June 17th, 1880
W.S. Pearson, Esq.
My dear Sir:
The confusion alluded to by you has grown out of the erroneous data furnished to Mr. Wheeler, who confounded the names of Gen. & Col. Jos. McDowell, and indeed ignored the latter entirely, in his History of N.C.
Gen. Jos. lived on John's river in Burke county, and was not in the war of the Revolution as an officer. He obtained his commission in the Militia after the war--or, his title was honorary. He was a brother of Gen. Charles. He was a remarkably fine looking man; was social in his habits; genial in his disposition; and popular among the people. He was member of Congress 1793-1795. Gen. Irving McDowell spring from him. He and Col. Jos. married sisters--Misses Moffett of Virginia & there is a strong family likeness among their descendants.
Col. Jos. McDowell was the only son of "Hunting" John. He was born at the Pleasant Gardens Feb[ruar]y 25th 1758, & there he lived & died and was always spoken of as Col. Jos. of the Pleasant Gardens in contradistinction to Gen. Jos.
He was an ardent patriot, and must have had considerable taste for military life. He was in Gen. Rutherford's campaign against the Cherokee Indians in 1776, and although only 18 years old at the time, must have been an officer for he killed an Indian in battle with his sword. This statement was made to me by Maj. Ben. Burgin of McDowell Co., who was personally well acquainted with all the members of the McDowell family of that day, and learned this fact from an eye-witness who was a near relative of his wife's.
Col. Jos. McDowell was at the head of a body of troops in the battle of the Cowpens; led a small force at Ramsour's Mill; and at King's Mountain, commanded Gen. Charles McDowell's regiment--having the rank of Major. At that time he was only 22 years of age. He was very active in getting up the force to act in conjunction with Campbell, Sevier, Shelby & others, and a skirmish which he had with Ferguson's men in the lower part of Burke County, immediately before the rendezvous on the Watauga, alarmed Ferguson and caused him to commence his retreat from Gilbert Town. He it was for whom McDowell County was named, and Maj. Ben Burgin prided himself in having been the first to suggest the name.
Col. Jos. McDowell was a man of great personal dignity. He was remarkably modest and gentle in his manner, and retiring in his disposition. He had very little taste for political life; yet, in deference to the wishes of the people, who had the greatest reverence and friendship for him, he represented them frequently in the state Senate; was their member in the State Convention which met to consider the question of adopting the Federal Constitution in Hillsboro July 1788; and represented them in Congress 1795-1797.
Intellectually he was a man of no small ability, and wielded a great influence, not only among the people in his part of the state, but in Legislative bodies, when a member. In his opinion, the Federal Constitution did not sufficiently guard the rights of the States, and the liberties of the people. He therefore actively opposed its adoption. This convention rejected it by a vote of 184 to 84.
Physically he was always delicate, and died a young man in the latter part of 1798 or in 1799--being only about 40 years old. His children were John McDowell of Rutherford County, James [Moffett McDowell] of Yancey Co., and Anne, who married Capt. Charles, son of Gen. Charles McDowell of Burke Co.
His widow married Col. John Carson, and was the mother of the Hon. Samuel P. Carson, & other children.
Very truly yours,
G. W. Michal
(Letter of Dr. G.W. Michal (1825-1892), Physician of Newton, North Carolina. From the W.S. Pearson Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill, NC)
Sunday, December 23, 2007