March 28, 1996

In 1900, Whittet and Shepperson, Printers of Richmond, Virginia, published the Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Col. Alexander McAllister, of Cumberland County, North Carolina, written by the Reverend D.S. McAllister, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Fairview, South Carolina. This book was named on page 10 of the March, 1995 CMA Journal, as one of the principal sources of genealogical data on the McAllisters. The Bluff Church to which he refers in the quote below, is in present day Cumberland County, NC, on the east side of the Cape Fear River, about twelve miles from Fayetteville. Besides listing many pages of names in what we in the CMA refer to as the R02 (Ronald) line, the Reverend McAllister wrote a commentary on the ever-popular subject of the "right way" to spell our name. The following excerpt is from pages 12 and 13.

"The spelling of the name "McAlester" is a question of some interest to many persons. Some write "McAlister," some "McAllister," others "MacAlister" or "MacAlester," as pleases the fancy best. In the old Bluff Church yard, where lies the sacred dust of the Cumberland County McAllisters, the tombstones have the name spelled four ways - McAllister, McAllester, McAlister and McAlester; not one has the MacAllister way of writing his name.

"Dr. David McAllister used always to spell the name McAlester, and I, being named for him, used that spelling till the death of my father, in 1857. He spelled the name McAllister, and we, his children, agreed to spell the name as he had done. Eminent men of the name in our Western States spell it this way, and it has a most symmetrical appearance. But an old letter to Col. McAllister, dated Jura, August 17, 1770, has the name spelled McAlester. This seems to harmonize best with the etymology of the name, as "Mac" means "son of," and "Alester" means "Alexander," and is very much more like Alexander than "Allister" can be.

"I think the spelling of the Scotch names by writing all letters on the same line, and especially making all letters small except the "Mc," is a modern innovation; thus Mclean, Mackay, or even MacLean and MacKay. A good many plain people pronounce the name McColister, and this comes from former inability of the non-Scotch people to say "McArleester," as it is pronounced in Gaelic. People would not take Scotch pains to call it right and they said "McColister," which I hear even to this day. It seems to me that ancient usage and custom favor "McAlester," though one excellent family of our people in North Carolina spell the name "McAlister." I do not think position of the "Mac" distinguishes the Scotch from the Irish, for the Irish "Macs" are of Scotch origin."

Reverend D.S. McAllister

Historian's Comment: One old gentleman, when I asked how he was called, told me to call him anything, except "late for breakfast".

In the 1790 Census, our name was spelled 18 different ways:

  • McCallister
  • McAlaster
  • McAlester
  • McAlister
  • McAllaster
  • McAllester
  • McAllister
  • McCalester
  • McCalister
  • McCallaster
  • McCallester
  • McCallestor
  • McColister
  • M'Colister
  • McCollester
  • McCollister
  • McCollistor
  • McOllister