Welcome to Cape Fear Clans —
Cape Fear Clans is dedicated to the memory of my brother, Jay Edgerton, on whose research much of this material is based.
Of the regional histories transcribed in the 'Special Records' link at left, some authors are not given credit; those histories were printed originally without recognizing authorship. If you wish to print a page without the navigation bar at left, right-click on the page, select "open page in new tab", then print.
This site was inspired by my research into John McPherson of the Argyll Colony. McPherson was an Argyll colonist who left the Cross Creek settlement to live on the north edge of Raft Swamp just east of today's Red Springs in Robeson County, which was at that time northern Bladen County. His copious estate settlement shows McPherson owned land on Raft Swamp by 1767, residing there with his son and family until his death there in 1791. Land records provide a map of his lands south of the Shannon community.
I am working now, like others before me, to further unravel the intricate relationships of the very earliest McNeill families of the Cumberland-Robeson-Hoke counties region, focusing on the 18th and very early 19th century McNeills. My research is not perfect, but it provides insights, discovery and transcriptions of documents and information pertaining to the history and genealogy of the upper Cape Fear region. On Ancestry.com, I have created sixteen highly detailed McNeill family pages under the username 'Blackfork'. If you have an account with Ancestry, they are: Archibald McNeill "Bahn" (aka "Scribbling" or "Scrubbin" Archie); Archibald "Bluff Archie" (aka "Laird Archie" and "Gentleman Archy") McNeill; Daniel "Squire Daniel" McNeill of Taynish; Donald and Janet McNeill of Long Swamp; Godfrey McNeill; Hector McNeill of Drowning Creek; James "Jimmie" McNeill of Rockfish Creek; Neill Dhu (aka "Black Neill" and "Neill of Ardelay") McNeill; Neill McNeill of Jobes Branch; Neill McNeill of Upper Little River, the husband of the widow Mrs. Jane Campbell McNeill; John McNeill of Richland Swamp and second wife Flora McMillan McNeill; John McNeill of Middle Swamp (died 1809) of Robeson County; "Strong John" McNeill of Moore County; and Turquill McNeill of Robeson County.
Bladen County — formed in 1734 and the mother county of Scottish settlement in North Carolina — lost thousands of records to three courthouse fires (one around 1769, one in 1800 and another in 1893). Luckily, a precious few of those lost deeds can be found (mostly by citation) within the records of two neighboring counties: so visit Cumberland County deed books and Robeson County deed books. Certainly, early Bladen citizens had their own originals recopied into new record books after the blazes; however, the order of the surviving deeds became a mess. In addition to the excellent, abstracted source for surviving Bladen deeds, Brent Holcomb's Bladen County, North Carolina, Abstracts of Early Deeds, 1738-1804, recently Bladen County put its deeds online. My site also includes maps, Robeson County estates records, Cumberland County estates records, wills, court minutes, depositions, land warrants, maps, newspaper articles, family histories, letters, and publications about the clans in the Cape Fear region. The site www.nclandgrants.com has been a valuable site for grants and related warrants and plats some of which were never recorded in county records. Deeds, if read carefully and their facts are synthesized with other factual sources, are a genealogical goldmine.
Bladen County tax records covering several years from 1768-1789 were discovered in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC. The transcriptions of these tax records were published in two volumes by William L. Byrd III (purchase Vol. 1 here and/or Vol. 2 here). Of these tax lists — some incomplete, some alphabetized — the unalphabetized lists provide insight into late colonial, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary era neighborhoods in what is today Robeson, Hoke, Moore, and southernmost Cumberland counties. Included also in these lists are the names of hundreds of enslaved people with their owners, and a listing of those enslaved is found in its indices. Regarding one particular tax list, the new United States Congress enacted a law establishing our first census to be taken in 1784. However, copies of the law were a year late in reaching the states, and thus late to the counties, so, the government allowed states and counties two years to complete the lists. Alvaretta Register compiled her State Census of North Carolina, 1784-1787 without Bladen's census lists for 1784, as many of that county's early records were missing supposedly due to courthouse fires. However, it appears Bladen's accounting of its citizenry for the 1784 census had been hiding as a tax list in the private collection at UNC mentioned above and were published by Mr. Byrd — as a tax list. My comparison of that supposed tax list reveals its enumeration categories per household to match those categories required by the 1784 census, enumerating not just white men and slaves but white women who were never counted in 18th-century tax lists. So, what Byrd labeled as Bladen's 1786 tax list had to have been the first census that, incidentally, not only includes Bladen of that era but what is now Robeson, the southern half of Hoke, and parts of today's southernmost Cumberland. Moreover, unlike many of the Bladen tax lists, this apparent census looks to be whole. The NC Legislative papers at the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC) hold another extensive, unalphabetized Bladen tax list from 1784 (it is not found in Byrd's two volumes) showing number of polls, amounts of land owned and the districts in which the land lay — and no category for women. Dr. Morris Britt put a transcription of that particular list in his "Robeson County Register," another not-to-be-overlooked serial publication found at the State Library at SANC in Raleigh. Additionally, the Archives has been given recently an astonishing collection, a total of fifty-five maps platted over some four decades and donated by their creator, Dan MacMillan of Fayetteville, (deceased), architect and surveyor, showing the early owners, locations, and dates of land tracts throughout Cumberland and Robeson counties. The county libraries at Fayetteville and Lumberton, NC, have fine genealogical collections as well. Mabel McNeill Smith Lovin's history of her McNeill ancestors, alone, is a monumental effort containing detailed research of several other early Scots families of Hoke, Robeson and Cumberland counties. Many of her families are recorded in Peggy Townsend's three volumes of Vanishing Ancestors, the only existing source of the cemeteries of Robeson County in toto. Dorothy Potter's Passports of Southeastern Pioneers 1770-1823 is another book providing details of thousands of pioneers who required passports to traverse Indian territories on their way to the deep South. And for a revealing, non-fictional account of just how people of the colonial and post-Revolutionary periods migrated, settled, and populated the expanding South, grab yourself a copy of Everett Dick's 1948 book, The Dixie Frontier.
I'm researching the following 18th-century families. Many were neighbors in the early Bladen tax lists (information below was updated August 2023).
- "Bluff Hector" McNeill, one of the three sons of Neill Dhu McNeill, one of the leaders of the Argyll Colony, aka "Black Neill" McNeill and Neill McNeill of Ardelay.
- A broadly flung and unsubstantiated tradition is that "Bluff Hector" McNeill was at the Bluff in today's Cumberland County around 1739 to meet the arriving 350-odd Argyll colonists. No backwoodsman, young "Bluff Hector" was born into minor landed gentry and genteel trade stock from the Hebrides and would have been living at that time in the area of Brunswick or Wilmington (previously named Newton) where he could be educated and make suitable connections in a thriving, colonial, coastal society more appropriate to his station in life. Indeed, he is found in Wilmington with his mother in the 1748 will of Elizabeth McAuslan. Mrs. McAuslan bequeathed Hector a shirt and stock collar that likely had belonged to her deceased husband. So, it seems more likely that Hector would have been amongst a party that met the arriving colonists there. New Hanover County court minutes show his father, Neill Dhu, was a resident of New Hanover County in 1741, and in the correspondence between Miss Betty Capo of Wilmington and Mr. Everett McNeill Kivette of Black Mountain, the latter wrote of evidence that Neill Dhu owned land there as early as 1738; Neill had led a scouting party to the upper Cape Fear area two years earlier. Alexander McAlester, another prominent Argyll colonist with holdings on the upper Cape Fear River, had a tavern in Brunswick.
- There are people who have begun to think that Bluff Hector's father, Neill Dhu McNeill (aka "Black Neill" McNeill and "Neill McNeill of Ardelay"), married more than once, that he had children who are not mentioned in any records anywhere. The claim Neill Dhu married more than once is baseless, since he died before 1749 and his only wife Grissella was alive in 1748. Those two dates are supported by a Robeson County deed naming "his only son and heir", Hector (the land for which deed is being sold by John McNeill of the Bluff, Hector's only son), and the 1748 New Hanover County will of Isabella McAuslan naming his widow, Grissella, and Grissella's daughter, Flora McAllister. Grissella's last child, Negalena, was born in 1740. That said, there were some twelve years between the birth of Neill's and Grissella's son Duncan in 1728 and Negalena's birth, years during which more children likely were born — barring any unfortunate infant mortality. McAuslan's will names Grissella, her son Hector and daughter Flora McAlister but also names two other McNeill women, Elizabeth and Margaret, who may have been Neill's and Grissella's daughters and could have been born in the twelve-year period.
- "Bluff Hector" died between 1767 and 1768, and his estate settlement is dated 1769. In his will of 1761 he identified his two brothers, Duncan McNeill and Archibald McNeill. This second brother Archibald has gone largely unacknowledged, even within the earliest family histories of these Bluff McNeills. How did Archibald become forgotten? From available records, he was alive in 1784. Whether he married is unknown.
- Regarding Bluff Hector's 1761 will, where has it been all this time? The signed original of the will is today in the State Archives of NC and is also found in the Wills link at left. Hector names two brothers in his will, Duncan and Archibald, and hints at some issues amongst themselves that he attempts to resolve therein, stipulating that his plantation on Taylors Hole was to be left to his brother Duncan, but half that plantation Duncan was to sign over to their brother Archibald. Hector further directed Duncan to provide Archibald a deed for the land, and in the sentence following he refers to other unspecified "matters" Duncan is to address. Finally, sixteen years after Hector's death, in May 1784, Duncan provided Archibald his deed — for the sum of £100, adding that after Archibald's death the lands he was bequeathed were to return to Duncan's descendants. Did the lands return to Duncan's family at Archibald's death? The unspecified "matters" may have included a string attached to Archibald's obtaining the deed, perhaps some hurdle to surmount. Nevertheless, the deed was recorded with the county in October 1784 so the transaction for £100 must have taken place. The reversion of the lands to Duncan's descendants also must have taken place, though to date I've found no record of it.
- Duncan's will of 1788 does not address Archibald at all and Duncan never identified him as a brother in any document.
- I have searched through deeds to confirm the identity of this brother Archibald McNeill to no hard conclusion. He was alive in Duncan's deed to him in 1784 and may be the Archibald McNeill living with Hector Stewart and wife Negalena in the 1784 tax lists of Bladen County and who was under the age of 60. As far as I can tell he is only recently being listed as a son of "Black Neill" McNeill. Though possible, this Archibald does not appear to be "Archibald Bahn" (aka "Scribbling Archie") McNeill. And he certainly was not "Laird Archie" (aka "Bluff Archie" and "Gentleman Archy") McNeill as "Laird Archie" was dead in 1779, per Cumberland County court minutes.
- Archibald "Gentleman Archy" McNeill and wife Barbara Baker, who, for a time at least, appear to have lived north of Big Rockfish Creek on 100 acres at Stewart's Creek in Cumberland County where Bennetts Mill was in 1901, and is likely to have moved to the Bluff area:
- Judith Bullock Thomson Nesbitt, a "Bluff Archy" descendant and researcher, thought that he may have been the son of Malcolm McNeill of Colonsay and Barbara Campbell of Dunstaffnage. Aside from his nickname of "Gentleman Archy", he also was called "Bluff Archy" and "Laird Archie" (some erroneously call him "Lord Archie" based on a history of the family written in the 1930s).
- "Gentleman Archy" purchased a grant in 1754, the survey for which had been done in 1753. My grant and deed searches and comparisons have shown that, in 1900, this tract was at Bennetts Mill on Stewarts Creek in Cumberland County, NC, and "Gentleman Archy" did not own it for long. Exactly where he and his family lived after 1759 when he sold the Stewart Creek tract is not certain — was 1759 the year they went to live across from the Bluff on Cape Fear River where he is said to be buried, or did they live at the Bluff all along? And though their move to the Bluff is unproved, his son Daniel and wife Isabella lived in Flea Hill district a bit south of Bluff Presbyterian Church in Cumberland County and are buried with most of their children at Bluff Church cemetery where they attended church and had their children baptised.
- "Gentleman Archy" signed his name with an 'A' in his will of 1778 and in grantor deeds. No lands are mentioned in his will, and pinpointing where exactly he resided has yielded little. Deeds concerning him hint that besides being a planter he may have been a minor land speculator from the 1750s to at least 1775. He died between 1778 and 1779, according to the date of his will and a Cumberland County court entry mentioning his widow, Barbara in a tax entry. It appears that the tradition that he and his family lived near the Bluff area is correct and family tradition allows that his family was buried in a cemetery near the old location of Bluff Church, known then as Roger's Meeting House on the north side of the Cape Fear across Cape Fear River from the Bluff plantation.
- Archibald's son Malcolm owned around 2000 acres on the north and south sides of Big Rockfish Creek near Ardlussa (or "Ardalusa" on Google maps) on today's Tom Stallings Road southeast of Hope Mills in southern Cumberland County. I've found many of Malcolm's original landgrants in the Cornelia S. McMillan Collection at the State Archives of NC. They are in boxes along with deeds associated with the Alexander and Peter Johnson family. Malcolm's oldest daughter Barbara married an Alexander Johnson of Cumberland County whose parentage is unknown.
- Allan A. McCaskill wrote a telling newspaper article in 1901 wherein he stated that "Gentleman Archy" must have been the father of "Old Colonel Hector" McNeill, the Tory officer who was killed in 1781 at Canes Creek during the Revolution and who subsequent reparation records state his residence was Bladen County. Archy's great-grandson, Allan A. McCaskill, is found in the 1850 census of Cumberland, aged 24, living with his grandmother Isabella, the widow of Archy's son Daniel who had died in 1807. Daniel had been in the American army during the Revolution (Isabella received his war pension), therefore McCaskill was well positioned to relate within his article that his great-grandfather Daniel and Daniel's brother Tory Colonel Hector had each fought on opposing sides in that conflict. To me, McCaskill's grandmother certainly knew the names of her husband's siblings and, as the wife of a soldier whose brother had fought on the opposing side in the Revolution, she would have heard first-hand from her husband and his family about Daniel's and his brother's wartime loyalties and exploits. It is likely McCaskill learned from his grandmother the information found in his article wherein he added that the history of Bluff Archy's family was "well preserved". Barring older evidence or proof, this is as close to the source as one can get in determining Old Colonel Hector's true parentage. .
- John McPherson of the Argyll Colony who about 1765 left Cumberland County to live with his son, Daniel McPherson, on the north edge of Raft Swamp near today's Red Springs in Robeson County.
- John McPherson, apparently a "head of household" in the Argyll Colony, received in 1740 two grants of 320 acres each on the Cape Fear River. One of these two tracts was on Cross Creek where he lived until about 1767, the time he relocated some 30 miles south into Bladen (now Robeson) County on the north edge of Raft Swamp. It is believed his second son Daniel left Cumberland County to live on Raft Swamp just prior to his father's arrival there. Their homestead was a short distance northwest of Godfrey McNeill's homesite and close to the old Daniel Patterson cemetery along the Stage Road from Lumberton to Fayetteville, a road that today still follows the north edge of Raft Swamp.
- Per Old John's estate records in Robeson County, his son Alexander remained in Cumberland County and had many descendants including today's McPherson and McArthur families of McPherson Presbyterian Church. Colin McPherson who founded McPherson Church stated in a despostion for this estate record that his grandfather was John McPherson who died on Raft Swamp.
- John McPherson died at his home on Raft Swamp in January 1791 along with two of his little grandsons, Archibald and Neill McPherson. John's will of 1789 had devised to these little boys his lands on the Raft Swamp, a bequest that seeded a tangled, legal wrangle amongst John's grandchildren from 1820 to 1845. That drawn-out suit detailed and documented John's and his descendants' lives in Cumberland and old Robeson counties and clearly explains the familial ties to the McPhersons of McPherson Church in Fayetteville.
- The McPherson name in Robeson has died out; however, through many McNeill, McPhaul, Buie, Brown, Gilchrist, McKay and Humphrey branches in the area, John McPherson still has a great many descendants around northern Robeson and in Cumberland County, with many more across the South.
- Daniel McNeill of Taynish, one of the minor leaders of the Arygyll Colony, owned the plantation "Tweedside" the location of which is revealed by a series of deeds as having been in old Bladen County on the east side of the Cape Fear River the site of which today is in southern Cumberland County.
- Daniel McNeill of Taynish was the second son of Clan Chief Neill McNeill of Taynish on Gigha and his wife Elizabeth Campbell. It has been published that Daniel's father, this Neill of Taynish, was born in 1697 but that date is an error because of two facts: the obituary of one of Daniel's daughters stated she was born in 1730 and Daniel's sister married in 1727; so, 1697 is more likely the marriage date of Neill and Elizabeth.
- It has also been published that Daniel of Taynish had brothers Hector, Neill and Archibald. The older brother Hector remained on the island of Gigha in Scotland, inherited the title of clan chief and its estate where he lived out his life, and was succeeded by his son Roger who also lived and died on Gigha. Neill and Archibald were Daniel's two younger brothers. In Cumberland County there was a Neill McNeill of the Argyll Colony who lived on Tranthams Creek on the north side of the Cape Fear across from the Bluff. This Neill had a son named Roger, presumably after whom Roger's Meeting House was named, unless Roger of Taynish sent money to have it built and thus its namesake. It should be noted that throughout the upper Cape Fear region at this time (and beyond), the name Roger was only used by this particular McNeill family and none other. My suspicion is that this Neill on Trantham's Creek was likely that younger brother of Daniel of Taynish. Was Daniel's other younger brother, Archibald, the man known as Archibald Bahn McNeill (aka "Scribbling Archie")? DNA analysis may tell us. Donald McNeill of Paduka, Kentucky, a proven descendant of Neill of Trantham's Creek by his son Roger, found his DNA proved he was a Gigha McNeill.
- Daniel of Taynish had two wives. It's known that he had at least one daughter — Margaret who lived, married and died in Scotland — by his first wife. Everett McNeill Kivette, in his highly detailed letters on the genealogy of the McNeills of the Argyll Colony written to George Stevenson (deceased) of the State Archives of North Carolina (see Private Collection 1494.2 at SANC), had much to say on who Daniel's first wife my have been. Daniel and his second wife, Elizabeth McTavish, had three daughters and one son.
- Daniel's most notable descendant — through the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to William McNeill and their son Dr. Charles Daniel McNeill and his wife the beautiful Martha Kingsley, who were the parents of Anna McNeill Whistler who is known as "Whistler's Mother" — is James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the famous painter. Whistler is recorded as having stated that his McNeills were "Barra McNeills", but it must be remembered that Whistler was descended from two McNeill men: his mother's grandfather William McNeill as well as the father of William's wife who was Daniel McNeill of Taynish. Was William McNeill's line from the Isle of Barra?
- It is widely accepted, though unproved and certainly not believable, that Daniel of Taynish and his unknown first wife were the parents of "Scribbling Archie" McNeill. Through my own research using available dates, Daniel and Archie's range of birth years are too close together to have been father and son. It is quite possible that Daniel and "Scribbling Archie" were related (see above). Daniel had a known son named Archibald born sometime around 1730 (his sister Jean was born in the year 1730), who was a physician in Charleston and Dorcester County, South Carolina, between the late 1740s up to his death in 1774. This Dr. Archibald McNeill wrote a will in 1772 and mentioned his three sisters and a half-sister, but mentioned no other siblings. So, it's highly unlikely Daniel of Taynish would have had two sons named Archibald..
- Tweedside, Daniel's estate on the Cape Fear River, was located not far above the mouth of Dunfield Creek on the river's east side and just north of "Carver Hector" McNeill's 222-acre grant of 1740. Records show there was at least one burial at Tweedside. Daniel of Taynish eventually sold off most of Tweedside, moving later to Bladen County proper near Brown Marsh, the area where three of his daughters and their families resided and owned property. Existing records reveal these families had strong connections to Wilmington society and lived there much of the time. Records show that Daniel's granddaughter, Jean (or Jane) Dubois, a woman who knew how to negotiate and keep her power within the male-dominated society of the 18th-century, was living at Tweedside in 1782. She married three times, each time securing her interests in Tweedside and what was left of its considerable value, real and personal. In 1804, during her final marriage to Duncan McAuslen, she sold Tweedside to George Elliott of Cumberland County. Duncan was buried at Tweedside per her will of 1804.
- There is no Daniel McNeill in the 1763 Bladen tax list but that year he was selling off Tweedside piece by piece. However, a Daniel McNeill appears in the 1770 Bladen tax list with considerable estate value. Perhaps Daniel left Tweedside, his Cumberland County plantation, in the mid to late 1760s for Bladen County to be near his son's family there. He is said to have been alive until at least 1774 as he is found selling a horse that year. Is Daniel buried at Brown Marsh Presbyterian Church in Bladen, or were he and his second wife buried at Tweedside in the cemetery there where Duncan McAuslen is recorded as being interred?
- Turquill McNeill, another Argyll colonist, who with his eldest son Laughlin McNeill, lived on the border of old north Bladen (which became northwestern Robeson County and is now northern Hoke County) and Cumberland counties around the Beaverdam Presbyterian Church area in 1768.
- Turquill lived in the area near Buffalo Creek and Toneys Creek south of today's county lines of northern Hoke and the far western corner of old Cumberland. Turquill's neighbors were "Buffalo Daniel" Patterson, "Beaverdam Daniel" Patterson, Gilbert and Duncan McNair, the John Purcell Graham family, Archibald Beaton, Hector McNeill of Drowning Creek, and James Dyer. Turquill also owned river lands around Carvers Creek he bought from "Carver Hector" McNeill, and owned another strip of land adjacent a McFee on the west side of the Cape Fear River across from Daniel McNeill's Tweedside.
- Turquill was very likely a relative of James McNeill of Rockfish Creek, and was likely a brother or close relative of "Carver Hector" McNeill. There is no smoking gun to prove their blood relationship, though James was the son-in-law of "Carver Hector" as proved by Cumberland County deeds.
- It was claimed many years ago by Jonathan Butcher, a professional genealogist, that Turquill's wife was Mary Bethune. Butcher offered no source for that claim. From learning about Turquill's children it seems possible that Turquill may have married twice and that his son Laughlin was born of a first marriage in the 1740s, but there's no proof of more than one marriage.
- Turquill's oldest known son was named Laughlin. Laughlin's wife was named Flora ("Flory" in the records), but her maiden name is unknown. Deeds reveal that Laughlin had two or three sons who moved to Washington and Columbia Counties in Georgia around 1800 and another son who moved to Marion County, SC about the same time. Laughlin remained in the western Cumberland County area and died there in 1801, the same year his father died. Deeds and his estate division prove that Laughlin's daughter Elizabeth married the surveyor and land speculator Angus Gilchrist. One family tradition found by Edwin Purcell in his travels compiling family histories for his book "Lumber River Scots" states that Laughlin's daughters Mary and Elizabeth were descendants of the Argyll Colony's Neill Dhu McNeill and his Bluff descendants. As far a I can tell there is no blood connection at all between Laughlin or his wife Flora to the Bluff McNeills — perhaps some one reading this has DNA connections?
- "Carver Hector" McNeill of the Argyll Colony, who owned and traded his acquired lands on Carvers Creek in Cumberland County.
- In 1737, Hector McAlester in Scotland sent a letter (now lost, presumably) to his brother Alexander McAlester in Bladen County that included a query from Laughlin and Margaret Johnstone McNeill about their son — one Hector McNeill — who had remained in the province the year before. Through grants and deeds we now know there were only two Hector McNeills in the Argyll Colony, one of them being "Bluff Hector" and the other "Carver Hector". As "Bluff Hector" is known and proved to have been the son of "Black Neill" McNeill (and not Laughlin and Margaret Johnstone McNeill), it appears far more likely that "Carver Hector" was the man Hector McAlester referred to in the 1737 letter.
- "Carver Hector" had two grants on the Cape Fear in 1740, a 222-acre grant, a triangular-shaped tract just above the mouth of Dunfield Creek on the east side of Cape Fear River, and a 640-acre grant in Chatham County at the fork of the Cape Fear at the Haw and Deep Rivers, the northernmost range of the colonists' grants."Carver Hector" was alive and living in Bladen County in 1778 when he sold the 640-acre tract to Valentine Braswell of Chatham County.
- A tract associated with "Carver Hector" appears in a grant dated 1773 to grantee James Buchanan — this grant states the land is on "Carver Hector McNeills Creek" and cites "Carver Hector's line". This proves his nickname was used in his day to distinguish him from the other Hector McNeills who were living in the area, and "Bluff Hector" had died in 1767.
- By comparing several Cumberland County deeds' callouts and descriptions, all concerning the sale of the 222-acre triangle, it is proved that Elizabeth, sole heir of "Carver Hector" McNeill, and his only child and daughter, married James McNeill of Rockfish (below).
- James McNeill of Rockfish Creek and wife Elizabeth McNeill, (aka Jimmie McNeill of McCaskills), in today's Robeson and Cumberland County.
- My great-grandfather, Frank McKay, died in 1941 at the age of 92. He was a gr-gr-grandson of James McNeill of Rockfish Creek, and told my mother that he had been told by his own grandfather — "Wild Archie" McNeill who as a boy had known James in the final decade of James' life — that James "came over in 1740". There is no proof he immigrated in 1740 but from what is known today the claim that James immigrated at that time is possible. But who were his parents? It is a total mystery — no Argyll colony men fit the bill — and he was not a son of Laughlin and Margaret Johnstone McNeill, nor a son of Neill Dhu McNeill. James was well acquainted with, and was invested with via real estate transactions and marriages, the families of both Godfrey McNeill and Turquill McNeill of the Argyll Colony. According to Cyrus McNeill in his 1900 history of the McNeills, Godfrey and his wife went to live with James on Rockfish Creek when they first arrived in the area around 1760..
- James McNeill of Rockfish Creek was also known as Jimmie McNeill of McCaskills. It's known that his residence was at McCaskills Bridge which was on Rockfish Creek almost due south of Philippi cemetery in today's Hoke County a short distance east of the town of Raeford. For decades, James' residence was in the part of northern Bladen that became Robeson in 1787, but in 1791 the county boundary shifted south just enough that his residence ended up in southern Cumberland County.
- A bible record shows James McNeill was born — certainly in Scotland — in 1732 and married in NC in 1752. He grew to manhood in Bladen, now Cumberland County. He eventually resided near Philippi Church, which at that time was in the northernmost part of old Bladen which became northernmost Robeson in 1787, after which his homeplace area was sliced off and added to Cumberland in 1791, and today is now in Hoke County. Although his will was recorded in Cumberland County (as was his wife's 1814 estate settlement), by the end of his life almost all his lands were in Robeson, and early tax lists and the 1784 census show he lived in the part of Bladen that became Robeson in 1787. Since the 1784 Bladen census (labeled at some point as a tax list) shows him living in that county, it appears that the minor boundary change between Robeson and Cumberland counties in 1791 put his residence just over the county line into Cumberland, thus separating his residence from his lands now across the county line in Robeson.
- James was the only McNeill named "James" in the mid-18th century Cape Fear region, and remained the oldest man of that name until his death between 1801 and 1805. Philippi cemetery (in the area originally known as "McCaskills") today has a small sandstone grave marker with "J McNeill APTH 1800" carved on it, indicating James may have been buried at that spot. Another small sandstone marker is adjacent to it and is likely his wife Elizabeth who died in 1814. County records proved that Elizabeth was the only child of "Carver Hector" McNeill, above.
- Per a bible record written by their granddaughter, James and Elizabeth McNeill had twelve children, three sons and nine daughters. Most of the daughters married quite well to local Scottish immigrant men and those of Scots descent in the area.
- I've known for decades that I am descended from James and Elizabeth and have DNA matches on Ancestry.com to many of today's descendants of their children. I long suspected one of them, Mary who married Malcolm McNeill, son of "Gentleman Archy" McNeill, to have been one of James's and Elizabeth's daughters. When I added Mary to the list of James's and Elizabeth's offspring, and all of the offspring's children and grandchildren to the list as well, I shortly accumulated a great many matches to Mary's and Malcolm's living descendants. Another of James's daughters, Anne, married old Archibald McFadyen of Cumberland County. An older daughter whose first name is lost married Daniel McEachern, Sr., but DNA matches to their living descendants appear and then disappear (either descendants of the couple haven't tied their trees to the DNA results, change their ancestors, or haven't had a DNA test at all) despite a trail of records to show it is true. Yet two other DNA match results shows their daughter, Jennet, married John Purcell Graham, and several matches appeared once I added Ayles McNeill, the wife of "Fiddler Hector" McNeill, and their children.
- James McNeill, Esq. "of Canada" and of the Campbells of Duntroon in Argyllshire, Scotland, who migrated from Canada to Robeson County, NC around 1790 and became a justice of the peace and court official of that county until about 1833.
- Legend has it that he was from Scotland, hired by the crown to survey the St. Lawrence River which brought him to Canada. He is associated with the legend that that very man was stranded on an island in Canada when his ship foundered and that by the time he was rescued his wife had remarried. He married (or remarried) in Quebec to woman whose name is lost and by whom he had a daughter named Ann. Just why James came to Robeson County is unknown, but since his Canadian daughter's obituary stated her father was of the Campbells of Duntroon and his second wife's parents were Jane Campbell and William McNeill, did Jane Campbell McNeill hail from the Campbells of Duntroon as well, and did she have something to do with James's relocation to North Carolina from Canada? James is not found in Robeson's 1790 census but must have arrived shortly after that year as he had a daughter by his second wife, Elizabeth McNeill, in 1794. It is said he was a schoolmaster in Robeson County. That is likely but he was certainly a court official for decades (noted as James McNeill, Esq. in the minutes), often presiding with one or two other influential gentlemen over court sessions.
- His first wife's name is unknown, but it has been proved that his first child, Anne, was born in Quebec in 1788. She survived and married a Langworthy by whom she had several children in New York. Elizabeth McNeill, his second wife whom he married about 1792, was born in Scotland, the daughter of Jane Campbell and her first husband William McNeill. It is believed James of Canada and Elizabeth had six children, some of whom have been positively identifed, whereas a few need further research to place them in the family. Elizabeth died about 1815. The widow Mrs. Sarah (née Mathews) Patterson, James's third wife, bore him three children. His fourth and final wife, Mary Banter, outlived him and bore him no children.
- James and his last wife and some of his children moved to Alachua County, Florida, in December of 1835 two years after he is last recorded in a Robeson County the church session record of Philadelphus Presbyterian Church as being intemperate at a wedding. In Alachua County he became a court official as well. He died in Florida in 1845.
- Godfrey McNeill and wife Catherine "Kittie" McDougald who lived at the intersection at Godfrey's Crossing, later Weaver Neill McLean's Crossing, and now known as McLeod's Crossing in Robeson County.
- Godfrey and his growing family immigrated from Scotland about 1760 and then lived briefly with James McNeill of Rockfish before settling on Raft Swamp a few miles to the southwest at the intersection of what is called today "McLeods Crossing" in Robeson County. Their oldest son, James McNeill, said to have been born at sea in 1757, was an ranking official that took part in treaties with Native Americans in Georgia and was a colonel in the Continental Army in Georgia.
- Godfrey's will, dated October 1806, shows no probate date but county court minutes show it was proved in court in very early January of 1807; he likely died between October and December of 1806. Curiously, the name "Godfrey" was never again used nor passed down through his descendants or any related McNeill family. And a curious addition to Godfrey's name: Godfrey is being shown to have had a middle initial 'W'. There was never a 'W' in his signature or in anything written about him since his death anywhere, and is an error proliferating on Ancestry.com. The source of this fabrication is a family history written in the 1930s in Georgia. In one particular document wherein he signed his name with an 'X' as usual, there is no 'c' between the 'M' and 'N' of 'McNeill', and careless scrutiny resulted in the flourished 'M' looking like a 'W'.
- The couple and some of their children are buried in unmarked graves in the old Daniel Patterson cemetery on Pattersons Branch, a branch on the north side of Raft Swamp below Shannon in Robeson County not far from his old homeplace at McLeod's Crossing east of Red Springs..
- John McNeill of Richland Swamp and his second wife Flora McMillan, who lived on Richland Swamp in Robeson County and who is found only in a series of Robeson County deeds dividing his estate amongst his surviving children.
Neill McNeill, Sr. of Jobes Branch, likely an Argyll colonist who was either a head of a family or indentured, lived in Cumberland County, but by 1768 lived on Jobe's Branch in today's Hoke County very near the entrance to Greenbriar on Duffie Road just west of Red Springs.
- Robeson researchers of the 20th-century did not recognize John McNeill of Richland Swamp and, indeed, they seemed perplexed by his complex descendants whose lands stretched from the southwest side of Red Springs near Moody Bay down toward Wakulla. These lands bordered "Sailor Hector" McNeill's lands that contained what is now the McNeill cemetery in the city limits of Red Springs. Though she did not research them, Mrs. Mabel McNeill Smith Lovin of Red Springs recognized the family in her vast McNeill research, calling them the "Richland Swamp McNeills". The closest local researchers ever came to identifying the family was through the nickname used during his life for a man who has been found to have been one of John's and Flora's sons, namely, "Daniel McNeill of Richland Swamp" who died in 1872 and is buried at Philadelphus Presbyterian Church. "Daniel McNeill of Richland Swamp" was often referred to in his lifetime in county and other records in ways that varied from "Daniel McNeill (R.S.)" to "Daniel McNeill (Richland)", etc. Moreover, Daniel's father, John, was spelled out as "John McNeill of Richland Swamp" twice in a deed dated 1802 from Angus Gilchrist. Researchers did recognize, however, that older McNeill men living in the vicinity were closely associated with and believed to have been related to Daniel of Richland Swamp; indeed, I've found that Daniel had three, perhaps four, older brothers by their father's first wife. Henry H. Hodgin, Jr. of Red Springs noted — correctly — that Daniel of Richland Swamp and John McNeill of Keinfordale (1776-1850, husband of Margaret McMillan) were brothers. It appears also that John of Richland Swamp had two sons named Neill: the first (who may have been John's brother or other close relative) disappears from the records about 1795; the second, Neill McNeill, Esq. (1796-1875; married Sarah McBryde), born about a year later, was John's son by his second wife, Flora. By his first wife, John had at least three other sons: Archibald (died 1835, unmarried on Richland Swamp), Malcolm (married Mary R ay and moved to Georgia), and John McNeill of Keinfordale who died in Robeson County in 1850. John McNeill of Richland Swamp had several other children by his second wife Flora McMillan.
- A series of deeds in Robeson County records beginning in 1823 and ending finally about 1856 show several siblings distributing the lands, slaves and financial estate of their father, John McNeill. John appears to have died about 1819 and his lands were all along the north side of Richland Swamp and spread southwestward from today's Red Springs toward Wakulla. There was a cemetery
- His second wife, Flora McMillan, made her will in 1833 naming all her children and her deceased brother, Duncan McMillan. In the will she stated she wanted gravestone for Duncan and her husband's father. I suspect that her husband John's father was the Archibald McNeill who died in Robeson in 1804. Flora may have been the daughter of Duncan McMillan, Senior, of Robeson County. All Flora's children, except for the youngest, who was also named Flora, are all named in the series of deeds that begin in 1823. Flora was underage in 1823, so she was not provided for in that distribution; she married Alexander Varnum in 1841, and likely recieved some compensation after that.
- Generations of this McNeill family have claimed this immigrant ancestor Neill McNeill, Sr. came to America in 1740 with two little sons, Hector and John, whose names in time became "Sailor Hector" McNeill and "Shoemaker John" McNeill. If his descendants heard correctly, Neill likely came over indentured and not as a "head of family". As 'head of family' he would have been given grants of land based on that distinction as well as on how many people he brought with him. He is not found in any of the earliest records of Bladen or Cumberland County. It is possible that he came by himself unassociated with any head of family at all, perhaps even as a widower.
- The oldest deed for him trading land in Bladen (now Robeson) County is dated 1768 and identifies him as "Neill McNeill of Cumberland County." Subsequent deeds identify him as "of Bladen County." The lands he owned in Cumberland County were on the north side of Big Rockfish Creek as late as 1768-1771. Those lands were traded for his land on Jobes Branch near today's Antioch community in Hoke County, and was a small tributary of Little Raft Swamp on its southern side. It was all around this area that his sons' descendants lived.
- Neill Sr.'s son, "Shoemaker John" McNeill, had an oldest son named Neill Jr. who was born around 1765 and died in 1831. This Neill Jr., who died in 1831, and his wife Flora have been essentially a forgotten generation and that is how I refer to him on this site, as "Neill McNeill of the lost generation". This son Neill's estate was not settled until 1840, shortly after his own unmarried son Malcolm died, when the two estates were settled together, privately. Although no estate settlement record exists in Robeson County records, the county's deeds show the estate was divided privately amongst Neill Jr.'s children in 1840. Recently, however, the descendants of Neill's and Flora's daughter, Mary McNeill Brown (wife of Neill Black Brown, Sr.), found and preserved two originals from this private settlement plus the original 1790 will of Mary, the wife of "Shoemaker John". These three originals were found by Ruth McArthur of Wilmington, NC (deceased) in a trunk that belonged to Mary McNeill Brown, her grandmother. These forgotten instruments identify Neill's children and wife Flora (who was likely the often-misplaced Flora Riddle of this family). Ruth told me she suspected that Neill was forgotten, his own children long having been claimed as being those of his father "Shoemaker John", a revelation that exposed the widespread confusion about this branch of "Shoemaker John" McNeill's descendants. Ruth died in 2009, but she, her cousin Charles McNeill of Red Springs, and I brought these mistakes into the open and made sense out of this lost generation.
- Another interesting thing that Charles McNeill told Ruth McArthur is that the old Neill McNeill burial ground (so called in a deposition of Col. Neill Buie in 1828) was "in front of" the old "Big Will" McNeill house on Duffie Road around the entrance of Greenbriar Estates.
- I will be turning my attention to uncovering more about old immigrant Neill's other son, "Sailor Hector" McNeill, in the future. But I can say here that his gravestone at the McNeill cemetery in Red Springs is wrong in its record of his death: according to the Robeson County court minutes "Sailor Hector" died in 1804, not in 1809. Hector identified himself in early tax list of his father's household in 1771 as "Hector McNeill, sailor", putting to rest the claim he got his nickname during the Revolution. Was Hector a sailor for the King during the French and Indian War? The only record of "Shoemaker John" McNeill is his being recorded in a Bladen County tax list of 1784 very near his McNeill relatives.
- I believe the immigrant Neill, Sr., lived until 1786 as he is found in the 1786 Bladen County tax list. There are researchers today who are claiming that this Neill McNeill and the second husband of the widow Jane Campbell McNeill were one and the same man. If this were true — which it is certainly not — this Neill would have two sons named Hector and two sons named John.
- Jane Campbell and her two McNeill husbands, William and Neill, who lived in Bladen (now Robeson or Hoke) or upper Cumberland now Harnett County.
- There is a tradition that Jane's stepson Hector (son of her 2nd husband Neill McNeill by his first marriage) married her own daughter Nancy (her daughter by her first husband William McNeill). The tradition is wrong: Revolutionary war pension records and two Cumberland County deeds reveal that Nancy did not marry Hector but married Hector's brother Malcolm. Malcolm was a four-year veteran of the Revolution who fought with the Continental Army, and whose pension records not only prove his marriage to Nancy in the Spring of 1776 but provides for all but one of their children, Malcolm, who died in 1841 in Cumberland County and whose widow, Mary Kelly McNeill, fought to get his inheritance for her orphaned children. And by all the evidence (deeds plus DNA matches today), it appears that Hector, whom Nancy did not marry, was Hector McNeill, Sr. of Upper Little River who married Margaret, the daughter of Turquill McNeill of the Argyll Colony.
- Before Neill McNeill of Upper Little River married the widow Mrs. Jane Campbell McNeill, he had three sons and a daughter by an unknown first wife (her name is long lost and there is not even and inkling of a hint of who she may have been). One of the three sons, yet another Neill McNeill, lived on the Upper Little River around Thorntons and Edes Creeks in what is today Harnett County. This son Neill died there about 1829 as records show his lands were divided by his children in very early January of 1830. One of his six children, Catherine, married John McLeod and another had the nickname "Neill McNeill (Surveyor)". More will be added if additional information is located about these Harnett County McNeills.
- Possibility: I am beginning to suspect that Jane's second husband Neill McNeill of Upper Little River was the son of Malcolm McNeill of the Argyll Colony, one of the colonists about whom very little is known beyond various mentions of his lands in several Cumberland deeds. I cannot prove this but in-depth deed comparisons are beginning to point in that direction. I will put more info about this possibility on the 'Latest Updates' page in time. This idea may prove to be wrong and I will post that as well.
- "Beaverdam Daniel" Patterson and his wife Catherine Molloy, who lived in the far western corner of Cumberland County on Beaverdam near Toneys Creek, was John McPherson's nephew.
- Daniel and his children have been referred to as the "Beaverdam Pattersons." His wife appears to have been Catherine Molloy, the daughter of John and Marron Molloy. John may have been the son of Charles Malloy who, with Daniel McPherson and "Beaverdam Daniel" Patterson, fought together as Tories during the Revolution.
- A thorough study of deeds and wills prove this Daniel was neither "Buffalo Daniel" Patterson, "Raft Swamp Daniel" Patterson, nor "Piper Daniel" Patterson.
- While settling Daniel's estate in 1844, the Cumberland County sheriff who wrote up the property listing for the legatees of the deceased identified him incorrectly as "Raft Swamp Daniel" Patterson. The names of the legatees do not match any or all of the known children of "Raft Swamp Daniel" Patterson in any way.
- Duncan Campbell and wife Christian Smith, originally from Cumberland County, who in 1768 appear to have lived near Burnt Swamp area just south of the Philadelphus community in today's Robeson County.
- It is impossible to tell to what local Campbell clan this Duncan Campbell belonged, though I believe he lived an early part of his life in Cumberland County, NC, and he could well be the Duncan Campbell who is listed in the 1755 Cumberland County tax list.
- In fact, while living in Cumberland County in the early 1750s Duncan bought 150 acres of Tweedside, the plantation of Daniel "Squire Daniel" McNeill of Taynish (above). In a 1783 "deed of gift," Duncan gave this very land to his grandson, John Campbell of Campbells Bridge on Drowning Creek.
- According to a very detailed letter dated 1908 from a descendant in Alabama, Duncan's daughter Peggy married one of two Peter McArthurs in Bladen County. The earliest Peter McArthur appears in the 1768 Bladen County tax list.
- John Johns(t)on, Sr., known in his time as "Big John" Johnston, appears to have been the John Johnston who came from Scotland in 1770 with his sister Margaret and her husband, Archibald Little, and their family:
- The surname in this family changes in the early records from Johnston to Johnson and then back again, but is consistently spelled as "Johnston" in the 1780s and 1790s.
- An 1850 family chart cited in a book on McCallum genealogy states a John Johnston married a Mary McAllister (whose mother had been a McNeill) and that their daughter Margaret, born about 1736, married Archibald Little in 1756 whose Robeson County will is dated 1797. This same chart states that this John Johnston came to NC in 1770 with his sister Margaret and her husband Archibald Little. The McAllister Papers at the Archives in Raleigh contains a letter from James McAllister in Scotland to Alexander McAllister on Cape Fear River dated October of 1771 wherein he inquires of a "John Johnston, a tailor" and a "Donald Johnston, shoemaker" who both had emigrated in 1770. There is a Robeson County deed dated 1788 wherein John and Mary Johnston are selling land south of the Great Marsh witnessed by a Daniel Johnston. Daniel Johnston is known to have lived south of the Great Marsh and was a son of "Big John" Johnston and he was about to marry in 1788. A year later Archibald and Margaret Little are selling their property on the south side of Rockfish Creek the deed for which was witnessed and proved by John Johnston; Archibald and Margaret are found later living around the Great Marsh.
- Research on this "Big John" Johnston, Senior is ongoing but hampered by the use and reuse of first names over the first three generations in NC, and who all sold land to each other, father-to-son and brother-to-brother, without mentioning their close relationships in the respective deeds. "Big John" owned land on the southwest side of the Great Marsh bordering John McPherson. Late in his life he purchased land on Ten Mile Swamp and its Cowpen Branch that eventually went into the hands of his son, John Johnson, Junior. Randal Currie, Patrick Kelly and John Little signed over via a quit claim deed to "Big John" Johnston's grandchildren in 1810; Randal Currie is known to have married a Nelly Johns(t)on and Patrick Kelly married Margaret Johnston — so who did John Little marry?
- Evidence in Robeson deeds points to "Big John" Johnston, Sr. as having been the father or grandfather of Randal Currie's wife Nelly Johns(t)on. Tradition has said she was the daughter of Soloman Johnston but that is wrong. It is becoming more and more likely that John "Big John" Johnston, Senior was the father of Nelly Currie but further research is needed. (I will add here that Robeson County deeds prove that Solomon Johnston, Sr. was the father of Mrs. Marrion (née Johnston) Perkins McPhaul, widow of old John McPhaul, the Scottish immigrant.)
- Solomon Johnston, Sr., originally from Cumberland County (and perhaps Virginia before that), was the father of widowed Marrion "Ann" Johnston Perkins McPhaul who, after 1767, married John McPhaul, Sr.
- In legend, Soloman was said to have been a giant of a man, and fought off a group of bandits bent on robbing him at his cabin on Richland Swamp on the south edge of the old lands of the immigrant Malcolm Buie just south of Red Springs (a part of the Goza family land).
- He also had a son Solomon Johnston, Junior, who lived for a time in Georgia and who, though married by 1769, died without children.
- Colonial Bladen County tax lists record Soloman, Sr. at times as white, sometimes "mulato" or of "mixed blood." Oral tradition has long held that his daughter Marrion herself, or her own daughter "Pretty Polly" Perkins, was Native American. Bladen tax lists record Marrion to have been at times a non-white, widowed, head-of-household, and at other times white. It is my belief that Marrion was white and that her first husband, Joshua Perkins, was of Native American (perhaps Lumbee) descent.
- Solomon may have come from Virginia but his name appears in the 1755 tax list of Cumberland County, though it's crossed out. He owned land in Cumberland in 1757 and appears in the records later owning lands in Bladen. He had a 640-acre tract located south of Red Springs in Robeson County, and it probably encompassed the old Goza farm on Hwy 71 on the south side of Richland Swamp. Richland Swamp was originally called Solomons Swamp and also Scolding Branch. Soloman, Sr. also owned land around White Oak Swamp near Centre Presbyterian Church. John McPhaul's son, Daniel McPhaul, Senior owned White Oak Swamp and records state he drained it with the county's permission around 1812.
“For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto an other brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
― Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene
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