Over a million descendants of Scottish Highlanders live in North Carolina today. More than in Scotland itself. So maintains festival promoter Allen McDavid, the creative force behind the Carolina Caledonian Fest that will take place Oct. 28-30 at Lu Mil Vineyard in Dublin. Says McDavid, “It’s unfortunate that most of those descendants know little about their ancestral heritage.” He readily admits that only a few years back he was one of them. He continues, “I knew that my mother’s family were full of Campbells, but that was about it.” Turns out, that his Campbells are traced back to a Duncan Campbell who came to North Carolina in 1734.
Around 2006 McDavid decided that he would take on the role of being his generation’s family genealogist. He had been given quite a bit of information regarding his father’s ancestors, but little to nothing about his mom’s. Fortunately, with help from official documents uploaded to the Internet, along with websites like Ancestry.com, he was able to make fast progress filling in the blanks. Along the way he learned of the Argyll Colony, the largest and most significant settlement of Highland Scots in America. Duncan Campbell was among the original 350 Scots who formed the colony in 1739 along the banks of the Cape Fear River in Bladen County. They also founded the towns of Campbellton and Cross Creek which later merged to form Fayetteville.
In discussing the Argyll Colony McDavid is quick to point out the difference between Highlanders and other Scots, like “Lowlanders” and “Scots-Irish.” McDavid says, “The Highlanders were not only ethnically different, they spoke a different language, Gaelic.” And, according to McDavid, “Bladen County is the most appropriate location for a Highland festival in NC, not the mountains. The Germans and Scots-Irish settled the southern Appalachians.” Bladen County, also known as the “Mother County” originally included the territory that now makes up Cumberland, Robeson, Scotland, Moore, Hoke, Harnett and Lee Counties. Most of the Argyll Colony’s living descendants live in those counties.
“Outlander”, a popular TV series on Starz Network includes the Argyll Colony in its storyline. McDavid encourages anyone interested in the history of the Highlanders and the reasons so many came to America should tune in to the show which is based on a book series by Diana Gabaldon. He also encourages them to come out to the Carolina Caledonian Fest.
Why Lu Mil Vineyard?
During the days of the Argyll Colony, Bladen County (the “Mother County” and home to Lu Mil Vineyard) included the Cross Creek settlement within its borders. Now that portion of Bladen County is a part of Cumberland County. So, it’s only fitting that Bladen County play host to the festival. The vineyard thrives with acres of bountiful fields overflowing with lush Muscadine grape vines adjoining rolling hills covered by green lawns and beautiful pines. Situated just outside the little town of Dublin (We know, but it’s still Celtic), Lu Mil Vineyard is a virtual paradise: The perfect location for a Scottish festival.
McDavid thinks that the three-day festival will draw participants from several states away and attendees from at least a 100-mile radius, many who will spend at least one night in the area. “We want to have a positive cultural and economic impact on Bladen County and the surrounding area for years to come,” says McDavid.