There is a lot of inconsistent information online about Thomas Hamilton. This is largely because there are so many Thomas Hamiltons from Ireland! There were, however, at least two of them who arrived in America at around the same time. One, who I believe was the son of Hansford Hamilton and often confused with our Thomas Hamilton, appears to have settled in Pennsylvania. The other went to North Carolina and from there to the Tennessee frontier.
Our Thomas Hamilton was born around 1725 in Northern Ireland (Ulster). He was a Scots-Irish Protestant: a descendant of Lowland Scots who had settled “plantations,” or de facto British colonies, in Ulster during the previous century.
It is possible that Thomas was related in some way to James Hamilton, Viscount Claneboye, one of the two noblemen who originally convinced the Scots King James to colonize Ulster with Scotsmen, but it is impossible at this point to say for sure. But I like this picture of the Viscount, so I’m posting it anyway.
For a brief, if not exactly objective, story of the origins of the Scots-Irish “tribe,” click here. They were known to be a bit contentious, to say the least.
Thomas married Jane McCracken, another Scots-Irish Protestant, and according to family oral history they had at least two children in Ireland who died before deciding to emigrate around 1750. They may have lived in Pennsylvania for a short time, but the early 1760s, they had settled in Guilford County, North Carolina where two daughters and three sons were born.
Like nearly all Scots-Irishmen, Thomas sided with the revolutionaries. He participated in the pivotal Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. His three sons, Thomas Jr., James, and Robert, also served in the Continental Army; Thomas Jr. reputedly served with General Frances Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox,” and considered to be the father of modern guerrilla warfare.
By 1787, the Hamiltons had moved to Sumner County, Tennessee as one of the earliest settler families on the frontier. Thomas bought 320 acres of land on the headwaters of the Red River from Kaspar Mansker, a famous“long hunter” and one of the first European explorers of the Cumberland Territory as that part of Tennessee was then known.
At that time, attacks by Indians were common. The Hamiltons and their children and grandchildren lived for many years along with several other (mostly Scots-Irish) families, including the Shaws and the Carrs from whom we also descend, in a fortified settlement called Hamilton’s Station. This fort was located on or near the land originally purchased from Kaspar Mansker.
Thomas Hamilton passed away around 1800; Jane McCracken’s death date is unknown.
One of their children was Elizabeth Hamilton. Born in 1755, she lived through the Revolutionary War, the Indian wars, and almost until the Civil War, passing away in 1856 at the age of 101. She is buried at the Clendening/Frazier Cemetery along Long Hollow Pike near Gallatin, TN.
Elizabeth’s great-granddaughter, Jane Marie Shaw, would have known her well, as their lifetimes overlapped by about 24 years. Jane was, of course, Papa Kelly’s mother, and my great-great grandmother.