In the 1760′s, Lord Donegall raised farm rents to pay off mounting debts for the construction of his large Palladian mansion in Staffordshire. Farmers in the Irish counties of Antrim, Down, Derry, Armagh, and Monaghan were not able to pay the exorbitant increase, leading to the Oakboy and Steelboy Rebellions, also known as the Ulster Land War.
The economic impact and rebellion began in 1758, in County Monaghan, across a broad cross-section of the populace, including Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian farmers. This is documented by the Gaelic Poet, Art McCooey (1738-1773), praising the O’Neills in the resistance, and by historian Denis Rushe, in his 1921 book, History of Monaghan for Two Hundred Years 1660-1860, p. 66.
By 1772, the rebels were brought under control, due to suppression by the British Redcoats and a good harvest. About 10,000 rebels per year, and dozens of ships set sail for Philadelphia, Charleston, New York, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. Total emigrants from this revolt have been estimated at over 400,000 (q.v., p.69).
Here is an excellent history of James Steel, an immigrant ancestor, by Eileen Hunter Batey:
“Born at Castle Blaney near Carrick Macross, County Monaghan, Province of Ulster, Ireland, about 1741 of Scotch ancestors, who had settled in Ireland. Little is known of him while in Ireland – the family had a “Linen Green”. The Steel family lived opposite the Presbyterian Church at Castleblayney. He came to the America about 1771 or 1772 after the “Steel Boy” insurrection, stopping first at Cumberland, now Franklin Co., PA, with relatives, then came west to what was afterward “Sewickley Manor” in Hempfield and Mt. Pleasant townships, Westmoreland County, PA, where he later bought about 400 acres of land from the Penns.
“During the early years of the Revolution he married Elizabeth McMasters a sister of James McMasters who lived where Hecla is now located. By her he had two children, Jane and Joseph. After her death he married, about 1784, Elizabeth Donaldson, said to have been his cousin – a sister of Robert and Andrew Donaldson of Franklin County, PA. By her he had three children, Elizabeth, James, and John.
“James Steel Sr. took the Oath of Allegiance required by the colonial government before Hugh Martin, J.P., 29 March 1778. He was a member of the Mount Pleasant Association and was with the Revolutionary Army for three years, seeing service in the Jerseys and elsewhere.
“He died September 10, 1823 and was buried with his two wives in the Middle Presbyterian graveyard, in Mount Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, PA.