Little Family

The family of Jennet Little, wife of Rev. Malcolm McNair, was long a mystery.  For years details eluded us.  Wonderful gems of knowledge have now become available in the form of (1) an original transcript of the Anna Belle McNair letter to her nieces and nephews furnished by Jim Patterson and (2) a petition for the division of the estate of Jennet's half brother John P Little.  The fascinating history of this family still has much to be uncovered.  Who were Neill Little's parents?  And what was the Petersburg, VA Dickson/Harrison lineage of his 2nd wife Jane?  Does our family's lineage truly lead back to Pocahontas? 

From a letter by Anna Belle McNair to her nieces & nephews:
"Copied from the Original"
I am often asked by my nephews and nieces to tell them something about their ancestors, and also relatives who are now living. My knowledge of them is very imperfect but the little I know myself and what I can ascertain from others I will write down for their benifit hoping it may give them as much pleasure to read it as it is to write.

Your grandpa was a great man and one of the most talented ministers of his day, was for twenty years Pastor of Centre, Ashpole, Laurel Hill and Red Bluff, was born 26th August 1776 and died on the 4th August 1822 and was buried at Laurel Hill which was then the home of his nephew Tryam McFarland and one of his own Churches. He married your grandma who was a native of Petersburg, Va. and was then living at Laurel Hill the home of his half-brother Duncan McFarland, and her Uncle by marriage in 1809. I cannot tell much about my Grandma's relatives. She (this obviously refers to her mother, rather than her grandmother) left Petersburg when only twelve years of age. I used to sit for hours when a child and hear her and my grandma tell about Petersburg and their friends there but I have forgotten it now. Her mother's maiden name was Harrison. She was an Orphan and was raised by her Uncle by the name of Harrison who was wealthy but had a large family so she did not inherit any of his wealth but I remember hearing her speak of style in which her uncle lived. She was of English extraction and was a member of the Church of England as she called -- Episcopal -- She used to say that she was a descendant of the great Indian Queen Pocahontas. She was a distant relative of Rev. Daniel Baker who was a great Revivalist and passed through this country some forty-five or fifty years ago, and stayed at John R. Buie's and in the course of conversation spoke of the Harrisons' as his relatives. Cousin Margaret Buie told him of your grandma and where she was living and he said he was sorry he did not have time to call on her as she was his relative. Your grandpa sent for grandma after he married but she never was satisfied and always wanted to go back to Petersburg. She was one of the nicest Old ladies I ever saw. I can remember her so well although she died when I was a child at the age of 68. Grandpa was a widower with two children when he went to Petersburg and married grandma. The children were Aunt Katie Wilkinson -- Polly Wilkinson's mother -- and Uncle John Little who died many years ago. Grandpa had no brother but four sisters. His sisters were Aunt Molly McFarland -- Uncle Duncan's wife -- and Jennet Alford -- Uncle Marrow's wife -- and for whom your grandma was named, Aunt Effie McNair -- Judge McNair's mother died in Brook Haven, Mississippi some years ago, and Aunt Barbara Cade. Grandpa had but two children after he married grandma, that was your grandma and Aunt Margaret Surles, you have all heard of her. Grandpa's name was Neill Little. He died and was buried in Petersburg, Va.

And now my pen is worn out and I am very tired. I have told you all I can recollect. You have often asked how you were kin to McFarlands, Alford, Buies of Philidelphus, and now you can see for yourself and if it will afford any satisfaction for which it was written will be answered.
You Aunt Belle

Now that we know Jennet Little mother came to live with the newlyweds and died in North Carolina, we are able to learn her identity from North Carolina newspaper records.  Research on this family is ongoing.  Correspondence with anyone able to provide further information would be greatly appreciated.

February 8, 1826 Issue, Fayetteville Observer: Died at Cowper Hill, Robeson County on the evening of the 1st, Mrs. Jane Little, formerly of Petersburg, VA. Source: M&D Notices 1816 - 1840

A petition for division of the estate of Jennet Little's half brother John P Little sheds much light on the Little family relationships.  It also chronicles Jennet's move from her Petersburg, VA birthplace to live with her Uncle Duncan McFarland in North Carolina. 

State of North Carolina Robeson County
Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions November Term A. D. 1840
To the Worshipful, The Justices of the County Court of Robeson
Humbly Complaining Showeth unto your worships, your Petitioners Jennett McNair, (blank) Surls in right of his wife Margaret, that, John P Little late of Robeson County decd Some time in the year 1835 intestate Seized and possessed of a Tract of Land, lying on both sides of Lumber River or Drowning Creek, joining the land of William McNeill and Others Commonly called the Red Bank place, Containing about Seventeen Hundred acres. That, the said John P Little left no heirs him surviving. That, your Petitioners Jannett McNair, Margaret Surls, and one Catharine Wilkison are the half sisters of the deceased and his only heirs at law and are therefore each entitled to one third of the said land. Wherefore your Petitioners humbly pray your Worships to decree a division of the said land among your Petitioners Jannett McNair, Margaret Surls and Catharine Wilkison and that Commissioners may be appointed for that purpose according to law, to make said division and report to the Court. Your petitioners further pray that a copy of this Petition together with the states writ of subpoena may issue to the said Catharine Wilkison, Commanding her under a certain penalty therein named to appear before the County Court of Robeson to be held on the fourth Monday of February, hereof at the Court House in Lumberton and answer said petition he and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. Smith Solicitor for Petitioners. A Copy from the original filed in my office as Given under my hand and seal at office 2nd January 1841. Seth Howell Clerk.

State of North Carolina Robeson County
Court of Pleas & Quarter Session February Term 1841
The Answer of Catharine Wilkinson to the Petition of Surls & Margaret his Wife and Jannete McNair. This Defendant Catharine Wilkinson saying and resening to herself and advantage of exception in for answer to the Complaint to Petition suit. That she is the sister of the whole blood of the intestate John P Little and not the half sister with the next of heirs and heir at Law of the said John P and entitled to the inheritance as she is informed and believes. The Defendant further answering saith that the said John P Little died sometimes in the month of January 1835 and that upon his death she took the possession of the premises in the Complaint and Petition mentioned, namely the tract of Land known as the Red Bank place and has since that time contained in the sole and ? adverse possession thereof, claiming the sole tenant therein, and that the said complainants are not, and have not been tenants in common with her and just possession with her in these premises, and therefore she denies their right to call upon her for partition of said land. The defendant further answering saith that she does not admit, but doth deny that the said complainants are the half sisters of the said John P Little; for although the complainants may have been the reputed children of her father the late Neal Little, yet she is advised and believes and so charges that her father never intermarried with the mother of said complainant and even if thess are the children of the said Neal Little, yet as they were not born in the lawful wedlock they are not in contemplation of law, the sisters of the said John P Little, and so not entitled as this defendant contends not entitled to claim partition of the lands in said Petition described, or heirs at law of the said John P Little. And this defendant further answering saith that even if the Complainants were heirs at Law they are not entitled to Partition until the debts of the intestate were fully paid and satisfied. For that the said John P Little decd possessed of and entitled to a very small personal estate and that upon his death Administration was granted to one Neal L. Wilkinson and upon its being ascertained that the estate which came unto his hands were insufficient to discharge his debts (part of which was the purchase money for this very land) this defendant being desirous to assume the payment of all the just debts of the said John P Little and to save the land, and being advised that she alone is entitled to it as sole heir, agreed with the Administrator that he should assume the debts and ? of the said intestate over and above the assets ?? and that she would hold and consider the land liable for the excess - that accordingly he did pay and otherwise render himself liable for debts of the estate, was and above in a few claim of the Administrator against the Land, unto whose hands soever it may cause. And the Defendant for the causes above ? charges that the said complaint is not entitled to Partition of the said Set Out in their Petition and Prays that the said Petition be disruped. And that her Cnt be allowed. Eccles for Defendant. Catharine Wilkinson maketh Oath that the matter, as charges herein set forth as of her knowledge are true… Signed: Catharine Wilkinson.

State of North Carolina Robeson County
Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions February Term 1841
Jannett McNair, Martin Surls & Wife Margaret vs Catharine Wilkinson
Jannett McNair and Martin Surles and Wife Margaret reply to the answer of the defendant Catharine Wilkinson and say that the possession of the said Catharine is not, and has not been adverse to the petitioners, but that the possession of the said Catharine was in fact and in truth the possession of the petitioners Jannett McNair and Martin Surles and Wife Margaret, that they are tenants in common with said Catharine and as such rightfully entitled to call upon said Catharine for a partition of said lands, there having been no actual order. Say further that they (the petitioners) are sisters of the half blood to John P. Little deceased - that they are the children of Neal Little, born in lawful wedlock, their father and mother having been lawfully married, and as such entitled to claim a partition of the lands mentioned and described in the petition as heirs at law of the said John P. Little. And of this they put themselves on the country. Smith for Petitioners.

State of North Caroline Robeson County
Jennet McNair vs Catherine Wilkinson
State of Mississippi Covington County SS
Be it remembered that on this tenth day of February AD Eighteen hundred and forty three at Williamsburg in said county and state last aforesaid before us Gilbert D. Gere and William Worthy two of the Justices of Assigned to keep the peace in and for the county of Covington & state last aforesaid came Effy McNair and she being duly sworn to the following interrogatories testified as follows. Each of said interogatories as a witness in the above entitled case.
Interogatories 1st: What is your age
Answer: I was sixty eight years old last August
Interogatory 2: Were you acquainted with Neill Little Decd who it is said died in Petersburg Virginia several years since?
Answer: I was
Interogatory 3: Were you related to said Neill Little & if so in what way were you related to him?
Answer: I was related to him - he was my brother.
Interogatory 4: Did you ever hear that said Neill Little was living with Jane Dickson the mother of the present plaintiff without being legally married to her?
Answer: I heard so once
Interogatory 5: Did not Duncan McEachin write a letter to said Neill Little asking of him to state the truth or falsehood of said charge - State what was sd Little's reply?
Answer: Said Duncan McEachin did not write of to said Neil Little. But Neill Little wrote to Jannet Little his sister.
Interogatory 6th: Did you ever see said letter. If so what did said letter state relative to his marriage with Jane Dickson & what became of said letter?
Answer: I have seen said letter and read it. It stated that he said Neill Little was married legally to said Jane Dickson & that if ever he was married to his first wife he was to his last. Said letter was burnt when Duncan McEachin's house was burnt.
Interogatory 7th: Do you not know that Duncan McFarland decd late of Laurel Hill N. Car. went to Petersburg Virginia some time after the death of said Neill Little & brought from thence his two daughters Jennet McNair the present plaintiff & her sister Margaret?
Answer: I do.
Interogatory 8th: Did not those children pass in the family of said McFarland & among the relatives of said Neill Little as the lawful children of said Neill Little. State fully all you know about it?
Answer: Said children were always regarded as the children of said Neill Little by all the relatives of said Neill Little and as his lawful and legitimate children and I never knew it to be directly disputed and only indirectly once by one person who recently said that "her husband did not think that Neill Little was married to said Jane Dickson." This is all I know of my own knowledge about this matter.
Effy McNair
And as the said Justices do hereby certify that as have fully examined said Effy McNair as to what or such things as she knows in relation to said suit as will on the part of the plaintiff as of the defendant and have caused her to sign her name to the same.
In witness whereof as hereunto sign our hands and seals at Williamsburg aforesaid on this 10th February AD 1843 of Independence the 67th. Gilbert C. Gere, William Worthy

State of North Carolina Richmond County
Pursuant to the annexed complaint to and directed of the House of William W. McFarland at Laurel Hill in the County & State aforesaid on the 25th day of March 1843. Arcd J McKay agent for the Plaintiff, being pursuant the proscodend to take the following depositions of Barbara Cade, William McFarland & John R. Buie who having been sworn in due form if having to depose the truth the whole truth & nothing but the truth between the said parties have I in this commission depaonth & said as follows:
Question 1th by Plaintiff agt A. J. McKay to Barbara Cade - Are you acquainted with the Parties to this Writ - Answer: I am.
Question 2nd by Same - How old are you?
Answer: I believe I am Sixty Two Years of age.
Question 3rd: Were you acquainted with Neill Little who it is said died in Petersburg Va. Answer - I was when I was Small
Question 4th: Were you related to said Little & if so in what way -
Answer: He was my brother.
Question 5th: Do you or do you not know that Duncan MacFarland of this place went to Petersburg, Va. & brought home with him after the death of said Little his Two daughters Jennet & Margaret Little?
Answer: He brought home with him the Two Girls ? & they were called Neill Littles children.
Question 6th: Were they or were they not treated in this family of said MacFarland as the Lawful children of Neill Little?
Answer: As far as I know they were further thing deponent Said Not.
Signed: Barbara Cade

Questions by same to William McLeod. You are acquainted with the Parties to this Write. Answer: Yes
Question 2nd: What is your age
Answer: Upwards of Sixty Years
Question 3rd: Were you related or connected with Duncan MacFarland decd. who lived at this place & if so in what being.
Answer: I was married to a daughter of said McFarland
Question 4th: Do you or do you not know that said Duncan McFarland went to Petersburg Va & brought home with him two little girls viz Jennet & Margaret Little the reported daughters of Neil Little his brother in Law.
Answer: I understood he did.
Question 5th: Do you or do you not know that said children were always treated in the family of said McFarland & by the relations of said Neil Little as the legitimate & lawful children of said Neil Little?
Answer: I think they were.
Question 6th: Did you ever see the reported mother of said children Jennet & Margaret Little in Petersburg VA
Answer: In March 1809 I had occasion to pass through Petersburg & I was ugusted by same adm of Neill Little citation to deliver a message or letter to Mrs. Little who an enquiry I soon found & she her called Mrs. Little by way person of Whom I enquired she asking particularly about her Two daughters Jennet & Margaret Little which had been brought and here by Duncan MacFarland and further this deponent Said Not. Signed: Wm McLeod

Questions to John R. Buie by Same
1th: How old are You
Answer: Fifty Gross of age last Jany
Question 2nd: Are you acquainted with these parties to this Writ. Answer: Yes
Question 3rd: Were you acquainted with Duncan MacFarland Decd who lived at this place. Answer: I saw him several times during his life.
Question 4th. Did you or did you not see said Duncan MacFarland pass through Cumberland when on his way home with two little girls he represented to be the daughters of his brother in law Neil Little.
Answer: I saw him pass by my fathers who lived eighteen or nineteen miles worth of Fayetteville on the main Neile forty road going in the direction of Fayetteville with two little girls & he stated to same person at my Fathers within my hearing that said little girls were the daughters of his brother in law Neill Little - further this deponent saith not. Signed: Jn R. Buie

Alexander Little of Robeson Co, NC

There are some internet trees that attribute the family of Neil Little and his sisters to Alexander Little who died in Robeson Co, NC before the August 1815 Term of Court.  One can see from the below Will that this just can't be the case.  This Alexander Little had an entirely different family.  The naming of Alexander Little and his siblings, as per this same internet tree, does show a pattern to the naming of Neill Little's children.  There the brothers of Alexander Little are well worth investigating as parental possibilities.

State of No Carolina Robeson County August Term 1815
In the name of God, Amen, I Alexander Little of aforesaid State & County Planter being of Body but or perfect and sound mind and memory & calling to mind the shortage of life and the certainty of death do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following, Viz.
To my beloved wife Elizabeth I give and bequeath my Negroe Fellow named Jack, also a Sorrell mare, to have & to hold unto her during her Life, at her death the Negroe & Mare with her increase if any to become the property of my daughters Flora & Margaret each of my said daughters to have an equal share in said Negro & mare after their mother decease, share and share alike.
To my son Duncan I give & bequeath Two hundred acres of Land inclusion the plantation whence he now lives.
To my son John I give and bequeath all the rest of my Land, starting in and on the SoW side of the of the Great Marsh including the plantation whereon I now live being four hundred fifty five acres of Land more or less also I give unto this son John one half of my stock of cattle and a clay ? couler, a mare now about four years old. Also all my tools of work designation.
To my daughters Flora and Margaret I give and bequeath one half of my stock of cattle, the other half being as above bequeathed to my son John the half now bequeathed unto them shall be equally divided between them both that is share & share alike in like manner with the negroe and Mare mentioned above to become their property after their Mother's death & plantation utensils and household furniture. I will and ordain to remain on the plantation for the joint use and convenience of all my family as long as they choose to remain together on the plantation.
I hereby constitute and appoint my beloved Wife Elizabeth executrix of this my last Will and Testament hereby also appoint my friend and neighbour Will McAlpin Executor of this my last Will & Testament, hereby annulling all other wills made and done by me remembering this and this only to be my last will and Testament.
In Testimony whereof I have here unto set my hand and seal this fourth day of February A.D. Eighteen hundred & fifteen. Signed: Alexr Little
Witness: John Bethune, ? M. McLauchan (?)

Little Family

Generation No. 1

1. Unknown1 Little

Children of Unknown Little are:

+ 2 i. Neil2 Little, died in Petersburg, VA.  He married (1) Unknown; (2) Jane Dickson.

+ 3 ii. Mary Little married Duncan McFarland.

4 iii. Jennet Little was born 7 Jan 1773 and died 17 Jun 1813 in Robeson Co, NC. She married Marrow Alford.

+ 5 iv. Effie Little was born Aug 1774 and died in Brookhaven, MS.  She married Alexander McNair.

6 v. Barbara Little was born Abt. 1781. She married Unknown Cade.


Generation No. 2

2. Neil2 Little (Unknown1) died in Petersburg, VA. He married (1) Unknown. He married (2) Jane Dickson Bef. 1789. She was born 1757 - 1758 in Virginia and died 01 Feb 1826 in Cowper Hill, Robeson Co, NC1,2,3.

Children of Neil Little and Unknown are:

7 i. Catherine3 Little. She married Neal L. Wilkinson.

8 ii. John P. Little died January 1835.

Children of Neil Little and Jane Harrison are:

9 i. Jennet3 Little, born 1789 in Petersburg, VA4,5,6; died 23 Jun 1879 in Robeson Co, NC7. She married Malcom McNair, Rev. 18098,9; born 24 Aug 1776 in Maxton, Robeson Co, NC10,11,12,13; died 04 Aug 1822 in Maxton, Robeson Co, NC14,15,16,17,18,19,20.

10 ii. Margaret Little. She married Martin Surles.


3. Mary2 Little (Unknown1) She married Duncan McFarland, son of John McFarland and Catherine Buie.

Children of Mary Little and Duncan McFarland are:

11 i. John Neill3 McFarland.

12 ii. Tryam McFarland, born 1802; died 1833. He married Margaret.

13 iii. Isabel McFarland. She married Unknown McLeod.

14 iv. Mary McFarland. She married Unknown Nelson.

15 v. Catharine McFarland.

16 vi. Margaret McFarland, born 1806; died 1839. She married John R. Buie; born 1792 in Cumberland Co, NC; died 1852.

17 vii. William Wallace McFarland, born 27 Mar 181121; died 05 Mar 184421. He married Margaret D. Buie; born 1804; died 1850.


5. Effie2 Little (Unknown1) was born August 1774 and died in Brookhaven, MS. She married Alexander McNair.

Child of Effie Little and Alexander McNair is:

18 i. Judge John Evander3 McNair



1. Anna Belle McNair Letter.
2. Fayetteville Observer, February 8, 1826.
3. Bessie R. Hubbard, Marriage & Death Notices 1816 - 1840 Abstracted from the Fayetteville Observer, (Fuquay-Varina, NC 1991), 21.
4. Compiled by Peggy T. Townsend, Vanishing Ancestors Vol 3., Cemetery Records of Robeson County, NC, 150.
5. 1870 North Carolina Census Index, (Precision Indexing, Bountiful, UT, 1989), 1765.
6. 1850 Robeson County, NC Census, 75-75.
7. Compiled by Peggy T. Townsend, Vanishing Ancestors Vol 3., Cemetery Records of Robeson County, NC, 150.
8. 1820 Robeson Co, NC Census, 294.
9. 1810 Robeson Co, NC Census, 218.
10. North Carolina Ancestry Register, 131.
11. T.R.Buie/Scott Buie, The Family Buie - Scotland to North America, (Chelle-Kirk Printing, Arlington, TX), 39.
12. Centennial Adress, Fayetteville Presbytery, by Rev. A.R.McQueen, 54-55.
13. Ruth Jane Trivette, Legacy of the Committed, (The Bill Evans Press, Laurinburg, NC, 1982), 4.
14. North Carolina Ancestry Register, 131.
15. T.R.Buie/Scott Buie, The Family Buie - Scotland to North America, (Chelle-Kirk Printing, Arlington, TX), 39.
16. Minutes Fayetteville Presbytery 27 Sept. 1822, 268.
17. Tombstone Inscription as detailed in Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church file/Montreat, NC.
18. North Carolina Wills, A Testor Index, 1665-1900, WB-1/317.
19. Historical Records Survey of North Carolina 1938, Old Laurel Hill Church Cemetery Survey.
20. Tombstone.
21. Historical Records Survey of North Carolina 1938, Old Laurel Hill Church Cemetery Survey.

Neill Little Legal & Land Records

Robeson Co, NC Land Entries 1787-1795. September 20, 1787 George McFarland enters 100 ac; includes the new bridge where "the" road crosses Shoeheel Creek below Neill Little's and above Duncan McEachan on both sides of said swamp.

Robeson Co, NC Deed Abstracts, Book A - 218, Land Grand #1094, to Neill Little, 100 acres in Bladen County on East side of Shoe Heel adjoining his own & Dempsey Fivash. Patent 10 Oct 1787

Robeson Co, NC Land Entries 1787-1795. November 1, 1787. Neil Little enters 50 acres on West side of Shoeheal Swamp, South of a small branch and north of Cow Bridge; borders said Little's line; includes some dead trees.

Robeson Co, NC Deed Abstracts, Vol I 1787 - 1793, Deed Book A, pp 155 - 157: Archibld McLean to Dugald Graham, 12 April 1788 150 Acres on Ws of Drowing Creek. Wit: Neill Little & Angus Broa.

Robeson Co, NC Land Entries 1787-1795. June 28, 1788. Daniel McEwin enters 100 acres on West side of Shoeheal Swamp and on Cow Bridge; borders Neill Little at "the" upper line.

Robeson Co, NC Deed Abstracts, Volume I 1787 - 1793: Alexander McDonald to John McDonald. 20 February 1789, 200 acres on East side of Drowning creek adjoining Archibald Campbell. Formerly deeded to Alexander McDonald by Samuel Porter, Sheriff. Witnesses: Neill Little & Daniel McNair; Book A:292-294

Robeson Co, NC Deed Abstracts, Volume I 1787 - 1793: Land Grant #1688 to Duncan McFarland, 50 acres in Bladen County on East side of the Great Shoe Heel Swamp about two miles below Neill Little, adjoining Duncan McEachern. Entered 6 March 1785. Patented 18 May 1789, Book B-23

Robeson Co, NC Deed Abstracts, Book D 181-182, Land Grand #135 to Neill Little, 50 acres on West side of Shoeheel. Dates 26 Nov 1789

Robeson County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Volume II 1793 - 1797: Neill Little of Dinwiddie Co, VA to John McFarland, Junior, 2 July 1791, 500 lbs, BoS, Negro named Prince, all household furniture, working tools, goods & all other movables in the State of North Carolina. Witnesses: Duncan McFarland & Allen Haddon. July Term 1791. Book E: 74 - 75

Robeson County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Volume II 1793 - 1797: Neill Little to Alexander Little, Junior, 17 August 1791, 20 lbs, 50 acres of West side of Shoeheel. Patent dated 26 November 1789. Witnesses: Archibald Little & Lewis Lanie, Jr. Book E 205-207

Robeson Co, NC Land Entries 1787-1795. January 10, 1792. Daniel McInnis enters 50 acres on West side of Shoeheal Swamp; borders his own line and Neil Little.

Deed Abstracts of Petersburg City, Virginia 1784 - 1787
Indenture made 31 August 1792 between Joseph Colvin & James Bromly, both of the Town of Petersburg. The parcel of land was measured by the following parties: John Baird Junr., Josh. Perkinson, Neil Little.

Robeson Co, NC Land Entries 1787-1795. July 26, 1794. John Brown enters 200 acres East of Shoeheal Swamp borders his own lower line and above Neil Little's old "plantation".

08/27/2006 01:16:19 PM