prayer, written without the involvement of the General Assembly. With their belief that Scottish Presbyterians were related directly to God, not through a King or Bishops, the Presbyterian leadership was forced to write the National Covenant in 1638. It was a major expansion of their Covenant of 1581. It was signed first at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh then sent to churches around the country for signatures. But, Charles l was executed by Cromwell, bringing a temporary end to the English monarchy as Charles ll was rejected by England. Under the banner of “ no kings and no bishops”, Charles ll became, in 1650 at age 20, the king-like Protector of Scotland. For the Scots loyalty to him, he adopted a status as the protector of the Scottish Covenant of 1638, which was a national protest against the ecclesiastical innovations in the Scottish Church. Charles ll garnered an amazing depth of loyalty by the use of this ploy.
In 1660, the English experiment of non-monarchy ended with Charles ll assuming the English crown. Sadly for our ancestors even with his promising past, the persecution of Scottish Presbyterians accelerated. More bishopry was imposed, some 350 Scottish ministers were cast out of their churches, and those outcasts were forbidden to preach anywhere upon pain of military execution. Those persisting in the face of this danger were known as “The Covenanters” .Soldiers scoured the countryside looking for Covenanters performing their illegal worship. Their secret religious meetings were known as “conventicles”. If anyone was identified as a Covenanter, “Letters of intercommuning” could be issued against them which required an absolute shun. Anyone ( even your mother, father, or spouse ) caught giving aid or in contact with the one shunned was subject to equal punishment.
The area around Dumfries, where according to family tradition our direct lineage lived during this time, was a “hotbed”of Covenanters, who resisted the introduction of a religious hierarchy into their church which could be easily corrupted by the king and others. The English governments persecution led to the first military uprising of the Covenanters, at St John’s Town of Dalry in Gallaway on 12 Nov 1666. A small party of armed Covenanters overpowered some troopers under the command of Sir James Turner who were torturing a Covenanter who would not or could not pay a fine. The Covenanters then marched from Dumfries to Lanark, increasing to some 2,000 in number. At Rullion Green, they encountered the superior forces of the Crown under General Dalziel. Some 1,000 Covenanters who determined to go forward at all costs were disastrously defeated. Over 100 prisoners were tortured and executed. Other prisoners were subsequently transported as indentured labor to the Americas.
The persecution of the ousted clergy and the Covenanters, and anyone providing them shelter or support, continued along with heavy fines. By 1677, landowners and masters were required to sign bonds for all persons residing on their land. The landowners refused to accept this impossible undertaking. As a result, the Crown unleashed 6,000 Highlanders and 3,000 Lowland militia to live in free quarters provided by the locals while they extracted the bonds and looted the countryside. The simmering uprising led to the assassination of Archbishop Sharp, the symbol of the episcopacy and the persecutor of many Covenanters.
After a few minor military victories, the Covenanter Army was decimated by a Royal force under Monmouth; 400 being left dead on the field; and 1,500 carried away as prisoners to Edinburgh. They were confined in the open for five months in the Greyfriars Churchyard. A number of ministers were hanged, some other prisoners were executed at Magus Moor. The 400 prisoners who took an oath not to take up arms again were released. The remainder were sentenced to be transported to Barbados, but their ship went down off the Orkneys with 200 of the captives battened below hatches.
Benjamin Wham, the progenitor of the Wham family in America, was born in County Derry, Northern Ireland in 1750. His forefathers are unknown at this time along with the date of their migration from Scotland to Ireland. If they were Covenanters, which I believe to be the case based on their later movements and the people they associated with, they certainly had justification to make the move to Ireland during this period of “The Killing Time” in the late 1600’s.
Let us take a second look at some of associated families that joined our ancestors in Northern Ireland and Chester County, South Carolina, who intermarried with the Wham family and followed the “Fire and Brimstone” of the Covenanter Presbyterian religion.
John Kell, born 1736 in County Antrim, Ireland; died 2 Nov 1819 in Chester County, South Carolina. He married Jane Morton, born 1738 in County Antrim, Ireland; died 28 Jan 1817 in Chester County, South Carolina. Both are buried in Paul’s Graveyard in Chester County. The historian, Daniel Greene Stinson, wrote “More Covenanters are buried here than any other place in the South. Their son, John Kell graduated from Glasgow, Scotland and entered the Ministry. He later founded the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Princeton in Princeton, Indiana.
In the churchyard at Dalserf is the grave and monument to Rev. John McMillan who was a minister at Balmaghie Church in Gallaway, Scotland. He came to the Parish of Dalserf in 1733 and was instrumental in the Covenanters movement. He died in 1753 in Scotland. He was known as the Covenanter of Covenanters. The Covenanters were also known as McMillanites. Hugh McMillan was born in 1750, County Antrim, Ireland. His father, Hugh McMillan, was related to the Rev. John McMillan. Hugh McMillan married Jane Harvey in 1775. Both Hugh and Jane are buried in the Brick Church, Covenanter Burying Ground in Chester County, South Carolina. Robinson’s History of Greene County, Ohio says “Hugh McMillan left Ireland for America in 1797 with Rev. John Kell, William Rock and one or two others, landed at Charleston. (In my opinion, it was Benjamin and William Wham with other family members who accompanied them.) They made their way to Camden, Kershaw District where they remained for some months. Learning of the Rocky Creek settlement, they went there and sent for families whom they met at Charleston.” William Rock was christened 21 May 1733 in Kilwaughter, Ballymena, Antrim, Ireland an area of Ireland which claimed many Whams.
John Morton was killed in the Battle of Drumclog on Sunday, 1 June 1679. John Graham of Claverhouse, an arch persecutor of the Covenanters, attacked a large Conventicle being held at Drumclog, Lanarkshire. Many of the worshippers had come armed, and they resisted to such an extent that they routed Claverhouse and his dragoons, but John Morton’s life was cut short. It is not clear what the relationship is between Alexander Morton ( born about 1710 ) and John Morton, but John could have been his grandfather. Some of Alexander’s children were in Chester County with the Wham family.
John McNinch was a minister in the Presbyterian faith. I cannot confirm that he was a Covenanter, but the McNinch Church was situated three miles east of Chesterville in Chester County, South Carolina in the heart of Covenanter country. He built the church himself in 1813 and it was reported that he had a large following. William Wham, the son of Benjamin, married Isabella McNinch in Chester County About 1797. John McNinch was her grandfather.
James Blair born in 1753 and his wife, Margaret Jenkins born in 1755 (both in County Down, Ireland) were Covenanters. They were members of Rev. William Martin’s congregation in County Down. Rev. Martin organized a large group of Covenanters to move to South Carolina. James Blair’s ship was the Lord Dunluce which left Larne on 4 Oct 1772 and arrived at Charleston, South Carolina on 2 Dec 1772. This was a large group, and as such they were scattered around the Abbeville district. James was given 230 acres on the shores of Fishing Creek near Rev. Martin in Craven County, South Carolina. He later moved to Chester County where both he and his wife are buried.
The fact that Benjamin Wham is buried in the Paul’s Graveyard, a known burial grounds of many Covenanters; the fact he settled and remained in the Rocky Creek area, Chester County a “Hotbed” for Covenanters; the fact that the Wham family practiced a strict form of the Presbyterian religion; the fact that the Whams in Scotland were in an area of heavy concentration of Covenanter activity; the fact that when slavery became an issue in the Presbyterian church the Covenanters moved in mass to Tennessee and points North (with the exception of Joseph Wham and his family); the fact that there was much intermarriage within this “Tightknit” religious group leads me to believe that the early Wham’s were Covenanters. If this be the case, it is likely that they left Scotland and moved to Northern Ireland in the latter part of the 1600’s when the religious persecution of Coveranters was at its pinnacle. It can be proven that most of the associated families moved to Ireland in the 1600’s.
A second possibility exists that our ancestors took advantage of the offer of cheap land with favorable long term rental agreements with the Ulster Plantation scheme of King James l. I have not found any facts to support the Whams early arrival in Ireland, but it is possible.
In 1605, two enterprising Scottish gentlemen acquired a large tract of land in Northern Ireland by freeing an imprisoned Irish chieftain. They immediately began settling the land with Scottish Presbyterians from the Ayrshire, Dumfrieshire and Galloway, a region of Scotland which our ancestors called home. The success of this enterprise did not escape the notice of the English. The English Crown’s attempts to pacify Northern Ireland had failed and the introduction of Scottish Presbyterians to counter the troublesome Irish Catholics seemed like a good solution. King James specifically excluded Highlander Scots (predominately Catholic) from the colonization scheme. He believed that they would simply team up with the native Irish to cause discord and unrest. It had a second benefit for the English. The Scottish lowlands were horribly impoverished and overpopulated. The “Landed Gentry” wanted additional grazing lands for their more profitable sheep. Crime in the Lowlands was becoming rampant as the clan system was breaking down. Many of those Scots living along the Scottish border who had previously terrorized the English were now forcibly repatriated in Northern Ireland. Others immigrated for the cheap, long term land leases and the hope of a better future. The Lowland Scots favored the idea in that they could build permanent homes without the constant fear of having them destroyed by the Highlanders or the English.
Another thing that greatly contributed to the movement of Scots to the Ulster Plantation was a tremendous surge of religious fervor throughout the Lowlands. King James instituted a series of unfavorable ecclesiastical reforms, which included the change from the Presbyterian to the Episcopal form of church government that we have discussed earlier. Many of the Presbyterian ministers were in favor of the migration to Ireland in order to elude what they felt was a return to Catholicism. These migrations many times included the entire congregation.
The Ulster Plantation prospered despite some years of drought, poor crops and many Catholic Irish confrontations with the Scots. Historians have estimated that the population of Ulster was approximately fifty thousand by the year 1620 and nearly one hundred thousand by 1640.
Another inducement for immigration was the fact that England continued its imperialism on land and sea into the 17th and 18th centuries. It needed men for its army and navy and it was not to particular how they were acquired. The Crown drained the Highlands of 27 line regiments and 19 battalions of fighting men. They were raised in the way of the former clan levies; each chief and his tackmen bringing in a number of his young tenants by persuasion or force. The navy had conscription gangs to pickup likely sailors off the streets. There was also a growing need to supply the Crown’s overseas plantations with a labor force which led to unwanted forced migrations. This uncertain loss of their fragile freedom must have weighed heavily on their minds and generated thoughts of migration to safer areas. An example of this type of activity follows:
In 1746, the defeated Jacobite army dispersed and its soldiers sought refuge both at home and abroad. Mrs. Fordyce of Beelhelvie apprehended one suspected rebel in June 1746. John Morton, a Glaswegian, was brought before the governors of Aberdeen to explain himself. He declared that in January that year he had been traveling near Stonehaven when Alexander Garioch of Menzie got hold of him and forced him to enlist in Sir Alexander Bannerman’s Company of the Jacobite army. Garioch had imprisoned Morton for two days until he agreed to take up service. He had served with the Company until March when he deserted near Findhorn. He had been living rough until his discovery in June. The Governors decided to keep Morton in prison till liberated by proper authority. The old custom of press-ganging innocent locals into military service was obviously still alive and well in the 18th century and became a standard practice of the British military.
It should also be remembered that the West Coast of Scotland has a mass of sea-lochs and two belts of islands; the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Scotland is less than 20 miles from the coast of Northern Ireland at its closest point. The local fishing industry and small-scale trading vessels ensured ready movement by sea between Scotland and Northern Ireland with little traceable paperwork. In times of crisis, it was sometime more realistic to move family and flocks to safer or more economically attractive areas. Such escapes were often followed within a generation by a return to the original homeland, once conditions there had returned to normal. It is understandable that the family histories of many of the surnames, like Wham, represented in Scotland and Northern Ireland are quite elusive to track.
I suspect that our ancestors migrated to Northern Ireland for a number of understandable reasons, but the primary one was to avoid the religious persecution they were experiencing in the Scottish lowlands and a real threat to their existence. The Covenanters, by today’s standards, would be considered extremists. The Wham’s religious choice probably evolved from extreme hardship in their lives and possibly from traumatic events which we cannot even comprehend while associated with the clan Lamont. It will be left up to future genealogists to determine the “ who, when and why “ of the move to Ireland.
Mary Wilma Wham Monroe, one of our families genealogists, equates the move to Ireland as our ancestors jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The history of the Scots-Irish survival in Northern Ireland certainly confirms her premise. The Scots-Irish maintained a close connection with their Scottish homeland while they remained in Ireland, a race apart from their Irish and English neighbors. They were hated by the Catholics Irish whose land they had usurped. They were despised by the English, whose government and established church inflicted persecution upon them due to their religious non-conformity. Less than half of the Scots-Irish families were actually permanently settled in Northern Ireland before 1650. The Penal Laws and other acts of parliament, depriving them of religious and civil liberties, were during certain periods, more rigorously enforced in Scotland than in Ireland, thus resulting in a migration to Northern Ireland. At other times, they were more severely penalized in Ireland, causing a reverse flow of ministers and church members to Scotland.
The cooperation between the Presbyterian ministers and the bishops of the Church of England and Ireland, though tenuous at best, began to change in 1625 for the worst. William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, Lord Deputy of Ireland were determined to tighten their control over the established churches. In 1636, a group of rebelling ministers including Robert Blair, Robert Hamilton, John McClelland and John Livingstone organized 140 Scottish settlers to emigrate to New England. After their voyage reached the half-way point, the weather forced them to return. The ministers, to escape arrest, fled to Scotland with many of the settlers. At this time, Scotland had become a reasonably safe refuge. Even though the effort was unsuccessful, it planted the seeds of immigration which later flourished.
In 1639 the “Black Oath” was imposed requiring all Protestants living in Northern Ireland to obey the King’s commands and to renounce the Covenant. This generated a migration back to Scotland. This departure saved the lives of many Scots who were not present during the Irish rebellion which started in 1641. The Irish Catholics determined to exterminate the English, also hated the Scots for settling on their forfeited lands. The Scots were in a hopeless position, having been gradually disarmed by the English to prevent them from aiding their Covenanter kin in Scotland against England. The Irish tortured and murdered thousands of Scots until Cromwell came from England in 1649 and crushed the rebellion.
He (King of England) did not side with either Catholic or Presbyterian but killed both to let them know that England was in charge and would not take disobedience from either side. Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan, would probably have come sooner except he was involved in the English Civil Wars which culminated in King Charles l losing his head.
After Ireland, Cromwell was appointed commander in chief of all forces of the English Commonwealth and was sent to fight the Scots who had declared for King Charles ll. The Scottish campaign was not characterized by the same brutality as the Irish campaign. The battles of Dunbar and Worchester, which occurred exactly one year apart on 3 Sept 1650 and 1651 respectively, effectively defeated the Scots.
After Cromwell’s action in the Irish Rebellion, the Scots began to return to Northern Ireland in hopes of a more peaceful life. The remainder of the Cromwellian period was one of general peace for the returning Scots. Oliver Cromwell died on 3 Sept 1658 at Whitehall and King Charles ll was crowned in May 1660 after returning from France. This was the beginning of the active rebellion of our Covenanter ancestors in Scotland against the English. This period saw renewed migration of Scots to Northern Ireland to escape the “Killing Times” of Covenanters in Southwest Scotland.
Another large scale movement of Scots to Northern Ireland happened in the 1690’s following King William’s victory in the Battle of the Boyne. The political situation stabilized somewhat in Ireland and Scots began crossing the Irish Sea to avoid a famine going on in Scotland. Irish Catholics supported James ll, while the Scot Presbyterians supported William And Mary. The war ended in 1691 with Ireland submitting to William and Mary with our ancestors on the winning side for a change.
An economic factor which stimulated Scottish thoughts of migration to America was the restriction on the sale of cattle and other animals to England. The Scots-Irish were so industrious in building first a cattle industry, then sheep and then a woolen industry that they took away many of England’s markets. The sales competition from exports of cattle alarmed the English Landowners in England. Laws were enacted in 1665 and 1680 absolutely prohibiting the importation into England from Ireland of all cattle, sheep and swine, beef, pork, bacon and even butter and cheese. In 1667, grains and horses were added to the list. This had a significant impact on the ability of the Scots-Irish to make a decent living since historically they had been cattle ranchers in Scotland.
Another economic problem for the Scots of Ireland was the English woolen manufacturers’ position that their livelihood was being threatened by the importation of Irish woolen goods. In 1698, Ireland then submitted to England that they would establish linen and hemp manufacturing, so as not to encroach upon their woolen industry. Later, tariffs were imposed on the Irish linen industry to stop the Scots from competing on an equal footing with the linen industry in England.
The English woolen industry was not satisfied and a law prohibiting the Irish from exporting manufactured wool to any country was enacted. The main industry of the Scots of Ireland was thus destroyed. At the same time, actions were considered in favor of prohibiting all fishing on the Irish shore except with boats built and manned by Englishmen. As each prohibition came upon the Scots-Irish, emigrations increased.
“Rack Renting” became a significant factor to the Scots and their families. Land was usually on a 31 or 61 year long-lease/low rent basis and, for some years, a steady stream of Scots moved to Ireland expecting a meager living and to pass their improved farms on to their children. When leases expired, landlords raised the rents to as much as double or triple the original amount which forced the Scots to take other options.
The immigration to America was motivated by both economic and religious reasons. The Test Act of 1704 made the Presbyterians virtually law breakers. It excluded Scots in Ireland from military and civil service offices. Their marriages were declared invalid, and their chapels were closed. They could not have schools to teach their children their Scottish heritage. They were fined for practicing their particular type of religion. In addition, they were required to pay tithes to the established church even though they did not attend.
The “Great Migration” of Scots-Irish from Northern Ireland to America took place from 1717 through 1775. An estimated 200-250,000 Scots-Irish migrated to America during this period. There was almost constant turmoil in Ireland through the 17th and 18th centuries with assorted rebellions. In 1641 the Catholic Irish, in 1649 Cromwell, in1690 the Battle of the Boyne, in 1798 the Catholic Irish, all of which disrupted the lives of our ancestors. Over time, the Scots-Irish found themselves trapped between the hostile native Irish and the English who were in firm control and more then willing to destroy the economy of Ireland to protect their own. Our ancestors found fewer and fewer options that were acceptable.
The Scots emigrated to America in five successive waves: 1717-18, 1725-29, 1740-41, 1754-55, and 1771-75. The reasons for each wave of emigration varied: devastating drought; rack renting; famine; religious and political repression; and hope for a better future inspired by the propaganda of colonial governors and emigration agents. It is hard to quantify the exact reason why the Wham family left Ireland, but looking at the turmoil that they had to live through I can fully understand their choice to immigrate. The only question I have, is why did they wait so long?
We known that the progenitor of the Wham family, Benjamin Wham and his son William Wham with others, arrived in South Carolina in 1797 and was followed by his other son, Joseph Wham, with more family in 1806. History tells us, that for the most part, people that immigrated later were better educated and doing better economically, and therefore were able to purchase their passage outright without indebtedness. William Wham was a Wheelwright, the builder of wagon wheels, a profession in continuing demand during peace and war which requires the skills of working both wood and metal.
In the long term view of their situation, I believe the Wham family could see storm clouds on the horizon in Ireland and were not willing to suffer further. The American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789 had set the stage for further rebellion in oppressed Ireland. If such a revolt was successful, they would be under Catholic rule, something counter to their strong Presbyterian religious beliefs. In either case, war would be a significant threat and disruptive to their lives. The favorable words of free land and freedom of religion emanating from America could not be resisted. Unsuccessful rebellions broke out 1798 and 1803 and basically have continued to the present day. In the short term view of their situation, they were experiencing crop failures, high rents, a collapse of the linen industry and significant religious persecution.
I have presented the reader of this document, a dissertation on the history of Scotland, England and Ireland, which I believe impacted our ancestors and motivated them to immigrate to America. It is hard to say with any certainty what the primary factor is which drove them to face the hardship of an ocean voyage and the unknown challenges in a new land. My personal belief is that they were looking for a better life for their children and generations to come and their religion was so strong that they did not even question that their God would not look out for them.
I want to cover one more area of interest before I go to the individual histories of each ancestor in our lineage and that is slavery. This dark period in our American past was fully rejected by our ancestors. Most (many?) of the Wham family could not live with the moral dilemma of slavery. This was the primary reason they moved from South Carolina to Tennessee and from Tennessee to Illinois. As Covenanters, our ancestors viewed slavery as a blight on the soul of humanity whose existence was completely against the natural rights of man granted by God.
The Covenanter Churches directed by the Reformed Presbytery made the main Presbyterian community extremely uncomfortable by taking direct action against slavery. Samuel Brown Wylie was ordained by the Reformed Presbytery at Ryegate, Vermont on 25 June 1800. He was the first Covenanter minister ordained in America. That same year, the Reformed Presbytery enacted without a dissenting vote that “No slave-holder should be allowed the communion of their church”. Rev. Samuel Wylie and Rev. James McKinney went throughout the South to abolish slavery from their Covenanter Churches. They arrived at Rocky Creek, South Carolina, where our ancestors were, to enforce the enactment, or excommunicate those who refused. It is said that $15,000 worth of slaves were set free that day in the Rocky Creek area. The majority of those who liberated their slaves eventually migrated to the areas that slavery was not a consideration. To my knowledge, our ancestors were not slave-holders.
I never intended to be so long winded in telling the story of the early Whams in Scotland, England and Ireland, but the fascination of the history and how it effected our ancestors became very personal. I thank them, each and everyone of them, for making those hard decisions which allowed my family and me to live under an umbrella of freedom and prosperity.
In summation, I believe if you don’t go back too far into
the mist of time, our ancestors were from Scotland. I think that
it is reasonable to believe that they were members of clan Lamont in Argyle,
Scotland. The blood oath to kill clan Lamont members given by clan
Campbell and bad decisions made by clan Lamont chieftains forced the name
change from Macilwham to Wham and the dispersal of the Wham family.
Based on the movements of our ancestors and whom they associated with,
I think I have made the case that they were Covenanters. Unfortunately,
I have not found a date they left Scotland or the father of Benjamin Wham
to complete the family chain. It will surface some day when more
information is put on the internet. When you look at the demographics
of the associated families and our ancestors in Scotland, Ayrshire and
Dumfriesshire are the likely candidates. In Ireland, it is Ballymena,
Antrim. At this point, I will go to the genealogy of each individual
in our direct lineage.
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