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James McFail

By Spessard Stone

Tradition relates that John McFail, born circa 1730, father of James McFail, migrated from Scotland circa 1746-47 to Cape Fear in North Carolina. Following the defeat of the Scots at Colloden Moor, near Inverness, on April 16, 1746, which routed the Stuart pretender, Prince Charles, the British army tried to destroy the clan system. According to Major Roderick L. Carmichael in "Migration of Scotch Highlanders to the Carolinas," the Royal governor of North Carolina, a Scot born in Ireland, was sympathetic with the persecuted Scots. On a visit to London, he suggested that for punishment the clans be deported to America and offered an area in North Carolina for settlement. His plan was approved with two resulting waves of migration to Cape Fear in 1746-47 and 1769-76. The first Scots settled in the region, which is now Fayetteville, with a resulting overflow in South Carolina. In Gaelic M'phail is son of Paul.

James McFail, son of John McFail, was born ca. 1760 in North Carolina. He later moved to Barnwell District, South Carolina. He married ca. 1785 Judith ______, born 1767.

James McFail was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and also reportedly served in the Indian wars. He lived in the Barnwell District of South Carolina during and after his service.

On July 1, 1799, John McFail of the Barnwell District of South Carolina for twenty pounds sold to James McFail 185 acres "originally granted to John McFail the 16th day of Nov. 1787 situate in the District aforesd. on the NW side of the Great Salkehatcher River." The deed was signed by John McFail and Esther McFail and recorded 4 November 1800. That the deed was signed by Esther McFail would tend to show that she could be the mother or stepmother of James McFail.

On February 4, 1800, James McFail of the District of Barnwell for fourteen pounds sold to Ann Collins 142 1/2 acres, "originally granted to John McFail the 16th day of November 1787 Situate in the District aforesd. on the NW. side of the Great Salkehatcher River." The deed of sale was recorded on November 4, 1800 and duly executed on February 27, 1800. It was signed by James McFail, with "X" in lieu of signature for Judy McFail.

By 1805, the McFails were living in Georgia. About 1807, they moved to Taylors Creek, Liberty County, Georgia. Some details have been learned of James' land acquisitions there. John G. Underwood was authorized to survey 200 acres in Liberty County, which was executed in January 1807. On October 7, 1816, Robert Hendry, Jr., County Surveyor of Liberty County, was authorized to survey 200 acres for James McFail, which was executed on October 10, 1816. Robert Hendry, Jr.'s survey plat of the McFail land showed it to be in Section 28. Written on the plat was, "Warrant dated 7th October 1816 and Surveyed 10th October 1816 by R. Hendry Jun. C. S. Advertised 18th November 1816." The names of Eli McFail and William Hendry C.C. appeared on the document. James McFail on March 24, 1817 received a headright grant of 200 acres in Liberty County.

James McFail died ca. 1817 and was buried at the old Baptist Church Cemetery, which was located about one-fourth mile east of the Methodist Church Cemetery at Taylors Creek.

Judith McFail and family, together with the families of her sons-in-law, John Hendry and William Hendry, moved about 1825 to Lowndes County, Georgia and settled a few miles north of what is now now Quitman, Brooks County, Georgia. Later she returned to Taylors Creek where she lived with her son, Eli McFail.

Judith, as a widow of a Revolutionary soldier, drew Lot # 170 in the 4th Section, 6th District of Cherokee County in the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery. She did not accept the land and it reverted to the state. In 1838 she received a land grant in the Cherokee Land Lottery. The 1835 Lowndes County Tax Digest showed that Alex- ander McFail, agent for Judith McFail, owned one slave. Judith McFail, 83, was enumerated in the 1850 Liberty County, Georgia census. She died sometime after the census at the home of her son, Eli McFail, in Liberty County, Georgia.

Issue of James and Judith McFail:

1. Nancy McFail, born Nov. 4, 1786; died June 27, 1840 in Lowndes Co., Ga.; married on Dec. 7, 1807 in Liberty Co., Ga., William Hendry, son of Robert Hendry and Ann (Lee) Hendry.

2. Eli McFail, born Oct. 3, 1787(?); died March 11, 1867, Taylors Creek, Ga.; married (1) in 1814 Harriet Harville (died without issue); (2) Feb. 14, 1817 Elizabeth Smart, born Feb. 24, 1802; died Oct. 4, 1863. Eli McFail owned a large plantation and also operated a hotel at Taylors Creek.

3. Catherine McFail, born April 18, 1789; died ca. 1889; married on Dec. 13, 1808 in Liberty County, Georgia , John Hendry son of Robert Hendry and Ann (Lee) Hendry.

4. Sarah "Sally" McFail, born ca. 1793; md. Daniel E. Martin.

5. Judith McFail, born ____; married Columbus Johnson.

6. Alexander McFail, born 1802; married on May 11, 1843 in Thomas County, Georgia, Evreen Moore.

7. Zilpha McFail, born 1805; lived 1850 in Thomas Co., Ga.; married on May 1, 1827 in Thomas Co., William Sloan, born 1804, NC.

8. Isaac McFail, born c1807; lived in Lowndes Co., Ga. in August 1850; married (1) Martha Blair, born 1808, daughter of William Blair; (2) _________.

9. Jacob McFail.

Home of James McFail et al, Liberty Co., Ga.

References: Milton D. Wilson, Pioneer Families of Polk County and South Florida, (Bartow, Fla.), 1940s; Bird and Paul Yarbrough, Taylors Creek: The Story of the Community and her People Through 200 Years, 1963; Barnwell District, SC deed and survey records of Liberty Co., Ga., courtesy of Jean B. Burton; James F. Smith, The Cherokee Land Lottery, p. 343; Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia's Roster of the Revolution, 1920, p. 339; various censuses.

This profile is adapted from the author's John and William Sons of Robert Hendry, 1989.

October 11, 2001 & image= January 14, 2002 & music, April 14, 2002 = "Auld Lange Syne."