Collin’s father, Daniel, was the third generation of McKinneys born in North America.
Collin’s father, Daniel, was the third generation of McKinneys born in North America, a descendent of a Scot-Irishman who immigrated to the Eastern Seaboard in the early 1700’s. Dire economic conditions, religious persecution and the deprivation of citizen’s rights combined to create a perfect storm which fueled a Scot-Irish exodus to the American Colonies. It began with a trickle of 5,000 Ulsterman in 1717 and by the start of the Revolutionary War, numbered almost a quarter of a million strong. Sometime in 1769 or in 1770, Collin’s father, Daniel, his Uncle Archibald, and their families joined the tide of migration into the Valley of Virginia where they were granted land from the Commonwealth.
It is a rich irony that ‘rack-renting’, the predatory real estate practice that drove thousands of Scot-Irish families from their leased farms in Ulster set the stage for land ownership in New America on an unprecedented scale in human history.
The American Revolution
When the Revolutionary War broke out, Collin’s father and his Uncle Archibald joined Washington’s Army, along with many of their Scots-Irish brethren, who constituted 43% of the force. The tortured experience of the Presbyterian Ulsterman in Ireland under British rule gave them a democratic and religious zeal not shared by colonists from other parts of Europe. Systematically denied economic opportunities, personal religious freedom, and a political voice by the British Empire on the other side of the Atlantic, they were vehemently opposed to any surrender of these new found rights in North America to King George. One Hessian officer said, “Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion.”
“ five Indians, hiding in the corners of the McKinney fences, had been captured.”
While his father faced the British, Collin, who was around 10 years old at the time, and his elder brother, Ebeneezer, defended the family’s homestead from another kind of enemy – American Indians. Eliza McKinney Milam (Collin’s youngest daughter) enjoyed telling the story of his narrow escape from capture by Indians while rounding up the family horses:
Hearing the calls of a wild turkey, Collin remembered that Indians could imitate bird calls, so he skirted a clearing, taking the long way through a grove of trees to reach the horses. Darting from tree to tree, he was unaware that his antics were being observed by a uniquely appreciative audience – his siblings, who teased him without mercy. Later that evening, he was acquitted when a scout stopped by to inform the family that five Indians, hiding in the corners of the McKinney fences, had been captured.
This humorous anecdote belies the very real mortal danger and terrorism posed by hostile Indians defending their dwindling homelands. The Scots-Irish migrants, seeking unsettled land, bore the brunt of inescapable conflict on the frontiers and, in fact, the British actively recruited them to fight the Indians on its borders.