Travel

Southeast Excursions: See foothills’ past at Quaker Meadows

The McDowell House, built in 1812, is a handsome, two-story plantation house located in Morganton.
The McDowell House, built in 1812, is a handsome, two-story plantation house located in Morganton.

Quaker Meadows in Morganton is really two sites in one. The McDowell House, built in 1812, is a fine, two-story plantation home reflective of North Carolina’s pre-Civil War period. The general vicinity in which the house is located, known as Quaker Meadows, was witness to an important part in the story of the Battle of Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War.

Distance

From Charlotte, Morganton is 68 miles. Plan on a 90-minute drive.

To see and do

The area known as Quaker Meadows is a broad flood plain along the Catawba River. In early days, it was a land where the Cherokee and Catawba fought. Later, it was a place where Indians traded with a Quaker trapper who had camped there, thus giving the area its present name. Quaker Meadows is found in Moravian writings as early as 1752. Scotch-Irish immigrant Joseph McDowell claimed the land around 1750 and settled it in 1765.

During the Revolutionary War, Quaker Meadows was the gathering point for the “Over-the-Mountain” men. Nearly a thousand backcountry patriots from western Virginia and North Carolina and what is now eastern Tennessee banded together to face the imminent threat of British Maj. Patrick Ferguson and his army of Loyalists. In September 1780, Joseph McDowell’s sons, Charles and Joseph, met with other patriot leaders and mapped out a plan of attack.

The meeting took place under the shade of a massive oak tree that stood on the McDowell property, a regional landmark that became known as the Council Oak. What followed the meeting is historic: These backwoodsmen played a key role in the decisive American victory at Kings Mountain in 1780.

On the property today is the two-story brick structure built in 1812 by Charles McDowell, Jr., Joseph’s grandson, in anticipation of his marriage the following year. By 1850, Charles Jr. had established a successful plantation of more than 1,500 acres worked by 52 slaves.

The house, approximately 36 by 24 feet, is built in the Quaker style, with two doors on both the front and back. The first floor features two spacious rooms on the right – one likely served as an office – and, on the left, an elegant parlor accented by detailed wainscoting, raised paneled doors, and a handsomely carved mantel surrounding the central fireplace. A central stairway leads to three second-floor rooms, including a large bedroom covering the left side of the house. Most rooms are wallpapered with vibrant reproductions of period designs.

While the house displays only a modest sampling of furniture, all are representative period pieces and most have come from nearby Burke County estates. A replica of the original kitchen has been built to the right of the house, and a well-tended garden stands at the back. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has become a part of the National Overmountain Victory Trail.

Details

The house is open for guided tours 2-5 p.m. Sundays, April-November. Admission: $3; $1 for students; 12 and younger, free. Information: www.historicburke.org (click “Our Properties”).

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