Caswell County Genealogy
 

McDowell, Major William Wallace

McDowell, Major William Wallace

Male 1823 - 1893  (70 years)

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  • Name McDowell, William Wallace  [1, 2, 3
    Title Major 
    Born 13 Feb 1823  Pleasant Gardens, McDowell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 1340 
    Died 22 Jun 1893  Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    Buried Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I1328  Caswell County
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2022 

    Father McDowell, James Moffett,   b. 22 Jun 1791, Pleasant Gardens, McDowell County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 May 1854  (Age 62 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Erwin, Margaret Caroline,   b. 2 Dec 1801,   d. 23 Jul 1831  (Age 29 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 1821  Lincoln County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Reference Number 11614 
    Family ID F770  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Smith, Sarah Lucinda,   b. 22 May 1826, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Nov 1905, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 79 years) 
    Married 21 Jul 1846  Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Reference Number 11484 
    Notes 
    • McDowell, William W., married to Miss Sarah L. Smith, daughter of James M. Smith, July 21, 1846, in Asheville (Highland Messenger, 24 July 1846).

      Source: Marriage and Death Notices from Extant Asheville, N.C. Newspapers 1840-1870, An Index, Robert M. Topkins, Compiler and Editor (1977) (North Carolina Genealogical Society: 1983 Reprint Edition) at 33.

      McDowell Marriage Notice

      (for larger image, click on photograph)
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    Children 
    +1. McDowell, William Gaston,   b. 31 May 1847,   d. 13 Nov 1931  (Age 84 years)  [natural]
     2. McDowell, James Alberto,   b. 30 May 1849,   d. 23 Apr 1909  (Age 59 years)  [natural]
    +3. McDowell, Jesse Hamilton,   b. 9 Jul 1851,   d. 8 Dec 1893  (Age 42 years)  [natural]
     4. McDowell, John Hardy,   b. 16 Mar 1853,   d. 4 Apr 1926  (Age 73 years)  [natural]
     5. McDowell, Ann Eliza,   b. 20 May 1856, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Sep 1920, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years)  [natural]
    +6. McDowell, Edward Erwin,   b. 17 Jul 1858, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Sep 1942, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 84 years)  [natural]
     7. McDowell, George Moffett,   b. 27 Jun 1860,   d. 25 Aug 1903  (Age 43 years)  [natural]
     8. McDowell, Sarah Caroline,   b. 30 May 1863,   d. 2 Jan 1864  (Age 0 years)  [natural]
     9. McDowell, Mary Cordelia,   b. 3 Feb 1866, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Nov 1947, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 81 years)  [natural]
    +10. McDowell, Arthur Geddings,   b. 17 Apr 1868,   d. 31 Jan 1942  (Age 73 years)  [natural]
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2022 
    Family ID F769  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 13 Feb 1823 - Pleasant Gardens, McDowell County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 21 Jul 1846 - Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 22 Jun 1893 - Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    William Wallace McDowell and Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell
    William Wallace McDowell (1823-1893)
    McDowell Brothers
    William Wallace McDowell (1823-1893)
    William Wallace McDowell
    Civil War Reunion 1889

    Headstones
    William Wallace McDowell Grave Marker at Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC
    William Wallace McDowell Grave Marker at Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC

  • Notes 
    • Major William Wallace McDowell (1823-1893)

      Major William Wallace McDowell (1823-1893)

      McDowell Brothers

      Civil War Reunion 1889

      William Wallace and Sarah Lucinda McDowell

      McDowell Family Cradle

      McDowell Side Board

      Major William Wallace McDowell (1823-1893)

      William Wallace McDowell

      (for larger image, click on photograph)
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      Second Photograph (left to right): Dr. Joseph Alberto McDowell, Major William Wallace McDowell, Dr. John Calhoun McDowell.

      19th Century Gentlemen -- The McDowell brothers were well-dressed gentlemen of the 19th Century. Dr. Joseph Alberto McDowell (left) and Major William Wallace McDowell (center) lived in Asheville, and their brother, Dr. John Calhoun McDowell (right) lived in Morganton. They were sons of Col. James McDowell, who fought in the Revolutionary War. The major organized the "Buncombe Riflemen" and led them into Civil War combat. He married Sarah Lucinda Smith, whose father, James McConnell Smith, built a three-story house in South Asheville about 1840. The McDowells reared nine children and lived in that house for 25 years. It still stands, the oldest brick home in Asheville.

      Third Photograph (1889 Civil War Reunion): Group portrait from the first reunion of the 60th NC infantry regiment of the Confederate Army, held at Ramoth Place, the home of General James Mitchell Ray in Woolsey 7/4/1889. On the house is written in foliage Welcome Veterans; and Come Again. T.N. Sales is seated in a chair in the center next to a man who stands holding a hat. Major William Wallis McDowell stands in front of the open door, almost directly behind T.N. Sales. Mrs. Sarah L. Smith McDowell stands next to the post on the balcony. Source: Pack Memorial Library North Carolina Collection. Major William Wallace McDowell died a few years after the runion, in 1893. Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell lived until 1905.
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      McDowell, William Wallis (13 Feb. 1823 - 22 June 1893), merchant, Confederate soldier, and banker, was born at Pleasant Gardens in present-day McDowell County, the grandson of Revolutionary War hero Major Joseph McDowell and the son of James (ca. 1791-1854) and Margaret Erwin McDowell (1801-31). He moved to Asheville in 1845 and on 21 July 1846 married Sarah Lucinda Smith, the fifth daughter of James McConnell Smith (1787-1856), wealthy Asheville merchant and hotelkeeper who is said to have been the first white person born in North Carolina west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and his wife Mary (Polly) Patton (ca. 1793-1853).

      McDowell soon entered into a mercantile partnership with his father-in-law; the firm known as Smith and McDowell, maintained a store directly across from the well-known Buck Hotel (which was owned by Smith) on Asheville's main street (now Patton Avenue). In addition, he served as an officer in the Asheville Branch of the Bank of Cape Fear. In 1858 McDowell purchased a brick house that had been built by James M. Smith for his son, John Patton Smith. The latter had died unmarried and intestate in 1857. The Smith-McDowell House, said to be Asheville's oldest surviving structure, was restored as the headquarters of the Western North Carolina Heritage Center.

      On 20 November 1860, Governor John W. Ellis named McDowell captain of the Buncombe Riflemen, organized on 20 December 1859 in response to John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry. In Febrary 1861 this county regiment of militia was reorganized as one of North Carolina's first volunteer companies, and McDowell, along with three other men, was named in the act passed by the General Assembly incorporating the company. He formally enlisted on 24 April 1861 at age thirty-eight and was appointed captain of the volunteers. Following the fall of Fort Sumter the Buncombe Riflemen became Company E of the First North Carolina Volunteers or the "Bethel Regiment." In the early summer of 1862 the First Regiment was made a part of the newly created Sixtieth Regiment, which had been organized by McDowell's brother, Dr. Joseph A. McDowell of Madison County. William Wallis McDowell was named captain, and later major, of this regiment.

      Poor health compelled him to return to Asheville before the end of the Civil War. he and his wife continued to reside in the house built by his father-in-law, and he apparently resumed a banking career. Eary in 1866 he declined the offer of a friend in Texas to become an officer of a bank there. He noted that his family was too large and that he was then unable to raise enough money to move to Texas without selling his real estate.

      McDowell was the father of nine children. Although he was long-associated with the mercantile business and with banking, the censuses of 1860 and 1870 declare him to have been a farmer, and the 1880 census lists his occupation as builder. Census data suggest that McDowell was a large slaveholder -- he owned forty slaves in 1860 -- and a man of considerable wealth. The McDowells disposed of the Smith-McDowell House in April 1881 but apparently continued to reside in Asheville. Mrs. McDowell died there about 1905.

      Source: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, Editor (1991), Volume 4 (L-O), at 145.
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      The following is from Family and Descendents of William Wallace McDowell & Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell, Frances Arthur McDowell (Compiler and Editor) at 6:

      William Wallace McDowell's father was James Mofett McDowell. He was born June 22, 1791, at Pleasant Gardens in Burke County, now McDowell County, NC on land granted in 1768 to his grandfather "Hunting" John McDowell. James was the son of Col. Joseph and Mary (Moffett) McDowell of Pleasant Gardens.

      In 1821, at the age of 29, James Moffett McDowell married Margaret Caroline Erwin (1801-1831) in Lincoln County. She was the ninth child and fourth daughter of William Willoughby and Matilda (Sharpe) Erwin of Belvidere Plantation.

      James Moffett McDowell inherited McDowell House at Pleasant Gardens. He was a planter, and he also served as postmaster from 1823 to 1830 and in the state senate in 1832. After Margaret's death in 1831, James deeded McDowell House to his brother-in-law, Adolphus Lorenzo Erwin, in 1848. Then he moved to Yancey County and remarried. James died May 29, 1854 and was buried near the Toe River below Mount Mitchell. Inscribed on his tombstone are these words, "God's Noblest Work, and Honest Man."
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      Store House To Rent

      The subscriber wishes to rent, or lease for a term of years, the large and well-situated STORE HOUSE now occupied by Smith and McDowell, on main street opposite J. H. Gudger's Hotel. Application can be made to the undersigned, or in his absence, to W. W. McDowell or J. H. Gudger.

      Jesse S. Smith
      Asheville, Aug. 28 1856

      Source: Asheville News (Asheville, North Carolina), 16 October 1856, Thursday, Page 1.
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      1. Jesse Siler Smith (1821-1870) is the eldest son of James McConnell Smith (1787-1856) and Mary Patton (1794-1853).

      2. William Wallace McDowell (1823-1893) is a brother-in-law of Jesse Siler Smith, having married Sarah Lucinda Smith (1826-1905) in 1846.

      3. Joseph Henry Gudger (1926-1859) is a brother-in-law of Jesse Siler Smith, having married Elizabeth Adaline Smith (1829-1912) in 1850. When his father-in-law, James McConnell Smith, died in 1856, Joseph Henry Gudger purchased the Buck Hotel in Asheville (also called the Smith Hotel). Gudger acquired the hotel furniture from Smith's estate for $595.29. It was renamed Gudger's Hotel.
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      Name: William Mcdowell
      Age in 1860: 37
      Birthplace: North Carolina
      Home in 1860: Not Stated, Buncombe, North Carolina
      Gender: Male
      Post Office: Asheville
      Roll: M653_889
      Page: 238
      Year: 1860
      Head of Household: Hamilton McDowell

      This may not be the correct record. See the Head of Household. However, this could have been an uncle.

      He was born in Burke County, North Carolina, which is McDowell County, North Carolina today.

      Ten children were produced by William Wallace McDowell and Sarah Lucinda Smith.

      After the Civil War concluded, William Wallace McDowell was in a mercantile business partnership with A. T. Summey, Montraville Patton, and George Spears under the firm name of Summey, Spears & Co. Later William Wallace McDowell was engaged with Montraville Patton in the contracting business. Much of the work in the Swannanoa tunnel of the Western North Carolina railroad was done by this firm, and many of the older houses in Asheville went up under their direction. Source: Family and Descendents of William Wallace McDowell & Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell, Frances Arthur McDowell (Compiler and Editor) at 7.

      It is not know what precipated his financial reverses, but the problems began in the late 1960's and resulted in the sale of most of his real estate, including his home, the Smith-McDowell House.

      However, the family must not have been in such dire financial straits because it was able to relocate to a substantial home on South Main Street in Asheville. South Main Street has been renamed Biltomore Avenue. The address was 420 South Main Street.

      In 1883, the residence address was: "Terrace mountain, s limits." This is from The Asheville City Directory and Gazetteer of Buncombe County for 1883-'84, J. P. Davison, Compiler (1883) at 32, and apparently meant that the residence was a place called "Terrace Mountain," just south of the Asheville city limits.
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      Buried Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, North Carolina: Interment #542; Section E; Lot 1.

      Asheville's first bank was established years before the war on the South and was closed in the time of that war. Its place of business adjoined the southwestern corner of the Public Square with a front on South Main Street, now Biltmore Avenue. The site was afterwards that of the T. D. Johnston Building, later known as the T. C. Smith Drug Store. This bank was called the Asheville Branch of the Cape Fear, the principal being the Bank of Cape Fear, a State Bank at Wilmington, North Caolina. Another branch of this Wilmington institution is said to have been at Franklin, North Carolina. The Asheville branch issued paper money of a kind known as "State Bank Money." Its cashier was Dr. J. F. E. Hardy, and W. W. McDowell and A. T. Summey were other officers.

      Source: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 724.
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      Slaves at the Smith-McDowell House

      How were slaves at the Smith-McDowell House treated? We don’t really know. The only evidence we have comes from census records, wills, and oral family traditions. At the height of his power, James Smith owned between 40 and 70 slaves. In the census of 1850 he claimed 44 slaves - 30 male, 14 female - ranging in age from one to 66. Three were listed as "Mulatto," the rest as "Black." While many would have worked the fields during planting and harvest, primarily they worked in Smith's store, hotel, and tannery; manned his bridge; or worked in his houses. The female slaves were cooks, weavers, child carers, and house servants. Many were skilled craftsmen, whom Smith frequently "rented out" to his neighbors.

      James Smith died in 1856. In his will he mentions many slaves by name:

      "Also I give and bequeath to my said wife Polly during her natural life the following Negro slaves. Bob (the tanner) and his wife, Linda and their children, Alexander Sy (the blacksmith), Bob Hardin, Catherine and Betsy, also Moses. . . . I also give and bequeath to [eldest] son John P. Smith the following Negros, Joe (the wagoner) and his wife Tilda and her children, Alfred, Joe, Mary, Jane, and Vina."

      According to the census of 1850, son John owned 15 slaves ranging in age from one to 55. But after inheriting some of his father’s slaves and the house that is now our museum, John Smith died just one year later. He left no will, so further information on his slaves is lacking. Without any legal heir, the house went for sale on the open market. It was bought by Smith's business partner and son-in-law, William Wallace McDowell. According to the 1850 census, McDowell owned 11 slaves, about half male and half female. But by the 1860 census-just before the Civil War-he owned 40.

      Among McDowell’s slaves was a talented blacksmith named George Avery. According to family tradition, in the early spring of 1865, sensing that the Civil War would soon be lost, McDowell freed Avery and encouraged him to travel north and join the Union Army. In April of 1865 Avery enlisted in the 40th U.S. Colored Troop. After the war he returned to Asheville and became superintendent of the Asheville Colored Cemetery, which was first used as a cemetery for McDowell slaves. The McDowells also provided Avery with land and the lumber to construct a home. Avery died in 1944 at the age of 97.

      Three of McDowell's former slaves continued to work as paid servants after the war: Louisa Bradley as a housemaid, Demoriah McGimesy as a cook, and John Miller as a handyman.

      The question as to the treatment of slaves by the Smiths and McDowells remains. But there is this: one of the most horrific aspects of slavery was the forced splitting of families. It does appear that James Smith made every effort to keep his slaves' families intact - even after his death.

      Source: WNCHA News: Newsletter of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, May/June 2010, Page 5.
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      At one time William Wallace McDowell was in an Asheville business partnership with his brother-in-law Jesse Siler Smith. After that parternship was dissolved it appears that McDowell began doing business with Summey as: Summey, McDowell & Co. Asheville News (Asheville, North Carolina), 4 August 1859, Thursday, Page 4. This later business operated across from the Eagle Hotel.

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Family and Descendants of William Wallace McDowell & Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell, Frances Arthur McDowell (Compiler and Editor).

    2. Details: Gravestone in the Riverside Cemetery (Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina).

    3. Details: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, Editor (1991), Volume 4 (L-O), at 145.

    4. Details: Marriage and Death Notices from Extant Asheville, N.C. Newspapers 1840-1870, An Index, Robert M. Topkins, Compiler and Editor (1977) (North Carolina Genealogical Society: 1983 Reprint Edition) at 33.