The Black surname has been present in the Cleveland/Rutherford/Old Tryon counties area of the Carolinas since the days of Colonial America.
As early as 1765, settlers named Black apparently lived on homesteads in what is modern day eastern Rutherford County and upper Cleveland County NC. The same land originally was considered part of Anson County 1750-1762, Mecklenburg County 1762-1769, and Tryon County 1769-1779 (Tryon encompassed segments of NC and SC prior to the settlement of a 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 Little Broad River" (i.e., First Broad River). Duncan's land was located at the mouth of a creek, known today as Duncan's Creek, on Highway 226 in Cleveland County. On that same date, Issac Hinton was granted 200 acres along another nearby creek, known today as Hinton Creek.
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 (Ward's Creek/Ward's Gap in present day Cleveland County). The southern portion, on Duncan Creek, was sold to Thomas Black, a Mecklenburg farmer, who had the land re-surveyed and officially defined as a 563 acre tract.
With the creation of Rutherford and Lincoln counties in NC about 1779, families with the Black surname were residing in the Second Regiment (eastern portion) of Old Rutherford County. By the early 1800s, the family resided in the Mt. Moriah community, near present-day Casar ("Upper Cleveland County"). From the 1780s to the 1840s this area where the Blacks lived and farmed was very near the boundary line of the old Rutherford and old Lincoln counties, from which Cleveland County was formed in 1841.
Here is a brief listing of one line of the Blacks who resided in Cleveland-Rutherford-Old Tryon.
Amos Thomas Black - Born April 29, 1921, in Shelby, N.C. Died May 19, 1984, in Gastonia, N.C. Married Libby Brooks, Dec. 23, 1950 in York, S.C. Amos was a WWII Army veteran who served with HQ Company, 12th Armored Division ("Hellcats"), in Europe, subsequently receiving an honorable discharge on a certificate of disability in July 1945. He grew up in Cleveland County, but lived as an adult in Gaston County where he was a textile worker. Buried at Gaston Memorial Park in Gastonia. Children: Thom and John.
Columbus Marion Black - Born April 8, 1888, at "Head of the Rivers" in Rutherford County, N.C. Died 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 (near Shelby), where they were long-time members. 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, "The New York Division," was killed in the battle for Saipan.)
Thomas Marion Black -Born Oct. 15, 1859, in the Moriah Community of Upper Cleveland. Died Oct. 5, 1934. Married Rebecca (Beckie) Waters of the Moriah community in 1882 or '83. Tom's obituary was a front-page item in The Cleveland Star. 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. Children: John, Lexie, Columbus, Joseph, Jamie, Chauncy, Katie, Bassie.
James Black - Born Nov. 18, 1812; died 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 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), Rebecca, Solomon, Eliza J., Rachel Jane, Dulcena, William C., Samuel, Thomas, Susan Julia, and Martha H. (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, last name unknown, was born in VA.)
Moses Black - Oral tradition and several secondary sources identify James Black's father as Moses Black of Rutherford County NC. The late Jean Brackett Easterling, Waterford MI, interviewed Thana Wortman of Lawndale NC in 1981 with Ms. Wortman identifying herself as a granddaughter of James and great-granddaughter of Moses. Mrs. Easterling's grandmother, Mary Louisa Angeline Parker, a daughter of Rachel Jane Black and Joseph Parker, also left family records and letters which indicated Moses was Mary Parker's grandfather and, therefore, the father of James Black (1812-1897).
Moses was born about 1777 in North Carolina and apparently lived much of his life in Rutherford County. In the 1830 Rutherford Census Moses was in the 50-60 age group. Ten years prior, in 1820, he would have been 40-50. In the 1820 Rutherford Census both Moses and his wife were in the 26-45 age group. Assuming both census reports are correct, Moses could have been no younger than 40 and no older than 45 in 1820, placing his birth year between 1775 and 1780.
Moses appears in the USGenWeb Archives on the North Carolina militia muster rolls of the War of 1812 (7th Regiment, Rutherford County, Second Company, Capt. Abraham Irvin).
Some of the oral tradition and secondary sources, such as letters, within the family indicate the name of Moses' wife was Patience Condrey. She has tentatively been identified by one researcher as the granddaughter of John and Dorothy Condrey of Chesterfield VA (possibly of Irish or Manx descent). John Condrey was a Revolutionary War soldier who moved to NC sometime after 1780. In the 1850 Census, James Black indicated his father and mother were born in NC. If so, and assuming John to be Patience's grandfather, it would appear that Patience's birth was likely sometime after 1780 in NC.
Moses Black appears in the 1810, 1820 and 1830 Rutherford County Census but is not listed in Rutherford or adjacent counties in 1800 or 1840. According to secondary sources within the family 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), possibly one other daughter and one other son of unknown name.
The 1820 Rutherford Census indicates that Moses' neighbors included James Black, William Black, and William Condrey.
One candidate as Moses' father is another James Black, who is buried at Mt. Harmony Methodist Church cemetery near the Cleveland-Rutherford County line (off Highway 226 near Duncan Creek where a state historical marker for the church is posted). The deteriorating gravestone indicates James died Sept. 27, 1827, at the age of 72, placing his birth circa 1755. He is buried next to his wife, Rachel. No dates are given for Rachel but the same gravestone indicates she was 86 at the time of her death.
James apparently did not participate in the Revolutionary War. He does not appear in any Patriot or Loyalist listing.
While there is no documentation to officially make the connection there is considerable circumstantial evidence, i.e., the timeframe of their lives, their geographic proximity to where Moses and his son, also named James, lived as adults, and the naming of Moses' first son and daughter (James and Rachel), that would suggest this James and Rachel were the parents of Moses Black.
Several other individual amateur genealogists have posted GEDcom files on Rootsweb specifically listing James and Rachel as the parents of Moses. These gedcoms also identify one sister of Moses, Lydia, who married Jacob Willis. Several of the GEDcoms also indicate that James, the apparent father of Moses Black, was born in Virginia. Some other secondary sources and oral tradition within the family suggest Moses and Lydia had an older brother, Laban, who appeared on a Rutherford County NC tax list in 1792, and reportedly migrated to Arkansas territory after 1800.
James and Rachel Black's burial site at Mt. Harmony Methodist 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 in subsequent generations.
The Mt. Harmony 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. As a search of adjacent counties and old cemeteries in the "Old Tryon" region has failed to produce a verifiable gravesite for Moses Black and his wife Patience, it is quite possible, and even probable, that the graves of Moses and Patience are among the unmarked graves at Mt. Harmony.
Continuing along purely speculative lines, the James Black buried at Mt. Harmony may have been a descendant of Matthew (of York County PA) and Mary Black (m. between 1725 and 1730 in Virginia). Matthew and Mary appear on a 1756 tax list in the Augusta/Rockingham County, VA, area. They relocated to a 100-acre tract of land on Clark's Fork of Bullock Creek in what is present-day York County, SC, about 1765. Their sons were named Gavin, Robert, John, Joseph, and possibly James; one daughter was named Janet. Reportedly only Gavin participated in the Revolutionary War as a Patriot whereas all the other sons, including James, were said to have signed an oath of neutrality in 1775. John and some other members of this line apparently migrated to Kentucky and settled there while others remained in the Carolinas.
Robert Black, son of Matthew and Mary, was reportedly born in 1731. He married Majey (Maggie) Craven and subsequently lived in the Bullock Creek/Smyrna SC area not far from the Kings Mountain battleground. Robert apparently died in 1788 and is buried at a Presbyterian Church at Smyrna.
Some genealogists contend that this Robert Black was the father of James Black (1755-1827) who in turn was the father of the Moses Black who is in my direct line. Robert and Maggie's other children included: Robert (m. Sarah Lattimore), Matthew, John, and Mary. Several of the sons are also reportedly buried at the Presbyterian Church at Bullock's Creek which was considered to be part of old Tryon County NC until 1789 when the present day state boundary between North and South Carolina was redrawn and the North Carolina counties of Rutherford and Lincoln were created.
There were numerous Blacks who received land patents, made land purchases, or appeared on tax lists in the Old Tryon-Old Rutherford region between 1765 and 1785. These landowners and taxpayers are possibly relatives of the James/Moses Black line. Other Blacks who owned land or appeared on tax lists in the region at the approximate time of Moses' birth included James, George, John, Joseph, Patrick, Hugh, and Robert. (George, who was Hugh's father, was a justice of the peace and member of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a predecessor to today's county commissions, and who was a signer of the Tryon Resolves, which predated the Declaration of Independence by nearly a full year.)
Personal Country of Origin Undetermined
My personal Ancestry.com autosomal DNA testing indicated 43-percent West Europe (which includes France, Germany, Belgium, and England), 34-percent Ireland (Ancestry's "Ireland" designation includes Ireland, Scotland,, and Wales), 8-percent Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales), and 5-percent Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). My personal Family Tree/Family Finder DNA country of origins report indicated 67-percent West/Central Europe (France, Germany, Belgium, etc.), 18-percent Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark), and 14-percent British Isles. Neither of the DNA tests were able to definitively point to a specific country of origin for my personal line of Blacks.
The Black surname, in fact, does not have a single country of origin, being a common name in several countries. Schwartz, for instance, was a common German surname which was sometimes translated as Black when Germans settled in colonial America. Gowans/Goings and other variants of that name, which means "son of the blacksmith" whether it be Scots, Irish, or German in origin, sometimes evolved into Black as a surname. In Russia, Chernoff appears to be the equivalent to the Black surname. However, many Blacks do trace their origins to the British Isles where Black is relatively common as a surname. In fact, Black is among the 50 most common surnames in Scotland. It is somewhat less common in England, primarily confined to the Northern Ireland counties in Ireland, and virtually non-existent in Wales. According to one source, here in the States, it ranks 139th on a list of the most common surnames.
Dr. George Fraser Black, former director of the New York Public Library and author of "Surnames of Scotland," said the Black surname was common in St. Andrews and Prestwick, Scotland, in the 15th and 16th centuries and was very common in Edinburgh in the 17th century.
Blak, Blac, and Blake were variations of the name common to the Lanark, Scotland area in the 14th century at the time when surnames were developing and becoming more common in popular usage. According to Dr. Black, many of the Blacks of Scotland actually originated within Clan Lamont (old Norse for "lawman"), indicating possible ancestral origins prior to Scotland in Scandinavia or northern Europe.
Other sources indicate the Black surname was prominent in Lincolnshire, England, but that many of these Blacks migrated to Angus, Scotland (Dundee, Forfar, Firth of Tay region), and eventually lost their identity when significant numbers of the Lamont, MacGregor, and MacLean clans of the Scottish Highlands changed their names to Black (or other colors such as White or Green) after the clan names were banned by the King and Parliament, an action due in part to the ongoing fighting among the clans. The primary ancestral home for many Scottish "Blacks" (clan sept: Lamont, MacGregor, and MacLean), would be in Argyll, Cowal, Bute, eastward to the Renfrew, Glasgow, Lanark regions of central Scotland.
At least some Blacks were not Highlanders. They came from the Scottish Lowlands and the border country between Scotland and England and some were part of King James' Protestant settlement of Northern Ireland in the very early 1600s. These Blacks lived in Northern Ireland for a couple of generations before becoming part of the massive Ulster-Scots/Scots-Irish migration to America between 1720-1780.
Immigrants generally arrived in the Carolinas by one of three primary migration routes: (1) Germans and Scots-Irish arrived at Philadelphia, traveling down the Great Wagon Road through the Appalachian Valley, often settling for a time in Virginia before moving on into the Piedmont and Foothills of the Carolinas; (2) Highland Scots arrived at Wilmington and moved up the Cape Fear River to present-day Fayetteville NC; and (3) English, Scots and some Scotch-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, Congaree, and Catawba River systems.
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Updated June 2017 by Thom Black
Others researching the Black surname
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Genealogy in Cleveland County
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Genealogical Society of Old Tryon
Sgt. Clingman Black