McDowell House Museum Timeline

McDowell Family History

McDowell family moves from Scotland to Ireland

1653 - 1658

Ephraim McDowell immigrates to America

1729

Great-grandfather of Dr. McDowell (also named Ephraim) immigrates to America, landing in Pennsylvania.

John McDowell moves to Shenandoah Valley, VA

1737

Dr. McDowell's grandfather moves to Shenandoah Valley (his great-grandfather also moved to Virginia).

John McDowell killed

1742 - 1743

Supposedly killed defending his land from Native Americans. Leaves behind a wife, two boys, and one girl.

Samuel McDowell marries Mary McClung

1754

Marriage of Dr. McDowell's parents. Both were Scotch-Irish, and 18 at marriage.

Samuel McDowell serves under Gen. George Washington

1756 - 1763

Serves in French and Indian wars; also a colonel in Revolutionary War (unknown dates), serving under Gen. Green.

Samuel McDowell appointed commissioner in Kentucky territory

1782

Appointed by Virginia assembly to be one of the commissioners to settle land claims in Kentucky.

Samuel McDowell moves to Fayette Co., KY

1783

Takes up permanent residence in Fayette Co., KY, bringing along family.

Samuel McDowell dies

1817

Susanna McDowell marries David Irvine

1821

Eldest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. McDowell marries David Irvine.
Receives as wedding gifts (objects in house): portrait of Isaac Shelby in parlor; Dolly Madison mirror over mantle in dining room.
Portrait of David Irvine in library, to the left of the hall door.

Life of Ephraim McDowell

Born

November 11, 1771

Dr. Ephraim McDowell born near Lexington, VA, to Samuel and Mary McDowell; ninth of eleven children.

Comes to Danville

1783

Ephraim McDowell came to Danville, KY in 1783, when his father, Samuel McDowell, was appointed one of the three judges in the Court of the Kentucky Territory. (Samuel McDowell was also President of eight of the ten Constitutional Conventions that led to Kentucky's statehood in 1792.)

Becomes a Doctor's Apprentice

1790 - 1792

Apprenticed to Dr. Alexander Humphreys in Staunton, VA.

Studies Medicine at University of Edinburgh, Scotland

1793 - 1795

Studies medicine at the University of Edinburgh for two years, also taking private anatomy and surgery lessons from famous anatomist John Bell. Does not complete his degree.

Returns to Danville, Starts Apothecary Practice

1795

Opens medical practice in the apothecary shop with his colleague, Dr. Adam Rankin.

Postmaster in apothecary shop

1799 - 1801

Marries Sarah Shelby

1802

At age 31, marries Sarah Shelby (age 18), daughter of Governor Isaac Shelby.

Ovariotomy performed on Jane Todd Crawford

December 25, 1809

Bladder stone surgery performed on James K. Polk

1817

Future president (then 17 years old) James K. Polk comes to Dr. McDowell for bladder stone removal surgery.

Ovariotomy performed on wife of General Overton

1822

Dr. McDowell travels to Nashville, TN to remove an ovarian tumor from the wife of General Overton. General Andrew Jackson assists in operation.

Receives honorary degree from University of Maryland

1825

Dies

1830

Dr. Ephraim McDowell dies of "cramp colic" (now known as appendicitis).

Commemorative monument dedicated in Danville in his honor

1879

Monument commissioned by the Kentucky State Medical Society.

House History

Apothecary shop constructed

1790

Shop constructed c. 1790

Brick ell constructed

1792 - 1795

Brick ell was probably part of a house built in the early 1790s.

Apothecary shop purchased

1797

Dr. McDowell and Dr. Rankin purchase the apothecary shop and office.

Period of Museum furnishings

1798 - 1830

Ephraim and Sarah McDowell move into brick portion of house

1802

Frame house constructed

1803 - 1804

Dr. McDowell's office constructed

1820

Back porch changed and expanded

1820

Apothecary shop sold

1820

Front entranceway redesigned

1820

South gardens added

1820

Property changes many hands

1837 - 1935

The house was first the home of a Centre College president; then (in the mid-1800s) was a Methodist parsonage. After that it was rental property owned by Weisiger, and housed a saloon, barber shop, tenement house, and shoeshine shop, among other exploits. House's condition deteriorates significantly during this period.

Property sold

1837

Beginning of effort to purchase House for restoration

1912

Dr. August Schachner, of Louisville, begins efforts to purchase the House for restoration from Mr. John G. Weisiger.

Kentucky Medical Association purchases House

1935

Purchased from the Weisiger heirs for $15,000; house given to the Kentucky Division of Parks, and restored by the Works Progress Administration.

Colonial Dames of America (Chapter IX) begins furnishing the operating room

1939

House dedicated as a museum

1939

Women's Auxiliary to the KMA begins furnishing rest of House

1947

House deeded back to KMA

1949

Apothecary Shop restoration begins

1955

Restoration of the apothecary shop begins with the help of the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Society, under the direction of Mr. George Grider.

Shop deeded to KMA

1959

Historic structures report begins

1979

McDowell House Museum receives grant from Kentucky Heritage Commission to begin a historic structures report.

Restoration work begins

1980

Tornado destroys large part of brick wall

1985

Tornado destroys large part of the brick wall surrounding the back of the McDowell House.

Tornado-damaged wall replaced

1988

Ephraim McDowell-Cambus Kenneth Foundation established

1989

Foundation changes name to McDowell House Museum, Inc.

2001

Complete paint analysis finished

2003

Paint analysis finished (by Frank Welsh and Associates); Porter Paints announces gift of enough paint to restore the interior and exterior of McDowell House in original colors.

Archeological dig in gardens

2005 - 2006

Kitchen Herb garden added behind kitchen

2006

Added by Garden Club of Danville

Historical Context - Local

Fort Harrod constructed

1774

Fort Boonesborough Founded

1775

Danville established as town by Virginia statute

1787

Locust Grove founded

1790

Kentucky becomes a state

1792

Isaac Shelby (Dr. McDowell's father-in-law) chosen as first governor.

William Whitley house constructed

1794

Federal Hill constructed

1795

My Old Kentucky Home state park

Old Governor's Mansion constructed (Frankfort, KY)

1796

White Hall constructed

1799

Mary Todd Lincoln House constructed

1803 - 1806

Originally "The Sign of the Green Tree" inn and tavern (purchased by Todd family in 1832).

Thriving Venetian blind company in Lexington

1805

Shakers active at Pleasant Hill, KY

1805 - 1910

Construction begins on Ashland mansion

1806

Hunt-Morgan house constructed

1814

Jackson Purchase (KY) obtained

1818

Centre College founded

1819

Farnsley-Moremen house constructed

1837

Camp Nelson established

1863

Historical Context - National

French and Indian War

1754 - 1763

Revolutionary War

1775 - 1783

Waveland built

1797 - 1800

Louisiana Purchase

1803

International slave trade ended

1808

International slave trade ended; domestic slave trade continues.

War of 1812

1812 - 1815

Andrew Jackson inaugurated as President

1829

James K. Polk becomes President

1845

Civil War

1861 - 1865

Wall Street Crash

1929

Great Depression

1929 - 1939

Works Progress Administration

1935 - 1943

Cold War

1945 - 1991