Saturday, 7 January 2012

Hance Hamilton, Scots-Irish Icon and Mystery

Hance Hamilton was the quintessential Scots-Irish man.  Colonial history books tell of his many accomplishments and exploits.  He is a well documented figure that left behind many letters and official reports and he is mentioned in many Crown records.  Yet, his origins and early life are a mystery.

Hance Hamilton was the de facto leader of the Ulster settlement at Marsh Creek, which is where present day Gettysburg stands.  In the late 1740s and early 1750s he served as sheriff of the Adams County.  He also served as a magistrate for Adams County.   He was a captain of the militia and later rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He was a leader in French and Indian War and participated the famous Kittaning Expedition against the Delawares.  He fought in many very brutal battles, of a nature common on the frontier,  and in these he exhibited great bravery and leadership.  He was well educated, a Latin speaker, his peer circle include the likes of George Washington, he was a man of his age that did extremely well.

The mysteries about him concern with his date and father.   Hance Hamilton was born in Ireland, probably in northwest Tyrone or east Donegal.  Most histories of him state he was born in 1721, however that date is too late to explain his oldest son Thomas being made deputy sheriff in the early 1750s.  The current tombstone on his grave was placed there in the late 1800s, the original one was broken and very hard to read.  There is the distinct possibility that the 'birth' date on the replaced tombstone is incorrect given the math of his older son's life.

The father of Hance Hamilton is often listed as Hance Hamilton Sr who led a fleet contain 140 families that landed at New Castle, Delaware in 1729, but there is no record of this fleet or any record of an older Hance Hamilton.  Such a large influx of settlers would certainly have been noticed and it would have taken several ships to carry so many people, but Colonial records do not record the event.  However, it is possible that Hance Hamilton arrived on a ship that came into New Castle, Delaware in 1729.    But he very well could have already been living in the PA Colony.

It is known he had at least two brothers, James Hamilton who died in 1748 and John Hamilton who took care of Hance Hamilton's will.

Scots-Irish soldiers 1750s
There are several researchers trying to unravel the true story of this remarkable Scots-Irish man.  If anyone has any primary sources concerning Lt Col Hance Hamilton of the Marsh Creek settlement, please send a note to the Ulster Heritage Magazine and we will forward it to the interested parties.

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