Facts and Events
Account of Mary McDowell
Source: "My McDowell Family", by Leo McDowell http://members.tripod.com/leomcdowell/id28.htm
Mary Elizabeth McDowell Greenlee, the wife of James Greenlee and the older daughter of Ephraim McDowell, is recounted as being a woman of extraordinary beauty, intellect, as well as being incredibly articulate for a woman of her time. In fact, so much so, that her contemporaries considered her so unusual, that she must be a witch in league with the devil. One story relates that during a quilting session, one of the other women present made a comment on being hungry. Mary's response was to quote an old adage “It's the riden mare that deserves twice fed.” Through ignorance on the part of the other attendees at the session, this was construed to be a reference by Mary to the “truth” of her being a witch, and to her “riding out into the night to feed on Christian souls”. Needless to say, Mary was shunned by her “Christian” neighbors from this point onward. However, on one occasion, she was asked by her neighbors and kin, the Lewis' to intervene, using her “talents” as a witch, to recover the young Alice Lewis (the daughter of John and Margaret Lewis), who was called “white dove” by the Indians. Her parents feared she had been kidnapped by the Indians and would be scalped, when in fact, she had been “stolen away” by her Indian boyfriend. Mary agreed to attempt to retrieve the girl for the price of one horse to bring her back on and which she would keep. The Indians liked Mary. Whether this was because they thought her a bit “touched” or more likely, she was intelligent enough to reason with them on their own terms. Either way, Mary was successful in negotiating Alice's safe return to her family. Mary and James Greenlee ran a Tavern near Timber Ridge until James' death in 1763. At the age of 97, the county courts of Augusta and Rockbridge called upon Mary McDowell Greenlee to give depositions regarding land ownership. They again requested her testimony three years later. Mary amazed the Justices of the Peace with her astonishing memory, giving many details of the early settlers. Her depositions left us much history that would have otherwise been lost to time. Mary moved near Natural Bridge to live near her son in 1780, she died on his farm at age 102. Mary's grave was marked in 1944 by the Association for Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Sallie (Locher) Letcher was the latest owner of the farm upon which Mary McDowell Greenlee lays to rest. Before her death, a poet, who lived nearby went to make her a visit, and proposed to write her epitaph, on condition she would give him a quart of whiskey, to which she consented, and he wrote,
"Good old Mary died of late, Straight she went to Heaven's gate,..."
The poet showed this to her and she was so delighted that she gave him a pint of the whiskey in advance. He drank it and wrote in continuation,
"But Abraham met her with a club, And knocked her back to Beelzebub".
Mary was so infuriated at this that she chased him out of the house with a broom stick.
Information on Mary McDowell
Mary Elizabeth MCDOWELL BIRTH: 17 NOV 1707, Ireland DEATH: 14 MAR 1809, Rockbridge County, Virginia Father: Ephraim MCDOWELL Mother: Margaret IRVINE
Family 1: James GREENLEE MARRIAGE: 1736, Carlisle, Pennsylvania
+Grace Grizzell GREENLEE
James GREENLEE Samuel GREENLEE Mary GREENLEE Margaret GREENLEE David GREENLEE Samuel (The Younger) GREENLEE
Page 122--Mary Greenlee deposes, 10th November, 1806, she and her husband settled in Borden's Grant in 1737. Her son John was born 4th October, 1738. She, her husband, her father (Emphraim McDowell, then very aged), and her brother, John McDowell, were on their way to Beverley Manor; camped on Linvel's Creek (the spring before her brother James had raised a crop on South River in Beverley Manor, above Turk's, near Wood Gap); there Benj. Borden came to their camp and they conducted him to his grant which he had never seen, for which Borden proposed giving 1,000 acres. They went on to the house of John Lewis, near Staunton, who was a relative of Ephraim McDowell. Relates the Milhollin story. They were the first party of white settlers in Borden's Grant. In two years there were more than 100 settlers. Borden resided with a Mrs. Hunter, whose daughter afterwards married one Guin, to whom he gave the land whereon they lived. Her brother John was killed about Christmas before her son Samuel (first of the name) was born (he was born April, 1743). Benj. Borden, Jr., came into the grant in bad plight and seemed to be not much respected by John McDowell's wife, whom Benj. afterwards married. Jno. Hart had removed to Beverley Manor some time before deponent moved to Borden's. Joseph Borden had lived with his brother Benj.; went to school, had the smallpox about time of Benj's. death. When he was about 18 or 19 he left the grant, very much disliked, and dissatisfied with the treatment of his brother's wife. Beaty was the first surveyor she knew in Borden's grant. Borden had been in Williamsburg, and there in a frolic Gov. Gooch's son-in-law, Needier, has given him his interest in the grant. Borden's executor, Hardin, offered to her brother James all the unsold land for a bottle of wine to anyone who would pay the quit rents, but James refused it because he feared it would run him into jail. This was shortly after Margaret Borden married Jno. Bowyer. John Moore settled in the grant at an early day, where Charles Campbell now lives.