THE LEADING CITIZENS OF MADISON COUNTY

CONTENTS
Preface
Names Index
Portrait Index


 (his)  (wife)  JOHN DOWELL, a canny Scotchman from the Land 0' Cakes, who has made his own way in the world, by industry, foresight, and thrift gaining a competence, and a resident of Hamilton these forty years and more, was born in Dumbarton, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, October 15, 1825. His ancestors so far back as known were all Scotch. Bereft of his mother when three days old, he had the misfortune a few months after to lose his remaining parent, Christopher Dowell, a sailor who suffered shipwreck on the American coast, and returned home to die of injuries there received. A kind-hearted, motherly woman named Kern took the little orphan in charge, faithfully caring for him until he was ten years old, when he was sent to live with an uncle in Givin, Ayrshire County. The boy was so ill pleased with his new home and the treatment accorded him by his uncle that he ran away, with that irate relative in full pursuit. Sixteen long miles passed over, with weary feet he reached the dock of the nearest seaport town just in time to cross the gang-plank to the Greenock bound steamer before it was pulled in and the paddle-wheels began to turn. From Greenock he went to Dumbarton, and sought the hospitable roof of his foster–mother, where he was made welcome and permitted to stay, notwithstanding a warning letter that followed from his uncle to Mrs. Kern, telling her she would receive no further pay for his board.
   Self-help was determined on by the resolute lad. He found employment In the calico print works three miles from Dumbarton, and, lodging with Mrs. Kern, walked to and from the mills daily for two years. Then a year and a half in a chandler's shop, making candles, a few months in the rope-works near Dumbarton Castle of historic fame, and six months of herding cattle on the banks of the Clyde. Next a period of farming, eventually to be the chosen life-work. At the Bryson farm, better known as the Dumbuck farm, to which he gave two and a half years, he was gradually promoted from working the odd horse to managing the third pair. With the aim of making himself master of farm work in its various branches, he often changed places. One year on the Scott farm in Lanark, the Green Hills of Kilbride, one year on the farm of Andrew Struthers, known as the Kirmonick Moor, one year at the Burnside farm of John Love, four years with James Jack at Campsie,--thus his time was filled up until 1849, when he decided to seek his fortune in a new land,--the free soil of America.
   Leaving Glasgow in June of that year, in the sailing-vessel "Hinderfore," Captain Stevenson, he landed in New York August 10, after a voyage of seven weeks and four days, and went directly, via the Hudson River and Erie Canal, to Utica, and thence came by stage to Hamilton. He first worked by the month, and later did day and job work in the neighborhood. Diligent and saving, he laid up a large part of his earnings every year. His ambition was to be not only a working farmer, but a landed proprietor; and with this end in view, that he might more speedily acquire the needful purchase money, he late in 1851 turned his steps to the newly opened gold diggings of California, going from New York to San Francisco by the Isthmus. The Pacific Ocean belied its name, and gave them a stormy passage of three months in the sailing-vessel from Panama to Acapulco, Mexico. At this point he took the steamer “Winfield Scott," on her first trip, to San Francisco. From that place he proceeded to Sacramento, thence to Mud Springs, and from there to Hangtown, now Placerville. For one day's work here he received five dollars. Going that night to Coon Hollow, he bought some tools, and mined one day on his own account, then, returning to Mud Springs, entered the employ of Mr. Baird for eighty dollars and board per month. After three weeks their water failed, and the work ceased.
   His next job, of three weeks' duration, was to cut hay and to split rails at five dollars per day and board. He now bought a claim, and did sufficient work to hold it until the water should come. Most of his mining was on Webber Creek, where he continued to work until the last of March, 1854, when he started for New York, via the Nicaragua route, arriving at that city about three weeks later, and immediately proceeded to Philadelphia to get his dust coined. He waited a week for his grist, and then returned to New York, and at the Hudson River Railroad station met his old friend, Joel Osman, of Earlville; and they journeyed together by rail to Utica, and there hired a carriage to take them to Hamilton, where he arrived in season to deposit his money, four thousand dollars, in twenty-dollar gold pieces, in the bank. A home of his own was now within his reach. He bought the Loveland farm, took to himself a wife, and successfully engaged in dairy and hop farming until 1872. In that year he removed to another farm which he had bought, one mile from Earlville, near the East Depot. In 1875 he purchased a residence in Earlville, in which he lived until it was burned in the fire which devastated this village, August 21, 1886. He then built his present convenient and comely residence. Of late years he has become quite interested in village property, and is the owner of eight dwellings, besides that in which he lives, and several vacant lots. In addition to this, he still owns the farm situated near the depot, is a stockholder in the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, in the Arnold Manufacturing Company, the Earlville Land Company, and also of the Earlville Opera House.
   November 19,1854, he was united in marriage with Mary A. Sawdy, born in Hamilton, March 6, 1830, daughter of Frederick and Ruth (Wait) Sawdy. Frederick Sawdy was a native of Hamilton, a farmer, and spent his whole life here. His father, Peleg Sawdy, born, it is thought, in Rhode Island, and probably of Welsh descent, was a pioneer in the town of Hamilton, and died here. He married Louisa Crandall, whose ancestors were Scotch. She was born in the State of New York, and died on the home farm. Mrs. Dowell's mother was born in Brookfield, a daughter of Benjamin and Abigail (Maine) Wait, who were of English descent. Mrs. Dowell's great-grandfather Wait, a pioneer of Brookfield, came from Rhode Island, and died here at the remarkable age of one hundred and one years. Mr. and Mrs. Dowell have had but one child, a daughter, named Lena, who died in her fourteenth year.
   Mr. Dowell is a Republican in politics. Ever since finally settling in Earlville, which is admitted to be one of the most enterprising and thriving villages in the country, he has taken a keen interest in its growth and prosperity, and has done his full share toward the building up and improvement of the place. That his services have been appreciated is illustrated by the fact that he has been repeatedly called upon to fill various offices of public trust, serving as Highway Commissioner one year, Village Trustee three years, and President of the Village Board for two years, and is now Street Commissioner. In social and fraternal matters, he is a member of Earlville Lodge, No. 622, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He is also a member of the Cyclone Fire Engine Company of Earlville. In view of these facts, his portrait, accompanied by that of his excellent wife, is invested with additional interest, as representing a type of citizen that is the boast of our great Republic. A man of great natural resources and strength of character, inheriting the vigorous and sturdy qualities of his Scottish ancestors, he owes to these qualities the remarkable success he has achieved in life. Starting with nothing in the way of fortune, and at first possessing but the simplest elements of an education, he has not only succeeded in surrounding himself with physical comforts and some of the luxuries of life, but, aided by a retentive memory and his own natural intelligence, has greatly increased his stock of knowledge, and so cultivated his mind as to be in touch with and have a sympathetic comprehension of the foremost writers and thinkers of the day. His library is one selected with rare discrimination, and consists largely of standard works, the recognized classics of English literature, with whose contents he possesses an intimate acquaintance.
   Much of the comfort and refinement that he now enjoys can be traced to the influence and exertions of his amiable and devoted wife, who has been his companion for so many years. Her true womanly qualities have found many opportunities for exercise in the beautifying of their home, as may be seen in the tasteful arrangements and pleasant surroundings. She has been, indeed, a true helpmate to her husband, and is widely known and highly esteemed for her Christian and womanly virtues. Realizing that true religion is not only the basis of sound morality, but is the secret of happiness here and has the promise of the life to come, she many years ago gave her heart to her Divine Master, and has long been an active worker in the Methodist Episcopal church, her influence in the sphere of Christian activity and church work equalling that of her husband in the business circles of the village and town. It is to be hoped that Mr. and Mrs. Dowell have yet before them many years of useful activity and honorable distinction.

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