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McDowell County Genealogy

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McDowell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2008 estimate, the population was 50,151. Its county seat is Marion.

Archaeological excavations performed by Dr. David Moore, during the early 1980s, revealed the earliest inhabitants of McDowell County to be from the Mississippian and Woodland eras. Dr. Moore discovered evidence in an area close to the Catawba River in and around an unusual topographical site known as Round Hill. These early Native Americans lived in this section prior to Juan Pardo’s exploration of the region.

Cherokee and Catawba Indians were known inhabitants of what is now McDowell County.

In 1566, the Spanish explorer Juan Pardo came to Western North Carolina traveling through the area that is now McDowell county. His purpose was to acquire territory for Spain, but he had also hoped to find precious metals. Pardo and his men built a log blockhouse at the headwaters of the Catawba River. Apparently intimidated by the formidable range of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the home of the Cherokee Nation, Pardo left the area the following year.

In 1748, “Hunting” John McDowell received a land grant for property known today as “Pleasant Gardens” including acreage originally located from Swan’s Pond (Catawba County) up the Catawba River west to present day Marion and into the region known as Buck Creek. During a hunting expedition with his friend Henry Weidner, the two came upon a lush green valley with thousands upon thousands of acres of virgin forest. During that time, it was customary when settling a dispute to engage in a “friendly” wrestling match. McDowell came out the winner.

“Hunting” John McDowell received two land grants and after establishing residence along the Catawba River of Pleasant Gardens, raised his family. He is noted in Max Dixon’s, The Wautagans as being instrumental in Jacob Brown’s Purchase of one of the last reamining pieces of acreage along the Nolichucky River in Tennessee when he hosted a negotiations with the Cherokee on his farm in North Carolina.

His son, Joseph McDowell, is noted in history as a significant contributor to the Battle at Kings Mountain. McDowell County is named in his honor. Today, his home stands as one of the few remaining homes in North Carolina still standing and built by its namesake.

The settlement of Old Fort was later established and it had become the westernmost outpost of Colonial civilization at the time. These early pioneers established a close community protected by a series of forts which remained active until the early 1800s. Thus, Old Fort.

In 1793, Colonel John Carson built a plantation house near Buck Creek in the Pleasant Gardens community, which still stands today as the Historic Carson House. He also operated gold mines in the southern part of the county. Colonel Carson was a significant historical figure in the American Revolutionary War.

Marion, the county seat of McDowell County, was planned and built on land selected by the first McDowell County Commissioners on March 14, 1844 at the Historic Carson House. It was not until 1845, however, that the official name of Marion was sanctioned as the county seat by the state legislature. The name of Marion came from Francis Marion, the American Revolutionary War hero, known as the “Swamp Fox” and the man upon whom the movie “The Patriot” was based.

During the Carolina Gold Rush period of the early 1800s, the south county area was known for its gold production. The banks of the Muddy Creek and mines at Vein Mountain were productive areas. Many mines and thriving gold rush towns such as Brackettown no longer exist, although scattered ruins and cemeteries mark many locations of the gold rush period.There were other mines in the area also including an old mine in Woodlawn. In that community someone opened a mine on Tom’s Creek which may have been a Mica mine. There are remnants of the a sorting house and the old mine shaft itself. Who opened and ran this mine is a good question.

McDowell County is rich in American Civil War History. The movie Last of the Mohicans was filmed along the shores of the picturesque Lake James.

McDowell county was first formed in 1842 from parts of Burke County and Rutherford County. It was named for Joseph McDowell, a Revolutionary War leader and hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain, and a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1797 to 1799.

In 1861, parts of McDowell County, Burke County, Caldwell County, Watauga County, and Yancey County were combined to form Mitchell County.

Source: Wikipedia.

McDowell County, NC Historic Places

Historic Carson House

McDowell County Genealogy Resources

McDowell County NCGenweb site

McDowell County NCGenWeb Archives


McDowell County Government

McDowell County Official Website
McDowell County Courthouse
21 S. Main Street
Marion, NC 28752

McDowell County Register of Deeds


1850 Federal Census Index

1850 Federal Census Transcription – Partial transcription of McDowell County NC 1850 census.

1850 Federal Census Images

1860 Federal Census Index

1890 Federal Census Veterans Schedule

McDowell County Cemeteries

USGS Listing of Cemeteries in McDowell County, NC

Cemetery Transcriptions

McDowell County Cemetery Census

Query Forums

McDowell County, NC Query Forum

Latest North Carolina Genealogy Query posts for McDowell County from the Forum:

North Carolina Genealogy Forum: Forum: McDowell County NC Genealogy Queries – Recent Topics

Judy Ellison on “McDowell County – Ellison, James Matthew”

I am looking for any information on the Ellison family. James Matt) was born either 1841 or 1844 in McDowell County. His tombstone says 1844, death certificate – 1841. Name might have been spelt Allison. He eventually came to Indiana – Wayne County and finally to Randolph County. He is buried in Snell Cemetery in Union City, Ohio. We have no information on Matt’s parentage and any information would be greatly appreciated. All we know for sure was that he had a brother named Edward. Any help or leads would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

McDowell County, NC at Genforum

Cities and Towns of McDowell County:

* Marion (County Seat)
* Old Fort

Unincorporated Places:

* West Marion
* Little Switzerland
* Nebo
* Glenwood
* Pleasant Gardens
* North Cove

News related to McDowell County, NC

“mcdowell county” nc – Google News

Friends remember teen killed in McDowell County wreck – WLOS

Morganton News Herald
Friends remember teen killed in McDowell County wreck
Asheville, NC (WLOS) — A manhunt for a suspect considered armed and dangerous held up traffic for several hours in Transylvania County on Saturday. Pisgah National Forest was evacuated as Forest Rangers, Troopers, Deputies and Officers searched for …
Memorial service planned for Patton choir student killed in crash …Morganton News Herald

all 2 news articles »

Authorities release names of 2 killed in wreck on NC 226 – WLOS

Authorities release names of 2 killed in wreck on NC 226
Authorities said Tuesday that two people are dead, and one is airlifted for medical care in a crash that closed NC-226 in McDowell County in both directions. (Image credit: McDowell County Emergency Services). user31167-1500398776-media1.jpg.

McDowell County woman accused of stealing money from father –
McDowell County woman accused of stealing money from father
MARION, N.C. (AP) – Authorities are looking for a North Carolina woman accused of stealing her father's money and property. The McDowell County Sheriff's Office said in a news release posted on its Facebook page that 41-year-old Lena Luprenta Renfroe
North Carolina woman accused of stealing money from father – San …San Francisco Chronicle

all 1 news articles »

Motorcyclist dies after wreck in McDowell County – WLOS

Motorcyclist dies after wreck in McDowell County
MCDOWELL COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — Troopers say a motorcyclist has died after the rider wrecked and became pinned underneath a truck. The wreck happened around 12 p.m. Tuesday along Highway 80, five miles north of US 70, at the north end of Lake …

Morganton teen identified as one of two killed in wreck – Morganton News Herald

Morganton News Herald
Morganton teen identified as one of two killed in wreck
Morganton News Herald
MCDOWELL COUNTY — A Morganton teenager and a Hickory man were killed in a collision on Coxes Creek Mountain in McDowell County, authorities said Tuesday afternoon. At approximately 1:07 p.m. Tuesday, emergency units responded to N.C. 226 …

and more »

Marion woman accused of taking more than $34,000 of property … – WLOS

Marion woman accused of taking more than $34,000 of property …
Authorities are looking for a woman accused of bilking her father out of money and property.Lena Luprenta Renfroe (Willis), 41, of Marion, is wanted on two …

and more »

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