Marker Text: Kentucky District Court sessions held here March 14, 1785, until Court of Appeals set up in 1792. Created by Virginia statute on May 6, 1782, the court first met in Harrodsburg on March 3, 1783. Later meetings at Low Dutch Station and John Crow's Station before moved here. Samuel McDowell, John Floyd, George Muter, first judges; Walker Daniel, prosecutor; John May, clerk.
In 1783, Samuel McDowell moved his family from Rockbridge County, VA over the Wilderness Road and took up residence in Fayette County. He had received an appointment in 1782 by the Virginia Assembly as one of the commissioners to settle land claims in the district of Kentucky. Like his father, Samuel McDowell was a surveyor.
In 1783, the District of Kentucky was formed and the first district court was opened at Harrodsburg, with Samuel McDowell, George Muter, and John Floyd as judges. It is said that owing to the unsuitability of the building, the court was moved in 1784 to Crow's Station, near what is now Danville. This led to the development of Danville, the place where McDowell was destined to spend the remainder of his life.
Anyone who travels to Danville, KY today will see the name Dr. Ephraim McDowell all over the town, particularly since it is the name of the major medical center in town. Samuel's son, Ephraim was not the only notable McDowell, his father was a major contributor to the building of a nation and to Kentucky's statehood.
Samuel McDowell and his wife Mary had eleven children. When he was twenty years old he fought in the French and Indian wars. He served under General Washington, and was present at Braddock's Defeat in Pennsylvania. In 1774 he served as captain in Dunmore's Indian War, and in the battle of Point Pleasant in West Virginia was an aide-de-camp to General Isaac Shelby, who afterwards became the first governor of Kentucky. Governor Shelby's daughter later became the wife of McDowell's son Dr. Ephraim McDowell.
Prior to the American Revolution, Samuel McDowell and Thomas Lewis represented Augusta County in the Convention of 1775 at Williamsburg, and protested against government by any ministry or parliament in which the people were not represented. They were delegated to deliver to George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison, and other delegates from Virginia in the Continental Congress, a letter of thanks and approval of their course. In 1776 Samuel McDowell was a member of the Convention held at Williamsburg, Virginia, which instructed the delegates to the Continental Congress to declare the united colonies free and independent states.
Samuel McDowell and others meet in the Grayson Tavern near the courthouse to meet and discuss the political and social issues of the day that eventually lead to Kentucky statehood. McDowell was made president of all the early Kentucky conventions, nine in number, including the one that framed the Constitution of Kentucky and meet in the courthouse in Danville. In 1792, Kentucky was admitted to the Union.
In religion Samuel McDowell was a member of the Presbyterian Church. He remained upon the bench until a few years before his death, and was known as Judge McDowell, to distinguish him from one of his sons, Samuel. After a long and useful life, Samuel died on September 25, 1817, at the age of eighty-two, at the residence of his son. Col. Joseph McDowell, near Danville, Kentucky.
In Honor of
The Pioneer Founders
and to Commemorate
of which Samuel McDowell was President and
Thomas Todd was Clerk
and which in April 1792 met in Danville and here framed the original
Constitution of the Commonwealth
This Memorial Tablet is Donated as a Sesquicentennial Tribute by a Group of Kentucky Lawyers April 1942.
Plaque is on the outside wall of the Log Courthouse on the opposite side from the marker.