Carson House, a massive three-story structure with log walls at its core, was built by two generations of Carsons. Colonel John Carson, an Irishman born in the Province of Ulster, arrived in the upper Catawba Valley during the days when revolution and Cherokee uprisings charged the Appalachian wilderness with danger. He began constructing his log home on Buck Creek in 1793, adding to the structure and to his extensive land holdings during the remainder of his life. His plantation became one of the largest and most productive in the region.
Upon Colonel Carson’s death in 1841, his youngest son, Jonathan Logan, inherited the homeplace and oversaw extensive renovations which resulted in the structure that survives little-changed today. With an eye towards Charleston and the plantation seats of the Low Country, the younger Carson added the two-story veranda and dressed the old log walls in clapboard and stylish Greek Revival trim. Carson House is a unique Up-Country version of the fabled Southern plantation house.
The same generations that built the house played prominent roles in local politics and society. Col. Carson and three of his sons served in the state legislature. One son, Samuel Price, served four terms in the United States’ Congress and went on to become first Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas.
McDowell County was formed out of Burke and Rutherford counties in 1842 and the Carson House served as the first courthouse. The Carsons donated land for a permanent seat named “Marion” and county court moved there in 1845.
Besides being a hub of local politics and society, the house served as a popular roadside inn and tavern for nearly a century—a convenient resting place for weary travelers halfway between Morganton and Asheville. It even attracted longer-term boarders and was considered an idyllic country “resort”.
History notes that Davy Crockett was a friend and visitor at Carson House. Likely another towering figure, Andrew Jackson, strode its halls. Events which would later transpire at the famed Alamo and in the struggle for Texas independence became topics of conversation at the dinner table. Endless stories remain within these walls—frontier politics and a duel for the sake of honor, gold-mining boom times, a Civil War siege, a rich African-American heritage still vibrant in the beautiful quilts in the Carson House collection—timeless tales just waiting to be told.