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The Ancestors and Family of Douglas F McSwain

Updated November 22, 2004

Submitted by: Douglas F Mcswain

My MCSWAIN branch is found almost exclusively in what is today southern Cleveland County, NC. Cleveland County was formed in 1841 when the N C Legislature created it from Rutherford County. Rutherford County came into existence in 1779 during the American Revolution. Prior to 1779, Rutherford County was part of Anson and Old Tryon Counties. The earliest McSwain moved to this area between 1760 and 1770 when it was still a colony of the Crown and very much a frontier.

Most researchers claim the Isle of Skye, Scotland as the ancestral home of the McSwains. Many feel the McSwains are a branch of the MacQueen clan. The spelling of McSwain sometimes appears as MacSwain, McSween, McSwaine, or other variations, depending on how the census enumerator heard it pronounced. It is doubtful that many of the early settlers in this area were literate or even able to write their names.

David McSwain, the patriarch, is thought to have arrived in Philadelphia with his family in 1731 probably as an indentured servant. This was the most common way an immigrant earned his passage to the New World. He would have been required to work seven to ten years before being released from his indenture. During this time he would have been seeking land of his own so that he too could prosper. But eastern Pennsylvania was getting crowded and as a result land was becoming expensive. Many immigrants chose to leave for the frontier of western Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

It appears that David and some of his family began the trek south between 1750 and 1760. By this time all of his known children were adults. They were the ones most likely to feel the pressure to go. David would follow them because in those times, family was your only support in old age and he would not wish to be left behind.

The family's route south would take them on the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road from east-central Pennsylvania through western Maryland into the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia. This would not be a trip with a beginning and a quick end but more of a quest for a better way of life. They would travel and settle in an area for a period of perhaps two to three years. Some of David's children and grandchildren may have married and stayed as the family group moved on.

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road south continued from Virginia into the northern piedmont of North Carolina. Their route would have gone past present day Winston-Salem and Salisbury into the Yadkin River Valley. The McSwains would have followed the rise of the Appalachian mountains to the west into what would become Cleveland County, NC. Some of the family found a home in the rolling hills along the Broad River. Others moved on into South Carolina and northern Georgia while David, the patriarch, most likely in his sixties and weary, stays with his son, David.

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Family Photos

  • Monument to David McSwain (48 KB)
    This stone was erected in the 1930's by the DAR. It is located at the McSwain Family Cemetery in Cleveland County, NC believed to be the burial site of David McSwain. (Note incorrect spouse)
  • Monument to William McSwain (32 KB)
    This monument stands beside William's original headstone and next to his grandfather David's monument in the McSwain Family Cemetery in Cleveland County, NC.
  • Tombstone of John McSwain (61 KB)
    This tombstone is located in the McSwain Family Cemetery next to the grave of his father, William.
  • Gravesite of Gold Griffin Holland (48 KB)
    This plaque, comemorating G G Holland's military service during the Civil War, is located at Boiling Springs Baptist Church Cemetery in Boiling Springs, NC.
  • Thomas Jefferson Holland (48 KB)
    This photograph of T J Holland, the son of G G Holland, was taken c.1910.
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