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,


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.)

Agriculture, Land, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

A sufferer by the hailstorm.


Carolina Watchman, 27 June 1889.

The Ransom Miller named above may not have been not “my” Ransom, but a white man. However, “Green Miller, col.” was definitely my great-great-grandmother Martha Miller McNeely‘s brother-in-law, husband of her sister Grace Adeline Miller Miller.

Two days earlier, a Winston-Salem newspaper had also posted an appeal for help for Rowan County’s devastated farmers.


Winston-Salem Progressive Farmer, 25 June 1889.

When it came down to it, however, despite having “lost nearly everything,” Green Miller somehow failed to benefit from the Wood Grove Alliance’s appeal.


Carolina Watchman, 11 July 1889.


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


My grandmother tells a story:

… Jay and I were supposed to clean the house on Saturday. You know, do the vacuuming and dusting and cleaning and everything. And then I would play, and we would play, and Grandma would say, “I’m gonna tell your mama. I’m gonna write your mama and tell your mama how you act.” She said, “I can’t write her right now ‘cause I’m nervous,’ you know.” Couldn’t write a lick. [I laugh.] Couldn’t read …. I don’t think she could read or write, but I know she couldn’t write. Bless her heart. She says, “I’m gonna tell your mammy on you. You see if I don’t. And, see, if I wont so nervous, I’d write her, but I’m too nervous” – couldn’t write any more than she could fly! [Laughs.]

Martha Miller McNeely, born into slavery in 1855, may not have been able to read or write, but her children signed their names in clear, firm hands that evidence both their early education and their easy familiarity with penmanship. Their father Henry, the literate son of a slaveowner, may have taught them rudiments, but they likely attended one of the small country schools that dotted rural Rowan County. (My grandmother said that her mother Carrie finished seventh grade and was supposed to have gone on to high school at Livingstone College, but the family used her school money to pay for an appendectomy for one of her sisters.) The document below is found in the estate file of Henry’s half-brother, Julius McNeely, who, unlike Henry, was not taught to read during slavery. Julius died without a wife or children, and Henry’s offspring were his sole legal heirs.

Power of attorney

Signatures are often-overlooked scraps of information that yield not only obvious clues about literacy, but also subtleties like depth and quality of education and preferred names, spellings and pronunciations. They are also, in original documents, tangible traces of our forebears’ corporality — evidence that that they were once here.


 Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved. File of Jule McNeely, Rowan County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979, Original, North Carolina State Archives.

Education, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

David C. McNeely’s erratum.

Eons ago, one of the first documents I found related to my great-great-great-grandfather John Wilson McNeely‘s family was an 1828 obituary for his brother David C. McNeely, a student at Yale College.


Western Carolinian, 22 April 1828.

Wow, I marveled. There could not have been many Scotch-Irishmen from the backwoods of Piedmont North Carolina studying at Yale at that time.  What a terrible loss this must have been for John and his family. I entered David’s name into my Family Tree Maker tree alongside Samuel McNeely’s other children William and Acenith (or Acintha).

And then the other day, I found this:


Western Carolinian, 29 April 1828.

Oh. … Okay. … So all my sentiments hold — except the loss to John. David was not Samuel McNeely‘s son after all, but James McNeely’s.

If there was one James McNeely in Rowan County in the first quarter of the 19th century, there were a dozen, and I have been singularly unsuccessful at teasing apart and differentiating them. Evidence shows that Samuel and his son John W. had close relationships with several James. However, the will of Samuel’s father John McNeely (1724-1801) lists no heir named James, only John, Alexander and Samuel and their sister Ellinor McNeely Bell. It is past time that I pull together a chart or a list or a something that summarizes links I’ve found among these McNeelys and may reveal previously unnoticed clues.


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

John W. McNeely’s heirs.

John Wilson McNeely died childless in July 1871. Or at least, you know, childless in any way that mattered to probate court. He had not made a will, so his heirs at law were his widow Mary McNeely McNeely and his two surviving siblings. His son Henry W. McNeely did not warrant notice.

In August, Joshua Miller, administrator of John’s estate, and Mary McNeely filed a Petition to sell Land for Assets against John’s brother William B. McNeely and sister Acintha McNeely or Corryer [or, as most commonly spelled, Corriher.]  McNeely’s debts totaled about $2000, and his estate was valued at only $800, of which $300 had been set off for his widow.  At death John had owned “about 235 acres on Catheys Creek in Rowan County adjoining the lands of Joshua Miller, Frederick Menus, Dr. F.A. Luckey, and others” and valued at about $7/acre.  This property was to descend to William, age 65, believed to be living somewhere Missouri, and Acintha McNeely or Corryer, age 60, living somewhere in Tennessee.

On 8 September, justice of the peace John Graham, J.M. Harrison, and S.A.D. Hart allotted a year’s provision to Mary McNeely, which included a mouse-colored mule worth $125, four horseloads of hay, 500 bundles of fodder, two hogs, one sow and four pigs, one old buggy and harness, 37 pounds of bacon, two bushels of Irish potatoes, one ax, an old washtub, one “foalding leg table,” one “old poplar cubbard & contents,” one waterbucket and washpan, a half dozen chairs, one candlestand, one bureau, an old looking glass, two beds and furniture, one small Bible, two Hymn books, four handtowels, and three “table cloth.”

William and Acintha were never located,* and, on 31 October, Joshua Miller sold the remainder of John’s personal property at auction. The items sold included a “crout” stand, 550 shingles, “sythes,” a log-chain, tanner’s knives, a cross-cut saw, ceiling-dogs, moulding planes, “clevis & strechers,” planes, “waggon cloth,” “hackel & chain oil,” a cultivator, a tar bucket, five sheep, nine hogs, a red calf, a blue calf, two cows, two horses, a mule, a bureau, mirror, a small table, two beds and furniture, a book case, a clock, two chests, two pairs of boots, shoe tools, sheep skins, a map, Scotts Bible, another Bible, a hymn book, 14 lots of books, a razor and strop, an armchair, ten chairs, one counterpane, a coon skin, two padlocks, a slate, and 240 1/2 acres of land sold at $10.80/acre for a total of $3266.19 1/4.

The land sale apparently did not go through, and six weeks later, Miller advertised the sale of 235 acres from John’s estate.


Carolina Watchman, 8 December 1871.

It is likely that Henry McNeely’s mother Lucinda worked in John W. McNeely’s household until he died. The 1870 census of Atwell township, Rowan County, lists J. Wilson McNeely and wife Mary at household #292; Henry W. McNeely, wife and children, including a son John Wilson, at #293 (this Henry was NOT John W.’s son, though he was certainly a nephew by marriage and/or cousin); then Lucinda, her son Henry and two grandchildren at #294 and Lucinda’s son Julius, wife and nephews at #295. I have no doubt that Lucinda and her offspring lived on John McNeely’s land. Or that the sale of John’s 235 acres forced them off. By 1880, they were living just north in Mount Ulla township, where Julius bought a small farm.

*I have never found a trace of Acenith McNeely Corriher, but William Bell McNeely outlived his brother by 13 years. More later on his life in Iron County, Missouri.

Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History, Religion

Church home, no. 8: Back Creek Presbyterian Church, Rowan County NC.

Founded in 1805, Back Creek Presbyterian Church is a historic church in Mount Ulla, North Carolina. In 1809, the congregation built a small log house of worship, which was replaced by the congregation’s present Greek Revival sanctuary in 1857. This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.  — From


Back Creek was the church of my white McNeely forebears — John Wilson McNeely and his father Samuel.  In 1905, Rev. S.C. Alexander and John K. Goodman published History of Back Creek Presbyterian Church, Rowan County, N.C., for 100 Years. It is too much to call it a scintillating work, but its dramatic retelling of the church’s founding compels:

During the latter part of last century, infidelity spread like a contagion all over our country, from one end of it to the other. It gathered round the Church, and settled down upon it like a thick cloud of moral death Although far removed from the busy marts and thorough- fares of the world, this retired part of the Lord’s vineyard did not wholly escape the infection. A cold dead formality had well nigh chilled the vitals of true religion. But this state of things was not permitted to remain long. God heard and answered the prayers of his faithful servants. His life-giving spirit was sent forth with power, and breathed upon the valley of dry bones, and an army of living men stood up to praise Jehovah’s name. This was an important era in the history of our Church and country. It was a time when angels in heaven, and men on earth rejoiced together. It was a time when a most powerful and sudden death-stroke was given to the cause of infidelity. So that its hideous form has never since been reared so high in the majesty of its ugliness to pollute and annoy the Church Thyatira with her then widely extended limits, seemed to have been thoroughly aroused in those exciting times.

As in all communities, so in that venerable Church, there necessarily existed a great diversity of sentiment. The time had now come, when this diversity was to be fully manifested, The Revival of 1802, let it be remembered, was accompanied with many strange phenomena, such as “jerking,” “leaping,” “shouting,” “swooning,” and many such-like bodily exercises. Those who were possessed of more ardent zeal and strong affection, thought this a necessary part of the revival, and produced by the influence of the Spirit. While those of a more phlegmatic temperament, and less impulsive nature, looked upon it as dross around the precious metal; or rather, as the work of Satan trying to counterfeit and hinder the work of religion. Thus there were two parties formed, and each doubtless conscientiously thought they were right. Those who favored the “exercises” were called the “revival party,” as if they alone were desirous of promoting the cause of religion. While those who thought differently were called “opposers” or “anti-revivalists,” as if they wished to hold back the Gospel car. One party wished to have profound silence during public worship. It mattered not how eloquent the speaker was, or how powerful the movings of the Spirit, all must be quiet and still. The other party wished to give vent to their feelings in whatever way inclination might lead. If they felt happy they would shout aloud for joy, or if distressed they would cry out for mercy. The congregation ofttimes presenting the appearance of a Bochim-Babel.

Thus the matter went on for two or three years each party becoming more and more sensitive; and owing to the weakness of human nature, one seemed to exasperate the other, until it became evident to all that some final and decisive action should be taken for the welfare of the Church. A day of fasting and humiliation was appointed, that they might pray for wisdom to guide them in the path of duty, and that they might adopt some plan of action which would be for their peace and edification. The day was accordingly observed. At which meeting the Session was publicly charged with a neglect of their duty in permitting what was looked on by one party as disorder and confusion to exist in time of public worship. The Elders defended their conduct in a mild and Christian-like manner, but all to submit to the other. Thus the day seemed likely to close without having bettered their condition. But something must be done was the universal feeling. Whereupon, it was resolved unanimously, that all those who sympathized with the “Revival Party,” and acted under its influence, should be permitted to withdraw from the Congregation, and leave the other party in the quiet possession of their house and minister. This resolution was acted upon immediately, when about thirty families withdrew, including five Elders — all that Thyatira [Presbyterian Church] then had — men of whom the world might be proud. This was the birthday of Back Creek. The mother travailed with pain, and a noble daughter was born. —

Thus the infant colony, springing off from the western part of Thyatira principally, was left without a minister, and without a house in which to worship. But with zeal like theirs, with hearts so large, and hands so willing, all difficulties were soon removed, and their necessities met. They resolved to build a house in their midst, in which they could worship as their conscience dictated.

A year after Back Creek’s founding, my great-great-great-great-grandfather assumed a leadership role:

On the 27th of December, 1806, William Kilpatrick, Samuel McNeely, and George Andrew, were added to the list of Elders — men of whom we cannot speak too highly. Each was distinguished for his own excellency of character. When sitting in council about the welfare of the Church, it is said William Kilpatrick would devise ways and means for the prosperity of Zion. George Andrew would discourse on its practicability. He would present it in one aspect and then in another, in order that it might be weighed well, — while the venerable John Barr and Samuel McNeely who knew their Bible by heart, would decide whether it were right or not, or whether it would be for the general good. Thus each wheel in the machinery performed its part; and the consequence was, the Church like a healthy plant, grew and flourished, and became a praise in the land. In 1833, another addition was made to the Session by the election and ordination of William King, Thomas Mathews, John Houston, John M. Lowrance and Abner Adams. — Only two of this number are spared to be with us now. The other three have fallen asleep. They were men with whom you were all familiar. Their names are embalmed in your memories. Their excellencies are well known. — And you have long since mourned their loss.

Fifty years later, his son was elected deacon:

On August 10, 1856, the last public service, the last sermon was preached in the “Old Log Church,” built in 1811. The first Deacons in Back Creek Church were elected on May 22, 1858, viz:— Col. Alfred M. Goodman, Jno. F. Clodfelter, Jacob P. Goodman, Moses Lingle, James Miller and J. Wilson McNeely; and on the following June 27 they were regularly ordained and installed. Prior to this the financial,and temporal affairs of the Church were administered, (under the session) by a board of trustees elected by the Congregation, but not regularly ordained and installed into office as is now the more scriptural practice with Deacons.

Given the close association of the McNeelys with Back Creek, it is likely that their slaves also attended the church.

Before the emancipation of the Southern Negro he worshipped with his master in the same church, and enjoyed all the church privileges, consistent with the relations existing between the white and negro races; many of them being worthy members of the church. The gallery in this church was built for their express accommodation. Faithful attention was given to their moral and religious training. Frequently the minister in charge would preach a sermon specially to them; they leading and furnishing the music, of no inferior quality. And they were not forgotten in the Sabbath-School; separate classes were formed of them, taught by the whites. This relation and condition continued for some time after “freedom;” finally, they changed order of relation, and natural trend of events led to their separation from the church of the whites, and to their distinct organization; still, however, some reluctantly took this step.

I don’t know about the “natural trend” or the reluctance. In any case, my forebears remained in the larger fold for, as my grandmother put it, Henry W. McNeely, J. Wilson’s son and former slave — “when he moved to Statesville, when Mama’s daddy moved to Statesville, child, he ran that Presbyterian church.”

The early lists of church members do not determine the proportion of whites to colored.

In regard to the numerical strength of Back Creek, from time to time, complete records fail us. In 1829 the membership was 124, but it is not stated how many white.

In 1850 we numbered 136 white and 26 colored — total 162.

In 1864, 96 white and 74 colored — total 170.

In 1869, 58 white and 50 colored — total 108.

In 1880, 83 white and no colored — total 83.

In 1894, 77 white; in 1900, 90 white; and in 1905, 150 white.

Sometime after 1869, African-Americans left — or were put out of — Back Creek en masse. Hopefully, a little research will reveal their new church home.

Photograph at, all rights reserved.



Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents, Photographs

Cousin Rufus McNeely.

Lucinda McNeely‘s son John Rufus McNeely and Emeline Atwell registered their 11-year cohabitation in 1866. John and Emeline’s youngest son, born in 1873, was Rufus Alexander McNeely. He died in 1964.


This photo of Rufus is attached to the public family tree of jeromemurray128. I’ve reached out unsuccessfully several times with offers to share information about the McNeelys. Perhaps he’ll see this post and get in touch. In the meantime, I hope he won’t mind me sharing this wonderful snapshot!