Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

John McNeely vs. John McNeely.

Okay, now I am genuinely perplexed. A couple of months ago, I wrote about finding my great-great-uncle John McNeely’s first wife, whom he married in 1899. I had just found a marriage license for John Alexander McNeely, colored, son of Henry and Martha McNeely of Iredell County, and Carry Armstrong. Prior to this, I had only known wife Laura Nesbit, whom he married in Statesville in 1912.

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I have not found John and Laura McNeely in the 1920 census, but in 1930 they and Laura’s daughter Marie shared a house with John’s sister and brother-in-law, Emma and Irving Houser, in Bayonne, New Jersey. In 1940, John and Laura and Marie and her husband James Watkins were living on West 19th Street in Bayonne. And when John died in 1947, his obituary noted that he was the beloved husband of Laura (Nesbitt.)

So yesterday when I found yet another marriage for John A. McNeely, son of Henry and Martha McNeely of Iredell County, I was flummoxed.

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Did John marry Laura, divorce (or otherwise leave) her, marry Jane Nichols, divorce her, then remarry Laura Nesbit? If so, where is the second marriage license for Laura? If not, who is this John McNeely? And who are the other Henry and Martha McNeely?

The only Henry and Martha McNeely in the 1900 census of North Carolina are my John’s parents, living in Statesville township. In 1880, they’re in Rowan County, and still the only couple with those names in the state. Henry died in 1906, before death certificates were kept, and Martha died in New Jersey. I have not found death certificates for any other Henry or Martha McNeely in Iredell.

As for John: John and Jane McNeely appear in the 1900 census of Statesville, my John McNeely does not. In the first decade of the century, a John McNeely pops up in the pages of the local paper for various misdeeds — shooting at a rival, having smallpox, fighting, slicing a man with a knife, shooting at a dog. I’d like to think that this is not my John, but there’s no clear way to know. And there’s no John McNeely at all in Iredell County in the 1910 census.

I’ll have to leave it here for now. I don’t have enough to know for certain whether John McNeely and John Alexander McNeely were the same man.

UPDATE, 19 June 2015: Is this a clue to the identity of John A. McNeely?

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This Henry McNeely is not my great-great-grandfather Henry McNeely. He’s his nephew. Henry’s father John Rufus McNeely was, I believe, the half-brother of my Henry. Unfortunately, this Henry was born about 1863, and John A. McNeely was born about 1870. I don’t believe this Henry and Martha were the couple named on John A. McNeely’s marriage licenses.

UPDATE, 21 June 2015: Then there’s this.

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This is from the marriage license of my John McNeely’s brother, William Luther McNeely, who married Mary Belle Woods in 1906 at Statesville’s Associate Reform Presbyterian Church. My great-grandparents Lon and Carrie McNeely Colvert wed there the same year. Is it just coincidence that John Alexander McNeely was also married by Rev. J.H. Pressly in this church?

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Maternal Kin

Mini McNeely reunion.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a delightful Friday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia, getting to know my cousin M.H. and his wife C.H. M.’s grandmother was Emma McNeely Houser, beloved and much-admired aunt of my grandmother Margaret Colvert Allen. M. and C. were every bit as warm and friendly as I’d expected, and the whole time we laughed and swapped stories. I wish he’d been able to meet my grandmother.

Here’s me and M.:

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And here’s my great-grandmother Carrie McNeely Colvert Taylor, Aunt Emma holding a grandchild, Aunt Minnie McNeely Hargrove, and Uncle John McNeely, sometime in the early 1940s in Jersey City, New Jersey:

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Uncle John’s first wife?

I am clearly getting my whole life in these marriage records, but I have to wonder. What in the world have I been doing? Why have I missed so many of these records? Have I just assumed that what was on the shelf or on-line was all that was available? Fie.

Here’s another.

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Lots about this license says it relates to a previously unknown first marriage for my grandmother’s uncle, John McNeely. First, the parents are named correctly, and they were the only Henry and Martha McNeely in Iredell County at the time. Second, the church is right, as the McNeelys were Presbyterians. (Except when they were being Episcopalians.) Third, that middle name, Alexander — the first I’ve heard of one for John! — is a family name, borne first by Alexander “Sandy” McNeely, son of Henry McNeely’s sister Alice. In fact, the only thing that throws me is John’s age. Uncle John was 27 in 1899, not 21. That’s a curious error, but not critical enough to trump the other details. I’ll update my tree to include John’s middle name and his first wife.

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John A. McNeely as a young man. (I think. Even as I post this, something is worrying me about the timeframe of this photo….)

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Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents, Religion

Roadtrip chronicles, no. 7: Iredell County Public Library.

Iredell County Public Library has a nice local history and genealogy room, and during my sojourn I spent a nice hour or two there, disturbed only by the raucous banter of three students prepping for a nursing assistant exam. Anyway.

A back wall of cabinets contains files from the Homer Keever collection, and I found several of interest. Under “Black Churches,” I found a four-page handwritten document, apparently compiled by Alice Murphy Ramseur in 1973, entitled “Historial [sic] Data of Holy Cross Episcopal Church.” Holy Cross, of course, was the church my grandmother grew up in in Statesville. Its earliest services were held in 1887 in “the old brick storehouse on depot hill” and with success moved to the Good Samaritan Hall at 118 Garfield Street. This was all very interesting, and then: “May 24, 1899 the Bishop conmfirmed twelve Members they was William Pearson, Mrs Laura S. Pearson, Mrs. Lucy Chambers, Henry McKneely, Mrs Marther McKneely, Mr John Reeves, Mr. Will McCulland, Mrs Rebecca S. Allison, Mrs Clara S. Seaborn, Miss Carrie Bidding, Mr Mik Stevenson.”

Henry McNeely? What was this Presbyterian doing joining an Episcopal Church? Had Martha been an Episcopalian all along?

Here’s the entire piece, with thanks and acknowledgement to the library:

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Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs, Religion

Roadtrip chronicles, no. 6: Western Rowan County churches.

In Church Home, no. 9, I wrote about Back Creek Presbyterian, the church that my great-great-great-great-grandfather Samuel McNeely helped found and lead. I wanted to see this lovely edifice, erected in 1857, for myself:

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And I wanted to walk its cemetery. I didn’t expect to see the graves of any of its many enslaved church members there, but thought I might find Samuel McNeely or his son John W. Dozens of McNeelys lie here, many John’s close kin and contemporaries, but I did not find markers for him or his father. (I later checked a Back Creek cemetery census at the Iredell County library. They are not listed.)

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Within a few miles of Back Creek stands its mother church, Thyatira Presbyterian. This lovely building was built 1858-1860, but the church dates to as early as 1747. There are McNeelys in Thyatira’s cemetery, too, and this is the church Samuel originally attended.

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Just up White Road from Thyatira is Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. I visited its cemetery in December 2013 and took photos of the the graves of descendants of Joseph Archy McNeely (my great-great-grandfather Henry McNeely‘s nephew), Mary Caroline McConnaughey Miller and John B. McConnaughey (siblings of Henry’s wife, my great-great-grandmother Martha Miller McNeely.) Green Miller and Ransom Miller’s lands were in the vicinity of this church.

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Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2015.

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Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Roadtrip chronicles, no. 4: Rowan County deeds.

My notes from an hour or so spent poking around the Rowan County Register of Deeds’ office:

  • No deeds filed by my Henry W. McNeely.
  • Julius McNeely bought his one and only parcel of land — the one his half-brother Henry’s children inherited — for $20 on 5 January 1876 from J.M. and H.E. Goodman.
  • In 1869, John W. McNeely applied for a homestead exemption. The application, filed at Deed Book 44, page 247, attached descriptions of his real and personal property. His real property consisted one tract of land bordered by Joshua Miller on the north, Frederick Menius on the east, “Dr. Luckey” and Ephraim Overcash on the south, and Jacob Shuliberinger and Mrs. Malissa Pool on the west, containing 235 acres and valued at $940.
  • On 7 January 1880, Ransom Miller, husband of Mary Ann McConnaughey, paid $900 to John S. Henderson, trustee for the estate of Archibald Henderson and Jane C. Boyden, for 135 acres. The land’s bounds lay on the north side of Sills Creek and touched on the Buffalo Big Road, crossed Second Creek and followed its meander to the intersection of Back Creek. On 1 December 1883, Ransom paid G.W. and C.C. Corriher $600 for 40 1/2 acres west of Neely’s Mill Road.
  • On 18 September 1889, Green E. Miller, husband of Grace Adeline Miller, paid $220 to John S. Henderson, trustee for the estate of Archibald Henderson and Jane C. Boyden, for about 22 acres. [Archibald Henderson Jr. and Jane C. Henderson Boyden were children of Salisbury lawyer Archibald Henderson. John Steele Henderson was Archibald Jr.’s son.] The plot description: “beginning at a stone in a field, South of where the said Green Miller now lives” running at one corner to a stake or stone in Ransom Miller’s line. The land was part of the Foster tract on the east side of Sill’s Creek and the west side of the Neely’s Mill Road, but not immediately adjoining either. Green had contracted to buy the property on 30 November 1886.
  • Oddly, on 28 May 1897, Green Miller and John Henderson sold 10 acres of the above tract to “Grace Adeline Miller, wife of Green Miller” for $100. [What was this about? Records seem to indicate that Adeline and Green remained married until her death in 1918. Why did he partition the land? And, why, if Green had purchased the full tract in 1889, was John Henderson listed as a grantor?]

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This section of the Cleveland, North Carolina, USGS quadrangle topographical map helps narrow the location of Ransom, Green and Adeline Miller’s properties in Steele township, Rowan County. (1) is the point at which (2) Second Creek branches into Back Creek and Sills Creek. That Ransom and Green’s lands adjoined supports a conclusion that Ransom was, in fact, the man referred to in the letter published in local newspapers about a damaging hailstorm in the area. The road running north-south is today called White Road. (3) marks the location of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, attended to this day by descendants of Adeline’s daughter Mary Caroline Miller Brown, her brother John B. McConnaughey and cousins of Martha Miller McNeely‘s husband Henry W. McNeely.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Photographs

Roadtrip Chronicles, no. 1: Statesville cemeteries.

I made it to Statesville in good time Sunday and drove straight to the only place I really know there — South Green Street. My great-aunt, Louise Colvert Renwick, had lived there for decades, across from the street from the Green Street cemetery. As I approached her house, my eye caught a small memorial just off the curb.

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Funny what you see when you’re looking. (And look closely at the plaque. Committee member Natalie Renwick is my first cousin, once removed.)

It seems odd to me that, when we were all gathered at Aunt Louise’s for the first Colvert-McNeely reunion, no one mentioned that Colverts and McNeelys were buried across the street. (Or maybe my 14 year-old self just paid no attention?) I’ve only found three graves — those of John Colvert, his wife Addie Hampton Colvert, and their daughter Selma — but there are certainly many more. Lon W. Colvert, for one. (Or was it? His death certificate indicates “Union Grove,” but why would he have been buried up there?*) And his son John W. Colvert II. And Addie McNeely Smith and Elethea McNeely Weaver and Irving McNeely Weaver, who was brought home from New Jersey for burial.

The cemetery looks like this though:

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And not because it’s empty. Though closed to burials for 50 or more years, it is probably nearly full of graves either unmarked or with lost or destroyed markers. Here’s one that’s nicely marked, however, and that would I recall before 24 hours had passed:

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From Green Street, I headed across town to Belmont, Statesville’s newer black cemetery. I knew Aunt Louise, her husband and son Lewis C. Renwick Sr. and Jr. were buried in Belmont, and I was looking for several McNeelys whose death certificates noted their burials here. I found Ida Mae Colvert Stockton‘s daughter Lillie Stockton Ramseur (1911-1980) and her husband Samuel S. Ramseur (1912-1989). Then Golar Colvert Bradshaw‘s husband William Bradshaw (1894-1955) and son William Colvert Bradshaw (1921-1988). (William was buried with his second wife. Golar, who died in 1937, presumably was interred at Green Street.) No McNeelys though. I expected to find both Lizzie McNeely Long and Edward McNeely, who had a double funeral in 1950, but their graves seem to be unmarked.

I was also looking for my great-grandmother, Carrie McNeely Colvert Taylor. The whole business was turning into a big disappointment. At street’s edge, I turned to head back to my car. And gasped. There, at my feet, wedged at the base of a tree:

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What in the world? This is clearly not a gravesite. And, on the other side of the tree, there’s an identical stamped concrete marker for Lewis C. Renwick Sr., who died almost exactly a year after Carrie. What’s odd, though, is that he has a granite marker a couple hundred feet away in another section of the cemetery with his wife (Carrie’s daughter Louise) and oldest son. Is Grandma Carrie actually buried in the Renwicks’ family plot? Were her and Lewis Renwick’s makeshift stones pulled up to be replaced by better markers? If so, where is Grandma Carrie’s? And why were both dumped at the edge of the cemetery?

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Here’s an overview of Belmont cemetery. (1) is the approximate location of Carrie M.C. Taylor’s broken marker. (2) is the approximate location of the Renwick plot.

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I’ll pose those questions to Statesville’s cemetery department. If Grandma Carrie has no permanent stone, she’ll get one.

* After noticing that Irving Weaver’s obit also mentioned Union Grove cemetery, though the McNeelys had no ties to that township in northern Iredell County, I searched for clues in contemporary newspapers. Mystery cleared. Green Street cemetery is Union Grove cemetery:

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The Evening Mascot (Statesville), 3 April 1909.

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Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Justifiable homicide?

I am just about to have to side-eye my Rowan and Iredell County people. If my grandmother were still living, would I have the nerve to ask her about all this cutting and shooting and bootlegging?

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The Union Republican (Winston-Salem), 18 March 1920.

This is Aunt Lizzie’s husband!

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The Union Republican (Winston-Salem), 4 March 1920.

As detailed here, Margaret L.E. “Lizzie” McNeely, my grandmother’s maternal aunt, married William Watt Kilpatrick in Statesville, Iredell County, in 1900. By 1920, their marriage had gone south, and 45 year-old Watt appeared in the census that year at 17 Roanoke Street in Winston-Salem, sharing a house with 32 year-old Miss Dora Freeman. Contrary to the news article, in the census Freeman was described as the “roomer.”

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Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 4. Closest to your birthday.

I don’t know if her birthday (June 22) is closest to mine (June 26), but it’s pretty doggone close, so this week’s featured ancestor is my great-grandmother, Carrie McNeely Colvert Taylor, whom I’ve written about before here and here.

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Grandma Carrie in Jersey City, New Jersey, with her daughter Launie Mae’s children, early 1940s.

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Me: Well, I wonder where she got her name from?

My grandmother: Who?

Me: Your mama. Your mother. Caroline Martha Mary —

My grandmother: Yeah. Who ever heard tell of such as that?

Me: — Fisher Valentine McNeely. Well, I know where the Martha came from, ’cause that was her mother’s name.

My grandmother: Yeah.

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

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

Such estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life.

In the name of God Amen, I John van Pool in the State of North Carolina, and County of Rowan, being perfect in mind and memory, calling unto mind the mortality of my body, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament, that is to say principally and first I give and recommend my soul into the hand of almighty God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in a decent Christian burial, nothing doubting but at the general ressurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God. And as touching such worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life, I give and dispose of the same in the following manner and form.

1st, I give and bequeth to my son-in-law Samuel McNeely my waggon and hind geers.

2nd, What household furniture I did not sell, I give and bequeth to my Daughters Nancy and Margaret.

3rd, I give an bequeth to my grand Daughter Eliza Pool fifty dollars if she lives to come of age. If not, it will be Equally Divided among my own children.

4th, I give to my grand Children Margaret T. Pool and Elihu N. Pool sixty dollars.

5th, I give to my well beloved son David Pool forty dollars.

6th, I give to my well beloved son Jacob Pool fifty dollars

7th, I give to my Daughter Margaret fifty dollars.

And the remainder of my Money to my other three children Nancy, John, and Maria to be equally divided amongst them.

I likewise constitute, make, and ordain Samuel McNeely Executor of this my last will and testament, and I do hereby disalow, revoke, and disanul all and every other testaments, Wills, Legacies, requests, and Executors by me in any wise

Willed, bequeathed, ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament in Witness whereto I have there unto set my hand and seal this 13th day of October in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and Twenty-Five.

John X Van Pool

Test. John McNeely Sen’r

Test. John McNeely Jun’r

Wm B. McNeely

Recorded at August Sessions, 1827, in Will Book H, page 401, Rowan County, North Carolina Probate Records 1735-1970, familysearch.org.

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My great-great-great-grandfather John W. McNeely was the son of Samuel McNeely and Nancy Van Pool McNeely. Nancy Van Pool’s parents were John Van Pool, above, and Elizabeth (perhaps Peyser). John Van Pool was the son of Jacob Van Pool, a native of Cecil County, Maryland, and Elizabeth Hampton, who married in Rowan County in 1752. (This is all sort of accepted wisdom. I have not done any original Van Pool-Hampton research. And, sadly, my Van Pool matches were purged with the “new and improved” version of Ancestry DNA.)

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