The North Carolina Branch



The First American Generation


Frederic C. Torrey

John Torrey, whose original home seems to have been Paisley, Argyleshire, Scotland, is said to have come about the year 1770, to North Carolina, settling at or near Fayetteville. There is a report that these Torreys landed in New York and that one son, name unknown, remained there, the others proceeding to North Carolina. This is not confirmed.

His wife is reported to have been named Margaret and they had three sons and three daughters:—George, David, James, Beatrice, Betsey, and Mary.

George, who was born in 1746 in Scotland, and who died April, 1821 at Ebenezer Church, Miss. is said to have married four times. His fourth wife, whom he married in 1797, being Sarah Graham, who was born in 1776 in Robeson County, North Carolina and died August 26, 1832 in Jefferson County, Mississippi. They had a family of eight sons and four daughters.

George and James with Daniel McEachern moved from the vicinity of Fayetteville to the neighborhood of Lumberton and after a few years again removed to the upper part of Robeson County, near what is now known as Montpelier Church about 1795. George Torrey lived for several years at the John McKay place, in what is now Scotland County North Carolina,—the place that Duncan McKay owned. The census of 1790 shows George Torrey, a resident of "Fayette District, Cumberland County, North Carolina," with a family consisting of one male over sixteen, one male under sixteen, four females, and one slave. Following his son Dougald, who had moved directly from North Carolina to Mississippi shortly after his marriage to Flora Gilchrist, he removed to the neighborhood of Union Church, Miss. in March, 1806.

James Torrey married twice. Leaving two children, by his first wife in America, with his brother George, he returned to Scotland where he married Mary Lindsay, returning with her and several children, to the United States. He became a Colonel in the British Army. The family of James Torrey consisted of five sons and two daughters.

James Torrey lived on four hundred acres of land on Rock Fish Creek. The census of 1790 shows James Torrey, a resident of "Fayette District, Cumberland County, North Carolina, with a family consisting of one male over sixteen, five males under sixteen, two females, and one slave." He never left Fayetteville and vicinity until March 30, 1806 when he removed with George to Jefferson County, Mississippi.

David married twice, first a McDuffie and second a McPhaul, a sister of John McPhaul of McPhaul's Mills, North Carolina, and had a family of six sons.

David Torrey sold his farm near Lumberton and moved to the plantation now owned by Mr. D. S. Alderman, Feb. 25, 1795. The census of 1790 shows David Torrey, a resident of the "Fayette District, Cumberland County, North Carolina," with a family consisting of one male over sixteen, four males under sixteen, two females, and two slaves. He sold his farm to John Purcell, his nephew, about 1820 and moved to Jefferson County, Miss., where several of his family had preceded him.

Beatrice married first Malcolm Purcell, who was drowned in the Cape Fear River, leaving one son, John Purcell, who was born in 1776 and who married Mrs. Mary (Gilchrist) McKay. Malcolm, (who is said to have been physically "a giant") was killed by the Tories because he was an ardent and active Whig and the Tories took an oath that they would kill him on sight because of his allegiance to America. They found him on the west side of the Cape Fear River and pursuing him to the bank caught him in the bend of the river, with no chance of escape and knowing that if he surrendered his fate was sealed, he attempted to swim across it. The Tories shot him in the river and he was never heard of again.

Beatrice Torrey Purcell, Malcolm's widow, after enduring for sometime the cruelties and hardships entailed upon her and little son John, by the Tories, left her home on Cross Creek with her son and went to her brother David Torrey, who lived then on Drowning Creek, now Lumber River, near Lumberton, at the place now owned by John H. McNeill. She lived after coming to Robeson County, north of Lumberton, in what is now known as the "Prevatt Neighborhood." The place is still known as the "Purcell Place," and is owned by one of the Messrs. Prevatt, about two miles northeast of the Lumberton and Carthage road. She lost her home and lands that her husband owned near Layetteville.

Beatrice Torrey Purcell, some time after she settled near Lumberton, married as his third wife Daniel McEachern who had previously married in Scotland Effie Currie and a Miss McNeill. She had two children by her second husband, Col. Archibald, born 1788, who married Effie Sellers and raised twelve children, (she was granddaughter of Christian McMillan, better known as Chraisdaidh Ban) —and a daughter Sally McEachern. Beatrice is buried at the Buffalo Cemetery near the farm of John T. Sinclair.

Betsey Torrey, daughter of the original John Torrey, married William Sellers. This Colonel Sellers lived in Sampson County and his descendants are there now. He must not be confused with Colonel Sellers of Robeson County who married a daughter of Christian McMillan and was the father of Col. Archie McEachern's wife.

Mary Torrey, the third daughter married "Red" Hector McNeill.

George Torrey and James Torrey, were, as has been said, Tories. David Torrey, who was a whig, remained at home during the troubleous Revolutionary times but at length he was taken prisoner with a man named Hugh Lashly and they were both, in a manner, forced to join the expedition to Hillsboro, at least they were induced to do it against their judgment rather than be sent to the prison ship's at Wilmington and they were both wounded at the battle of Cane's Creek. David surrendered to them and they carried him to Cane's Creek, before Fanning, who bound him by oath not to take up arms against the British government and released him. But the exposure to Cane's Creek and back caused a wound that he got in the affray with the 'I'ories to give him trouble, and he was lame the rest of his life.

This concludes Frederic C. Torrey's verbatim written remarks on the first American Generation of North Carolina Torreys.

Source: Frederic C. Torrey, The Torrey Families and their Children in America, Vol I [1924]