McDowell, Joseph Nashe (1805-1868).
Joseph Nashe McDowell was born in 1805, and came to St. Louis in 1840, from Cincinnati, where he had been associated in the Cincinnati Medical College with Dr. Drake, Gross and other distinguished men ; he had no sooner arrived in St. Louis when he set to work with enthusiasm and unceasing industry to organize a faculty of medicine. He worked under the char- ter of the Kemper College and his college was then known as the Medical Depart- ment of the Kemper College but, as we know, was changed to the name of the Missouri Medical College.
Dr. McDowell soon became known throughout the West and Southwest. He was an unusually fluent and eloquent speaker, a natural orator and possessed to a pre-eminent degree that rare and won- derful power of adapting himself to any and all kinds of audiences. He literally revelled in antitheses and climax, and as a vivid word-picturer few could equal him. A perfect master of invective and ridicule, never at a loss to entertain any company, he might be thrown into. Backed by a fund of inexhaustible anecdotes he made parable, anecdote and quaint comparison an effective means to stimulate and fix the memory of his students. It is said that in his medical lectures that he had a story for almost every bone, muscle and nerve in the human body. He was pro- verbially improvident and careless. He always found it more difficult to keep than to get, for while fortune often indeed aided him a lack of forethought as quickly undid him.
It is said in his early years of residence in St. Louis, he delivered a number of ac- rid lectures against Jesuitism, because, as it was claimed, the Jesuit Fathers of the St. Louis University had allowed a rival medical school (the St. Louis Med- ical College) to organize under the charter of their college. After the delivery of the lectures the doctor became so impressed that his life was constantly in danger that he made and wore a brass breast-plate, and always thereafter carried arms.
Dr. McDowell had so constructed his
college building as to be a formidable fortress, and his residence on the opposite corner was also planned to resist an as- sault. Any one who had ever seen this huge, octagon shaped stone building, could readily see that it had been built on such lines. He had early conceived a plan to go across the plains and capture upper California. With this in view he bought from the United States government, for $2.50 each, 1400 discarded muskets, which were stored in his house and in the basement of the college. Through de- termination, patience and diligence he got hold of quantities of old brass, to make cannon. This proposed expedition to Upper California was to be accomplished by persuading his graduates and others to company him. It is said that several hundred graduates and young men had promised to do so.
It is also related that he purchased a cave in Hannibal, Montana, had it clean- ed out and fixed up, built walls of mason- ry and an iron gate at its entrance. He took a copper vase containing the body of one of his children and suspended it from the roof of the cave. Some time after he had done this some evil disposed and mischievous town loafers broke down this gate and opened the copper coffin. This made the doctor give up the idea of hav- ing any such place as a burial place for the dead. Dr. McDowell himself once became very sick and believing himself upon the point of death he called in Dr. Charles W. Stevens, his partner in the practice of medicine, and his son, Dr. Drake McDowell, to his bedside and made them take oath that should he die they would place his body in an alcohol filled copper vase, take it to the Mammoth Cave ofKentucky and have it suspended from the roof of the cave.
When he delivered his class valedictory, it was always an event dear to every med- ical student of the town, for such was his antipathy to the St. Louis Medical College, or Pope's College, as he called it, owing to the fact that the late Charles A. Pope was dean, that he was sure to say something rich in climax, ridicule and