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Dode Dowell Was Not A Man To Hunt Trouble, Nor Was He One To Shun It
This article first appeared in issue 38, and was written by Geniece Leftwich Marcum.
The following material is used with permission from the files of Mrs. Juanita Dowell Blankenship of Adair County, and Mrs. Dorene Dowell Miller of Taylor County. They are great-granddaughters of Dode Dowell and are compiling a book about the life of this most controversial ancestor of theirs.
Ask any local senior citizen about a man called Dode Dowell, and most likely you will stir up memories of tales from their childhood, about one of the most colorful characters ever to live in this part of the country. When it comes to Dode it's hard to know just where to begin or where to end the telling because stories surrounding the man are numberless. So before you ask, make sure you have time to tarry a good long while and listen.
Quite likely you'll hear first about his most notorious deed, the shooting of Bill Stotts, which took place back in 1888, in the court house at Edmonton and how the bullet fired from Dowell's .44 revolver that day still remains lodged in the stairwell of the old court room. But depending on which way the story teller's fancy runs, you might hear first of the feud between Dode and George All Edwards which was carried on across the two counties of Metcalfe and Green for a span of several years before the two men made peace and became friends for the rest of their lives. Most surely you would hear about Dode's legal, bonded moonshine still where he made whiskey and brandy for the government.
Duard Belmont "Dode" Dowell, was born in Green County, Kentucky, on July 20, 1858, the son of Thomas Ward Dowell and Sally Woolfolk Rose Dowell. He died in Metcalfe County on May 16, 1911. Dode first married Luella Francis, "Lucy Fanny" Buckner, ca. 1881. One daughter was born to this union, Mary Lou Dowell, 1882 - 1883. He was married a second time in Metcalfe County to Sally Porter Pendleton. They had two sons, Linzie Duard Dowell, 1886-1913, and Frank Henry Dowell, 1887-1988.
Linzie Dowell died in a shoot-out which took place on the streets of Edmonton between Dowell and Sheriff Ab Franklin. Frank Henry died just ten days short of reaching his 101st birthday.
In old accounts Dode has been described as being short in stature with dark hair and leathery skin from the outdoor life that he lived. He sported a droopy moustache, popular among the men of his day, and wore his hair parted low on the side to cover a scar left by brass knucks some long forgotten foe had once hit him with. He wore high topped boots and a western style Stetson hat with broad brim held to a point in front. Reading this description makes one wonder if the nick-name "Dode" wasn't actually meant to be "Dude".
Jim Tom Compton a resident of old Edmonton, is credited with the following remarks:
"Dode had a reputation for being a dangerous man in combat; but I don't think he was a mean man. He never used profanity and I don't think he would lie. Give you his word and he'd stick to it. But he rode the chip high on his shoulder, and brother when you went too far you'd better watch out. He had a love for children, family and horses and always took care of his own.
Dode Dowell was not a man to hunt trouble nor was he one to shun it.
He was a big democrat and it hurt him worse than anyone when the Republicans won. It is said that he would just go off and sleep for three or four days afterwards. In Kent Previtt's memories he once wrote, "Any old timer in Edmonton can recall the fusillade of shots and cannonading of anvils that greeted the returns on election night, or the reeling and singing of drunken men as they paraded around the courthouse square. If the democrats won, Dode Dowell was right there, perhaps singing, "Here they come two by two, Shanghai chicken and kangaroo;" or shouting, " Hurrah for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy."
"Dode, said to be a good business man, dealt in stock and tobacco and his Brown Eagle was one of the finest stallions ever in this part of the country. By trade Dode was a legal "Moonshiner," farmer, a merchant, a horse stud farm operator and a tavern keeper. He lived on a farm on Adam's Fork Creek, better known as Mell Ridge. Many acres of this farm was in orchard. The fruit was used in brandy making and neighbors hauled fruit away in five barrel wagons for their own use at no charge. There was a still house on the farm where legal moonshine was made, a storekeeper-gauger (government employee) was present at the making of the moonshine and also at the withdrawal of whiskey from the bond house. After the whiskey was made it was put in barrels to age and stamped with a hot branding iron in order to show the legality and age. The late Henry Butler of Sulphur Well loved to tell about the time Dode called the store keeper-gauger and wanted to withdraw whiskey from the bond house of his government still. "How much do you want?" Mr. Butler asked. " Better make it two barrels," came Dode's reply, "I've got a bad cold."
As old court records in Metcalfe County show, Dode was occasionally arrested for selling whiskey illegally, but nine times out of ten he was found not guilty. He also appeared in court numerous times on firearms charges, disturbing the peace and so on, but the story goes amidst the family that whenever Dode got out of hand his mother, Sally Rose Dowell was sent for and she could handle him with no problem. His name often appeared in news papers from surrounding counties all the way to the Courier Journal. His most notorious court case was over the shooting of Bill Stotts in the year of 1887. Different versions of the story behind that shooting have often been told. But the one handed down through the Dowell family throughout the years is as follows: Fannie Buckner, Dode's first wife was pregnant with their second child when deputy Marshall Stotts, entered the Dowell home threatening to kill Dode. The young Mrs. Dowell was so frightened by his threats that she suffered a miscarriage and died herself a few days later. Dode believed this was all the fault of Marshal Stotts and sent word to Stotts by his son that if he ever met him he would kill him.
That promise was not fulfilled until four years later. It was that long before the two men met. Dode did not get out and look for Stotts. They just met in the courthouse in Edmonton, on May 16, 1887. Court was in session when Dode spotted Stotts on the courthouse steps. The marshal saw him too and darted inside the front door. Dode went around the side of the building and climbed the stairway to the upper floor of the courthouse. Stotts mounted the stairs from the courtroom below, only to be met at the top by Dode Dowell with pistol in hand. The bullet from the .44 he carried passed completely through Stott's body lodging in the stairwell inside the courthouse. For years the story has been told and re-told how Stott's body fell over the banister and rolled into the courtroom below where a trial was in progress with the jury already in it's box and the judge behind his bench.
In the confusion immediately following the shooting Dode descended the courthouse stairs to the outside again where he mingled with the crowd and got away.
( The adventures of Dode Dowell may be continued in a future issue)
This story was posted on 2001-12-15 12:01:01
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