Sunday, 1 July 2007

Rev William Martin Remembered

On Friday 29th June past, a large crowd gathered at the Shanaghy and Vow Road junction to mark the 250th anniversary of the ordination of Rev William Martin. Rev Martin was the first Covenanter (Reformed Presbyterian) clergyman to be ordained anywhere in Ireland and this was not the only significant mark he made in history.

William Martin was born near Ballykelly but finished his education in Dumfries, Scotland. On 2nd July 1757, he was ordained a Covenanter minister in an open air service held at The Vow, between Ballymoney and Kilrea. As the only Covenanter minister in Antrim and Down, the two counties became his parish, so to speak, and Rev Martin, though resident at Kellswater, had supervisory responsibility for Covenanter groups at Ballymoney, Dervock, Cloughmills, Leighmore and Cullybackey.

Rev William Martin was no shrinking violet. On top of his mammoth preaching and pastoral duties, he was vocal in his opposition to the High Church (Anglican) authorities who openly discriminated against those whom Martin represented. The oppressed Presbyterians were subjected to excessive rent demands and when payment could not be found to cover them, the tenants were evicted. After much prayerful deliberation, Rev Martin recieved a call to Rocky Creek, a small settlement in South Carolina.

In 1772, around a thousand Covenanters and others, including Roman Catholics, left Ulster under the leadership of Rev Martin. It took 5 ships to ferry the emigrates to the New Country, namely the James and Mary, Lord Dunluce, Pennsylvania Farmer, The Hopewell and The Freemason. Most of those on board the ships came from Ballymoney, Kilraughts, Derrykeighan, Ballyrashane, The Vow and Kellswater. It was a tremendous feat at that time to lead so many people so far in such vessels yet this only goes to illustrate the determination of Rev William Martin.

Although, due to the excessive numbers involved, the large group was scattered throughout the New Country, the majority settled in and around Rocky Creek. In 1774, Rev Martin's congregation opened their own meetinghouse and he began a prosperous ministry. When the War of Independence broke out, he supported the Patriots (Americans) against the British and openly urged others to do so too! James Anderson was but one Ballymoney native to heed the call and die at the hands of the British in that war. Rev Martin had his meetinghouse burned down in 1780 and was himself imprisoned for his patriotism.

The service at The Vow on 29th June was well attended and a plaque in memory of this great Covenanter who made such a difference in the Ulster Scots heartland was erected at the old Vow graveyard. The addresses were given by Rev Robert Hanna and Rev John Hawthorne. It was a fitting tribute to a great yet humble man and the Covenanters should be commended for marking the life of Rev William Martin in this manner.

The plaque can be viewed at any time at the old Vow graveyard.



Very interesting.

Gary Blair said...

Thanks Sam but the problem is that even though this great Ulster Scot was a magnificent ambassador for the Gospel and a great symbol of the resilience of the Ulster Scot, he is rarely mentioned and ignored by history books today. Fair play to the Covenanters who remembered him and reminded those of us who had forgotten the indominable Willam Martin.


No one remembers Antipas either, Rev2:13 LOL

Simpson Farm said...

Very happy to hear of Rev. Martin being remembered. I have been tracing his life for sometime now. I am the historian for Hopewell church in Ohio which is where many came from South Carolina. We took our name from the ship and the church near Blackstock South Carolina. I have been told Martin's grandaughter is a resident of our graveyard. Visit us at thanks , Bob

Timothy Davis said...

Speaking as a Reformed Presbyterian, it is good to see an item on the Internet about William Martin. I would add for others' benefit that his story may be found popularly in Billy Kennedy's The Scots-Irish in the Carolinas. A more exhaustive history may be found in Scotch-Irish Migration to South Carolina, 1772: Reverend William Martin and his Five Shiploads of Settlers by Jean Stephenson (Shenandoah Publishing House, 1970).

John said...

Maps(with ref's) of the location of Covenanter Church in the Rocky Creek Settlement (in modern Chester County, South Carolina) which was burned in 1780 have been entered here:
Creek Settlement

in the
Global Gazetteer of the American Revolution

JSmetz said...

I've not heard of Catholics being included on any of the ships. They did call their church Catholic Presbyterian Church, meaning a joining of several churches. Would there be documentation telling about Catholics on the ships?

thelostmartin said...

I am trying to find out how many Martins actually came over with the group of 1000. I cannot locate records that have than information.

thelostmartin said...

I would appreciate any help on listing the actualy Martins or Camerons in this large group.

Larry W. Miller said...

My ggg-grandfather John Miller Came to America with his father David Miller at the age of about three. They came over on the ship Pennsylvania Farmer to South Carolina and David Miller received land near beaver creek in South Carolina and shortly after that he went off with the militia to fight in the revolutionary war. John was left with neighbors while David went off to fight. According to an auto- biography, by a great grandson, David Miller lost an eye fighting for his country. Nothing more is known of David's wife only that she was Irish born. John Miller was David's only known child. According to the 1830 Clay County Illinois Census John Miller was born “between” 1770-1780. It is very likely that David Miller married again and that his son John was raised by a step-mother and was most likely one of many children. John Miller was a "Campbellite" Minister and was a founder of the Liberty Church in Gibson County, Indiana. He lived in Western North Carolina (East Tennessee), Gibson County, Indiana and Clay County Illinois. He may have also lived in Kentucky. He died sometime after 1830. My question is would anyone have information on want area of northern Ireland David and John Miller came from the people from the Pennsylvania farmer came from in Ireland.

phledd said...

to JSmetz: Yes, you're correct: "Old Catholic" in Chester County, South Carolina, USA was originally the (log) meeting house for many different 'dissenting' Reformed settlers; Covenanters, "Associates", Old Light Presbyterians, New Light Presbyterians, etc. It was "catholic" in the sense that it was diverse (sort of). Old Catholic was not the oldest church in the district, Fishing Creek was founded in 1757, nor did William Martin found Old Catholic; it had been founded in 1771, though no session records began until about 1777, the time after William Martin and his covenanters withdrew to form their own church. Old Catholic is still an active body of the Presbyterian Church USA, and warmly welcomes visitors!

phledd said...

As for Roman Catholics on the ships, It's just possible that there were some, though I imagine they would've been extremely uncomfortable socially; the Covenanters were prickly and obstreperous even with other Presbyterians (and in fairness, vice-versa)... and Episcopalians were downright loathed and execrated, if not I'm sure that for a Roman Catholic to travel with this group to Charleston, it would've been a last desperate option. I imagine most Catholics would've entered by Baltimore, Philadelphia or New York.
The reason we know something about the Protestants on board these ships to SC is that when they arrived in the colony, the Charleston (SC) Council gave land grants to Protestant immigrants upon petition and presentation of a certificate proving that they were Protestant, and those lists survive and have been published (see "A Compilation of the Original Lists of Protestant Immigrants to South Carolina 1763-1773" by Janie Revill, 1939, reprinted 1981.

phledd said...

Interestingly enough...this article has just appeared in the Chester SC Newspaper

thelostmartin said...

Are there any direct, living male descendents of the Reverend William Martin?

fairfieldmus said...

I operate the Fairfield County Museum in Winnsboro, SC which is a few miles SW of the Rocky Creek settlement area of Rev. Martin's congregations.
REcently a Mr. Torrens of Ballymoney visited here to find information about Rev. Martin's American settlements. He was delighted to know that some of the same family names still in Ballymoney and other places in Antrim are still numerous in occurence here. I myself would like to "match up" my own ancestors to this group. My John McCaw came to the Yorkville area north of Chester County in the mid 1700s by way of Philadelphia. Our McCaws don't seem to connect up in the new world to the McCaws who came with Rev. Martin by way of Charleston. I would love to find someone who could shed light on this. If anyone reads this, I can be contacted at
-Pelham Lyles

fairfieldmus said...

Just noticing the request for information on Rev. Martin's family members in the US. I suggest contacting Jean Stephenson, who wrote Scotch-Irish Migration to South Carolina, 1772: Reverend William Martin and his Five Shiploads of Settlers (Shenandoah Publishing House, 1970). Amazon carries the book.

thelostmartin said...

Are there any direct male descendents of the Rev. William Martin?

thelostmartin said...

Are there any direct male descendents of the Rev William Martin?

L said...

His daughter predeceased him. He died in 1807. Her husband John McCaw is said to have gone to Randolph Co.IL, but I haven't found anything on him there on the census. I think I read that they had at least one child, maybe more. If anyone has done a recent biography on Martin, would love to correspond. He was a fascinating character.

ranter said...

Many thanks to everyone for your comments on the William Martin piece. I live only 2 miles from the spot where he was ordained and the Covenanters have erected a memorial tablet to mark the spot and occasion of his ordination. If anyone has any further information on the role Martin played in Rocky Creek and the War of Independence in America, I would be very grateful to get it.

Cindy said...

I am a descendant of the Scott family who immigrated on the "Lord Dunluce". I would love information on the area where they lived before immigrating. Thank you.

Cindy said...

I am a descendant of the Scott family who immigrated to South Carolina on the "Lord Dunluce". I would love information on where my ancestors lived before they immigrated. Thank you!

Linda said...

I'm a descendant of the Stormont family who came on the Lord Dunluce with Martin and settled on Little Rocky Creek and married into the Sprouls; also the Wilson family. And the Dunlap family who came on the Hopewell and married into the Wallace family and settled on Grannies Quarter Creek just north of Camden, SC. Later Sarah Wallace married William Stormont. In 1832 they left SC for Princeton, Indiana. I have written a treatise on Martin if anyone is interested, email me at He was married 3 times. 2nd wife was Jenny Cherry. They had a daughter Nancy who married John McCaw of York Co. It is said Nancy and John had a daughter and that Nancy died and McCaw and "family" moved to IL. I haven't been able to discover whether this granddaughter survived to have children. There's a John McCaw in Monroe Co., IL, in 1840 with 10 in his household. Some Covenanters went to Monroe Co.

If anyone has any info about the Stormonts, Sprouls, Wilsons, Dunlaps, or Wallace families would love to know. And anything about Martin and his family would be appreciated.

Martin preached at Kells and sold his household goods there before emigrating. This is between Ballymoney and Ballymena, so most Covenanter emigrants probably came from this general area. But the 5 ships may have had people from other areas of Antrim and Down, too.

Cindy said...

Linda, your post was really interesting, and I learned things I didn't know. I'm really getting into researching this. What I have been able to find shows that John Scott (born 10 Sep 1738 in Greenock West, Scotland, Renfrewshire, Scotland) married to Eliza Walker, was the son of Samuel Scott and Janet Boyd. They were supposedly from Douglas, Lanark Co., Scotland FR 96.

cklauer said...

Wondering if anyone has names for siblings of Rev William Martin? I am looking for a sister who married a Wilson. They had a son Hugh Wilson. Rev Martin left Hugh some land when he died but not sure if Hugh ever received it as he died in 1808. Please let me know!!

cklauer said...

Wondering if anyone has names for siblings of Rev William Martin? I am looking for a sister who married a Wilson. They had a son Hugh Wilson. Rev Martin left Hugh some land when he died but not sure if Hugh ever received it as he died in 1808. Please let me know!!

Linda said...

Father: DAVID MARTIN & _____________ had the following children
1. Rev. William Martin (b May 16, 1729, at Ballyspaolen, Co. Londonderry, Co.
Antrim, Ireland d 1807 Chester Co., SC)
Married 3 times.
a. Mary
DAR says Jennett Martin born to this marriage. Many disagree.
b. Jennett Cherry
Child: Nancy Martin m John McCaw.
c. Susanna Boggs No children
2. John Martin
Children: David and William, the reverend’s nephews
3. David m Elizabeth
Children: Rachel, John, Margaret, David , Mary, Reuben, Nancy
4. Mary Martin m Brown
5. ____ Martin m James Wilson
Children: Martin and Hugh
6. James Martin m _________
Child: Jenette Martin b. 23 May 1766; d. 25 Aug 1848 m (about 1785 in SC)
married James Willson b. 19 May 1763 in Ireland, d. 1843 IL?
Children of James Wilson and Jenette Martin

a. John Wilson - b. 1792; d. 4 Sept 1859
b. Leah Wilson - b. 1793; d. 1878
c. Nancy Wilson - b. 1794; d. 1852
d. Jean Wilson - b. 1799 in SC; d. 1838 in Randolph Co., IL
e. James Martin Wilson - b. 4 July 1801 in SC; d. 28 July 1863 in
Coulterville, Randolph Co., IL
f. Martin James Wilson - b. 4 July 1801 in SC
g. Sarah Wilson - b. 1803; d. 1860
h. Rachel Wilson - b. 1805
i. Henry C. Wilson - b. 1807 in SC
j. Mary Ann Wilson - b. 1810

Bonnie Booth said...

Looking for information on my great great great great grandfather, Mathew Kirk, who came to America in 1772 with his two older brothers, John and Robert. The parents stayed behind in Ballymoney with the younger brother, James.

I will be attending the Family HIstory Conference in Ballymoney next month, THE ROAD HOME. I have part of the Stephenson book and the only reference I found is that a John Kirk is listed as one of Rev. Martin's passengers but not under the names grouped with the ships.

Other researchers have given me information to indicate that the Kirk brothers were on the ship, James and Mary, the first to arrive. I'd like to find out what happened to the family who stayed behind. I have a copy of the journal written by Mathew's grandson, WR Kirk, after the Civil War.
(son of James J. Kirk)

Mathew was born in 1760 in Co. Antrim and died in 1837 in Lancaster Co., SC. James J. and his family later settled in Clark Co. (then Wilcox) in Alabama.

Does anyone have anything that might be helpful to me?\

Rob Feldhaus said...

My great,great......Grandfather on my mothers side came to America with Rev. Martin in 1772 aboard the Lord Dunluce. His name was James Blair, his wife was Margaret Jenkens. He served in the Revolution in South Carolina.

Linda said...

I enjoyed reading your family's history. It parallels mine somewhat, in that our Stormonts came with Martin, one, at least, on the Lord Dunluce. I have LOTS on Rev. Martin and his followers and enjoyed reading what you had. Contact me if you'd like to exchange information.

Linda said...

I enjoyed reading your family's history. It parallels mine somewhat, in that our Stormonts came with Martin, one, at least, on the Lord Dunluce. I have LOTS on Rev. Martin and his followers and enjoyed reading what you had. Contact me if you'd like to exchange information.

Dr. Charles Craig said...

I am descended from the Ninian "Greg" shown in Jean Stephenson's book, # 119, page 58, arriving on the Lord Dunluce, whose surname was wrongly entered when he applied for his land grant, he being illiterate; he was actually Ninian Craig/Crage as shown by both his plat (Crage) and (later) Royal Grant (Graig), for property in present-day York or Chester County, South Carolina. Ninian had three dependents with him but I do not know who they were other than his son John, aged 11 upon arrival in 1772, who served in the American Revolution; John Craig first married Catherine Clarke, who died in childbirth in 1785; he then married Catherine Wilson and moved before 1790 (first American census) to the then Pendleton District of South Carolina, along the Keowee River. I will be in/around County Antrim in early March, 2014, and would be most appreciative of any advice as to relevant places I might visit. I have been unable to find any information whatsoever as to where the above Craig-folk may have lived there; I had the Ulster Historical Foundation (Belfast) look as well - nothing found. Contact me at Thanks in advance for your help or thoughts as to relevant places I might visit in Northern Ireland.

Fran Warren said...

My ancestors were John And William Greg who arrived in Charleston Bay in 1772 on the ship Lord Dunluce With Rev. Martin. I know William, who was my 4th great grandfather, settled just north of Cannon Creek that was a branch of the Broad River in what is now Newberry co., S.C. I don't really know much about John. No one can connect him to William, but since they both signed the letter of appreciation to the Rev. and Capt Gillis for their wonderful care on the trip.
In Jean Stephenson's book Ninian Craig was listed with John, William, Mary and Jane Greg. I am wondering if anyone could clear up who actually was a Greg or Craig. All of these Presbyterian must have come from the Ballymoney area of Northern Ireland because that is where Rev. Martin preached.
My surname may have been Gregg or Gragg, but it is spelled Gragg now.
I am told that Hugh Gregg was Williams brother but have seen no proof except in land transactions between the two. Also, as far as I know Hugh spelled his name Gregg.
Does anyone connect to the Gregg-Gragg family?