To Mike Splawn, who I met at the Clayton Genealogical library in Houston, Texas one fateful day when I overheard him ask the receptionist about Splawns


My Splawn family heresay:


The following is hearsay gathered from my family that has what some genealogists call "the preponderance of evidence" and some corroboration with other historians and genealogists. But nothing shared here can be documented or proved with Irish or American documentation... absolutely nothing. Perhaps with time some can be...


A number of researchers in Ireland believe our family once possessed territory where modern day County Tipperary is. There are still families in Ireland with the spelling Spollan & Spollen primarily in County Offaly. Persons with the spelling  Spillane are most likely from another sept (County Sligo), but all cousins nevertheless. One Irish source believes Splawn is merely an Americanized spelling as Spealaine (O'Spealaine) would be pronounced in Gaelic (SPU-LAWN).


My belief is that the first Splawn came to America around or just prior to 1750. Several sources say his name was William. He was alleged to be from County Galway or Tipperary, Ireland. Some speculate that his wife was English and from a ship building family in Cornwall. Their ship left the port of Cornwall.  Some believe her name was Elizabeth Merlyn. William's name was spelled Spollan


Note: There was a English family with the name of Merlyn for this time period that were ship builders. There is no known port of departure record that verifies the existence of this couple. There were, however, families in Counties Galway & Offaly in Ireland with the spelling Spollan during this time period. There is documentation on a Splawn with an earlier spelling of Spollan


One source said that his port of entry was New Liverpool, Carolina (modern day Wilmington, North Carolina).


Note: To date there is no known port of entry for a Spollan or Splawn for this time period. The earliest documentation of a Splawn in America is a 1750 & 1752 Tax record (Virginia) and a 1754 Tax record (Pasquotank County, N.C.). The counties adjoin one another.


Some families members say that the first Splawns settled near what is now Newberry, South Carolina, but did not stay there very long. Instead, they migrated to the Wateree river.


Note: There is no documentation of any Splawns ever being in or around Newberry, S.C. during this time period. Historians do say that there were Irish families that settled near what is now Newberry, S.C. but only stayed there briefly before relocating to the Wateree river area.


Family legend is that the Splawn family (and most of the Irish settlers) were persecuted by the British. The Splawn family mention particularly British General Cornwallis as cruel (referred to as “Old Cornwall”). One family member, a Presbyterian Minister, Joseph Cole (the husband of a Splawn) was hung for "preaching against the crown".


Many of the families fled to the north in an Oxen drawn wagon train, while a Cannady boy (chosen because his family were noted horsemen) led the British “Dragons” (presume Dragoons, or Calvary) on a "wild goose chase". He was caught and "shot on the spot" (other family researchers say he was hanged).


Note: There is a land grant of a John Splawn with 200 acres of land on the Wateree River. One Jones family researcher says that Splawns were part of the Oxen drawn wagon train that fled the British. There are no records of a Presbyterian Minister by the name of Joseph Cole executed by the British nor record of any Cannady family members being part of this exodus. Cannady family researchers do say that their family were noted horsemen and were in that area during this time period. There are Cole family members intermarried with Splawns that can be traced back to neighbors of John Splawn.


The Splawn family settled in what is now Rutherford County, North Carolina. Later, Rutherford County was split and Polk County was created from it. This fact confuses some researchers. A family may appear to relocate because one year they're in one county and another year they're in another (though they've not moved at all). Every Splawn to date that I've communicated with has been able to trace their ancestry to Rutherford/Polk county, North Carolina.


From North Carolina, most Splawn family members went West...through Missouri to Texas and finally California, Oregon, Washington etc. Some stayed in the Carolinas. Splawns fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War, some as loyalists, others as patriots. Splawns fought in the Civil War. Some died at Gettysburg, at least one deserted.




We visited Ireland in March and April of 2003. It was so heartwarming to meet our possible cousins and hear “Spollan” in Gaelic pronounced “Spa-lawn” We visited two of four sites in Ireland named Ballyspollan. Our research produced more questions than answers. Here’s what we’ve found:

1. Our family (according to every researcher we talked with) were almost certainly Ulster Protestants. If this is true, it means they were originally from what is now southwestern Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the 1630s, (when they most likely first came to America) there were Ulster Protestants (including Spollans) in what is now southwestern Scotland , Northern Ireland and Southern England.

2. One source states that the Spollans first arrived in America aboard the ship: ELIZABETH & DORCAS, which departed the Spring of 1634 from the Port of Gravesend at the mouth of the Thames River. Destination: Mass, (Boston) America. Some Spollan family members are said to have starved on the ship. We have not been able to find a passenger list to confirm this. One researcher cites our search this way: “In my experience (20+ years) passenger lists from the period of the 1630's are almost non-existant. Very few such ephemeral documents have survived to the present-day. This seems like a Quioxtic quest at best. ” We still search nevertheless...

3. Note... if items 1 and 2 are correct:

(a) The late Jennie L. Splawn who wrote the book Genealogy of the Splawn & Collins Families may be vindicated regarding her claim that the family came from England. This claim was previously disbelieved and scoffed at by a number of researchers including myself.

(b) The claim that our family originally came from Scotland is strengthened as is claimed by a few Splawn family researchers including my late grandfather .

We will be returning to Ireland, Northern Ireland & Scotland primarily for research in March and April of 2007. We remain hopeful....

Bill Splawn

Columbia, South Carolina