Descendants of
Captain James McDowell & Elizabeth Loughead

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1. Capt. James McDowell; was born in Cloney, near Tobermore, Londonderry County, Ireland, the son of John McDowell, a farmer. James learned to read and write, and perhaps some business savvy in either his Uncle James McDowell's store or his tavern. James' grandfather (also named John) and his great-uncle, James McDowell, were born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and emigrated to northern Ireland in the late 1600's or early 1700's. Since James was not named for his father, and did not inherit the lease on the family farm, it is reasonable to assume he was not the oldest son (McDowells continued to farm the land well into the 20th century, and possibly to today). His uncle James apparently had some children and at least one son, also named James, so taking over his uncle's establishments was not likely.

In 1758, at the age of 16, our James emigrated to Philadelphia, presumably looking for better economic opportunities. He passage was probably pre-paid, because there is no indication that he served as an indentured servant. Six years after arriving in Pennsylvania, on November 15, 1764 in Concord Township, Chester County, he married Elizabeth Loughead (Betsy), born in 1738 to Robert Loughead and Jane Glenn of Chester County. Robert Loughead is listed among the taxpayers of Oxford township in 1754 but whether he actually lived there is uncertain. The Lougheads did have a farm and a store in Concord township in the eastern portion of Chester county (now Delaware county). it is possible that James helped run his father-in-law's store but his brothers-in-law would have been in line to inherit the farm and store. Elizabeth inherited the land in Oxford township after her father's death in 1768 and she and James moved to that area in the early 1770's where they opened the first general store in the Lincoln Station vicinity. James and Elizabeth built a home on this land and operated their store in part of the house. The house still stands, with a chimneystone clearly marked '1775 Jas McD'.

In the summer of that year, following the start of armed conflict in Massachusetts, James organized a company of Chester County Militia (the 4th Battallion of Chester County Associators). The unit met and drilled in front of James and Elizabeth's new home, under a large Buttonwood tree that stood until felled by lightning in 1923 (story below). The 4th Batallion marched north to join Washington's army defend New York in 1776. They joined the main colonial army in time to participate in the defeats in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, and Fort Lee. Many colonial units 'dissolved' during these battles and the long retreat south through the Fall of 1776 but the Chester County militia remained with Washington's army throught these bad times.

The army's first success was the Battle of Trenton on Christmas Day, 1776. The 4th Batallion's role was to keep camp fires burning in the American camp and otherwise prevent the enemy from suspecting that the bulk of Washington's army had crossed the Delaware to attack the Hessian encampment in Princeton. There are indications that James served throughout the war (which must have been a considerable strain on his young family!), but little certain evidence to suggest when and where he served after 1777. In 1785, James was appointed by the State as captain of a Light Horse Brigade in Chester County. The war was over by then and this unit did not see combat, but mainly served in ceremonial/honorary roles, such as escorting General/President Washington when he traveled through the county between Virginia and the capital(s).

James and Elizabeth had 8 children (there is but a single clue that they may have had some additional children who did not survive infancy - if they did have additional children, their names are lost). In 1795, James purchased a 425 acre farm and gristmill in New London township from Dr. Thomas Ruston. The mill had originally been built circa 1740 by Thomas' father, Job Ruston and was rebuilt in 1790. The mill was probably operating during the Revolution and supplied Washington's army (there are colonial-era drawings and grafitti on the interior wall). The mill was in continuous operation until the 1920's. About 100 acres of the farm containing the mill was known as 'Buttonwoods' and it was owned by McDowell family descendants until 1990 when it was sold to developers who have since built a few dozen homes on the upper meadow. James and Elizabeth died in New London, in 1815 and 1825, respectively, and were buried in the New London Presbyterian church cemetery; he left the mill and Buttonwoods farm to his son, John. The remaining 325 acres were sold at auction in 1815 to James' son-in-law, John Aitken, who moved his family from Philadelphia to the farm. In the 1830's, John's son, James McDowell Aitken, built a home on the property and various McDowell family members lived in it until the early 20th century. When James moved west, it was purchased, along with 44 acres, by his cousin, Andrew Henderson McDowell who left it to his unmarried niece, Emma McDowell upon his death. Emma lived there until the 1920's when she sold it and moved into the borough of Oxford. The Aitken farm passed out of the family probably in the 1870's. All three houses and mill are still standing, in good condition as of 2003.

Note: James' birth is usually recorded in genealogy books and other historical records as 1740 but research in Ireland by John Norman McDowell in the late 1930's determined his year of birth as 1742. It is possible that he is related to other McDowells who emigrated from Northern Ireland to Philadelphia in the first half of the 18th century (Ephraim McDowell and Rev. Alexander McDowell being two of the most notable) but no evidence is known that would link. Though they share the same surname, originated in the same area of Northern Ireland, and landed in the same colonial port, none of these facts were individually uncommon. If your last name is McDowell, I'm sad to report that it is unlikely you are a descendant of Captain James McDowell and Elizabeth Loughead. Only five living descendants were born with that surname, only one is male, and he has no children.

Born Died Abodes
1742 9-12-1815 IRE PA
Several battlefield letters and various artifacts of James and Elizabeth possession survive today. Most has been donated to the Chester County Historical Society but some remain in private hands. A small bit of James McDowell's personality can be seen from this article published in the Oxford Press on July 20, 1923:

Lightning Hits Tree Under Which Soldiers of 1776 Drilled
McDowell's Company, Composed of Ancesters of Present Generation - Irish Capt. 100% Patriotic

Out of a recent storm, a threat of lightning struck the towering buttonwood tree at the home of T.I. Lawrence at Lincoln University station. That tree, one of the ancient landmarks in this region, stands by Mr. Lawrence's home, the stone house built by James McDowell, Irish immigrant, who arrived in Pennsylvania about 1758.

McDowell married at Concord, Elizabeth Longhead (sic). They settled in Lower Oxford township and in 1775, he built the stone house. He kept store in part of the building. McDowell was patriotic and organized a company of soldiers who first met beneath the buttonwood, at that time a good sized tree. The company was composed of:

Captain: James McDowell; Lieutenants, Jas. Turner, David Hayes; Ensign, Abraham Smith; Sergeants, Charles Ramsey, John Wallace, Ezekial Hopkins, John Arnell; Drummer, Neal Crossin; Privates; David Watt, Andrew Lowry, Arthur Andrew, Alexander Walker, David Jackson, George Ramsey, Henry Ewing Sr., Henry Ewing Jr., Henry Hagan, John Walker, John Patton, John Simmerville, Jas. Andrew, John McCallister, Jos. McCallister, Jos. Smith Jr., Isaac McCollough, John Robinson, William Ewing, Jas. Wilson, John Buntin, Jas. Freeborn, Jas. Auld, Jas. Donaughey, Natal. Walker, Robt. Henderson, Robt. Auld, Robt Hogg, Solomon Coventry, Thomas Mease, Willm Edmiston, William Law, Robt. Smith, Willm. Carlisle (sic), Willm. Wallace, Joseph Murdach, David Edmiston, Jas. Ewing, John McCalmont, Robt. Maxfield, Joseph Smith Sr., William Luckey, Robt. Buntin, Patrick McCollough, John Rodgers, John Bealy (sic).

Captain James McDowell afterwards commanded a company in General Thomas Mifflin's brigade during the Revolutionary war. It was a portion of Captain McDowell's company that was left to brighten the camp fires along the Assanpink creek while Washington and his army silently left Trenton at night and marched to Princeton about New Years of 1777. The sword this patriot carried at his side when our forefathers were fighting for independence, was a very plain instrument, its sheath of rough leather, showing that it was made for business and not for dress or parade occasions.

When the Oxford Foresters' Rifle Company, commanded by Captain Holmes, was encamped at Elkton in 1812 to aid if necessary in repelling the British, Captain McDowell visited them. One frosty Sunday morning he got into his saddle and with his old sword of '77 - which George Crisfield, a colored slave, had ground the previous day - beneath his great coat, he rode off and galloped through New London cross roads and on to Elkton. Arriving at Elkton a crowd soon gathered around him and as he was well known there a loud hurrah went up for Captain McDowell. Some one espied the end of the old sword protruding from its hiding place and inquired of its white-haired owner what he intended doing with it.

"Men," he replied, "I've fought in the Revolution and am ready to fight again if necessary." Once again a loud cheer rang out and the old hero of Trenton was the hero of that Sunday at Elkton, 1812. Three years later the supreme foe of all mankind, death, laid low the venerable man and he now rests in the old graveyard at New London.

The inscription on the stone at his grave follows:

Memory of
James McDowell
who departed this life
Septr. 12th A. D. 1815
in the 74th year
of his Age
Jesus in thy dear faithful hand
My naked Soul I trust
And my flesh waits for thy command
To raise it from the dust.

Relatives of three of the men in James' company of Chester County 'Associators' would later marry descendants of James:

  1. Joseph Beale was John Beale's son and he married James McDowell's daughter, Margaret.
  2. Elizabeth Henderson Carlile was William Carlile's niece and Thomas Mease's great-niece (Thomas' sister was married to William's father, he was William's step-uncle). Elizabeth married John McDowell, Jr, James McDowell's grandson.

At least ten descendants of James McDowell and Elizabeth Loughead would honor him with their name:

  1. James McDowell Barr, grandson, (b. 9-14-1786, d. 12-3-1814)
  2. James McDowell McCay, grandson (b.10-25-1793, d.10-16-1880)
  3. James McDowell, grandson (b. 12-26-1796, d. 8-28-1880)
  4. James McDowell Aitken, grandson (b. 11-26-1797, d. 2-9-1798)
  5. James McDowell Aitken, grandson (b. 10-27-1805, d. 2-13-1886)
  6. James McDowell Beale, grandson (b.10-22-1811, d. 1-1-1881)
  7. James McDowell Stafford, great-great grandson (b. 6-13-1864, d. aft 1906)
  8. James McDowell Beale, great-great grandson (b.4-1-1873, d. 3-16-1844)
  9. James McDowell Beale, great-great-great grandson (b. 2-12-1907, d. 12-9-1916)
  10. James McDowell Beale, great-great-great-great grandson (living)
Barr, Bickford, Bristol, Brock, Davis, Elder, Forsyth or Forsythe, Gaskins, Israil, Janirer, Kimmell, Lamar, Lane, Lawrence, Lee, Lessard, McKerson, Mimday, Nicholson, Pierce, Sloan, Tilley, and Turley
  2. Mary McDowell (Barr); The oldest child of James and Elizabeth McDowell, Mary was born in Chester County, PA. Her future husband, Samuel Barr (b. 2-4-1750/1 near Londonderry, Ireland; d. 1817; son of Robert Barr), studied theology at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and emigrated to America prior to 1776. A Presbyterian minister, Samuel was ordained by the New Castle (Delaware) Presbytery. He was given a letter of introduction to Capt. James McDowell by a mutual friend, and he stayed with the McDowells for a while on his way to Pittsburgh to provide some 'frontier' ministry. In 1785, he was invited to minister at the New London Presbyterian Church, but Samuel felt compelled to provide his ministries where they were needed most. Immediately following his marriage to Mary McDowell on 10-27-1785 in Chester County (probably at the New London Presbyterian Church), they struck out for Pittsburgh and the Redstone Presbyterian Church, where Samuel had been invited to preach (he also tended to a couple of smaller chapels nearby). After a few years out west, Samuel, Mary, and their two children moved back east where Samuel became minister of Christiana Bridge Presbyterian Church in New Castle County, Delaware. Apparently Mary was not happy away from the 'civilized' lifestyle of Chester County and some of the parishioners had proved quite troublesome. Though later proven false, accusations were made against him by some church elders seeking to avoid paying his salary and this poisoned the relationship with some of the congregation. Samuel and Mary had 12 children, the last 10 of whom were born in Chester County, or New Castle County, Delaware.
Born Died Abodes
11-25-1765 4-25-1814 PA DE
McDowell, Gettys (or Getteys), Aman, Armstrong, Broas, Brown, Carlile, Chambers, Drewett, Dushane, Dyer, Faraone, Galbreath, Hall, Hamilton, Henszey, Hubbard, Husted, Jamar, Jerris, Jones, Jones, Lancaster, Leishear, Male, May, Mette, Miller, Miller, Morris, Morrison, Parker, Pusey, Ranck, Rosman, Rusling, Sanchez, Slack, Smith, Terry, Thompson, Thurston, Wheat, and Whitaker
  2. John McDowell, Sr.; The second child and only son of James and Elizabeth McDowell, John was born, lived, and died in Chester County, PA. On January 28, 1796, he married Sarah Gettys of Philadelphia (b. 3-21-1774; d. 10-27-1816; buried at New London Presbyterian Church Cemetery in New London, Chester County, PA) and they had 9 children, only two of whom married. John inherited the McDowell Mill and 100 acres of his father's farm upon his death in 1815. John was buried in the old section of the New London Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
Born Died Abodes
Aug, 1768 8-22-1837 PA  
McCay, Adams, Baynes, Booten, Broughton, Broughton, Burnham, Dent, Dickey, Evans, Flanders, Frazier, Gardner, Gray, Hamilton, Hays, Hogan, Holland, Husband, Jackson, Jordan, Kirk, Kohl, Krauss, Lockwood, McCallum, Mitchell, Morgan, Morgan, Morris, Pennington, Phillips, Popko, Ragan, Rhodes, Rockefellow, Sheppard, Shure, Smart, Stafford, Stimson, Turner, Westcoat, White, and Widmeyer.
  2. Ann McDowell (McCay); The third child and second daughter of James and Elizabeth McDowell, Ann (or Nancy) was born in Chester County, PA but married and lived the rest of her life in Baltimore City and Cecil County, MD. Before 1793, Ann married John McCay, Jr of Cecil County, Maryland. John was born about 1763 and died after 1805. He was possibly the son of John McCay and Frances ?.

Ann is not mentioned in her father's will (1815) but her children are. Thus, it seems probable that she died before that year and after the birth of her youngest child (1805). Some historical records occasionally list the McCays as McCoys which complicates matters. John and Nancy had 4 children. Their descendants are spread across the United States.

Born Died Abodes
Abt. 1770 1805-1815 PA MD
Campbell, Bayne, Brinsmade, Brooks, Dolton, Frezerant, Mills, Robinson, Wallis, Wheless, and Wilson
  2. Elizabeth McDowell (Campbell); The fourth child and third daughter of James and Elizabeth McDowell, Elizabeth was named for her mother, 'Bettsy Loughead McDowell. She was born in Chester County, PA but probably moved to Maryland following her marriage to Captain John Campbell (b. ?; d. ?) since he was 'of Maryland'. John and Elizabeth had 8 children.
Born Died Abodes
1771-1773 11-17-1834 PA MD
Aitken (or Aitkin), Alison, Ankrim or Ankrum, Dixon, Eves, Evans, Fon Dersmith (or Fondersmith), Sheiner, Slaymaker, and Strunk
  2. Jane McDowell (Aitken); The fifth child and fourth-eldest daughter of James and Elizabeth McDowell, Jane was born in Chester County, PA and probably named for her maternal grandmother, Jane Glenn (Loughead) who had died the year before Jane's birth. On November 13, 1796, she married John Aitken (b. ?; d. ?) with whom she had 6 children. Aitken is often spelled Aitkin in historical records. The Aitken branch was not very prolific and a few of the branches appear to have died out. Nonetheless, there are a handful of loose ends that hold open the possibility that Aitken descendents survive today.
Born Died Abodes
3-13-1774 5-13-1831 PA PA
  2. Catherine McDowell (Whitehill); Little is known about Catherine McDowell, the sixth child and fifth-eldest daughter of James and Elizabeth McDowell, Catherine (or Catharine as her name is sometimes spelled) was born in Chester County, PA. She married John Whitehill (b. ?; d. ?) but their wedding date is not known. John was 'of Cumberland County', Pennsylvania. John and Catherine had 1? child, James McDowell Whitehill (b. ?; d. ?) but no further evidence of the Whitehills has been found. The Whitehills are mentioned in Capt. James McDowell's will (1815) but not the will of Elizabeth Loughead McDowell (1825) so the Whitehills could have died, moved far from Pennsylvania, or developed a terrible rift with their families but it's all speculation.
Born Died Abodes
1775-1778 ? PA ?
  2. Martha (Polly) Ann McDowell; Very little is known about Martha Ann McDowell, the seventh child and sixth-eldest daughter of James and Elizabeth McDowell, According to her nephew, William McDowell, Martha was the seventh child and never married. No grave marker for Martha exists in the New London Presbyterian Church cemetery but a Polly Ann McDowell is buried close to Capt. James McDowell and his wife and her birth and death dates would fit the known dates for Martha, so presumably Polly was her nickname. The date of death would explain why she is not mentioned in her father's 1815 will. Her death 'in her 31st year' would fit her as the seventh child (the fifth was born in 1774 and the eighth in 1782 with the birth date of the sixth unknown).
Born Died Abodes
1779 10-16-1809 PA  
Beale, Adams, Avery, Black, Blow, Bradley, Caperoone, Case, Clay, Coghill, Conrad, Copeland, Corse, Crane, Daughtrey, Delise, Denion, Dexter, Dickinson, Diller, Dougal, Dunning, Duross, Ely, Engle, Evans, Fairlamb, Fales, Fales, Fisher, Flash, Foote Fowler, Gardner, Garrett, Gehring, Gillespie, Gordon, Graham, Griest, Haden, Hanken, Hatfield, Hebard, Hilles, Hillman, Hitchens, Hoff, Horner, Hurd, Hyde, James, Jenkins, Kates, Kerns, Klaus, Ladd, Laird, Law, Ligon, Lomasney, Lucero, Lurman, MacBeth, Mackey, Martin, Matacia, McElhaney, McGlaughlin, McGregor, Meier, Mendenhall, Mills, Mish, Miskimins, Mitchell, Moore, Neidlinger, Nethery, Page, Pankey, Parrish, Patterson, Paxton, Peachey, Perry, Pick, Premice, Schwerer, Scott, Shaw, Shofstal, Spicer, Summers, Trembley, Van Buskirk, Waddingham, Wallace, Weller, White, Wilson, Wood, Woods, Worrell, Wright, Yarnell, and Zuber
  2. Margaret McDowell (Beale); The youngest of eight children of James and Elizabeth McDowell, Margaret was born in 1782 in Chester County and lived and died in Pennsylvania. On October 25, 1810, she married Joseph Beale, the son of John Beale (a private in Capt. James McDowell's 4th batallion of Chester County militia, who died in January, 1777) and Tamar Burgoyne. Joseph was born in 1774 and died in 1841. Joseph and Margaret had 7 children and their descendants have been very prolific; as of August, 2001, the Beale clan accounts for almost half of the known descendants of James McDowell and Elizabeth Loughead!
Born Died Abodes
5-16-1782 11-12-1834 PA  

This information is presented for entertainment value only. It is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Although my ancestors, cousins, and I have tried to get information as accurate as possible, some information is based on 'recollections', illegible handwriting, faded documents and letters, and internet postings - if you have any corrections, comments, or questions, let me know. If you are a relation, please drop me a line - there is much more information on the McDowells and their extended clan than I'll ever be able to post online!

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