Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page
No votes yet

McKoy, William Berry

by Leora Hiatt Mceachern, 1991

24 Dec. 1852–16 Nov. 1928

Photographic portrait of William Berry McKoy, from Henry Bacon McKoy’s <i>The McKoy Family of North Carolina,</i> p. [159], published 1955 by Keys Printing Company, Greenville, S.C. Presented by HathiTrust. William Berry McKoy, attorney, historian, and botanist, was born in Wilmington, the son of William Henry (11 Aug. 1827–28 July 1858) and Francenia Eliza Berry McKoy (24 Dec. 1833–24 Apr. 1889). William Henry, the son of Dr. William McKoy of Clinton, moved to Wilmington and became a merchant; Francenia was the daughter of Dr. William Augustus and Ann Eliza Usher Berry and a descendant of James Hasell, chief justice of the colony and acting governor at the departure of Governor William Tryon.

William Berry McKoy attended private schools in Wilmington, including the school of the Reverend Daniel Morrelle and the Cape Fear Academy. He entered Princeton University in 1872 and was graduated in 1876. He then went to Raleigh, where he read law with George V. Strong and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in June 1879. Returning to Wilmington, he specialized in title law and practiced his profession until his death.

A Democrat, McKoy was a member of the executive committee of his party for twenty years and served as chairman in 1898. He was the New Hanover County attorney from 1896 to 1899 and court attorney for several years. When still a young man he made a set of abstracts of titles for the county.

On 23 Oct. 1876 McKoy organized the Historic and Scientific Society of Wilmington, and in 1897 he organized and was the first president of a fencing club. He was a member of the Wilmington Light Infantry and Grand Master of the Masonic order in North Carolina in 1912.

Intensely interested in the history of the Lower Cape Fear, he devoted much of his time to historical research and writing. Among his articles are a sketch of Governor Benjamin Smith who was an aide-de-camp to General George Washington, a history of Masonboro and Hilton Plantation, an account of Indian pottery found near Wilmington, and a biographical sketch of Captain Johnston Blakeley.

McKoy and Katherine Bacon were married on 15 Dec. 1886. She was the daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Kelton Bacon and the sister of Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The McKoys had five children: Elizabeth Francenia, William Ancrum, Henry Bacon, Francis Kelton, and James Hasell. McKoy was an Episcopalian. His funeral was conducted from St. James's Church, and he was buried in Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, with Masonic rites.


Elizabeth Francenia McKoy, personal contact.

Henry Bacon McKoy, The McKoy Family of North Carolina (1955). (accessed August 31, 2014).

North Carolina Biography, vol. 5 (1919).

Wilmington Star, 17 Nov. 1928.

Additional Resources:

William Berry McKoy Papers, 1744-1913 (collection no. 00471). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,William_Berry.html (accessed March 1, 2013).

William Berry McKoy Papers, 1744-1913. Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,William_Berry.html (accessed August 31, 2014).

William B. McKoy Collections (#57), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA. (accessed August 31, 2014).

Image Credits:

McKoy, Henry Bacon. The McKoy Family of North Carolina. Greenville, S.C.: Keys Printing Company. 1955. [159]. (accessed August 31, 2014).

Origin - location: 


It is interesting that the bio of W. B. McKoy makes no mention of the role he played in instigating the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. I recommend to you the documentary film "Wilmington on Fire" in which McKoy's role is featured prominently.

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at