WILLIAM C. DOWELL
is deputy warden of the Southern Illinois Penitentiary and has spent approximately thirty-four years of his life in prison work with this institution. He was one of the first force of employes who came to Chester to do the preliminary work of building the prison, and it can be truthfully said that the first work of clearing the ground for the prison site was done by him. Mr. Dowell was born at Dover, Tennessee, on the 30th of October, 1852, and his father was John C. Dowell, overseer of the iron furnaces of John Bell at Dover, John C. Dowell entered the river service and became mate, pilot and then captain of a packet in the Nashville-St. Louis service. After following that occupation for about a dozen years he engaged in building the Illinois Central Railroad as one of its contractors, and when he retired from that work he settled on a farm in Williamson county, Illinois, there passing the declining years of his life. He was born in Daviess county, Kentucky, of Irish lineage, his ancestry having been originally from county Down, Ireland. The family name in its primitive form was “McDowell” and was so written by Allen McDowell, grandfather of the subject of this review. Allen's children, including John C., dropped the “Mc” and all of his descendants are now known under the name of Dowell. Allen McDowell was a colonial soldier in the war of the Revolution and took part, also, in the war of 1812. He came into Kentucky and died at Whitesville, in that state. He was twice married and became the father of five sons and two daughters. In the early days he was a Democrat of the old school, but after the close of the Civil war he and his sons transferred their allegiance to the Republican party.
John C. Dowell married Miss Sarah Mobley, a North Carolina lady of Irish blood and a native of County Down, Ireland. She passed away in 1886, at the age of seventy-eight years, and her honored husband died in 1907, in his eighty-ninth year. Concerning the children of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Dowell, four passed away early in life; William C. is the immediate subject of this review; Alice is the wife of William Gulledge, of Williamson county, Illinois; Monroe died at Carterville, Illinois, and is survived by a family; and Thomas L. passed away at Marion, Illinois, where his family is now residing. William C. Dowell, of this notice, was a child of but four years of age at the time of his parents removal to Illinois. He grew to maturity in Williamson county, to which public schools he is indebted for his preliminary educational training. As a youth he engaged in the railroad business on the Illinois Central Railroad as station man at Carbondale, following that line of enterprise from 1871 to 1877. Subsequently he spent six months with the United States pension department at Salem, Illinois, and at the expiration of that period he became
interested in the prison work and came to Chester, as previously noted. He became assistant clerk in the Southern Illinois Penitentiary in 1877 and in the following year was made purchasing agent of the institution. He served in the latter position until 1885, when he was appointed deputy warden by General Mitchell, the warden. He served as deputy warden until 1893, when he was appointed captain of the World's Fair secret service force at Chicago. From 1894 to 1896 he was assistant secretary of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee, the committee which so successfully blocked the efforts of the Bryan management and carried the state by an overwhelming majority for McKinley, thus closing the greatest political campaign ever fought in the United States. In 1897 Mr. Dowell returned to Chester as deputy warden, by appointment of J. M. Tanner, and he served as such until 1904, when he again resigned, only to be reappointed in the following year by Governor Deneen. In his capacity as prison official Mr. Dowell has covered a large portion of the United States in pursuit of escaped convicts and he has a wide acquaintance among prison men and peace officers everywhere. His familiarity with Illinois and her public men is most pronounced and the statesmen and politicians developed by the conditions of the Civil war were in their palmiest days of service when he was annexed as a public servitor.
Mr. Dowell became interested in active politics as a young man and was a delegate to the state conventions of 1876, 1884 and 1896, as a Republican. He has served under all the governors of the state since 1877 and under seven wardens during that period. In fraternal circles he is a Knight Templar, an Odd Fellow and an Elk, and he was a delegate to the Grand Lodges of the Odd Fellows order in 1876 and 1877.
At Chester, Illinois, on the 18th of November, 1885, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Dowell to Miss Mary Dunn, a daughter of Andrew Dunn, who was born and reared in County Antrim, Ireland. Mrs. Dowell was born at Chester, Illinois, and is a member of a family of eight children, six of whom are living, in 1911. Mr. and Mrs. Dowell are the parents of the following children, —Linnie, who is the wife of D. M. Logan, of Shawneetown, Illinois; Jean, who is with the Terminal Railway Company of St. Louis; and Dorothy, Margaret, David and Mary, all of whom are at the parental home.