Rev James Lewis McDowell

Rev James Lewis McDowell

Springfield, Robertson County, Tennessee, USA
Death 11 Nov 1873 (aged 55)
Coffeeville, Yalobusha County, Mississippi, USA
Burial McLemoresville, Carroll County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 74264172 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Photos of headstone and an original portrait welcome! Contact me when you add it, and I will remove this poor photocopy version.

Have you check this McDowell ancestry?
Is your branch of the family aware that you are descended from several American Revolution soldiers and patriots? I have personally proven the service and descent for Joseph McDowell, 1st, Joseph McDowell, 2nd, John White and Jane Paisley White Gowdy.

If you have membership in, you may see the ascendancy to the above-named folks on my tree using this link:
If not, you may also view the data [without the photo images, sadly] on my tree on

This last is an old database which I have not updated.

From: "The McDowells of Robertson and Carroll Counties," by Stanley Wilton McDowell, pg. 6-7:
"Rev. James Lewis McDowell, son of Joseph (3) and Elizabeth McDowell, was born in Robertson Co, TN, Jan. 15, 1818. He received his early education there and professed religion at a camp meeting 'holden at old Mt. Carmel Church, on the waters of Red River, Robertson Co, TN' (from his diary), in 1832 and immediately joined said Cumberland Presbyterian Church."

"In 1837 with his mother, he migrated to Camden, Schuyler Co, IL. His brothers and sisters (except Martha) and their families went also, presumably at the same time. His aunts, Martha Orndorff and Jane Paisley, with their families, had preceded him to an adjacent county in 1827, and his uncle, James McDowell and wife in 1830. There he joined Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church under the jurisdiction of Rushville Presbytery. He joined the latter, April 1, 1843; was licensed to preach Sep. 29, 1843; was ordained April 5, 1845."

"He entered Cumberland Univ. at Lebanon, TN, Oct. 22, 1845, soon after its organization, specializing in mathematics, Greek and Latin, and was graduated some time after 1847. In order to reach Lebanon, he boarded a steamer at Quincy, Illinois for St. Louis, MO; changed steamers and continued up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Smithland, Kentucky; thence after changing steamers, via Cumberland River to Nashville, TN. The trip consumed 10 days. To Lebanon by stage required six hours."

"He began his diary when he entered Cumberland Univ, and it contains some very interesting entries, such as: 'Purchased some calomel and sweet oil for a tatter on my hand, 12 1/2 cents.' 'Paid for postage on letter received, 10 cents.' 'Purchased 25 or 30 goose quills, 5 cents.' Paid at the monthly concert for prayer for the conversion of the world, 10 cents.' 'Paid quarterage into treasury Lebanon Masonic Lodge, $1.00.' 'Paid board for 19 weeks at $1.50 per week, $28.50.'"

"From 1843 until his death, he preached whenever he had opportunity. He rode horseback almost constantly for many years to reach his appointments. Even while he was in college he had preaching appointments all over Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. Other appointments (some permanent for a time, others only temporary) were in Brown, Schuyler, Knox and Cass Counties, Illinois, and McLemoresville, Trenton, Shiloh, Huntingdon and Camden, Tennessee."

"He was unusually pious. His diary, while he was in college, abounds with such expressions as: 'Resolved to spend more time in secret devotions, morning and evening.' 'At candle lighting, applied myself to meditation and prayer.' 'Have made some improvement spiritually.' 'May the Great Shepherd watch over me and guide me into the way, the truth and the life."

From: "From Mill Wheel to Plowshare," by Julia Angeline Drake, pgs. 196-204:
"College Diary of Rev. McDowell: Quotations from a diary, covering the period from 1845-1848, tell their own story. A brother, Rev. JOHN W. [WHITE] MCDOWELL, who was preaching in Missouri at this time, is often mentioned, as well as a brother, Abner, of Camden, Illinois. The main diary is given in the first person, but the first page, a summary of his religious experiences, is written in the third person:

"James Lewis McDowell was born in Robertson County, TN, Jan. 15, 1818...He professed religion at a camp meeting holden at old Mount Carmel Church on the waters of the Red River, Robertson Co, TN on Monday evening, 1832. And on Wednesday following, joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Mt. Carmel. In the fall of 1837 he emigrated to Illinois, Schuyler Co...He was duly licensed to preach. Preached in Brown County...Preached two or three times a day, often at Candlelight, in Knox, Warren, Fulton and McDonough Counties until October 5, 1845."

"The Cumberland Presbyterian Church had organized a new college at Lebanon, Tennessee in 1849, and had elected Dr. F. R. Cossitt, a graduate of Middlebury College, Vermont, as the first president. Dr. Cossitt had previously taught in Princeton College, at Princeton, KY, when James Lewis's uncle, James was a divinity student there."

"The town of Lebanon, founded chiefly by the Scotch-Irish, is situated 6 miles from the Cumberland River and a few miles west of the Cumberland Mountains. On July 29, 1842, it had been announced that 50 students could obtain board in Lebanon for two dollars a week, including washing, fuel and lights."

Quotations from the James Lewis McDowell Diary continue the story:
"Oct. 7, 1845. Tuesday. I left my home in Schuyler Co, IL, for the purpose of attending Cumberland University at Lebanon, Wilson Co, TN. My aunt, N. S. [Nancy S.] McDowell was in company on her way to Kentucky. At night we arrived in Quincy. Not much opportunity for meditations."

"October 8th, we spent the greater part of the day in Quincy, but little reading. Exchanged my new fur cap for a fur hat. Paid our host for lodging, $2.00. At 5 o'clock in the evening, took passage on the steamer, Die Vernon, for St. Louis. Paid our fare, $2.50 apiece. Mailed a letter [to] Brother J. W. McD." [John White McDowell.]

"Oct. 9th. Thurs. Arrived at St. Louis about 3 o'clock. 5 pm, engaged passage on the Clermont for Smithland."

"Oct. 10th, Friday Spent the day in St. Louis. Purchased a pocket knife. 50 apples, 12 1/2."

"Oct. 11, Saturday. At 8 o'clock left St. Louis for Smithland. Purchased 'Penny Magazine.'"

"Oct. 12th, Sunday. Spent the day on the steamer, Clermont...Arrived at Smithland at 7 o'clock pm and went aboard the Senate for Nashville."

"Monday, October 13. Spent the day on Cumberland River. A little reading. Traveling very slow."

"Tues, 14th. Still on the Cumberland River. Day spent not to much profit. Paid our passage to Nashville, $10.00."

"Wed, 15th. Spent the day on a steamer Senate, bound for Nashville. Settled with aunt N. S. her part of the bill amounting to $13.02. Paid a hack driver to take us to Mr. Sigler's, $1.00."

"Thursday at 12 o'clock arrived at Nashville."

"Friday, 17th, at 3 o'clock a.m. parted with my aunt, she taking the stage for Bowling Green. Spent the day in Nashville. Went into the legislature, tarried a few hours. Saw Governor Gaines, visited Campbell's hill and saw the foundation for the State house. Visited the penitentiary. On the whole I hope the day was not unprofitably spent. At ten o'clock left Nashville in the stage for Lebanon. Paid stage fair, $1.5."

"Saturday, 18th. Arrived in Lebanon at 4 o'clock am, put at McWhirton's tavern. At 9 o'clock called on Dr. Cossitt and formed some acquaintance with himself and family. At 11 o'clock called on Rev. Mr. Anderson and by his kind invitation, made his house my home until I could secure boarding. Day happily spent. Review of the past week. I am now far from home. Have not made much literary or religious improvement. Have spent in traveling expenses and otherwise, $16.12."

"Oct. 19th, Sunday at 11 o'clock am, heard Rev. Mr. Lowry preach at C. P. church in Lebanon from 2 Tim. 2:15. Spent the evening at Mr. Anderson's in reading and conversation. Some profit."

"Monday, 20th, at 8 o'clock, called on Dr. Cossitt and settled account for 2 and 3 volumes $5.00 and Clark's account for 4 vol. Wm. Stapp account presbyterial subscription, $1.50. Spent the balance of the day in securing board and engaged with Rev. T. Anderson at one dollar fifty cents per week."

"Oct. 22nd. Wed. Entered preparatory department in the University. Reciting Delectus also in Virgil. Anniversary of my father's decease."

"Oct. 23rd. Thurs. Attending University class in Delectus. I was promoted to the first class...Attended prayer meeting in C. P. Church, Rev. Boone conducted and exhorted."

"Sat. Oct. 25. Attended my Greek and Latin. Went into town and purchased a bottle of Sarsaparilla, .50."

"Oct. 28, Tues. Called on Dr. Owen and paid into treasury of college contingent fund, .50. Also paid for copy of the laws of the University, .25."

"Wed. Nov. 5th. By the direction of President Anderson, I ceased Latin and shall devote the principal part of my time in studying the Algebra with a view of entering the Freshman class as soon as I can overtake them in Algebra. Spent for books, $7.00."

"Tues. Nov. 11, deposited a letter in the Post office to Brother Abner." [McDowell]

"Sat. Nov. 15th. At ten o'clock attended the regular public meeting of the college...Attended the Philadelphia literary society, quite interesting debate. At candle-lighting time, heard Rev. Mr. Campbell...[Attended protracted meeting all week."

"Sat. 22nd. Rode to Nashville to fill an appointment for Rev. S. W. Aston. Gave ten cents to a poor woman in the streets. Tarried with Brother Allen. Saw the Hermitage for the first time."

"Sat. Nov. 23, 1845. At 9 o'clock attended the Sab. School in Nashville. Opened it by prayer and at the close, offered a few thoughts to teachers and scholars...preached."

"Mon. 24th. Spent morn in Nashville. Purchased a cravat for $1.25. At 10 o'clock, left Nashville for Lebanon. Arrived in Lebanon at 6 o'clock."

"Monday Dec. 1st. A snow 11 inches deep fell last night."

"Mon. arose at 3 o'clock, retired at 9 and 1/4. Purchased 2 vols. of Maj. Bro. Bowin for $3.00. Paid Dr. Cossitt $1.50."

"Wed. Dec. 10. Spent morn. in writing to Bro. Bind a short communication called a 'fragment.' Also enclosed in the letter, $2.00 for a subscription to C. Pres."

"Tues, 23rd. Received a letter from Brother Abner, 10 cents postage."

"Wed. Dec. 24. Spent a morning in study. Resolved I will be second to none in Algebra class."

"Thurs. Dec. 25. Christmas morn. College was suspended until Monday. Spent a part of the day in reading and study. Spent evening in company at Mrs. Donnell's. Spent 10 cents for molasses."

"Fri. 26th spent the day in study, reading, social conversation. Spent 12 and 1/2 cents for raisins and candy."

"Sabbath. Rode with Brother H. M. Hill some 4 miles and preached at C. P. Church at Mt. Pleasant cong[regation]."

"Monday Dec. 29th. I am now in the Freshman class in full and am resolved to try to excel."

"Jan. 1, 1846. Thurs. New Year's morn. Arose at 4 o'clock. Close application until college hours. Recited in Greek at 9. Received a letter from brother J. W. McDowell, postage 10 cents."

"Mon. 5. Received a package of the Cumb. Pres. from Uniontown, PA. Paid 20 cents postage. Purchased a neck stock and umbrella."

"Tu. Jan.13th. Advanced to first class in Algebra...Resolved that I will make increased efforts to obtain a high standard in the class recitation."

"Jan. 15. Received a letter from Aunt N. S. McDowell, from Bowling Green."

"Sat. Feb. 14. Have for some time felt a great deal of interest on the subject of home missions, have been praying over it, and endeavoring to write upon it for the 'Banner and Advocate.'"

"Wed. Feb. 18. Subscribed for the 'American Messenger.'"

"Sabbath 22. Lecture at 2 o'clock by Rev. D. Lowry addressed to the students."

"Feb. 23rd. The semiannual examination in the University commences. The Freshman examined in Algebra."

"Wed. Freshmen class examined in Greek from 9-12."

"Fri. Paid tuition for next session to Dr. Owen, treasurer, amount $20.50."

"Sat. 28th. Wrote a letter to T. P. Poe [his uncle, husband of Jane Barnet McDowell] and A. J. Babb [his uncle married to Elizabeth Harris McDowell]. Settled my boarding bill with Mr. Anderson, amount for 19 weeks, $28.50. Engaged boarding with Rev. J. P. Campbell. Paid in advance the sum of $20.70. Elected a member of A. Literary society, March 14th. Wrote a letter to Uncle James McDowell of Illinois. Elected A. Society to deliver the 4th of July oration."

From: "From Mill Wheel to Plowshare," by Julia Angeline Drake, pgs. 196-204:
"It was one of the college rules that every student within the town corporation should attend prayers every morning in the College Chapel at 'sunrising.' For weeks, McDowell records rising at four or four-thirty to attend college prayers at five am. He often preached at Mt. Pleasant and returned to Lebanon to attend college lectures in the afternoon and church at night. He frequently attended the Methodist Church and found in the Methodist minister a fellow spirit. He spent much time on the fourth of July oration, which was one of the honors the college gave to an able speaker. The Diary continues:

"Mon. April 6, 1846. Loaned Bro. Campbell gold piece, value, $4.85.

"Tues, April 7. Saw in the C. Presbyterian a notice of the death of Uncle A. Orendorff of ILL. May I prepare for that solemn change...At night attended the open meeting Chapman presbytery C. P. Church Leb. sermon by Rev. D. Lowry."

"Sat. at 1 o'clock, attended the session of Pres. Also at 2 o'clock, heard the candidates, read their pieces, most of them too long, but most of them were interesting."

"April 12th, wrote a letter to cousin T. H. Orndorff in reference to the recent death of his father."

"Tues. April 21. Received a letter from J. W. McDowell and six numbers of the Tenn. Medium."

"May 2, 1846. Sat. Arose 1/2 4 o'clock. Col. prayers at 5 o'clock...In Pres. Anderson's room. He made arrangements with the young men preparing for the ministry to lecture for them on Friday evenings. Attended the meeting of the A. L. Society. Interesting debate. In evening visited at Prof. Anderson's."

"Monday Recited Latin at 10. Recited in Geometry through 4th Book to page 199. At night attended monthly concert meeting. Some interest. Paid 22 cents."

"Tu. May 19, 1846...Great excitement in college on the subject of war with Mexico and prospect of war with G. Britain. There was a public meeting of college called by the faculty to allay the excitement, but partially successful. Quite a martial spirit in college. Measures were made by most of the students to organize themselves into a military company to prepare for war. Merciful Father, save our country."

"Wed. May 20, 1846. Arose 1/2 4 o'clock. College prayers at 5 o'clock. Classes. Wrote some. Resolved to new energy."

"23rd. Arose at 4 1/2 College prayers at 5 o'clock. Studied until 9 then attended public meeting at college. At 11 o'clock heard ex-governor Jones speak upon the subject of war with Mexico. Great excitement in town. May the good Lord avert the calamities of war and save our country."

"June 1st. Monday. Must stir up again. Too little improvement."

"Wed. 3rd. At night attended the examination of the Abbe institute of young ladies."

"June 25th. This day commenced reviewing Greek preparatory to the examination."

"4th July, Sat. Arose at 4 o'clock. Attended College prayers at 5 o'clock. Spent morning in A. L. Society and making preparations for celebrating the day. Delivered a speech after Mr. Cook at the M. E. Church on independence. Heard a short address from Gov. Jones."

"Sabbath, July 5th. Rode 9 miles and preached to New Hope Cong."

"July 9th received a letter from cousin T. H. Orendorff."

"Mon. July 20. Examination commenced. Freshmen class 8-11 o'clock. Came off very well in forenoon. Examined in Geom. from 2 to 5 o'clock, tolerable only."

"Wed. Attended examination of junior class from 9-12."

"Thurs. July 23rd. Commencement exercise of C. University at C. P. Church."

"July 24th. Left Lebanon for Kentucky. Rode in company with Bros. Beeson and Halsch. Revival, Warren Co, KY."

"Mon. July 27th. rode up into Allen county and spent several days in company with Aunt N. S. McDowell at Mr. Austin's and Dr. Harlin's."

"31st. left Allen Co. for Warren Co. a protracted meeting. Closing on August 13th. It was a precious meeting. Some 15 converts. I preached frequently with unusual liberty."

"Sat. Aug. 15th. left for Robertson County in company with Bro. Reed. I arrived at old Mt. Carmel meeting house. My feelings were indescribably wrought up. Here is where I received my early education, spent my school days and received my first religious impressions; and here is bower, where in a glorious revival in 1832 at a camp meeting I first found peace in believing in the Savior. I sought in the old graveyard the last resting place of my father and a younger sister." (Martha)

"Thursday Aug. 20. Wrote a revival notice for the 'Banner' and spent several days at Bro. Moore's and in my old neighborhood...Camp meeting at the Ridge Meeting house."

"Wed. Aug. 26th. Returned to my old neighborhood. Visited some, and on the Sabbath preached at Mt. Carmel with indescribable feelings. O, that God in mercy would build up that church! In Eve, preached at Babb's house."

"Sept. 1st, Rode up into Simpson County, KY and spent several days at cousin J. Copeland's."

"Tues. 8th. Protracted meeting near Uncle J. Covington's."

"Wed. Sept. 9th. Returned to Bro. Grider's and spent several days there with Aunt N. S. McD."

"Wed. 16th. Returned to Robertson Co. At Mt. Carmel camp meeting until Wed. following."

"Tues. Sept 29th. Left Warren Co. for Lebanon, taking sick on the road. Employed Dr. Sharp."

"Was not able to attend college until Oct. 19."

"Dec. 28th, 1846. Commenced boarding with Mrs. Cartwright at the rate of 35 dollars over session of 5 months. Everything found."

"Feb. 24th. Winter sessions of college closed, and there was a week and a half recess in college which I spent very pleasantly among my old friends and acquaintances in Robertson and Logan Counties."

"June 10th, 1847. This day, sophomore class completed their course in Analytical Geom. and on the 11th commenced surveying."

"June 21st. Set in with renewed vigor in my collegiate studies. Somewhat encouraged."

"July 17th. Saturday. Initiated into the order of the Sons of Temperance. The movement is one of the GRAND WONDERS OF THE AGE and will doubtless effect much in the cause of temperance."

"July 21st. Wed. The usual examination of the classes in C. University commenced this day."

"July 28th. Wed. At night, Hon. A. P. Maury delivered an address before the two Societies of the University. After the speech the honorary degree of the Amassagassian Society was conferred upon several members elect, I having previously been chosen President."

"July 29th, 1847. Commencement exercises. There were four graduates. At night I was raised to the honorable degree of Master Mason."

"July 30th, Friday. Left Lebanon in the morning in the stage for Illinois."

"July 31st. Sat. Left Nashville about 11 o'clock am on the steamer Allegheny Mail for Smithland."

"Aug. 6th. Arrived at home on Friday morning about sunrise."

"Spent a very pleasant vacation in Illinois and left home again Nov. 2nd for Lebanon, where I arrived Nov. 14th."

Like other college students, his diary also reveals that he secured two loans to complete his education:

"Aug. 15th, 1848. Borrowed of Captain John Orndorff in cash $50.00 for which I paid my note, due 18 months hence."
"Paid in full, Feb. 26th, 1851."

"Aug. 28th, 1848. Borrowed of Eli Orndorff in cash $25.00 for which I gave my note due 18 months after date in full, Feb. 26th, 1851."

From: "The McDowells of Robertson and Carroll Counties," by Stanley Wilton McDowell, pg. 7-8:
"While in college he joined Lebanon Lodge No. 98, Free and Accepted Masons, receiving the first degree June 9, 1847; the second degree July 16, 1847 and because he had to leave for home the next day, the third degree was conferred July 29, 1847 by special dispensation of the Grand Master. While living near McLemoresville, he took an active part in the affairs of McLemoresville Lodge No. 117, F & A.M. (now defunct), of which he became Past Master, and for many years was its representative at meeting of the Grand Lodge in Nashville."

""His reputation for proficiency in mathematics caused James Lewis McDowell to be called, in 1851, to teach the subject in Bethel College at McLemoresville, then a flourishing institution with several hundred young men from different states attending. It was later moved to McKenzie, TN, and is still there [this was written in 1933.] He was dean of the college for several years, and county superintendent of public instruction."

"On Dec. 9, 1852, he was married by Rev. Reuben Barrow, to Margaret Sophronia Simons, daughter of John and Sarah Simons of McLemoresville, who was born in 1834, died March 13, 1883, and was buried at McLemoresville."

"In 1854 they moved to Virginia, Cass Co, IL, where, in addition to preaching, he was president of Virginia College (which became Lincoln University) and editor of Cass County Times. In 1859 they moved back to McLemoresville, near which they resided on a farm until 1872."

"Years later, on one occasion his two small sons set a rabbit trap on Saturday evening. When they hurried to the trap next morning, to their great joy they found the trigger sprung and a rabbit inside; but their father made them release their catch because it was the Sabbath Day."

"He did not think it right for him to own slaves, but did not condemn those who did own them. [His brother Joseph had one.] Although he owned and lived on a farm near McLemoresville at the time of the War between the States, he had no slaves and did not consider himself called upon to fight for the Confederacy. He did not want to bear arms against his neighbors, which precluded his espousing the Northern cause. He therefore remained neutral."

"It was his custom to conduct weekly prayer meeting services in church. During the hectic reconstruction period which followed the war, a leader of a band of ruffians in the community, having developed a great antipathy for him, sent him word that if he conducted another prayer meeting service there, it would be his last one. The warning was ignored and the next meeting held as usual. The next day he purchased rifles and ammunition for four; himself and his wife and their two sons, Frank and Arthur, who were mere lads. For four days they practiced shooting at targets before anything happened. On the fourth night, at midnight, the band of ruffians rode up to the front gate and called the father out. Each night since the forbidden meeting, with the father, mother or one of the boys was on watch at one of the four upstairs windows, the understanding being that the watcher would awaken the other three if anything unusual happened, and that, if necessary to protect the father's life, they would shoot to kill, each from his or her window from which a pane of glass had been removed for the purpose. On that night it was the turn of the younger son, Arthur, to be on watch, but without waiting to determine whether Arthur was awake and would carry out the agreement, the unarmed father calmly walked out to meet the callers, and by diplomacy succeeded to persuade them to abandon their sinister intentions. What a father, to rear such a boy, in whom such confidence could be placed!"

"In 1872 they moved to Coffeyville, Mississippi, where he was pastor of a church until his death on Nov. 11, 1873, after which the family moved back to the farm at McLemoresville. He was buried in McLemoresville."


Plan a visit to McLemoresville Cemetery?



  • Created by: NancyPoquette
  • Added: 1 Aug 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 74264172
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev James Lewis McDowell (15 Jan 1818–11 Nov 1873), Find A Grave Memorial no. 74264172, citing McLemoresville Cemetery, McLemoresville, Carroll County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by NancyPoquette (contributor 47511280) .