A History of One McNeill Family of Robeson County, NC

Steve Edgerton has submitted the McNeill Data on this page.

This family history was written by Mrs. George Bullock of Red Springs, N.C., and was read at a McNeill family reunion at Big Rockfish Presbyterian Church in Cumberland County, N.C., on Sunday, October 3, 1954. The material from which this history is drawn consists of old deeds, land grants and family letters now in the possession of Mrs. George Bullock, Mrs. J.H. McKay, and Miss Cornelia McMillan, all of Red Springs, N.C. [All of these ladies have since died.--SCE]


The McNeill home built by Dr. James W. McNeill after 1904. (Image above scanned from a photograph reproduced in The News and Observer.)

A brief sketch of two pioneer families who settled on Rockfish Creek and who passed down over a span of two centuries, a record of full and fruitful living.

After the battle of Culloden, in 1746, among those who left Scotland to seek freedom in the New World, was one Archibald McNeill who landed in Wilmington, North Carolina, and poled up the Cape Fear on a flat boat, the best mode of transportation of that day. He and two sons, John and Hector, are known to be buried near the Bluff [Presbysterian--SCE] Church, their graves unmarked and exact location unknown.

In 1754 Archibald bought lands on Rockfish Creek, some miles south of Cross Creek [now Fayetteville in Cumberland County, North Carolina--SCE]. It is not established whether he ever lived on these lands, but a son, Malcolm later came into possession of the original tract and on Malcolm's death, March 27, 1803, he left 1,310 acres lying between the Robeson County line and Big Rockfish Creek. Also 510 acres on Little Rockfish. His two eldest sons, Archibald and James, were administrators of his estate. [It is now doubted that Archibald, Sr., had a son named James.--SCE],

Malcolm married Mary McNeill of what McNeill family is not known. They lived near the bridge over the creeks. They had eleven children:

Daniel-- born May 8, 1784, married February 2, 1809 Margaret Black, dau. of James and Ann Peterson Black.
Malcolm, Jr.

Hector joined the army in defense of his country on July 23, 1813. According to old letters all the sons except Daniel eventually moved to Georgia, Alabama and Texas. This incomplete sketch cannot give any more information except that Sallie, who married Duncan Colquhoun (pronounced Calhoun) died in Georgia. Mary their mother, died at the Bridge in 1826. Daniel, third son and fourth child of Malcolm and Mary was born May 8, 1784. He married Margaret Black, daughter of James and Ann Peterson Black on February 2, 1809. Margaret was born May 27, 1785. They had five children:

James-- married Ann Newberry.
Mary-- married Hector McNeill.
Ann Peterson-- married William McMillan.
Margaret-- married Duncan Ray.
Malcolm-- married Pamela Ann Stanton.

James and Malcolm later moved with their families out to Mississippi and the west. The McMillan and Ray descendants are prominent families of Robeson and Cumberland Counties. Daniel and Margaret's eldest daughter Mary, who was born February 1, 1815, married Hector McNeill, son of Neill and Sarah Graham McNeill, on March 8, 1832. Upon this union two outstanding pioneer families of the Upper Cape Fear were merged into one.

Now We Trace Hector's Family

Roderick McNeill lived on the Ardlussa estate in the Island of Jura, Scotland. His son Torquil had a son Hector who married Margaret Darrock of Gourock, Scotland. They had two sons, Neil and Malcolm. Neil with several Shaw cousins came to America, landing in Wilmington, North Carolina, the 14th October, 1792. He first lived at the Bluff, where he worked the proverbial seven years for Farquhard Campbell, though not for the hand of this daughter--for on September 19, 1799, he married Sarah Graham, daughter of Alexander and Mary McCormick Graham. Sarah was known in the family as "Pretty Sally". Neil and Sally had ten children:

Margaret-- their first child, died in infancy.
Alexander-- born 1804, died unmarried at the age of 39 years.
Janet-- born June 23, 1806, married John McDonald.
Hector-- born May 31, 1808, married Mary McNeill.
Christian-- born July 22, 1810, married Archibald McFayden.
Flora-- born September 28, 1812, married James McFayden.
Margaret-- born January 28, 1815, died in infancy.
Margaret-- born March 5, 1817, married Roderick McRae.
Lauchlin-- born July 25, 1819, drowned while bathing in the creek at the age of nine years.
Neil Graham-- born October 10, 1821.

The reason three children were named Margaret was that Neil was determined to have a living daughter with his mother's name. This Margaret was the last of the family, dying August 17, 1900, at the age of 83 and according to all accounts proved well worthy of the name. All raised large families who were outstanding in the religions and temporal well-being of their communities. Daniel was building a new home near the bridge and finished it just in time for his daughter Mary's marriage to Hector McNeill on March 8, 1832. Hector and Mary lived the next twenty years about two miles down the creek at what was called the Mill Place as there was a grist mill there. After Margaret's death in 1853 Hector and Mary moved up to the Bridge and lived there, taking care of Daniel the rest of his life. He was buried in the Adams graveyard which he had laid off himself while living near there. Hector's father, Neil, in his old age was a victim of paralysis and confined to a wheel chair, but every Sabbath, no matter what the weather, he was lifted into his carriage by faithful servants and driven to the church, the carriage then drawn close to a front window where he could both see and hear the minister. Hector and Mary McNeill had fifteen children:

Daniel-- born December 4, 1832, died in infancy.
Sarah-- born October 14, 1835, never married.
Margaret-- born August 28, 1837, married Peter McQueen.
Ann-- born September 23, 1839, married Alexander McGeachy.
Neill-- born November 4, 1841, married Virginia McNatt.
Alexander-- born October 26, 1843, married Mary Rachel McAllister.
Daniel-- born September 1, 1845, joined the Confederate Army, was captured at Fort Fisher and died on a prison ship.
Mary-- born July 1, 1847, married D.P. McEachern.
James-- born June 28, 1849, married Annie Pemberton.
John Crow-- born ______ 1851.
Ella Graham-- born June 14, 1853, married Dr. W.H. McKinnon.
Hector-- born September 10, 1845.
Flora-- born ______ 1857, married Archibald Johnson.
Three children died in infancy unnamed. John and Hector died two days apart from dyptheria aged 7 and 3 years.

Mary and Hector lived to celebrate their 61st anniversary of their marriage. She died March 24, 1893, from a stroke of paralysis. In resolutions of respect the Ladies Missionary Society of Big Rockfish Church said in part -- 'She was like Dorcas of old, full of good works and alms deeds, which she did. Her missions of love were not to the rich and mighty, that she might be repaid, but on the poor and helpless were her gifts and sympathy bestowed. She helped organize the Society, never missing a meeting and kept her monthly apportionment paid in advance, up to and beyond her death.'

After Hector's death, June 23, 1900, the late Rev. P.R. Law, a former [Prebyterian] pastor, wrote, The McNeill home, one of the loveliest in Cumberland County, stands just beyond the Rockfish bridge which spans both creeks, on a hill with a commanding sweep to the North and West -- but the glory of the old home is no more. The man and woman who for over 60 years dealt justly, loved mercy and walked humbly with their God, are gone. Many a travel-stained stranger found a warm and cordial welcome in this fine old home of gentle courtesy and grace. It is worthy of note that Hector and his father, Neil, together were voters at every Presidential election in the history of the Republic, a span of over 100 years. Hector, known as 'The Sheriff,' was much in public life, filling each position to which he was called with signal efficiency and rare satisfaction. He was captain of the Militia for many years and for a long time held with great credit, the office of Justice of the Peace and was repeatedly elected Sheriff of the county.'

Hector's period as Sheriff spanned the difficult years ofthe Confederate War. A wing of Sherman's army camped at The Bridge and Hector was put under temporary arrest by the commanding officer for refusing to give certain information demanded.

The present older generation of the family remember him, tall and commanding but gentle with children. Keen blue eyes and flowing white beard. He was quite bald which once caused a young grandson to remark, 'Grandpa, you would look mighty much better if all that hair on your face was on top of your head!'

How the children loved to come back to the old home. The kindly welcome, the spicy cookies, warm from the oven always available. The wide hall with front door open, winter as well as summer, a sign to passers-by that all were welcome, and none ever abused that hospitality. The cool darkened parlor, smelling of box wood and magnolia blossoms, where afternoon naps were taken on pallets spread on the floor.Trips to the spring for icy cool mineral water that gushed from the side of the hill. Stealthy visits to the forbidden creek banks whose waters ran swift and dark far below. Tramps through the woods on still hunts for turkey nests. The 'jumping hill' where bare feet plunged into the sandy road from the bank above. Walks to the 'Island' that is no more -- all now swept away under the bulldozers of modern progress.

The house of happy memory is also gone, destroyed by fire in the spring of 1904 and probably many family records and relics went up in the flames at the same time. It was replaced by another soon afterwards by Dr. James W. McNeill, a son of Hector and Mary, and known now as 'Ardlussa,' the name of the ancestral home of Neil McNeill in Scotland. Dr. McNeill lived there until it was sold to Mrs. Mary McKinnon Vaughn, a grand-daughter of Hector and Mary. She and her husband lived there, she until her death in 1947. The place is now owned by her nephew, Bill Massie, of Lynchburg, Virginia.

Delightful reunions took place regularly ever summer for many years, bringing together descendants of both branches of the family from far and near. But they have been discontinued since the house has not been occupied by members of the family.

The bridge that spanned both creeks was for many early years a Toll Bridge, kept by the family. An old scrap of yellowed paper gives rates of toll as follows: 'Four wheel waggon, two or four horses, 25 cents; Gunnboats or Carryalls, 20 cents; Carts and two horses, 15 cents; carts and one horse, ox or mule, 10 cents; Foot travelers, 2 and one-half cents each; Livestock, 2 cents each head of cattle; hogs, sheep -- one cent each.' Another yellowed paper requests, 'Mr. McNeill, Sir -- Please to let Robert Stone pass and repass with my oxcart. --Delphia S. Campbell.'This is dated, August 1, 1831.

Odd happenings sometimes took place at the bridge. Perhaps the most unusual was a recollection of Annie McNeill (afterwards Mrs. William McMillan), of her childhood. She was at the bridge one day with her mother who was taking the toll, when along came a gig containing the body of a man strapped to the seat. It was afterwards learned that a prominent Fayetteville man, one Belo [sic] Strong [William Bela Strong, born circa 1786, died 27 May, 1815], had gone to Cheraw, S.C., to fight a duel as dueling was against N.C. law. He was killed, so his friends (?) strapped him to his vehicle, turned his horse's head toward home where he eventually arrived and was interred in Cross Creek Cemetery with appropriate honors. Aunt Annie always ended her tale with, 'That was one vehicle that was allowed to cross the bridge without paying toll--and quick!'

Posted by Myrtle Bridges. August 16th, 2000

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