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The Graham Family (Graeme Family)

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The Graham Family
(Graeme Family)

Transcribed by Jim Crabtree, March 2008.


By Alexander Moore Cloud

In the early part of the 19th century a colony of Irish people embarked at Belfast and sailed to the continent of America. When they landed some of them settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while others obeyed the impulses of their Scottish instinct and came to the mountainous parts of East Tennessee, where they made a settlement in Claiborne County, on Little Sycamore Creek. However, they did not remain very long in that valley before they moved to Tazewell, where they built homes and remained until nearly all the original settlers died. The best known and most prominent family that came to America at that time were the Grahams and nearly every other family that came with them were their relatives. They could trace their lineages many generations back and for the benefit of those who may be interested in that family I shall write what I know of its origin.

The Grahams that lived in Tazewell were lineal descendants of the ancient and powerful Graeme Clan that at one time owned and occupied the territory lying between and surrounding Dumbarton and Stirling, Scotland. They have furnished some of the best known characters in Scottish annals and have also supplied legends upon which many of Scott's Burns' and Kipling's poems and stories are based. Their name was first called Graeme but when they immigrated to Ireland their name was changed to Graham to better suit the Irish dialect. The elderly Grahams that I knew would hardly sound the "h" in pronouncing their name. King Malcom of Scotland, King James I of England, and also Queen Elizabeth's mother were of one branch of the Graham family.

During Wallace's Rebellion, in 1297, King Edward I was having all the Scottish gentry killed. It was during that rebellion that Lord John Graham found that he was between the devil and the deep blue sea; so after mature consideration he chose fleeing the country and losing his title rather than remaining in Scotland and eventually having his head chopped off. On leaving his native country he went across to Ireland and settled in Tyrone County at a little place called Milltown. Lord John had only one child, a son named William, who grew to manhood, was educated and settled in Donegal. William, like his father, waited until he was dubbed an old bachelor before marrying. His only child, Francis, purchased a large estate at Terminah, where he spent more than three-fourths of his long life in single blessedness before visiting Scotland where he married. His only son, Thomas, married Miss Elizabeth Wigton on his fiftieth birthday. They had several children and named the youngest, the only male child, Thomas, Jr. Long after reaching manhood, Thomas, Jr., went to Marion where he fell in love with, and married, a Miss Jane McBeth, of the family of McBeths that furnished the traditions for Shakespeare's play by the same name. After his marriage he brought his wife to his own castle, Cavanalle, which was the pride of a little village named Straban. Thomas Jr., was the father of eight children: Andrew, James, Mary, Nancy, John, Hugh, Jane and William.

Andrew Graham received his literary education at one of the largest universities in Ireland, after which he went to London and studied medicine. Not long after his graduation he was given a commission as chief surgeon in the British Navy. He married Miss Mariah McCray. They were parents of four children: Thomas, William, Eliza and James. Andrew Graham died in Ireland, but his widow came to America with her eldest sons and Eliza. James, the youngest child, was accidentally left in Ireland when the ship sailed for America. Mariah Graham lived with her daughter, who married Thomas Johnson, until her death in 1859. Thomas and William Graham died soon after coming to Tazewell, but James remained in Ireland until his death, at Nocmoile, in 1900.

The only information I have about James Graham, the brother of Andrew, is that he was married when his brothers and his sisters came to America, and had several children of his own. He also reared his namesake, Andrew's son James, that I have already mentioned as having been left in Ireland. I do not know what part of Ireland he lived in or where he died.

Mary Graham married a Houston and reared two sons, William and Hugh. William married a Miss Patterson, but I do not remember who Hugh Houston's wife was. They were both citizens of Tazewell.

When Mary Graham's husband died, she married Thomas Wier who had also come from Tyrone County, Ireland, along with the other immigrants. Space does not permit me to speak of Marys romantic courtship and how Weir heroically tried to outstrip Houston in his efforts to win her or how he, like Tennyson's Phillip, waited patiently until after the death of Houston to pay court to Mary a second time, which I might add was successful.

Nancy Graham married a Patterson and had three sons: William, James and Robert. Robert Patterson was a General in the Federal Army and as far as I know was the only member of the Graham family that fought for the Union during the Civil War. His home was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

John Graham married a Miss Hamelton and after her death he espoused Margaret (Peggy) McCray, a sister of Mrs. Andrew Graham. I knew only two of his children, although he might have had more by his first wife that remained in Ireland. John and Jane came to America with their father. John was a soldier in the Mexican war, and when the Civil War broke out he again volunteered to serve his country and was given a commission as Captain in the Confederate Army. He remained a bachelor and lived on his farm until the fall of 1906. He then went to the Soldiers Home at Johnson City, Tennessee, where he remained until his death in the summer of 1907. Jane Graham married Hampton Birchfield and reared a family near Tazewell.

After coming to America, Hugh Graham married a Miss Katherine Ninney and was the father of eight children: Cornelia, Lucy, Jane, Sallie, Margaret, Mary, Ellen, Thomas, and another son who died in infancy. Doubtless Hugh Graham was by far the wealthiest and most progressive man in Claiborne County at the time. He owned several large tracts of land in the vicinity of Tazewell. In the town of Tazewell he erected a large brick residence* which still stands as a monument to his artistic taste for Colonial Architecture. His private library then ranked with the largest in the south and in his spacious lawn could be found a specimen of tree and shrub that grew in East Tennessee.

Jane Graham, the daughter of Thomas Jr., married a McArthy and had two children, Thomas and Nancy. After the death of McArthy she married John McNullen, probably before she came to America and had, by her second husband, three more children, Margaret, Fanny and Susin.

I do not know who Thomas McArthy married but his sister, Nancy, married Sterling Rose. One of Nancy's sons, Judge James C. Rose was very prominent in politics and was widely known all over the state. Margaret married Lee White; Fannie McNullen married William Cannon, and Susan, the youngest sister married George Roe of Morristown, Tennessee.

William Graham came to America along with his relatives, purchased land and made his home near Tazewell. He lived a bachelor throughout his life. He was greatly interested in education and handled the funds that were used in building Tazewell College**. In 1841 he died at the ripe old age of three score and sixteen.

Descendants of Thomas Graham, Jr., are to be found in nearly every state in the Union and where ever flows a drop of Graham blood there can be found men and women of intellect, endowed with the strong personality, holding a fair share of earthly possessions and are usually following a trade or have a profession that commands the honour and respect of all that know them.

* The old Hugh Graham home was purchased by Dr. William E. Rodgers and has been torn down, brought to Knoxville and rebuilt.

** Tazewell College was discontinued in the 1920s. The building has been torn down and the brick used in erecting a hotel, opposite the Court House in Tazewell.

Note: - Our readers will observe that the names of places and the names of people are, in many instances, different from the spelling here. We give the spelling as it appears in this article by Mr. Cloud. Should any of our readers have any further contributions to make to this subject we will be glad to hear from them.- Editor, Strabane Weekly News, 1954.


Transcriber's Note: Like the Editor of the Strabane Weekly News, I have reproduced Mr. Cloud's article exactly as it appeared in the newspaper. I have not attempted to verify any of the assertions made in the article.

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