PAGES 569 & 570


The name of McDouall is held by the family to be derived from Douall of Galloway, who lived two hundred and thirty years before the birth of our Savior, and having killed Nathatus, the tyrant, established another as king in his stead.  Douall is said to be simply Dhu Alan (the Black Alan), hence the McDoualls are “Sons of the Black Alan.”  Of the great antiquity of the family there is no manner of doubt.  Without attempting to trace the line of descent, it may be stated that from this distinguished ancestry sprang Robert McDowell, who was born in the suburbs of Wigtown, Wigtonshire, Scotland, March 14, 1811.  Three brothers of the family attained distinction either in busin3ess or public life, -- James, as American consul at Edinburgh and, later, at Dundee, Scotland; Hugh, of Castleford, Yorkshire, England, a prominent potter and an influential citizen; and Robert, the subject of this sketch.  The latter passed his early years at the home of his father, who was an active farmer, and later repaired to England, where a brief period was spent in business pursuits, after which he sailed for America, and landed in New York, after a tedious passage in a sailing-vessel, on the 21st of June, 1833.  He came at once to the Lehigh Valley, in the development of whose rich stores of slate his business life was spent.  An uncle and brother were then engaged in a slate enterprise at North Whitehall, and there he at first located.  After a brief residence at Whitehall, he removed to “The Settlement,” near Bath, and in 1854 made Slatington his permanent abode.  In 1846 he, with others, opened the old Douglas Quarry, and in 1848 the Washington Quarry, introducing at about the same date the manufacture of School-slates.  He, with others, in 1850 made the first purchase of slate land, upon which ground was afterwards located the now thriving borough of Slatington.  In 1854 the Lehigh Slate Company was chartered, Mr. McDowell becoming its superintendent and treasurer, positions held until his death.  When (in 1864) Slatington was incorporated he was elected the first burgess of the borough, and frequently held the office afterwards.  He occupied many other positions of public trust, was prominently connected with the Slatington Bridge and Water Companies, and was vice-president of the Dime Savings-Fund.


In religious no less than in business life was Mr. McDowell especially active.  He, in 1834, united with the Allen Township Presbyterian Church, and was for five years one of its trustees.  He organized at Whitehall the first Sabbath-school in Lehigh County outside of Allentown, and this good work once begun never ended until the close of his life.  He also organized the Presbyterian Sunday-school at Slatington in 1856 with six scholars, and remained its superintendent until his death.  Under his auspices the Presbyterian Church was founded in 1851, of which he was an elder and a leading supporter.


Mr. McDowell was known as a man of rare shrewdness and sagacity in all business relations, while his liberal nature prompted him to encourage many laudable commercial enterprises.  He was well read, kept himself informed on current events and important questions of the day, was a close student of finance, and presented his views with clear and cogent reasoning.  He did much for the improvement of the morals of those who grew up about him, and was both respected for consistency of his character and beloved for his kindly and affectionate nature.  He was open-hearted and philanthropic, and entirely free from dissimulation.


A Democrat in his political predilections, and active in the area of politics, he was unacquainted with the devious ways of the politician.


Mr. McDowell was married to Miss Sarah E. Mulhallon, of Northampton County.  Their children are four daughters – Augusta (wife of David McKenna), Helen (wife of William Gish), Elmira, and Nancy (wife of Lieut. Jefferson Moser) –- and one son, R. Murray McDowell, who now continues the business extensively at Slatington.  This gentleman, after a course at Princeton and Lafayette and an extended tour through Europe, settled in the old McDowell mansion, where, surrounded by books and pictures, he leads a quiet and literary life.   He makes patent school-slates a specialty in his business, and has for several years supplied the boards of education in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities with these articles.  The death of Robert McDowell occurred on the 24th of August, 1878, in his sixty eighth year.














The History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,


Alfred Mathews & Austin N. Hungerford

Published in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1884


Transcribed from the original in March 2005


Jack Sterling



Web page by

Jack Sterling

 March 2005