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Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Scotsman Named McSwain~



I went to the countryside near Shelby, North Carolina, today. The sun was shining brightly in a clear blue sky, and my hopes were high.

The country scenes are just prettier than usual, on a day with lots of sunshine. We have had more than our share of overcast gloomy days recently. Snow, sleet, ice pellets, you name it, we have had it. It was great to be outside on a warm day.

The sun was warming the dash of the car nicely, and excitement was in the air.
When I search out the secrets and the life histories of our ancestors, I perhaps learn a little more about myself, in the process. Every finding brings a new thought about who we are as a family. That possibility, always present in my thoughts, is so intriguing. And exciting. Exciting for sure.

I was in search of someone special today.

My seventh great grandparents on my maternal side. I was following mostly the females in the family tree back, starting with my Great Grandfather, going all the way back in time to the very first McSwain, in our line, on American soil.



The earliest McSwain moved to this area when it was still a colony of the Crown and very much a frontier.














Most researchers claim the Isle of Skye, Scotland, as the ancestral home of the McSwains.


"The Island of Skye, situated off the West coast of Mainland Scotland, is the largest and best known of the Inner Hebrides.
Sometimes referred to in Gaelic poetry and song as Eilean a' CheĆ² (The Misty Isle), Skye is renown for its natural beauty, history and wildlife.
The Cuillin Hills, the Red Hills and Blaven have long been favorites with climbers and walkers. If you don't fancy the high places, the deeply indented coastline means you are never far from the sea.
Wildlife abounds on the Island, with birds from the tiny Goldcrest to magnificent Golden Eagle, mammals from Pygmy Shrew to Red Deer and fish from Saithe to Salmon."


Many researchers claim that the McSwain family are a branch of the MacQueen clan.

The spelling of McSwain sometimes appears as MacSwain, McSween, McSwaine, or other variations, depending on how the census taker heard it pronounced.

David McSwain, is believed to have come to America with his parents on the ship Snow Lowther, landing at Philadelphia on October 14, 1731.

Most probably as an indentured servant. This was the most common way an immigrant earned his passage to the New World. He would have been required to work seven to ten years before being released from his indenture. During this time he would have been seeking land of his own so that he too, could prosper. But eastern Pennsylvania was getting crowded and as a result land was becoming expensive. Many immigrants chose to leave for the frontier of western Virginia, North and South Carolina, and as far south as Georgia.

It appears that David and some member of his family began to move south between 1750 and 1760. By this time all of his children were grown. The children were the ones most likely to feel the need to go. David followed, because family was your only support in old age.

The family's route south took them on the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road from east-central Pennsylvania through western Maryland into the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia. This would a quest for a better way of life. They would travel and settle in an area for a while, perhaps two to three years. Some of David's children and grandchildren may have married and stayed as the family group moved on.

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road south continued from Virginia into the northern piedmont of North Carolina. Their route would have gone past present day Winston-Salem and Salisbury into the Yadkin River Valley. The McSwains would have followed the rise of the Appalachian mountains to the west into what would become Cleveland County, NC. Some of the family found a home in the rolling hills along the Broad River. Others moved into South Carolina and northern Georgia while David, the patriarch, most likely by now, in his sixties and weary, stays with his son, David.

As we made our way down the dirt road that lead into the patch of woods where the cemetery lies, I imagined how it may have looked nearly three hundred years ago.

I thought about how “country” this setting was now, and how miles removed it is today, from the bustling city (in comparison) of say Shelby, North Carolina, even.

Imagine how isolated you would have been when you turn back the hands of time, some three hundred years!

The sky peeked in among the tree tops with brilliant flashes of blue as we winded our way in, deeper into the trees. Then, there to the left, among the brambles, were the tops of headstones.

We had found it!

The path into the cemetery was no longer a real path..it was just a quick jaunt down into a dry creek bed, and up the other side , straight into a thicket of briars.

There, seemingly watching over the entrance, was David McSwain.


Standing guard beside his Grandfather’s side was William McSwain.

William, grandson of David, served in Brevard’s Company 10, North Carolina Infantry in the Revolutionary War. He served his country.








Judith A. Moore McSwain, wife of William McSwain, my 5th Great Grandmother.

My sixth and my fifth great grandfathers. Buried in the family plot on family land. Or so I thought..I was in for a surprise.

Early headstones were of local fieldstone with no or minimal engraving. Regrettably, David's exact gravesite has been lost to time. However, in the 1930's, the Cleveland County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution,(DAR), erected a granite headstone to replace David's original fieldstone one. Unfortunately, the DAR got this David confused with his son and listed the wrong spouse. The name and dates are correct, but they have the wrong spouse listed! This mistake has caused much confusion among those researching David's past.

The marker that stood before me was actually for my ancestor…but it was for my 7h Great Grandfather! Not my 6th!

His son David married Susannah Hamrick. And they had son William, that continues our line of ancestry. It is believed that several generations of this family are buried here in this family cemetery. So here in this plot of earth, lie the remains of my fifth, sixth and seventh Great Grandparents.

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Another moment that causes you to pause and reflect. I tried to imagine what they would think, if I was truly standing in front of them? What would they tell me?

Scottish blood flowing proud through my veins, swirling with the German and the Irish. I paused and paid my respects to the family.

My family.

The search had come again to another ending, but it was just another beginning.
Ten generations spanned.

But, I was home, once again.



Ethel Leigh Blanton Parrott, was the daughter of
Craton Rone Blanton and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Leigh Ellis, Craton was the son of
George Washington Blanton and Mary Elizabeth Greene, Mary was the daughter of
Stephen and Judith Moore Greene. Judith was the daughter of
James Christian Moore and Elizabeth Jane McSwain. Elizabeth was the daughter of
William and Judith McSwain, William was the son of
David and Susannah Hamrick McSwain.
David was the son of David McSwain and Margaret Etta Sergeant McSwain.
David McSwain was born in Scotland and Margaret Etta was from Northern Ireland.


Just so the confusion continues on, the son David, born about 1725, had ANOTHER son named David...grin.

Hey now, listen, if the DAR gets all confused, imagine what this is like for me…?? Hey it is all part of it..detective work. But the rewards are great.

Now this marker remains, to confuse the generations to come. But it also stands in remembrance of the men, too.


This cemetery has lots of field stone markers, no etching remain on some of the monuments. Many of the family lie beneath these field stones, forever lost to us.
This cemetery is slowly being reclaimed by the earth. It lies off the beaten path, quite a way out in the country. Silently basking in the dappled sunlight. Waiting for me to come visit.

Scotch-Irish, I am.




Slight strains of bagpipe music were floating on the passing breeze as I stood among these ancient family remains…or was that just my imagination?


Big Smile.