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McAfee Family History (Author Unknown)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1931 [unknown]
Location: Kentuckymap
Surnames/tags: McAfee Cardwell Ferguson
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A xerox copy of this document was given to me by a family member many years ago. There is handwriting on it stating that it was sent to my great grandfather, James Howard Owens. Susan Clark McAfee Owens was the aunt of the so far unknown author. Do you know who wrote this?

This brief history of the McAfee family, written in 1931, may be of interest to the unborn generation and maybe, we hope, to some of those now living. The printed histories of them are scarce; although I have seen three of them, viz: General Robert McAfee's History and Biography,[1] The Woods' McAfee Memorial by Rev. Neander Woods,[2] and The life of Dr. Clelland. The writer has also gotten from his Aunt Sue Owens a number of dates and other interesting facts and he believes them all to be authentic.
General Robert McAfee says that the McAfees were known to be in existence as early as the beginning of the 16th century for they were known to be contemporaries of Oliver Cromwell. He also conjectures that they may have migrated from Spain to Scotland at a much earlier date. However, he does not substantiate that with any facts. We do know that prior to 1672 they were living in Scotland between Benburg and Glasgow.
The record says that John McAfee (patriarch of the family) was born in Scotland in 1645. He married Elizabeth Montgomery in 1670. Two years later, soon after the Restoration by Charles II, he and his wife moved to Armah County, Ireland. This was in 1672. The persecution of James II against the Presbyterian Covenanters soon drove others to follow, viz: The Campbells, the Montgomeries, McMichaels, McCowans and Adams.
In the revolution in England which took place under William and Mary in 1688, John McAfee and his eldest son, John II, then seventeen years old, took part and were in the battle of Boyne in 1690.
The early men of the family were strong and vigorous, both in mentality and physique. John Sr. died in 1739 at the age of 94. John, Jr. born in Scotland in 1671 and died in Ireland in 1738. He married Mary Rodgers in 1700. They had four sons, James, John III, Malcolm and William and also six daughters, names unknown. The records say nothing further of John II and his wife.
His son, James I, from whom we American McAfees are descended, was born in Ireland in 1707. In 1735 he married Jane McMichael who afterward became famed as the mother of the five McAfee brothers of pioneer fame. You will notice from the dates given that the deaths of John I and John II occurred not far apart. Probably John II died first and his father's death may have followed early in the next year. James Sr. had been married about three years when his father died and it is probable that his grandfather went to live with him, since the patriarch had become very old and perhaps feeble.
We know that James Sr. embarked at Belfast, Ireland in the spring of 1739 for America. He had with him his aged mother, (Mary (Rodgers) McAfee), his wife and three small sons, James, Jr., John and Malcolm. So far, as the historians know, his brothers stayed in Ireland and never came across. On the voyage their wee baby, Malcolmed sickened and died and was buried at sea.
Let us pause a moment to reflect upon the heart rending scene as father, mother and grandmother, gazed over the side of the ship upon their little darling, as he was gently lowered into the last resting place to be "rocked in the cradle of the deep". Try to picture the anguish of that mother as she left behind her precious one, her last born, perhaps to be eaten by the monsters of the sea. But she was a McMichael, a sturdy race, that bravely faced the future, come what may. We regret that there is not more known of them, at least the writer has no knowledge of them.
In a few days after the burial of baby Malcolm they landed at New Castle, June 10,1739. In the fall of that year they moved to what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on Octoraro Creek, where he purchased a farm. They lived here several years and two or three children were born there. From there they went to the southern part of North Carolina. After a year or two there they went to Roanoke County, Virginia. They evidently moved to Augusta County, Virginia a little later for there is a court record that James, Sr. was a citizen of that county in 1748. At that time Auguste County was an empire of itself. It included a greater part of what is now West Virginia and all of Kentucky. Later Botetourt County was cut off of it. Hence we know why we were from Botetourt County.
Little is known of John, second son of James I, only that he was killed by the Indians on Reed Creek near New River in 1768.
About 1771 or 72, the five brothers begun to think and to talk about the rich lands to the West. In 1773 their plans materialized and three of them, James, George and Robert with James McCowan and Samuel Adams started out to explore the land to the west. At that time, James was 37 years of age, George 33, Robert 28, McCowan about 28 and Adams but 19. They were well equipped for this task, being young and strong, well versed in woodcraft and experienced in Indian craftiness. After a hard tedious journey, they finally arrived at Salt River where they located home sites with the intentions of permanently locating there. Each located, surveyed and marked, by cutting brush and blazing trees, the land that he wished. Then they returned home, with the intention of returning to Kentucky the following year, but the next year they were prevented by an outbreak of the Indians. Humphrey Marshall, historian, differs with General Robert McAfee about this point. Marshall asserts that they returned in 1774. The writer rather thinks that the General was right.
In 1775 all five of the brothers came back, bringing with them David Adams and a young man named Higgins. They made the journey of about 400 miles in eighteen days, arriving March 11th. They remained about a month, cleared some land, planted corn, apple and peach seed. They then returned home, starting April 10. They left Higgins and a man named Poulson to plant more corn and to look after things.
In 1776 they attempted to remove their families to Kentucky, but failed. In the interim between 1776 and 79, they fought in the Continental army in the Revolutionary War. James being a lieutenant.
We imagine the winter of 78 was a busy one for them. The women were spinning a surplus of cloth and getting ready such articles as they intended bringing with them the following year. On August 17, 1779 they started for Kentucky. They followed what is now known as the Wilderness Road, coming down through Powell's Valley, Virginia to Cumberland Gap, crossing the mountains, here they followed the beautiful valley of the Cumberland River for a long distance, thence in a generally northwesterly direction.
On September 28, 1773 [handwritten: 1779?] they arrived at the place where the McAfee Fort was soon built. It was located on Salt River at a large spring, at the water's edge about three-fourths of a mile northwest of the village of Talmage on the Southern railroad. In this company were the McAfees, McCowans, Adamses and Currys.
When they left Virginia, James McAfee, the father, would not undertake the trip. He said he was too old and feeble to undergo the hardships of the journey. I presume he had ample means for living, as he had been a large landowner. They left him comfortably located in the home of his kinsmen, the Montgomeries. Jane, his wife determined to accompany her sons. The parting of the way was surely sad for these old people. The writer can not understand why after following him for over forty years, through life's sunshine and shadows she should elect to leave him now, when he was becoming feeble and most needed her. However, she did and not knowing all the circumstances connected with it, we should not censure her. One with such vitality as she had, was surely of great benefit to her sons and families.
The entire trip was made on foot and horseback. They could bring only such kitchen ware as was absolutely essential, such as the skillet and lid, bakers and spiders. There was no furniture and the writer imagines that Mother Jane never again enjoyed the comforts that she had in Virginia. She passed away in 1783, never seeing her beloved companion again. He died two years later, 1785, at the age of 78 and was buried in Virginia. She died at about the age of 75 and lies buried in an old family burying ground on a high hill on the southeast side of Salt River about one-half mile southwest of the mouth of Dry Branch, Mercer County, Kentucky.
James McAfee (the pioneer) built a stone house, just outside the McAfee Fort, in the year 1779. It is now owned by Mrs. Clarence Knight. The writer visited this house a short while ago, August 1931 and found it to be about as substantial as it was 142 years ago. James (the direct ancestor of the writer) lived in this house the remainder of his life, and at his death in 1811 he was buried on his farm at a place about one-half mile northeast of the stone house. James (the pioneer) married Nancy Clark in 1758 It has been asserted that General George Rogers Clark was a close relative of hers, and that when he was left an orphan that he lived with them for a number of years.
James McAfee II of Ireland had seven sons and three daughters.
There was James III (the pioneer) as mentioned above, John 1737-1768, Malcolm, the infant who died at sea. George born in Pennsylvania 1740, married Susan Curry about 1770, died 1783. His was the first grave in the New Providence cemetery. Mary born in Penn. 1742 married first John Poulson, later Thomas Gault and it was at her home on Salt River that Jane (the mother) died in 1773. Robert, born in Penn, 1745, married Anne McCowan. He was murdered at New Orleans 1795. Margaret, born in Pennsylvania 1746 or 47, married George Buckhanon. Moved to Mercer County about 1784. Samuel, born in Virginia 1748. Married Hannah McCormick 1774. Died 1801. William born in Virginia 1750. Married Rebecca Curry about 1774. He was captain of the Kentucky Cavalry under General George Rogers Clark. In this campaign he was wounded by the Indians at Piqua, Ohio, but he managed to reach the falls of the Ohio River and died there of his wounds in 1780. There was still another daughter of whom he historians have no knowledge.
It is not the intention of the writer to trace the relationship of the descendants of the Pioneer Brothers down to the present time. He is only particularly concerned with the branch of James, the pioneer. You can get further formation of that line from my family tree.
There is an incident that impressed me in my childhood as being very strange and romantic. My grandmother, Mary Luvenia Cardwell, was the only child of William Cardwell and his wife, a Miss Furgerson. They evidently were married about 1818 or 1819.[3] We do not know whether in Kentucky or Alabama. Mary Luvenia was born January 3, 1820. A year or more afterward her father went to Louisiana and took some land grants there. A little later he went to California. When Grandmother was at the tender age of four, her mother left her in the care of some Cherokee Indians.
We do not know why William and his wife separated, but they evidently did for she afterwards married twice. Her second husband was said to have been wealthy and the third to have been poor and that he soon used up her inheritance and that she died in poverty.
The Indians, with whom Mary Luvenia was left, were named Pack. The mother (Aunt Pack as she called her), married a white man named Pack. They had two children, one named Cynthia and I could not find out the boy's name. Aunt Pack's maiden name was Lowery, of the Cherokee Indians.[4] Cynthia married a white man named Cowert. They had three sons, Tom, John and Slater.[5] Tom afterwards became the Indian Agent in Washington, D.C. These Indians were later moved to Kansas and still later to Indian Territory.
My great, great Uncle Jack Cardwell (brother to William Cardwell) heard in some way that Luvenia was living with these Indians, so he and William McAfee, heavily armed, went to Alabama to get her. They supposed the Indians were savages and went prepared to fight, but were very much surprised to find them very much civilized.
Angeline (Indian for angel) or Mary Luvenia was seventeen years of age at that time. After lots of persuasion, she was finally induced to accompany them to Kentucky. However, she was very loath to leave her Indian mother and playfellows. She did however, and never saw Aunt Pack again, but years later she visited Cynthia at or near Chattanooga, Tennessee, taking with her her youngest daughter Sue who told me this story just a few days ago.
Mary Luvenia (Angeline) married John B. McAfee when she was twenty-seven years old. She got a number of letters from her father in California and finally one saying he was coming back to Kentucky soon, but he never got here. The next she heard was from her Uncle George Cardwell, also in California saying her father had died suddenly and that he had quite a lot of wealth, was out of debt and that there would be a goodly sum coming to her. The next letter brought the news that it took all the money to pay the debts.
Since my great grandfather died (from unknown cause) at my great, great Uncle's house, the writer is rather prone to believe that he charged very highly for funeral expenses. The land grants in Louisiana were neglected and finally sold for taxes. Thus our patrimony vanished.


  1. "The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee and his Family and Connections" by Robert B. McAfee, 1845. Manuscript copy of autobiography that was later printed in the Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 25, Number 73 (January 1927), page 10. [Text not available online.] Online transcription by Jenny Tenlen.
  2. "The Woods-McAfee Memorial, containing an account of John Woods and James McAfee of Ireland, and their descendants in America" by Rev. Neander M. Woods, 1905. Printed by the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal Job Printing Co., Online copy at the Internet Archive | Online copy at FamilySearch Books. pp 200-201.
  3. There is a William Cardwell and Elizabeth Ferguson who were married in 1819 in Rhea County, Tennessee. The date of the marriage is listed as 20 or 25 March of 1819. His last name is listed variously as Cardwell, Cardmel, Cauldwell or Cammett.
    William Cardwell on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/M9K1-G5K
    Elizabeth Ferguson on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/9WPX-7CP

    William M E Cardwell & Elizabeth Ferguson, "Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9VJ-X9TL?i=206 : 15 December 2015), Rhea > Marriage records, 1808-1899, vol 1-2 > image 207 of 611; citing Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville and county clerk offices from various counties.
  4. Elizabeth Lowrey married William Shorey Pack about 1794. They had at least three children; Jeremiah, Thomas and Cynthia.
    William Shorey Pack on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/LVLN-QMG
    Elizabeth Lowrey on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/LVZQ-NVJ
  5. Cynthia Quagui Pack & John Cowart had at least six children; Alexander, Lemuel, Jennit, Thomas, John and Slater.
    John Cowart on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/LBX6-P4P
    Cynthia Quagui Pack on FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/K1DK-SDR
    Cynthia Pack Cowart on Find a Grave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148427461/cynthia-p-cowart

    Cynthia, Slater and Thomas Cowart are all mentioned in "Cherokee Nation Papers - Inventory and Index"

    See also William Cowart's Story of My Ancestors

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