|Born||October 29, 1735|
Province of Pennsylvania
|Died||September 25, 1817 (aged 81)|
Near Danville, Kentucky
|Battles/wars||French and Indian War, Lord Dunmore's War, American Revolutionary War|
|Relations||Father of Ephraim McDowell|
|Other work||United States federal judge|
McDowell participated in three major wars. He served under George Washington in the French and Indian War, served as an aide-de-camp to Isaac Shelby in Lord Dunmore's War, and was part of Nathanael Greene's campaign in the Revolutionary War. Following the Revolutionary War, he relocated to Kentucky and became a surveyor. Later, he was appointed one of the first district court judges in what would become the state of Kentucky. He became a leader of the movement to separate Kentucky from Virginia, presiding over nine of the state's ten constitutional conventions.
Samuel McDowell was born in the Province of Pennsylvania on October 29, 1735. He was the son of Captain John McDowell and grandson of Ephraim McDowell, a Scots-Irish patriot in the English Revolution of 1688. Captain McDowell relocated his family to Virginia in 1737. Samuel McDowell was well-educated in his youth, at one time studying under Archibald Alexander. In 1743, his father died and he inherited the entire estate, according to the tradition of primogeniture, but chose to divide the estate with his brother and sister.
McDowell married Mary McClung on January 17, 1754. They had seven sons and four daughters. Sons Joseph, Samuel, Jr. both served in the Revolutionary War. Joseph also served in the War of 1812, as did the eldest son, John. Samuel, Jr. was also the first United States Marshal in Kentucky. The most famous of McDowell's sons was Dr. Ephraim McDowell, who performed the first ovariotomy. Ephraim McDowell later married the daughter of Isaac Shelby, his father's former commanding officer.
He served as a founding trustee of Liberty Hall, formerly the Augusta Academy, when in 1776 it was renamed in a burst of revolutionary fervor and relocated to Lexington, Virginia. Other founding trustees along with McDowell were prominent men including Andrew Lewis, Thomas Lewis, Sampson Mathews, George Moffett, William Preston, and James Waddel. Finally chartered in 1782, Liberty Hall was again renamed, to Washington College and finally Washington and Lee University. It is the ninth oldest institution of higher education in the country.
At age twenty, McDowell participated in the French and Indian War. He was captain of a company, serving under George Washington at Braddock's Defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela. Later, he served in Lord Dunmore's War, participating in the Battle of Point Pleasant with future Kentucky governor Isaac Shelby. Shelby later appointed McDowell as his aide-de-camp. For his service in the war, he was awarded a large tract of land in Fayette County, Kentucky in 1775.
In 1773, McDowell represented Augusta County, Virginia in the Virginia House of Burgesses. He was a delegate to a March 20, 1775 conference in Richmond, Virginia to make preparation for the Revolutionary War. At this conference, he and Thomas Lewis were chosen to carry a letter to several delegates to the upcoming Second Continental Congress, thanking them for their actions. McDowell and Lewis both served in the Virginia Conventions in 1775 and 1776. McDowell also attended a second conference in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1776 where he declared the rights of man and instructed the Continental Congress to declare the colonies' independence.
At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, McDowell was commissioned a colonel over a regiment from Augusta County. He participated in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse while serving under General Nathanael Greene. His son John also participated in this battle. The elder McDowell was present at Charles Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.
Following the war, McDowell presided over a 1782 convention that framed a constitution for the independent territory of Kentucky. From 1782 to 1784, he served on the board of trustees for Washington and Lee University. He was appointed surveyor of Fayette County, where he relocated in 1783. Together with John Floyd and George Muter, McDowell was appointed to the district court in Harrodsburg, the first such court in Kentucky. Following his appointment, he moved to Mercer County, Kentucky. In 1786, he presided over the first county court in Kentucky District.
On the night of December 27, 1786, a group consisting of Harry Innes, Thomas Todd, John Brown, Christopher Greenup, John Belli, and Robert Craddock assembled at McDowell's residence and formed a debating society known as the Danville Political Club. McDowell continued to host meetings of the Club at his residence from time-to-time, and participated in its activities for its entire four-year existence. When the town of Danville was organized on December 4, 1787, McDowell was named one of its first trustees.
McDowell presided over nine of the ten conventions that drafted the first Kentucky Constitution. He was chosen as one of Mercer County's electors to choose the first governor and senators from the state.
McDowell died near Danville on September 25, 1817 at the home of his son Joseph.