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History and education in those Highland County hills of yore, Part 4

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been taking a look at the life and times of the Rev. Joseph McDowell Mathews, a pioneer of education in Highland County in the 1800s.

Last time, we observed that the good reverend was the grandson of Major Joseph McDowell (1756-1801), sometimes referred to as “Quaker Meadows Joe,” to distinguish himself from his cousin, “Pleasant Gardens Joe,” who had the same name. Quaker Meadows Joe served in the Revolutionary War as an officer and later in Congress, and Pleasant Gardens Joe also served in the Revolutionary War as an officer and in Congress. Both are considered American Patriots.

Neither Quaker Meadows Joe nor Pleasant Gardens Joe lived particularly long lives. Pleasant Meadows Joe died May 18, 1795 at the age of 37, and Quaker Meadows Joe died July 11, 1801 at the age of 45. Quaker Meadows Joe is buried in the Quaker Meadows Cemetery in Morganton, N.C., and Pleasant Gardens Joe is buried in the Round Head Cemetery, Pleasant Gardens, McDowell County, N.C.

Quaker Meadows Joe was buried in an unmarked grave beside his brother, Charles McDowell, at the base of a white oak tree with the letter “J” carved in its trunk. The white oak tree existed in 1890 but has long since been removed so Joseph is probably located in what appears to be a vacant unmarked space beside his brother Charles on the opposite side of Charles’ wife Grace Greenlee McDowell, who is known to be buried next to her husband.

Quaker Meadows Joe’s brother, Charles McDowell (1743–1815), was a Brigadier General of the Morgan District Brigade of the North Carolina Militia during the American Revolution, state senator, and County Justice of Peace in Burke County, North Carolina.

Quaker Meadows Joe’s father was also named Joseph McDowell. Joseph McDowell Sr. was born in Tyrone County, North Ireland in 1715. Joe Sr. married his wife, Margaret O’Neil, around 1739 and they first settled in Pennsylvania, but soon moved to the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, Virginia. It was there which is now Frederick County, Virginia that their sons were born – Hugh in 1742, Charles in 1743, John in 1751 and Joseph Jr. in 1756.

Joe Sr. was a lieutenant of colonial troops and later earned his title as Captain in the French and Indian War. Early records indicate that he served with Virginia troops under George Washington in British General Edward Braddock’s disastrous campaign.

Joe Sr. settled in an area called Quaker Meadows in 1761 now Burke County, North Carolina.

Joseph McDowell Sr. died in Nov. of 1771 in Burke County, North Carolina, at the age of 55 or 56. He is buried in the Quaker Meadows Cemetery in Morganton, Burke County, N.C.

Joe Sr.’s brother, “Hunting” John McDowell, born in 1724, received a land grant in 1748 for property known today as “Pleasant Gardens” North Carolina, including acreage originally located from Swan’s Pond (Catawba County) up the Catawba River west to present day Marion and into the region known as Buck Creek. During a hunting expedition with his friend, Henry Weidner, the two came upon a lush green valley with thousands upon thousands of acres of virgin forest. During that time, it was customary when settling a dispute to engage in a “friendly” wrestling match. “Hunting” John McDowell came out the winner.

As you can probably guess, “Hunting” John McDowell is the father of Pleasant Gardens Joe McDowell, and McDowell County, N.C. was named for Pleasant Gardens Joe. “Hunting” John McDowell died March, 7, 1799, nearly four years after his son, Pleasant Gardens Joe McDowell, died in 1795. Pleasant Gardens Joe and his wife, Mary Moffett (1769-1814), had a son who was born a few months after Pleasant Joe had died at age 37. He was named, you guessed it, Joseph McDowell when he was born Jan. 10, 1796. Sadly, this Joseph McDowell died at the age of 4 years, 7 months and 12 days on Aug. 22, 1800.

Mary Moffitt McDowell was a cousin of her husband, Pleasant Gardens Joe, and after his death, she married Col. John Hazard Carson (1752-1841) in 1797. He was a neighbor, and the widower of Col. Hunting John McDowell’s sister, Rachel Matilda McDowell Carson.

John and Rachel Carson’s first child was named Joseph McDowell Carson (1779-1860). After Rachel’s death in 1795, John and Mary Carson had a child, Samuel Price Carson, who was born in 1798 and ended up also being a U.S. Congressman. Sam Carson was elected to represent North Carolina in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1825 to 1833. He also served as a Member of the North Carolina State Senate in 1822, was a delegate to the North Carolina State Constitutional Convention in 1835, was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836, was a delegate to the Texas Republic Constitutional Convention in 1836, and was Texas Republic Secretary of State in 1836. Congressman Carson died Nov. 2, 1838 at the age of 40.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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