Where did we come from? How did we end up in Illinois? Most of these stories are lost but a few pieces have survived. If people were wealthy enough to own land, there is usually a paper trail. Such is the case with the McElvains.
The American McElvains descended from the M’Ylvene or MacYlvene clan living in Ayrshire, Scotland. Mentioned in 1519, Alan MacKelvanes married the niece of the Earl of Casilas and owned the Grimet land in Ayreshire (shire = county), granted to him by King James V of Scotland in 1529. This land was handed down for generations. However, John MacIlvaine lost the land in 1640 during the Scottish revolution against Charles I. Charles insisted that the Scots give up their Presbyterian faith and tithe to his Church of England. When the folks from Ayreshire refused to cooperate, bloody revenge was carried out against the clans, including women and children. Now these Scottish clans were rough, tough, feuding, fighting folks. But MacIlvaine’s family (clan) had enough and took refuge in Ulster, Northern Ireland, joining about 200,000 other Scots. Our ancestors, John and Sarah Clark McElwain (McIlvane) and their six children crossed the North Channel from Ayr for County Antrim, a part of Ulster, in 1697. Click on the images to enlarge.
Scottish Presbyterians hated the English for cruelly imposing their will and despised the Irish Catholics even more. These Ulster Scots were “Born Fighting”, according to James Webb’s book of the same title, and these rebels and outcasts didn’t stay in one place for long. Three of John and Sarah’s sons and some cousins were the first to emigrate to America. Our guy, Andrew McElwain and his wife Elizabeth Swan, sailed from County Antrim in 1718 and settled in Pennsylvania, where there was a large community of Scots-Irish. (In fact, Drew Morrison is named for Andrew, one of the first known ancestors to touch American soil.) One of the cousins, Daniel McIlvain, left Ireland when his Protestant Presbyterian parents were murdered in their beds by the Irish Catholics.
In fact, there is a record of 5 ships that sailed into Boston harbor from Northern Ireland in August 1718. They originated out of Londonderry and Belfast with about 20 families on each ship. Some were tradesmen and some paid for their passage as indentured servants. Perhaps the McElvain clan were on board.
In 1723, Andrew and his brothers moved on to South Carolina where they lived for 15 years. Andrew and his brother Robert returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1738, where he died in 1749. You can see their migration route in the map below.
Robert McIlvaine was Andrew’s son. Born in County Antrim, he came with his parents to America. He married Mary Duffield, whose father was Reverend George Duffield, chaplain of the Continental Congress, and whose picture hangs in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. They raised their family in Lancaster.
Andrew McElvain was a son of Robert and Mary Duffield McIlvaine and we descended from him and his wife Margaret Workman. They moved their family from Pennsylvania, down the Valley Pike (today – Rt. 11) to Rockbridge County, Virginia near Staunton. In 1779, Andrew was a sergeant in Captain Finton’s Company, First Battalion, with the Pennsylvania Militia. He served 7 years as a teamster in the Revolutionary War in the colony of Virginia. (Teamsters were responsible for the movement of horses, wagons and cannon.) Years later, he died and is buried near Natural Bridge.
After Andrew’s death, his son Robert and 2 of his brothers left Rockbridge County, Virginia with their widowed mother in the 1820s for Illinois. Robert settled on a farm about 3 miles southwest of Du Quoin, Illinois sometime before 1830. While in Kentucky, he married Kiziah Wells, whose father served in the Revolutionary War. They brought along some of their small children as well as his McElvain family and her Wells relatives. Robert started the McElvain Cemetery on part of his land and many of these folks are buried there.
Robert and Kiziah had nine children, including Joseph Harvey. He and his wife farmed near Du Quoin and had 16 children. A previous post was written about their son Jonas McElvain.
From bloodied land near Glasgow, Scotland to parts throughout the world, the remnants of the McElvain family continue to spread.
McElvain, Samuel M. Feburary 1948. Madison, Wisconsin. A Brief Genealogy of One Branch of The McElvain – McIlvaine Family and Related Links. This was my primary source and much of the information was summarized from Samuel McElvain’s work. I have not personally substantiated the information.
Ulster Plantation. Ulster Nationalist. Retrieved November 8, 2013 from http://www.ulsternationalist.freeservers.com/custom2.html.
All maps from Google Maps.
The Arrival of Five Ships in August, 1718. Lynx 2 Ulster: Culture, History, & Heritage. Retrieved November 5, 2013, from http://www.lynx2ulster.com/ScotchIrishPioneers/008.php