James Murray and the Argyll Colony

These Scottish dancers at Flora McDonald College in Robeson County are one example of the lasting impact of Argyll Colony on the culture of the lower Cape Fear region. Image from the State Archives

On November 10, 1739, Wilmington merchant James Murray wrote his friend Henry McCulloh about the promising prospect for settlement by Scots in the upper Cape Fear region. Murray himself had been in America for only four years and wished to see his fellow Scots populate the backcountry.

James Murray. Image from Archive.org.The lands that Murray promoted became the Argyll Colony. That name is best known today for a knitted sock pattern but originates from a county in western Scotland. In 1740, five leaders of the colony petitioned the Assembly for an exemption from taxes in order that their numbers might flourish.

The new immigrants became the vanguard for a wave of settlers and, by the 1770s, Highland Scots comprised about a third of the population of the Cape Fear region. The lower Cape Fear area became known as the “Valley of the Scots.”

Murray was an ally of colonial governor Gabriel Johnston, also a Scot. He kept his home at “Point Repose” north of Wilmington and grew rice and indigo on his land. Among North Carolina’s leading Loyalists, Murray went into exile in Nova Scotia after the Revolutionary War and died there in 1781.

Learn more about the impact of Scottish settlers in North Carolina on NCpedia.

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