Sunday, August 16, 2020

2020 Prompt - The Old Country - Elspeth Hall

Elspeth Hall - 1811-1883 my 3rd great grandmother
Nancy Simmons to Paul Simmons to Walter Simmons to Elspeth Leeton to Margaret Newland to Elspeth Hall

What does it take to push people from their native country? To leave family and friends and risk traveling to an unknown place to start over. My 3rd great grandmother Elspeth Hall left the old country with her husband and infant child to travel to the new world. She lived in what is called the borderlands of England and Scotland. And this could have been the push that force her and her family to flee the old country and head to America.

Wooler United Presbyterian Cheviot Street Church
where Elspeth was baptized in 1811

Elspeth Hall was one of five children born to John Hall and Margaret Douglass on November 11, 1811 in Wooler, Northumberland, England.[1] She was baptized on December 16, 1811 at the United Presbyterian Cheviot Street-Non-conformist Church in Wooler, England.[2] In the 1880 United States Federal Census, Elspeth Hall Newland states that she and her parents were born in Scotland.[3] If Elspeth Hall was born in Scotland than why does her baptism and marriage take place in northern England?

Wooler in Northumberland County, England 
where Elspeth was born and baptized

The borderland of England is that area in northeastern England touching Scotland that unfortunately for centuries was a land of conflict. For seven centuries the kings of Scotland and England could not agree who owned this borderland and meddled constantly in each other's affairs. From 1040 to 1745 every English monarchy but three suffered a Scottish invasion or became an invader in turn.[4] And if the kings weren't battling with each other the local residents or clans were cattle rustling and brutally killing each other.  
“Feuding was common and was like a cancer on the border. Feuding was not limited to Scots versus English; but Scots would feud with Scots and English with English. It was very hard to establish law and order. Loyalty to the crown, whether it be English or Scottish, came second in many cases to loyalty to the family. It has been said that that there were three kingdoms…Scotland, England and the Borders. Fear of starting a feud contributed to chaos in the close of the sixteenth century.”[5]

In the early nineteenth century the Hall and Douglass families were born and married in what is England, but they considered themselves Scottish. More research is needed to understand why they lived in northern England but were actually Scottish; was it because of economics or religion or was the area they lived in once part of Scotland and now considered part of England?  If that is the case, there was little love toward the British monarch. In the history of Ritchie County by Minnie Lowther, a group of Scots called the Douglass Emigrant group left the old world and settled in Ritchie County, West Virginia in the Cairo area in the 1820-1830s.[6]

Ritchie County, West Virginia with Cairo in upper left where the Scot Colony was located

In England during the 1820s high poor rates lead to increasing attempts to cut relief (sound familiar doesn’t it?). Poor Law expenditure was reduced in the next ten years making the Poor Law a deterrent and by stopping people asking for relief. During this time rural crime rates increased by 30% - mainly poaching and food thefts.[7] Poverty was not seen as a social problem: destitution was felt to be the results of character weakness. (Boy that hasn't changed!) The life of the average English rural worker was extremely harsh, with little income, a poor quality of housing, no access to education, and no prospects of improvement for either himself or his children. For many, emigration was their only means of bettering their lot in life. 

Passenger List - Ship Ann - 30 July 1835
William Newlands -Thirty Five - Shepherd - England - Ohio
Mrs Newlands and son - Twenty Three - female- England - Ohio

Elspeth Hall was one of five children born to John Hall and Margaret Douglass. On the 8th of November 1834 she married William Newland in Kirknewton, Northumberland, England.[8]  It was probably shortly after Elspeth was married that her mother died and her father, three brothers and sister pack up and left for the new world. Many of her father's siblings had left for the new world including her grandmother Ellen Brown Hall who died in Ritchie County, West Virginia in 1839.[9] Elspeth and her new husband William had their first child February 8, 1835[10] in Scotland and he was baptized March 27, 1835 in Branton, Northumberland, England.[11] On July 30, 1835 they left the old country and arrive in West Virginia before her second child was born August 22, 1837 in West Virginia.[12] 

Ellenor Brown Hall 1763-1839  -  Elspeth's grandmother
buried in Newland Cemetery, Wood County, West Virginia

I have been to this area of West Virginia and as we drove through the county in search of cemeteries, I wondered why anyone would want to live here and would they make a living. It is a rugged, tree covered county that is not conducive to farming. But in the 1830s a small Scottish colony was established here and for the next two decades immigrants from the borderlands chose to live here including the Douglass, Hall and Newland families.[13]

Wooded hillside in Wood County, West Virginia

Elspeth and William chose to settle in neighboring Pleasants County while her father and siblings settled in Ritchie and Wood Counties. Between the years 1835 and 1858 Elspeth birthed eleven children losing three in infancy. Her sixth child was Margaret Douglass “Maggie” Newland, my great-great grandmother born October 23, 1844.[14]  Elspeth had three sons who took up arms to join the Union forces during the Civil War and returned home. Of course, a strong Scottish boy was always looking for a good fight!

1870 Walker, Wood, West Virginia Federal Census
Top line is William Newlin (another version of Newland), Elspeth is spelled Elizabeth
Children: William H., Margaret, Ellen, Peter, James, George.  Line 153 is son John H Newlin

Elspeth and William were living at home in Wood County in 1870[15] with six of their eight living children and in 1880[16] they are living with three sons who are all farming their father’s land. Elspeth died May 3, 1883 on a farm in Newlandsville, Pleasant County, West Virginia[17] and her husband William died four months later, on September 1, 1883.[18]  They are both buried in the Newland Cemetery in Bull Creek, Wood County, West Virginia.[19] 

William and Elspeth are two of only a few ancestors that I have researched and found records for in the old country that document their existence. As I studied the history of the borderland, I understand better why Elspeth and William took the risk of leaving their home with an infant child and traveled to the new world. I also have more empathy for immigrants who are treated poorly in their homeland and are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to escape. They were courageous and determined people that hoped for a better life in the new world. 

Map of area in Wood County where Newlands owned land
John, James, Andrew & Peter are William & Elspeth's sons

[1] England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
[2] "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch (  : 21 March 2020), Elisabeth Hall, 1811
[3] "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2017), Elspa Newlin in household of William Newlin, Walker, Wood, West Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district ED 166, sheet 357C.
[4] Fischer, David Hackett, Albion’s Seed Four British Folkways in America,1989, p.623.
[5] Border Reiver Heritage Society, Clan Hall,
[6] Lowther, Minnie Kendall, Ritchie County in History and Romance, 1990, pp. 125, 131.
[7] James, A.A., Poor Law Emigration to Australia in Descent, Journal of the Society of Australian Genealogists, December 1989, pp. 158-165.
[8] "England Marriages, 1538–1973 ", database, FamilySearch ( : 13 March 2020), Elspeth Hall in entry for William Newlands, 1834.
[9] Ritchie County, West Virginia Cemeteries – Through 1993, Ritchie County Historical Society, 1993, p. 206 / Find A Grave Memorial # 81519877, Cairo IOOF Cemetery, Ellenor Brown Hall.
[11] "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 20 March 2020), Andrew Newlands, 1835.
[13] Lowther, Minnie Kendall, Ritchie County in History and Romance, 1990, pp.128- 131.
[15]United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), Elizabeth Newlin in entry for Wm Newlin, 1870.
[16] "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2017), Elspa Newlin in household of William Newlin, Walker, Wood, West Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district ED 166, sheet 357C.
[17] "Find A Grave Index," database, FamilySearch ( : 12 June 2020), Elspith Newlands, 1883; Burial, , ; citing record ID , Find a Grave,
[18] "West Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1854-1932", database, FamilySearch ( : 30 January 2020), Wm. Newland, 1883
[19] "Find A Grave Index," database, FamilySearch ( : 12 June 2020), William Newlands, 1883; Burial, , ; citing record ID , Find a Grave,

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