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Davison McDowell Plantation Journal

Manuscript volume, 1815-1842, plantation journal of South Carolina rice planter Davison McDowell (1783-1842), a native of Newry, Ireland, who came to the United States around 1810 and settled with other members of his family in Georgetown District. Davison's father, James McDowell, who had arrived in South Carolina in 1786, died on the Pee Dee in 1787. Davison's mother, Agnes Davison McDowell, arrived shortly after her husband's death; she later married Robert Kirkpatrick. Young Davison McDowell remained in Ireland with relatives to complete his studies before immigrating to America.

The enterprising Irishman put together many plantation properties between his arrival in America and his death in 1842. He acquired Asylum plantation in 1819 and owned the property until 1836. Other plantations owned or planted by McDowell included Lucknow (the Pee Dee plantation at which he died), Rice Hope, Hoogley, Strawberry Hill, Pee Dee, Springfield, Oatlands, Sandy Island, and Woodville. McDowell was a founding member in November 1839 of the Planters Club on the Pee Dee. He served on the vestry and building committee of Prince Frederick Episcopal Church, Winyah, and represented Georgetown District as a delegate to South Carolina's Union convention of 1832.

Davison McDowell first married Mary Moore, who died soon thereafter. In 1827, he married Catherine DuBose McCrea Witherspoon (1799-1887), widow of Robert Sidney Witherspoon. They were the parents of eight children, four of whom died in infancy or early childhood. McDowell died in 1842, at the age of fifty-eight, and was buried at All Saints Episcopal Church, Waccamaw, near Pawley's Island. After her husband's death, Catherine McDowell gave up the family's lowcountry plantation and removed to her own plantation near Sumter.

McDowell's plantation journal is the source of added information on the rice planter. The volume contains a record of seasonal household moves, 1815-1842, between plantations, the sea shore, and various other properties. As expected, it also contains planting and crop records, including the amount of corn and rice harvested since 1826 and 1825, respectively. Typical of plantation journals is a record of weather observations, including an interesting system of meteorological observations for the twelve days of Christmas, said to indicate the weather for the coming year.

Much information on McDowell's slave holdings is to be found in the journal, including lists of slaves and their allowances. Especially significant is an 1839 list of slave crimes and misdemeanors. Other slave-related information can be gleaned from the record of tax returns found in the journal, according to which McDowell owned one hundred three slaves in 1839, one hundred eight slaves in 1840, and one hundred ten slaves in 1841. The slaves of McDowell's niece, Agnes Fraser, were also enumerated on McDowell's tax return. Additionally, the journal evidences the task system by which McDowell worked his slave laborers.

The journal concludes with an entry penned by Catherine McDowell recording her husband's death on 29 January 1842.

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