Pages from a Family Publication Detailing the Abbott/Macnab Folklore Connection

Richard Abbott Richard Abbott is the first known ancestor of the Craig County Abbotts.  The only evidence for his name has come from a letter written by his grandson in about 1857.  He was identified as being born in Scotland or Ireland, and his unnamed wife was Irish.  This ancestry is consistent with that of others who lived in the same area in Virginia and intermarried with his children. We begin with some background material and a general description of the family. Scotch-Irish

The Scotch-Irish were hearty people. They had lived for many generations with conflict and uncertain conditions in their original homeland, Scotland.  The clan wars had gone on for generations in the highlands. In many cases they did not even go out to their privies without guns in hand.  They were industrious and able to manufacture for all of their living needs. The men tanned leather and made shoes and were carpenters and furniture makers. In addition to practicing a trade, the Scotsmen farmed to provide sustenance for their families. The women were also hard-working and had their assumed tasks. They raised the children, preserved food, cooked, gardened, and kept the house clean. They spun wool and made cloth, which they made into warm garments. They made quilts for the beds. The Scots were not afraid of hard work; indeed, they thrived on it.  Being the enthusiastic, thrifty, self-sufficient people that they were and unafraid to fight for their homes and lands, they made the perfect group to populate and push frontier living in America. Those Scottish emigrants who traveled first to Ulster in Ireland did so for several reasons. Some went for political reasons, some were sent by the English monarchy to counterbalance with Protestants the Catholics in Northern Ireland, and some went for financial reasons. Even though almost all of the clans from the highlands were represented among the emigrants, they were mostly from the lowlands and came from the peasant class.  This is not to say that they were shiftless and ignorant, rather they were a disenfranchised group that was humble but ambitious to improve their stations in life.  They were the group that came to the impossible position of nowhere to go financially and socially but downward. They were perhaps the family of a younger son, members of the lowest class in a class cultural system, or the family of a minor thief who had stolen to feed his family. The emigrants were those who had decided there was nothing for them where they were and looked to another place for their future. The noble gentry and upper classes stayed in Scotland. The condition of Scotland at the time the migration began around 1610 was "one of the poorest and most backward of the European countries".  Later, Scotland became a nation "of philosophers, inventors, literary men, and manufacturers that were the admiration of the world," but the Scotland the early emigrants left was not socially or intellectually enlightened. The first destination of many of the Scottish emigrants was Ireland, almost entirely in the area of Ulster, the northern, poorer part of the country. There they became successful linen and woolen manufacturers. They were a "hearty middle class of farmers and craftsmen."  However, they were Protestants, mostly Presbyterians, in a country of Catholics. In addition to this, the Church of England pushed through the English Parliament laws that required the Irish to partake of the Sacrament in the English Church at least three times a year. The Scottish Ulsters were persecuted both in religion and business. Once again, many of them began to search for a place where they could practice their religion and carry on their crafts unfettered by prejudices. America seemed to be the favored destination and eventually the ships leaving Belfast carried great numbers of the hearty middle-classed Scotch-Irish families to new homes in the New World. The exodus began in 1718 and by 1740 there were over 12,000 Scotch-Irish people yearly who emigrated from Europe.


Most Belfast ships disembarked in the port of Philadelphia, others entered through Charleston, South Carolina, and Virginia ports. Many of the ambitious immigrants originally made homes and farms in Pennsylvania. They did not get along well with the Pennsylvania Dutch, so with completion of the Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia, most of them made their ways down the Valley of Virginia. The Shenandoah Valley was almost entirely settled by the Scotch-Irish with a few German villages. A goodly number of Scotch-Irish immigrants decided to make their homes in the Virginia counties of Botetourt and Montgomery at the southern end of the valley. There they were among the very earliest settlers. The stories in this book belong to them. MacNab and Abbott The Abbott Family of Southwest Virginia descended from Richard Abbott, born around 1708 ((?1721 if Thomas Abbott +illegible+ )) probably in Ireland but possibly in Scotland, or even Virginia. Richard settled in the Orange County, later Culpeper County area of Virginia.  Many years of searching have not revealed any details of his birth and life.  Family historians say the family name was originally MacNab, which means "son of Abbot", and that the family originated in the lower Scottish highlands. One such historian was Reverend Byrd Abbott, great-grandson of Richard Abbott's youngest son, Thomas. Reverend Abbott, a famous evangelist who did original genealogical research during his ministerial trips, said the name MacNab was changed to Abbott when the family left Scotland. The change was actually just another version of the MacNab name since they both mean the same thing. Originally, the MacNabs were lay abbots in the church and according to tradition their chiefs were descended from the younger son of Kenneth MacAlpine, King of Scots. He was the Abbot of Glendochart and Strathearn, who united with the Scots and the Picts. The MacNabs are members of a larger clan grouping, Siol-an-Alpine, with the MacGregors, MacKinnons, MacQuarries, and the MacAuleys. As was common in Scotland, the MacNab Clan had problems with some of the other clans. For example, the MacNabs did not get along with the Campbells, who aligned themselves with the English kings, and often bought or took over the MacNab lands and possessions. The most hated of all were the Neish Clan, who often raided and plundered the MacNab clan. The story is told of one raid which took place at Christmas time in 1612 when the Neishes stole the contents of a pack train of provisions belonging to the MacNabs. "Smooth" John MacNab led his brothers in a raid against the offenders. They dispatched them by cutting off their heads. There was no more trouble from the Neish Clan. The Clan MacNab crest has a severed head upon it, recalling the raid.



A trip to Scotland and England two summers ago provided my husband, my granddaughter Lauren, and me with a lovely view of the picturesque MacNab clan lands and their beautiful little village of Killin. The headquarters for the clan is about seventy miles northwest of Edinburgh and north of the town of Sterling. The cemetery where the clan chiefs are buried is an island in the middle of the rushing Dochart River.


The following description of this island cemetery was printed in the Clan MacNab booklet, 'A Brief Outline of the Story of the Clan MacNab':

"The Island of Inchbuie is reached through an iron gate where the middle of the Dochart Bridge rests on the western tip of the island. Opposite to the west is the picturesque island of Garbh-Innis round which the waters of the Dochart come dashing down in a series of small cascades. The gate opens onto steps near which are two stone pillars like those leading to Kinnell House. The old accounts speak of two immense dragons crouched on top of these. Possible these were the lions now on top of the last pair of pillars leading to Kinnell House. Beyond the pillars is a stone wall with three open arches and topped by three stone vases, like those on top of the pillars and on all but one of the pairs of pillars leading to Kinnell House from the west and south. The island slopes steeply on all sides to the river which has cut a deep cleft through the rocky strata. It is divided into three sections by firstly an earthen ridge and secondly by 150 yards further on, an ancient stone wall. The whole island is about 350 yards long, and is covered with Scotch pines, larches, beeches, and sycamores. In the middle lay the old iron fireplace, reputed to have come from Kinnell House. It has since disappeared. Beyond the stone wall lies the burial ground with a square stone enclosure, open to the sky and guarded by a massive iron gate."


Submitted by Lyle C Abbott

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