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McCreary family was some of earliest settlers in Conecuh County

The McCreary family was another prominent one in Conecuh County in the Brooklyn, Belleville and Evergreen communities. The earliest ancestor found on Ancestry.com for this family was Andrew McCreary who lived in Ireland and died before 1729. He and his wife, Catherine McKennedy, (1698-1778) had a son named John McCreary.

John McCreary was married to Agnes Kennedy who died in 1762. They were the parents of Robert McCreary who was born in 1742 in Newry, Down, Northern Ireland. He is the immigrant ancestor, but the year of his arrival in America was not found. He married Mary Ann Fortune who was born in 1746 in the same community of Ireland. They died respectively in 1814 and 1818 in Barnwell, S.C. They were the parents of Adam McCreary who was born in 1771 in Kershaw District, S.C. 

Adam McCreary was married to Susannah Harley (1775-1844), and they are the parents who migrated from South Carolina to southwest Alabama circa 1818. Their new son-in-law, Captain Wilson Ashley, had visited South Alabama before and liked it so well he returned home to South Carolina with the good news. He married Adam and Susannah’s daughter, Mary McCreary, around 1818, and they decided to move to South Alabama.  He probably talked Mary’s parents into moving with them since they ended up in the area about the same time.

During this period of time there were so many families with Scottish names moving into South Alabama that it was called “The Scottish Invasion of South Carolina.” The McCrearys were among this group coming from Barnwell County, S.C., and they were some of the first settlers in Conecuh County. They settled on Old Town Creek at a site of an old Indian village. Adam later moved to a new location and built a more substantial house where they lived out their lives.

Adam and Susannah McCreary were the parents of the following children: Mary Ann, b. 1800, d. 1860, m. ca 1818 Captain Wilson Ashley; John, b. 1802, d. 1834, m. 1825 Narcissa S. Autrey (1810—1849); Joseph Harley, b. 1803, d. 1864, m. 1829 Mrs. Almirah N. (Strange) Autrey; Adam, b. 1805, d. young; James, b. 1807, d. young; Elizabeth, b. 1808, d. 1866, m. ? Autrey; Infant girl, b.&d. 1810; Samuel, b. 1811, d. 1861, m. Mary Ann Coleman; Susannah, b. 1813, d. 1860, m. Willis Darby; David, b. 1815, d. young; and Elijah R., b. 1818, d. 1878, m. (1) 1842 Mary Almirah Autrey (1826-1850) (2) 1853 Mary S. Coleman. The two Mary Colemans are two different ladies, and Almirah (Strange) Autrey was the mother of Mary Almira Autrey. The two Almiras married McCreary brothers.

The oldest daughter, Mary Ann McCreary, and her husband, Captain Wilson Ashley, were married circa 1818 in Barnwell District, S.C. They immediately migrated to Conecuh County, Ala., and settled in the Old Town Creek community, which was 10 miles north of Evergreen. He had visited the area before and liked it so well he apparently talked Mary Ann and her family into moving there. At their deaths, Mary Ann and Wilson were buried in the historic Old Beulah Cemetery where members of the early settlers were buried. Evangelist Alexander Travis is buried there and has an impressive obelisk headstone along with several other impressive grave markers. The cemetery is located some distance from the highway a few miles southwest of Brooklyn, and the surrounding land is leased by some hunting club which has closed public access.

Mary Ann and Wilson Ashley were the parents of the following children: Wilson Jr., b. ca 1820, d. at 1 1/2 years of age; William, b. 1822, d. 1870, m. Amanda Thomas; James Wilson, b. 1827, d. 1858; Caroline Elizabeth, b. 1835, d. 1898, m. Rev. Andrew Jay; Susan J., m. Sanford Jones; Nathaniel, m. Polly Stallworth; and Mary Ann, m. Dr. Charles T. Taliaferro.

Adam McCreary’s oldest son, Adam McCreary Jr., was born in 1802 in Barnwell, S.C., and was a teenager when the family moved to Alabama. When reaching adulthood, he was married to Narcissa Autrey (1810-1849), daughter of Alexander Autrey and Parthenia B. Irvin who were natives of Georgia. Adam and Narcissa were the parents of the following children: William Lorenzo; John Absalom, b. 1832, d. 1919, m. (1) 1860 Marcella Hunter Johnson (1843-1870) (2) 1871 Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Etheridge; Parthenia; and Mary Ann, b. 1845, m. James Monroe Travis.

Adam’s next son, Joseph Hartley McCreary, was born in 1803 and was about 15 years of age when his family arrived in Conecuh County. In 1829, he was married to Mrs. Almirah N. (Strange) Autrey who had a young daughter named Mary Autrey by her previous husband. The family lived for a number of years at the Jack McGowin place near McGowin’s Bridge. It is recorded that he built a beautiful house there using the “house raising” method where all the neighbors gather and help erect the building. Joseph became one of the largest land owners in the county. He eventually sold his place to Samuel McGowin and moved to a new location north of Evergreen.

Joseph and Almirah McCreary were the parents of the following 11 children: Adam R., b. 1830, d. 1858, m. Charlotte Turk; Julian A, b. 1831, d. in infancy; Joseph Harley Jr., b. 1835, d. 1862, m. Jane Crosby; John Calhoun, b. 1837, d. 1861; Susan Jane, b. 1839; Almirah Strange, b. 1841, d. 1857; Martha Frances, b. 1843, d. 1896, m. Dr. Robert Augustus Lee; Robert James, b. 1846, d. 1907, m. (1) Emily Elizabeth Stanley (2) Mary Henrietta Stanley; Ruben Strange, b. 1848, m. (1) ? Baggett (2) Nannie Tomlinson; William J., b. 1851, d. 1907, m. Mary Forrest Mervin; and Samuel Elijah, b. 1853, d. 1915, m Elizabeth (Wereth) Billings.

Joseph McCreary was a very successful farmer and business man. Following the end of the War Between the States he had hidden enough gold that he was able to give each of his children $5,000 in gold. It was told he also had two trunks full of Confederate money, but of course, it was then worthless. At their deaths, Joseph and Almirah were buried in the Belleville Cemetery.

Samuel McCreary was another son of Adam and Susannah McCreary. He was born in 1811 in Barnwell, S.C. and was married to Mary Ann Coleman. They were the parents of the following children: Preston; James; Susan, m. Dr. ? Hawthorne; Mary, m. ? McClellan; and Mattie, m. J.E. Massie.

Adam and Susannah’s youngest son, Elijah R. McCreary, was born in Barnwell, S.C., in 1818 shortly before the family migrated to South Alabama. He was the first to settle at McCreary which was located about five miles north of Brooklyn. He purchased land from two Brantley brothers and combined the properties. He moved two houses to the site he chose for his home and made them the two main rooms and created a “double pen house.” These were log buildings which he later covered the outside with boards and ceiled the inside. He constructed shed rooms on each side and added additional rooms as the family grew in number.

Elijah McCreary prospered in many ways during his lifetime. He built a dam across Bottle Creek and used the backwater to power a rice mill, sawmill, sugar cane mill and grist mill. To help with the extensive farming and operating the mills, he at one time had as many as 40 slaves. The women were skilled at operating the spinning wheels for making cloth, and they had a special room just for that activity. One of Elijah’s major accomplishments was helping bring the L&N Railroad to Evergreen. He was motivated for this so he could ship his cotton from there rather than having to haul it to Claiborne as he did before.

There is more history of Elijah McCreary’s family, so that will be covered in next week’s column. His children and later generations will be outlined. It would be appreciated if anyone with additional information on this family would share it.  Please see below for the writer’s contact information.

Sources for this story include Ancestry.com, family records of David Sanders, a McCreary descendant, and genealogical records shared by Sherry Johnston, genealogy researcher at the Evergreen Public Library.

Anyone who finds an error in the above is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.