THE MCNEILLS OF THE BRIDGE:
A History of One McNeill Family of Robeson County, NC
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
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
Daniel-- born May 8, 1784, married February 2, 1809 Margaret
Black, dau. of James and Ann Peterson Black.
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
Janet-- born June 23, 1806, married John McDonald.
Hector-- born May 31, 1808, married Mary McNeill.
Christian-- born July 22, 1810, married Archibald
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
Neill-- born November 4, 1841, married Virginia McNatt.
Alexander-- born October 26, 1843, married Mary Rachel
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.
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
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!'
August 16th, 2000
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