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Argyll Colony

Argyll Colony was the first colony of Highland Scots to settle in the Upper Cape Fear. Settled in 1739, the colony was named for the shire in western Scotland from which its members came. They were the vanguard of what began as a trickle and grew into a flood of Highland immigrants to Bladen County (later divided into Cumberland, Moore, Robeson, Harnett, and Hoke Counties). By the 1770s Highland Scots comprised one-third of the population of that region, earning for it the sobriquet "Valley of the Scots."

The Argyll Colony sailed from Scotland in June 1739, arriving in North Carolina during September. They probably spent most of their first winter in or near Newton (soon to be renamed Wilmington) because they had not yet decided on a specific location for settlement. On 10 Nov. 1739 James Murray, a local merchant, wrote Henry McCulloh that four of the party had traveled upriver to inspect vacant land near his (McCulloh's) land, presumably a 100,000-acre tract in present-day Guilford and Alamance Counties. The Murray letter also implies that the Argyll colonists had previously negotiated with McCulloh, a London merchant and large-scale land speculator in North Carolina, about purchasing some of his land.

By February 1740 the colony's five leaders-Duncan Campbell, Daniel McNeill, Dugald McNeill, Neill McNeill, and Coll McAlister-had petitioned the colonial Assembly for an exemption from all taxes for ten years and a grant of £1,000 to be distributed among them. This indicates that by that date they probably had decided on which land to settle and had made entries for the property that was granted them the following June. In return for the favors requested, they had pledged to encourage their friends and neighbors to immigrate to the province. Exemption from taxes was granted but the award of £1,000 was not.

There is a persistent tradition that Governor Gabriel Johnston, himself a Lowland Scot, played a leading role in bringing the Argyll Colony to Cape Fear, but there is no evidence of this. Another popularly held but untenable tradition claims that other Highland Scots had preceded the Argyll Colony and that the colony on its arrival was greeted by kinsmen and former neighbors. Without doubt, the first Argyll colonists could not have envisioned the number of Scots who would follow them, although they certainly encouraged their peers to emigrate. The place they chose to settle became a Mecca for succeeding generations of Scottish immigrants; indeed, the Valley of the Scots became home to the largest aggregation of that nationality in the continental United States.


Duane Meyer, The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1752-1776 (1957).

Jennie M. Patten, The Argyle Patent and Accompanying Documents (1979).

Additional Resources:

The Journal of the North Carolina Scottish Heritage Society, The Argyll Colony Plus:

Campbelton, NC Historical Marker I-54, North Carolina Office of Archives & History.

The story of Fayetteville and the upper Cape Fear by John Alexander Oates.

Wrightsville Beach Magazine, Historically Speaking: First Presbyterian Church Celebrates its 250th Anniversary by Dr. Walter H. Conser Jr. January 2010:

Image Credit:

The Argyll Colonist were the first to bring the Presbyterian religion to the Cape Fear Region. First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, NC, 1902. Image courtesy of UNC Libraries. Available from (accessed August 15, 2012).



My Gurley ancestors were numerous in NC by 1800, according to the census, and I find them in late 18th tax records. But I cannot find anything online that show where they were before they appear in Anson Co, for ex., like my ancestors buried at Buffalo Church near Greensboro. Where should I be looking? JRJ


I am the 7th great-granddaughter of Angus & Isabell Galbraith. Angus was born is Isley in 1720 and Isabell was born in 1724. Their son Neil Galbraith is my 6th great-grandfather. He was born in 1740 and married Martha Autry whose family migrated to Edgecombe county from Ireland. I enjoy researching my family. I believe the Galbraiths migrated to NC from Gigha, Scotland in late 1730's to early 1740's. I would appreciate any information that you can share. The Galbraiths changed their name to Culbret h before or around the Revolutionary war. They settled around the Black River in Sampson County NC. Neil Culbret h was a patriot in the Revolutionary War#ancestor A 028450. Sincerely, Lynn Frances Williams, Autryville, NC


Dear Lynn,
If both our ancestry research is correct we are distant cousins. It appears that Neil & Martha had 9 children. The 7th, Cornelius was my 5th Great Grandfather. We have spent many hours tracing the name and travels of the Culbreth's/Galbraith's including a trip to the Culbreth Cemetery in Sampson county and the Isle of Gigha where the trip began. In Gigha we discovered a large cemetery full of Galbraith's. Most of our detail info has came from and the courthouse in Cumberland Co. We have many gaps and continue to research. I am currently tracing Angus, with very little luck. It appears he traveled to Wilmington with Neil. The only birth info I show is "Scotland", but assume he traveled to Gigha from elsewhere in Scotland.


I have traced two of my ancestors to the original 1739 landing from Scotland. They were "landed" gentlemen in the group, although not named in your record as one of the leaders. They were named William Stewart (b 1707) & his older brother Patrick Stewart (5th Laird of Ledcreich & Stronslany, in Perthshire Scotland, b 1697). I'd like to find a record of the names of the ~350 people who came on this 1st landing from Scotland. Is there some document or record you would recommend to read?


do you know if there is a list of names?


My family traces back to Sampson County. I can positively trace my lineage back to my great-great grandfather, Thomas McCullen, who was born around 1818 in Sampson County. Further back, the trail grows cold. I have, however, seen McCullens who appear in the Sampson County Tax List from 1784 (time of carve-out from Dublin County) and in the 1790 (and subsequent) Federal Census. Are there records of any McCullens immigrating to the Sampson County area with the Argyll Colony or subsequent waves?


John McAllister was a member of the Argyll Colony and was my grandfather six generation back. Trying to find out more about him


For info; there is a NC Argyll Colony Family Tree DNA group;


I am looking for family information about John Anderson who died in 1784, in Wilkes County Georgia. Thank you in advance


You still need info John Anderson 1784 GA?

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