The land on which the house known as Pleasant Gardens was built was purchased in 1768 by “Hunting John” McDowell. Pleasant Gardens, originally in Rowan County, is now in McDowell County. The county, in fact, when formed in 1842, was named in honor of Joseph McDowell, son of Hunting John and builder of Pleasant Gardens. It was long believed that Joseph McDowell built the federal-style Pleasant Gardens in the late 1780s. However, historical research and investigation conducted on the existing house points to a probable construction date between 1812 and 1826. The conclusion is that the house was probably built by James Moffett McDowell (1791-1854), third son of Joseph McDowell. The property remained in the McDowell family until 1848. The house is now in disrepair, an ill fit amidst development and a parking lot in Marion.
Original Date Cast:
Joseph McDowell, born in 1758, enlisted at age 18 in a militia unit commanded by his cousin Charles McDowell. Also in the unit Charles’s brother Joseph. To distinguish themselves, the cousins used “of Quaker Meadows” (or simply “QM”) or “of Pleasant Gardens” (or “PG”). McDowell served in Griffith Rutherford’s 1776 campaign against the Cherokee and various Revolutionary engagements. His most significant action was at the Battle of Kings Mountain, where he commanded a company. After the war McDowell studied law and medicine and was admitted to the bar in 1791. He served in the General Assembly, was a delegate to the constitutional conventions, and served on the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina. McDowell died in 1795 and was buried at Round Hill near his father’s original log cabin on the family property.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 144—sketch of Joseph McDowell by John Inscoe
Lyman C. Draper, King’s Mountain and Its Heroes (1954)
Robert W. Ramsey, Carolina Cradle: Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier, 1747-1762 (1964)
Brochure from McDowell House restaurant (marker file, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History)
Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens