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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 ancestors most likely migrated from England and Ireland to the American colonies in the early 1700s. It appears they initially arrived in the Pennsylvania-Delaware region, possibly as early as 1720, then traveled down the Great Wagon Road and were in the Harrisonburg VA area circa 1750. They had uprooted again and resettled in the piedmont Carolinas in the greater Charlotte region by 1765. While some chose to remain in the Carolinas after the American Revolution, at least one branch of this particular line of the Black family also appears to have migrated into Kentucky about 1785. Still other Black family members were said to have gone to the Arkansas territory in the early to mid-1800s.

As early as the mid-1760s, 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.

By 1765, as noted in J. Houston Harrison's "Settlers Along the Long Grey Trail," Robert Black and his wife Majey Cravens had left Harrisonburg, Virginia, selling a 230-acre tract along Cooks Creek to Martin Archenbright. Robert and Majey headed southward 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 near the state park adjacent to the site of the battle of Kings Mountain.

With the 1779 creation of Rutherford and Lincoln counties, families with the Black surname were also to be found residing in the Moriah area near the First Broad River at its intersection with the the present-day Rutherford-Cleveland county boundary in North Carolina. This area was initially considered to be part of old Tryon County then it was considered to be in eastern Rutherford County until 1841 when Cleveland County was formed out of old Rutherford and old Lincoln counties. At that point, most of the area became part of Cleveland County's Township 11.


Here is a brief listing of one line of the Blacks who have inhabited the western piedmont and foothills of the Carolinas since the colonial days of America:

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.

2. - Columbus Marion Black- b. April 8, 1888, "Head of the Rivers" (Somey Creek at First Broad River) in Golden Valley, 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 and apparently farmed and lived in the Knob Creek Township of Cleveland County NC for much of their adult lives. 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, Susan Julia. (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.

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 sometime between 1848 and 1851, most probably in 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, Harrisonburg, 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. Some genealogists contend that Rachel's maiden name was Booth.

James and Rachel appear to have had sons named Moses, Laban, William S., and Jesse Richardson. They also had one daughter, Lydia. While Moses remained in North Carolina, all of his siblings apparently migrated to Arkansas. While official primary source documentation is somewhat lacking, 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.

At this point, the traditional genealogical paper trail documentation for the family lineage essentially ends; reasoned speculation follows.

7. - Robert Black- b. abt. 1720, probably in Pennsylvania; d. 1788 in York County SC. Was married to Majey Cravens. The aforementioned "Long Grey Trail" makes several references to Robert and Majey and specifically notes they departed Harrisonburg VA for Mecklenburg NC. Robert's sons presumably included Robert, Matthew, John, and James; there apparently was also a daughter, Mary.

8. - Matthew Black- b. abt. 1695, probably in County Antrim, Ireland; d. abt. 1756 in Augusta (later Rockingham) County, Virginia. 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.

(Though traditional genealogical paper trail documentation is lacking, I previously tested with FTDNA Big Y 700 resulting in a confirmed yDNA haplogroup of R-BY3103; my penultimate SNP is R-Z9204. Two of my Big Y matches are with distant male cousins who also trace their family trees back to Matthew Black b. abt. 1695, presumably in Ireland. I also have multiple autosomal DNA matches on linking my line back through Robert Black, son of Matthew the immigrant, and his spouse, Majey Cravens. In fact, with Ancestry's "ThruLines" tool, it appears I have at least 120 DNA matches for both Moses Black and his father, James Black, and 60 such matches for Robert Black.

YFull analysis and age estimation places the yDNA convergence into a common ancestor for my nearest yDNA matches on FTDNA at about the year 1700 which conforms with the lifetime of Matthew Black, the presumed immigrant from Ireland. FTDNA's "Time Predictor" tool also indicates my nearest yDNA match and I have a 96% probability that we share a common ancestor by the eighth generation, which also conforms to the lifetime of Matthew Black, the presumed immigrant from Ireland.

However, it should be noted that some genealogists/family historians suggest that Matthew Black b. 1735 Virginia d. 1797 York County SC, a son of Matthew Black the immigrant and a younger brother of Robert Black, may be the father of my James Black b. 1755 Virginia d. 1827 old Rutherford County NC. While acknowledging their contention, I personally have found no convincing evidence to date supporting that theory.)

Genealogy researcher Keith Dull, a professor at Ashland University in Ohio, published several monographs on early Pennsylvania settlement. He researched this line of Blacks as one of his own ancillary lines and noted that Matthew and Elizabeth Black's first child, Patrick, was probably born about 1717 in Ireland. Matthew and Elizabeth's other children were all presumably born in the American colonies. The first wave of Ulster migration to colonial America began about 1718, would seem to suggest that Matthew and Elizabeth Black may be some of the early immigrants in that movement to the American colonies. Many years later, thousands of immigrants who left the north of Ireland for the American colonies would be characterized by the moniker "Ulster Scots" or, here in the States, as "Scots-Irish." However, these settlers, in early records in America, often characterized themselves as simply "Scots" or "Irish."


James G. Leyburn, in "The Scotch-Irish: A Social History" (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1962), notes the background of the settlers from Ulster was likely quite complex:

"Lowlanders who left Scotland for Ireland between 1610 and 1690 were biologically compounded of many ancestral strains. While the Gaelic Highlanders of that time were (as they are probably still) overwhelmingly Celtic in ancestry, this was not true of the Lowlanders. Even if the theory of 'racial' inheritance of character were sound, the Lowlander had long since become a biological mixture, in which at least nine strains had met and mingled in different proportions. Three of the nine had been present in the Scotland of dim antiquity, before the Roman conquest: the aborigines of the Stone Ages, whoever they may have been; the Gaels, a Celtic people who overran the whole island of Britain from the continent around 500 B.C.; and the Britons, another Celtic folk of the same period, whose arrival pushed the Gaels northward into Scotland and westward into Wales."

Leyburn continues:

"During the thousand years following the Roman occupation, four more elements were added to the Scottish mixture: the Roman itself--for, although Romans did not colonize the island, their soldiers can hardly have been celibate; the Teutonic Angles and Saxons, especially the former, who dominated the eastern Lowlands of Scotland for centuries; the Scots, a Celtic tribe which, by one of the ironies of history, invaded from Ireland the country that was eventually to bear their name (so that the Scotch-Irish were, in effect, returning to the home of some of their ancestors); and Norse adventurers and pirates, who raided and harassed the countryside and sometimes remained to settle. The two final and much smaller components of the mixture were Normans, who pushed north after they had dealt with England (many of them were actually invited by King David of Scotland to settle in his country), and Flemish traders, a small contingent who mostly remained in the towns of the eastern Lowlands. In addition to these, a tenth element, Englishmen--themselves quite as diverse in ancestry as the Scots, though with more of the Teutonic than the Celtic strains--constantly came across the Border to add to the mixture.

In addition to the mixture noted by Leyburn, and though their numbers were less, there were indeed many English, Welsh, native Irish, and Germans who also took part in that trek down the Great Wagon Road from about 1720 until the American Revolution. These other immigrants also often traveled and settled alongside of the "Scots-Irish" as they ventured down the Shenandoah Valley and eventually into the piedmont of the Carolinas.

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.

Surname Origins

Surnames are a rather modern contrivance within human history. Much of the world did not adopt generalized use of surnames until the late Medieval period. Their evolution and development has varied widely on the continents depending upon many factors such as regional culture and customs.

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 2010 Census data, here in the States the Black surname ranked 177th on a list of the most common surnames in America.) In some instances, the Black surname is a modification or replacement for another such as the German "Schwartz/Schwarz" which was sometimes translated as "Black" when some of the German Palatines migrated to the American colonies.

In Scotland, the Black surname is often associated with the clan sept of Lamont, MacGregor, and MacLean as noted by Dr. George Fraser Black, former director of the New York Public Library, in his tome "Surnames of Scotland." 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.

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 sometimes 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, Londonderry, and Antrim. Today, one of the primary centers of the Black surname in the north of Ireland continues to be the Belfast region (Antrim and Down).

Edward MacLysaght, former Keeper of Manuscripts at the National Library of Ireland, authored "The Surnames of Ireland." He indicated the Black surname was primarily Scottish with connections to the clan sept of Lamont-MacGregor-MacLean, descendants of which, MacLysaght noted, were "very numerous in Ulster." However, he also noted that Black was sometimes a "translation or synonym" of Duff and Kilduff or other variants of those Irish surnames. The author cited demographic data such as censuses dating back to 1659 in indicating that "Black" had been a fairly common surname in Counties Antrim and Derry.

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 Anglicization of Duffy which in turn is a derivative of the more ancient Irish family names of Dubhthaigh/O'Dubtaig (the original pronunciation of these names sounds somewhat like "doove hee" or the more modern surname "Duffy").

Another indication that the Black surname in Ireland may be a result of Anglicization comes from "A Concise History of Ireland," P.W. Joyce, pg 94-95, Archeon Press 2012 (Kindle edition); first published by Longmans, Green, and Co. in 1903. In that text, Joyce notes that under Edward IV, the first king of the House of York, and the Irish Parliament, which was controlled by the king and his Anglo-Irish and English noblemen, "passed an act in 1465 that every Irishman dwelling in the Pale was to dress and shave like the English, and take an English surname from some town as Trim, Sutton, Cork; or of a color as Black, Brown; or of some calling, as Smith, Carpenter, etc. on pain of forfeiture of his goods."


My primary paternal family lines are Black (Derry-Antrim-Down area) and Ledford (southern England). My primary maternal family lines are Brooks (southern England) and Calhoun (Donegal and Tyrone). So, with Black and Calhoun, I have two lines that appear to have migrated out of the north of Ireland and with Ledford and Brooks two other lines that appear to have migrated from the south of England.

Family Tree DNA's Big Y 700 testing determined my confirmed yDNA haplogroup to be R-BY3103; my penultimate SNP is R-Z9204.

FTDNA's SNP mapping tool centers my penultimate SNP R-Z9204, which I share with a half-dozen yDNA matches, just east of Londonderry.

Robin Spencer's Scaled Innovations/Tracking Back website uses various data to generate an averaging estimate regarding a specific SNP's geographic location. That website notes my confirmed haplogroup, R-BY3103, as well as my penultimate SNP R-Z9204, is confined to the Black surname and a corresponding SNP map points toward County Antrim as a higher probability location for some of my more recent ancestors.

Dr. Tyrone Bowes of Dublin utilizes a theory of identifying an individual's "genetic homeland" relying upon geographic clustering of the surnames of one's autosomal DNA matches. His algorithm surmises that my line of the Black surname was most likely in County Antrim prior to migrating to America.

So, while lacking a primary source paper trail of traditional genealogical documentation for my family, there are multiple genetic genealogy predictors suggesting my line of the Black surname resided somewhere in the area between the cities of Londonderry and Belfast before migrating to the American colonies.

Ancestry's autosomal ethnicity estimates 56 percent England, Wales, and northwestern Europe; 35 percent Ireland and Scotland; 7 percent Germanic Europe; 2 percent Norway. My Heritage autosomal DNA ethnicity analysis indicated 61.2 percent Irish, Scottish, Welsh; 27.5 percent English; 6.5 percent Scandinavian; 4.8 percent East European. Living DNA indicated my autosomal DNA had roots in southern England (Gloustershire, Oxfordshire, and Somerset).

Living DNA indicated my maternal mitochondrial haplogroup to be H1a1.

The Irish version of a Black family crest 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. This crest is a copyright product of Michael Green,, Dublin, Ireland. The website indicates a single, personal, non-commercial use of the crest image is permitted.

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 July 2020

Links of Interest

NC GenWeb
NC Online Genealogy
Library of Congress local history
State Library genealogy research
International Society of Genetic Genealogy
Tracking Back - surname counties
Clans and SNPs
North of Ireland Family History Society