14. Isaac McGinnis

Isaac McGinnis was listed in the 1800 Rutherford County census as a head-of-household being between 26-45 years of age; that would put his birth somewhere between 1755 and 1774. This census also lists as part of the family one male and one female less than 10, one male between the age of 10-16, and one female also between 26-45 years old. Assuming that Isaac married around the age of 25 and had one son around 13 years old, we could narrow his birth year down to around 1762; give or take a couple years. This census is the only evidence found of Isaac and his wife having any daughters.

At this point I have to give credit where credit is due. The information I have on Isaac McGinnis, and the documentation that proves his being the father of Larkin, almost completely came from a distant cousin, Marjorie Anne McGinnis Pless, that I was able to connect with in my research. How I connected with Anne is somewhat of a story in itself and is worth telling. My grandfather, Auther, I believe was the one who gave our old home place the nickname of “Cedar Ridge” (of course, because of all the cedar trees planted on the property); but I remember him also talking about his growing up on “Pea Ridge” in Rutherford County. Over the years I have found myself driving from Gaston County to the Asheville area in western NC for a variety of reasons; some business, some pleasure, and some fueled by my genealogical research. On some of these trips I would find myself on “old Tryon Road” (Hwy. 108) that runs southwest out of Rutherfordton. I would notice two prominent signs that caught my attention; one that indicated I was in the area of “Pea Ridge”, the other was a business sign for a “McGinnis Garage”. I promised myself that one day I would find the time to stop at that garage for a visit. In 1999 it finally happened, and I found myself passing the garage on a day that it was open; I stopped and met Calvin (nicknamed Pete) and Chad McGinnis. If I recall correctly, they were father-son proprietors. I introduced myself as a McGinnis in search of possible relatives in the area, and while we were unable to find linking family members that were recognizable to either of us; Pete told me he had a cousin, Anne, who did all that “family history stuff”. He gave me Anne’s contact information in Asheville, and off I went, thankful for making the stop. I gave Anne a call and found that she and her husband, Francis Pless, had been doing research on both of their families for over twenty years; she was well aware of our 3X-great-grandfather Larkin, who it turns out was a brother to her ancestor, James McGinnis. We corresponded a few time through email, and before I knew it a large packet arrived from her containing copies of all her research documents. So it is with great gratitude that I acknowledge Anne and the documents that she shared with me and which provided most of the information that I can now share about Isaac and his family.

Anne found the land deed that detailed the division and sale of Isaac’s land on Sandy Run stream between his sons; John, Richard, Larkin, Andrew and James. This was a genealogical nugget of gold; it identified Isaac as the father, the five living (present) sons, and the location. Other tidbits it offers includes; an idea of Isaac’s death (prior to October 1833), and also details the division of the 150 acres by six litigators into 25 acre tracts and thereby assumes that Isaac’s wife (though not mentioned by name) was still living and received her one-sixth share. Isaac was not found in either the 1820 or 1830 censuses, so it is possible that he could have died prior to 1820. Anne did find there was a Martha McGinnis listed in both of these censuses as head-of-household and the date ranges given would have matched a female who could have been the wife of Isaac. While we don’t have definitive proof that Martha was one of our 4X-great-grandmothers, the circumstantial evidence, including the fact that Larkin and most of his brothers gave some of their female children the name Martha, would tend to reinforce that belief.

The oldest land grant that Anne was able to find in the “old” Tryon County area was a Rutherford County record filed for a Patrick McGinnis for 100 acres on Sandy Run stream, dated October 8, 1797. There was another deed for an additional 30 acres filed in April of 1803. This Patrick McGinnis also shows up in the 1800 Rutherford County census with both his and his wife’s age listed to above age 45, along with two male children between the ages of 10 and 26. These dates would indicate Patrick’s birth was sometime prior to 1755. No proof has been found, but it is possible that Patrick was the father of Isaac, or possibly an older brother. The fact that this early land grant was for land on “Sandy Run” and the land divided by Isaac’s sons was on “Sandy Run” indicates that there was most probably a family relationship. It is possible that this is some of the same land and was inherited by Isaac from his father’s estate.

I found mention of a rumored family story that there were three Irish brothers; John, Isaac, and James (or possibly Patrick), all good Irish-Catholic names, who made their way into the old Tryon County area of North Carolina sometime prior to 1800. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I thought there was a familial connection between the Catawba River branch and the Broad River branch of the McGinnis clan. The only evidence I have found that might support this theory and the family story is documentation in the 1860 census. There is an individual in the Lincoln County census who had been identified as “John Al McGinnis” (to distinguish him from his father, John) who stated in the census that his father had been born in Kentucky. In the same census, Larkin also indicated that his father (Isaac) had been born in Kentucky; both men of the same generation being born in Kentucky would suggest that they were most probably brothers. If this assumption is correct then John and Isaac’s father is the familial connection for the two McGinnis branches, and it supports the rumored family story.

Now time for some history, another movie reference, and some pure speculation. Kentucky didn’t actually become a state until 1792, so if John and Isaac were born in Kentucky, it would have been before it became a state. We know that Kentucky was a colonial territory referenced in the movie “Last of the Mohicans”; the setting of the movie was in far western New York during the early years of the “French and Indian Wars” (1757), and in one scene the character Hawkeye relates that he had thought about going to “Kan-tuck-kee”. Once things settled down after that war (1763), another North Carolinian, Daniel Boone, started leading hunting parties into that region west of the Appalachians (1767-1771), and in 1775 led a group of men who forged the “Cumberland Gap trail”; all leading to the establishment of settlements such as “Boonesborough” and a flood of thousands of other settlers. All this tends to make an historian and genealogist wonder if there might have been a male McGinnis in one of Daniel Boone’s scouting/hunting parties, or one of the settlers of Boonesborough, or at least one of the early settlers of Kentucky. It would certainly be antithetical to think that both John Al and Larkin McGinnis would both state that their fathers were born in Kentucky if there was not some truth in that census declaration.

So many questions, lots of work still to be done; but for now, Isaac represents the end of our McGinnis genealogical journey.