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Ancient History of the Clans
By Emery Smith, Jr.


It is worth noting that Scotland, in the early days, was pioneered by the Vikings, Celts, Picts, and Norsemen.  The land was free for the taking. Much of it was in big areas and controlled by the different tribes of the times.  Some were as large as one hundred and eighty (180) miles and could not e patrolled by the owners, so different sections were laid off by large chiefs of the different clans. They built castles and keeps for their setps, which let to quarrels and fights between the clans and the Septs, and later the rulers of strongholds.  As the clans grew, more land was needed.  Strict limits had to be imposed.  The general practice at that time was as much land as a man could cover in a day's time, with a lighted torch, and be back to where he started b dark.

A woman could also have land if she was a direct descendant, but only what she could cover in a day's time, leading a two year-old cow.  This was practiced for many years.  About the 10th or 11th century, this practice was changed as society developed.  The larger clans and castles were then needed to protect their septs and slaves from other clans and slaves from other clans that were established.

Then came the Kirks and Churches with their different laws and religions to live by.  If a man killed another man, he was tried and was handed hot stones or pieces of hot metal to hold in his hands for a full measure of time.  They were not interested in the burns they got.  They had to return to the Godi or Priest in 5 to 7 days. The Godi or Priest would look at their hands. If they were clean and healing, he was a free man regardless of his crime, but if his hands were festered and not clean and healing, he was to be killed by cutting off his head. If one hand was healing good and the other wan not healing, the hand not healing was cut off as his punishment.

Beginning in about 930, there was a meeting held each year called the meeting of "All Things".  It was what you would say was the people's General Assembly.  An elected law speaker would recite from memory one third of the legal code of the land.  The entire code took three years at a time.  A new lawspeaker was elected by the ones who were present. If need be, the laws were amended or adjusted to whatever the case might be.  Marriages were performed.  Great contests were held.  Games and merrymaking and sometimes bloody fights broke out between clans over grievances of both old and new. 

The "All Things" was Europe's first parliament and was by no means democratic, for all the real power was vested in 36 prominent land owners.  Such land owners were called a Godi or a Priest.

There were only two ways to settle disputes and feuds at that time in history.  That was almost complete extermination between clans unless it was carried to the "All Things" for settlement.  Here, the justice was asked.  Ass Things would get together and say, "Come before us and state your case."  All Things then would declare one party guilty and condemn him outside the law of existence.  he or they were then free game for one and all.  The All Things would make payment of "Wergild" of blood money for each man slain. This was for a period of years or for their entire life.  Then, anyone who fed or sheltered them was under the same sentence.  This did away with many small tribes and clans, putting them under the Septs and slaves of large land owners, Godi, and Priest.  Some religious orders gave them protection. Those who roamed the wilderness would change their names and start new clans and tribes under other clans. Some of them were sent to the islands off-shore of the mainlands where the large landowners had placed hogs to be raised for themselves and furnish meat and sport for hunting. This is where some of the big clans were formed. They lived there for years and became independent and grew, built large forts and castles and defended themselves against the mainland owners.  They set their own religious beliefs and their own laws to govern themselves.

About this time in history, the earliest inhabitants of the area around Loch Lomond were the Caledonia tribes of "People of the Woods."  Traces of their movements and culture can be gathered today through a close look at the many burial cairns, free standing stones, stone circles, and old cup and ring carvings which stand today.  However, the cairns and stones are markings of the neolithic peiod.

With the advance of the Roman armies, the Caledonia tribes were pushed north of Antonines wall which was built between the fort and the Clyde River cutting Scotland apart.  Remains of the last Roman fort on the line at old Kilpatrick is still apparent today and is being dug out on the hillside in some places.  Old lead pipe are still underground with running water just as it was used int he old Roman fort.

With the departure of the Romans in the third century A. D., the Ancient Kingdom of Strath Clyde came into being. This Kingdom embraced the Loch Lomond area entirely, stretching south beyond Carlisle with Dalriado kindom of the Celts to the northwest and Pictland to the East. A stone clash Nam Breatann or "Stone of Britons" marks the junction of these three ancient kingdoms still standing in the lonely Glen Fallsh today.

In the sixth century A. D. Christianity had taken roots and one of the first martrydoms for faith in that country took place at Luss where St. Kessog was martyred for the cause. In alter years, while road improvements were being made nearby, a stone effigy believed to be that of the Saint was found buried. This stone, which is of great antiquity now, rests for everyone to see in the local church at Luss.

Like the weather, Loch Lomond's history has seldom remained settled for long.  The worst scenes of carnage took place in 1263 when the Vikings under King Hakkon of Norway carried out a lightning commando raid, laying waste to most all the clans on the shores of Loch Lomond. By manhandling their long boats over the narrow isthmus (1 1/2 miles wide) the fearful warriors launched a frightful surprise attack on all in their way. They took all they wanted and burned the rest.

The next shameful scene highlighting man's inhumanity to man took place at Glen Fruin or the "Glen of the Weeping" as it was sometimes called in February of 1603.

The clans on the Loch side at that time in history were the MacFarlanes, Gows, Buchanans, Calquahauns and the outlawed MacGregors. The clan chosen to enforce the laws was drawn mainly from the Calquahauns, since they were the largest clan. Then the MacGregors got the MacFarlanes to join them and to fight the Calquahauns on moon light raids on everyone. This went on for several years until most all the clans helped in the effort to catch Allistair MacGregor and other chieftains, tried, and executed them. Their limbs were displayed to discourage any others from the horrors of the MacGregors. King James, at that time, when such hazardous acts were being committed, was also compiling the English version of the Holy Bible.

Today, the hillsides and valleys are covered with the ruins of the 15th and 16th centuries.  Old Kirks (churches) of that time with walls still standing mark the place and the graveyards with many different symbols of the different beliefs of mankind.

In these parts, I came across some of the old sheep ponds still being used. They were circles of stones with one side open where the sheep were kept at night to protect them from cold, wolves, foxes, and hungry people.  They were fed there with salted leaves from the woods where the people had walked the leaves in the woods in the fall of the year. This is still a practice in some parts of Scotland.

Some of the tombstones were marked with the old numerals used before the Roman numerals were used. I had the Gaelic numerals translated, so I would be able to read some of the dates. It was the old way they used to ount sheep and it is still used in some places. It was brought to this country by some of the old Scots and to Vineland by the Vikings.

1 - Yan,   2 - Tyan,  3 - Tethern,   4 - Methern,   5 - Pimp,   6 - Sethera,   7 - Lethera,   8 - Hovera,   9 - Dovera,   10 - Dick,   11 - Yan Dick,    12 - Tyan Dick,   13 - Tethera Dick,  14 - Methera Dick,  15 - Bumfit,  16 - Yan Bumfit,   17 - Tyan Bumfit,  18 - Thethera Bumfit,    19 - Methera Bumfit,    20 - Giggot

These old numerals were found where the sheep were sold in the fall of the year before the hard winters began.  The shepherds would sell what they could for that year and have a big supper, a sing song,  tell jokes and old tales.  Most of this was held at Gowbarrow Hall, a meeting place in South Central Scotland, about 20 miles from Loch Lomond.  Nearby was an old Kirk or church with a new one on the same spot where the old one once stood.  The records there went way back, almost complete since 1613.  With the help of the pastor of this church, I was able to unlock a lot of history and to translate a lot of information on the Gows, MacGows, MacGowan and the Smiths, as this was the last stronghold for them. After their battle there, they scattered to the four winds with some of the many clans and some on the Isle of the Mull, but no real clan was ever together again.

Here is the place I found by true ancestors' graves and their markers. David, the son of David, was the chief of the old Smith Clan "Emery" in 1644.  However, the old church records show 1666, but the tombstones show 1644.  Some of the stones are so badly worn by the weather, you can't make them out, but the big huge stone of David, the son of David, is still visible.  I was able to get information from some of the descendants who are still living in that area. We received help from Rev. W. J. Morris, who is a  PHD, and has been there for many years. He helped my wife and me for more than a week.

David had four sons and three daughters. The four sons had large families. Their sons left Scotland on William's ship out of Glasgow for America. Most of them were forced to leave the British Crown. Some came with the name of Gow, others with the name of Smith, but all of them were of the same family.  Changing their names did not help.  They were still forced to leave Scotland with seven years to serve for the Drown for crimes they had placed against them to rid Scotland of as many as possible.

The four sons of David had many sons, who spread from Pitlochry in the central hills of Scotland, Tayside, Blairgowry and Perth on back to Dumbarton and Ballock on the southern tip of Loch Lomond. There were some of the family members who left Tarbet and settled on the Isle of Jura.  Some of this familoy on the Isle of Jura came to Fayetteville, N. C. and on up to Moore County at Lobelia, just south of Vass.

My great grandfather (Thomas Thin Smith) roamed the highland of central Scotland as a blacksmith, pot mender and lead washer. He is supposed to be buried at Callander, but I couldn't find the place.  There is no marker.  He was the son of James. My grandfather was born there in 1829.  My grandfather's sister, Ruth, was born there in 1832 and died in 1893.  She was also a lead washer. She had a marker erected there. Her children and great grandchildren are still in the area today and were a lot of help to me.  She had an older sister who lived in Comnock. They did not know much about her.  That was 50 or 75 miles away.

From what I could piece together, the families of this group seem to have lots of ties with one another. The old history was there, but very few dates. The ones who went to America that they knew about were John, David, Elijah, Joseph, James, Sarah, and Edward.  I found that Elijah Smith came to American in 1772 to Elizabeth City and married Prentince Williams, the daughter of the Barnes Williams family for which he was indebted for seven years' labor under the drown. Elijah's brother, Joseph,  arrived in Edenton, N. C., in 1766, and worked his time out with a merchant and farmer. A Frenchman pain ship passages and fines for Scotch, Irish, and Negro immigrants who landed in Edenton Ports. he then let large land holders pay him for their labor or sold them to the people who could buy them. He was never looked upon as a slave dealer, only a good merchant, farmer, and businessman. Joseph came as a Scottish Gow. His son Joe married  Chowan Indian and raised a large family at Rockyhock on the Chowan River.

There were several Smiths who arrived in Edenton, Elizabeth City, and Newbern, N. C.  Ships loaded with immigrants from Scotland or Ireland were not allowed to land anywhere north of Norfolk, VA., from about 1750 to 1760.  They were driven away by the British.  The Scots and Irish couldn't own land and were starving to death during the long hard winters, and the British would not feed them for their labor.  The last boat load was driven into the German and Dutch settlements in western Pennsylvania by the people in Philadelphia. many starved or froze to death.  In 1747, the Tartans and Twes were forbidden in Scotland, Ireland, and England, so they had very little to cover their bodies. There were put into prison if they were caught wearing plaids of any kind. That is why so many Scots were sent to America to work for the Crown for seven (7) years. They were caught for wearing plaids to keep warm. They had very few other garments to wear to keep them warm at that time.

Elijah's only son by Prentince Williams raised his family in Duplin County on the Little Cape Fear River. His name was David.  He was very young when his mother died. Elijah then married Nancy Freeman, who had several sons and daughter for him: Henton, John, Alfred, David, Ralph and others. David married Mateldia Tootle.  John married Lemmidine Rilley Tootle.  It is very difficult to tell which David it was that traveled with the salt wagons from Fayetteville, N. C. to Moore, Randolph, Guilford, and Yadkin counties on the old Yadkin Road to the foothills of the blue Ridge Mountains.  It was called the Cape Fear Trade Route that ran from Wilmington, N. C. to Fayetteville, N. C. by boats and then on wagons to Old Salem and to the foothills of the mountains.

James Smith as the oldest one I traced from Scotland, and he was with William Williams, son of Robert Williams.   He was given a land grant of 21,000 acres to create trade for England in Virginia, so he gave up being a captain on a ship he was operating for the Crown of England. James Smith lived in Virginia until he died. His sons then began to leave all the land they had helped their father clear and plant.  It went back to the Williams.  They could only have land to live on if they cleared it and built houses to live in. Whatever they had, one-half of the crop and livestock went to the land owner. This was common practice at that time in history with the ones who did not own land.