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Barnwell Family of Western North Carolina

The Barnwell family of Western North Carolina migrated from Ireland, where they had been living for about five hundred years. The first immigrants to Ireland were actually Norman, so ultimately we are actually apparently French, by way of England, Ireland, Pennsylvania and finally western North Carolina.

Perhaps the most surprising fact is that when the Barnwells immigrated, they did not use the name Barnwell. When they immigrated, they used the name Barnhill. This is not really as odd as it sounds. The names Barnwell and Barnhill are two branches of the same family in Ireland. Also, names just changed a lot in the 19th century. The Garrens were original Garns and the Lannings were originally Llanyons. In any case, the records I found confused me quite a lot until I found out about the name change. For some as yet unexplained reason, the entire family changed its name from Barnhill to Barnwell sometime between 1850 and 1860. Perhaps it had to do with the political atmosphere leading up to the Civil War in 1861. During the 1850ís, there was continuous quarreling between the Northen and Southern states. The Barnhills having migrated from Pennsylvania may have been known as the Barnhills from Pennsylvania. Prefering to fit in with their southern neighbors a name change to Barnwell, well known in South Carolina, would leave little doubt as to their belonging to the south.

IRELAND AND BEFORE: William Barnhill was our immigrant ancestor. William Barnhill came to America with his family sometime after 1800, probably around 1805. He did not come immediately to North Carolina, but settled first in Pennsylvania. William Barnhill was part of a general immigration from the north of England, the south of Scotland and the north of Ireland to America. This immigration started about 1760 and, after a pause for the Revolution, ended in the mid 1830's. This is often called the Scotch-Irish immigration. This immigration was, culturally, mostly Celtic in nature, and many of the immigrants ended up in Appalachia. This was really the forth, and last, immigration of English speaking people from the British Islands to America. The other three were the Puritans from East Anglica (in England) to New England, the Cavaliers from west England to the southern tidewater (the coastal plains from Virginia to Savannah, Georgia), and the Quakers from the English midlands to Pennsylvania. All three of these earlier waves of immigrants were well settled by the time the Scotch-Irish immigration began.

The Scotch-Irish immigration route usually started in a New England or Virginian port. From there the immigrants, who were mostly not welcome along the coast, drifted west, then south through the valleys of western Virginia to western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. William Barnhill came over this route by way of McDowell County over Middle Fork Mountain to Cane Creek, to Bear Wallow and Clear Creek. In 1814 he purchased a tract of land from John Lanning in what was then Buncombe County. The family homestead overlooks the valley of Hooper's Creek, and the farm was said to be "stately" and "prosperous."

At this time, I do not know the exact makeup of William Barnhill's family at the time of the immigration. I do know that William Barnhill's daughter, Margaret (1784?), married Enos Lanning from the pioneer Lanning family. I also know that in 1820, the census shows the William Barnhill Family with one male under ten, one male over forty-five and one female over forty-five. He is living next to his son, James Barnhill.

JAMES BARNHILL: James Barnhill, son of William, married Mary Lanning, daughter of Western Carolina pioneers John Lanning and Sara Whitaker. In 1820, James had three sons and one daughter under ten years of age, and both he and his wife are listed as below forty-five. In all, James and Mary had seven children: Enos (1813), William (1816), James (1819), John (1824), Atherson (?), Sara (1825), Elizabeth (1826), and David (1829).

WILLIAM (Billy) BARNHILL: William Barnhill's wife's name was Melisa Clark and he made his home on the top of Barnhill Mountain, which is also known as Young's Gap. This is in the Hooper's Creek area. In all, they had nine Children, four girls and five boys. According to the 1860 census, they were James (1842), Nancy (1845), Mary (1845), John (1850), Nimrod (1852), William Riley (1853), Sara A. (1855), Clingman (1857), and Eliza (1860). According to other records, however, these birth dates are quite far off. It is almost as if the 1860 census taker was guessing. For example, William shown as thirty-two in 1850 and forty-four in 1860. John E. is shown as four in 1850 and ten in 1860. In a later census (1870), John is shown with a birthday in 1845. Clearly, all of this data is pretty rough.

JOHN ERWIN BARNWELL: By the time John Erwin was ready to leave home, all of the Barnhills (Enos, William, James, John and David) were going by the name of Barnwell. John E. Barnwell would have been somewhere between eleven and seventeen at the start of the Civil War. I can find no record of military service, although he may have served with the 25th North Carolina. More likely, this was a cousin, John Barnwell, son of Enos Barnwell.

John, son of William, married Zelphia Drake, and they had eight children: Kay (Died young, no record of birth date), Jane (1872), Susan (1873), Docia (1874), Hezekiah(1876), Alexander (1877), James C. (Oct, 1879), Thomas Pinkney (Jan, 1880), and Henry Fidilly (1882). A copy of a picture of this family from sometime in the 1890s can be viewed on the John E Barnwell link below.

This breif history was developed by Thomas P Barnwell a direct descendant of the Thomas Pinkney son of John E. Barnwell, shown above. I am a direct descendant of Alexander also a son of John. I am currently working on the descendants of William Barnhill / Barnwell.

I have built this web page to provide information on the Barnwell family Genealogy. I invite anyone to visit and will set up links to other sites with information about the Barnwell Family name. If any of the imformation is of intrest to you and you would like to discuss additional information please contact me at the below web address. Be patient and return to this page for updates. Thanks

This is the information I have as of September 2000. I am very interested in any information others may have so please contact me below.

This page has been visited times.

Links to Barnwell families

Dave Barnwell in England: Dave's site is one of the best!
John Elizer Barnwell Family: Picture of John Elizer Barnwell(above) Family
James Ervin Barnwell: Pictures of James Ervin Barnwell(above) Family
Barnwell Genealogy: Barnwell Genealogy starting with William Barnhill from Ireland
Barnwell Genealogy Forum: A place to share and find information about Barnwells
Barnhill Genealogy Forum: A palce to share and find information about Barnhills
Barnwell Genealogy Homepage: Mike Barnwell's Genealogy Homepage with Links to other Barnwell pages

Larry & Linda Barnwell
26 Morgan Blvd.
Arden, NC 28704
United States

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I am looking forward to sharing as much information as I can find on the web. If you have information that will interest me or others please feel free to contact me at the above mailing or web address. Thanks for your help.