Name: Joseph Nash MCDOWELL
Given Name: Joseph Nash
Change Date: 5 Jul 2007
From U. S. Biog. Dict.:
1 2 3 4 5
Birth: 1 APR 1805 in near Lexington, Fayette Co., KY 1
Death: 18 SEP 1868 in St. Louis, MO
Burial: Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, MO
Founder of Missouri Medical College, the first West of the Mississippi.
Descendant of original immigrant ancestor Ephraim McDowell.
Eldest of 4 children of his father's second wife.
Educated at Transylvania University, Lexington, KY, graduated in Academical & Medical Depts.
During university he worked on the farm with his father.
After graduating he practiced medicine for two years in Chillicothe, OH, and then moved to Cincinnati and practiced there.
1829 Adjunct Professor of Miami Medical College, after his first course of lectures "the Institution suspended."
He continued teaching in his own ampitheatre built on his own property. He continued until 1835, when he was hired as Professor of Anatomy at the Cincinnati Medical College, where he stayed until 1839.
In the late part of 1839 he made a lecturing tour through the South, then returned to Cincinnati.
March, 1840 moved to St. Louis and got the idea of founding a medical college there. He invited a former pupil, Dr. John S. Moore to join him in St. Louis and in founding the college. In Nov. 1840 they organized the "Medical Department of Kemper College." Dr. McDowell was Professor of Anatomy and Surgery and Dean of the Faculty. The first session was open Nov. 1, 1840. In 1847 it became the Medical Department of the University of Missouri. In 1849 a fine building for the institution was completed in St. Louis at Eighth and Gratiot Streets.
In 1857 it became Missouri Institute of Science, the medical department being Missouri Medical College.
Dr. McDowell continued as principal professor and dean of the school until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The college closed and he went South to join the Confederacy. The college building was taken over and turned into a military prison by the Union.
Dr. McDowell was made Medical Director of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate Army. He went to Europe "in the medical interests of the Confederacy" and then to Galveston, Texas.
He returned to St. Louis in 1865 to find the college building in ruins. He and Dr. Moore began rebuilding the college. He was Professor of Surgery.
Dr. McDowell was known as an expert in surgical diagnosis. Three times he performed successfully the nearly impossible operation of removing the parotid gland. He invented a surgical instrument for lithotomy [removal of bladder or gallstones]. He used it successfully in 103 operations without a death.
Dr. McDowell was involved in politics and favored States' rights.
He spent a total of $250,000 on his medical college. He was a Mason and though raised as a Presbyterian, he was liberal in his religious views.
He traveled extensively in Europe and the U.S.
Sketches of the Shelby, McDowell, Deaderick, Anderson Families:
"...Dr. Samuel Gross, with whom he frequently came in angry collision, said that Dr. McDowell was an eloquent and enthusiastic teacher of anatomy, who had a remarkable gift of speech, and who could entertain and amuse a class in a wonderful way. In 1838 he delivered a lecture before the students in the Ohio Medical College, which "gave him great celebrity as a lecturer and teacher." "As a surgeon he performed more general operations, and amputated more arms and legs than any practitioner in the city of St. Louis.""
"Mary Young Ridenbaugh tells us that he was a very profane man, using oaths freely." She tells of an incident in which a man was injured and had his leg crushed in a work accident at a sawmill. Dr. McDowell entered the room swearing and swore at the man throughout the operation to amputate his leg, thoroughly terrifying him. Afterwards he told the man he did so to take his mind off the pain and the man was ever after an admirer of the doctor.
"As a young man much of Dr. McDowell's time was spent in the home of his uncle, Dr. Ephraim McDowell, and it was here that he formed an attachment for his cousin, Mary McDowell...she...told him she could regard him only in the light of a relative, never in that of a suitor." Dr. Ephraim McDowell reinforced this with Dr. J.N., who became angry and was thereafter extranged from his uncle.
Dr. Joseph N. McDowell moved to Cincinnati, Ohio after the incident with his cousin Mary. "Dr. Daniel Drake, who was the leading physician in Cincinnati, recognized in Dr. McDowell the promise of an able practitioner, and became greatly attached to him. Dr. McDowell married a sister of Dr. Drake, and removed to St. Louis, where he founded the "Missouri Medical College," which was known as the "McDowell Medical College," in Dr. McDowell's lifetime." A complete scientific museum was attached to the college, including specimens relating to surgery, weapons, statues, birds, etc. and was a popular place with St. Louis visitors.
Dr. McDowell put his deceased infant children in alcohol filled glass coffins and buried them on an island in the Mississippi River. His sons returned the remains to the family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis after their father's death to protect them from rises in the river.
When Dr. McDowell returned from service to the Confederacy in the Civil War he found his medical college and museum destroyed, as was his personal library. With the help of friends he rebuilt the college and proposed having a special room designated as "Hell" in commemoration of Abraham Lincoln, whom he hated.
"A few years before his death, Dr. McDowell's wife having died, he married again. The marriage did not prove a happy one, and his children all left home, he united himself with the Roman Catholic religion."
Dr. McDowell is described as tall, very thin and angular, with sharp features and small, penetrating eyes, verified by pictures of him. His medical students and friends called him "Sawbones."
"...Two of his three sons, Drake and John, arrived at considerable eminence in the medical profession."
Sketch Book of Saint Louis, 1858:
"Missouri Medical College
This Institution was founded in 1840 by Professors Joseph N. McDowell, John S. Moore, and others not now identified with it, for the purpose of affording the medical student who designed practicing his profession in the West a practical knowlege of the diseases incident to the climate, as well as a thorough knowledge of medical science generally."
Missouri Medical College was until 1846 the medical department of Kemper College. Then it became connected with the University of the State of Missouri, until 1856 when the Missouri Legislature passed an act prohibiting practioners of learned professions from being professors in the State University. Since all the professors in the Medical Dept. were also practicing physicians, the College obtained a charter granted to Drs. Joseph N. McDowell, Thomas Watson, Wm. Milburn, Archibald Gamble and John S. Moore as Trustees of the Missouri Medical College.
"This institution is now one of the most flourishing in the country, and we are certain the Faculty have not their superiors in the United States, embracing many of the most eminent men of the country....Jos. N. McDowell, M.D., Prof. of Theory and Practice of Surgery;....J. [should be I.] Drake McDowell, M.D., Adjunct Prof. of Surgery; Jno. J. McDowell, M.D., Demonstrator of Anatomy..."
The Laboratory Room is described as 45 x 70 ft. with elevated seats with the most complete and modern apparatus, also included is a lecture room, Anatomical Ampitheatre, octagonal shape, with 52 ft. ceiling, a Dissecting Room, and a Library with books, paintings, engravings, speciments, statues, etc. as well as books; also an Anatomical Museum with preserved body parts and a general Museum with fossils, minerals, orinthological specimens, fishes, reptiles, mammals, art and manufactured specimens, and Indian curios. Visitors were admitted free.
From Scraps From the Prison Table:
Written by Lieut. Col. Joe Barbiere of the Confederate States of America while a prisoner at Camp Chase and Johnson's Island, describing the battle of Madrid, MO. He describes how one of his scouts, Billy West, was accidentally killed by their own pickets when returning throught he lines and goes on to say, "His effects [West's] were taken charge of by Drake McDowell, his old friend and companion in arms. Dr. Drake McDowell is the son of the famous doctor of the same name in St. Louis, Missouri, after whom the college is named, now used for imprisoning "Southern sympathizers." McDowell acted the scout for us at New Madrid, penetrated beyond the enemy's lines, discovered their strength and intentions, and predicted all that afterwards occurred...."
History of Stanford Medical School, Chpt. 4:
"When the Medical Department of Cincinnati College closed in 1839, Joseph Nash McDowell (1805-1868), Professor of Special and Surgical Anatomy, moved to St. Louis. Already an experienced teacher, he immediately set about organizing a medical faculty with four other St. Louis physicians. Unter the authorization of an Episcopal institution known as Kemper College, he founded the Medical Department of Kemper College, the first medical school west of the Mississippi. The first course of medical lectures was presented during the winter of 1840-41. McDowell taught anatomy and divided the other subjects among his four associates. It was his flamboyant leadership that held the school together when failing financial support made necessary the transfer of sponsorship from Kemper College to Missouri State University in 1847. The school then became the Medical Department of Missouri State University (also called Missouri Medical College) with faculty in 1847-48 of six professors: McDowell in anatomy and other chairs in medicine; physiology and materia medica; obstetrics and diseases of women and children; pathology and clinical medicine; and chemistry and pharmacy. So closely were these early medical schools identified in the public mind with McDowell as their founder and colorful advocate that they both were generally known as McDowell Medical College."
"Regarding McDowell's personality and ability, he may charitably be described as a brilliant eccentric. A native of Kentucky, he was married to the girl who had been his playmate since he was a young boy, Amanda Virginia Drake, the sister of Daniel Drake. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1825 from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, he served as Professor of Anatomy at Transylvania and at Jefferson Medical College before joining the faculty of the Medical Department of Cincinnati College from 1835 to 1839."
He was very eloquent, including being eloquent at "invective, abuse and villification", especially toward rival medical schools and their faculty.
"His objectionable traits were at least partially, if not fully, offset by his devotion to family, friends and patients; by his consistently effective leadership of the medical school he founded; by his democratic relationship with students (frowned upon by his peers as unseemly fraternization); and by his ability as a surgeon which was comparable to his proficiency in anatomy."
He told his cousin, author Mary Ridenbaugh about taking the body of a German girl who died of a rare disease in order to dissect it and how the German community was up in arms and came after him. He hid the body in a loft, then returned to the morgue and hid under a sheet with the dead bodies to excape the wrath of the Germans. He claimed he was guided in this by the spirit of his deceased mother who appeared to him.
He told his cousin, "I often feel as though my mother is near me when I have a difficult case of surgery. I am always successful when I feel this influence...."
"During his final years this "erratic genius", estranged from his children because of a second marriage of which they disapproved, and in a state of utter bankruptcy, turned in th end to the Roman Catholic religion and received in death the blessing of his spiritual comforter and companion, a Jesuit priest."
Colonel Joseph N. McDowell, M.D., Surgeon, C.S.A. (1805-1868) Born in Fayette County, Kentucky, on April 1, 1805, Joseph Nash McDowell first practiced medicine at Cincinnati, Ohio. He came to St. Louis in 1840 and soon afterward founded the medical department of Kemper College. In 1847 he erected the McDowell Medical College building at the corner of Eighth and Gratiot Streets. That year, it became the medical department of Missouri State University (now the University of Missouri) and continued in that capacity until 1857. At the beginning of the war, McDowell made no secret of his southern sympathies, and his building was soon confiscated and used first as a barracks and then as the infamous Gratiot Street Prison. During the war, Dr. McDowell served as medical director for General Sterling Price’s command in the Department of the Trans-Mississippi. In 1865 he returned to St. Louis to reestablish the college, but he died three years later on September 18, 1868. (Block 161, Lot 1604)
(Narrativefrom William Winter’s “The Civil War in St. Louis”)
Spirit of Mark Twain Cave
Oldest show cave in Missouri.
Discovered in 1819 by Jack Sims while hunting.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) played in & explored the cave as a child.
He used it in his books, especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876.
Jesse James the outlaw used the cave as a hideout after robbing a train & signed his name on the wall in 1879.
In the 1850s the cave belonged to Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell who tried to petrify the body of his deceased daughter there. He removed the body after he found out "local children used it as a prop in their ghost stories." Mark Twain also used this incident in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis one room of the cave was turned into a bomb shelter with enough food for 1500 people for several weeks.
Show Caves of the United States: Mark Twain Cave
"The story of Injun Joe stealing dead bodies from the cemetery has several parallels to the real Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell. He bought the cave in the 1840s, locked it and made medical experiments and research on human corpses. From today's point of view, this is not so unusual for a surgeon, but at this time the people were disgusted. Especially he was said to store the corpse of his 14 year old daughter in a glass flask in the cave. A commotion among the locals lead to the removal of the corpse.
During the Civil War Dr. McDowell stockpiled guns and ammunition for the Confederates at his medical college in St. Louis. So rumors of a munitions depot in his cave came up."
"Dr. Joseph McDowell - McDowell was born in Kentucky. As a young man he came to St. Louis and founded McDowell Medical College. When the Civil War broke out he sided with the South, becoming Medical Director for General Sterling Price. The building which housed his school was then confiscated by the Federal government. It then became Gratiot Street Military Prison."
Re Dr. Daniel Drake, founder of Cincinnati Medical College:
"By 1831 he was ready to challenge the Medical College of Ohio, still the object of his criticism as an inferior institution, his judgement in the matter being well justified. He proposed to the Trustees of Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, that the University establish a Medical Department in Cincinnati with Drake as Professor of Medicine and Dean. His proposal was promptly accepted by the Miami Trustees, and on 22 February 1831 Drake and other faculty members of his selection, including his brother-in-law Joseph N. McDowell, were appointed to the Miami Faculty."
HAUNTS OF THE MCDOWELL MEDICAL COLLEGE
Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell - Bellefontaine Cemetery, Block 161, Lot 1604. b. Fayette, KY April 1, 1805, d. St. Louis,MO. sep.18,1868. Dr. McDowell established the medical college in St. Louis that was confiscated and turned into the infamous Gratiot Street Prison during the war. Dr. McDowell left the city to become the medical director of the Trans-Miss.(C.S.A.) Dept. His wife (Amanda Drake) was the aunt of Charles Drake (author of the "Drake Constitution" that disfranchised ex-Confederates)
Bellefontaine Cemetery, 4947 W. Florissant Ave., St. Louis, MO, tel. 314-381-0750, said to be surrounded by rough neighborhoods, also the burial place of explorer William Clark of the Lewis & Clark expedition.
Father: John MCDOWELL b: 8 DEC 1757 in Rockbridge Co., VA
Mother: Lucy Nash LEGRAND b: ABT 1776 in Prince Edward Co., VA
Amanda Virginia DRAKE b: 7 MAR 1809 in Mayslick, Mason Co., KY
There seems to be no list (at least on the internet) of Joseph Nash McDowell's children. A biographical sketch of him in the United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait of Eminent and Self-Made Men, MO, Vol. I, 1878 gives the names of his two wives, the first of which was the mother of his 10 children, only two of whom were said to be still alive in 1878 when the book was published, these being his two oldest sons, Dr. Isaac Drake McDowell and Dr. John J. McDowell, both of whom also taught at the Missouri Medical School founded by their father. A sketch of Dr. John J. McDowell in the same book says that as of 1878 he was a dedicated bachelor, married to his medical work. Missouri marriage records and other biographical sketches show that Dr. Drake McDowell (there were other Drake McDowells) was married twice, but so far I find no mention of any children. His first wife died after only about 3 years of marriage and he did not remarry for about 10 years. He served in the Confederate forces in the Civil War, as did his father. His widow, Mary, is listed in the 1910 census in New Madrid, MO, as having borne no children.
1 6 2
In the 1860 census I found Dr. Joseph McDowell, his second wife, Sarah, and two children, Anna and Joseph, ages 13 and 6 respectively.
Using the census, a newspaper notice and biographical sketches of Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell I can postulate the names of 6 of his 10 children. Various sources indicate that more than one child died in infancy and one daughter died at age 14. He is said to have kept their bodies preserved in alcohol in glass coffins entombed either in the Mark Twain Cave or on an island in the river near St. Louis.
Supposedly after his death his sons moved these coffins to the same grave plot as their father, in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
Supposedly Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell's children did not approve of his second marriage, nor of his becoming a Catholic and were estranged from him at the end of his life.
At this point it appears possible that Anna's three grandchildren may have been Dr. J N's only descendants.
Further indications as to his children:
CINCINNATI (OHIO), NEWSPAPER NOTICES
Abstract by Raymond E. Dale, A. B., Lincoln Nebraska.
"Isaac D. McDowell, John James McDowell, Charles McDowell, and Amanda Virginia McDowell, infants, residing in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, and heirs at law of Benjamin Drake McDowell, deceased, ..."
Benjamin Drake was the brother of Joseph Nash McDowell's wife Amanda Virginia Drake and apprently left his estate to his siblings' children. Perhaps Benjamin Drake McDowell was another sibling who died?
27 MAR 1827 1
in Ward 2, St. Louis, MO
- Note: J. N. M'Dowell, 45, physician, b. KY; M.R., 40, b. KY; I.D., 17, b. OH; John, 16, b. KY; Chas., 9, b. MO; Anna, 2, b. MO.
- John James MCDOWELL b: 6 FEB 1834 in Lexington, KY
- Amanda Virginia MCDOWELL b: BET 1843 AND 1846 in prob. St. Louis, MO
- Anna Wader MCDOWELL b: ABT 1847 in MO
- Joseph MCDOWELL b: ABT 1854 in prob. St. Louis, MO
- Isaac Drake MCDOWELL b: ABT 1832 in OH
- Charles MCDOWELL b: ABT 1843 in prob. St. Louis, MO
Sarah MACK b: BET 1823 AND 1828 in Otsego Co., NY
20 JUN 1856
in St. Louis, MO 7
in Ward 3, St. Louis, MO
- Note: Joseph McDowell, 54, M.D., b. KY; Sarah, 32, b. NY [his second wife]; Anna, 13, b. MO; Joseph, 6, b. MO; Leo Knoll, 45, servant, b. Prussia; John Meyer, 51, servant, b. Wurtenburg; Mary Stork, 19, servant, b. Prussia.
- Abbrev: U.S. Biog. Dict. & Portrait Gallery of Eminent & Self -Made Men
Title: United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men, MO, Vol. I, pp. 123-126, 464-466, pub. 1878, at www.ancestry.com Missouri Biography
- Abbrev: Sketches of the Shelby, McDowell, Deaderick, Anderson Families
Title: Sketches of the Shelby, McDowell, Deaderick, Anderson Families by Anna Mary Moon, 1933, pp. 52-55, at www.heritagequestonline.com, accessed 7/3/2007
- Abbrev: Sketch Book of St. Louis
Title: Sketch Book of Saint Louis Containing a Series of Sketches of the Early Settlement, Public Buildings, Hotels, Railroads, Steamboats, Foundry and Machine Shops, Mercantile Houses, Groceries, Manufacturing Houses, etc. by Taylor & Crooks, St. Louis, MO, George Knapp & Co., Printers and Binders, 1858, pp. 49-51 at http://books.google.com
- Abbrev: Scraps From the Prison Table
Title: Scraps From the Prison Table at Camp Chase and Johnson's Island by Joe Barbiere, Lieut. Col. Late C. S. A., Doylestown, PA, W. W. H. Davis, Printer, 1868, p. 60 at http://books.google.com
- Abbrev: Stanford Univ. Sch. of Med. & Predecessor Schools
Title: Stanford University School of Medicine and the Predecessor Schools: A Historical Perspective by John L. Wilson, M.D., Chapter 4, at http://elane.stannford.edu/wilson/Text/4i.html
- Abbrev: U.S. Census
Title: U.S. Census
- Abbrev: Ancestry.com
Text: St. Louis, Missouri Marriages, 1804-76, v. 8 p. 92