John McCullagh September 18, 2005
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I have been assured by a number of people who usually know what they’re talking about, that Jesse James’s forebears hailed from South Armagh.

There are a few cynics too, who would be surprised if this were not so! 

In any case this is the story of Ronald Ban Donaldson, whose forebears certainly did, and whose distant American relations were acquaintances of that same James family.

‘Alexander Ban Donaldson was invited to settle the Cloghoge area of the Upper Fews in 1744 by Randal Donaldson, a cousin of the then Earl of Antrim. The Earl demised (v. transferred title by deposition) thousands of acres and Randal encouraged settlers to come farm this land. Descendants of this family included John Donaldson, author of ‘A Historical and Statistical Account of the Upper Fews‘, and Peggy Ban Donaldson, heroine of the United Ireland Society. However since that time the family has spread to England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

William Donaldson (1769-1813) emigrated with his family to America about 1790. William then left his brothers and headed for the Shenandoah Valley and Augusta County, Virginia. Four years after he married the daughter of a plantation-owner, he moved again to Kentucky. There he prospered as a farmer, politician and military man. He served as a Colonel in the 1812 War against England. 

After his death, his children spread to the new frontiers of America. His son James took his family to Missouri in 1834 by steamboat via the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. When they arrived in Liberty, Missouri that place was inhabited by Indians and wild animals in the forest. On the day of landing the river was at flood stage and the steamer was having trouble with the mooring. While unloading, an accident caused all the family’s belongings to fall into the roaring river. The only thing saved was an old trunk they had brought from Ireland. The family purchased a large parcel of land for a small price and proceeded to clear it for farming and cattle and horse rearing.

When the American Civil War came to Missouri it created much havoc and bitterness. The state was evenly divided in its sympathies and was near the border with Kansas, a free state. War divided family from family and brother from brother. 

The Donaldsons were Southerners, so sided with the rebels. Actually they fought to preserve their way of life, not slavery. Finally the war was over and peace returned.’


Editorial Comment:

The plight of the dispossessed is often conveniently ignored in such family histories.

The ‘Papists’ and ‘mere Irish’ of the Upper Fews saw clan lands held in common for centuries seized and given over to Protestant settlers.  The English invented a new word to describe this grand theft: escheated.  Lands previously held by those declared ‘outlaws’ were forfeit to the Crown (‘reverted’ to the Crown – as though they were the Crown’s originally!). 

English (and other) settlers in the New World took commonly-held tribal lands for their own.  The ‘Redskins’ were ‘mere savages’. 

Evolution determines ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ on Earth.  How many Chambres, Foxalls, Corrys, Bagenals, and so on, now live in Upper Fews or Slieve Gullion ward? 

Yes, the energetic and fulsome genocide of more than 50 Indian nations and many millions of their people has reduced the native American population to a mere token presence.  But their principles and ideals were never more relevant to the world’s affairs.

‘Treat the Earth and all that dwells within with respect
Remain close to the Great Spirit
Show great respect for your fellow beings
Work together for the benefit of all mankind
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed
Do what you know is right
Look after the well-being of mind and body
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
Be truthful and honest at all times
Take full responsibility for your actions.’

And perhaps we should remember the words of one of their leaders:

‘Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then..
Will you find that money cannot be eaten’.

Emigration Patterns …

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