Thistle

House  of  Lynn

Thistle

Margaret Lynn Lewis
and
"The Valley Manuscript"

Copyright 2010, 2014
Loretta Lynn Layman, Author of "Barony of Lynn", The Scottish Genealogist,

Vol. LVII No. 1, The Scottish Genealogy Society, Edinburgh (March 2010)
L
ynneage @ comcast . net

[For extensive collections of the history of Lynns, Linns, Linds, etc.
in Scotland and Ulster, see "Lynneage - the Lynns, etc." Book Excerpts]

Valley Ms - 1869

Valley Ms - 1892  

Four Points

Times-Dispatch - 1948

   

   

Conclusion

   

What Lynn of Ulster Scottish origin who seeks out his or her family's history would not be delighted with "The Valley Manuscript"?  It speaks of lochs, crags, and heather and then tells a romantic tale of 17th century Ireland and pioneer America.  Many of the events it relates are known historical events, but other of its aspects have created a good deal of controversy.  Therefore, any serious Lynn-Lewis student, historian, or genealogist would be lax if he or she failed to objectively examine that writing known as "The Valley Manuscript" ...

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The Valley Manuscript - 1869

In January 1869, a North Carolina historical magazine published "The Valley Manuscript", submitted by Fanny Fielding, who described it as being "from a collection of archives known in our household by the above title, from which I have recently begun making excerpts ..."  The article begins:

 

"The Common-Place Book of me Margaret Lewis, nee Lynn, of Loch Lynn, Scotland, being a nest for my soul's repose in the troublous time which hath befallen."

Land We Love, Vol. VI, No. III, Charlotte, NC (Jan. 1869): "The Valley Manuscript", pp. 215-29.

 

Margaret Lynn Lewis (1693-1773) was the very real wife of John Lewis, pioneer and founder of Staunton, Virginia.  The 1869 manuscript describes, first, "the bonny loch and knowes [hills] of Lynn" with its "rock-crowned summit", its "crags", and "heather".  It then describes Margaret's early life as the wife of John Lewis in Donegal, Ireland and then in Staunton, Virginia.  It was intended to be the first of three installments of Margaret's "diary", but the second and third were never published.

Included in the story are the victory of a son Andrew and the death of a son Charles in battle with Chief Cornstalk at Point Pleasant, the successful defense of Staunton against the British by no less than three grandsons, and other happenings in the lives of the Lewis family.

The Valley Manuscript - 1892

In April 1892, a West Virginia historical magazine reprinted the manuscript and, on another page, added - unsourced - that Margaret Lynn, bride of John Lewis, was:

 

"... a daughter of the Laird of Loch Lynn, who was a descendant of the chieftain of a once powerful clan in the Highlands, whose heroism is so celebrated in Scottish clan legends."

Southern Historical Magazine: Devoted to History, Genealogy, Vol. 1, No. 4, Charleston, WV (Apr. 1892): "A Monument to Colonel John Lewis", p. 30; "The Valley Manuscript", pp. 227-40.

 

Unfortunately, no Clan Lynn or Linn, etc. is found in any reputable published list or history of Scottish clans.*  Furthermore, the only Scottish legends of Lynns relate to persons who lived not in the Highlands of Scotland, but in the Lowlands: (1) The Ballad of Tam Linn, which concerns a young man, a maiden, and the Queen of Fairies and is set in Selkirkshire; (2) The Heir of Linne, a morality poem about another young man, who squandered his fortune, which poem is set in the neighboring Lowland counties of Dumfriesshire and Peeblesshire but is often attributed to Ayrshire, which nevertheless is also in the Lowlands; and (3) The Wraith of Lord Lyne, a folk tale about a mother's premonition of the accidental drowning death of her son in Ayrshire.

 

E.g.:

Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland, C. Thomas Cairney and C. Thomas Cairney, Ph.D., McFarland & Company, Inc., North Carolina (1989)

The Highland Clans: the Dynastic Origins, Chiefs, and Background of the Clans and of Some Other Families Connected with Highland History, Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk and David Hicks, Bramhall House, New York (1977)

Historical Geography of the Clans of Scotland, Thomas Brumby Johnston, F.R.G.S., F.R.S.E. & F.S.A.S., and Colonel James A. Robertson, F.S.A.S., W. & A. K. Johnston, Edinburgh and London (1872)

The History of Scotland - Its Highlands, Regiments and Clans, James Browne, LL.D., Francis A. Niccolls & Co., Edinburgh, London, and Boston (1909)

Sketches of the Clans of Scotland, Clansmen J.M.P. - F.W.S., MacLachlan & Stewart, Edinburgh (1884)

The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Johnston and Bacon, Edinburgh (1971)

 

While some Lynns of Scotland were lairds, Scottish law provided that titles referencing a property always referred to the land itself, and not to any body of water incident thereto.  Furthermore, none of the three properties which Lynns held as lairds included a loch at all.  So what of "The Valley Manuscript" itself?

Four Points

First and foremost in any assessment of a manuscript's authenticity is the identity of its author.  The writer of "The Valley Manuscript" is no descendant publishing her ancestor's memoirs, but she cleverly gives the impression that she is by describing her manuscript as being "from a collection of archives known in our household ..."   To the contrary, Fanny Fielding was a pseudonym of Mary Jane Stith Upshur, a 19th-century author of poetry and prose who submitted manuscripts to numerous southern literary magazines, at times under other pseudonyms and at times anonymously.  One of her anonymous works is a novel entitled "Confederate Notes".

Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, New York (1889) - Vol. 6, pp. 214, 733

Dictionary of American Biography, Francis S. Drake, Boston (1879) - p. vii

Living Female Writers of the South, Edit. Author of "Southland Writers", Philadelphia (1872) - pp. 416-19

Southland Writers, Ida Raymond, Philadelphia (1870) - Vol. 2, pp. 799-805

Second, apart from Upshur's manuscript, there is no historical record of Margaret Lynn Lewis ever having a daughter named Alice and none of a daughter being abducted by Indians.  This of course excludes items which merely repeat Upshur.

Bogus Portrait Supplements Old 'Valley Manuscript' Hoax, Elizabeth C. Grasty, Richmond VA, Richmond Times-Dispatch (15 Feb. 1948)

Third and Fourth, Margaret Lynn Lewis died a year before her sons Andrew and Charles fought at the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant; and she was seven years in the grave when her grandsons defended Staunton from the British near the close of the Revolutionary War.  She simply could not have written about either of those events.

Bogus Portrait , Ibid.

These four points and additional commentary were published sixty-three years before the publication of this page.  That was seventy-nine years after the original publication of "The Valley Manuscript".

The Richmond Times-Dispatch - 1948

In February 1948, a Virginia newspaper published an article entitled "Bogus Portrait Supplements Old 'Valley Manuscript' Hoax".  The article includes the following criticism by Judge Lunsford L. Lewis, a direct descendant of Margaret (Lynn) Lewis:

 

"[The manuscript] is pure fiction; its spuriousness is apparent on its face, yet very many persons have been deceived by it."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, 15 Feb. 1948

 

"Bogus Portrait Supplements 'Old Valley Manuscript' Hoax"

Note: The amount of text on and physical size of these pages result necessarily in very large image file sizes. If you are unable to open or download them, we will be happy to email .jpg files, free of charge, upon request to Lynneage @ h-o-l.com.

Article page 1
page 1 cont'd
and page 2

Transcript by Neal Underwood: http://home.comcast.net/~neal4/lynnrcht.txt

This article also briefly mentions an earlier critique which describes the manuscript as "a very good short historical novel ... or ... if you will ... one of the cleverest pieces of forgery I know of."  That critique appeared seventy-one years after the first publication of the manuscript and seventy-one years before this page.

   

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Conclusion

"The Valley Manuscript" is a very romantic, but fictionalized account which deceivingly embellishes history with pure fantasy and, thereby, leads astray many Lynn genealogists in search of Scottish ancestors.  "The Richmond Times-Dispatch" expose of the manuscript reveals the story's lack of credibility more thoroughly than does this page.  Also discussing a bogus portrait of Margaret Lynn Lewis, the expose concludes: "Margaret Lynn Lewis, the first lady of Augusta, has indeed been shabbily treated. She, the wife of a pioneer and the mother of Virginia heroes, deserves something better of posterity than a faked journal and a phony portrait."

As mentioned earlier, Fielding's story does contain some truth.  Margaret Lynn Lewis did indeed come to the U.S. with her husband from County Donegal, Northern Ireland.  However, the manuscript's claim that she was born in Scotland in 1693 cannot be proven, certainly not on the word of the manuscript itself.  However, neither can it be disproven.  A thorough search of Scottish births and baptisms for the years 1690 through 1695 reveals no Margaret Lynn, Linn, etc. born during those years; but of course some parish records have not survived.  All things considered, though, it is also equally possible that she was born in Donegal, where in fact she married John Lewis.

Unfortunately, precious little has survived in the way of documented Irish family history from the time Margaret Lynn Lewis was born until she and John left for America.  Birth and marriage records prior to the mid 19th century, particularly for Protestants, are virtually non-existent; and all Irish wills of the period were lost in the 1922 fire at the Public Records Office.  What does survive from Margaret's lifetime consists primarily of things such as land records, flax growers lists, religious returns, and muster rolls.

That being said, land records and muster rolls do prove that a number of Scottish Lynns joined the first Ulster plantation and lived in County Donegal as early as 1609.  The known history of the first Scottish Lynns of Northern Ireland is discussed at "Lynns of Londonderry, Donegal, and Tyrone".

At the same time, Margaret is included in the 1758 Fredericksburg, Virginia will of her brother, Dr. William Lynn, also an immigrant from Ulster.**  While the will does not provide the names of their parents, it suggests that they were William and Ann Lynn; and it does tell us a great deal about the family.

Loretta

  

Lynn of that Ilk Andrew Lynn
and Ann Blair
Lynns of Londonderry,
Donegal and Tyrone
** Dr. William Lynn
       
Lynn or Linn ? Bard Pa Lein of Norway:
A Flawed Scenario
Widney-Woodney-Udny Lynn History - Main
       
                

   

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