Samuel Oscar McDowell

SAMUEL OSCAR McDOWELL, one of the oldest and best known citizens of Columbus, which city he has served five times as mayor, was born March 3, 1848, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and is a son of Dr. Calvin C. and Eliza Jane (Yeaman) McDowell.

The McDowell family is of Scotch extraction, but both parents of our subject were born in the United States, the father in Virginia and the mother in New Jersey. They migrated to Indiana in youth and the mother died when Samuel 0. was a child of four years. Dr. Calvin C. McDowell was born September 20, 1820, and died in Cherokee County, Kansas, in October, 1883. He was one of the prominent men and eminent physicians of Cherokee County, to which he came in the fall of 1866. He took a leading part in the early land struggles of that time, carried on farming and practiced his profession and through his whole life was one of the notable men of this section. He was one of the founders of a town called Wirtonia, which has been absorbed by a stronger community. His father, who had been a salt manufacturer at Kanawha, West Virginia, and who was a veteran of the War of 1812, died at Dr. McDowell's home in Cherokee County, in the fall of 1881, age 87 years.

Samuel O. McDowell attended the schools of Indiana until the age of 14 years. When only 15 years of age, he enlisted in Company M, 11th Reg., Indiana Vol. Cav., and served for the succeeding 16 months, mostly in Alabama. The fortunes of war fell heavily upon this loyal lad, for injuries came to him in the pursuit of duty which necessitated the amputation of his left arm. After his return home, he completed his interrupted education at the Stockwell Collegiate Institute, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and in the spring of 1869 was married. After marriage he engaged in teaching for a short time and then returned to Kansas, having made a prospective settlement in 1867. In the spring of 1870 he located at Columbus, Cherokee County, and took charge of the post office, his brother being postmaster, until the following January, when he was appointed to the office and served in the same for 10 years, until January, 1881.

In 1876, Mr. McDowell purchased the Columbus Courier, then a reform paper, and changed the policy to that of ardent Republicanism, successfully conducting it until l887. With A. T. Lea he founded the Galena Miner, at Galena, and was one of the best known newspaper men in Southeastern Kansas for many years. As a zealous and trustworthy party man, he was honored by the Republicans on many occasions and gave faithful service through years of public agitation. For four years (1884-85-86-87) he was sergeant-at-arms of the State Senate; was executive clerk to Governors John A. Martin and L. U. Humphries (1887-88-89) and in 1889-1890 and a part of 1891 he was chief clerk of the Kansas State Penitentiary. Since then Mr. McDowell has been an editorial writer and silently interested in various business enterprises. Formerly he was a member of the Republican State Central Committee and has served as a delegate to many important conventions, his leadership long being recognized.

On May 1, 1869, in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, he was married to Birdie McKinsey, daughter of John and Catherine McKinsey, who died in October, 1898, leaving a daughter,—Mrs. W. M. Pye, of Kansas City, Missouri. His second marriage in April, 1904, was to Mrs. Lucilla E. Walrod, of Indianapolis.

Mr. McDowell has long been a very prominent member of the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias, serving as noble grand in the former order and has just retired from the office of grand chancellorship of the Knights of Pythias of the State of Kansas. He has been active in this organization since 1880, is a member of the Uniform Rank and commanded the Second Regiment for six years prior to becoming grand chancellor. He has also been one of the leading members of the Grand Army of the Republic, which he joined in Indiana, five months after its organization and is past post commander of John A. Dix Post, No. 59, of Columbus.

Mr. McDowell has been connected with the organization of many of the industries and the founding of many of the institutions in Columbus and none of these gives him more satisfaction or more redounds to his credit than the results from his earnest efforts in the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now one of the largest religious bodies of the city. Few men are better known in Cherokee County and few in public life have met with more tokens of genuine esteem.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Mindy Tavis, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 4/22/97.


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