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John McDowell
(1751 - March 24, 1822)

The following excerpts were taken from:
Phifer, Edward W. Jr. "Burke: The History of a North Carolina County." 1972.

Revolutionary War Solders of Western North Carolina: Vol II. (Burke County). Southern Historical Press, Inc. Greenville, SC. 1998.
Burke County Historical Society. Morganton, NC The Heritage of Burke County 1981. Hunter Publishing Company, Winston-Salem, NC 27103.


John McDowell was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1751. He was the son of pioneer settler Joseph McDowell of Quaker Meadows and Margaret O'Neill McDowell. John's father was born in Ireland in 1715 and met John's mother there. John's mother, Margaret was descended from ancient Irish Kings and thus was a member of one of the proudest families of the Old Celtic race. During this time period, the Catholic people of Ireland turned their nose to the recent Scotch Presbyterian immigrants. Despite the fact that Joseph McDowell was Presbyterian and among other problems, Margaret married Joseph in 1739 in Ulster, Ireland.


Following their marriage John's parents emigrated to Pennsylvania, and then to Winchester, Virginia, where they had six children, including John. His siblings included (1) Hugh McDowell- born circa 1742; married Jane ?; died March 30,1772, (2) Charles McDowell - born October 28, 1743; married Mrs. Grace Bowman; died March 31, 1815, (3) Elizabeth McDowell - married a McKennie, (4) Hannah McDowell - married a Chrisman, (5) John McDowell, (6) Joseph McDowell, Jr. - born March 8, 1756; married Margaret Moffet; died August 11, 1801. In 1765, when John was fourteen years of age, his father followed his relative "Hunting John" McDowell to North Carolina, and received a land grant in the Quaker Meadows area.


Sheriff John McDowell was not only Sheriff, but also served in Burke County in a variety of positions, and in the Revolutionary War as a Major. In 1777, the General Assembly of NC ratified legislation which created a commission to "lay off and mark a road by the nearest and best way from the House of Charles Robertson where the Court hath been held in the City of Washington, to the House of Edward Smith where the Court hath been held in the County of Burke…" With this act, and with the help of the five man committee: Charles McDowell, John McDowell, Samuel Bright, Ezekial Smith and Jacob Womak, the two adjoining counties became connected via a road.


During the Revolutionary War, Sheriff McDowell served as a field grade officer prior to 1800, along side other Burke natives, Henry McKinney, John Carson and John McGimsey. He began his military career as a junior officer in his brother's, Charles McDowell's, Burke Militia Regiment. Here, he was involved against both local hostile Indians and Loyalists. In September 1780, he served in the King Mountain campaign, and was a part of the victory on October 7, 1780. Towards the final stages of the war he joined the Wilmington Expedition of 1781 under Brig. General Griffith Rutherford, and in 1782 he was very active in campaigns against the Cherokees. Upon "proving himself worthy," he obtained field officer status with the rank of Major, which helped set him apart from his well known relative, "Hunting John" McDowell.


His brothers, Charles and Joseph McDowell, Jr. also made a name for themselves in the war. (The oldest sibling, Hugh, died before the Revolution began and was buried in Quaker Meadows Cemetery). It is interesting to note that John's father was a Lieutenant of Colonial troops and was later promoted to Captain in the French and Indian War. Early records indicate that he served under George Washington and participated in General Braddock's defeat. His brother, Joseph McDowell, became a Colonel, and his brother Charles became a General.


The following is an interesting story told about John's mother, Margaret O'Neil McDowell: Prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, Colonel Ferguson's army visited Quaker Meadows and ransacked and stole items from the McDowell household. They informed Margaret that when they found Charles they would kill him; when they found Joseph, they would kill him on bended knees after making him beg for his life. Margaret responded that they be 'careful lest all the begging should be done by themselves.' Showing her defiance to the Tories, she became one of only a few women recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a patriot.


Following his illustrious military career, Major John served as Burke County's Justice of the Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1792. In 1794, he served as a representative in the NC General Assembly, and in 1810, he served as the Coroner for Burke County. On March 24, 1822 Sheriff John McDowell died, ending the life of a very well-known and respected man.