Lt. John Black

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Margaret Black was the mother of Neill McAulay of Coddle Creek, and the wife of Roderick McAulay, an elder in Sardis Church. Her father, John Black, was a lieutenant in the American Revolution, commissioned by John Rutledge.
Lt. John Black of the American Revolution was born May 15, 1737, the son of William Black and Martha Gillespie who came to America about 1730, eventually settling in the piedmont area of North Carolina. John Black resided near Providence Presbyterian Church. We know this because there has come down to us a good conduct statement from Providence Church, dated 1793. At this time only members in good standing with the Church were admitted to the sacrament of communion and, if one traveled, it was wise to take a pass from the home congregation so that the session of the congregation visited would allow the stranger to approach the Lord’s Table. The pass reads:
 
“We do certify that John Black hath resided in Providence Congregation  above thirty years passed and hath been a Member of Session seven years past and hath been in full communion and no misconduct known to us and may be admitted to privileges of any church communion where God in His providence may order his lot. Sept. 23, 1793
 
                                                        By Order of Session
 
                                                        Andrew Porter (Porter ?)
                                                        illegible
                                                        Clerk
 
James Wallis, Moderator
 
Although this surviving sacred passport is dated after the Revolution, John Black had probably been carrying a church passport for some time previously. He had enlisted in the American Revolution as a non-commissioned officer. We know very little of his early record, but it must have been honorable, for on May 16, 1781, John Black--gentleman--was commissioned a lieutenant by Governor John Rutledge of South Carolina. The commission survives among John Black’s descendents until this day, reading:
 
South Carolina
 
By his Excellency, JOHN RUTLEDGE, Esq., Governor and Commander in chief of the said state.
      To John Black, Gent.
 
I REPOSING special trust and confidence in your courage, good conduct, and in your fidelity and attachment to the United States of America, have commissioned and appointed, and by these presents do commission and appoint, you the said, John Black, to be: first Lieutenant of a troop of horses in the Regiment commanded by Lt. Co. Wm. Mills which said Troop, you are to lead, train, muster and exercise according to military discipline. And you are to follow and observe all such orders and instructions as you shall from time to time receive from me, or the governor and commander in chief for the time being, or any of your superior officers, according to the rules and discipline of war, pursuant to the laws of this state. And all inferior of ficers and privates belonging to the said Troop are hereby required and commanded to obey you as their Lieut.
 
This commission to continue during pleasure.
 
Given under my hand and seal, this sixteenth day of May Anno Domini 1781 and in the fifth year of the Independence of America.
 
J. Rutledge
 
By his Excellency’s command:
 
Charles Middleton, Secretary
 
GOD save the United States of AMERICA
 
Two days later he was captured by the British. On May 18, 1781 he was taken prisoner and placed in Forbay’s Prison Ship, Charleston Harbor. This much is fact. He is supposed to have escaped, jumped ship and swam to shore, bullets whistling. This is highly unlikely, but family tradition is firm that John Black or Ewen McAulay knocked down a King’s guard and fled the English with a price on his head. The story would make sense here, if he jumped ship, fled Charleston, the British putting out a reward.
 
This is how Johnny Black escaped from a British prison.
 
“When Johnny Black was captured and thrown in the hold of a British ship, he decided he would have to escape. He could not live in a hole.
 
The redcoats allowed the prisoners to take the air on deck now and then, and Johnny saw that it was from the deck he would have to escape. The guards were not many, because of the sea, and if he could divert some guards, there was a place he could knock one down and jump over. Yet there was no sense in swimming for it since that would mean they would send a light boat after him, or shoot at him from the deck, if he tried to swim away. He would have to make a ruse. So Johnny thought and thought on the nature of man and decided freedom was worth being laughed at.
 
He arranged with some friends to divert the guards with a knock-down, drag-out fight, and he bashed to the deck the King’s guard he had eyed, pretending to slip over the side as he hit him. Once over the side, he yelled, “Help, help, I cannot swim. I’m from up-countree.”
 
The other prisoners shouted that this was so, he was from far upcountry.
 
The redcoats, rather than shooting at him, laughed at him quite heartily as he drowned. They leaned on the rails and said to the man he knocked down, “Come, watch the rebel drown.” When Johnny went down for the last playful time, cursing the animals who would let a man drown but he had planned on human nature, he dived under the ship and, barely keeping his nose above water, hid there until night.
 
In the dark he swam the two miles to the Charleston shore. He slept by day in hollow trees and went by night through enemy lines, passing great oaks with mossy beards hanging on them, snakes, alligators, and things that loll in the mud, until he was at last back in the hills with decent folk.”
 
At any rate John Black survived the War to return to North Carolina where he did not die until November 29, 1809. He married in April 1762, Margaret Hamilton, the daughter of John Hamilton and Rossanah Cummings. The aged John Hamilton was supposed to have been a messenger for the signers of the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence, smuggling messages for them, going unsuspected because of his age. He was born in 1700.
 
John Black is supposed, when a bachelor, to have had a dream of a woman riding over the hill. The woman rider’s saddle strap broke and he rescued her and married her. The next day the inevitable occurred. He was out riding. A strange woman’s saddle strap broke, he rescued her. It was Margaret Hamilton. They were married.
 
By this marriage with Margaret Hamilton, at least eight children were born. There was a son, John Black, Jr. and seven daughters, popularly called at the time “the seven Black sisters.” One of the seven Black sisters was Margaret, born in 1772 who married Roderick McAulay on March 22, 1803.
 
Of the seven Black sisters, besides Margaret McAulay, one is supposed to have married a Witherspoon, another a McLeod. All of them are supposed to have lived in the area of Sardis Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, of which they were members. Family papers show Roderick McAulay was an elder at Sardis Church and tradition says that most of the sisters’ husbands were elders in the congregation. And that the seven Black sisters would meet in the foyer while their husbands met in the church session to decide what they would have their husbands do next. It seems to have become something of a local joke. The Methodist and Baptists would tell how the Presbyterian Church was run by “seven Black sisters.”
 
 Lt. John Black, the father of the seven Black sisters, was the grandfather of Neil McAulay of Coddle Creek.
 
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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.