During the French and Indian War Joseph J. McDowell, born 1715 in Ireland and son of the first Joseph of this line, served as a Lieutenant in Captain Robert Rutherford’s Company of Rangers, colloquially known as “Robins Rangers” in the Virginia militia. He is said to have been a member of the return escort for the survivors of Braddock’s Defeat in summer 1755. In 1758 Joseph was still listed as a Lieutenant in the Frederick County militia, but by October 1761 he had attained the rank of Captain.
Joseph J. and his Irish wife Margaret O'Neill had relocated to Virginia after their daughters Sarah, Nancy, and Elizabeth were born in Pennsylvania. After settling in Winchester, Orange County,* Virginia, their first son Hugh was born in 1742. Five more children followed, all born in Winchester: Charles, Hannah, Jane, John, and Joseph. Second son Charles was born 18 October 1743. His headstone would one day read “General Charles McDowell…, who died, as he had lived, a patriot.”** Youngest child Joseph, born 15 February 1756, would become “Quaker Meadows Joe,” the first of the two Josephs often the source of confusion after the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780.
As early as 1738, Joseph J.’s older brother Charles was in Orange County, Virginia, when he was ordered by the county court to assist in a road-clearing project. (At the time, it was common for courts to use road work as a form of taxation.) In 1740 Charles acquired 600 acres within Jost Hite’s grant along Opequon Creek in Orange County. Brother Joseph later bought the tract from Charles, increasing Joseph’s landholdings around Winchester to more than 830 acres.
Older brother Charles and his family continued southward along the Great Wagon Road. Their next destination was Timber Ridge, further down the Shenandoah Valley, which was already settled with McDowells and other kin.
* Frederick County would be created from Orange County in 1743.
**Inscription on Charles McDowell's grave marker at Quaker Meadows Cemetery in Burke County, North Carolina.