When I dug into the background of my maternal 2nd-great-grandmother, Margaret Ann Ray, Eldridge, who was born in Surry, Maine in 1835, I discovered the Scots-Irish branch of my family tree who arrived in Maine in the early 1700s.
The rest of my ancestors who settled in Surry were English but Margaret Ann Ray was the descendant of two Scots-Irish families who brought their Presbyterian faith and reputation for physical strength and tenacity to Maine. They came to New England some one hundred years after their ancestors fled Scotland to Ulster, Northern Ireland, with the support of the British crown, which hoped to use them as a buffer against the Irish Catholics to the south.
By the early 18th-century, high rents, famine and smallpox made life unbearable in Ulster and over the next 75 years, some 200,000 Scotch-Irish came to the American colonies.
An early group of more than 300 Scots-Irish from the River Bann Valley of Ulster arrived in Boston aboard five ships in early 1718. They had negotiated with local officials to receive land grants on arrival but the Boston Puritans spurned them for their different religion and culture. Many of the families headed north and settled in Nutfield, later named Londonderry, New Hampshire, where they introduced potato and flax crops.
A smaller group sailed to Casco Bay, off present-day Falmouth, and spent the winter onboard ship, freezing. Of those families, a few stayed in the Falmouth area while others headed south to the Merrimack River. Over time, others settled along the remote Maine coast where they found fertile pieces of land to farm. Margaret Ann Ray’s ancestors were in Biddeford, Saco, and on Flying Point in North Yarmouth, later Freeport, Maine.
Another group of Scots-Irish organized by Robert Temple, a former British army officer, settled in the Georgetown and Merrymeeting Bay area, near the Kennebec river, in 1718. British colonists had just built a fort at the mouth of the river, defying Native American Wabanaki claims to the territory and hostilities soon followed. Attacks were encouraged by the French who came down from Quebec to pursue their claims to the territory, supplying the Wabanaki with arms to use against the British and Scots-Irish settlers. Numerous killings and kidnappings drove many settlers to abandoned the area by 1722. By 1725, the Wabanaki had been weakened and they retreated north, allowing the original settlers to return and new arrivals to join them..
We don’t know exactly when the Ray family arrived, though many amateur genealogists have reported that John Ray was born in North Yarmouth about 1728. In 1753, Ray married Mary Patten, in Biddeford. She was the daughter of Hector Patten, another Scots-Irish man who migrated from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, to Boston, then to Falmouth and Purpoodock (Cape Elizabeth) around 1730.
Mary Patten was born in 1733 in North Yarmouth, the same place where the Ray family was apparently living. Her mother was Hector’s second wife, Margaret Shear, who died shortly after her birth. Hector Patten and his third wife, Mary, moved to Biddeford in 1739, where he bought forty acres of land. In 1751, He was identified as a “yeoman alias mason,” and his life was largely unremarkable, save for his acquittal on a charge of not attending religious services.
The Pattens and the Rays Migrate Further North
After their marriage, my direct ancestors, Mary Patten and John Ray, remained in Biddeford, while Hector Patten’s family migrated northward. In 1754, Matthew Patten, Mary’s brother, bought farmland in North Yarmouth, and his parents moved with him. Around 1762, Matthew had moved north to the new frontier of Township No. 6, now Surry, where he is recognized as the first settler. His parents joined him there. Hector Patten died in 1782 and is buried in Surry.
John and Mary Ray were said to have died in Biddeford and we don’t know when, or even if, their son, John Ray (born 1754), joined both Patten and Ray relatives who had moved to Township No. 6. He married Hannah Flood, the daughter of early Surry settler Andrew Flood, in 1772 in an unknown town in Maine and his wife gave birth to Robert the same year. Hannah and John’s union was not destined to survive long. Four years later, Hannah married another man, James Patten, though John was still living. John Rae (Ray) was identified as living across the bay from Surry, on the east side of the Union River, where he was one of two members of the Revolutionary War’s Committee of Correspondence that sent a letter dated August 6, 1776, asking for arms. John Ray’s name does not appear in the 1790 census of Surry, though his brothers Matthew and James both do.
Robert Ray, John and Hannah’s son, settled in Surry and prospered. His son, my 2nd-great-grandfather, Henry Jarvis Ray, was a farmer, like his father. According to the Biographical Review, Robert Ray, was born and reared in a coastal town of Maine and after his marriage to Adah Wormwood, settled in Surry. “Having bought a tract of unbroken land on the Shore Road, he cleared a part of it, and for a time tilled the soil. He subsequently sold that property, and purchased land on the Bay Road, on which he was engaged in general farming and lumbering until his death, at the advanced age of seventy-nine years. His wife died at the homestead in the sixty-sixth year of her age.”
Henry Jarvis grew barley on his farm on Newbury Neck in Surry and grazed eight sheep and other livestock on 67 acres. By the time he was 61 years old, in 1870, the livestock was valued at $198. One of his sons, Jesse Ray, became a prominent citizen and served in the state legislature. Owner of a grist mill, the Henry C. Wood Company, he built the Surry Village School in 1872 for $2,000.
Henry Jarvis’s oldest child, Margaret Ann, married Christopher Atwood Eldridge in 1853 in Surry. The couple moved into a house near the shipyard in Surry, right next door to Christopher's father, Knowles Godfrey Eldridge. Seven years after they married, Margaret Ann died at age 24, leaving two young sons, Charles and Henry Herbert. Christopher Eldridge died two years later and the boys were orphaned, going to live with their paternal grandfather, who manufactured clothing in Surry. Throughout their lives the Eldridge boys held on to a faded photo, a memory of their maternal grandmother, Armelia Young Ray, the wife of Henry Jarvis.
Discover more about this topic in Scotch-Irish in New England by Rev. AL Perry, Professor of History and Politicis Wiliams College, Williamstom, Masss. Taken from The Scotch Irish in America: Proceedings and Addresses of the Second Congress in Pittsburgh, Penn. May 29-June1, 1890.
2/4/2020 07:20:49 am
We are cousins - I am also descended from a son of Robert Ray and Adah Wormwood, Hutchinson Ingalls Ray who married Sebastia Ann Gaspar.
2/4/2020 08:43:17 am
Hi Holly. I'm living in Bangor and come down to the Surry area regularly as my husband and I are looking for property in the area as well. Would you like to meet for coffee and exchange notes? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
12/29/2020 05:16:13 pm
The “Scots Irish” exodus was a myth and will always be a myth in truth people from all over Ireland emigrated during this time not denying your heritage but no 200,000 Scots Irish did not leave Ireland for America during the 1700s
9/24/2022 06:24:19 pm
The peak periods of Scots-Irish migration to America occurred between 1718 and 1774. Over 250,000 people came in total - far greater numbers than the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Quakers who came before them. They didn't all come at once, but rather in waves throughout the 18th century
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