By Richard Gwynallen

Robert Boyd
1728 – 1806
Eleanor McCullock
1732 – 1819
Relationship to Fawn: 6th great-grandparents

I had heard about a Boyd farm in County Tyrone in Ulster and another in Lancaster County,


Boyd Ancient Tartan

Pennsylvania.  Various branches of our family are connected to both those areas. So, I was wondering if there might be a relationship between those farms and our family.   I was trying to find information about those possibilities while also casually searching around for anything about an old Boyd homestead in North Carolina. Nothing was coming up on those accounts, but I did run across the document, Two Lines of Boyd Crossing Paths in the Frontier, complied by the Rev. Christian D. Boyd of the Newton County Missouri Boyds.

The following will refer to many different relationships within our family, but I identified Robert and Eleanor above because that is the marriage in this country from which our Boyd line descends.

Rev. Boyd noted that the ancestry information in Two Lines of Boyd Crossing Paths in the Frontier was “pieced together from family history given by the children and grandchildren of John Boyd, son of Robert and Eleanor of Iredell Co., NC, and the research forged by Linda Lawhon and others in the Boyd family, as well as Ewing clan.”  It’s a nice find for amateurs like me when the work of experienced genealogical researchers and holders of family history have some of their work compiled.

I’ll focus here on the items that build on our previous essay, Our Boyd Line.  As a reminder, in that essay we identified the immigrant ancestor as Robert Boyd who came to Pennsylvania from Ireland with two sons, William and Robert.  It is his son Robert from whom we are directly descended.  One small point we learned from this compilation was that Robert had “raven locks.”  His brother William was a red head for those who might be curious.  It’s a small thing, but it gives a little bit more of a picture of someone for whom we have no picture.

Locating where Robert and Eleanor lived in North Carolina

As we know, Robert (the son) married Eleanor McCullock, and they would remove to what was Burke County and would become Iredell County, North Carolina. 


Lower Little River, North Carolina

From this compilation we learn that Robert and his family “settled along the Muddy Fork of the Lower Little River and acres on Lower Little River including the Big Falls and his own improvements for complement. Present day, this parcel is located northwest of Taylorsville, NC, in Alexander Co., with HWY 16 running through it.”

We also learn from these accounts that Robert and Eleanor operated a mill, most likely a grist mill, on Lower Little River during the Revolutionary War.


18th century North Carolina Grist Mill

Most of the early grist mills were replaced in the 1780s and 1790s with improved construction.  I haven’t found any images of 18th century grist mills from Lower Little River, but the two pictured here offer an idea of what it may have looked like.


18th Century Lenoir County, Tennessee Grist Mill

Mills of the time were frequently refitted over the years to serve many purposes in addition to milling grains; sawing wood, for instance.  In addition to offering services needed in rural life, the mills were one of few places where the community gathered to reinforce relationships, share news, and discuss matters of communal interest.

Fourth Creek Congregation connections

Robert and Eleanor’s son, John (my 5th great-uncle), was born in 1764. This account gives Philadelphia as the place of his birth, as I have thought to date, but also indicates it could have been Richmond, Virginia as the family migrated south and was thought to have spent some time in Virginia, particularly Bedford County.

John Boyd is listed on the 1810 Census as a head of household in Burke/Iredell County, North Carolina.   He and his family appear in the records of the Fourth Creek Presbyterian Church in Iredell County, North Carolina.

We have seen Fourth Creek as a cradle of our family in previous essays involving the Mordah, Wasson, Milligan, Sloan, and Watt families.  I had not seen confirmation that the Boyds were part of that community.  Prior to this the only certain early congregation connection I knew of for the Boyds was the Concord Presbyterian Congregation.  Robert and Eleanor’s grandson, Robert (my 3rd great-grandfather), is buried in the Concord Presbyterian Church cemetery, as are Nancy Angeline Boyd and John Murdock (my 2nd great-grandparents). Since Concord grew out of Fourth Creek I had thought that earlier Boyds might have been part of Fourth Creek, but didn’t have anything certain.


Robert Boyd and Catherine Houpe Tombstone – Concord Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Iredell County, North Carolina

Tombstones in Concord Presbyterian Church Cemetery for
John Franklin Murdock and Nancy Angeline Boyd.


John Boyd’s grandson, James Hall, would become a well known minister of the Fourth Creek Congregation.  I knew about Hall, but didn’t know there was a (distant) relationship to our family (2nd cousin 4x removed to me).

Another interesting intersection occurs here when a daughter of Alexander Witherspoon (a 6th great uncle to me), Martha (1st cousin 6x removed to me), married John’s nephew, John Boyd (1st cousin 5x removed to me), son of William (a 5th great-uncle to me). The comments in the document indicate that Alexander Witherspoon was also a Fourth Creek Congregation member.

Migrations and connections – Related families?

John Boyd and his wife, Elizabeth Ewing, and their family left North Carolina about 1811 and migrated to Logan County, Kentucky where they farmed and became active members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  This document has much more information about John and his descendants, but I will not be including all that here as our direct ancestor remains in North Carolina.

However, one matter I will explore is the possibility described in Rev. Boyd’s paper that the Boyds and Ewings, and through the Ewings another Boyd line, were related.  It can be hard to follow. Bear with me.

John and Elizabeth had 13 children.  One was Hannah Ewing Boyd.  Hannah stated that the Boyd farm in Logan County was adjacent to the farm of Rev. Finis Ewing and his brother, Chatham. She also claimed that her father, John Boyd, and Finis Ewing were cousins.

“About 1817, John and ten of his children moved to Stewart Co., TN. There he purchased 271 acres on the north bank of Green Tree Grove Creek, about a mile south of the Trigg Co., Kentucky line, not too far from Canton, KY, which was founded by Finis’ nephew-in-law, Abraham Boyd. . . . By [the] 1850 [census], only Robert, John’s son, remained with his parents on the farm.”

This Abraham Boyd was married to Nancy Agnes Linn. Both Abraham and Nancy were born in Bedford County, Virginia in 1765. They married on 1 April 1794 in Davis County, Tennessee She was the daughter of Adam Linn who lived in Bedford County, Virginia during the Revolutionary War. (Source: A Jessamine County, Kentucky database, drawing this information from The Wilford-Williford Family Treks Into America, Vol. 2 by Eurie Pearl Wilford Neel, Nashville, TN, Rich Printing Co., pp. 108-109.)

Abraham was a contemporary of John Boyd. Abraham’s grandfather William also emigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania about 1718.  He later settled in Bedford County, Virginia enroute to South Carolina. Abraham migrated to Tennessee where he married Nancy Agnes Linn, then settled on the banks of the Cumberland River in West Kentucky at a spot known as Boyd’s Landing in 1785. In 1800, he donated land for the town of Canton, Trigg County, Kentucky.

“Traces of rude log cabins were found in many places along the Cumberland River when the first permanent settlers came, and the belief is current that families of trappers and adventurers made this a rendezvous many years before any effort was made to open up and improve the country.  As early as 1799, a party of emigrants . . . . [that was the] family of Abraham Boyd . . .  a native of North Carolina but had been a resident of Tennessee in the neighborhood of Nashville for a number of years, and removed thence to the point above stated. The trip must have been made in flat-boats, for there were no roads, and an old settler remarked that he assisted them in cutting a road through and it took several days to complete it. He erected his first dwelling on the ground where the present church stands. His father-in-law, Adam Linn, Jr. accompanied him and made a settlement three miles out from the river on the Luster place.”  Adam Linn, Jr.’s father, Adam Linn, was born in Ireland, possibly Belfast, about 1720.

Abraham’s wife, Nancy Agnes Linn was also of Irish descent. Her mother, Sidney Ann, was a Ewing who had run away and married a native Irishman named Adam Linn, last residing in Belfast, against her parents wishes.  Quite the scandal.

The compilation notes that Abraham Boyd’s family was also of interest.  His parents were James and Martha Burns. “Abraham’s mother was born between 1735 and 1740 and was a close “blood kin” to poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), born in Ayershire, Scotland.”  Not that important to our essay here, but a fun note.


There is nothing conclusive to prove Hannah Boyd’s assertion that our Robert Boyd’s line is related to the Ewings and the line of Boyds brought to the colonies by William Boyd, grandfather of Abraham Boyd, though there s also nothing to indicate a reason she would have been misled on the point.  However, what this document describes is a pattern of migration that places all these families in similar geographic areas.  As it concludes, “It is interesting to see the migration pattern of various Boyd families related to Robert and Eleanor and of William and Elizabeth. Where Abraham Boyd went, not too far in his tracks were also the sons and grandsons of Robert.” All the families spent time in and around Philadelphia; Bedford County, Virginia; Tennessee; Logan County, Kentucky; and Trigg County, Kentucky.

In any case, we have a few new details added to our knowledge of the Boyds.  We know Robert had “raven locks,” Robert and Eleanor settled on Lower Little River in Burke/Iredell County, North Carolina, ran a mill on on the river during the Revolutionary War, and were part of the Fourth Creek Presbyterian Congregation.