Rebecca Heacock of Sylmar, California, will feel like she’s coming home when she visits the historic Capt. Charles McDowell house in Morganton on Sunday for its Living History Day.
Her grandparents had moved from Oklahoma to California decades ago to pursue work opportunities. Heacock married, raised a son, and has a career with a law firm associated with the film industry. She and her husband sometimes do re-enactments from the World War II period.
In the past few years, Heacock developed an interest in genealogy, and her search for her ancestors led her to Morganton, a city she knew nothing about, in a state she has never visited. She discovered she is the fifth great-granddaughter of Col. Charles McDowell of Quaker Meadows Plantation and the ranking officer in the Burke militia during the American Revolution.
Heacock knew nothing about the 150-year history of Quaker Meadows Plantation or that an 1812 house and cemetery from that plantation survive. She had no idea that Charles and his younger brother, Joseph, had recruited men from Virginia, the settlements beyond Roan Mountain (now in Tennessee), Burke County, and counties east and north of Burke County, to organize and pursue British Maj. Patrick Ferguson when he threatened "fire and sword" to patriots who refused to swear allegiance to the crown. She had no idea that the 1,400 Overmountain Men gathered at Charles' McDowell Station on the night of Sept. 30, 1780, while their militia leaders convened under the Council Oak. The militia men rode their horses across Greenlee Ford on Oct. 1 and into the history books. She did not know about the patriot victory at Kings Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780, and its significance in winning American independence. She also had no idea that her fifth great-grandmother, Grace Greenlee Bowman McDowell, wife of Charles, is considered to be a heroine of the American Revolution.
Heacock’s research led her to information about her ancestors and their impact on Morganton, Burke County, McDowell County (named for Joseph) and the country. She was surprised to learn that the Historic Burke Foundation maintains "the old family place" and the family cemetery and sponsors an annual Revolutionary War Days event to celebrate and honor the Overmountain Men and their victory at Kings Mountain.
Inspired by the lives of her famous ancestors, Heacock and her husband and son will make the 2,354-mile trip from Sylmar to Morganton this weekend to participate in the celebration. She will visit the "1780" exhibit in the historic Burke County courthouse, a series of paintings by artist Richard Luce of Crestwood, Kentucky, depicting scenes of the Revolutionary War. She also will visit Quaker Meadows Presbyterian Church, for which Charles gave a parcel of land, visit the graves of several generations of her ancestors at Quaker Meadows Cemetery and tour the home of her fourth great-uncle, Capt. Charles McDowell of the 1812 house.
Heacock will join in the celebration from 1-5 p.m. Sunday at the historic home and make several first-person presentations as her fifth great-grandmother. She has researched the life of Grace McDowell, a woman noted for her energy and character, whose legacy is as compelling today as her presence was in the late 1700s as Burke County and North Carolina joined with other states to build this nation.
The public is invited to attend the events at the Charles McDowell House, located at 119 St. Mary's Church Road in Morganton. HBF also will hold its annual Crossing of the Catawba ceremony at 11 a.m. behind Judge’s Riverside BBQ. Admission is free to both events. For more information, visit www.historicburke.org.