north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The first governor to occupy the new Executive Mansion, Daniel Gould Fowle (1831-1891) died just over two years into his term of office. The fourth child of Samuel Richardson and Martha Marsh Fowle, he was born in the Beaufort County town of Washington. He attended Washington Academy until the age of fourteen and then traveled to Orange County to study at the Bingham School. After graduation from Princeton University in 1851, Fowle entered the law school of Judge Richmond M. Pearson. In 1854 he established a law practice in Raleigh.

Fowle was opposed to secession, preferring Unionism as the best means of preserving slavery, but when secession became fact he joined many other conditional Unionists in siding with the Confederacy. Volunteering initially for the “Raleigh Rifles” company, he soon was appointed to a position in the state commissary department with the rank of major in the state forces. He was subsequently appointed lieutenant colonel of the 31st Regiment N.C. Troops. Captured at Roanoke Island in February 1862, he was paroled and returned to service following his exchange. In September he was defeated for reelection as lieutenant colonel when the regiment reorganized.

In October 1862 Wake County voters elected Democrat Fowle to the state House. Governor Zebulon B. Vance appointed him state adjutant general with the rank of major general on March 14, 1863, but he resigned that post four months later. He won election to a second term in the legislature in 1864, and three months after the completion of the session in 1865, provisional governor William W. Holden appointed him judge of the superior court. The General Assembly that convened in the fall of 1865 elected Fowle to the permanent position of superior court judge. An opponent of Reconstruction, he resigned in December of 1867 rather than implement the decisions of the military commander. In 1870 he acted as defense attorney in the trials of several accused members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Fowle returned to his law practice and in 1880 lost to Thomas Jarvis in his bid for the governorship. In 1884 he also lost a race for a seat in Congress. A split in the Democratic Party over favoritism to business and industry gave him an opportunity at the governor’s seat in 1888. He was supported by the “Liberal Democrats,” so-called because they were in opposition to the party mainstream which drew its roots from the old wartime Conservative Party. Fowle was elected on a platform that promised regulation of the railroad industry. Heavy rain forced his inauguration indoors, and on January 17, 1889, Daniel G. Fowle took the oath of office in Stronach’s Warehouse a short distance from the State Capitol.

Fowle’s tenure as governor suffered a temporary setback when the 1889 General Assembly reversed promises of railroad reform by refusing to pass the railroad commission bill. Fowle found himself in the middle of a power struggle between industry interests that wanted protection from unfavorable legislation and a growing populist movement that demanded changes in the system. He could do little but try to smooth ruffled feathers. The legislature of 1891, dominated by members of the Farmer’s Alliance, did establish a railroad commission over which the governor was to preside, but Fowle did not live to exercise his influence.

In educational endeavors, Fowle was more successful. He recommended a tax levy in counties unable to sustain the public schools for the required four months and proposed a state university for women. The legislature chartered the State Normal and Industrial School for Women (present University of North Carolina at Greensboro) in February 1891.

Daniel G. Fowle achieved another distinction as governor when he moved into the as yet unfinished Executive Mansion in January 1891. Widowed, his oldest daughter, Helen, assumed the role of hostess. Fowle enjoyed the new residence three months before his death on April 8, 1891. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery a few blocks northeast of the governor’s house.

Fowle was married twice. On April 15, 1856, he wed Ellen Brent Pearson, daughter of Judge Pearson. She died in 1862 leaving him two daughters. Fowle remarried in 1867; with his new bride, the former Mary E. Haywood of Raleigh, he had four more children. She did not live long enough to move into the mansion.

William Bushong, North Carolina’s Executive Mansion: The First Hundred Years (1991)
Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas in the Nineteenth Century, II (1892)
Jerome Dowd, Sketches of Prominent Living North Carolinians (1888)
Daniel G. Fowle Papers, Private Collections, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh
Governors’ Papers: Daniel G. Fowle, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh
Julia Jones Hicks, “Fowle, Daniel Gould,” in William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 230-231 (1986)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Gov. Daniel G. Fowle

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources