Friday, June 19, 2009

Silas McDowell, on Morganton (part 5)

Morganton and its Surroundings Sixty Years Ago, excerpt, by Silas McDowell, c. 1877, manuscript (transcribed by Ann Walker, ©2009)

    ... The ten years of monotonous life that I spent at my trade makeing [sic] or shapeing [sic] garments at Morganton, the recital could not contest any one, and I soon found it to be true as Mrs McEntire had stated that it would be the case; a strong prejudice against me as a mechanic: but to the honor and praise, and I say it with grateful feelings toward the ladies of Burke of that period, that, without exception they treated me with a respect and kindness fully up to my moral and mental worth. I cannot make the same remark in relation to some of their parents and brothers. It is my pride to say now, in old age, that throughout my long life, Woman has ever stood my friend, while with Man, my friends have been few, and far between and all of these few have been gentlemen of honor. Among these men I left about a score in Burke, not one of whom now survive save B.S. Gaither: but he was only seventeen when I left there.
    But these my trials all ended before the second year in Morganton closed. Causes for this change were many, but the strong one was, my industry and sober habits contrasted but too damagingly with most of the sons of respectable families in Burke. Among my friends left in Burke who had the strongest hold on my affections were these—Sidney S. Erwin, Alfonso Erwin, James Avery and B.S. Gaither, a youth then at school; while among older men were Col W.W. Erwin of Belvidere, Charles McDowell of Quaker Meadows, and Isaac T. Avery of Swan Ponds; and I had the pleasing consciousness of my high regard being appreciated, an evidence of which, in one instance was, that when Col Avery took the management of a branch of the Fayetteville Bank, he notified the citizens of my county that they could have a loan of twenty-five thousand dollars on notes recommended by Silas McDowell. But it is time that I return to the subject referred to at the heart of this article, to wit—"Morganton and its surroundings sixty years ago." I have already shown that at that period the town was utterly destitute of anything attractive as related to public buildings, church or educational buildings. This state of things began to change in the year 1817, and the change was rapid, during the next four years: instance— within that time the Presbyterian Church was built; also the Male and Female academies; with the Revd Chancey Edy and lady conducting the schools and his reverence also filled the pulpit, while Morganton had a church elder, to wit Thomas Walton. And it was within that period that Walton built a brick dwelling opposite John Caldwell northwest of the court house, and that Sam Greenlee built his brick house on the top of a hill S.W. of Morganton, and put away his black wife, married Miss Sackit[?] and started a decent family.
    This was about all the improvements made in Morganton except a new Jail, built of bad brick, and that ___ _________ referred, up to the time I left in 1826. But in the country this was a period of great improvement— instance: Col Avery built an addition to the old brick residence at Swan Ponds, while Charles McDowell built a brick residence at Quaker Meadows; and also Col James Erwin built a brick mansion on his farm above the junction of Upper creek and Catawba, and John Greenlee left Vine Hill near Morganton and built a brick mansion on the Turkey cove estate. I will here remark that it was through the influence of gentlemen of the legal profession whose friendship I had secured while at Morganton that I received the office of Clerk of the Superior Court of Macon County, the office at that time being conferred by the judges.— Reader, perhaps you think me egotistic? Did you ever see a self-made man who was not? I never did.— A proud consciousness of having, with none but God's help, done the thing himself will, occasionally crop out, try to hide it as he will.