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John McNeill's Collection on Lake Waccamaw History

Identifier: SC-MS-270

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of John A. McNeill, Sr. of Lake Waccamaw, Columbus County, North Carolina. McNeill (1918-2016) was a World War II veteran, pharmacist, boy scout, and Columbus County historian. Included in this collection is McNeill’s comprehensive bibliographic work compiling a wide array of primary and secondary sources pertaining to various cultural, ecological, and historical topics on Lake Waccamaw. This research was completed in conjunction with his collaborator Susan Council, also of the Lake Waccamaw area, and published in the Spring of 2004. A digital copy of “Lake Waccamaw in Paper and Print: A Bibliography” is attached in the series of the same title.

The collection additionally contains original indentures, land grants, and other property records from Bladen and Columbus counties dating between 1735 and 1884. All documents pertain to land near Lake Waccamaw and some include the names of influential individuals in early Columbus County history.


  • Creation: 1735-2004


Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

John A. McNeill

John Albert McNeill Sr. was born on September 2, 1918. He was the son of George Raymond McNeill and Lydia Jane Russell. He had one brother, Neil Hector McNeill.

McNeill grew up in an area of Whiteville colloquially known as Vineland. His grandfather, John A. McNeill opened J.A. McNeill and Son Pharmacy in Whiteville at the turn of the 20th century and his father worked there after graduating from Page’s School of Pharmacy in Raleigh. McNeill attended UNC Chapel Hill and graduated in 1940 with a Pharmacy degree. However, he delayed his career to serve as a line officer in the United States Navy in the South Pacific during World War II. Upon his return, he took control of the pharmacy, which is purported to be the oldest family-owned in the state. McNeill worked there for the duration of his career.

McNeill was also known for his avid interest in botany, was deemed Columbus County historian, and was particularly devoted to the Boy Scouts. He married Margaret Powell and they had six children. He died on September 20, 2016 and is buried in Whiteville Memorial Cemetery.

Indentures, Land Grants, and Property Records

Though all of the original documents in Series 3 represent land near Lake Waccamaw, historically this land has not always been considered part of Columbus County, hence the reason why documents before 1808 indicate Bladen County. To understand the history of land ownership in Columbus County, it is necessary to begin with the creation of Bath County from Albemarle by Deputy Governor Thomas Harvey in 1696. In 1705, Bath County was divided into three precincts including Wickham, Archdale, and Pamptecough. These names were later changed in 1712 to Hyde, Craven, and Beaufort. New Hanover precinct was created from Craven in 1729 and Bladen precinct was formed from New Hanover in 1734. In 1738, Albemarle and Bath Counties were dissolved and their precincts were changed to counties, a designation that remains in place today. Brunswick County was later formed from Bladen and New Hanover Counties in 1764. Finally in 1808, Columbus County was formed from Bladen and Brunswick. Subsequently, documents in this collection represent the same lands under the names of Bladen and Columbus county depending on their date.


5 Containers (Contains 4 document boxes and 1 oversize box.)

Language of Materials


Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed by Special Collections staff in 2022.

John McNeill's Collection on Lake Waccamaw History
Special Collections Staff
2022 August 04
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository