Marker Text: Nearby is the cemetery that contains the grave of Capt. John McDowell, who died on 18 Dec. 1742 during a conflict between Iroquois Indians and colonial settlers. Although accounts differ on how the conflict arose, it resulted in the deaths of more than seventeen Indians and settlers including McDowell. To avert a war, Lieutenant Governor George Thomas, of Pennsylvania, mediated the conflict in 1744 with the Treaty of Lancaster. It was decided that Lieutenant Governor William Gooch, of Virginia, would pay the Iroquois a reparation of 100 pounds. Also buried at the cemetery are other members of the McDowell family.
Location: On U.S. Route 11 (North Lee Highway), 1.1 miles south of Fairfield, grouped with marker A-45 (Red House and the McDowell Family) Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 2000.
The McDowell family lead by Ephraim McDowell was originally from northern Ireland, were the first official settlers on the Borden Grant (see prior post “Red House”) which was later known as the Irish tract because of the large numbers of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians who eventually settled here.
The McDowell family had a significant impact upon their communities over the years in both Virginia and Kentucky. Dr. Ephraim McDowell, the great-grandson of Ephraim the original family patriarch, was probably the most well-known, but others families made important contributions. Dr. McDowell's cousin James McDowell became the Governor of Virginia. Dr. McDowell's father Samuel McDowell was appointed one of the first judges in Kentucky and was a major player in shaping Kentucky's constitution and gaining statehood.
Ephraim McDowell, the great-grandfather of Dr. Ephraim McDowell, fought in the English Revolution. At the age of 16 he was one of the Scotch-Irish Presbyterian defenders of Londonderry, during the troubles in 1688, and aided in resisting the besieging forces of James II in the memorable siege of 1689. Ephraim is credited with having built the first road across the Blue Ridge. Ephraim McDowell died at the age of about 100 and I am guessing is buried in the cemetery behind this marker, though I did not find any sources that stated that precisely. They simply state he was buried in Rockbridge County. His son, John did die before him and was buried in this cemetery and it seems logical he would have been buried in the same cemetery which lies in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
Captain John McDowell was killed in the first Settler-Indian confrontation on December 18, 1742 during the "Massacre of Balcony Downs" near Balcony Falls in Rockbridge County, Virginia and was later called Battle Run Creek due to this event. In early December 1742, the Delaware tribe of the Iroquois Nation, specifically the Onandaga and Oneida bands, were en route to meet the Catawba Indians when Capt. John McDowell and his company of militia (33 men, which included his father Ephraim - 70 years old at this time! - and his brother James) were sent out to escort the Delaware Indians away from the White settlements. The Indians had been given passes of clearance through Pennsylvania and were to be provided food and drink during their "safe" passage. Native American Indians would typically travel what was later called the Great Wagon Road that went through the Shenandoah Valley from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Due to a treaty the Indians would obtain passes to travel north and south on this old Indian trail pass these settlements. However, these passes were not always recognized, much less, honored by the Virginia settlers. It was the Indian custom to provide and be provided food and drink when being visited or visiting. Since none was offered to them by the Virginians, they simply "helped themselves". The Virginians, unaware of this practice, assumed the Indians to be "raiding" and were less than hospitable.
About seventeen Indians and eight of the militia company were killed, including Capt. John McDowell. He and the other dead militiamen were later brought back draped across horseback and buried near Capt. John’s home "Red House", which is most likely the cemetery behind this marker.
I did not get any photos of specific grave stone or monuments, I only have a photo of the cemetery from a distance. The cemetery is clearly on private pasture land and I never attempt to take photos in areas which are on private property. On occasion I have been visited to enter historical properties and take related photos.
The McDowell family cemetery here holds two centuries of Virginia McDowells. A monument erected in 1855 by the descendants of the McDowells "Commemorating the virtues" of numerous McDowells. The inscription on the monument reads: "To Commemorate the virtues; to perpetuate the memory: The Record…The truth honor, patriotism and public and social fidelity that impressed the generations to which they belonged and enabled them to transmit an honored name to their descendants: And also, to testify to the gratitude and reverence of their family." It is the oldest burial place in Borden’s Tract (Rockbridge County) and was abandoned for use of interment in the late 1930’s. John McDowell's grave lies fifteen paces slightly to the left from the entrance gate within the enclosed cemetery wall.
The cemetery also contains the remains of the McClungs, McClures, Wallaces, Prestons, and other kin of the McDowells. According to some local legends there are claims that the McDowell graveyard is haunted by "headless ghosts" of the men killed at Balcony Downs. I will continue to post other markers related to the McDowell family in the next couple of weeks from both Virginia and Kentucky.