North Carolina, USA
North Carolina, USA
The Fairview Town Crier
Days Gone By...in Fairview
by Bruce Whitaker
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Boyd McCrary: A Puzzling Death
Boyd McCrary was born in the Jersey Section of Rowan (now Davidson) County, North Carolina, around 1754. He was the second of nine children born to Hugh McCrary (1720-85) and his wife Susannah Whitaker (1727-1800).
Boyd was raised on his father's farm on Swearing Creek, which is located near Linwood several miles south of Lexington. Hugh McCrary was better off than most of his neighbors. He owned 2205 acres of land and had four slaves. Rowan County records list him as a planter and storekeeper. Hugh is listed often in the Rowan records. He was the administrator of many estates, frequent guardian of orphans, and a road overseer.
Boyd grew up near his Whitaker and Reed cousins. He attended Jersey Baptist Church, where his parents would later be buried. The original church building is still standing.
Around 1773, Boyd McCrary was married in Rowan County to Nancy Anna Merrill. Anna Merrill was born around 1754 in what is now Davidson County. She was the daughter of Benjamin Merrill and Jemima Smith, who had moved to North Carolina from New Jersey just before Anna was born.
Boyd and Anna McCrary settled on a farm on Swearing Creek that bordered the estate of Boyd's father, Hugh. Boyd could not get a deed to this property because it was part of the 1/8 of the Carolinas that had been granted to the father of John, Earl of Granville. The Earl of Granville had died in 1763, and his land office had closed. After the earl's death, his family had been unable to open up the land office for whatever reason. This meant that no one who built on the earl's property could get any kind of deed. The state of North Carolina finally opened a land office in 1778, and there was a rush of people to the state land office to get deeds for the property some had lived on for as long as 15 years. Boyd McCrary put in a vacant land entry (#250) on February 6, 1778, for 640 acres "on the dividing ridge between Abbotts and Swearing Creeks" bounded on the south by his father, Hugh McCrary. The next year, Boyd put in another vacant land entry for 50 acres on the "Persimon Branch waters of Swearing Creek." This parcel also adjoined that of his father. Hugh McCrary left his son, Boyd, 249 acres of land in his will in 1785. That brought Boyd's total land holdings to at least 949 acres.
The eleven children of Boyd and Anna McCrary were all born on this Rowan (Davidson) County farm. In the mid-1790s, most of Boyd McCrary's Whitaker and Reed cousins, as well as his wife's Merrill family, began moving to Fairview. Boyd and Anna joined their relatives in Fairview by at least 1799. On September 17, 1799, Boyd McCrary bought from William Wilson 320 acres located down on Cane Creek near the new middle school. It is now called Gravely Branch, but at that time it became known as McCrary's Mill Creek.
In 1810, Boyd was in his mid to late 50s, which was considered old at that time. He had a prosperous farm with a large apple and peach orchard. He ran a mill and operated a still. He was rich enough to have two slaves, Henry and Hagar. His sons Joseph (Joel) and Elijah had farms near his in Fairview. Boyd's sons Hugh and William McCrary had farms next to each other in Swannanoa. He still had his two youngest sons, unmarried, living at home. His widowed daughter, Nancy, and her son were also living with Boyd and Anna.
The next five or six years brought much unhappiness. The two oldest sons, William and Joel, both died. Daughter Phebe remarried and moved to Ohio. About the same time, widowed daughter Nancy and her second husband moved to Horse Shoe in western Henderson County. Boyd's sons Elijah and Benjamin moved to Missouri.
Boyd McCrary wrote his will on October 18, 1815. In his will he described himself as "being very sick in body, but in perfect mind and memory" and went on to tell how he wished his possessions to be divided up. This leaves the impression that McCrary had just a very short time left to live. The will written here in Fairview in 1815 was not probated until November 1832, and it was probated in Howard County, Missouri. This has always been a puzzle to McCrary descendants everywhere and to myself as well. Boyd McCrary was still alive in September 1818 because he signed a deed to his son James at that time. The 1820 Buncombe County Census lists Ann McCrary, Boyd's wife, living in Fairview as head of household. The only other person listed in her home is a female 10-16. This would likely be a granddaughter living with Anna. If Boyd was alive at the time, he was living with a son in Missouri or Tennessee. If Boyd was dead, why wasn't his will probated here in Buncombe County by 1820?
In 1822 Boyd's executors (son James and wife Anna) were involved in the July Sessions Court case with the executors of John Mackaye (probably Mackey, a son-in-law of Boyd). McCrary's executors did not show up, and the Mackaye executors were awarded 50 pounds. The next year, Elijah and Benjamin McCrary of Howard County, Missouri, sold 115 acres of land in Fairview to their twin brothers John and James McCrary of Fairview. The deed mentions "heirs of Boyd McCrary deceased." Thus it appears certain Boyd McCrary was dead by at least 1822.
In the 1830 Census the only McCrary listed in Fairview was Boyd's grandson Silas. Boyd McCrary, son of Hugh, and grandson of Boyd, was living near the Transylvania-Henderson County line. Neither of these men had an elderly person living with them. If Anna Merrill McCrary was still alive then, she was living in Missouri with her five children there, or in Ohio with her daughter. I feel certain Anna had to be alive until 1832 and living in Howard County, Missouri, for the will to have been probated there in November of that year.
It probably will never be known for sure what happened. I tend to believe that Boyd McCrary died here in Fairview in 1819 or early 1820. Why his will was not probated I do not know. Apparently his wife and children decided not to probate the will until after Anna died. I think she moved to Missouri in the 1820s, although she may have moved as late as the spring of 1830 when her two youngest sons, James and John, moved to Missouri. They could have dropped off their mother (in her late 70s at the time) at their older brothers' in Howard County, Missouri, on their way to Davies County in northwest Missouri.
Boyd and Nancy Anna McCrary had at least eleven children. All of them were born in Rowan (now Davidson) County, North Carolina.
1. William McCrary, born around 1775, married Mehilda McCrary in Rowan Co. William died between 1810 and 1815. He had 3 sons and 3 daughters.
2. Joseph (Joel) McCrary, born around 1776, married, but his wife is unknown. Joel died between 1810 and 1815. He left one son, Silas (who was the subject of an article in the February 2001 Town Crier).
3. Hugh McCrary, born around 1777, first married either Elizabeth Burton or Jane Burton Clark. He later married a woman named Jones. Hugh lived many places, including Fairview and Swannanoa. He lived in Tennessee later in life and was said to have died there. He had 3 sons.
4. Elijah McCrary, born around 1779, moved to Howard County, Missouri, around 1816. He had 14 children.
5. Phebe McCrary, born around 1780, first married Thomas Burton (discussed in a March 2000 Town Crier article about his father, John Burton). She later married Zebulon Brevard and moved to Casstown in Miami County, Ohio. Phebe died there August 28,1841.
6. Eleanor McCrary, born around 1781, married John Mackey in Rowan County in 1795. Apparently she did not move to Buncombe with the rest of the family. She may have moved to McDowell County.
7. Nancy McCrary, born 1785, first married William Merrill, son of John Merrill and Catherine Rhodes. (See article on John Merrill in May 2000 Town Crier.) She later married Eli Merrill (subject of a Town Crier article last June). Nancy died in Marion County, Missouri, in 1837.
8. Susannah McCrary, born around 1787, died after 1815. I do not know if she ever married or not.
9. Benjamin McCrary, born around 1788, first married Mary "Polly" Coleman in 1808. Ben later married Harriet Emandy Wilson. Ben moved to Cocke County, Tennessee, by 1809. He was living in Sevier County by 1811 and lived there until at least 1819. Ben was living in Howard County, Missouri, by 1821. He died there in 1878.
10. John McCrary (twin), born in 1793, married Sarah Sumner, daughter of Richard Sumner of Little Pisgah section of Fairview. John and Sarah moved to Davies County, Missouri, in 1830, with his brother James. He then moved to Gentry County, Missouri. John died between 1850 and 1860. He and his wife are buried in Gentry County.
11. James McCrary (twin), born in 1793, married his second cousin, Margaret Whitaker, daughter of William Whitaker and Mary Canady. James and Margaret moved to Davies County, Missouri, in 1830.
Hugh McCrary (1720 - 1785)
Phebe McCrary Brevard (1779 - 1841)*
Elijah McCrary (1783 - 1863)*
Benjamin McCrary (1785 - 1878)*
Created by: Lori Holmlund
Record added: May 22, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 37392481