Ohio History Journal

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After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 many of the supporters

of the defeated Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, found it

advisable to migrate to the New World. Among the emigres

were some of the MacArthurs, members of a clan as proud of

their distinctive plaid and feather as any in Scotland. One of their

number settled in New York where a son, Duncan, was born in

1772. The mother died when the boy was three and his father,

desperately poor, remarried and took the family to the frontier

of western Pennsylvania. Hard work and the absence of edu-

cational facilities rendered formal schooling virtually impossible.

Although he was able to read and write by the time he was

twelve most of his education was picked up later in life through

contacts with men who had received schooling on the coast.1

The only eventful episodes in McArthur's boyhood were the

trips he made across the Alleghenies with pack horses to procure

salt, powder, lead, iron, and rum--absolute necessities for the

rigorous life on the frontier. Since there were no roads these

trips were of a difficult and arduous nature. McArthur became

an excellent backwoodsman, and remained one in spirit through-

out his life. As shall be seen, he was never able to comprehend

fully the customs and tempo of polished society.

In 1790, when he was eighteen, he enlisted in a company of

Pennsylvania volunteers to serve under General Josiah Harmar

in the campaign which was to have such a tragic denouement.

Harmar had only a nucleus of regular soldiers, the main body of

his army consisting of the militia of which McArthur was a


1 The best sources for the early life of Duncan McArthur are the family record

(in the home of his great granddaughter, Miss Dorothy Whitney MacArthur, at

Circleville, Ohio) and a eulogistic biography written by his brother-in-law John

McDonald and entitled, Biographical Sketches of General Nathaniel Massie, General

McArthur, Captain William Wells, and General Simon Kenton (Cincinnati, 1888).

For some reason, perhaps his lack of education, Duncan always spelled his name

McArthur, instead of the more correct MacArthur.