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The Orr Family of Ulster, South Carolina, Virginia and Ohio

Updated April 22, 2013


Cynthia Orr
cynthiaorr@att.net

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James Orr left Northern Ireland in 1763 on a ship called "Falls" and arrived in the port of Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina on 8 Jan 1764. The ship had 90 passengers, including some who came as servants. Belfast passengers most likely came from County Antrim or County Down. Orr family history has it that James Orr was from Antrim, but other information indicates that it might have been Ballygowan in County Down. The reason for the tradition that James came from Antrim is apparently a book on William Orr, a Rebel of '98, who was hanged by the British. This book about William was handed around at an Orr family reunion in Ohio many years ago, and after that, some family members sought to claim William as an ancestor. This is impossible, however, as James was already in the United States 30 years before William was hanged.

The impetus for James's emigration may have been the combination of exorbitant land rents in Northern Ireland, sometimes provoking violent resistance, and the offer of free land and inexpensive tools and provisions tendered by the colonial government of South Carolina. For instance, each Scottish Covenanter was entitled to 100 acres for himself and 50 acres for his spouse, and an additional 50 acres for each child brought to South Carolina.

On 24 Jan 1764, James, along with 72 other people, received a bounty of 4 pounds sterling and 100 acres of land. This implies that he came alone, since he would have received an extra 50 acres for his wife and each child. (Source: A Compilation of the Original Lists of Protestant Immigrants to South Carolina, 1763-1773.Columbia SC: The State Company, 1939, reprinted Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968).

The 100 acres would probably have been in Boonesborough township. This was in the Old 96th region of South Carolina, and would have been in what is now Greenwood County.

In the late 1760s James according to family stories, went back to Scotland and married a girl about half his age. Her name was Sarah Eynon (sometimes spelled Eymon or Eyemon, but in the family cemetery there is a tombstone for an Eynon Orr). Records searches, however, seem to confirm that Sarah Eynon was from New Castle, Delaware, and she and a James Oarr are listed in the marriage records of Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Their marriage date was 29 Dec 1768. This is quite likely our James and Sarah because this Sarah also had a sister Deborah who was baptized at a nearby church, and histories say that our Sarah brought her sister Deborah with her to Ohio. Despite her not being from Scotland, this Sarah was 17 years younger than James, indeed, about half his age. Sarah and James had a son Zebulon in 1769 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/MT6V-ZNH), and another named William born in 1771 in Newcastle, Delaware (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/M5N6-8Z6).

James and his family were in Hardy County, Virginia for the birth of their son Thomas in 1783 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.2.1/M5N6-863). They also had a daughter Jane. Family stories say that the climate in South Carolina did not agree with James, and he thought the air in the mountains would be better. He abandoned his land in South Carolina, but we don't know when. It was most likely only two or three years after his arrival at most.

At any rate, the family stayed in Virginia for many years. (Hardy County is now in West Virginia, and there is an Orr's Mountain at the Petersburg Gap, which supposedly was named for James.)

By 1797 or 98, Thomas and Zebulon Orr, the sons of James and Sarah, traveled to Ross County, Ohio to claim land. Thomas returned to Virginia briefly to get his parents, his mother's sister Deborah, and his sister Jane. The whole family then lived in Ross County, Ohio near Chillicothe, with descendants there to this day on the original homestead. It is said in Ross County histories that James was an educated man, a competent surveyor, and one of the first sc

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