The Civil War in North Carolina

Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians

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Chamber of the State's councils. He came without opposition, and was chosen President of that distinguished body. Long experience and great familiarity with the duties of a presiding officer over a deliberative body, made it eminently fit that he be chosen to fill this high position. His conduct of the business of the Senate, from the assembling of the Legislature until the promotion of Lieutenant Governor Jarvis added to his growing reputation as a legislator and parlimentarian. No man ever had more loyal constituents and no people ever had a more faithful servant. His Senatorial services were endorsed by a re-election unsought and to which no opposition was offered.

        His elevation to the second place in the State, is a natural result of unselfish services done his people, of devotion to the tenets of his political profession, and of the determination of North Carolinians to call to command, men who have been faithful in the ranks. In the flush of a strong manhood, under his honors and delicate duties, he will be found modest and simple, a worthy Lieutenant stands ready to command.

        Silas McDowell is placed among the "Living Writers of the South," as possessing energy and an original Franklin like genius, eminently worthy of consideration. He has long resided in Macon county, although a native of York District, South Carolina, when he was born, in 1795. His education was scanty; he was for three sessions a student at the Newton Academy at Asheville, working morning and evening and on Saturdays, to pay his board.

        At an early age, he was apprenticed to the trade of a tailor, in Charleston, South Carolina, and after his time had expired he worked for ten years at his craft in Morganton, and four years at Asheville, where he married the niece of Governor Swain.

        In 1830, moved to Macon county. For sixteen years he was Clerk of the Superior Court of Macon County, and for five years Clerk and Master in Equity. He was always a hard student, especially in practical mineralogy, geology, and botany, not so much from books as from the great volume of nature that this wild and unexplored county presented to his inquiring mind. When asked by a learned professor, who was struck with his original and correct views of science, recently, "at what college he had graduated?" he pointed to the broad and bold mountains around his homestead: "These wild mountains are the only college at which my name has ever been entered as a student!" Like the great poet of nature, he did not need the spectacles of books to read the great history of nature.

        Mr. McDowell has a pleasingly happy faculty of describing scenery, the lofty cloud-capped mountains, the weird craggs with their nestling valleys. These first brought him before the public, and his sketch "Above the Clouds," was extensively copied in the papers of the day (1829). This called for others, and they came. His pen pictures of the Table Rock, Casar's Head, Hawkbill Peak, Hickory Nut Gap, and other sketches, have attracted thousands to visit the wild and weird scenery in this region of enchantment.

        The most prominent work of his pen, is his "Theory of the Thermal Zone," which has attracted so much attention and has been published in the Agricultural Reports of the United States. The utility of this discovery is this: when mountains enclose a valley, the thermal belt or no frost stratum does not lie more than two hundred and fifty feet above the level of the valley. This is the true home of the grape, as it is a warm and dry atmosphere that fully develops all those luscious qualities, without any danger of frosts killing the young germs.

        An enthusiastic admirer of scenery, here will find ample subject, while the health-inspiring climate, so genial and salubrious, ever renders existence a luxury.

        Mr. McDowell died at his home in Macon county, on July 14, 1879.

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