Notes On The Stafford Family Record
by T. A. Stafford
740 Rush Street, Chicago
[typed from a newspaper article by Larry Allen Stafford]
I was born near Enniskillen, in beautiful County Fermnanagh (pronounced Fermanna), April 23, 1885 in what was formerly known as Ulster, but is now called Northern Ireland. My ancestors who bore the name of Stafford goes back to the time of the Norman invasion of England. After the Norman conquest, late in the eleventh century, William the Conqueror gave to his military leaders certain portions of the land and required them to assume name related to the locality where they settled. The name Stafford is a euphonious combination of the two words, estat (Old French for etat); ford (Anglo-Saxon)--the combination signifying estate by the ford or shallow crossing on the river Trent, which is the southern boundary of present-day Staffordshire in England.
Some papers which I saw in possession of a relative, in County Fermnanagh, when I was a boy, indicate that the Ulster Staffords entered Ireland by way of Donegal Bay, coming in a costal sailing vessel. It appears that while County Fermanagh, during the "plantation of Ulster," was settled quite largely by Scots from Wigtonshire and Kirkendbrightshire in Southwestern Scotland, there were a few English families scattered among them, who pursued special trades. The Staffords were skilled smiths as well as farmers. Apparently, in the early days of the "plantation," the Scotch had to do much fighting with the turbulent native Irish, and the Staffords helped to keep the military equipment in order. The trade of gunsmith descended in the family to the time of my own paternal grandfather, Thomas Stafford, whom I remember well. He had a well-equipped shop on his farm and could handle a good many kinds of smithing work.
The house in which I was born was situated in a good farming district, near the country town of Enniskillen. It was of heavy stone construction with a spacious kitchen, in which Methodist services were frequently held. My people were nominally Episcopalians, but they sympathized with the Wesleyan movement. From the time of its beginnings. When this house was built by my great-grandfather James, (who was born about 1790 and died in 1861), he reserved one bedroom for a "prophet's chamber," where the itinerant Methodist preachers could stay over night.
A short distance from my home, the grandfather of the above mentioned James, (who was born about 1735 or 1736), constructed a large stone house of which in my boyhood nothing but a few ruins existed to mark the place where it was located. The new house built by my great-grandfather James is still standing. It was of very solid construction.
My great-grandfather's name was Thomas and tradition says that several of his brothers, two of them being named John and George, went to America, a few years after the termination of the Revolutionary war. It was said that they landed at Philadelphia and moved southward into Virginia. This tradition was reported to me in Ireland by a cousin named John Stafford, of Fermanagh County, who passed away about thirty-two years ago.
I am certain that since "the Ulster plantation" in County Fermanagh, Ireland, there was only one clan of Staffords in the County and they were all closely related. There are some Staffords in North Irish Counties of Cavan and Londonderry, and I believe they are distant relatives of the County Fermanagh stock from which the Giles County, Virginia stock derives.
There are Staffords in the southeast of Ireland, now know as Eire, who came over with Richard Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, when he entered Ireland in the twelfth century. They settled and intermarried with the natives and are quite numerous.
From time to time, I have found in America persons bearing the name of Stafford, whose ancestry apparently came to this country direct from England, where there are, of course, many Staffords descended from the original Norman stock. Some of the names have been of noble rank and English heraldry has assigned a coat-of-arms to certain of them. I have neither ability or desire to trace any connection with such. The thing I cherish about our family recorded in Ireland, is the untarnished reputation of my forebears for honorable dealing, strictly moral conduct and, so far as my knowledge runs back, the fact that all were church members, deeply interested in vital religion. My father John was a Methodist class-leader, and his father Thomas was both a class-leader and an influential revivalist. I recall well his tall form, and his Sunday garb that looked like that of a minister of the gospel.
During his Irish journeys, John Wesley preached several times in the neighborhood of my ancestral home. His keen logic and spiritual earnestness easily convinced my ancestors that they too could have their hearts "strangely warmed" by visitation of the Holy Spirit. I am, therefore, "a Methodist born and bred," and I can truly say that, under the Providence of God, "the lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places."
I rejoice greatly to know that my numerous American kinfolk have been loyal to the family tradition since the time they first set foot on American soil.
We often hear praised the influence of the early New Englanders and what they did to lay the foundations of democratic government in this country. But I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that I believe that the influence of the thousands of Ulster men who came into the State of Virginia in an early day, and spread hence both westward and southward, is equally responsible for the development of democracy and the establishment of the noble concept which we speak of as "the American way of life." It still stands firm and may it ever stand against the assaults of half-baked socialism and a wily communism which is nothing but pagan tyranny in disguise. May the glorious Stars and Stripes forever wave o'er this land of the brave! God Bless America!