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McCarter History: 
From Scotland to SC

McCarter Coat of Arms

Septs and Clans

Years ago Scottish clans and families were associated with specific areas of the country. Smaller families, perhaps not as strong or affluent, would often become part of the larger clans. These smaller families were called septs or dependents and fought as allies of the larger clan the sept had joined and paid homage to that clan’s chief. Often the septs were related by blood to the clan. For example, when a daughter married, her name would change, but she and her husband could remain as part of her clan if it was to their advantage. Some sept names were spelled quite similarly to the original clan; others, as in the case of daughters, might be quite different.


The McCarters were a sept of the clan MacArthur. The word Arthur is a Celtic word originally meaning "bear." It later came to be "strong as a bear." When people began to associate King Arthur with the Celtic kings, the name came to mean "noble one." Mac (or Mc) means "son of." Before the "Mac" system started, Scottish people did not have surnames. If one wanted to identify a person he would say, "He is Duncan, son of Arthur." After the Mac system began, one only needed to say, "He is Duncan MacArthur."  (Note:  The widely held belief that Mc is used only for Irish names and Mac for Scottish is inaccurate.)

A Carter in England was "a person who made or drove a cart" so our McCarter name may be both patronymic and occupational. A McCarter could be "the son of the cart driver (or cart maker)." However, this theory can be questioned because some of the old spellings of MacArthur look as if they would be pronounced McCarter. MacArtair, MacArtor, and MacArter are but three of the variant spellings. As one can see, the pronunciations could be quite similar. McCarter may simply be a corruption of the spelling of MacArthur.

Moses McCarter

Moses McCarter, our first known ancestor in America, was born c1730/32 in Scotland. Several sources give his birthplace as Roxburghshire, but that has not been verified. Although we are not sure of the exact place, we should be able to guess the general area since clans are associated with regions. In early times the MacArthurs were found in the ancient kingdom of Dalriada. By lthe 1600’s the clan inhabited the land just to the southeast of the water formations that seem to link Inverness and Oban. Another source says they were in Argyllshire; a third says they were located northeast of Bute and west of Loch Lomond. Happily for us, all these place names and descriptions refer to just about the same general piece of land. Unhappily, Roxburghshire, the place named but unverified as Moses' birthplace, is not located within this general MacArthur area..  It is located quite a bit further southeast.  Aha! a mystery!  Why would Moses have been born outside the MacArthur realm?  The answer to this question may be simple or it could be connected with the reason he left Scotland altogether when he became of age.

Why Leave?

Scotland is a beautiful country; it has a romantic history. Why would anyone want to leave? Looking back on the place and living there in 1730 are two very different things. Life was hard in Scotland. Very little of the country had arable land, so farming, always hard, was extremely difficult. Religious dissension filled the country. War with England kept occurring, impoverishing Scotland even more.

It was a good time to leave, and that’s probably what Moses thought as he grew to be a young man. The future was in the colonies.

Arrival in America

The first mention of Moses McCarter in America was in York Co., PA in 1750 when he married Catren Unknown. Moses would have been about twenty at this time. He and Catren went on to have twelve children: Anne, Cathrin, John, William, Mary, Agnes, Margaret, Jennett, James, Robert, and Moses, Jr.  Other McCarters lived in the same Pennsylvania area at this time, but so far no kinship has been shown.

According to Moses’ son James' Revolutionary War pension papers, the family had moved to Hawfields, NC by 1865 when he (James) was born. During the 1770’s and 1790’s there was much renaming of land. A huge area known as Tryon Co, NC was divided into several counties for both NC and SC. Two of these became York Counties, one for each state. Sometime during this period, the family either moved or were "renamed" into York Co., SC.  Between 1771 and 1778, the family had moved to the other side of the state to the Abbeville district of SC.

Revolutionary War

During the Revolutionary War, Moses and sons  James, John, and Moses, Jr. all served in Marion’s Rangers under Brigadier General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. These rangers were in some respects very much like today’s army rangers. They were crack shots; they were able to hide out and subsist in swamps and woods, and they wreaked havoc on the British troops by disrupting communications, destroying supplies and capturing troops. One British officer complained that Marion and his men would "not sleep and fight like gentlemen."  Instead "like savages," they were "eternally firing and whooping around us by night, and by day waylaying and popping at us from behind every tree!"

By 1779 the family was living in the Ninety-sixth District of SC which was made up of about eight counties, including Abbeville and Edgefield. Here they prospered until Moses fell into bad health. He wrote his will 25 Feb 1787, and sometime between that date and January 1788 when the will was probated, he died. He was forty-three/forty-five years old.

Catren survived for a number of years. She died 4 July, 1800 at about sixty-five or seventy years of age. Both Catren and Moses are buried in District Ninety-six, of SC.

William McCarter

Son William McCarter married an unidentified woman in York Co, SC. They had six children. Only two of these children survived: Joseph (b. 1780), and James (b. 1782). It is from James that we are descended. A family story says that William ‘s unnamed first wife was killed by Indians in 1790, but so far evidence is lacking. William was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  He provided horses and wagons and drove them in service during the war


During the Revolutionary War and their time in SC, Moses’ family had become closely acquainted with two other families in the Abbeville-Edgefield area: The William Ogle family from Virginia, and the John Frederick Huskey family from Ireland. The Ogles and Huskeys had also been neighbors in GA a bit earlier. These families socialized and bought and sold land to each other. James McCarter, son of William McCarter and grandson of Moses, married Rebecca Ogle, daughter of William Ogle and his wife, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle. Martha Jane herself was a daugher of John Frederick Huskey, so the three families had blood ties as well as common interests.

"Old Billy" Ogle

In 1801 or 1802 William Ogle (Old Billy) made a trip to TN. There is dispute over his reasons for going. Whatever the reason, he found the land there much to his liking, cleared an area for a cabin, cut down trees, hewed and notched them for building a cabin, and returned home with great dreams. He would plant a crop so that his family would have supplies in the new land, and then take the family and their belongings and provisions to this "paradise" (his word) to build a new home.

Unfortunately, typhoid or malaria struck the region. Billy fell victim to it and died in 1803. About that same time the family received word that Thomas Ogle, Billy’s father, had just died in VA. Martha Jane took her children and traveled to Grayson Co., VA to pay a bereavement visit to her in-laws. After a stay of about two weeks, she returned home. On the way she stopped by Grainger Co., TN where Hercules Ogle, her husband’s brother, had settled. Apparently Martha Jane, too, liked what she saw, for when she got home, she explained that she was going to carry out her husband’s plans and move the family to TN. Either her enthusiasm was contagious, or she was a good salesman, for she soon had recruited a sizeable force to come with her.

The trip would be anything but easy, and some of those interested in going had infants and small children. Nevertheless, they decided to press on to TN. They could help each other along the way.


Army;  Google Search Images: Historic maps of NC and SC;  House of htm;  "Map of Scotland Showing Clans" ;  The;  McCarter, Huskey,  Ogle Families' traditions and records; Nova htm. Reagan, Donald B. Smoky Mountain Clans, rev.ed 1983; htm; US Army Ranger History.htm.  McCarter genforum


"The past is prologue"

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