Isaiah McNeese ca 1677

Isaiah McNeese was not the first McNeese immigrant to come to America, but we know more about him and his family than any other McNeese line.  He was born ca. 1677 in Ireland and had lived in the Cootehill, County Cavan area for twenty years prior to 1736. He was a Quaker, which may have been the reason for leaving Ireland.  During this era Quakers were being persecuted in Europe.   Sometime after March 21, 1736, the 59 year old Isaiah and his family embarked on a ship for America.  His wife had died before 1736, some researchers think her name may have been Lydia.  We know he was accompanied on the voyage by at least five sons John, James, William, Samuel and Henry.  They arrived in America before July 24th of the same year.  From the records of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting  "Isaiah McNice, widower, with a large family, who hath lived 'within the compass of our meeting these Twenty years.' From the Meeting in Cootehill, County Cavan, Ireland, dated 2 Mo. 21, 1736.  Received 7 Mo. 24, 1736."1   It was the custom that Quakers would ask for a Certificate of Removal from a Monthly Meeting prior to leaving an area, and would present it to the Monthly Meeting of their destination upon arrival.

One can only imagine how terrible the trip at sea could have been, and the conditions they had to endure.  Familes had to take all their possessions, but was limited to the amount they could take. They either took the food they ate on the passage or paid for it in their passage.  In Albert Cook Meyers book Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750 we get a glimpse of the voyage "The principle ports whence the Irish emigrants embarked for Pennsylvania were Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Waterford.  Frequently vessels were sailing directly from the Irish ports, but more often passage was taken in vessels which had sailed from Whitehaven, Liverpool, or Bristol, in England, and which touched the Irish ports for passengers and cargo.  Philadelphia was the principal port of entry, but many settlers landed at New Castle, on the Delaware, and some few at points in Maryland and Virginia.....The voyage was a long and trying one, especially so when attended by rough weather.  the length of the passage varied all the way from six weeks to three months.  Vessels were often driven far out of the course by contrary winds and carried as far south as the West Indies.  Dangerous diseases, such as small-pox, were of frequent occurrence, and many passengers died at sea."2   The cost of the passage would vary according to time.  We do know in 1725, the cost was of the passage was about £9., and one would   imagine when Isaiah and his family came over in 1736 it was a little higher.   It frequently happened that emigrants would sell themselves into temporary servitude (usually for four years) to pay for the passage.  This could be arranged by contracting with a family prior to departure or with the shipmaster.  Upon arrival the Captain would sell the servitude.  Since Isaiah was 59 at the time, it is unlikely he came in this manner.  We do know again from Meyers "... And, 7 Mo. 24, 1736 'A Certificate from the Mens Meeting at Coote Hill in Ireland dated the 21st Second Month 1736 on behalf of Isaac [Isaiah} McNiece who intends to settle in this City was read and well received, the Meeting being apprised that he labours under some Difficulty to raise Money to pay his passage Consent to lend four Pounds which Sum John Jones is directed to let him have and take his Obligation payable in twelve Months."3    Note, it only mentions Isaiah but none of his sons.  Did they have the money to pay their own passage?  Did they enter into servitude?  If they had the money for their passage, would they not have assisted their father?

We do not know much about Isaiah after Philadephia nor when he died, but think he moved to Caroline County, Maryland sometime prior to 1755.  It is believed that most of the McNeese's in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee came from Isaiah.

1 Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania, 1682-1750 by Albert Cook Meyers - published in 1902. This book is an excellent soure and is available from Willow Bend Books. Ibid Ibid