Scotts Heritage and Stories

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December 20, 2016 By Denise McGill (PAINTDRIPS)

The Scotts have a great colorful heritage of love stories and triumph.

A good many idioms and accents come from my Scott background. When you hear someone say "thar" instead of "there", "crick" instead of "creek", or "yellow" instead of "hello", you may be hearing the far-reaching echoes of my Scottish ancestors affects on the vernacular of these shores. The legacy of lilting language is only one of the ways I can still see and hear my progenitors urging me on to greater things.

Even today, the Scotts represent the Honor Guard at funerals and holiday events. It's really rather amazing how far-reaching the Scott legacy goes.

When you hear the bagpipes play, do you have that far away sense of a time relived? Do you see images of Mel Gibson in Braveheart as William Wallace, with his face painted blue ready to battle the overwhelming numbers of English hordes? I love that movie. Do you get a feeling deep within your soul that you were born in the wrong time and place or that you belonged somewhere else? Does it move you to tears the way it moves me? Well, if so, then you may have some Scottish blood like I do. There is something about a plaid tartan that I find charming and I often break into a brogue as if I had always spoken that way. My husband thinks I have a flair for the theatric but I think its the Scott in me, once again. I even like haggis, although my father used to say it would put hair on my chest, and I really didn't want hair on my chest.

Sir Walter "Beardy" Scott

Genealogy research takes time, perseverance and some luck.

As I was searching for my Scott roots, I found that I hit a brick wall and because my surname is so common, and my ancestors often used no middle name, and often used the names William and John (also very common), I simply could not find connections, or I found too many. It wasn't until I was contacted by a distant relative, a 5th cousin or maybe 6th, who had not only done some research on the Scott but also had his DNA tested, and found a direct relationship to Sir Walter "Beardie" Scott. The rest fell into place. I am forever grateful to Daniel Scott, formerly of West Virginia. Much of what you find here is because of Daniel Scott's research.

The Scotts, my Scotts, have a rich and colorful past. The first record of the surname, Scott, goes back to Uchtredius filius Scoti or translated to Uchtred son of a Scot about 1107.

The Scotts were Highlanders, a border clan just inside the border of Scotland. They were opinionated and stubborn about tradition, and in particular the Scottish King James. It was believed by most of the Scott clan that only a Stuart (or Stewart, spelling depending on the times) belonged on the throne and many battles were fought over this dispute. One of my progenitors, Sir Walter "Beardie" Scott, refused to cut his beard until a Stuart was placed back on the Scottish throne. "Beardie" (sometimes spelled "Beardy") was the grandfather of Sir Walter Scott, the renowned poet and author but not a direct progenitor of mine. He would be a distant cousin. "Beardie" was not only patriotic but loyal to his wife, who was Margaret Campbell, a direct descendant of the first King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce.

Sir William Scott and Muckle-mouthed Meg: a Scottish Love Story.

One Scott love story I especially adore is the story of Sir William Scott. The Scotts and a neighboring clan, the Murrays, were ancient enemies. Sir William Scott, son of Sir Walter of Harden started an expedition against the Murrays of Elibank but he found his enemy on guard and he was defeated. The young man was taken to the Murray castle where he was to undergo the penalty of hanging. As the story goes, Sir Gideon Murray's lady greeted him, congratulated him on his victory and asked what was to happen to Sir William. Sir Gideon answered resolutely, "The gallows." To which his lady said in the vernacular, "Hout, na, Sir Gideon, would you hang the winsome young laird of Harden when you have three ill-favoured daughters to marry?"

This being a reasonable idea, Sir Gideon brought the choice to Sir William Scott. With this alternative before him, Sir William preferred the gallows to marrying "Muckle-mouthed Meg" whose real name was Agnes. I can only wonder why she was called that. Later, as he was lead to the execution, and seeing no other way of escape, he reconsidered his ungallant refusal to the offer of matrimony.

I'm not sure I would have been as favorable to marry a man who preferred a cord of hemp to the noose of matrimony, but the couple must have worked it out. They had a large family of five sons and three daughters. The eldest son, called "Little Sir William," was knighted by Charles II; the second was Sir Gideon of Highchester; Walter, the third son, (whose line I descend), was the ancestor of the Scotts of Raeburn.

500 Miles

The Scottish rebellion battle of Culloden

The Scottish Highlands are a historic region of Scotland. The region became culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands.

The history of my family in America began at the battle of Culloden where William Scott and his brother James survived but were on the losing side and were condemned to the gallows. They managed to stealthily escape hanging, being hidden by a relative and catching a boat to America in 1746.

They homesteaded in what was then Virginia and became West Virginia, where the brothers married and started a very large clan of their own on these shores. There is a mountain in West Virginia called Scott Mountain where a good number of my ancestors lived their lives and are buried. Later the Scotts branched out moving South and West.

When William and his brother came here, the Colonies were already upset with the lack of representation in England, the taxes imposed and the Military red coats brought to police the Americans. When the American Revolution broke out, it was only natural for these Scotts to want to take sides against the English; the very English who caused them to have to flee to these shores in the first place. It must have been quite a relief to see the English driven out of the new country they decided to adopt. Or perhaps this country decided to adopt them.

Mary Pryor, survivor.

serpiente verrugosa del choco

William married Lucretia (known as "Lucy" by the family) James in Virginia and together they had 10 children. One of those was John Scott who married Mary Pryor.

Mary's story is interesting in that she was the sole survivor of an Indian raid. I never found out what tribe the Indians were from. They attached her home killing her father, John Pryor, and capturing Mary, her mother and 6-month old sibling. The mother and 6-month old were killed trying to escape before reaching the Ohio River. The soldiers from the fort followed the marauders, searching for the 14-year old Mary. The braves marched her several days and over the Ohio River until they reached their camp. When the braves left for another raid, Mary managed to escape, traveling by night and hiding during the day.

At one point, a brave who was looking for her, actually stood on the hollow log she was hiding inside. She survived many hardships for three days making her way back to the fort. Bitten by a snake and in critical condition by the time she made it to the Ohio River, she managed to swim across the river, which measured more than a mile, and still walk quite a ways to arrive at the fort. An officer at the fort decided to adopt her but let her keep her surname, as she was the last surviving member. Later she returned to the Greenbrier area, Virginia, where she met and married John Scott in 1768. Their children were William (who is my forefather), Joseph, Celia, James C, and John Jr.

Your Ancestors - Photo of John R. Scott, born 1842

Their legacy

I think we tend to forget the hardships and privations that our ancestors went through to get here and live here. The US was a harsh and hostile place in those early days, with many enemies, diseases and disasters to weather. I for one, am grateful that my ancestors managed to come through these storms of life and pass on that same dogged perseverance and steadfast faithfulness to their unseen progeny.

I’ve always had a pioneering spirit, learning to sew for my children, knit garments, make my own bread and even build rough furniture when the need arises. I learned how to fix machinery by myself and called it a do-it-yourself spirit, but I often wonder if it is that Scottish blood coming to the rescue once again.



My Dad, Nelson Scott, and Mom holding me in 1954.

Genealogy Research

Finding your roots is not easy. It takes time and a lot of effort but it is very rewarding in the long run. You may want to consider having a DNA test done through Also very rewarding. My distant cousin, Daniel Scott, spent many years looking through dusty church records and courthouse recorders records, sometimes with little results and sometimes with nuggets of treasure. With the advent of the internet, those difficult research methods are greatly enhanced.

My Great-great grandparents family

My Great-great grandparents family

Ancestors Influence

Every time I hear bagpipes, I thrill. It’s not that it’s the best music I ever heard; I prefer violin music. But there is something about the bagpipes that make me tingle down deep. Am I remembering the music of ancestors long past? Is it possible we have memories in the very fabric of who we are, our DNA from ancestors that resonates with what they did and loved and heard? Is it instinct or imprint? Or am I just enamored with a sound that I know intellectually points to my forefathers? I don’t know. I only know that it does and I can’t help but feel some nostalgic twinge whenever I hear those things that were of import to my past. Perhaps we all do even without knowing it. But that’s a discussion for another time.