Scotts And McDowells: Observations & Questions

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For many years, I have had a strong interest in the McDowell family that my Great-Grandfather John Scott married into. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know more about them, and whatever became of them as it seemed it was unknown to my father. Yet, after doing some research and learning new things, this fact my dad did not know much, does not entirely make sense.

When you think about how tightly connected the early 20th century Scott family of Belfast was connected to the McDowels, it becomes a true mystery how that connection seemed to have been severed, unless there were just no further children of the Belfast McDowell family we’re concerned about.

Let’s Define The Mystery

Yet, I do believe there must be descendants of the siblings of the McDowell family that our great-grandfather John Scott married into. My father wanted to find them. He had mentioned to me on more than one occasion that there had been some issue with regard to land in Florida that should have been in his possession, but instead had ended up in the McDowell possession. For me, this has been a bit of a mystery to be solved; not because I’d like to find some legal way to get land that was apparently meant for my dad, but to find out what happened, and where these McDowells might be today.

In 1968, John Alexander Scott had a son named Andrew, and insisted that Andrew be given the middle name ‘McDowell’ in addition to another middle name, ‘Gordon’. I recall my father saying that this was his way of ensuring anyone that was interested, that we had a connection to the McDowell family, and this land that my father fervently believed should have come into his possession.

There are so many questions due to omission of information here, and other events that create even more questions. Some of the missing information include, “What land in Florida?” Florida is not a tiny state and there is also swamp land that isn’t worth much to anyone available there.

John Scott’s father, Hugh Scott had come to Canada to visit in 1967, a year before Andrew was born. Why had this suddenly become an issue to my father in 1968? Had there been some falling out between some or one McDowell and our grandfather Hugh Scott in 1967 if he had tried to contact the McDowells in America at that time? This question is relevant for other reasons.

The Closeness Of The Scotts & McDowells

I ask and muse about whether there had been some falling out in 1967 or the years leading up to that – because the more I discover, the more I realize just how close the Scotts were to the McDowells at some time. It seems strange when you look at the timelines and realize just how close they were at some point.

Let’s revisit some of this for context:

Sometime between 1891 and 1896, John Alexander Scott left Dundee and went to Belfast. I don’t know when he would have first met the McDowells but we know this:

  • In 1896, John Scott & Sarah McDowell married in Belfast. They would have three children together.
  • In 1911, John Scott & Family were living at 43 Hanover Street, Belfast. It would appear that Agnes McDowell (sister of Sarah) was also there (source)
  • In 1909, John McDowell, brother of Sarah and Agnes immigrated to America
  • In 1911, John Scott’s son Hugh is shown at the McDowell residence in Belfast on the day of the census.
  • In 1912, John Scott signed the Ulster Covenant with an address of 83 Hanover Street, Belfast. Agnes McDowell also signed, with the same address.
  • In 1914, Sarah McDowell (John’s Wife) passed away. Three years later, he would marry Sarah’s sister, Mary Ellen McDowell! They had no children apparently.
  • In 1923, Hugh Scott traveled to America and stayed at least a time, with his Uncle John McDowell in Canton, Ohio.

So, we can see that obviously, the Scotts and McDowells were a close family. It is likely that John Scott helped Agnes McDowell, who was a shopkeeper in Belfast.

When John McDowell left Belfast for America, he must not have left as some kind of family rebel – he must have kept in touch with his family (as well as his wife that he married in Belfast, Jane Finlay), and there likely would have been continued contact with the Scott family for Hugh to be able to confidently say he was heading to his uncle John McDowell’s address in Canton, Ohio.

Hugh of course, would leave America and later return to Northern Ireland.

But, whatever happened to our grandfather’s relationship with the McDowells? His son mentioned above, John Alexander Scott, did not seem to know much about them. I don’t ever recall him speaking of them in friendly terms or even mentioning “cousins” he might have known that were McDowells while growing up in Northern Ireland.

Yet, his father Hugh personally knew of at least one McDowell that had gone to America; he had even stayed with him and his wife as a young man. If they had children, Hugh probably would have known. Indeed, if John McDowell and his wife had children, they likely had them before Hugh even arrived in America by 1923.

This all begs so many questions, some answers and questions dependent on the answers to previous questions such as:

  1. Did Granda (Hugh Scott) buy land in Florida when he was there?
  2. Is it possible that his Uncle John McDowell purchased land in Florida?
  3. If John McDowell bought land in Florida, why did my dad have an idea it should have legally passed onto the Scotts? Did John McDowell have no children and maybe there was some idea it would be left to Hugh Scott when John/Jane passed on?
  4. If John/Jane McDowell did have children, did they somehow get a hold of some deed that should have been in the possession of Hugh Scott?
  5. Did any of John McDowell’s brothers (Hugh Scott’s uncles) also immigrate/go to America and get involved?
  6. If John/Jane McDowell had children, would Hugh Scott not have known of them back in 1967, when he came to visit us in Canada? Perhaps he did know, and tried to get in touch, but the contact was not pleasant? Or maybe something else entirely?
  7. I don’t have a death date for John McDowell who went to Canton; but if he was still alive long after Hugh (Granda) Scott returned to Northern Ireland, did they ever keep in touch?

There are probably many more questions that could be asked, but these are mine, off the top of my head. For any related McDowells in America that might own or have had benefits from some piece of land in Florida, please know that I’m not trying to make a legal case of any sort…ha ha… but trying to understand what my dad was talking about, where it originated, and why this obvious closeness the Scotts and McDowell family had, seems to have been lost.

There could be a very simple explanation that I have not thought of; but if so, why was it not discovered before my father passed away, especially considering he thought it so important to ensure his second son carried the McDowell name? It seems odd to me that my dad never named any living McDowells that he knew of that were directly related to him as second cousins (or cousins once or twice removed, however that official term is defined).

Yet, for some reason on September 18th, 1968, it was important enough to him to ensure his second son carried on with the McDowell name. It was not even the maiden name of his mother, but his grandmother and with whom he seems to have had not much knowledge of. But this is strange when we realize his father even came to America and spent time with his grandmother’s sibling, a brother.

It would be nice to solve this mystery and answer some questions, hence why learning more about John McDowell and his wife Jane Finlay is important (to me).

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