McKay-McNeill Family Cemetery Relocation


Our ancestors, Jenny Bahn McNeill (1720-1790) and Archibald Scrubblin McNeill (1720-1801) were buried on their main homestead on a bluff overlooking the Little River, north of Fayetteville in North Carolina. Eventually 20 of the family were buried there and lay undisturbed for 200 years.

Jenny McNeill's Grave Monument in its Original Location (c.1980)

In his article about the McNeill family Everette McNeill Kivette, a North Carolina cousin, indicated that Edgar Francis McNeill was responsible for the erection of the monument over the graves of Jennie Bahn and Archibald McNeill. Edgar was a descendant of 'One-Eyed' Hector. The monument is located in the cemetery to the left of McCormick’s Bridge Road just after crossing the Lower Little Creek. McCormick’s Bridge Road branches to the left off Highway 210 heading south out of Lillington just before going into Spring Lake, North Carolina.

The monument was originally purchased before the Civil War by the sons of Jennie Bahn and Archibald from England and floated down the Cape Fear River from Wilmington to Fayetteville. The large base fell into the river and remained there for many years. The base was eventually recovered from the river and moved to a marble yard in Fayetteville to be prepared for installation with the monument. The stone yard building one day caught fire and the base fell into the basement. It was never recovered and eventually covered over as part of a construction project. The monument itself was left at the gravesite where it remained in obscurity for many years. Finally in 1926 or 1927 Edgar Francis McNeill, while conducting family research, found the monument, installed a concrete base, had the monument engraved, and installed at the cemetery.


Jenny McNeill's Grave Monument in its New Location (October 2009)

In 2008, the owner of the property, Mr. Tom Brooks of McCormick Farms (who lives in a house on McCormick Bridge Road just south of the graveyard) leased the land on which the cemetery sat to Martin Marietta Ltd, a large mining company that wanted to mine the granite that was underneath the sandy soil of the cemetery.

Family graves are situated all over the countryside and under North Carolina law it is legal to relocate graves, subject to fulfilling certain requirements. The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners granted permission at a meeting held October 6, 2008. John Clauser, of the company Of Grave Concern, was brought in to map out the cemetery and R Ward Sutton Cemetery Services moved the graves in October 2008.

Martin Marietta has a good reputation and spent a lot of money to do a first class job. Jenny had a massive 8 foot tall monument that they had specially cleaned and replaced above her grave in the new cemetery. I don't have photos of this. They also placed a plaque on the back of the monument explaining the history of the graveyard.

An interesting note is that the names of her children were also inscribed on the monument: One-Eyed Hector, Neil, Archibald, Laughlin, Daniel, John, Malcolm, Margaret and Mary. In the cemetery there were 10 identified graves but also 10 unknowns. I expect that some of the unknowns laying next to Jenny could be some of these children. Although it is known that "Nova Scotia" Daniel is buried in the Parker Family Cemetery in Walton, Nova Scotia (the Daniel in the Church of the Covenant graveyard in Fayetteville is One-Eyed Hector's son).

The graves were relocated in October 2008 to the Church of the Covenant located 10 km away at 118 West Manchester Road, Spring Lake North Carolina. (This is just minutes from Fort Bragg, which is the site of the Massacre at Piney Bottom for which our ancestor John McNeill (and Jenny's son) is responsible ...but that's another story.)

Satellite photo of original location of graveyard

Satellite photo of new location of graveyard

Maps of Graves - at old location and new

Minutes of Cumberland County Meeting

Mr Sutton of R Ward Sutton Cemetery Services was kind enough to send me photos and video that they had taken of the move. He explained to me that after 200 years even bone can begin to decay; that depending on soil conditions sometimes nothing is left but discoloured soil. Our graveyard had fairly sandy soil so many of the graves contained full skeletons. Teeth are the last to go and one grave held only buttons, teeth, and nails from the coffin.

In the video and photos below you can see the orange paint sprayed, outlining where the body had lain (to show they had removed everything). You can see skulls and leg bones primarily in the small boxes. The remains were re-buried 18 inches below the surface at the new site. Unknown remains are buried together. I have still to sort out who everyone is, but of the identified remains buried with Jenny and Archibald, Daniel, and Mary are their grandchildren, and Dr John McKay was married to Mary. Isabella was John's second wife (listed as 'consort' on her gravestone). Rachel was Daniel's wife.

Video of McKay-McNeill Grave Relocation


I can burn and mail a dvd of the video to anyone who wants it, or click HERE to download it.



Photos of McKay-McNeill Grave Relocation

Jenny Bahn McNeill

Archibald Scrubblin McNeill

Dr John McKay1

Dr John McKay2

more photos of the cemetery relocation

Sarcophagus of Dr John McKay

It is very unusual to find someone buried in a sarcophagus. This was made of cast iron (Ward told me it weighed a couple of hundred pounds with only a skeleton in it) and has a glass plate over the head. They didn't touch this as it was fragile and were worried about breaking it. Out of respect they do not open intact coffins. Dr McKay either knew he was dying, or ordered the coffin well in advance because back in the mid-1800's it would have had to have been shipped from Ohio and would have taken 1 or 2 months to arrive by rail.

John Mckay married Mary McNeill, Jenny's granddaughter. He was a well known physician who was among the first to organize health care in Harnett County, which borders Cumberland County. His son John A took over his practice after him, and his grandson Joseph after him. The Harnett County Medical Society has a web page paying tribute to the McKays:


photo of Dr Joseph McKay (John's grandson)

Mary (McNeill) McKay (John's wife)