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History and education in those Highland County hills of yore, Part 5

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, after a programming interruption, let’s get back to the life and times of the Rev. Joseph McDowell Mathews, a pioneer of education in Highland County in the 1800s.

We noted that he was a grandson of Joseph “Quaker Meadows Joe” McDowell, a Congressman who served in the Revolutionary War, and that Quaker Meadows had a cousin, Joseph “Pleasant Gardens Joe” McDowell, who was also served in Congress and the Revolutionary War. Those Joe McDowells were Congressmen from North Carolina. They also died young, Quaker Meadows Joe was 45 when he passed in 1801 and Pleasant Gardens Joe was just 37 when he died in 1795.

However, the Rev. Joseph McDowell Mathews had yet another relative named Joseph McDowell who also served in Congress – his uncle, Joseph McDowell, son of Quaker Meadows Joe and brother of the good reverend’s mother, Sarah McDowell Mathews. Uncle Joe McDowell was the youngest of Quaker Meadows Joe’s children and was much closer in age to his nephew than he was to his sister.

Sarah McDowell Mathews was born in 1784, her brother, Joseph Jefferson, was born in 1800, and Sarah’s firstborn child, Joseph McDowell Jefferson, was born in 1804.

And while the elder Congressmen Joe McDowells were from North Carolina, Uncle Joe McDowell lived most of his life in Hillsboro, Ohio. Yes, the good reverend and his uncle both came to Hillsboro in the early 1800s.

At age 24, Joseph McDowell moved to Highland County, Ohio, engaged in agricultural pursuits, then moved to Hillsboro in 1829 and engaged in mercantile pursuits.

Entering politics, Joseph McDowell was a member of the Ohio State House of Representatives, in 1832, served in the Ohio State Senate in 1833 and was appointed Brigadier General of the Ohio State Militia in 1834.

He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1835 and commenced to practice law in Hillsboro. In 1843, he was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Congresses, serving until 1847. An unsuccessful candidate for election, he resumed the practice of law and engaged in agricultural pursuits until his death.

He died Jan. 17, 1877 at the age of 76 and is buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery.

We’ll take a look at Gen. Joseph J. McDowell’s obituary, but let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a board member of the Highland District Hospital Foundation, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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