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Home North Carolina McDowell County City of Marion Historical Markers Carson House

Carson House

US 70, Marion, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 41' 31.398", -82° 3' 12.906"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Served 1843-1845 as the seat of McDowell County government. Home of Col. John Carson and his sons, Jonathan L., Samuel P., William, & Joseph McD. Now a historical museum."
     The Carson House is situated several hundred feet back from U.S. 70 in the community of Pleasant Gardens, four miles west of Marion in McDowell County. On the east side of the house is Buck Creek, which runs into the Catawba River less than a mile south of the house. Huge, overgrown boxwoods line the path to the full-length, two-story porch. Millstones rest on either side of the tree-lined driveway. The setting of this plantation home, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is impressive and beautiful—one suited to such a large and imposing structure.

     Size alone is one distinguishing characteristic of the Carson House. Very few houses in western North Carolina can compare with it. The oldest section is a single-pen, two-story log building over a full cellar, begun by John Carson in 1793. To the original section Carson added (probably around 1800) a second single-pen, two-story unit joined to the first by an open hall. The house was enlarged, by the addition of the porch, a new roof and attic, and rooms on the backside, sometime during the 1840s.

     Jonathan Logan Carson, who inherited the house from his father in 1841, was responsible for the major renovation, which included interior and exterior Greek Revival features, an architectural style unusual for the mountain region. A long ell of seven or eight rooms, built by J. L. Carson in 1856 to accommodate boarders, was torn down around 1900.

     John Carson immigrated to America from Ireland around 1773 at the age of twenty-one. He was a member of the Fayetteville convention that approved the federal Constitution in 1789, and a member of the state legislature in 1805 and 1806. Carson was married twice and had a total of twelve children. Three of his sons served in the state legislature. The most notable of these, Samuel Price Carson, served three terms in Congress and, after he left the state, was the first Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas. In 1827, Samuel P. Carson fatally injured political opponent Robert Brank Vance in a duel.

     In 1843, McDowell County was organized in the house, which served as the seat of county government until the courthouse was constructed. During that period, the house also served as a social center and stagecoach inn. After Jonathan Logan Carson's widow sold the house in 1884, it was owned by John Seawell Brown and his heirs for twenty-three years. Brown himself was also a member of the state legislature. In the twentieth century the house passed through ten owners before it was bought by a group of local citizens interested in restoring it in 1963. The house was opened to the public as a museum in October 1964.

Michael Hill, “Carson House of Marion, North Carolina” (unpublished research report, North Carolina Division of Office of Archives and History, 1982)
Mildred B. Fossett, History of McDowell County (1976)
McDowell County Heritge (1992)
Carson House Historical Marker Location Map, Marion, North Carolina