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BIOGRAPHY: John McDowell born August 10, 1758

This biography is included in the Book First Families of Lawrence County, Alabama Volume I




Lawrence County, Alabama


John McDowell first settled in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky and then to Lawrence County, Alabama. He died near Oakville Jan 1, 1841, eighty-odd years of age. and was a pensioner at his death.

He was a hatter by trade and for the first ten years of the settlement of Lawrence County, he made most of the hats worn in the county and Morgan County as well. “John Knox states that John McDowell, a Scotch-Irish hatter, a fighting Gael, came from North Ireland in 1774 and apparently had hit shore with his fists already doubled, eager for a chance to scrap with the British. He had joined up as a private in the Maryland Continental Line, and had fought through the war’s end, and had then come to Alabama – by way of Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia.”

John McDowell was born in Ireland on Aug. 10, 1758. He married Sarah Thomas (b. June 15, 1772), daughter of Philemon Thomas in Marlboro District, S. C.) on May 27, 1790.

In his pension paper, the veteran states that he enlisted in 1775, and served three months as Private in Capt. William Woodal’s Co., Col. Guest’s Maryland Regiment. He then enlisted and served as Private in Capt. James Fair’s North Carolina Company. He was in the Battle of Germantown, the Battle on Drowning Creek, Beatie’s Bridge, a branch of Peedee River in NC, where he was taken prisoner and carried to Wilmington, NC, and about two months later, he was taken to Charleston, SC. About six months later, he was “discharged on parole.”

“In his pension papers, it states that John McDowell had resided in Lawrence Co., AL, six years prior to his death in 1841, and had previously lived in Madison and Morgan counties, AL – and, before that, in the counties of Logan and Warren, KY. Sarah (Thomas) McDowell is listed as a charter member in Hopewell Baptist Church, Morgan County, AL, in 1824.”

John and Sarah (Thomas) McDowell had twelve children; all left Lawrence County except his daughter Mary, wife of Wiley Gallaway and Clarissa, wife of Hon. Charles Gibson Mary (McDowell) Gallaway died in 1855 at Moulton and Clarissa (McDowell) Gibson died some time during the war between the States.

Children of John and Sarah(Thomas) McDowell were:

  1. Elizabeth McDowell, b. 7 Jan 1791
  2. Wm. Thomas McDowell, b. 26 Apr 1792 – d. 11 Apr 1814
  3. Nancy McDowell, b. 13 Jan 1794
  4. Tristram McDowell, b. 1 Feb 1796; m. Elizabeth __
  5. Mary McDowell, b. 12 Mar 1798; m. 1817 in Bowling Green, KY., to Wiley Gallaway, b. 9 Sep 1792 in Oglethorpe, GA. He died in Lone Oak (or Waxahatchie), TX, in 1864. Mary died 11 May 1855, Lawrence Co., AL. Their son, Matthew, won much recognition as a journalist. He owned the “Memphis Avalanche” and was imprisoned during Reconstruction Days because of his editorials denouncing the rule of carpetbaggers, etc.
  6. Alexander Thomas McDowell, b. 12 Feb 1800.
  7. Clarissa McDowell, b. 23 Jun 1802; m. Judge Charles Gibson. Clarissa died 5 Jun 1864, Lawrence Co., AL.
  8. Miles McKinnis McDowell, b. 26 Jun 1804 in GA, m. (1) Ann Aycock in 1825, (2) Eleanor Inland or Inman in 1835; d. about 1836 in Lawrence Co., AL.
  9. Harriet McDowell, b. 25 Nov 1806, probably in Logan or Warren Co., KY; m. Willis A. Reeves, 15 Nov 1826, in Morgan Co., AL.
  10. John Washington McDowell, b. 12 Feb 1808.
  11. Charlotte McDowell, b. 1 May 1810; d. 29 Mar 1831.
  12. James Pressley McDowell, b. 12 May 1812.



  1. Early Settlers of Alabama” written 1899 by Col. James Edmonds Saunders and published in New Orleans
  3. John Knox, “Mr. Jack is Still a Mountain Man.” The Decatur Daily Newspaper, Decatur, AL, Wed., Jul 22, 1964, pg. B-6
  4. Certificate of Pension issued the 8th day of April 1835, and sent to MacKenzie, Clerk, Somerville, Morgan Co., Alabama. Arrears to the 4th of Mar 1833 $73.32; Semi Annual Allowance ending 4 Sep $18.33; total $91.65. Recorded in Book E, Vol 8, pg. 48, John McDowel (W7423)
  5. Sarah McDowell, widow of John McDowell who served in the Rev War as a Pvt., was inscribed on the Roll at the rate of $36.66 per annum, to commence on the 4th day of Mar 1848. Her certificate of pension was issued on 15 Jan 1850 (B.L. Wt. 38502-160-55). In Mar 1855, Sarah (Thomas) McDowell was drawing a pension, age 83, and living in Lawrence Co., AL. She died in Lawrence Co., AL, 13 Aug 1856.
  6. Church Minutes, Special Collections, Samford Univ., Birmingham, AL; also John Knox, “A History of Morgan Co., AL,” pg. 160
  7. Genforum 

This biography is included in the Book First Families of Lawrence County, Alabama Volume I




One comment

  1. enjoyed reading about our history. I am part cherokee and part creek and Irish. after the removal of the indians, all that was left was the blond and blue eyed indians.