The McMahan Dilemma
I am probably going to get into trouble for even daring to change a line that people have followed for many years now, including myself, therein lies the dilemma!!!
On my Dad’s, Mom’s side of the family we have a line that goes back to McMahan’s. For the longest time I thought our James McMahan (1714-1799, wife, Susannah Hildebrandt) was a son of John McMahan and Margaret Murray of Ireland and then North Carolina. When you look at different trees on Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, etc. everyone else pretty much thinks the same thing as well. I have not actively worked on this line. It was mainly work that my Dad did many years ago while talking to old timers, who knew some of these folks. Since I had so many other lines that didn’t go back as far as my McMahan line did, I had kind of left it to the side.
Well, I decided it was time to start working on this line and see if I could figure out who the parents of John McMahan and Margaret Murray were. This John & Margaret were both supposed to have been born in Ireland as was their son James, before coming to America. What I have found so far is that there were indeed two different John McMahan’s, one in Pennsylvania, and one in North Carolina, that people have intermingled.
Another thing that makes it difficult at times is the spelling of the surname. I have found it spelled as McMahon, McMahen, McMechen, McMakin, etc. and sometimes they even leave off the Mc or make it Mac. Even in the same document there may be more than one spelling of the name.
My John McMahan (ca. 1690-1776) left a will in Rowan County, North Carolina which was written 31 July 1776, no wife listed, and I haven't found the probate for it yet. He named these children: James, Samuel, Jane/Jean, Katherine, Agnes & Mary. Witnesses were William Miller & James Hayes. The will was not administered in Rowan County, because the executors, David Kennedy & Samuel Emet living in Pennsylvania, so it was delivered to William Anderson. I believe that William Anderson was John’s son-in-law, husband to his daughter, Agnes McMahan. I am working on trying to figure out where in Pennsylvania, David Kennedy & Samuel Emet lived and hopefully it is the same place John was before coming to North Carolina.
The other John McMahan (ca. 1710-1767) left a will written 18 May 1767 in Leek Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania which was probated in October of 1767, also in Cumberland County. This John had a wife named Margaret whose maiden name was probably Murray. Their children were: James, Rachel, Sarah, Elizabeth, Agnes, John, Margaret, Benjamin who was under age 21 & Mary. Executors: John Erwin & son, John McMahan; Witnesses: John Erwin & William Wilson.
As you can see both John’s had sons named James and daughters named Agnes. The way their wills were written it looks like both James’ were probably the oldest sons. I think this is how so many people confused the two men. According to family stories both James’ were also born in Ireland before coming to America. However, my James died in 1799 in North Carolina and the other James died in 1823 in Pennsylvania.
My John McMahan’s children and their spouses were as follows: James (1714-1799) who married Susannah Hildebrandt (1718-1802); Samuel (ca. 1716-????) I have yet to find a spouse for; Jane/Jean (ca. 1725-after 1788) who married James Pursley (ca. 1721-1788); Katherine (ca. 1727-????) who married Edward Larrimore (ca. 1722-????); Agnes (ca. 1729-????) who married William Anderson (ca. 1723-????) and Mary (ca. 1733-1789) who married James Morrison (ca. 1724-1779). All of my John’s children were supposed to have been born in Ireland before coming to America.
The other John McMahan’s children and their spouses were as follows: James (1740-1823) who married Mary Murray (1739-1818), Rachel, Sarah, Elizabeth, Agnes, John (1750-1802) who married Jane Murray (1762-1807), Margaret, Benjamin (1754-1829) who married Sarah McClees & Mary. All of this John’s children were supposed to have been born in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania except for the oldest son James, who was supposed to have been born in Ireland.
They may possibly be related to each other, but at this time I can not say so with any certainty. I am going to continue to work on these two families until I can figure out who their parents were and where in Ireland they came from, as well as when they came to America if possible.
Anyone with more information on either NC John or PA John and their families please let me know.
The following are the wills for both John McMahan's. The first one is for my John McMahan in 1776 in Rowan County, North Carolina. The second one is for the other John McMahan in 1767 in Chester County, Pennsylvania.