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George and Michael Harlan:
The Irish Interlude

by John H. Harland

Having sailed from Belfast, Ireland, George and Michael Harlan arrived in the Quaker colony on the Delaware in 1687. They were born in England near the City of Durham in the Bishopric (Episcopate) of Durham, but prior to leaving for America, they spent a period, perhaps 15 years, living near Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. It is this Irish interlude I wish to consider, and in a rather unsystematic fashion in the course of discussion, attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Why did the Brothers forsake England for Ireland?
  • Why did they choose to settle in the Lurgan area rather than somewhere else?
  • How was it that they could take up land there, to which native Irish presumably had a prior claim?
  • And finally, what persuaded them to go to America?

Answering this involves constructing a sort of snapshot of what was going on in the world in 1687, outlining the relevant events leading up to that date, and where necessary, indicating what happened later. My model for this approach is John E. Wills: 1688: A Global History {1}, which drew together events in a single year in the 17th century, and described what was happening at that particular time all over the world. The scope of my account is less ambitious, but follows a similar plan.

The World in 1687

Great events were unfolding in England and the world at large during the 17th century, but my guess is that the Brothers' intellectual horizon was quite constricted, and that the great sweep of world history left them untouched, untroubled and uninterested. At the time they were preparing to go to America, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and Robert LaSalle, who lost his life in 1687, was working his way down the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi rivers, establishing the claim of France to large tracts of territory in North America. The Thirty Years War, the Franco-Spanish War, and the Anglo-Dutch Wars, which had raged earlier in the century, were of little concern to them, and catastrophes like the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire the following year would have seemed quite remote.

Irish History

Since we are concerned with the Brothers' sojourn in Ireland, some understanding of the story of that island is important. The ethnicity and culture of England had been repeatedly modified by invasion since Roman times, and although similar considerations apply to Ireland, remoteness has its advantage, and the native Celts were better insulated than their English neighbors from foreign influences. The genetic makeup of the modern Irish is predominantly that of their Celtic ancestors. The Irish suffered many military defeats over the years, but the country was never subjugated to the extent that the majority of its citizens became quietly resigned to foreign rule. The history is complicated, but for our purposes, we may summarize events this way.

The Vikings had invaded Ireland in the 9th century and then the Anglo-Normans (themselves of Viking ancestry) came in the 12th. Henry VIII declared himself King of Ireland in 1541, and the Tudors made significant landgrants to favorites of the Crown. Whereas these manors continued to be tenanted by Irish peasants, there was a change in policy during the reign of Elizabeth (1558-1603), and efforts were made to import substantial numbers of English settler-tenants. The incomers for the most part lived inside the "pales" or boundaries of the cites of Waterford, Cork, Limerick, and Dublin. Needless to say, their presence was resented by the natives, and during the Elizabethan era, there were rebellions in 1559, 1569 and 1594. The last of these, led by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, continued to 1603 and is remembered as the Nine Years War. During the conflict both sides practiced scorched earth tactics, and the Irish countryside was laid waste by fire, sword and famine. Following a series of military successes by the Irish, notably the Battle of the Yellow Ford, which reinforced Tyrone's reputation as a military commander, a Spanish force of 3500 men landed at Kinsale and was besieged there by the English under Lord Mountjoy. Winston Graham refers to this event as "The Fourth Armada"{2}. The Earls of Tyrone (O'Neill) and Tyrconnel (O'Donnell) marched south to raise the siege, but the Irish-Spanish forces were defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. The surviving Spaniards were repatriated, and the Earls were allowed to regain control of their lands by surrendering them to the Sovereign, who then graciously re-granted them. By agreeing to this, the Earls acknowledged the supremacy of the Crown in the person of King James I. We may digress here to point out that traditionally, land was held by the clan as a whole; that the eldest son did not necessarily succeed his father as head of the clan; and that the native Irish were more concerned with herding their flocks and herds over a grazing area, than they were with tilling the land in a specific place. The regrant process was done along feudal lines, with inheritance depending on primogeniture, and specific territory being allocated to specific individuals.

Peace was declared at the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603, but Tyrone and his associates had created too many enemies for this to settle matters, and among the English authorities were those relentlessly plotting their downfall. Troops under command of the Earl of Tyrone had killed the brother of Sir Arthur Chichester during the War, and the latter, now Lord Deputy of Ireland, was engaged in a personal vendetta against the Earl of Tyrone. By the summer of 1607 O'Neill felt that he was in imminent danger of arrest, imprisonment, and execution, and together the Earl of Tyrconnell and about a hundred others, boarded ship and fled the country. Things might have been different had Tyrone ever fulfilled his intended desire to return, but this he never achieved before dying in exile in Rome in 1616 {3}.

The Ulster Plantation

At the end of the 16th Century, of all the Irish Provinces, Ulster (basically the northern part of the island), remained the most Celtic in tradition, laws, religion and ethnicity. Although the number of folk who sailed with the Earls was very modest, the Flight of the Earls proved to be pivotal in Irish history because it was the catalyst that transformed Ulster into the least Irish of its Provinces. The event could be considered as the beginning of an Irish diaspora which, in later years, was to dramatically reduce the population of the Island. The vacuum left by the departure of O'Neill and O'Donnell gave the authorities the excuse to confiscate their lands, roughly speaking the counties of Derry, Fermanagh and Armagh, and the trigger for the Plantation was the desire to neuter further threat of Irish rebellion by "planting" the escheated territory with great numbers of Scots and English dissenters. In his capacity as King of Scotland, James was glad to see the back of many of his less law-abiding citizens, and by transporting these folk across the Irish Sea, the authorities in England and Scotland killed two birds with one stone - at a stroke they disencumbered themselves of lawless Scottish Lowlanders and troublemaking English dissenters, while establishing on the seized lands a population who would offer a rabidly Protestant bulwark against the indigenous Irish Catholic inhabitants. As an added bonus the Crown made money by selling off large tracts of land to "undertakers". These latter committed themselves to attract settlers as tenants or leaseholders, bringing specified numbers in, within a specified time; build lightly fortified forts or "bawns"; and organize their defense by providing arms and powder for the settlers. Some of the dispossessed Irish were killed, or transported as slaves to the West Indies, while others took to the hills to survive as rapparees, descending on the newcomers' farms when opportunity offered. Some remained to work as laborers for their new masters, living alongside the Protestant newcomers, but they did not do so happily, and this was to have repercussions in 1641 {4}.

Of the various Irish "Plantations" only that in Ulster was successful. Even so, it never met the aims of those who framed the scheme, in that it did not totally replace the native Irish Catholic population with English and Scottish Protestants. "Success," as defined by that criterion, was greater in the eastern part of Ulster, such as the fertile land around Lurgan, and almost nonexistent in Donegal with an intermediate spectrum found as one moved west. The undertakers could not always meet their obligations and attract enough Protestant planters, and in those parts where the land was infertile, the landlords, if they were derive income, had no choice but to content themselves with selling off the timber, and rent to Irish tenants. Despite the various legal proscriptions and fiscal measures discouraging this practice, renting to the Irish could be highly profitable for the landowner because these tenants were obliged to pay three times the rent of a Protestant planter. Of significance to Harlan Family history, is an area in northeast Armagh, near the modern town of Lurgan. This was part of the Barony of Oneilland, confiscated from the O'Neill clan in 1607 and ceded to the Brownlow family as undertakers. This area was settled largely with English, as distinct from Scottish, planters, and remarkably to this day, dialectologists can detect traces of this difference in background in the speech of folk of this particular area. Surviving records indicate that tenants on the Brownlow estate included Peter Harland, townland of Ballyblagh in 1635, and John Harland, townland of Liscorran in 1659 [These townlands are now totally overbuilt and incorporated in the town of Lurgan.] Peter is listed on a Muster Roll as "pikeman," and this together with the early dates suggest that he was not a Quaker, at least not then. It would seem they survived the events of 1641 described below, and if, as seems probable from the family name, they were related to the Brothers, their prior presence in the area is another reason why the later arrivals chose to settle near Lurgan.

We have to remember that the Ulster Plantation was undertaken at a moment of national paranoia, and planned in extreme haste. King James, having survived the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, lived in dread of further Catholic conspiracy {5}, and there was widespread apprehension that at any moment the Earl of Tyrone would land back in Ireland with an invading Spanish army and reclaim his hereditary lands. On the one hand, while this made the authorities keen to establish planters, worry about Tyrone discouraged settlers from coming, and so made it more difficult for the undertakers to meet their commitments. Everything had to be done in such a hurry, and no attempt was made to resurvey the land the tenants would occupy. It was far quicker from everyone's point of view to just accept the Irish system of land division and although the newcomers were not Irish speaking, retain the traditional Irish place-names - which indeed remain in use to this day. Townlands were a peculiarly Irish unit of land division, their names commonly referring to some local geographical feature {6}. Parishes also retained their original names and in great part, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Civil Parishes had the same boundaries.

The 1641 uprising

In 1641, rebellion broke out again, but this occurred while the English were distracted by Civil War between Parliament and King Charles I, and consequently things went badly for the English. In the part of Ireland relevant to our story, Irish troops under Sir Phelim O'Neill and Sir Conn Magennis captured several towns, and by superior tactics defeated the Scottish general Robert Munro at the Battle of Benburb in 1642. Atrocities and counter-atrocities followed, with some settlers being killed, and others becoming discouraged and returning to England. The Plantation in Munster, initiated by Elizabeth, never recovered from this setback, but in Ulster the number of planters was to rebound after the uprising had been quelled {7}.

Cromwell's Pacification In 1649, having dealt with affairs in England and Scotland, Oliver Cromwell landed in Ireland determined to crush the rebels once and for all. This "pacification" was executed with such signal brutality that Cromwell's name remains anathema in Ireland to this day. Following the defeat of the Irish at Limerick in 1650, the estates of the rebels were confiscated and used by Cromwell to pay off his army. As to the indigenous Irish, they were to be driven out … in Cromwell's phrase, sent "to Hell or to Connacht." Of special relevance to us, is the land he seized in the Barony of Lower Iveagh and awarded to troops serving under Colonel John Barrett. This land included the Parish of Donaghcloney. [Domhnach Cluana "Church of the Meadow." Alpheus Harlan consistently misspelled the name as "Donnalong."] The common soldiers sold their shares to Barrett, who in turn transferred his interest to another Cromwellian officer, William Waring. It was upon the Waring estate that the Brothers settled when they arrived from England, and although we cannot establish a specific date for this, given the occurrence of their names on Quaker records, we can say it preceded 1678. Although Alpheus Harlan does not specify an exact location, my guess is that they settled in the townland of Corcreeny, which lies almost due south of Lurgan and a bit west of Waringstown. This is only a mile or two from the parish of Shankill in County Armagh where Peter Harland of Ballyblagh lived. The Parish of Donaghcloney, County Down, immediately abuts the neighboring parishes of Shankill and Seagoe in Armagh, but as I hope we have made clear, the land history on each side of the Down/Armagh border was different, with Donaghcloney only becoming 'available' to foreign settlers after 1651.

Net Population shift

There were ups and downs in the numbers of planters - a push-pull situation obtained with the numbers ebbing and flowing, but with a net gain over time. Fluctuations depended partly on the competence of the undertaker, his ability to attract settlers, and the fertility of the land; but also on those pressures existing in the location the settlers came from, tending to drive them out. For instance, the Brothers came to Ireland at a time when Quakers were being given a hard time in Durham; many Scots left home during the harassment of the Covenanters and "the Killing times" in Scotland in the late 1680s; on the other hand, the imposition in Ireland of the so-called "Black Oath" in 1639 caused discontentment among the Presbyterians and encouraged many of them to return to Scotland {8}, {9}. Economic factors played a huge part, and the Brothers were pulled, rather than pushed, leaving Lurgan when things were in fact going fairly well there …in other words. Indeed they left just prior to the rise in the general prosperity that followed the establishment of the linen industry in and around the town. Over the next two centuries the cultivation of flax and manufacture of linen were to exert a major effect on the economy of the area and the Province. [This was a side effect of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which resulted in wholesale emigration of the Huguenots, and the expulsion from France of an important class of entrepreneurs and skilled tradesmen. France's loss was Ireland's gain, and in a way, it was analogous to the expulsion of a talented segment of the population by the Third Reich.]

Starting about 1717, a steady trickle of people left Ulster, and gradually this increased to a torrent, which was only interrupted by the War of Independence in 1776. With numbers peaking in the early 1770s, somewhere around 200,000 folk emigrated from Ulster to the American Colonies, and it is claimed that in 1790, of the nearly half million folk in America who were of Irish stock, two-thirds derived from Ulster {10}. The egress resulted from large families and rapid growth of population in Ulster, outflow increasing when there were poor harvests or a downturn in the linen industry, and decreasing when the local economy picked up. Additional encouragement to emigrate resulted from the imposition of oppressive laws such as the Sacramental Test Act of 1704, which were aimed at Catholics and Dissenters alike.

The Scots-Irish, as American historians refer to this group, arrived in America with perhaps the perfect mind-set for an immigrant at that particular juncture in the history of a young nation. Frontiersmen were pushing their way westward from the early settlements, like that on the Delaware, which had attracted the Brothers; and the new arrivals, with their built-in "Settler Mentality," were perfectly suited to the task of opening up potentially hostile territory. In Ireland they had learned how to farm their land, while keeping an eye on the surrounding hills, alert for the descent of marauding rapparees intent on burning the barns and driving off the cattle. In addition they brought with them a tradition of political radicalism and distrust of Westminster, which influenced political affairs in the run-up to the War of Independence. Eight out of fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence were Ulstermen by birth or one generation away {11}. Emigration was to recommence after 1783, but after about 1830 the Ulster emigrants were outnumbered by Irish from other parts of the Island. As a consequence of the Irish Famine at the middle of the 19th century, it is estimated that one million people died, and a further three million left Ireland for good, many of them coming to America. Ireland was changed utterly by this depopulation. {12}

The Third Brother

Thomas Harland was the elder brother of George and Michael and had come with them from Durham. By 1687 Thomas was a married man of about 40 years of age, with a large and growing family. He had married Katherine Bullock on 7 February 1680 in the Quaker manner at the "house of Francis Robinson in the Parish of Segoe, County Armagh." His wife died in March 1690. He must have approved the decision of his brothers to go to America and may have helped finance the venture, but he himself elected to stay in Ireland rather than go to the Delaware, and perhaps his reluctance to move was dictated by his family situation. There is uncertainty concerning his date of death, but Quaker records at the Public Records Office in Northern Ireland [PRONI] list the burial of a Thomas Harland at Moyraverty Quaker Burial Ground (near Lurgan) in 1683. Quaker records are sometimes misleading as when dealing with a marriage, etc., it is not always clear who were the prime-moves and who were just witnesses. We agree with Alpheus Harlan that he remarried, and records show that a Thomas Harland did marry Alice Foster, of Lisnegarvy at Richard Boyes house, Ballinderry Meeting, County of Armagh, in 1702. They were the parents of two sons, James and Thomas, and a daughter, Abigail. There is also a 1723 reference to a Thomas Harland being given assistance by the Friends following a fire "he being too old to recoup alone," but there the trail goes cold. My own family believes we are descendants of Thomas, but there were other Harlands in the Lurgan area, and this claim, and hence our claim of connection to the Harlan Family in America, is beyond proof or disproof.

Harlands are to be found in the Lurgan area to this day, and I know that some members of the Harlan Family Association have had the opportunity to meet Jim Harland and his charming wife Lillian, who live in Lurgan. He is of particular interest, in that he must be a descendant of Thomas Harland, brother of George and Michael, since following a tradition going back over three hundred years, the family are still members of the Lurgan Quaker Meeting.

In the matter of the presence or absence of terminal "d": I always imagined that the Brothers intentionally dropped this after going to America, perhaps after meeting Huguenots who used that spelling. However, in the 17th century, the orthography was not fixed, and reflecting the level of literacy obtaining at the time, in Irish records we find the name spelled both ways - not to mention Harlen and Harlin.

The original inhabitants

We have already outlined what in a general way the fate of the Irish peasants, but what of the owners of the Parish of Donaghcloney and the land upon which the Brothers settled? The Magennis family were the hereditary territorial lords of Iveagh, County Down, and like many of the great Irish septs took advantage of the English policy of "surrender and re-grant" following the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603. In the early 17th century, the land was parceled out to individual members of the Magennis family, but in many cases by the time of the 1641 rebellion, the recipients had sold their interest to others, including English and Scots settlers. I am told that Donaghcloney was owned by a cousin of Sir Arthur Magennis, who had been created Viscount Iveagh by King James I in 1623. This chap must have backed the wrong horse in the rebellion of 1641 since Donaghcloney was confiscated by Cromwell in 1651 [Dr. Eoin Magennis: Personal communication] {13}.

The details are a bit uncertain, but after the defeat of James II in 1691, if not earlier, the hereditary leaders of the Clan Magennis left Ireland, along with thousands of other "Wild Geese" {14}, {15}, {16}. [The term "Wild Geese" was originally applied to Irish soldiers who left the country in 1691 with Patrick Sarsfield, but is now commonly applied to those who preceded and followed them. For whatever reason, professional soldiering has had great appeal to the Irish. During the 18th and 19th centuries the British Army was heavily dependent on recruitment in Ireland, but significant numbers of Irishmen served in various continental armies. The tradition goes back to the Irish Regiment, "Tercio Irlanda," fighting in Flanders for Spain in the reign of Elizabeth, and extends to, by some estimates, 200,000 men who fought in Irish Regiments of the French army, between 1692 to 1792. Following the Treaty of Rijswijk in 1697, some of the French regiments were disbanded; those demobilized sought employment as professional soldiers in other countries. Brian, second Baron Iveagh, was killed in 1703 while fighting in the Austrian service against the Turks. His brother Roger, third Baron, was killed in 1709, and judging by the date this happened at the Battle of Malplaquet. The hereditary title was resuscitated in 1891, when Sir Edward C. Guinness became Baron of Iveagh in 1891.]


This overarches everything, and our story can only be viewed in the context of the religious turmoil that characterized the 17th and 18th centuries. Looking back from a more secular age, we find it almost inconceivable that folk of that day could become so obsessed with doctrinal minutiae, as to cause them to behave towards each other in the way they did - acting in an extremely unchristian manner towards those with whom they disagreed, and not being loath to take up arms and slay anyone who did not support their particular theological perspective. However, these sectarian differences were the engine driving many of the events we will be discussing, and I will try in as unbiased a fashion as possible, to outline in a few paragraphs the religious background of the mid-17th Century, as it affects the Brothers' story. The historical record is far from tidy and it is impossible to list and analyze the interrelationships of all the denominations that arose in a period of intense spiritual hunger and intellectual ferment, but here are the main points.


The Roman Catholic church was the spiritual ancestor of all the other Christian sects that feature in the story. In the 16th century, Martin Luther and Henry VIII had, for quite different reasons, broken with the Papal authorities. In England, the Church of England, at whose head stood the Monarch, was the official state religion, but in 1603, at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the "Old Religion" was far from extirpated in England, and the Church's position correspondingly far from secure. Upon his accession in 1603, James I was inclined to be tolerant, but the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 permanently hardened his attitude, and the adherents of the Old Religion and especially its priests were extremely roughly handled. In England, by 1687, oppressive measures had been successful in reducing Catholics to a minority position, but in Ireland, the people had no reason to acknowledge a new religious leader, and both peasants (Old Irish) and landowners (Old English) stubbornly clung to their Catholic faith. Irish Catholics had been oppressed from Tudor times, but things got much worse following the uprising of 1641, and following the Willamette wars fifty years later, a succession of brutally oppressive and unjust Penal Laws made their lot nearly impossible. This is not the forum to discuss injustices inflicted prior to and during the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, but suffice it to say that they generated resentments that reverberate to the present day.

Church of England and Church of Ireland

These were the "Established" state religions, and the significant aspect of this as it affects our story, was the Church's authority to extract "tithes" from the citizens in each parish. Below, we will take note the fashion in which this ecclesiastical tax impacted the Brothers.

Puritans and Presbyterians

English Puritans came to New England in 1620 and, as the Pilgrim Fathers, played an important role in the early history of America. In the homeland, the influence of the Puritan wing of the Church of England increased to the point where they gained control of Parliament, and step by step, this led to Civil War, which started in 1642 and ended with the beheading of Charles I in 1649. Following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, some Puritans remained within the Church of England, establishing the Low Church tradition within it, while others broke away to form the Presbyterian and other Protestant denominations. In Scotland, the key figure in establishment of the Presbyterian Church was John Knox, who was himself greatly influenced by Swiss Calvinism. The Scottish Presbyterians are important to our story, because they comprised the majority of the settlers involved in the colonization of Ulster. They supported the Parliamentary side in 1643, with the signing of the Covenant, but subsequently had a falling out with Cromwell. During the reign of James II, at almost exactly the time the Brothers left Ireland, the Presbyterians in Scotland were being cruelly treated by the authorities, in the person of Graham of Claverhouse - an era remembered as "the Killing Times."

The Huguenots

French Protestants, who fled the country of their birth in great numbers following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, were known as Huguenots. A significant number came to Ulster, where they contributed in large measure to the establishment of the Irish linen industry. Besides this, the army that William III brought to Ireland in 1689 included Huguenot regiments, and some chose to stay after the campaign in Ireland. However, because the Brothers departed Ireland in 1687, my guess is that they had scant contact with Huguenots during their sojourn in Lurgan, although they undoubtedly met numerous French Emigres following their move to Pennsylvania.

The Society of Friends

George and Michael Harlan were members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, and since this particular Christian sect has special significance in the story of the Harlan Family, we will consider it in some detail. The movement was founded by George Fox (1624-91), and at the time of its inception, it was just one among many dissenting sects of the day, like the Diggers, Seekers, Ranters, Muggletonians, etc., all of which are today just footnotes in the history of religion. Although it never numbered a huge number of adherents, Quakerism influenced society and events in 17th and 18th centuries in Britain and in the early history of the American colonies, far out of proportion to the size of the denomination. A period of very active proselytizing followed the movement's foundation in 1647, with preachers spreading the word in England and Ireland, and traveling to Germany, the Netherlands and the American Colonies. William Edmundson convened the very first Quaker meeting in Ireland in Lurgan in 1655. He was known as "The Great Hammer of Ireland," a remarkably muscular nickname for a peace-loving Quaker, but one which reflected his temperament and military background. Edmundson had served in the Cromwellian army, and went on to achieve fame in Ireland and beyond, as a preacher in his own right, and had much to do with the establishment of Quakerism in North Carolina. It is reasonable to ascribe, at least in part, the Harlans' specific choice of the Lurgan area as the place to settle, to their awareness of a significant Quaker presence there.

Later on the Quaker movement, in a manner of speaking, turned in upon itself, losing its missionary zeal, ceasing to seek converts, and developing a tendency to exclusivity together with an obsession with internal discipline. In America, a series of disastrous schisms split the movement, and congregations dwindled as members drifted away to other denominations, or in the worst case were "cast out" or "disowned" when they disagreed with the elders …. often over relatively trivial matters. Things were quite different in Quakerism's early days, with the first wave of converts like the Harlan brothers being much more outward looking, and engaging in enthusiastic proselytizing. Paradoxically, this period of exponential growth was also the era in which the Friends were obliged to endure the most vicious persecution. In England, Quakers were the target of a series of oppressive legislative measures passed between 1662 and 1665, including the Quaker Act, the Five-Mile Act, the Test Act, and the Conventicle Acts, and it is said that more than 300 Friends died in jail, and 200 were transported as slaves to the West Indies. It was not until 1689 that these oppressive laws were repealed with the passage of the Toleration Act, but in the meantime many Quakers had been severely mistreated. Nor was persecution limited to England. In America, the Puritan authorities of Massachusetts found their beliefs and practices were particularly objectionable, and in 1659 they went so far as to hang four Quakers on Boston Common.

Principle is one thing, and money is another, and from the authorities point of view, failure of the Quakers to pay tithes was the last straw. "Tithes", nominally a tenth of income, can be thought of as a church tax, and were the main source of income for the Established Church. As non-Anglicans, Quakers regarded tithing as a rank injustice, and by refusing to pay up, laid themselves open to prosecution. Because of inertia, folk tend to resign themselves to this sort of injustice, but when pushed beyond a certain point, like the Israelites departing the land of Egypt, they decide to vote with their feet. Those offenders lucky enough to escape jail had crops or property forcibly seized in lieu of payment, and opposition to tithing was undoubtedly explains why many early Quakers pulled up stakes and headed for greener pastures. This process sometimes involved a series of such removes, and the Brothers' peregrinations fit this pattern. As it happens in their case, we can back this up with a contemporary news item:

"In 1680, George Harland, of County Down had taken from him in Tithe, by Daniel MacConnell, twelve stooks and a half of oats, three stooks and a half of barley, and five loads of hay, all worth ten shillings and ten pence"{17}.

Quakers believed in plain speech and plain dress; titles were not used nor hats doffed as a token of respect; they addressed each other as "thee" and "thou" instead of "you"; and the Quaker gray of their clothing, unadorned by lapels or fancy buttons, together with the flat hat, made the Quaker recognizable from afar. Denied careers in the military, academic or professional world, they gravitated into business and manufacturing, where because of abstemious life style, willingness to work long hours, refusal to haggle, and punctiliousness about keeping their word and meeting their obligations, many achieved considerable financial success.

In America, the story of the Friends is inextricably bound with the foundation of Pennsylvania and the career of Sir William Penn, the Younger. His father Admiral Sir William Penn (1621-1670) was a professional naval officer, who not only contrived to survive the political pitfalls which beset his Navy colleagues during the Commonwealth period, but became involved with the Restoration of 1660, and the return of Charles II to the throne of England. While superintending the family estates in Ireland, his son William Penn (1644-1718) became a Quaker. He proselytized actively there, and it is not inconceivable that the Harlans would have heard him preach in Lurgan.

Admiral Penn had loaned 12,000 pounds to King Charles at a juncture when the latter was in financial straits, and in 1681 to settle this obligation, Penn's son persuaded the King to grant him a tract of land west of the Delaware River, 40,000 square-miles in extent, roughly speaking, modern Pennsylvania and Delaware. The grant abutted lands granted to the Duke of York (now New York and New Jersey), and those granted to Lord Baltimore (now Maryland).

Penn's plan was to found a colony based on Quaker principles, a "Holy Experiment" as he called it, and starting in 1681 broadsheets promoting the venture were distributed widely at Quaker meetings in Ireland, prompting a trickle of pioneers set off to the New World. A.C. Myers {18}, suggests that in the next few years there was considerable interaction between the Colony and Ireland, people going back and forth, and letters from the pioneers, describing their life in America, being passed from hand to hand at the Quaker Meetings. Thus the members of the Lurgan Meeting all knew of the Colony, and it is not difficult to see how George and Michael Harlan became persuaded that their future lay across the ocean. Some Irish Quakers went out to the Colony as indentured servants, but the Brothers had enough money to purchase land before they left Ireland. As relatively early arrivals, they settled in the eastern part of the territory, near where New Castle, Delaware, now stands, ultimately purchasing land on Brandywine Creek. Quaker dominance in the affairs of Pennsylvania was to continue until the latter half of the 18th Century, when during the Indian Wars and the subsequent War of Independence, their unwillingness to bear arms brought them into conflict with the spirit of the times. As a footnote, James Logan (1674-1751), a giant figure in the history of Pennsylvania Quakerism, was born and brought up in Lurgan, and would have been 13 years of age at the time when the Brothers sailed for America. Logan looked back with little pleasure to his days in Lurgan, but we can be sure he, both in Ireland and America, would have known the Brothers.

Later Irish History

The Brothers left for America in 1687, and while Irish history subsequent to that date is of less significance to the Harlan Family in America, than that which preceded it, it is worth tying up some loose ends and summarizing what happened over the next years. In 1688, the English Parliament lost patience with the Catholic sympathies of James II, and in what is known as the Glorious Revolution, invited his son-in-law William, Prince of Orange, to assume the crown as William III. An outstanding account of the events which led up to this is offered by John Carswell {19}. In 1689, following the flight of James II to Ireland and his raising an army there, William III arrived with his own forces, and went on to defeat the Jacobites in a series of engagements of which the most celebrated was the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. At different times during the campaign, both opposing armies passed through Lurgan, seriously disrupting the affairs of the inhabitants, so from that point of view the timing of the Brothers' departure was impeccable. It should be underlined that although Ireland was the focus of Europe in those immediate years, the military battles there were mere skirmishes when viewed as part of a much wider conflict. The War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697) pitted France against England and several other countries, and included many theaters of war and fighting in many places around the world, including what is now Nova Scotia and New York State. It ended with the Peace of Rijswick in 1697, and a century of relative tranquility (by Irish standards) followed. Discontent continued to simmer, eventually resulting in Rebellion of the United Irishmen in 1798. This was an important event in Irish history, but one that is beyond the scope of our study.

To summarize our story: George and Michael, who founded the Harlan dynasty in the United States, spent a few years in Ireland, and we have tried to cast some light for their reasons for leaving England, explain their choice of location in Ireland, and then consider what drew them to America. In the process we have attempted to show how these peregrinations fitted in to the big picture and what was going on in the wider world in which they lived.


This note could not have been put together without the kind assistance of several people. Dr. Robin Harland, my brother who lives in Belfast, drove us round the Lurgan area to get an idea of the area in which the Brothers lived. Among others who helped were Dr. John McCavitt, Dr. Eoin Magennis, Arthur G. Chapman, Prof. Gerry Stockman, and Sean McCartan. Besides his book on the Flight of the Earls, Dr. McCavitt wrote the article on Sir Arthur Chichester in the recently published Oxford University Press Dictionary of National Biography. He was very generous with his time and expertise, and kept me straight on several important points. Dr. Magennis, historian and topographer at the Centre for Cross-Border Studies, Armagh, is another contributor to the DNB, being responsible for eight articles dealing with figures important in Irish ecclesiastical history and topography. Arthur Chapman was a former Principal of The Friends School, Lisburn, and an expert on the history of Quakerism in Ireland. Dr. Gerard Stockman is Professor Emeritus of Celtic Languages at Queen's University Belfast, and General Editor of the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project. Sean McCartan is a professional genealogist with a special interest in the history of Kinelarty in North Down and the story of the McCartan clan.


{1}. John E. Wills' 1688: A Global History, Granta Books, London, 2001. ISBN 1-86207-482-8

{2}. Winston Graham: The Spanish Armadas, New York, 1972

{3}. The four-hundredth anniversary of this event will soon be upon us. For a careful analysis of the story, we highly recommend Dr. John McCavitt's highly readable monograph, The Flight of the Earls, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, 2002. ISBN: 0717130479, and see also Dr. McCavitt's website at:

{4}. The Ulster Plantation (1605 - 1697) by Gwen Rawlings-Barry

{5}. Antonia Fraser: The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605, London, 1996.

{6}. Place-Names of Northern Ireland. Vols. 1�9. General Editor Gerard Stockman. The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, Dept. of Celtic Studies, the Queen's University of Belfast. 1996



{9}. Raymond Gillespie: Colonial Ulster: the settlement of East Ulster, 1600-1641, Cork, 1985

{10}. See:





{15}. The Honourable Society of the Irish Brigade

{16}. Mark G. McLaughlin: The Wild Geese, London, 1980

{17}. William Stockdale: A Great Cry of Oppression, [cited by A. C. Myers: Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania 1682-1750 , p. 321]

{18}. A. C. Myers, Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750, 1902

{19}. John Carswell: The Descent on England: A Study of the Engish Revolution of 1688 and its Background, New York, 1969.