(Excerpt taken from a letter compiled by Robert Kenneth Davidson in 1933.
The purpose of this record is not to trace the family far back into the Middle Ages to Discover ancestors from royalty or nobility. It deals only with the American history of the family, from the time it came to this country, shortly after 1790, down to the present. The first we know of our ancestors they were a Scot-Irish family living in County Down, Ireland, A northern county near Belfast. They were Protestants, probably Presbyterians. Aside from this we know nothing of them and never will, unless some member of the family becomes ambitious enough to go to Ireland and Trace them there. A brief history of the Scot-Irish may be of interest, as it will show what the old DAVIDSONs probably did, or might have done, before the time that we really know what they did. At the dawn of Scottish History there was a Clan Davidson living in the Highlands of Scotland, sufficiently important to have its own plaid, or tartan, that is a peculiar pattern of colors woven into the cloth out of which the members of the family made certain of they clothing. A member of the DAVIDSON Clan was distinguished from the members of other clan by the color and pattern of his tartan. The Clan Book, which can be found in any large library, contains illustrations of the DAVIDSON tartan. The Scot-Highlands is a very poor country and in very early days it was bothered by bloody clan wars, in which many whole families sometimes were wiped out. About 1400 there is said to have been a bloody battle between the Davidsons and the McPhersons, in which the Davidsons were the losers. Living conditions in the Highlands were very harsh and poor, and for that reason there has always been a heavy emigration from the Highlands to Northern Ireland, a more fertile if not a more peaceful country. Between 1620 and 1680 the emigration from Scotland to Ireland was unusually heavy. This was the time when the Stuarts were the rulers of all Great Britain, but were struggling with the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell. The Stuarts persecuted the Presbyterians of Scotland, especially the Covananters, who were very strict Presbyterians, and many fled to Ireland to escape this persecution. Cromwell then came to power. He favored the Presbyterians but encouraged them to settle in Ireland because they would support his party better than the Catholic natives. Then Cromwell's party fell and the Stuarts returned. During all this period of civil war and revolution, thousands of the Scots moved to Ireland, especially Ulster, the northern part, which today is more Scot than Irish, but about 1700 new laws were passed which injured them almost as much as the native Irish. The Irish-Catholics were too poor and too harshly held down by the law to help themselves, but the Scotch-Irish still possessed a little money and propertywhich they had acquired during the earlier laws favoring them, and they could leave the country. Thousands of them came to America during this early depression, beginning to come about 1720, and many went to the colony of Pennsylvania. English law at that time provided that when a man died all of his land should go to his "nearest male relative." if he had sons, this land went to the oldest son. The youngest sons and the daughters divided the money and what was left of the personal property after the debts were paid. Most people were farmers at that time. Farmers seldom possess a large amount of money and at that time they were too poor to have much live stock or other personal property. Moreover, the debts of the estate were paid very largely out of the personal property. The oldest son was thus a very favored individual, and the younger sons and the daughters were left out in the cold. The daughters remedied this by marrying. The plight of the younger son was harder. A younger son could remain at home and become a dependent on his oldest brother. Not a very attractive prospect for a young man of ambition. He could enter a trade, but in Ireland there was very little trade and such as there was almost all in the hands of English, who were determined to keep it there. There were factories. linen weaving was about the only form of manufacturing in Northern Ireland, and that trade was crowded. Only a few young men could afford the education to become ministers, doctors, or lawyers. There were the Army and Navy, but during the 18th Century no self-respecting young man would willingly serve as a private in either, and commissions for officers had to be bought. The buck private and the common sailor had a pretty hard life. Recruits had to be obtained by various semi-legal forms of kidnapping. About all that the average younger son could do was to emigrate. It is interesting to notice that in the Davidson family it was only the younger sons and the daughter who left Ireland to come to America. The passage across the sea was frightful. It took weeks, sometimes months, to cross the Atlantic. There were no laws protecting immigrates, and grasping shipowners overcrowded the ships so that privacy was impossible. The food was often condemned army stores, and when the British Army in the 18th Century condemned food as unfit for its soldiers, the food was terrible. If the voyage was delayed by storms the food often ran out and the immigrants starved. Sanitary measures were extremely primitive. Disease often broke out on the ships; in a few instances as many as three-fourths of the passengers died on the ocean. It was indeed a brave soul who came to America as an immigrant in 1793, and we must admire Mary Dunlap Davidson,who came to America then with at least four children, the youngest eleven years old. When the immigrant landed he was desperately poor. He probably had little enough to start with, for after the fortunate oldest son, who seldom emigrated, had taken all his father's land, there was little enough for the younger sons and the daughters. The fares to America were exorbitant, and then a few shipowners hired swindlers and blackguards to fleece the passengers out of the little money they had left. In 1793, when the Davidsons first came to America, George Washington was president of the United States. The Revolutionary War had been over only ten years. The United States consisted only of the country between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River, excluding Florida. The settled part of the country was between the ocean and the mountains. West of the mountains was a howling wilderness of dense forests, but Western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee were filling up rapidly. Pittsburgh was a tiny backwoods trading post. There were no other towns for hundreds of miles. Yet, because he had so little money the Scot-Irish immigrant seldom stayed near the East Coast, where prices were fairly high, but pushed across the mountains where there were few settlements and land could be bought on a very long-term contracts. The Andrew Davidson farm was bought on contract February 23, 1797, from the Pennsylvania population Company. He received the deed September 27, 1836, nearly 40 years later. Even with the cheap land and the long period for making payments, many settlers failed and lost their land. During hard times the Pennsylvania population Company brought suits to forfeit many contracts, and when the cases came to trial the neighbors gathered in the Court Room and booed, threatening to riot. So far as we know, none of the Davidsons lost his farm in those early days, but doubtless they all had their difficulties and sympathized with their less fortunate neighbors. When the Davidsons settled was then in Beaver County, thought it is now Lawrence county. Bears and rattlesnakes are said to have been seen there for many years after 1800, though there were probably no Indians by that time. The country is hilly and was heavily timbered then. Every farm had to be cleared before it was tillable, a slow, backbreaking process without dynamite or tractors. Often it was years before an entire farm had been brought to plow. A low standard of living had to be adopted because the settlers had no money and were generally in debt for their farms. The roads were very poor and the freight charges on luxuries prohibitive. The quickest means of travel was by water. There were no churches or schools, and these had to be created with very little money to pay for them and for salaries of ministers and teachers. Compulsory education paid for by the taxpayers did not exist in Pennsylvania for years, and children of the pioneers, especially the older ones, received little schooling. The Scot-Irish were usually Presbyterians or Methodist. The Davidsons divided between the two churches. A new country always contains a large rough, lawless element, and Western Pennsylvania was no exception. Drunkenness, gambling and brawling were frequent in the settlements, and the whole frontier had a bad reputation for crimes of violence. The Whiskey Rebellion occurred in 1797, a series of small riots by the farmers about Pittsburgh to prevent the Federal Government from taxing their private stills. The law-abiding people, to protect themselves and to prevent their children from mingling with the lawless crowd, adopted very strict Puritanical views on religion and morals, and the strict upbringing which the older members of the Davidson Family received was due to this cause. This historical background may assist in understanding the known facts of the early family history.