James McDowell

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1797 - 1846


The following is furnished us by his son, Joseph W. McDowell, now residing near Hopedale, Illinois, and is copies mainly from a sketch prepared by his (Mackinaw) Presbytery, and published in the Cumberland Presbyterian April 17, 1849:

Mr. McDowell departed this life on October 22d, 1846, in the forty-eighty year of his age. He was born in North Carolina of pious parents, who removed to Robison [sic: Robertson] county, Tennessee, prior to the revival of 1800. His father was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and took his stand with the revival party. The subject of our notice embraced religion on the 2d of August, 1822. He was received as a candidate for the ministry by Logan Presbytery in the Fall of 1823. He was licensed by the same Presbytery in October of 1825, and immediately started on what was called the Green River circuit. From this to April, 1830, his time was mostly spent in riding the circuit and preaching. At the session of Presbytery in April, 1830, he was ordained. From his journal kept during this time we find him a laborious and very successful minister of Christ. As a sample of the work done and privations endured by our first ministers, we give this from his journal, the first six month's labor after his licensure, from October, 1825, to April, 1826. He says: "Since last Presbytery forty-seven made profession of religion; twelve joined the Church. I have received $9.25 in cash, four vests, three pairs of socks, one pair of pantaloons, and two cravats. My expenses were $5.75." It will be seen that his pay in money was just $3.50. Again he records: "From April 20th to November 12th I rode one thousand, seven hundred and thirty-eight miles; preached one hundred and sixty-one times; fifty-four professed religion over and above the number who professed at camp-meetings. I received by way of remuneration $27.25; my expenses, $3.62." This is a fair sample of after years.

In September, 1830, he was married, and removed immediately to Tazewell county, Illinois. At that time there was but one ordained minister in the present bounds of Mackinaw Presbytery, and but one organized church, and this one embraced an area about fifty miles in diameter. Mr. McDowell entered at once with great zeal and faithfulness into the work of preaching Christ in this vast and important field. His health failed, however, some years before his death, so that he preached but seldom; yet he continued greatly useful to the Church. He was a sound and safe counsellor in the judicatures of the Church, and of great help to candidates for the ministry. At one time he took a young man, a Bro. Hutchison, to his house, and kept him under his tuition till he was able to stand a creditable examination on all parts of trial preparatory to ordination. This young man afterwards died in the triumphs of faith, having preached with much acceptance and success for several years.

The preaching of Mr. McDowell was about equally divided between theology, experience and practice. He was not what the world called a great preacher, but was a man "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." He is said to have been rather reserved in conversation when not well acquainted, but those who knew him best loved him most. His last illness was long and very severe, but he bore it with great patience and fortitude, and departed without doubt or fear in full assurance of eternal life through that Jesus he had so long and faithfully preached. He was a humble, unostentatious man, having no jealous spirit, and always rejoicing in the honor bestowed upon, and the success accomplished by, his ministering brethren. He did much to plant the standard of the cross and of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Mackinaw Presbytery. Many are the reminiscences now all over that country connected with his name and labors.
[Source: Logan, J. B. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Illinois, Containing Sketches of the First Ministers, Churches, Presbyteries and Synods; also a History of Missions, Publication and Education. Alton, Ill.: Perrin & Smith, 1878, pages 215-217]

McDowell Family Information

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Updated May 14, 2007