Macneil, Macneal, MacNeil, McNeill and many other ways
of spelling the name, are one and the same family. Due to lack of
education, officials and census takers spelled the names of people in
their own fashion. Siice McNeill is the most used spelling today by most
families, I will use it in this record when referring to Neill McNeill and
The first McNeill in North Carolina was Neill McNeill
of Jura, Scotland, according to Robert H. McNeill of Washington, D, C.,
past President of the Clan McNeill Association. Old records have proven
this true. The line started with Neil of the Nine Hostages in Ireland
about 400 A.D. The Isle of Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, was the
ancient seat of Macneil of Barra, Chief of the Clan Macneil. The Castle
Kissmul on Castle Bay was built in the 9th Century by Murdiacdh Roderic
MacNeil, the first one designated Macneil of Barra, in the old Scottish
Archives. The old watchtower on the Isle of Erisga was built in the 2th
Century during the last war with the King of Norway. The castle and tower
still stand on the rocky and stormy coast of Scotland. Neill McNeill is
the one we will treat with in this book, not only because he was the
colonizer, but because so many families of Smith, Blue, Graham and
McKeithen married into the McNeill families. The Highlanders, as they have
been called, were mostly island people who came over with Neil McNeil and
founded their settlement long before the battle of Culloden. In fact the
village at Cross Creek was founded 15 years before that battle. They did
not leave Scotland because they were driven out, but because of hardships
at home and the differerences they had with the crown. These people were
proud, self contained and conservative people. They were sheep and cattle
raisers. Neill McNeill came to North Carolina under the patronage of the
Duke of Ar gyle, under whose banners his people fought. Much has been
written about the settlement of the area. Several books have been written
about the McNeill family. Malcolm Fowler has done extensive research on
the McNeills and he said to sort them out would soon put one in a mental
institution — so many and named the same. His book "History of
Harnett County" or "They Passed this Way" makes very entertaining and good
reading, for his wit and keen sense of humor shows throughout the book.
Another writer has "done herself proud" with her books.
She is Inglis Fletcher. She has written much on the Scotch Settlement and
stayed with facts and people to a certain degree. While most of her books
are pure fiction, they make very entertaining reading. The delightful play
"Highland Call" written by Paul Green of Chapel Hill, about Jennet Smith,
known as Jennie Bahn McNeill, is outstanding.
Jennie Bahn McNeill was the daughter of John Smith and
a sister of Malcom Smith, She married Archibald "Scrubblin" McNeill
grandson of Neill McNeill the colonizer.
In 1729 the King of England purchased the Province of
North Carolina, except for one share owned by the Earl of Granville. Just
prior to this purchase settlement was made on the Cape Fear River.
There is a plaque to the NcNeills in Red Springs, N.C.
placed there May 20 1928. "McNei1ls of Macneil of Barra - 46th hereditary
Chief of Clan McNeiil and laird of Kissmul Castle. Malcolm McEeill present
Chief of Clan McNeill of America; Neill NcNeill editor of New York
Times; Governor Angus W. McLean, descendant. 1735 — Scotch gentleman, Neil
explored as early as 1720. First settlement in area said to be
Choeffenington (near Linden), Cumberland Co. Bladen became peopled with
NcNeills. Across the river from the legendary town another settlement
arose with in the valley of N. C. True that Flora McDonald was there for a
while, but Jennie Bahn was to N. C. what Flora had been to Scotland.
She came into the
valley with her father, John Smith, and her brother, Malcolm Smith. Some
one reported that she was about 9 years old at the time but I
doubt that very much and recently had a lead on some old papers
will prove otherwise. Do not have time to hold this book from publication
but it will be checked out soon. In the year 1768 she was reported to be
not quite 40, this would place her birth about 1729.
Some of her land was on both sides of Little River. The
plantation house was not far from where Barbeaue Church was to be
established, near a place that was to be called later, McCormick's Bridge.
Jennie Bahn was educated to a degree equal with the men of her time. Had
beauty and charm. Surveyed her own land in her own manner and fashion. Was
head of the aristocracy of Cape Fear area, being the richest and most
influencial woman in the settlement. Her favorite son, if she had one, was
Malcom, he accompanied her on her trips to Philadelphia. She was a good
friend of Benjamin Franklin. Once she was settled at the tavern, it is
said that he always came to call. He adrnired her wit and good humor.
As a power in the valley she did about as she pleased.
Riding astride the finest horse in the area, she drove her cattle to
market with the help of her Sons and slaves. She was not only ambitious
about her cattle, but in the acquiring of land. She bought Sproul Ferry
property, later called McNeill’s Ferry. She tricked the Sprouls into
selling. When she wanted something she used any means available to get it.
Her estate covered 20,000 acres more or less - after her death it took
years to settle the boundries of her land.
A description of Jerinie Bahn - bahn meaning bonnie or
fair one in Gaelic — from all accounts deserved the name for she was
reported to have had very fair skin, red hair, pretty and petite. She must
have been adored by her sons, otherwise they would not have gone to so
much trouble to get her tombstone.
From all indications Jennie Bahn remained neutral
during the war, or It may have been that her son, Malcom, who was the only
Whig among her sons, and her brother, Malcom Smith and his family who were
also Whigs, came to her aid. She was too good a businesswoman and loved
her possessons too much to jepoardize loosing an acre of her land. Which
ever way the war went she was safe - one son for the Whigs and the others
were Tories holding various ranks in the British Army.
When Jennje Bahn died her sons looked around for a
suitable marker for her grave, finding none that would please them, they
sent to Scotland for one. After five years it finally arrived. It was a
ten foot shaft of stone surmounting a triple base. The first stone
being eight feet square and three feet thick. During the unloading it was
dropped overoard. The only way to and from the water level of the river
was by steps cut into the clay of the steep banks. There was no way to
hoist this heavy load up the steep bank, so it lay for a century in the
mud, embedded by its weight. It was finally found and has been placed in
its proper place. There are so many amusing stories about the McNeills and
Jennie Bahn, but I cannot tell them in this book. They are not mine -they
belong to those who have searched for them. I would suggest that if you
can find a copy, read "Highland Call" by Paul Green, the Pulitzer prize
Neill McNeill b N. C, m Grisella Stewart dau of Robert
and Neglina McNeill Stewart. He was a Tory Captain.
Source: Odom Library in Moultrie, Georgia