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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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McDowell, Joseph Jefferson

by Bradford M. Shelby, 1991

13 Nov. 1800–17 Jan. 1877

Joseph Jefferson McDowell, congressman, was born in Burke (now McDowell) County, the son of Joseph McDowell (of Quaker Meadows)—a native of Winchester, Va., who moved to North Carolina in 1758, served in the American Revolution, and held a number of elective positions—and Margaret Moffitt McDowell. Following her husband's death in July 1801, Mrs. McDowell moved first to Virginia and then, when her son was five, to Kentucky. In 1817 they returned to Virginia and lived in Augusta County. During these years young McDowell received some education and engaged in farming. In 1824 he moved to Highland County, Ohio, where he farmed until 1829, then became a merchant.

McDowell was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1832 and to the state senate the following year. In 1834 he was appointed brigadier general in the state militia. After studying law, he was admitted to the bar in 1835 and began practicing in Hillsboro, the seat of Highland County. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in 1840 but was thereafter elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Congress, serving from 4 Mar. 1843 to 3 Mar. 1847. Returning to his law practice and farming, he resided in Ohio for the remainder of his life. He was buried in Hillsboro Cemetery.


Biog. Dir. Am. Cong. (1971).

Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. 4 (1888).

John H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851 (1851).

Who Was Who in America, 1607–1896, historical vol. (1967).

Additional Resources:

"Mcdowell, Joseph Jefferson, (1800 - 1877)." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, D.C.: The Congress. (accessed July 31, 2013).

McDowell, Joseph Jefferson. Speech of the Hon. Joseph J. McDowell, of Ohio, on the Oregon Territory [microform] : delivered in the House of Representatives, Monday, January 5, 1846. [Washington? : s.n.]. 1846. (accessed August 1, 2013).


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