Original Research has not revealed much information about the early life of James STEVENSON. Secondary sources suggest that James was born in 1720 or 1721 in North Belfast, Ireland to Scotch-Irish parents and that he immigrated to Maryland and married Sarah KELLY (O’Kelly), daughter of John KELLY, also of Ireland. It is also suggested that James and Sarah migrated to Rowan County, NC in the 1770’s. The children are all purported to have been born in Maryland and their birth years are suggested as follows: Margaret (1756), Annie (1758), Agnes Nancy (1758), James, Jr (1760), Sarah (1762), Jane (1764), Mary (1766), and William (1768).
Original research has not substantiated James’ wife’s name but has substantiated that James and his wife lived for a time in Maryland and had 8 children: Nancy Agnes, Margaret, James, Ann, Mary, Sarah, Jane, and William. Some of the children’s birth year’s have been confirmed. According to the 1850 census, Margaret was born 1755, Sarah was born 1762, Mary was born 1765 and William was born 1768. According to James, Jr.’s gravestone, he was born in 1746. This year, however, seems much too early to match with the ages of the other children. Some secondary sources list James, Jr,’s birth year as 1760. This year fits much better with the ages of the other children. All four of the children found on the 1750 census are listed as being born in Maryland. Since this includes the oldest and the youngest, it is probable that all of James’ children were born in Maryland. James and his family migrated to Rowan County, North Carolina sometime between William’s birth in 1768 and the marriages of daughters Nancy and Margaret which both took place in Rowan County in 1775.
James and his wife’s oldest son James, Jr. served in the Revolutionary War. He is buried in Vashti Cemetery in Vashti, Alexander County. A modern grave marker has been erected noting his military service. The grave marker reads: “James Stevenson Pvt Col Locks NC Comp Rev War May 27, 1746-Sept 3, 1828 Col. Ben Cleveland’s Com’d King’s Mt and Guilford Cthse Seige at Yorktown".
Three of the Stevenson daughters married Lackey men. Nancy Agnes married William Lackey in 1775, Margaret married Thomas Lackey in 1775 and Ann married George Lackey in 1780. Tradition says that these three men were brothers. Revolutionary War Pension records confirm that Thomas and George were siblings and circumstantial evidence suggests that William was also a brother.
In 1788, the section of Rowan County where the Stevenson family lived became Iredell County. James and his wife continued to live here and are listed on each federal census from 1790 to 1820 as living in Iredell County.
James died some time after the 1820 census was taken and before the inventory of his estate was done in August 1820. James’ will was written July 26, 1817. He willed that “Wm Lackey and his wife Nancy take the negro woman Nell and her child and one hundred dollars…Thomas Lackey and his wife Margaret shall have one negro woman named Mary and her child and one hundred dollars…my son James Stevenson shall have the tract of land on which I now live of three hundred and thirty-eight acres and one negro man named Jack and all the notes held by me on him at this time…George Lackey and his Ann shall have one negro man named Ned and one hundred dollars…John Arrington and his wife Mary shall have one negro girl named Hannah and one hundred dollars…David Milligan and his wife Sarah shall have four hundred dollars, John Buttram and his wife Jane shall have one negro man named Simon and one hundred dollars…my son William Stevenson shall have one negro woman named Milly and her child named Raria (sp?) and one hundred dollars”. James willed that the balance of his estate be “divided into two equal parts and one part be equally divided between my two sons and the other part equally divided between my six daughters each to share alike”. James appointed his two sons James and William as executors of his last will and testament.
The inventory of James’ estate was taken August 14, 1820. The personal property sold at the estate auction included: 1 scythe, 2 mattocks, 1 falling axe, 1 spade, 4 hoes, 1 single tree, 3 sickles, 3 barrel, 1 oven, 1 pot rack, 1 skillet and spider, 1 plough and stock, 1 wheel, 1 shovel plough, 1 cotton wheel, 1 cheek reel, 1 ploughshare and rod, 1 flax wheel, 2 side leather, 1 dry hide_,_ 6 cows, 4 calves, 3 bulls, 5 steer, 7 heifers, 4 horses, 1 mare, 4 lots of hogs and 5 lots of sheep, 1 wagon, 2 books_,_ 4 lots of corn, 1 box of nails, 1 salt barrel, 1 churn flaxseed, 1 bed, 1 keg, 1 table, 6 spoons, pincers and knives, 4 yards cloth, 1 lot of tallow and candles, 1 pair stockings, fodder, 1 lot of flax, 1 lot of straw, 4 lots of wheat, 6 lots oats, 1 lot rye, 54 pounds of Bacon, 1 iron wedge, 1 bar iron, 1 lot wool, 1 smoothing iron, 1 double tree, 1 pair hams and chains, 1 pair gears, 1 dung fork, 1 pitch fork, 1 tea kettle, 1 hatchet, 1 bull, 1 lot sheep, 2 lots of hogs, 1 lot flax, 1 saddle . The total amount of James’ estate after the division for the will was $4,397.21 ¼.
James Stevenson was a slave owner. On the 1790 census, James is listed as having 2 slaves. Their names, ages and sex are not indicated. James is listed on the 1800 census as having 8 slaves and on the 1810 census as having 5 slaves. When James wrote his will in 1817, he left 10 specific slaves to members of his family: Nell and her child, Mary and her child, Jack, Ned, a girl Hannah, Simon, Milly and her child named Raria (sp?). The inventory of James’ estate taken August 14,1820 names an additional nine slaves: “one negro boy named Israel, 1 negro man named Luke, 1 negro boy named John, 1 negro girl named Liza, 1 negro woman named Poll, 1 infant negro child of Poll, 1 negro woman Ibbi and her child”. Some of the slave children named in the estate were possibly the unnamed children mentioned in the will.
The slaves not left to family members in the will were hired out during the settlement of James’ estate. On March 22, 1820, Luke was hired out to George Lackey, Jr., John was hired out to Nancy Lackey, Poll was hired out to James Stevenson and Liza was hired out to James Lackey. On May 27, 1820, the slaves were hired out again, this time for one year. John went to Nancy Lackey for 28 dollars. Israel went to Alexander Lackey 2.25 dollars. Liza went to James Stevenson for one dollar. Poll and her child went to Joseph McClain for 13.25 dollars and Luke went to Henry McClain for the largest sum of 57.25 dollars. James’ estate record does not include information on what happened to these slaves after their time of being hired out was completed.
James’ wife died sometime after the 1820 census was taken. A family history sketch written by the couple’s great-grandson places her death as a few months after James died. The same sketch gives James’ age at his death as 99 years and 9 months.  James and his wife are supposedly buried in the old Vashti Cemetery outside Hiddenite, NC. This scenic cemetery, located on Old Vashti Road, has numerous graves. All but one of the graves are marked with un-inscribed fieldstones. The only inscribed stone is a modern headstone erected for James Stevenson, Jr., which records his military service in the Revolutionary War.
There is purported to be an un-located Stevenson family history sketch written in 1892 by a grandchild of James Stevenson, Jr. There is an excerpt of the sketch available on the website for “Stevenson, Arrington and Tucker Families”. "Altho our forefathers came to America from Belfast, Ireland they wre doubtless originally from Scotland as they were all Presbyterians. James Stevenson, my great-grandfather was born in Belfast, Ireland. He was fully six feet tall and a man of the finest form. His early life was spent in the English Navy. When he came to America he settled on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where he married Sally Kelly, an Irish ladt, and between 1755 and 60 he came to North Carolina and settled in the upper valley of the South Yadkin (now Alexander County) where he entered 640 acres of land, the full amount allowed by the Government. He made a fine selection. The land was very fertile and the surrounding mountains furnished fine range. He found ready sale for all products of the farm and stock, as immigrants were constantly coming in and selling around him. These immigrants had sold out and moved from other states and brought with them but little exvept the cash realized from such sales. He invested most of his money in negroes, who were at the time brought into this country by nothern men for sale. He died in 1820 aged 99 years, 9 months. My great-grandmother died a few months later".
Footnotes for James and Sarah