Monday, January 18, 2021

Coming to America - the other Malcom Chisholm

Malcom’s story begins near Minginish, a peninsula on the island of Skye, Dunvegan, North Britain (Scotland) on 30th Sept 1790 when Roderick Chisholm wrote a letter addressed to “Dear Sir” asking for help for “poor Malcom.” Who the “Dear Sir” is exactly is in question. But suffice it to say that the letter must have reached its intended as “poor Malcom," as later records show, received the help that Roderick Chisholm asked for.
To understand Malcom’s plight, we must look back in time, because Malcom, like all our ancestors, lived in a period known only to us as history. The Highland Clearances, as it became known, was not a new thing in 1790, nor could it have been new to Malcom who is believed to have been born about 1767. He would have been born during a time when Scottish citizens were fleeing Scotland in droves and the Highland Clearances were at a height. By 1790, he may have also been looking for a better life for himself and his family. 

In the terrible aftermath of the battle of Culloden in 1746, Highlanders, driven by famine and poverty, emigrated in the thousands to the colonies of America; some to Canada and Australia. During the first stages of the Highland Clearances, from 1760 to 1800, estimates suggest that over 70,000 Highlanders and Islanders emigrated. Scottish emigration was not made in steady flows, but rather, it was concentrated in four periods: 1770-1775, 1790-1793, 1801-1803, and 1805-1811. 

Strathglass, known in Gaelic as Crom ghleann, is the area around Upper Valley of the River Beauly, about 10 miles west of the city of Inverness. The area here belonged to the Chisholm Clan who strongly adhered to the Catholic faith, spoke Gaelic, and, like all Highlanders, had strong connections to the land and their belief system.It wasn’t until 1801 that the clearances reached Clan Chisholm; with nearly 50% evicted in the Strathglass area by William, the 24th Chisholm, within a year of his attaining the Chisholm seat upon the death of his brother, Alexander, who had no sons. Most evicted tenants removed to Canada and Nova Scotia. After William’s death, his wife, Elizabeth, continued with the clearances and once grown, his son, Alexander, the 25th Chisholm, continued eviting people to make way for sheep. 

In contrast, Chief Alexander, the 23rd Chisholm, with the support of Elizabeth, his wife, and their only daughter Mary, resisted pressure to clear their land of clansmen and lease Chisholm lands to southern sheep farmers. When chief Alexander died in 1793, just 3 years after Malcom left for America, the widow Elizabeth, who had been left several crofting settlements by Alexander, her husband, kept the tenantry of those crofting settlements intact for 33 years, never turning anyone off their land. 

So, it is with wonder and uncertainty that I must try to rationalize why Malcom decided to leave Scotland in 1790, when at that time, no Chisholm was turned off clan lands. Perhaps Malcom “saw the writing on the wall” and knew that at the death of his Chief, Alexander, the new Chief, William would not hold true to former promises? Or perhaps, Malcom had just made some bad decisions for himself and gotten into some trouble and needed an escape route? Or perhaps Malcom had just fallen on hard times and was looking for a better life? Or perhaps, the Chisholm line who lived in Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, are not related to the Chisholm’s who lived in Strathglass and therefore, were not protected? 

The letter states that it is of “necessity” that Malcom must go to America so I cannot logically assume here that Malcom just wants some adventure in his life and wants to travel to the American colonies for the fun of it. The letter indicates that Malcom has a wife, Margaret, and a family, so at least a child or possibly more will be traveling with him and Margaret. The letter also indicates that Malcom is the nephew to “Dear Sir” whom the letter is addressed to. 

I may never know why Malcom came to America but what I do know about Malcom is that he did make it to America and that current-day genealogist have him terribly confused with Malcom, son of Murdock who died prior to the 1823 probate date of Murdock’s estate. 

Malcom Chisholm who came to America in 1790 lived until 1844 and he left an estate. That file is dated Jan 1844 and begins… 

In the name of God .. Amen 

I Malcom Chisholm for the county of Montgomery and state of North Carolina being sick in body but in my common good sense and sound memory doth this the 3rd of January 1844 make and publish this my last will and testament in way and manner following that is to say 

First, I give and bequeath to my wife Flora Chisholm the tract of land on the west side of mountain creek whereon I live during her lifetime and after her death to my two daughters Nancy Chisholm and Catharine Chisholm also all of my stock to stay together until my son John Chisholm comes of age 

Second, I give and bequeath to my two sons Kenneth Chisholm and John Chisholm all of my land that lies on the east side of mountain creek to be equally divided between them when my son John Chisholm comes of age My will further is that give to my son Daniel A Chisholm two dollars and also to my three sons Angus C. Chisholm Murdoch Chisholm and Malcom Chisholm Jr fifty dollars each. 

To my daughters Carthen McKinnon fifty dollars and to the heirs of Christian Gillis’ body fifty 

Thirdly (?) will is that my son John John Chisholm will have fifty dollars a year for three years and three months schooling 


Malcom X Chisholm 


Sealed and signed by the testator in the presence of us John Ewing Kenneth McLendon 

Codicil to the forgoing will 

State of North Carolina 

Montgomery County 

Whereas Kenneth McLendon this day appeared me Malcom Murchison one of the acting Justices of the peace in and for said county and make oath in due firm of law that on the third of this Instant Malcom Chisholm of said county and state in his last will & testament did give and bequeath to his wife Flora Chisholm a negro man named March her life time which said negro March was forgotten to be inserted in the last will and testament of said Malcom Chisholm sworn to & subscribed before me the 6th January 1844. Kenneth McLennan 

Malcom Murchison JP 

Montgomery County Court April Session 1844 Then the execution of this will was duly proven in open court by the oath of Kenneth McLennan one of the subscribing witnesses and ordered to be recorded.From the will we learn that Malcom is married to a woman named Flora. Margaret who was mentioned in the letter must have died and Flora is the second wife. Ten children are also named in the will. Two of his daughters are unmarried as he lists them as Nancy Chisholm and Catherine Chisholm (later married Norman McDuffie). Two daughters are married, Carthen (in later records mentioned as Catherine) McKinnon and Christian Gillis, who looks to have died as Malcom leaves her share to the heirs of her body. Six more sons are named in the will, John, Kenneth, Daniel, Angus, Murdoch, and Malcom Jr. 

Let me stop here and provide some background and timeline information. 

There were two Malcom Chisholm’s. Both were born in Scotland, probably Isle of Skye, and both were born about the same time. Malcom (b. 1763), the son of Murdock, left Scotland with his parents and siblings and arrived in North Carolina before 1780, his sister, Rachel, married James McMillan about 1780/1. Read more about that Malcom here.

Malcom (b. 1767), the subject of this Blog, left Scotland after 30 Sep 1790 (the date of the letter) and sailed to America. He probably arrived 3 to 4 weeks later either at the port of Wilmington, North Carolina or a port in South Carolina. He would have made his way up the Cape Fear River, if coming from Wilmington, or the Pee Dee River, if coming from South Carolina. That trip would have taken several more weeks. So, he most likely arrived in Montgomery County, North Carolina around or after Jan 1791. 

The letter indicates that Malcom is married to Margret and has a fine family who can be of service to whoever the “Dear Sir” is that the letter is addressed to. The fact that Malcom settled within 2 miles of Murdock Chisholm and the letter indicating that Malcom is the nephew of “Dear Sir” would indicate that Malcom’s father, who remained in Scotland, is the brother of Murdock. Who Roderick Chisholm is will remain a mystery for now, but we know from the letter that Roderick knew who Murdock was and most likely had been in communication with Murdock several times. Roderick is not the brother of Murdock as the letter plainly states more than once that Roderick and “Dear Sir” have never met. 

Later records for the children listed in Malcom’s 1844 estate file indicate that these children were born between 1806 and 1825. We know that Margaret is the wife of Malcom as the letter tells us that. We know that Flora is the wife of Malcom as his estate file tells us that. What happened to Margret and the family mentioned in the letter is unknown to me, but I find it a bit odd and unexplainable that Malcom and Margret left Scotland in 1790 with a family in tow but had no other children until 1806 – 16 years after they arrived in America. So, either the birth dates of the children are way off in the records, or Flora is the mother of all the children listed in Malcom’s estate file, which would be odd in and of itself as there were two children named Catherine. Although Malcom makes a distinction between his two daughters in his will by calling one Cathern and the other Catherine. However, in later records, both are listed as Catherine. 

I do not believe that Margret and the children perished at sea and Malcom arrived in North Carolina alone and did not remarry until 1805/6. Again, that theory does not explain why Malcom has two daughters named Catherine. 

Angus C. Chisholm’s estate file provides the most information about the children of Malcom. 

State of North Carolina Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions 

Montgomery County Jany. Term 1860 

To the worshipful the justices of said court The petition of Flora Chisholm, John C. McKinnon & wife Catharine, Angus Gillis & wife Christian, Nancy Chisholm, Norman McDuffie & wife Catherine, John Chisholm, Malcom A. Chisholm & the heirs of Murdock Chisholm, Dec'd. against Kenneth Chisholm, Adm of Angus Chisholm respectfully showeth unto your worships that Angus Chisholm, who is their brother, died intestate leaving your petitioners & the defendant his only heirs & distributees.Angus’s estate file tells us that Daniel A. Chisholm who was listed in Malcom’s 1844 will is dead by 1860, the probate date of Angus’s estate. Daniel, nor any heirs, are alluded to. Angus’s estate file also tells us that his brother Murdock is dead as it lists the “heirs of Murdock Chisholm Dec’d” but unfortunately does not name his wife or children. We also know from the file that Nancy Chisholm looks to have never married as she is listed by her surname, Chisholm. Flora Chisholm, mother of some or all of the children is still living in 1860. 

The eldest Catherine married John C. McKinnon. She is mentioned as Cathern McKinnon in Malcom’s 1844 will. They had children John Chalmers (1854), Christian (1855), Daniel (1859), Malcom (1860), Flora (1862), Cornelia (1865). 

Christian, who was listed as Christian Gillis in Malcom’s 1844 estate and indicated as dead, the estate file gives $50 to the heirs of her body, looks to be alive in Angus’s 1860 estate file. She married Angus Gillis. 

John Chisholm married Nancy Watson and they had John (1859), Flora (1862), Sarah (1865) and Malcom (1867). 

Kenneth C. Chisholm married first Christian McLennan. They became the parents of Thomas Little (1851), Mary (1852), Isabelle (1854), Sarah (1855), Allen (1859), John (1866), and possibly a daughter named Flora that I have not been able to confirm yet. Kenneth married second Abigail Harris Rush and it is through his marriage license that he is the only child that I can confirm his mother, FloraMalcom Chisholm Jr, as he is listed in the 1844 estate file of Malcom, led perhaps the most interesting life and records left to us by history have led me on a merry chase and offered some great clues on how the Chisholm family may have interacted with some prominent families of Anson, Richmond, and Montgomery counties. 

By 1850, Malcom is found in Montgomery, Alabama living with a man named Thomas Holt, a Merchant born in Virginia. Malcom’s trade is listed as a cotton broker and he works in the Industry of Farm Products--Raw Materials. He is hired to sell cotton or other crops for a plantation owner and probably has a host of other job duties as well. His young wife, Cornelia, was born in Connecticut. 

Of interest, on the next page of the Census is listed Liman Scovell, age 46 (old enough to be Cornelia’s father), a grocer worth $3,000 who is also born in Connecticut.In 1856, Malcom provides a Power of Attorney to his brother, Kenneth, to act as his agent to collect the amount of legacy coming to him from his father, Malcom’s, estate which was in the possession of John Ewing who Administered the estate.In a somewhat unusual twist of fate, by 1873, Malcom is the owner of a country farm that was previously a large plantation owned by Colonel A. J. Pickett. 

According to the website Alabama Pioneers, Colonel Albert J. Pickett was born on August 13, 1810, in Anson County, North Carolina to William Raiford Pickett and Frances (Dickson) Pickett. William Raiford Pickett was sheriff of Anson County North Carolina. Around 1816, he resigned his position and went with his first cousin Tod Robinson to Alabama and bought property. 

Let me take a moment to add some background: Tod Robinson is the son of Cornelius Robinson and Elizabeth Pickett Robinson of Anson County. He is the nephew of Charles Robinson, who was an allied family that had close ties to the Murdock Chisholm family through marriage. Arthur Robinson’s (son of Charles) sister-in-law, Elizabeth Stanback, intermarried with John Chisholm, the brother of Mary Chisholm who married John Morrison

Read about Tod Robinson here.

There are many Colonial records that remain on the Robinson family. Find them here.

Alabama Pioneers continues to say that by 1819, the Pickett family moved to “Cedar Grove” plantation near Autaugaville, Autauga County, Alabama. There they established a plantation trading- house (where Brokers like Malcom worked) and engaged actively in the Indian trade, especially with the Creeks. 

At the age of 18, Albert was sent to a military academy in Middletown, Connecticut. In 1828, Albert reached Wadesboro, (Anson County) North Carolina safely after traveling on horseback from home. There he exchanged his saddle bags for a trunk, sold his horse and continued his trip to Connecticut by stagecoach.The Malcom Chisholm home today is owned by the Montgomery County, Alabama Historical Society.By 1880, Malcom and Cornelia Caroline Chisholm are found in Elam, Montgomery, Alabama with four sons, Charles, John, Malcom, and William. Notice that Malcom claims he was born in Scotland, this is not true, he was born in North Carolina. His age is 70 years, making him born about 1810. According to the 1850 Census, he was born about 1815 in North Carolina, which is more in line with previous records and events in his life.In 1881, Malcom, who had not been home in 50 years, visits his family in North Carolina.Malcom died in 1893 and was laid to rest in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery County, Alabama. You can view his memorial on Find-A-Grave here.

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