Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day

Recently I asked my wife, who is of native American descent, what she thought of the genocidal invasion of North America by hegemonic 17th century Europeans.

"I think it is the unmitigated blessing of God," she said, "sending the Gospel to His Indian people." *

I think this is instructive; on this Columbus Day, not everyone who may have an ancestral grievance against immigration actually carries that today.

In fact, on this day I'd like to recognize some immigrants who are very important to me:

James Brookshaw arrived in Baltimore in 1674 to serve as an indentured servant with his wife Mary O'Harigan; one of their grandsons became the first child of European descent born in Haywood County, North Carolina.

About 1690, a British ship landed a group of French Huguenots in the new proprietary colony of South Carolina; in that group, I have reason to believe, was my ancestor Pierre Dutarte, formerly of Picardy, France. He and his countrymen came here seeking religious freedom, after the Edict of Nantes was long cancelled at home.

In 1692, one-time privateer and successful merchant Thomas Pinckney of Durham, England, arrived in Charles Town, S.C., aboard the Loyal Jamaica. He is one of the few of my ancestors who arrived with any personal wealth to speak of; Thomas Parris, moving from Barbados to Pembroke, Massachusetts, sometime around 1655, may have been the other.

In 1751, Johann Schlueter arrived in Philadelphia from Hamburg on the Koenigin von Daenemark, bringing his wife and twenty-year-old son to the colonies. Johann died among the Pennsylvania Dutch, but his son Heinrich settled in Rowan County, North Carolina, on a square mile of land not far from where I was born two hundred twelve years later.

Beat Rebsamen and Hans Kuntzler of Thurbenthal, Switzerland, settled in central South Carolina in the mid-1700's as part of the Hanoverian-English crown's plan to populate that region with European Protestants. Both were mixed in the Regulator Movement and were pardoned by King George III shortly before the Revolution.

In 1792, Daniel MacLeod was born aboard the ship that brought his parents from the Isle of Skye to Charleston. The former Prussian cavalryman Anthony Pullig arrived in Charleston about that time.

Most recently, James Mack of Dublin landed in Charleston in 1825 and became a cartwright in that city.

My wife's history is just as broad, from her Cherokee ancestors in upstate South Carolina to the Rev. Thomas Smyth, D.D., the young Scotch-Irish Presbyterian who preached against slavery in a downtown Charleston congregation as early as the 1830s -- and continued in service at that church into the 1880's. Her connections with the Plantagenets mean I truly did marry above my ancestral station.

It's commonplace to say it, but we are most definitely a nation of immigrants, and the more I learn about my own forebears the more I appreciate the opportunity they had and gained in this country.

And to all our recent neighbors Chilean, Korean, Iranian, and Syrian, a cordial welcome from me to you.

* It may be worth noting that our youngest son is named after David Brainerd, the 18th century American missionary to the Indians of Massachusetts.

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