Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History

Henry W. McNeely.

My grandmother said he looked a bit like a poet. Or so she was told:

See, I never did know Grandpa Henry. I didn’t know him.  He died just as Louise was born. Mama had just had Louise, and it was real hot and all, and they told her she couldn’t go to the funeral because it was so warm and she would take cold.  But I didn’t know him. 


Mama said he looked just like Walt Whitman.  You know, he was, his father was white. I don’t know who his mother was. I don’t know if she was mulatto or what.  But anyway, he was really light.  And he lived on the same farm as his daddy.  And he provided him, he provided for him as if he was his own child.

White child, that is.

Henry W. McNeely was 22 years old the year his father reported to the tax assessor that he was worth $1500. The tax list is his first named appearance in the record, and documentation of his life is relatively scarce thereafter. He registered to vote in Rowan County in 1868 and appears in his mother’s household in Atwell township, Rowan County, in the 1870 census.  (He was described as a schoolteacher. Had his father taught him to read while he was enslaved? Or was he a quick learner in a Reconstruction school?) In 1872, he married 18 year-old Martha Miller and, in a daring gesture, named Wilson McNeely as his father on the license. The register of deeds did not blink and dutifully noted that all parties, except Wilson, were colored.

[Sidenote: “Louise” was Mary Louise Colvert Renwick, my grandmother’s sister, born in 1906. — LYH]


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.


7 thoughts on “Henry W. McNeely.

  1. Pingback: Early going. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  2. Pingback: I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  3. Pingback: John W. McNeely’s heirs. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  4. Pingback: The notebook in the shed. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  5. Pingback: The first registration. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  6. Pingback: Roadtrip chronicles, no. 4: Rowan County deeds. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

  7. Pingback: Signature Saturday, no. 8: the McNeelys. | Scuffalong: Genealogy.

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