“I Devise and Bequeath”: Property and Inheritance among the Scottish Highlanders in Scotch Settlement, Columbiana County , Ohio
By: Amanda Epperson
In the name of God Amen. I Alexander McIntosh of the County of Columbiana in the State of Ohio a farmer, being sick and weak in body, but of sound mind memory and understanding (blessed be to God for the same) do make and publish this my last will and testament in manner and form following, to wit. Principally and first of all I commend my immortal soul into the hands of God who gave it, and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner at the discretion of my executors hereinafter named. And as to such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life I give and dispose of in following manner to wit. . .1
With these, or similar, words, thousands of people have made decisions regarding the distribution of their worldly goods and at the same time unknowingly created an amazingly rich resource for historians. This particular will was written by Alexander McIntosh who died in 1819, 11 years after he purchased land in Ohio . The exact year of his emigration is unknown, but he settled in a community of Highlanders known as Scotch Settlement, established in 1802 and located a few miles north of Wellsville in Columbiana County . The majority of these emigrants were from Strathnairn and Strathdearn, located just south of Inverness on the southeastern border of the Scottish Highlands.
McIntosh's will, along with the other 88 probate records included in the Columbiana County Probate Court Records, relays much more information than one might at first suppose.2 The probate records include more than the wills: there are also records of intestate cases, letters of administration, reports of guardianships, and estate inventories and sales.3 Nevertheless, the wills are among the most useful documents as they are the most detailed and represent the wishes of the deceased. Lists of heirs in the wills are useful for reconstructing families and relationships. And of course, there is reference to land owned and bequeathed. One can also use the lists of witnesses, executors and administrators, estate appraisers, and bondsmen. These lists are helpful, not only for determining who was living in the community at a certain time, but also for gauging relationships between families and neighbors. This paper does not investigate these relationships in depth, but it does appear that, among some families, bonds forged in Scotland remained strong in the United States; but other families seemed more willing to, or perhaps were obliged to, reach out to the non-Scots in the vicinity.
The several estate inventories and sales not only include the items calculated in the value of the estate, but often who purchased which items. One can estimate their early success by the amount of bond posted when their estates went into probate. Alexander McIntosh and John Cattanach both died in 1812, and are the first Settlement estate records recorded by the Probate Court. McIntosh had an estate, exclusive of the land, valued at $360.27 while the value of Cattanach's estate was $195.62, again exclusive of the land, suggesting, that for reasons unknown at present, McIntosh was “more successful” than Cattanach.4
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