Thursday, June 14, 2012

The following is an article about Reverend William Trail (aka Traill). We learned about William in a previous post (dated May 29, 2011, entitled, “Were William Miller’s Ancestors Covenanters?”) and are certain that, while the Reverend is not an ancestor of ours, yet our Miller ancestors’ lives were inexorably tied to his. To understand this connection more clearly, it will be helpful to first learn about the life of Reverend William Traill, [bold added].

Map of Ballindrait and Lifford, County Donegal, Ireland

From Lifford to the Chesapeake - The Advent of the Scotch-Irish in America
By John F. Polk, Ph.D.

“Most noteworthy in our present context were the tribulations of Reverend  William  Trail  (Traile) [or more commonly spelled - Traill], one of the individuals mentioned in the Presbytery record just cited and, as it turns out, a central figure in the initial Ulster-Scot exodus to Maryland. Trail was a scion of a prominent Scottish family whose father, Robert Trail, was himself a Presbyterian minister, while his uncle, Lt Col James Trail, was a highly esteemed officer in Cromwell’s army with a landed estate in Killeleagh, County Down [Ireland].  These two were on opposite sides of the conflict when Cromwell invaded Scotland and Reverend Trail became Cromwell’s prisoner for a while, but this did not prevent William Trail from uniting in marriage some years later with Lt. Col Trail’s daughter, Eleanor. He studied for the ministry at Edinburgh until 1661 and was licensed but could not be ordained because of the oppressive conditions prevailing in Scotland at the time. In fact, his father, Reverend Robert Trail, was tried and banished from Scotland, for life, at exactly this time for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. He departed his country for Holland in January, 1662, nearly sixty years of age.

William Trail moved to Ireland and was finally ordained in 1673 at Lifford. He served as minister in Ballindrait [Count Donegal, Ireland] until his departure for America a decade later, with or just after Makemie [a fellow Presbyterian minister]. His decision to leave was probably the direct result of events that unfolded during 1681-82. First Trail was charged with fomenting opposition among certain officers being confined in Lifford, [County Donegal, Ireland] and inducing them to refuse the Oath of Supremacy, to which the Presbyterians could not subscribe. Then he and several other ministers issued a call for a one day fast in February 1681. This may seem a rather innocuous act in our times but it was regarded by local officials as an affront and challenge to their authority. Only high officials of the established church were considered to be empowered to call a fast. Trail and three other ministers were brought before the magistrates in Raphoe to explain themselves, but the decision was postponed, and instead they were summoned to Dublin in June 1681 for an interrogation by the Lord Lieutenant and his Privy Council. This was a legalistic grilling that lasted two days. Trail’s own detailed account of the ordeal has survived and is an intriguing glimpse into the temper of those times. The picture of him that emerges is a skilled dialectician, well-able to engage with his lofty interlocutors on their own terms, and wholly uncowed by the situation. The four ministers were released on bond and returned to Lifford for trial where they were convicted and fined £20 each. They refused to pay what they considered an illegal charge, and were therefore held in prison for eight months until spring of 1682.

“These events were highly resented by Trail’s followers in Lifford, and no doubt throughout the entire Presbyterian community in Ulster, and gave them every reason to see their future prospects as very bleak. The embattled psyche which these people had developed since first settling there was tightened another notch, and it was during this period that Trail made his decision to embark for the colonies along with Makemie. It was in spring of 1683 that Trail left Ireland for Maryland.”

It might be of interest to some of you to read the entire text or this article at the link above. You will see that this is a very well-researched paper. 

In our next post, we will discover how and when the lives of our Miller ancestors intersect with that of Reverend William Traill.

For you history buffs, go to the link below to read the story of William Traill’s famous father, Reverend Robert Traill, including his dealings with Charles II and Oliver Cromwell:

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