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Appalachian attitudes set backdrop for feud

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JOHNathan CAPPS
Ellis County Press 
Upon his arrival in Quaker-controlled Pennsylvania, Seeb McLaughlin and other Scots-Irish Presbyterians found themselves living again under the thumb of harsh authority.

The Quaker colony was well known for its religious freedom, yet Quakers of that era held many beliefs contrary to those of the Scots-Irish Presbyterian newcomers. By nature both sides were probably more insistent than objective. What we might call hard-headed, they would view as resolve. In fact, they took great pride in the strength of their convictions.

Many occupants of the early Pennsylvania settlement spoke with an English dialect not unlike that of the King James Bible, but the Scots-Irish brought their own dialect. For the word 'yours' the Quaker might substitute 'thine,' while the Scots would say 'yorn' or a similar variation. 

This non-standard form of English brought over by the Scots and English settlers would eventually have a major effect on the language of the mountain people and much of America. Years later, these speech patterns possibly made for regional bigotry and a bad rap against the people of the mountains. Today most linguists claim their speech was merely a factor of regional dialect and had nothing to do with intelligence. 

The Presbyterian thrived on poetry and music; The Quaker considered them worthless amusements. The Quaker was reserved and worshiped with long periods of silent reflection. The early Presbyterian often 'hollered' during worship and prayer.

Driven by the forces of survival, most Scots were ready to fight when the need arose. While the Quakers tried to pacify the neighboring American Indians, the Scots-Irish settlers didn't care to pacify anybody, and accused the Quakers of treason for protecting the Indians.

On more than one occasion, the Scots drove the Quakers to forget their vows of peace and take up arms, not against the Indians but against the Scots. For a time many Quakers found their patience tested and regretted their offer of religious liberty to other faiths.

The original Scots-Irish settler, a refugee from the tyranny of kings, detested most forms of government, yet feared the wrath and fury of God in a mighty way. This belief made these people hard and stern, but strong.

Eventually, many Scots tired of the Quakers and all other bridling forces. They migrated to the western frontier of both Pennsylvania and Virginia, where they flourished well away from the townships.

They would eventually be found on the entire mountain frontier from New England to Georgia. In an age when it was to your benefit to have a large family, their numbers grew in a mighty way.

The Tug River valley, home of the Hatfield and McCoy families, was influenced greatly by descendants of these first Scots-Irish.

Early observer Wintrop Sargent said of the Scots-Irish 'They were a hardy, hot-headed race, excitable in temper, unrestrained in passion. But their hand opened as quickly to a friend as it clinched against an enemy. Impatient of restraint and rebellious against injustice, these men were the readiest for the battlefields of the Revolution.'

One early Virginian wrote of the Scots-Irish: 'Their preaching was loud and their response was louder. The women were of the hardiest stock, yet of the purist heart. Often, at day's end, they softened their daily drudgery with laughter and song.'

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