The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania

By Wayland F. Dunaway | Go to book overview

10
Social Life And Customs of the
Scotch-Irish

Tell me a tale of the timber-lands—
Of the old-time pioneers;

Somepin' a pore man understands
With his feelins 's well as ears.

Tell of the old log house,—about
The loft, and the puncheon flore—

The old fi-er-place, with the crane swung out,
And the latch-string through the door.

JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

THE SOCIAL LIFE and customs of the Scotch-Irish of colonial Pennsylvania were, for the most part, those prevailing on the frontier, and will be discussed from that point of view. This does not mean to say that all Scotch-Irishmen dwelt on the outer edge of civilization, but merely that they were characterized by the spirit of pioneering into the wilderness and that their social life reflected to an unusual degree the conditions obtaining in the American backwoods in the early days. By the close of the provincial period, their older settlements in eastern Pennsylvania had assumed the aspect of an ordered civilization, with substantial stone dwellings, churches, schools, and well-tilled farms, attended by a more gracious way of living conforming to the best standards of that day. This would not be true, however, of the great mass of the Scotch-Irish of this early period. They were, to be sure, not the only people on the frontier, but they were its most numerous and influential element, forming its backbone and setting its tone and direction. Theirs was the dominant strain in the blood of the

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