- Nothing for sure is known of these McLellans before they immigrated from Ireland. Presumably the family had migrated from Scotland to northern Ireland about a century before, with many Scots, because of incentives provided by James I to populate Ireland with protestants. This group then suffered persecution after the Restoration, after 1660, since Charles II was a closet Catholic, sympathetic to Catholics. In the 1670s the Test Act was passed that insisted on membership in the Church of England for many offices and privileges; “non-conformists” were, in this case, just as suspect as catholics.
Bryce immigrated to Maine from Ballymoney, Country Antrim, Ireland. He was a weaver and a ship's carpenter. He was part of a wave of migrants that started in 1718 with group brought over by the Rev. James McGregor of Aghadowey Presbyterian Church. This was the first wave of the Scots-irish "Great Migration," which was actually a series of five waves of migrants, culminating in the last and greatest wave during the early 1770s.
Aghadowey is just across the Bann River from Balleymoney, only 3 or 4 miles away. Most narratives, such as Bourne's, say he arrived in Wells about 1720. Bryce was for sure there in the summer of 1720 when he received a grant of land in Wells. After he arrived he joined Wells Congregational Church. He appears on a list of inhabitants in wells in Spring of 1726; a series of conflicts with native indians had taken place over the previous few years.
According to the New England Historical Society,
“Two ships, the Robert and the William, brought Scots-Irish congregations to Boston Harbor on Aug. 4, 1718. Part of that group, which was led by McGregor, soon settled in Nutfield, New Hampshire, which later became Londonderry. Some went north to Casco Bay, where they had been given a land grant. They would have starved during the winter, but the Massachusetts General Court granted them 100 bushels of cornmeal. They later reunited with the rest of the group in Nutfield.” The group that went north to Casco included Bryce.
He apparently had a hard time there. In 1729, he and his family moved to Falmouth (now Portland), and he built a house in 1731 on York/Fore St. Here the rest of his children were born, starting with Susannah. Judging by the dearth of records for several earlier children, some of the earlier ones had died young.
According to Hugh McLellan's History of Gorham,
The McLellans of Gorham are descended from Hugh and Elizabeth McLellan, whose children intermarried with those of Bryce McLellan of Portland, and James McLellan of Saco. James was a brother and Bryce a cousin to Hugh. Hugh and Elizabeth were born and married in County Antrim, in the north of Ireland. Bryce McLellan, the ancestor of the Portland branch of the family, came to this country several years before Hugh, and settled first in Wells, where he owned land July, 1720, and where several of his children were born and christened. He moved from that place to Cape Elizabeth, and about the year 1730 to Falmouth Neck.
Hugh was the son of Hugh, and Elizabeth was the daughter of Cary McLellan. Their families were remotely connected, and were descended from Sir Hugh McLellan of Argyle, Scotland, who was knighted in 1515. This branch of the McLellans migrated from Scotland (probably the southern part of Ross, where the name is still numerous) to the north of Ireland, with a colony of Scotch, some seventy or a hundred years previous to the coming to America of Hugh and Elizabeth. (658) [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]