THE McNIEL FAMILY
The McNiel family claims descent from one of the noblest clans of Scotland,
which traces its ancestry without interruption through a long dynasty of Irish
kings to Niall of the Nine Hostages who ascended the Throne of Ireland in the
year 379 A.D. Before that, according to Irish chroniclers, the line runs back to
Niall of Scythia and beyond him to Fenius the Antiquarian, son of Boath, son of
Magog, son of japhet, son of Noah. No more interesting treatise of any family
exists than that entitled "The Clan Macneil" by The Macneil of Barra, chief of
the clan, published, 1923, by the Caledonian Publishing Company. It tells how
Niall of Scythia was invited into Egypt by Pharoah Cingcris and of the great
work he accomplished in regulating the flow of the Nile River, which was named
for him. He married Princess Scota, the Pharoah's daughter who rescued Moses
from the bullrushes, and by her had a son, Gaedhal, or Gael, after whom the race
The first Macneil of Barra settled on the island of that name off the west coast
of Scotland about 105o A.D. From him is descended the Highland Scottish Clan
Macneil, than which none prouder existed in all Scotland. The Clan Macneil
Association of America has been formed to perpetuate interest in the family in
America, all members of which are descended from Scottish progenitors of common
Between the years 1735 and 1770, many members of the McNeil family emigrated to
North Carolina and settled on the Cape Fear River. Others came and settled in
the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, whilst others settled as far north as New
England. The emigrant ancestor of this Genealogy, the Rev. George McNiel, came
to North Carolina about 1750, landing, it is believed, at the mouth of the Cape
Fear River. The writer has a document signed by him in 1794, in which he spells
his name McNiel. His descendants use different spellings, McNeil, McNeill, and
in one case McNeel. In this record the writer will use the ancestral spelling,
except in cases where he knows for a certainty that a different spelling is in
The oldest authentic piece of manuscript touching upon the life of Rev. George
McNiel was written by his son Joseph McNeil, who was born about 1727, and died
about 1805. It was published in the Memorial Booklet prepared in 1905 on the
occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the death of Rev. George McNiel. The
manuscript is without date and reads as follows:
"The Rev. Mr. George McNeil was bornd on or about the year 1720 and was ordained
sometime before the year 1776, but the exact time I cannot tel, and he was
frequently a Corresponding Messenger to different Associations, frequently
appointed a help to churches whose difficulties arose in them, and was called on
to ordain preachers, and constitute churches, and was Moderator of the Yadkin
Association for a number of years, and he and the Reverend Mr. John Cleveland
went to the Revolutionary War with the army as they went to Kings Mountain and
preached to them until they got up into Burke County. Him and the Rev'd Mr. A.
Baker yoused to preach a great deal together. He departed this life June the 7th
1805. This is as correct an account as I am able to give.
(Signed) JOSEPH McNEIL."
Another important letter written by George W. McNeil, Sr., a grandson of Rev.
George McNiel, helps to identify descendants of the latter. This letter was also
published in the Memorial
Booklet above referred to.
"MAPLE SPRINGS, WILKES CO., N. C.
May 28, 1898.
MR. W. H. ELLER
Dear Cousin and Friend:-With respect to you I will answer your kind letter of
June 25, 1896, hoping that you will excuse my neglect of not answering sooner.
I will gladly give you all the information concerning the McNeils in Wilkes that
I am able. My grandfather, George McNeil, came from Scotland and his two
brothers, John and Thomas, also came from Scotland. They left their native land,
looking back with love as long as they could see a green leaf, on account of
their religious freedom. George McNeil, my grandfather, came into the State of
Virginia and married a Miss Coats, and as the country settled up, being a
Baptist minister by profession, was called for to constitute Baptist churches
and to attend as pastor of Baptist churches. He came into Grayson County, Va.,
after which he came into Wilkes County, N. C., and constituted and attended
churches here. He attended more or less churches down the Yadkin River. He was
pastor of a church near the head of the Yadkin River. He lived in Wilkes County
in about two and one-half miles of New Hope church on the north fork of Lewis'
Fork Creek. He was afterwards registrar of deeds of Wilkes County (this was
about the date of 1802). His son, William McNeil, volunteered in the war of the
Revolution, and his son, Joseph McNiel, said he would volunteer and go with
William, but he was not old enough. George McNeil and wife lived near the farm
of Esq. Henry Lenderman, late deceased; from this union six sons and two
daughters were raised, viz.; John, who married a Cleveland and who lived near
Greenville, S. C., where Col. Benj. Cleveland, the hero of King's Mountain,
lived; my uncle, William McNiel, moved to the State of Tennessee, Clayborn Co.;
my uncle, James McNeil, settled in Ashe County, but moved to Redie's River in
Wilkes and married a Miss Shepherd-they raised six sons and three daughters;
uncle Joseph McNeil lived on the homestead of his father and married a Miss
Wilson and they raised three sons and three daughters. The Rev. James McNeil,
his second son, was well known by his friends as a Baptist minister, living near
Moravian Falls, N. C., at the time of his death, and was a faithful and
respected preacher of great ability. The eldest son of Jos. McNeil, being named
Larkin, married a Ferguson and raised three sons named respectively, Franklin,
John and Milton; Franklin being a soldier of 1861. The Rev. Milton McNiel and
family are well known in the county of Wilkes. My uncle, Benj. McNeil, living on
South Lewis Fork, three miles from old Lewis Fork Baptist Church, married a Miss
Lips and raised seven sons and one daughter, all moving west but Enoch McNeil,
who died near Moravian Falls in the year of 1865 or 1866.
My father, Thos. McNeil, married a Miss Parsons, being a daughter of Rev. James
Parsons, of Surry County, living on New River, near the Old Fields in Ashe
County, and was a soldier in the war of 1812. He labored as a Baptist minister
in Ashe and Wilkes Counties.
You stated that you wanted me to give information about any ministers living at
that time. I will give the names of Rev. Thomas Proffit and Rev. Smith Ferguson,
who won many friends.
My father, Thos. McNeil, and my mother raised three sons and three daughters,
the oldest being named James and being near fifty years of age, who died near
Salisbury in the service of the Southern States on Feb. 16, 1855. The second
son, Jesse McNeil, died from typhoid fever at his father's home on North Lewis
Fork on the date of June 8, 1830, being near twenty years of age. I, the
youngest. My father, Thos. McNeil, lived to the great age of eighty-three years.
He died September 8, 1865. He had two sisters not yet mentioned in this article.
Their names were Elizabeth and Polly respectively. Elizabeth married Robt.
Bingham, of the State of Virginia, being a Revolutionary soldier and living once
near Hall's Store, Stony Hill. They raised three sons named respectively
William, Joel and George; Esq. George Bingham, of Watauga County, raised five
sons, one of whom, Maj. Harvey Bingham, well known by many friends, went to the
Senate of North Carolina in 1876. Mr. Thos. Bingham, having many friends,
represented Watauga County three times in Legislature of North Carolina. Esq.
John Bingham and Dr. Philmore Bingham are known by many friends. My aunt, Polly
McNeil, married Mr. Henry Miller, a son of Uncle William Miller, who was a
soldier of the Revolutionary war, and lived on the farm where Mr. F. D. Hall now
lives on the south fork of Lewis Fork Creek. They raised two daughters, one
married a Parks, the other a Lankford. Mr. Harry Miller lived on a farm in
Caldwell County on the Yadkin River, moving from there to the State of Illinois;
Uncle Henry Miller's granddaughter wrote to me giving her name as Mrs. Clarisa
Rebecca Parks. My uncle, James McNeil, raised his family on Redie's River,
having six sons and three daughters, the oldest named Larkin; others were John,
George, William, Oliver and Eli. Fanny married Capt. Simeon Eller, Rebecca
married the Rev. John Vannoy, a Baptist minister well known in Wilkes and Ashe;
the younger sister being Nancy and married Edward J. Dancy, who lived in the
town of Wilkesboro about the date of 1840.
I further state that I was acquainted with Esq. John McNeil, Jr. He lived in
Overton County, Tenn. He visited North Carolina about the date of 1840. His
grandfather was uncle James McNeil, Sr. His widowed mother was a Miss Vannoy. He
has or had four brothers, viz.: John, Jesse, Neil and James. The Rev. John
Vannoy, a Baptist minister who married Miss Rebecca McNeil, lived in Ashe County
on Beaver Creek. He was pastor of the old Baptist Church at Beaver Creek many
years. They had many friends as far as they were known, and raised quite a large
family of children, four sons and four daughters, viz.: Jesse, William, James
and Wiley, Mary, Louisa, Tilda. Mr. James Eller, of Wilkes County, married
Louisa and Henry Hardin married Miss Tilda. The latter named moved to Colorado.
Mr. Jesse Vannoy was in the late war of the '60's and died there. So I will not
write any more. I have given the most important history according to my
knowledge of the McNeils in Wilkes.
With my best wishes I will now close. Your friend and cousin,
G. W. McNEIL, SR.
The letter of George W. McNeil, Senior, would indicate that his grandfather
emigrated first into Virginia, later finding his way into North Carolina. It is
probable that he did go into Virginia at a very early date for he was identified
with the Sandy Creek Movement and well known to the preachers who were sent as
missionaries into lower Virginia by Shuebal Sterns, particularly the Murphy
Brothers and John Gano with whom he was contemporary. However, all records and
traditions seem to indicate that he first came to North Carolina and settled in
Moore County between 1745 and 1750. With him came his brothers Thomas and John.
After arrival he married Miss Mary Coats by whom he had six sons and three
daughters. He came as a Presbyterian preacher, but believing that he could reach
the people better through the Baptist Church because of their leanings in that
direction, switched to that denomination and joined the church about the time of
the Regulators Movement in 1771. He joined the Regulators, and after the battle
of Alamance fled for safety into Virginia where he lived for a time in Grayson
County. From the latter place he moved into Wilkes County, settling permanently
in the Yadkin Valley near the present location of the New Hope Baptist Church
northwest of Wilkesboro. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1776 and became a
great pioneer Baptist preacher of Wilkes and surrounding counties. In 1786 he
organized the Yadkin Baptist Association which became the parent of twenty-one
other associations which now claim a membership of approximately forty thousand.
He was chaplain in the regiment of Colonel Benjamin Cleveland during its famous
campaign at Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War.
George McNiel was well educated and devoted his life to the service of his
fellow-men. His work f or the Church is quite fully set forth in the Memorial
Booklet published by the Brushy Mountain Baptist Association upon the occasion
of erecting a permanent memorial at his grave on June 7, 1905.
His children by his marriage with Mary Coats were as follows:
(1) Mary McNiel (probably).
(2) John McNiel, m. Miss Cleveland. Lived near Greenville, S. C. (3) William
McNiel, m. a sister of Jeremiah Cleveland and moved to Clayborne Co., Tenn. He
volunteered and served in War of the Revolution.
(4) James McNiel, b. about 1763; d. 1834; m. Mary Shepherd. He settled first
in what is now Ashe Co., N. C., later moving to Redies River in Wilkes Co., N.
C., where he m. He was living near Moravian Falls, N. C., at the time of his
death. He raised six sons and three daughters.
(1) Larkin McNiel, d. 1824; m. Miss Vannoy and had issue:
(2) John who lived in Overton Co., Tenn.;
(2) John McNiel. m. Aug. 22, 1820, Rachel
Eller, sister of Simeon Eller (see
Eller Genealogy). Issue:
(1) Alfred McNiel, m. Nov. 6, 1844,
Franklyn Matilda Vannoy,
dau. of Jesse and Mary (Kilby) Vannoy. (See
(2) Franklin McNiel, m Rebecca McNiel, a cousin.
(3) Peter McNiel, m. Mary Phillips. Some descendants of this family spell
the name McNeill.
(4) Jesse McNiel, m. Nancy McNiel, a cousin.
(5) William McNiel, m. Mar., 1843, Sarah Kilby.
(6) Laura McNiel, m. Mr. Canter.
(7) Emeline McNiel, never m.
(8) Caroline McNiel, never m.
(3) Fanny McNiel, b. Jan. 12, 1799; d.
Oct. 4, 1856; m. 1st, Apr. 17, 1817, Simeon Eller, b. Sept. 7, 1794;
d. June 19, 1750. (See Eller Genealogy)
She m. 2d, Col. Isaac Brown. No issue by 2d marriage. She was a member of
the New Hope Baptist Church and a woman of great force of character and
(4) George Bartlett McNiel, m. Nov., 1832,
Susan Vannoy (See
(5) William McNiel.
(6) Oliver McNiel, m. Aug., 1828, Delila Eller, dau. of Peter Eller
and granddaughter of George and Christina Eller. (See
(7) Nancy McNiel, m. Edward J. Dancy of Wilkesboro, N. C.
(8) Rebecca McNiel, m. Dec. 8, 1833,
Rev. John Humphrey Vannoy, son
of Jesse and Mary (Kilby) Vannoy. (See
(9) Eli McNiel, m. Feb. 9, 1839, Fanny Eller, dau.
of John and Elizabeth Ray (Vannoy) Eller. (See
(5) Benjamin McNiel, m. Miss Lips, and lived on South Lewis
Fork three miles from old Lewis Fork Baptist Church. Issue: Enoch McNiel who
d. 1865-6 near Moravian Falls, and six other sons and one dau., all of whom
(6) Joseph McNiel, b. 767; d. about 1855; m. Miss Wilson and lived on his
father's homestead in Wilkes Co., N. C. He had issue, three sons and two
daughters, as follows:
(1) Larkin McNiel, m. Oct., 1837, Nellie Ferguson.
(1) Franklin McNiel, a soldier in C. S. A., 1861-65. Never
(2) John McNiel, m. Rebecca Ferguson.
(3) Rev. Milton Neill, b. on Beaver Creek, Wilkes Co., N. C., Jan. 8,
1846. Still living (1925) Wilkesboro, N. C., m. Martha Adelaide Barlow,
dau. of Braxton and Charlotte (Carlton) Barlow, b. July 12, 1845. Rev.
McNeill (note change in spelling of name) has been a Baptist minister in
Wilkes Co. for more than forty-five years, during which time he has held
many positions of trust and responsibility in the county. He has been
Sheriff of Wilkes Co., Clerk of Superior Court for twelve years, and for
past twenty-one years has been deputy clerk of the Federal Court at
Wilkesboro. Issue, nine, as follows:
(1) America McNeill, b. June 10, 1863; in. T. H. West.
Family resides, Banners Elk, N. C.
(2) Sarah Jane McNeill, b. May 5, 1866; m. Mr. Privette. Family resides,
Raleigh, N. C.
(3) Julia McNeill, b. Aug. 17, 1869; m. J. B. Councill. Family resides,
Jefferson Co., N. C.
(4) James William McNeill, b. Feb. 3, 1872; d. Jan. 7, 1924; m. Anna
Gertrude (McNeill) Johnson. Family resided, Washington, D. C.
(5) Jesse Milton McNeill, b. Aug. 8, 1874; m. Lola Vannoy.
(6) Robert Hayes McNeill, b. Apr. 25, 1877; m. Cora B. Brown. Prominent
attorney, Washington, D. C. Has been President of Clan Macneil in
(7) Martha Charlotte McNeill, b. May 10, 1879; m. J. C. Holbrook. Family
resides, Hayes, N. C.
(8) Rose V. McNeill, b. Mar. 15, 1883; m. John R. Jones. Family resides,
North Wilkesboro. N. C.
(9) Nellie Blanch McNeill, b. Mar. 5, 1877; m. C. C. Dimmette. Family
resides, Washington, D. C.
(4) Louisa McNeill, m. William Pearson. Family resided,
Boomer, N. C.
(2) Rev. James McNiel. Lived near Moravian Falls, N. C. Was
a faithful and respected Baptist preacher of great ability. No issue.
(3) William McNiel, m. and of issue had sons: Oliver and Irvin.
(4) Nellie McNiel.
(7) Elizabeth McNiel, m. Robert Bingham of Va., a
Revolutionary soldier. Their sons were William, Joel and George. George had
five sons, one of whom (Harvey) went to Senate of N. C. in 1876.
(8) Polly McNiel, m. Henry Miller, a Revolutionary soldier who was a son of
William Miller. Of issue: two daughters, one of whom m. a Parks and the other
(9) Thomas McNiel. b. 1782; d. 1865; a soldier in War of 1812, m. a dau. of
Rev. James Parsons of Surry Co., N. C. They had sons:
(1) James, d. Feb. 16, 1855.
(2) Jesse, b. 181o, who d. unm. in 1830.
(3) George W. McNiel who m. Jan. 30, 1847, Levisa Triplett.