Credit: Ralf Hettler/E+

Historical Insights Scots-Irish Immigration in the 1700s

Though originally from South America, Irish immigrants introduced the potato to the American colonies. 1835, USA. Credit: Ralf Hettler/E+

Scots-Irish Immigration in the 1700s

In hopes of breathing new life into their faith, hundreds of thousands of Irish, mostly of Scottish origin, voyaged to the New World in the 1700s.

Lured to the New World by a promise of cheap land and a fresh start, Irish immigrants began arriving in droves starting in 1718. Mostly Presbyterians originally from Scotland, they had faced discrimination in Ireland along with skyrocketing rents. With the purpose of reviving their religious community abroad, the first group of 700 landed in Boston in 1718. By the decade’s end, 2,600 more had arrived in New England alone. Others sailed to the mid-Atlantic, landing in Virginia and spreading out across the Carolinas. Though some entered their new life as indentured servants, the majority of Scots-Irish were farmers who settled with their families in tight-knit communities along the western frontiers. Though life was more challenging than many had expected—Native American attacks and extreme weather characterized the daily grind—they continued to immigrate. On the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, more than 250,000 Scots-Irish called the New World home.