Scots

 

Their Own Stories: Stories From Middletown’s Melting Pot

scotsElizabeth Craig’s husband James left their Scottish village of Kilmarnock in 1851, setting sail on the ship Vanguard for the voyage to America. A stoneworker, 20-year-old James Craig was bound for Middletown to work in the brownstone quarries just across the river in Portland. Elizabeth had given birth to their first child a few weeks earlier. James promised to send money home soon so that his wife and child could soon follow him.

A year later, Elizabeth Craig and her toddler son John arrived in Middletown. At first, the family lived in the city’s North End. James quarried stone in Portland until he was able to establish his own prosperous business, carving cemetery monuments.

The Craigs were part of a small community of Scots in Middletown. Most had been drawn here by jobs in the brownstone quarries, whose owners actively recruited Scottish workers for their reputations as steady, sober, and hardworking. Little prejudice met them here; in fact, when the Scottish immigrants began to raise money to build the Evangelical Union Church in 1855, many of the contributors were townspeople who were neither Scottish nor church members.

Many Scottish families rapidly advanced into respected careers and social positions. James and Elizabeth Craig’s son James became a physician; their son George, a banker. James Inglis of Glasgow, Scotland arrived in Middletown as a boy in 1852 with his father, a stonemason. The young Inglis enlisted as a Civil War soldier when only 16 years old and later became superintendent of the alarm system for Middletown’s banks. Inglis married another Scottish immigrant, Lillia Innes, and the couple’s three daughters and one son all attended college.

Although the Scottish immigrants established their own church here, it was short-lived, closing in 1869. The community was small, and many of the immigrants had quickly assimilated, joining established Congregational churches. In fact, unlike immigrants from other countries, the Scots did little to hold themselves apart as a separate group, instead immersing themselves in the culture of their new country.


Brownstone Quarries, Portland, CT

James Craig’s family home stood in the small town of Kilmarnock, Scotland near the quarry where he learned to be a stonecutter.
brownstone-quarries
About 1850, the brownstone quarries in Portland, Connecticut, just entering their heyday, advertised in Scotland for experienced stone masons of “strictly temperate and Christian habits.” Craig and many other Scots answered the call, coming to Middletown and working as skilled laborers in the three thriving Portland quarries.


James Craig, Elizabeth Arbuckle Craig, children George and Jean Craig, c. 1863
Courtesy of Jean Craig Brooks

The Craigs quickly established themselves in their new country. At first, they lived in the immigrant neighborhood around Ferry Street, later moving to Portland for a few years.

Before long, James Craig was able to open his own successful establishment in Middletown, carving cemetery monuments of brownstone, marble, and granite. Many of the elaborately carved monuments in Middletown’s Indian Hill Cemetery are his work.

The family increased steadily, and the Craigs moved to a home on Hubbard Street. In 1868 Elizabeth died giving birth to her 10th child. A year later, James married another Scottish immigrant, Mary Hamilton Phillips.


Oak Box owned by Elizabeth Craig
Courtesy of Craig Mansfield Brooks

egg-box-owned-by-elizabeth-craigIn 1852, Elizabeth Arbuckle Craig and her one-year-old son stepped aboard a ship bound for America, bringing a large wooden trunk packed with their belongings. They included a heavy blanket made from Scottish wool, from Elizabeth’s family.

Elizabeth also carried an oak box containing fresh eggs that she was able to cook on shipboard for her son John.


Their Own Stories: Voices From Middletown’s Melting Pot – Index

Introduction Wangunks English Africans
Scots Irish Germans Swedes
Poles Jews Greeks Italians