Dowell Family 1683-1940
By Meredith Dowell

William Dowell was born in 1683 and came to America from England in 1695 as an indentured servant. Surry County, Virginia records indicate that William arrived aboard the ship, Harpshire, and was a servant to John Hancock. Often indentured servants apprenticed in a trade for a period of seven years to pay for their passage to the New World. William resided in Prince William County, Virginia after earning his freedom. In 1756, Thomas Dowell was awarded 267 pounds of tobacco "for keeping Old William." William probably died at this time and Thomas Dowell could have been his son. These details and a few more are sourced in Opal London Coxís book, Kinfolk.

Thomas Dowell was born around 1705 in Surry County, Virginia. By 1740, he lived in Prince William County, Va. Some researchers have his wife listed as "Elizabeth" or "Sarah." Thomas died in 1769 in Bedford County, Va. Bedford County would have been on the western frontier of the colonies at this time. The natural barrier formed by the Appalachian Mountains was not far away and for the time being slowed western migration. Hostile and friendly Indians were also in the area and frequented the famous Warriorís Path.

We descend from Thomasí oldest son, George Dowell. George was born in 1730 in Prince William County, Va. and being the oldest son, eventually inherited his fatherís land. He married Margaret in Bedford County, Va. George was the last Dowell who knew himself as a citizen of England. He died in 1772, leaving a very young and large family. A copy of his estate inventory is available at Bedford County courthouse. Such items as skillets, gun powder, etc. are listed.

Elijah Dowell was born in Bedford County, Virginia about 1767. He was a veteran of the American Revolution and fought at the Battle of Guilfordís Courthouse. Elijah married first to Jemima Board in 1784 and they had several children together with one son notably being named George Washington Dowell. Soon after Daniel Boone blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky, the Dowells and other Bedford County, Virginia families followed. Elijah and his family went to Kentucky around 1807 and settled in Hardin County. Hardin County eventually divided into Breckenridge, Meade, and Hardin counties. Some descendants of Elijah and Jemima Dowell farm in the area to this day.

After Jemimaís death, Elijah married second to Lucy Cain in 1818. No children. Elijah died in 1821, Breckenridge, Ky. Lucy Dowellís gravestone reads "Wife of Elijah Dowell" and is in Red Hill Cemetery, Hardin County, Ky. She died in 1876.

Col. James Board Dowell was born in 1791, Bedford County, Va. He was named for his maternal grandfather, James Board. James was a veteran of the War of 1812. He married Barbara Shacklett in 1813 and they farmed in Stith Valley, Meade County, Ky while raising 12 children. Court documents also indicate they owned slaves. Barbara was devout in religion while James was considered a free thinker in such matters. Barbara was one of the founding members of Hill Grove church in the 1820ís. Her Shacklett clan was especially noted for their deep faith and fighting spirit in battle. Their oldest son, Benjamin Shacklett Dowell, fought in the Mexican War of 1848 and spent 9 months as a P.O.W. in Mexico City. Ben also served for the Confederacy during the Civil War, was a saloon keeper in El Paso, Tx, and became El Pasoís first mayor. Nancy Hamiltonís Ben Dowell, First Mayor of El Paso details his life. Ben is also referenced in many other works, including as an historical character in Louis LíAmourís last Sackett novel, The Sackett Brand. Benís border saloon was a popular place. Votes were casts there during elections and Billy the Kid once stopped by for a drink before breaking a friend out of a Mexican prison. Marshall Thompson portrayed Ben in film in a 1964 episode of the Death Valley Days series.

Their daughter Susannah Dowell Shacklett wrote a short, yet remarkable account of her life in 1915. She describes being one of the first people to make butter in Texas among other things. She died at 90 years old in 1920. Their son, Nehemiah Dowell, fought for the Union during the Civil War and was killed leaving Texas on his way back to Kentucky. He had deeded his inheritance of slaves to a brother before the war. James and Barbara are buried in Stith Valley along with at least two grandchildren on the old Bern Dowell farm. I hope to mark the exact location September 17th, 2005 with my father, a few other researchers, and the farmer who owns the land. Only a sketch from 1966 records their stones to date.

Note: We found the old family cemetery. My brother, Joe, came along, too. He excavated the Barbara Dowell foot stone.

Richard Shacklett Dowell was the youngest child of James and Barbara Dowell. He was born in Meade County, Ky in 1833 and ultimately inherited the family farm. Richard married his cousin Mary Elizabeth Hayden and they had a large family. Besides farming, Richard was also the first president of the Bank of Ekron. He was short in stature and so spent some time as a jockey, too. Horse racing was popular with the Dowells as Benjamin Shacklett Dowell was also noted for his fine race horses. Mary died in 1881. Four years later, Richard married second to Mattie Walker. They had one son together who inherited much of Richardís estate after his death in 1915. Richard and his wives are buried together in Buck Grove Cemetery, Meade County, Ky. To date, no photo of Richard or his wives has been identified. The search goes on.

Elijah Samuel Dowell was born in 1858, the oldest surviving child of Richard and Mary. Elijah would have been old enough to remember the Civil War. He grew up in a household that included his devout grandmother, Barbara Dowell, and this may have influenced him a good deal in religion. Barbara died in 1874. His grandfather, James Board Dowell, likely held him on his knee before his death in 1860. Elijah was injured in a pole vaulting accident in his youth and walked with a limp the rest of his life. He married his cousin Elizabeth Sophia Hayden in 1883. After a year of marriage in Kentucky, they moved near Elizabethís family to Hale, Missouri where they farmed. Their first child, Adoniram Willet Dowell, was named for a preacher in Meade County, Ky. The Willet family in Kentucky produced several generations of preachers in those days. Elijah is remembered for his powerful speaking voice when reading from the Bible. The Elijah & Elizabeth Dowell family Bible 1885 is in my possession. It is a large, oversized book with much detail. The family notes section details marriages of their children and birthdates of their grandchildren. Elijah liked to smoke cigars. Elizabeth enjoyed gardening and flowers. They raised a large family together before retiring to Chillicothe, Mo shortly after WWI. Elizabeth died in 1940 and Elijah died of grief 18 days later. They are buried in Edgewood Cemetery in Chillicothe.