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Black - Cleveland/Rutherford/Old Tryon


The Black surname has been present in the piedmont Carolinas since the days of Colonial America.

My own line of ancestors most likely migrated from Britain and Ireland to the American colonies circa 1720, initially arriving in the Pennsylvania-Delaware region. The family appears to have traveled down the Great Wagon Road into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia by the 1740s and 1750s remaining for a time around present-day Harrisonburg, Virginia. During the 1760s, they uprooted again and resettled in the piedmont Carolinas in the greater Charlotte region. While some chose to remain in the Carolinas after the American Revolution, by about 1785 at least one branch of this particular line of the Black family also appears to have migrated into Kentucky. Still other Black family members were said to have gone to Arkansas in the early to mid-1800s.

As early as 1765, settlers named Black lived on homesteads in what is modern day eastern Rutherford County and upper Cleveland County, North Carolina, as well as in modern day York County in the upstate region of South Carolina. The land originally was considered part of Anson County 1750-1762, Mecklenburg County 1762-1769, and Tryon County 1769-1779 (Mecklenburg and Tryon, for instance, encompassed segments of both North Carolina and South Carolina prior to the settlement of a state border dispute.)

In 1764, when the region was still part of Mecklenburg County, a Mecklenburg schoolmaster, Peter Duncan, was granted some 640 acres of land on both sides of First Broad River at the mouth of Duncans Creek, on Highway 226 north of Polkville in present-day Cleveland County NC.

According to "Rutherford County 1979: A People's Bicentennial History" (Library Press Inc., Rutherfordton NC, 1980), Duncan sold his property in two tracts in 1765. The northern portion was sold to Richard Ward (Wards Creek). The southern portion of the land, on Duncans Creek (still Mecklenburg County at that time), was sold to Thomas Black, a Mecklenburg farmer, who had the land re-surveyed and officially defined as a 563-acre tract which included the site where Wards Creek and Duncans Creek empty into the First Broad River. Thomas simultaneously owned land at Indian Creek near present day Cherryville and Lincolnton, NC.

Also by 1765, Robert Black and his wife Majey Cravens had left Harrisonburg, Virginia, and purchased a 200 acre tract of land via a Mecklenburg County, North Carolina deed. The land was on Clarks Fork of Bullocks Creek. The land subsequently was deemed to be in South Carolina with the acreage today actually lying within the South Carolina State Park near Kings Mountain.

With the creation of Rutherford and Lincoln counties about 1779, families with the Black surname were still found residing in the Duncans Creek-Wards Creek area of Old Rutherford County. By the early 1800s, the family was considered to be part of the Moriah community near present-day Casar NC. From the 1790s to the 1880s the specific area where the Blacks lived and farmed was due south of Mt. Moriah Methodist on First Broad River near the present-day Rutherford-Cleveland boundary. The land was originally considered to be Rutherford County until 1841 when Cleveland County was formed out of old Rutherford and old Lincoln counties. At that point, the tract of land became part of Cleveland County's Township 11.


Here is a brief listing of one line of the Blacks in the western piedmont and foothills of the Carolinas:

1. - Amos Thomas Black - b. April 29, 1921, Shelby, N.C.; d. May 19, 1984, Gastonia, N.C. Married Libby Brooks, Dec. 23, 1950 in York, S.C. Amos was a WWII Army private who served as a motorcycle messenger with HQ Company, 12th Armored Division ("Hellcats"), in Europe. He grew up at Swainsville in Cleveland County, but lived as an adult in Gaston County where he was a textile worker. His wife, Libby, was a descendant of the Calhoun and Brooks families of the western North Carolina mountains. Both Amos and Lib are buried at Gaston Memorial Park in Gastonia. Children: Thomas and John.

2. - Columbus Marion Black - b. April 8, 1888, Golden Valley ("Head of the Rivers") in Rutherford County, N.C.; d. March 24, 1955, following a three-month illness, at the Gardner-Webb Clinic in Boiling Springs, N.C. "Lum," as he was called by his friends, was a farmer. He married Bertha Irene Ledford on Sept. 28, 1913. Both are buried at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, in Swainsville (west of Shelby NC). Children: D.C., Clingman, Alfie, Amos. (D.C. served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII with the U.S. Army; Sgt. Clingman R. Black, U.S. Army 27th Infantry Division, was killed in the battle for Saipan.)

3. - Thomas Marion Black - b. Oct. 15, 1859, Moriah Community of Upper Cleveland; d. Oct. 5, 1934. Married Rebecca (Beckie) Waters of the Moriah community abt. 1882. Tom's obituary was a front-page item in The Cleveland Star newspaper. The article stated, "Mr. Black was born and reared in Upper Cleveland County but had lived in Shelby for 34 years where he had a host of friends." At the time of his death he lived on Hamrick Street in Shelby and was a member of Missionary Methodist Church. He and Beckie were buried at Mt. Moriah Methodist near Casar NC. Children: John Hambright, Addis Alector, Columbus Marion, Joseph Thomas, Jamie Georganna, Katie, Bassie, Vernie Estelle.

4. - James Black - b. Nov. 18, 1812; d. July 2, 1897. He, too, is buried at Mt. Moriah Methodist along with his wife, Jemima Ledford. They were married about 1840. Kyzer's map of 1886 places "J. Black" on the north side of First Broad River, due south of the Mt. Moriah Methodist Church, near the present-day Cleveland County-Rutherford County border. Children: John F. (CSA veteran, Company I, 48th N.C. Infantry; wounded at Fredericksburg and on parole list at Appomattox), Solomon Hambright, Rebecca Melvina, Eliza J., Rachel A., Elizabeth Dulcina, William Chauncy, Samuel, Thomas Marion, Martha Henrietta. (In the 1880 Census, James indicated his parents were born in North Carolina whereas Jemima indicated her father, Thomas Ledford, was born in NC but her mother, Rebecca Crowder, was born in VA.)

5. - Moses Black - b. abt. 1777; d. abt. 1850. Oral tradition and secondary sources identify James Black's father as Moses Black of Rutherford County NC. Those sources indicate the name of Moses' wife was Patience Condrey whose family was from the Chesterfield VA area. She was born sometime after 1780. Patience apparently died in the early 1830s. Moses Black appears as head of household in the 1810, 1820, and 1830 Census in Rutherford County.

Moses and Patience seem to have lived in the Duncans Creek area of old Rutherford County a short distance away from the First Broad River. The children of Moses and Patience included: James (m. Jemima Ledford), Rachel Jane (m. Joseph Parker), Rhoda (m. John Randall Willis), Mary Polly (m. John Henry London). According to the Census data, there were two other daughters, both of whom were born between 1816-1820, and one other son, born between 1805 and 1809. The identities of these three children remain unconfirmed.

The exact date and place of death/burial as well as date of marriage for Moses and Patience are unknown. However, Moses died about 1850. Moses is listed as a witness for the creation of a will on September 4, 1848 for Daniel Sisk. In an accompanying note to the will for Rutherford probate court during the spring of 1851 it was reported that "Moses Black is dead." (Source: Rutherford County NC Will Abstracts, 1779-1910; Grace Turner and Miles Philbeck, 1982. G929.375TUR)

6.- James Black - b. 1755, VA; d. Sept. 27, 1827, Moriah Community, Cleveland County, NC. James is buried, along with his wife Rachel, at Mt. Harmony Methodist Church off Hwy 226 just north of present-day Polkville NC, and very near Duncans Creek. A state historical marker for the church is posted on Hwy 226 at the turn onto a winding gravel road leading up to the church and graveyard.

Dates for Rachel do not appear on the badly deteriorated tombstone at Mt. Harmony but it does indicate she lived 86 years. Based upon some 1906 court affidavits by her granddaughters, it appears Rachel's maiden name was Booth.

While there is no documentation to officially make the connection there is considerable circumstantial evidence, i.e., the timeframe of James and Rachel's lives, their geographic proximity to where Moses and his son, also named James, lived as adults, and the naming of Moses Black's first son and daughter (James and Rachel), that would strongly suggest this James and Rachel were the parents of Moses Black.

James and Rachel's burial site at Mt. Harmony Methodist Church is adjacent to a number of family plots including such family names as Willis, Hunt, and Parker - names that appear again in marriages within the Black family, or as neighbors, in subsequent generations.

The cemetery, which dates back to the founding of this early Methodist congregation in 1791, includes a large section of unmarked graves. A monument on the site was dedicated to the saints who lie buried "in unmarked graves from this point north to the road and west to the property boundary" and who share in the heritage of Mt. Harmony. (Thomas and Prudence Stockton conveyed the land in 1791 specifically for creation of a Methodist church. The land was conveyed to a group of about a dozen men; James Black was among those listed.)

The formal documentation trail ends with James Black. What follows is "reasoned speculation" and conjecture based upon secondary sources, DNA testing, and current theory regarding the family's lineage. This conjecture is subject to change as new evidence develops.

7. - Robert Black - b. abt. 1720, probably in Pennsylvania; d. 1788 in York County SC. Robert and his wife, Majey Cravens, sold 200 acres on Blacks Run of Cooks Creek at Harrisonburg and moved to Clarks Fork of Bullocks Creek in 1765. At the time, the land was deeded out of Mecklenburg County NC; later, following settlement of a state boundary dispute, the land would be deemed to be in York County SC. His sons appear to be Matthew, Robert, John, and James, along with one daughter, Mary.

(In regards to the American Revolution, Robert and his sons John and James signed an oath of neutrality in October of 1775. Patriot Capt. Ezekiel Polk reported that Robert, John, James and some of their neighbors, "Came before me and voluntarily made oath that they will not, [unless compelled in self defense] lift arms against the Americans in their present contest with Great Britain nor do any thing by word or action which they shall know to be against the American Cause." The Battle of Kings Mountain [Oct. 1780] took place on land that was virtually in Robert's "backyard." Robert's land on Clarks Fork now lies within the South Carolina state park commemorating the Battle of Kings Mountain. Robert remained on his property until his death in 1788 more than five years after the end of the American Revolution.)

Personal yDNA testing and the work of other genealogical hobbyists suggest that Moses and his likely father, James, are linked to Robert Black. A distant cousin, bearing the Black surname, with whom I share a yDNA link, traces his lineage to John Black, a son of this Robert and a brother to James Black (b. 1755). John apparently left the Carolinas by the mid-1780s and migrated to Kentucky where he, and his older brother, also named Robert, became the patriarchs of another branch of the Black family.

Alternatively, some fellow amateur genealogists contend that Matthew Black, b. 1735 in Virginia, is the father of James Black, b. 1755 in Virginia. This Matthew would have been the younger brother of the Robert Black who died in York County SC in 1788. Matthew's will was probated in York County SC in 1797 and administered by his brother-in-law, William McElwee.

8. Matthew Black - b. abt. 1695, probably in Ulster Province; d. abt. 1756 in Augusta (later Rockingham) County, Virginia, reportedly was the father of Robert Black (and of Matthew Black the younger, as noted above). Matthew's wife was Elizabeth, maiden name unknown. They had sons named Patrick, Gavin, Robert, Matthew, Joseph, and Thomas, as well as a daughter, Janet.

Matthew, and his son Robert, appear on a militia list in the Harrisonburg Va area in 1755 during the French-Indian conflict; Robert subsequently migrated southward into the Carolinas after the death of Matthew.

(To date, no official paper documentation has been found to fully support either the suggestions of the yDNA evidence and the conclusions from the more traditional genealogical approach. So, there is currently no absolutely definitive, absolutely certain answer as to who might be the ancestors of James Black (b. 1755). Perhaps, in the absence of traditional documentary proof, the science of DNA and the evolving genetic genealogy field will ultimately provide answers with more certitude sometime in the near future.)

Surname Origins

The Black surname does not have a single country of origin. Many Blacks, however, do trace their origins to Ireland and Britain where Black is relatively common as a surname. According to one source, here in the States, the Black surname ranks 139th on a list of the most common surnames.

In Scotland, the Black surname is often associated with the clan sept of Lamont, MacGregor, and MacLean. Some with the Black surname were lowland Scots with at least some of them involved with the Plantation settlements in the north of Ireland under King James. (Clan Lamont traces its lineage back to the O'Neill dynasty in Ireland. After proscription, many of the Lamonts, MacGregors, and McLeans took on color surnames, such as Black, and resided in the lowlands of Scotland prior to becoming part of the plantation settlement in the north of Ireland. These "Scottish" Blacks were, in effect, returning to ancestral homelands in Ireland.)

In England, some suggest the Black surname was present in the Lincolnshire region of east central England before spreading elsewhere within Britain including northward into the border country with Scotland. Apparently the name "Black" was originally pronounced as "Blake" in Middle English.

The Black surname in Ireland has generally been clustered in the northern half of Ireland, especially in the nine counties of old Ulster, but with a smattering of households bearing the Black surname scattered across the rest of the island. Pender's census/Petty's survey in 1659, Griffiths Valuations of 1847-1864, Matheson's Birth Index of 1890, and two heads of households surveys in the early 1900s, typically found the Black surname primarily in counties Antrim, Down, and Derry. Another indicator, noted by the RJ Hunter Collection of the Ulster Historic Foundation, cites the 1630 Ulster muster rolls wherein the Black surname was most prominent in County Down with smaller concentrations in Armagh, Derry, and Antrim. Today, one of the primary centers of the Black surname in Ireland continues to be the Belfast region.

Michael Green, on his website, notes that the Black name is "very numerous in the Province of Ulster." Green further states, "In Ireland Black is also sometimes used as a variant of the names Duff and Kilduff as, when these names are rendered in Gaelic they have the Gaelic word 'dubh' within them, the translation of which is 'black'." It has, therefore, been suggested that Black, in its Irish origins, is an Anglicazation of Duffy which in turn is a derivative of the more ancient Irish family names of Dubhthaig/O'Dubtaig (the original pronunciation of these names sounds somewhat like "doove hee" or the more modern "Duffy").

Immigration Patterns

Immigrants to America generally arrived in the Carolinas by one of four primary migration routes: (1) English initially ventured out of Virginia and settled in the Albemarle and Pamlico sections spreading into the Coastal Plain of the North Carolina colony. (2) Germans and Scots-Irish arrived at Philadelphia, traveling down the Great Wagon Road through the Appalachian Valley, often settling for a time in the Virginia colony before moving on into the Piedmont and Foothills of the Carolinas; (3) Highland Scots arrived at Wilmington and moved up the Cape Fear River to present-day Fayetteville NC; and (4) English, Scots and some Scots-Irish arrived at Charleston SC, migrating inland into central and upstate South Carolina and on into the Charlotte region of NC, following the fresh water supplies along the Ashley-Cooper, Santee, Congaree, Watertree, Broad, Saluda, and Catawba river systems.

Personal DNA Assessment

Personal results from the My Heritage website autosomal DNA analysis indicated my background to be 61.2 percent Irish, Scottish, Welsh; 27.5 percent English; 6.5 percent Scandinavian; 4.8 percent East European.'s autosomal DNA analysis indicated my background to be 69 percent England, Wales, and northwestern Europe; 28 percent Ireland and Scotland; and 3 percent Norway.

FTDNA indicates my ancient yDNA ancestry comes out of the R1b group. It appears my ancient ancestors most likely migrated from Eurasia to western Europe and still later from France into Britain and Ireland. The FTDNA yDNA testing results confirmed haplogroup R-BY3103 with a paternal lineage stream that also includes the subclades/mutations R-DF41/CTS2501, R-A98, R-A100, and R-Z9204/A104. The FTDNA SNP mapping tool, combined with YFull analysis aging estimates, suggests the R-Z9204 subclade/mutation was likely clustered near the cities of Belfast and Derry/Londonderry approximately 300 years ago.

In summary, my primary paternal lines and their inferred more likely recent geographic origins are Black (Derry-Antrim-Down region in the north of Ireland) and Ledford (English). My primary maternal lines are Brooks (probably Norman-English) and Calhoun (Donegal-Tyrone region of Ireland). With both Black and Calhoun, I seem to have ties back to the old Ulster province of Ireland; with Ledford and Brooks, I appear to have significant ties back to Britain as well.


I am a hobbyist, an amateur genealogist and family historian, who uses this endeavor primarily to honor those who have gone before us lest they be totally forgotten.

Thom Black,

Updated June 2019

The Irish version of a Black family crest (at the top of the page) depicts the lion of courage and the stars of virtue, learning, and piety. My particular line of the Black surname has no family crest; such devices as family crest/coats of arms were generally reserved for the wealthy, for knights, for nobility etc. Commoners such as farmers, weavers and linen/textile workers did not actually have family crests. However, I respect the values represented on this particular crest.