Early Scottish Settlement in Argyle, Illinois.

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Date: 1836
Location: Winnebago, Illinoismap
Surnames/tags: Scottish_Immigrants Illinois_History Illinois
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Project: Illinois



Early History of Illinois

French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to explore the area in 1763. It became part of the French Empire until it was ceded to Great Britain. In 1783 it was ceded to the United States and became part of the Northwest Territories. [1]

On December 3, 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. state. Early U.S. expansion began in the south part of the state and quickly spread northward, driving out the native residents. In 1832, some Indians returned from Iowa but were driven out in the Black Hawk War, fought by militia.[2]


When Illinois became a state in 1818, most of the population lived near the waterways of southern Illinois. During the 1830s and 1840s, most settlers came from New York and New England by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes or on the National Road. They settled the central and northern counties, such as Winnebago.

"In early days Winnebago County’s settlers often were the victims of the depredations of organized bands of outlaws, who stole, intimidated, and sometimes murdered, the peaceful pioneers. At last the conditions became so serious, because of the boldness and badness of these bandits, that the settlers formed companies who were called "Regulators," to put a stop to the operations of the high-handed thieves. John Campbell, a Scotchman, a devout Presbyterian, and an esteemed citizen, was chosen to be the leader of the law-abiding people. In one of their enterprises, the outlaws killed Mr. Campbell. A desperado named Driscoll was held to be the murderer, and he was promptly executed for the crime. The summary punishment thus dealt out to one of their chief men rid the country of these ruffians." [3]

Kintyre, Scotland


Most of the immigrants from Scotland who settled in Winnebago County between 1830 and 1850 were from Kintrye. Kintrye is a peninsula in western Scotland, in the southwest of Argyll and Bute. The peninsula stretches about 30 miles (48 km), from the Mull of Kintyre in the south to East Loch Tarbert in the north. The area immediately north of Kintyre is known as Knapdale. [4]

At the time land owners were consolidating small farms, displacing small farmers. A series of poor crops, bad markets, and low prices made it difficult for tenant farmers to pay their rents. Emigration promised a better life. [5]

Brothers John and George Armour, along with their cousin James, are credited with being the first to leave Kintyre to come to Northwest Illinois in 1834. They wanted to start a timber company. When they returned to Kintyre and saw the poor conditions many of the farmers were living in, they told them about a “goodly land in America and the opportunity the government had given to settlers to obtain homes of their own” [6]

John Greenlee, Founder of Argyll

John Greenlees

In 1836, John Greenlees [7] was one of many farmer tenants who was unable to make his rent due to crop failure. He was forced to sell his farm, but the landlord was still not satisfied and had him imprisoned for debt. He was the uncle of the Armour brothers and they provided for his wife and family to come to America. Later John managed to escape and made his way to America and finally to Illinois.

Map locating first cabins in Argyle, IL

Greenlee and his family settled northeast of Rockford, in Winnebago County, and near the western border of Boone County. At the time it was known as the Kintyre Settlement. Another settler, John Andrew named it "Argyle” after their home county in Scotland. [8]

Other Early Settlers



Hugh Reid
Mary Howe Reid


George Picken
Jane Brown Picken
Robert Howie
Janet Picken Howie
James Picken
Andrew Giffin
Jane Howie Giffin
Alexander McDonald
Margaret Howie McDonald


William Ferguson
Helen Pickens Ferguson
John Andrew
Mary Brown Andrew
Alexander Reid
Robert Armour
Charlotte (Strachan) Armour
Samuel Howie
Jennett Howie


Gavin Ralston
Jane Montgomery Ralston
Gavin jr.
William Harvey
Mary Greenlees Harvey


William Montgomery
James Montgomery
Jane Caldwell Montgomery
John Montgomery
Daniel Smith
Mary Montgomery Smith
John Smith
Robert Smith
Daniel Smith
John Caldwell
Margaret Ralston Caldwell
Helen Howie Ralston
David C. Ralston
Peter Greenlees and family
Archie McNair and family
David Andrew and family
Matthew Howie and family
William Ralston
Elizabeth Andrew Ralston
Cambell Kelley
Alexander Reid
Elizabeth Park Reid
Mary Reid McNair


Peter Ralston
Jane Brown Ralston (and their six children)
Charles Picken
Lionel Henderson and family


Marian (Huie) Picken
Mary Armour (Greenlees)


Arriving on the Sarah, July 1850:

Martha (Harvey) Greenlees
James Greenlees
Robert Greenlees
John Greenlees
Agnes Greenlees
Martha Greenlees
Robert Greenlees
Mary Mitchell Greenless
James Kelly
John Kelly
Robert Kelly
Isabella Kelly
William Ryburn

Arriving on the Charlotte Harrison, July 1850:

Elizabeth (Colville) Armour/Mitchell
Charles Amour
Mary Amour
John Ralston
Isobell Greenlees Ralston
Martha Ralston McDonald
James Reid
William Reid
Elizabeth Breckenridge Reid
Isabella Langwill Watson
Peter Watson
John Watsin
Agnes Watson
William Watson
David Watson
Gavin Watson
Isobelle “Jane” Watson

Scottish Cemetery

In June 1841, five year old Archie Picken, son of George Picken and Jane Brown died. His was the first death in the settlement. He was buried in a poplar grove on the family farm.

The first adult in the settlement to pass away was Jane Howie Giffen, who died later that same year. She was buried in an Oak grove on Robert Howie’s farm. Later others were buried there as well. However there was no public road to this spot. In 1859 the Scottish Cemetery Association was formed. The remains of Archie, Jane and others were eventually moved to the new cemetery.

The first officers of the Association were:

President: John Andrew
Secretary/Treasurer: Alex Ralston
Directors Thomas Brown, Robert Smith, Edward Brown

See more at Scottish Cemetery.

1880 Measles Epidemic

In the Spring of 1880, the settlement experienced an outbreak of measles, which was deadly in those days. The obituary for Mary Picken Brown states at least 30 families were affected. [10]

Among those who died:

Mary McDonald, the twelve-year-old daughter of Duncan McDonald and Isabella Ralston.
Marion (my great Aunt), 21 years old
Peter Ralston, 24 years old
Mary (Picken) Brown, 43 years old

World War I Veterans from Argyle

You can read letters from these young men from the front in pages 110-147 in Daniel Harvey's The Argyle settlement in history and story

Hugh T. Andrew
Welcome John Andrew
George Romaine Barnes
John Robert Greenlee
John Francis Picken
Ralph Montgomery Picken
Glenn Smith Ralston
John Caldwell Ralston
Stuart Albert Ralston
Thomas James Ralston
William Arthur Ralston
WW 2 Service men of Willow Creek Church


75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee group

Winnebego County history

Passenger Lists

Scottish Ancestry Genealogy Links


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Wikipedia
  3. The Scots and Their Descendants in Illinois
  4. Kintrye Wikipedia
  5. Harvey, Daniel G. The Argyle Settlement in History and Story
  6. Harvey
  7. Most of the Greenlees dropped th S after coming to America.
  8. Chicago and North Western Railway Company (1908) A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways p. 38
  9. Harvey
  10. Rockford Journal (Rockford, IL) 13 March 1880, page 1 GenealogyBank

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Comments: 3

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I have a, 8.5x11, one page document titled 'A brief History of the Argyle Glee Club.'

The was a group of young men from the community under the direction of Rev Edgar W Smith during his tenure in Argyle in early 1920's. Are you familiar with it? It contains a B&W picture of the group taken in 1925 with a list of members. Would you like to have a copy for use at this site? I have a Word Doc copy or I can provide a scan copy if you would prefer.

posted by Harold Ralston
Yes. Love to have that. Thanks
This is the most amazing space page! Much time and research went into it. It's well organized and nicely laid out, which makes for an easy and interesting read. Good job!
posted by Jo Gill