Bullitt County History

John McDowell's 1833 Will

Based on his suggested age in the censuses from 1810 to 1830, it appears that John McDowell was born between 1766 and 1770. According to the 1880 census record of his son John Jr., John Sr. was born in Ireland.

The 1810 census record indicates that he was the father of seven boys and two girls. His will names four of the boys and the two girls. The other three boys may not have survived childhood.

John married Nancy Burks on 1 Sep 1791 in Jefferson County. Given that this was before Bullitt County was formed, he was likely already living and working here.

It appears that he died in 1838, sometime prior to October 15 when his will was proved in court.

Earlier in life he was likely one of the area's saltmakers, as we are aware that he had a hand in the limited saltmaking that went on at Parakeet's Lick. Other references to him may be found here on our museum web site.

Below is his will, transcribed from pages 40-42 of Bullitt County Will Book C. In it he identifies sons Robert, James (deceased), John, and Woodford McDowell; and daughters Emily McDowell, Artemesia Morgan, and Susan McDowell. Also named is his wife Nancy, as well as numerous slaves that were being willed to his devisees.


Knowing the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death, and being now in good health, and of sound mind and disposing memory, and wishing to prevent any confusion as to the distribution of the estate with which it has pleased God to bless me, I ordain this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all others heretofore made by me. I have heretofore given to my eldest son Robert McDowell the plantation which he sold to Knight, which sale is hereby confirmed, and the farm is estimated at the sum of two thousand dollars. I further give and bequeath unto him one negro man named Nace of the value of four hundred and fifty dollars. I have also advanced him the said Robert money at different times to the amount of one hundred and fifty dollars for which sum he is released. He has also received from the estate of his brother James four hundred and fifty dollars, for which sum he is also released.

Item 2nd. To my second son John McDowell I give and bequeath unto him the plantation on which he now resides to him and his heirs forever; also one negro girl Vina estimated at one hundred and fifty. I have heretofore loaned until the said John five hundred dollars which I hereby give him. I also paid for him to John Burks one hundred dollars, which is given him. I also paid for him unto William Caldwell the sum of one hundred and seventy two dollars, which is given to him. I also loaned him to purchase a negro woman two hundred dollars which is given to him. His farm is estimated at two thousand dollars.

Item the 3rd. To my daughter Emily McDowell I give and bequeath my negro woman Darky and her five youngest children, towit: Tom, Milly, Vina, Mariah, and Sam estimated at eleven hundred dollars. I also give unto her the plantation on which Tunis Quick formerly lived, extending up to where the lane now runs supposed to contain about two hundred and fifteen acres. I also give and bequeath unto her one hundred acres of wood land, to commence on the fork in a line with the upper part of the cleared land above the house occupied by Jacob Wells, to lie up the fork toward's Peacock's field, and out from the fork, to include one hundred acres in a oblong square twice as long up the fork as it is wide out from the fork. I estimate the three hundred and fifteen acres at twenty one hundred dollars. My desire is that Emily reside with her mother and be comfortably accommodated out of the rents of her farm, and the hires of her negroes, and in the event of her mother's death, then that she have choice of her home, and that she be comfortably accommodated out of her rents and hires, and that the individual with whom she resides receive out of the rents and hires such compensation as their attention to her accommodation and her estate shall deserve to have.

Item the 4th. To my daughter Artemesia I give and bequeath the farm on which she and her husband R. D. N. Morgan formerly resided supposed to contain two hundred and fifty acres estimated at eighteen hundred dollars to her and her heirs forever. I give and bequeath to her and husband two hundred and thirty dollars, money heretofore received by R. D. N. Morgan from Samuel Simmon's estate; he is hereby released from its repayment. I also give unto her and husband one negro woman Winny and her children which are estimated at seven hundred and fifty dollars.

Item the 5th. To my son Woodford McDowell I give and bequeath as follows: I have heretofore advanced to him sixteen hundred dollars; now if he chooses to pay to me or my devises named in this will, other than himself, the sum of fourteen hundred dollars within three years after the proof and record thereof, then and in that case, I give and bequeath unto him the farm on which he now lives supposed to contain about five hundred acres; but if he does not choose to pay the fourteen hundred dollars in manner and form aforesaid, then I will and bequeath unto him the sum of fourteen hundred dollars to be paid to him by my executrix herein-after named; and then the farm on which he now resides becomes a part of my estate hereafter to be disposed of. The sum of fourteen hundred dollars hereby given added to the sixteen hundred heretofore advanced will make the three thousand, the average advancement to each devisee.

Item the 6th. To my daughter Susan McDowell I give and bequeath one Forte Piana now in her possession estimated at three hundred and fifty dollars, one negro boy Cesar estimated at four hundred dollars, also one negro girl Jude estimated at three hundred and fifty, also one negro boy Henry estimated at three hundred dollars. I further will and bequeath to her sixteen hundred and ten dollars to be paid by my executrix hereinafter named.

Item 7th. To my beloved wife Nancy McDowell I give and bequeath the farm on which I now live, to have and to hold during her natural life. I also give unto her during her natural life black Sam, Sam Perry, Bonaparte and West, and one negro woman by the name of Rachael, and my stock, household and kitchen furniture and farming utensils during the period aforesaid.

It is my object and desire to advance to each the sum of three thousand dollars, so far as it has not been done, and is shown by the advancements and estimates made. It is my desire that the devisee falling short of that sum receive the deficit from my Executrix. After the death of my wife Nancy McDowell, it is my will and desire the residual of my estate, not heretofore specifically devised, be equally divided among all of my children, share and share alike. I constitute and appoint Nancy McDowell the Executrix of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 17th day of July 1833.

(signed) John McDowell
teste: W. R. Grigsby and Z. T. Robards

By way of codicil to this my last will and testament I will and bequeath unto Emily and Susan McDowell the household and kitchen furniture at the death of my wife. I also give unto them all the stock on the farm at the death of my wife, and the farming utensils that may remain at the death of my wife.

(signed) John McDowell
teste: W. R. Grigsby and Z. T. Robards

State of Kentucky
Bullitt County towit
I Noah C. Summers, clerk of the County Court for said county certify that the foregoing last will and testament of John McDowell Sr. deceased and the codicil thereto annexed was this fifteenth day of October, one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight produced in open court and duly proved by the oath of William R. Grigsby the subscribing witness to the said will and codicil that at the time of making and publishing the said will and codicil and signing the same, the said decedent McDowell was of sound and disposing mind and memory, that said decedent acknowledged said will and codicil in his presence and the other witness Z. T. Robards, and that he Grigsby attested said will and codicil as a witness at the request of said decedent and in his presence and in the presence of the other witness Z. T. Robards who witnessed said will and codicil in like manner; and also proved that said witness Z. T. Robards is now a non-resident of this state. N. C. Summers being sworn stated in court that he had seen said witness Z. T. Robards write and believed that the signature was in the proper handwriting of said Robards, the witness to said will and codicil, and thereupon said will and codicil at the instance of Nancy McDowell was ordered to be recorded as fully proved, which is truly done in my said office.

Att: Noah C. Summers, clk.


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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jul 2015 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/john_mcdowell_will.html