The following, is an overview of the life of Samuel McDowell:
Samuel McDowell was born in 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 the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 1737. Samuel McDowell was well-educated in his youth, at one time studying under Archibald Alexander. McDowell married Mary McClung on January 17, 1754. They had seven sons and four daughters.
He served as a founding trustee of Liberty Hall later renamed, Washington and Lee University.
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. McDowell also 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 on behalf of Augusta County and instructed the Continental Congress to declare the colonies’ independence.
At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, McDowell was commissioned a Major over a regiment from Augusta County. His command acted as Rangers scouting the mountain passes for Indian activity. In 1777 McDowell led the Augusta County militia to Fort Pitt to participate in campaign planned by General Hand into the Ohio Country. The campaign was canceled due to lack of supplies. While McDowell was at Fort Pitt he was selected to announce the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga to the troops. He was promoted to Colonel of the Rockbridge County Militia 9Rockbridge County split off of Augusta County) and participated in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse while serving under General Nathanael Greene. The Rockbridge County men fought on the left flank of the American army and inflicted heavy casualities on the attacking British infantry before being driven off by Banastre Tarlton’s Mounted Legion.
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 December 27, 1786, McDowell was one of the founding members of a debating society known as the Danville Political Club. McDowell hosted meetings of the Club at his residence Pleasantvalle 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.