“Preserving York County’s agriculture and architectural heritage.”
City Directories and History: The historic McGill farm in Western York County was inherited by a number of family members who contacted Historic Brattonsville with the desire to see many of their old family buildings, records, and materials saved at the historic site. Upon first inspection, the complex consisted of several log buildings of high quality construction and the donation was accepted. What transpired was the discovery of an extensive written
record by McGill on his excellent education, records on the operation of his early 19th century store, and extremely valuable information on hundreds of individuals who lived and worked with the McGills. One of these families was the Meacham’s, a family of free African Americans living in a county that condoned and legally upheld slavery.
100-Year Old McGill House Still Perfectly Preserved – The Evening Herald, April 21, 1949 by Elizabeth Reed
The perfectly preserved century-old home of Mr. and Mrs. William McGill in the Clark’s Fork section is one of the finest examples of unchanged architecture in York County. Built in 1846 by John McGill the house stands today about 10 miles from York and just a little to the right of the recently paved road running from York to King’s Creek. The house was built on a knoll and the ground slopes around in all directions.
Not only the home but the surrounding buildings are worth a story. Standing a short distance from the house is the ancient log store building, more than a century in age. Formerly a combination store and Clark’s Fork post office, the store has been sheathed with boards and the small shutters and large wide door covered with sheets of steel in order to discourage burglars.
Inside are the narrow shelves where the frugal goods of the times were displayed and on the shelves are the same day books and post office register receipts kept 100 years ago by John McGill. In a day book dated 1842 the names of neighbors and friends who found credit at this McGill store may be read in the perfectly legible handwriting of John McGill. Here are some of them: Estate of Henry House (Houser), A.D. Ellis, Mathias Huffman, John Love, Nancy Martin, Edmund Westmoreland, William Brown, Morgan Martin, Leander Clark, William Blalock, William Crawford, George Hance, William Edmans, John L. Parker and Alvin Whisonant; just to give a few.
Another interesting fact is that the credits went only to purchasers of such necessary items to daily living as shot, lead, powder and a rare pair of shoes or piece of cloth.
Dated 1882, the Charleston market report reposes on a shelf giving the current prices of rice, naval stores and stocks.
The post office was discontinued around the turn of the century. The post office part of the building contains the fireplace with graceful mantel.
In the yard of the home are the huge log houses that were the living quarters of the slaves and another that before 1846 formed the home of the John McGill family.
Chimneys of both have fallen but otherwise they are strong and sturdy. The house, painted white, is in perfect condition with three chimneys, two on one end, one on the other. Probably the most unusual chimney in the county is made of red and “blue” bricks baked on the farm. The blue bricks form a graceful zig-zag pattern on the outside.
A small entrance porch has been added; otherwise the house is the same. Narrow windows with shutters give light to the rooms. Two small rooms are now at the front of the house and the house proper has two large rooms downstairs and two upstairs with an enclosed stair leading up. Not on just a few doors but on practically all are the massive locks with tiny brass knobs. And in each door are the 100-year-old heavy keys that John McGill placed there in l846.
When one visits the cellar the community’s first carriage is to be found. It has parted with its wheels but sits in good condition with its tapestry upholstering and small step that folded out to accommodate passengers. The present owner of the house, William McGill, was the son of James McGill, the grandson of John McGill and the great grandson of Captain William McGill, from whom the McGill clan is descended.
Family History – Information from the Herald Newspaper
The first known McGills in this country lived in western Pennsylvania about 1775. The William McGill of our story was born on Christmas day 1775 near Pisgah across the state line in North Carolina. His mother walked 30 miles to have him baptized. Although William bore the title of Captain, it was purely honorary.
Of William McGill’s children who reached maturity and married, these are recorded: Elizabeth married Newman McElwee; John married Rachel McElwee and lived on Clark’s Fork where his grandson William now lives; William married Mary McElwee and lived in the Bethany community; Martha Shaw married John Hope Adams and lived south of Gastonia; Mary married William Caldwell; Caroline married John B. Whiteside and lived three miles east of Hickory Grove; Emiline married James Henry Glenn; Isabella married Thomas Simril; Thomas married Eliza Galloway; James Henry married Elizabeth Galloway and they lived and died on King’s Creek near their father’s home.
Captain McGill purchased 1800 acres of land on King’s Creek for 50 cents per acre. Captain McGill located his home about 1832 near the northeast corner of this tract. He was such a widely known man that although he located his home in a most inaccessible corner of the large estate, signs pointed the way to his home. His extensive knowledge of the law was probably gained by study at home and probably caused the beaten path to his door. McGill was a progressive farmer for his day. He grew corn, wheat and oats, cotton and even flax for the making of cloth. In 1904, an old flail that had belonged to him was sold at a sale at W.J. McGill’s. The flail had 25 or more needles that were used for splitting the flax fibers into small threads.
Only two post offices were located in western York district in those days, one at Clark’s Fork and the other at Boyton. (This statement is incorrect, R&R Note. The 1860 Census shows John McGill as a merchant, with him in the household are: Rachel, Martha, Nancy, Lizzie and Isabella.)
On one occasion, Captain McGill missed corn from his cribs. Investigation disclosed that every few nights a thief would take a sack of corn from the large crack in the crib. A steel trap was set at the crack and the next morning Captain McGill looked out to see a neighbor standing by the crib. He invited him in and the man said, “I would if I could.’ McGill went out, released him and carried the man inside for breakfast. The next day McGill sent a wagonload of corn to the home of the man who had been caught in the trap. Captain McGill never told the name of the neighbor who stole corn for his family when the supply at home gave out. Farmer McGill was the owner of 30 slaves.
On August 25, 1868, Capt. McGill arose to join members of the family on the porch as they ate watermelons. As he arose from his bed, he stumbled and fell into the huge fireplace, his side struck the andiron. Captain McGill knew it was the end and remarked during the day: “I believe that it is going to carry me away.” About five p.m. on that August day, he breathed his last breath. Captain McGill was bathed by neighbors and the body, followed by a long procession, made its way the 13 miles to Bethany churchyard. When they arrived August rains had seeped into the new made grave and friends remarked “With all the land he owned, we’re not going to bury him in this mud hole.” So a new grave was dug. And thus it happens that Captain McGill is not buried beside the wife with whom he lived for 63 years. Most of the information for this account of the McGill clan has been taken from a historical sketch written by the Rev. E.B. McGill, a Presbyterian minister of Jacksonville, Florida.
Once again, the preservation of these buildings would not have taken place without the continued volunteer support by dozens of highly skilled and dedicated individuals. Two of the most important in the preservation of this and many buildings were Joe and Annie Laura Hamrick who repeatedly volunteered to help preserve local history. The Walker map of 1910 does not show the McGill farm which would have been in approximately the center of the map overlooking the creek.
Please see the Elizabeth Reed article printed in the Herald Newspaper under the picture column marked – More Information. And open the MORE INFORMATION #2 link (found under the primary picture), to view an enlargeable, 1896 Postal Map of York County, S.C.
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