Transcription of Heritage Society Site Articles

Heritage Society Site Articles

All of the below has been cut and pasted, therefore it is presented here EXACTLY as transcribed by the SUBMITTER.

Macon County, NC Heritage Society Web Site: Submitted by Diana Ford

Submitted to Brendel Brendle Brindel Brindle Forum by Diana Ford - January 4, 2000.

Rev. John McDowell

My 3rd great grandfather Rev. John McDowell stated in one of his letters to Lyman Draper that he was born in the lower part of the state of Georgia in 1800. I do not know the name of his mother, but his father was Daniel McDowell according to historian and author Silas McDowell who was a distant cousin and a prominent farmer in the Sugartown community of Franklin, North Carolina. Our grandfather, Reverend John, in his letter to Lyman Draper also said that he was brought up in North Carolina and raised until age 11 by his grandfather William McDowell in Haywood County at which time William died at 73 years of age in 1811. It is not known for sure who raised Grandfather John after his grandfather William's death. John may have lived with his father Daniel and his new family, or possibly with his Uncle "Flowery Garden John McDowell and his family. Johns future father-in-law, Alexander Caldwell Jr. and family, were obviously close friends as in the estate sale of Grandpa, William McDowell it mentions Alexander Caldwell. The fact that four years later grandpa John married Alexander's daughter Elizabeth, I feel that it is a possibility that he may have even lived with them for awhile. Rev. John McDowell married Elizabeth Caldwell in Waynesville, Haywood County October 6, 1815 when they were both 15 years of age and Alexander Caldwell Sr. is listed as the grandfather of Elizabeth.

In 1827 while Grandpa John and his family were living in Haywood County, North Carolina, he was elected County Trustee of Haywood County and served until 1833 after which he moved with his family to Macon County North Carolina. Rev. Johns Uncle "Flowery Garden" John McDowell, moved to Tennessee during this time period and his father Daniel we believe, moved to Carroll County, GA. On August 4, 1832, Grandpa John purchased 124 acres of farm land for $800. on the West Bank of the Tennessee River, Sec. 69, Dist. 15 according to the Old Macon County records. When my 3rd great grandpa was about 33 years of age he moved with his wife Elizabeth and four young children to Franklin, Macon County North Carolina. The twins, Uncle William and Aunt Maria were 13 years old, my Great Great Grandmother Nancy Elmina McDowell was seven and Aunt Sarah was two years old. I can just envision them traveling by wagon train over the beautiful but rugged Blue Ridge Mountains. John's family was among the first of the sturdy pioneers to locate in the Tennessee Valley where Franklin, North Carolina is located. They would have traveled the old Indian trails and wild game would have been their chief source of food on the trail as there was an abundance of turkey, squirrel, pheasant and they may have bagged a deer along the way. The journey from Waynesville, Haywood County, North Carolina would have taken them several days.

The territory now embracing Macon County was acquired by a treaty from the Cherokee Indians in 1817-1819 and in 1820, the present site of Franklin was decided upon. Grandpa Rev. John was 20 years old when he helped survey the town of Franklin and a general auction sale of the land that had been platted, took place in Waynesville, Haywood County, North Carolina where our family lived at the time. Grandpa John is credited with helping Robert Love defeat a proposition to locate Franklin on the river bottom instead of the hill. This story is reported by Dr. C D Smith in his Brief History of Macon County. I imagine that John's father Daniel was part of the Survey Corp as Grandpa John had followed in the footsteps of his father Daniel and his grandfather William McDowell, they were all surveyors. Johns son William R. was also a surveyor continuing a family profession. In 1828, Franklin was then a part of Haywood County (Old Buncombe County) and Rev. John was among the Survey Corp hired by Robert Love to plat the land forming the new county of Macon where the town of Franklin is the county seat. As the men folk traveled, they would hunt for deer, turkey and pheasant and often traded their surplus meat to the friendly Indians for a meal or vegetables. Often they would have the Indians dress the skins of the deer and pick up on a later trip. These skins, so dressed, were much softer and more like velvet than those tanned by the white mans method. Grandpa John surveyed many land entries in Haywood, Jackson and Macon Counties for over 40 years.

Asheville was 27 miles from Waynesville and another 69 miles from Franklin, North Carolina. Even though it was some distance to travel by horse back, or wagon train, Asheville it the main source for many of the needs of the pioneer families. Franklin is nestled in the heart of the Nantahala Mountains which was named for Chief Nantahala of the Cherokee Tribe who my 5th great grandfather, William was a close friend.

In the extensive research by Lyman Draper in the 1870s, the correspondence and reports told of how Rev. John and a distant cousin of his, Silas McDowell, fixed the exact place of the Indian battle known as Dark Hollow which took place in 1776. Dark Hollow is located approximately 5 miles from Franklin, North Carolina and this is where the Indians ambushed Williamson's troops, killed several soldiers, and then withdrew. This battle and the further destruction of Cherokee villages and crops by Rutherford and Williamson paved the way for more white settlements.

Our family settled in the rolling lush mountains in Franklin, North Carolina where they had a farm. It is just a few miles south of the town of Franklin and about 5 miles across the Georgia border. Neighbors helped each other at harvest time and very little hired labor was depended upon. Corn Huskings, quilting bees and barn raisings composed the social life of the community. Most all families had a spinning wheel and in the winter it was common for the ladies getting together for a spinning session and the gossip flowed thick and fast. During the 1840s , Linsey Clothe was very popular which was a homespun clothe dyed with walnut hulls and used by the women to make dresses.

June 22, 1834, my third great grandparents, Rev. John and Elizabeth, had another son, Byron Gibbs McDowell, more children were to follow, Daniel Leander born 1836 and I believe another set of twins, Sethia (Elizabeth) Caroline born 1839 and Athan Layfayette McDowell born August 29, 1839.

In Macon County, North Carolina, Oct. 15, 1835, a bond was applied for by John and 6 other men pledging $10,000 for John Tatham, elected clerk of court of pleas & quarter sessions and was registered June 25, 1836.

Sept. 26, 1838, John and 5 other men pledge $2000 bond and another $10,000 bond for John Hall, elected Clerk of Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions.

John is one of six listed as trustees, for all of Macon, & their successors, in trust for M. E. Church , for good will be hath for the said M. E. Church, 2 + acres on W. side of Public Road in Sec 5, including the grave yard, to use of church, a plase of Public worship of Almighty God, March 1, 1844 and acknowledged in court June 4, 1844.

In the 1850 census of Macon County in the Tennessee Valley, John McDowell is listed as a Methodist clergyman, age 52 born in Georgia. Living with him are his wife Elizabeth, age 52 born in Georgia; daughter Nancy E., age 24 born in Haywood County; daughter Sarah T., age 20 born in Haywood County; Daniel L., age 14 born in Macon County, son Bryant G., age 13 born in Macon County; daughter Althia, age 9 born in Macon County, and a labourer, Wilson Blain. Grandpa John owned a farm of 160 acres, 70 of these acres had been improved and his farm was valued at $900.00 and the farm implements were valued at $250.00. His livestock consisted of 6 horses,11 milch cows,15 other cattle, 12 sheep, 30 swine and his livestock was valued at 550.00. His produce consisted of 800bu of Indian corn, 400 bu of oats, 30 lbs of wool, 75 pound of butter. Homemade manufacture, $50.00 and Animals slaughtered $35.00

John was a local preacher and in 1833 it is recorded that he traveled as a Circut Rider to preach at the Snow Hill United Methodist Church in the Cowee Community where worship services were held in Old Peabody School, a log building built in the woods below the present cemetery. It wasn't until 1874 that the present church was built. Oct. 1860 Rev. John was elected an Elder, by the Holston Conference of the Methodist Church, which covered Western NC at the time. He was ordained by the Holston Conference in 1866 in Asheville.

It was stated by Silas McDowell who was known for being very out spoken as well as a very knowledgeable historian and writer, in his letter to Lyman Draper that, "Rev. John McDowell is amiable, very pious of commanding physiology and a head that promises strong intellectual powers yet he does not rank a man of well balance spirit and seeming ill at ease in the company of intellectual gentlemen, can preach a good practical sermon if he thinks no one of intelligence to criticize, but then, the scenery, ~ Heaven ~ Earth and I might add Hell are_____to for a metaphor figure and topics and the consequence is making A'pe of himself and runs his sermons into the ground". I feel that a little harsh. Gramma Nancy's brother Byron Gibbs McDowell painted his father Rev. John McDowell in a very different and very loving light.

According to Uncle Byron, as quoted in Prominent Tennesseans, "His father, Rev. John McDowell was a merchant in early life and originally a Baptist, but dissolved his connection with that Church on account of disagreement with its doctrine of immersion. He then attached himself to the Methodist church, in which he preached until his death, September 11, 1883. He was an active worker in the church, of limited education, but of wonderful originality; a very zealous man in any thing he undertook and exceptionally devoted to the work of the ministry, and of good business qualities, mostly acquired by experience. He was county surveyor of Macon and Haywood counties, North Carolina, for forty years, he had few enemies; was a man of even temperament, and always had a kind word for everybody, irrespective of their positions in life. He taught his children at an early age to respect the Sabbath and the Church, which resulted in their early connection with the church of his choice. He died a triumphant death, making a profound religious impression upon those who witnessed his departure. He left six children living. (1) William R. Who married Elizabeth Gibbs, and is living, a farmer near the old homestead. (2) Nancy E.; unmarried, and living on the old homestead. (3) Sarah T., wife of Joseph Brendle, a farmer in Haywood County, North Carolina; has one child, John. (4) Caroline, wife of William McClure, a farmer in Macon county, North Carolina, living near the old homestead. (5) Byron G., subject of this sketch. (6) (Uncle) Athan L., a farmer on the old homestead; married Caroline Russell, daughter of James Russell; has four children, Ara, Adaline, Emma and Elizabeth." The biography goes on to say Uncle Byron spoke gratefully about his mother Elizabeth McDowell for her faithfulness and self-sacrificing devotion to her children, and her constant and consistent Christian life. Elizabeth (Caldwell) McDowell died June 11, 1876 at the age of sixty seven. Byron listed his mothers maiden name as being Morrow in this biography and Caldwell in another biography and the correct surname for our 3rd great grandmother Elizabeth McDowell is Caldwell according to John and Elizabeth's marriage bond.

After viewing and reading three letters that our third great grandfather Rev. John McDowell wrote to Lyman Draper in 1872 and 1874 when grandfather was 72 and 74 years of age, I have come to the conclusion that he certainly had some education as he had beautiful hand writing, and was very artistic. One of Grandpa John's letters has a detailed map that he drew for Lyman Draper describing the battle ground his grandfather William McDowell fought while William served with General Sumpters Brigade of rifle men. My other thoughts regarding Grandfather Johns education is that to be ordained he would have had to have had some sort of formal education to become a minister, although it probably was very limited according to today's standards.

My great grandfather, Charles Birum McDowell was born in Franklin, North Carolina May 9, 1863 during the Civil War which began in 1861. His mother Nancy McDowell was 36 year of age. Fortunately there was not much fighting in the Franklin area as it was so isolated, but at the end of the war, the Yankees led my Col. George Kirk marched to Macon County intent on burning the town of Franklin as the Yankees felt it was a real hot bed of rebeldom. The day before they would reach Franklin, the word came through that the Confederate Army under General Lee had surrendered. Col. Kirk was hell bent on teaching the mountain people a lesson, and he kept on until he arrived in Franklin where he converged on the Court House to try and over awe the people. He set up his headquarters in the old Dixie Hall on Main Street in Franklin from where he robbed and pillaged the town and country side and then left.

Great Great Grandma Nancy's brothers, ( our uncles) Byron Gibbs and Athan L. McDowell and many of our McDowell cousins fought in the Civil War. Uncle Byron Gibbs McDowell joined the 39th NC Infantry when the war first broke out and he rose in rank to Major in the 62nd Infantry. While at Cumberland Gap on September 13, 1863, his regiment was surrendered by General Frazier, which, Major Bryon Gibbs McDowell and others in the regiment felt this surrender was not necessary. Byron then led approximately 800 men in all from the Thirty-Seventh Virginia regiment through the Federal lines at night to safety and to fight again. It was a very emotional time for the families of Macon county, being many of them were more for the north then the south. I was told by my grandmother Mary Elmina (McDowell) Schafer, that when she talked to her grandmother Nancy Elmina McDowell (mother of Charles Birum McDowell), about the Civil War that her grandmother Nancy, who was a soft spoken southern woman, would get so angry that the blood vessels would protrude in her face. Nancy was extremely bitter about the war. NC was the last state to secede from the Union and on May 6, 1861, grandpa John McDowell and his family found themselves no longer US citizens as they were now Confederates and they feared of the coming war and their loved ones having to fight. Many families in Macon County who sympathized with the union fled to Tennessee.

According to the December 1992 issue of Macon County Historical Society Echoes, in 1862-1872, wheat, rye and oats were major crops for farmers in Franklin and local mills played a big roll in community life. The threshers were paid by a "toll" or portion of the crop. A farmer may have as little as two bushel of grain threshed or as much as 156 bushels. Grandpa John McDowell and Uncle Athan are listed in the ledgers of S.H. Hyatt & Co. in 1867 and Uncle Athan and Uncle William McDowell are mentioned in the ledgers of George Angel & Jesse Carson in 1868. According to the 1850 agricultural census however, Grandfather John harvested 800 bushels of Indian Corn and 400 bushel or oats.

I feel Grandfather John lived a fairly comfortable life for the times and gave good care to his family. His land and home were sold after his death in 1883 and the sale of his personal property consisted of the following:

To my 3rd Great Grandmother Nancy E. McDowell and daughter of Rev. John McDowell:

   1 Grindstone  .35
   30 Bushels Corn   @.50   15.00
   1 Cupboard  10.00
   1 Table  1.00
   1 Wheel  .75
   1 bed & stead  10.00

To William McClure (husband of Aunt Elizabeth Caroline McDowell):

   Wagon Irons  4.60
   Books  .25

To Dan McClure:

   1 Buggy  10.70
   2 Books  .25

To Bessie McClure

   1 Bay Mare  45.50

To John McDowell (grandson of Rev. John McDowell and son of William R. McDowell):

   1 clock  3.00

To John Bates (son-in-law of Maria Ann (McDowell) McClure):

   1 Bureau  8.00
   1 Oven and Lid  2.60
   3 Books  1.25

To Willliam Dryman (son-in-law of Maria Ann (McDowell) McClure):

   1+3 Books  .35

To Col. Addington:

   2 Chairs  .50

To William R. McDowell (son of Rev. John McDowell):

   1 Bookcase  9.75
   4 Books  .50
   Books  50.00
   1 Handsaw  .25
   1 Vice  4.50

To A L McClure:

   Books  .65

To Albert Gellitan VanHook:

   Books  .60

Total   180.40

I do not know for sure what the settlement amount was of the farm and the rest of the estate that was divided up between the children in the family. Looking at the 1850 agricultural census gives you a good idea of his holdings, but by 1883, the estate should have been worth considerably more. Johns daughter Sarah and her husband Joseph Brendle purchased a 40 acre portion of the farm for $370.00 and Rev. John's son Athan L McDowell consolidated his home and 32 acres that he lived and had improved and was paid $1000 by the estate.

My 3rd Great Grandparents Rev. John and Elizabeth (Caldwell) McDowell are buried at Clarks Chapel Cemetery which sits on a picturesque hill next to the chapel in the lush rolling hills near Franklin, North Carolina. This well maintained cemetery is so peaceful and beautiful and there are many of our family buried here.

By Diana Ford
Any corrections or additions are most welcome.

Edited by Site Manager for upload form.

Brendel Brendle Brindel Brindle Forum Web Site created by Lorraine Adams Douglass December 31, 1999.

Last updated: January 12, 2002.