Hopedale pioneer Kitty Ann McDowell

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The week we’ll recall the life of one of Tazewell County’s “Old Settlers” whose biographies were included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” Most of the Old Settlers were men, but a few of them were women – and among those women was Kitty Ann McDowell (1814-1894), one of the pioneer settlers of the village of Hopedale in southeastern Tazewell County. Kitty McDowell came to Tazewell County as a new bride, all of 16 years of age.

The ”Atlas Map” features Kitty Ann McDowell’s biographical sketch on page 86. Her sketch, which has about as much to say about her late husband as it does about her, reads as follows:

“MRS. KITTY ANN McDOWELL is one of the early settlers and worthy citizens of Tazewell county. She was born in Breckenridge county, Kentucky, in 1814, and was the daughter of Edward and Lacy Leah Bowlings [sic – the name was actually Rawlings], who were both natives of Kentucky. Mrs. McDowell received her early culture at the common district schools of Kentucky, which consists of a good common education. On the 12th day of September, 1830, she was joined in marriage to Rev. James McDowell, who was born in the state of North Carolina, on the 5th day of June, 1797, and at the age of two years was moved with his parents to Tennessee, where he received the first branches of his education at the common schools of that state, and completed his collegiate course at the Louisville college, where he received his degree, with full honors; after which he studied divinity, and was ordained as a Camberlain Presbyterian minister in the year 1830. Immediately after this he married Miss Kitty Ann Bowlings [sic], and moved to the state of Illinois, and entered land on sections 13 and 24, in Hopedale township, Tazewell county, where he was successfully engaged in carrying on farming, in the meantime fully sustaining his calling as a minister of the gospel, until his death, which was in 1846. Perhaps he was entitled to as much credit for the spread of the gospel and improvement of the morals, and the establishment of good society, as any citizen of Hopedale township. He was a true and upright citizen, a loving and kind husband, an affectionate and indulgent parent, and a devoted Christian, and he died as he had lived, in the full hope of a bright immortality beyond the grave, where he hoped to meet all beloved ones in the future.

“Mrs. McDowell has always resided on her good homestead that her husband had provided for her, and has her farm under a high state of cultivation, richly adorned with good buildings, erected under the directions of herself. A beautiful picture of the same is shown in this Atlas. She has been the mother of seven honorable and enterprising children, three sons and four daughters, four of whom are now living; three are married, and are worthy citizens of Tazewell county. Her son, Joseph W., is still single and makes his home with his mother, and takes great pains to provide for her and look after the comforts of his honorable parent. He is recognized as one of the good and enterprising farmers of Hopedale, and has many warm friends.”

An engraving of Kitty Ann McDowell from the 1879 “History of Tazewell County.”

Additional information about the families of Kitty and Rev. James McDowell is found in Ruth Schilpp’s “Hopedale . . . My Home Town” (1984). For example, one page 3 Schilpp mentions Rev. McDowell, his sister Jane Paisley, and their in-laws the Orendorffs among the first settlers of Hopedale. Schilpp comments, “The widow Paisley, a sister of Aaron Orendorff’s wife [Martha McDowell], came to Tazewell County with her four sons and four daughters and settled on land that bordered a timber located a mile north of Hopedale. This land is now owned by Deane Wiehmier. Rev. James McDowell, from Tennessee, came to Tazewell County and settled on the land that joined his sister, Mrs. Jane Paisley. The only sermon preached in Hopedale Township before 1830 was preached by Rev. McDowell in the home of Aaron Orendorff.”

Besides that reference, on page 85-86 Schilpp discusses the old Cumberland Presbyterian Church (or “Shiloh Church”) which Kitty Ann McDowell’s husband organized on Nov. 28, 1830, listing the 14 original members. A biographical sketch of Rev. McDowell and his wife Kitty is also found on page 98 of Schilpp’s book.

Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 504-505, includes further interesting biographical information about Rev. McDowell and his wife Kitty. This is what Chapman’s history says of Kitty McDowell:

“Mrs. Kitty Ann McDowell, widow of Rev. James McDowell (deceased) . . . Three children [sic – four children, but the fourth apparently died between 1873 and 1879] bless this marriage with the lady whose name is at the head of this sketch; they were Margaret, Lucy, Joseph W. Mrs. McDowell is a native of Kentucky. She was born in Breckinridge Co. in 1814 and was the daughter of Edward and Lucy Rawlings, who were natives of Kentucky. Mrs. McDowell was married when she was but 16 years old, and left the next day after her marriage, accompanied by her husband to this county, where he had previously visited and built a log cabin. The cabin was of the usual style of the day, and still stands on the old homestead. We give a portrait of Mrs. McDowell and would gladly give one of Mr. McDowell, but unfortunately, he never had any kind taken of himself. Mrs. McDowell was married 12 Sept. 1830. She has in her possession some very interesting relics. She has a family Bible that was handed down from one generation to another for 150 years. She also has considerable Continental money of denominations of $20.00 which is a real curiosity to the people of this generation.”

Kitty Ann McDowell died at the age of 80 at her home just northeast of Hopedale. She was buried beside her husband in Shiloh Cemetery, Hopedale. (Incidentally, her husband Rev. McDowell was one of the many Tazewell County settlers of Scottish descent alluded to in our column on the Scottish Highlanders posted here earlier this month.)

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