SUVCW Dept. of Wisconsin Commanders:
Dr. Frank H. B. McDowell
At the 1903 National Encampment in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Dr. Frank H. N. McDowell was elected Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief. He resigned from the position when he was elected Wisconsin Dept. Commander the following June.
McDowell was born in West Greenville, Penn., the oldest of 11 children and named after his maternal grandfather. He was raised in Freeport, Ill., and dropped out of high school to become a printing apprentice, then went to Chicago to work on the Tribune. In 1876, he purchased the Carroll County Gazette. He later was appointed Secretary of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics and became one of the founders of the Northwestern College of Dental Surgery at Chicago, a proprietary professional school. He served on its board and became a dental student. At age 36 he was awarded the D.D.S.degree by Lake Forest University, which granted Northwestern’s degrees. He served on the faculty as Lecturer in Ethics and Jurisprudence. He was first married to Anna Magnusson-Jewett, "well known in musical and artistic circles," who was the divorced wife of a faculty colleague. Later, Frank and Anna were divorced. Their only child died as an infant. After Anna’s death in 1894, he married a Ms. Lina B.
The doctor’s father, Elmer R. McDowell, a Scottish immigrant, had served as both the Principal Musician and as a private in Co. E, 146th Illinois Infantry from September 1864 to July 1865. He had several business interests, but by the late 1890s was in failing health. After some time in the Quincy, Illinois’ Soldiers & Sailors Home, he was hospitalized in Chicago. In 1899, Dr. McDowell petitioned to have his father released and transferred to Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home, but was denied.
On retiring from college work in 1895, and presumably with the hope his father would be living in Milwaukee, he moved to Racine in 1896. There he became a charter member of Racine’s Charles Filer Camp #31, first serving on the Camp’s Council. He was the Dept.’s Surgeon in 1897. He served as his Department’s delegate or delegate-at-large to the Nat. Encampment bginning in 1898 and so began learning about the Order and endearing himself to the Nat. leadership. This led him, in 1898 and 1899, to service as the National Sons of Veterans Surgeon General..and to the post of JVCinC in 1903.
In 1899, the doctor’s wife, Lina B., assisted in forming the Department’s Auxiliary #1 in Racine. She was the National Auxiliary’s Mustering & Installing Officer in 1901.
He continued his association with the Masonic Order, served on the Forward Council of the Royal League, Racine Council, Royal Arcanum, Racine County Caledonian Society, and the Racine Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.
The 1904 Wisconsin Dept. Encampment was held on June 14-16 at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison. Upon their arrival in Madison, Racine’s Sons, along with a live eagle and a large drum corps, marched through the Capitol Park and around to the principal hotels. The live eagle had a special significance. Less than four months earlier, on February 26th, fire destroyed the Capitol’s east and west wings, the rotunda and the upper level of the south wing. Among the casualties was the stuffed carcass of "Old Abe," the celebrated Civil War eagle who had died in an earlier Capitol fire.
Dr. Frank Hileman Baker McDowell, a 50-year old Racine dental surgeon, was elected Dept. Commander.
Membership was 638 brothers in 24 Camps. Racine’s Camp was one of the largest with 54 members. During his term, Camps were mustered at Friendship, Delton, Cadott, Wausau and Neenah. Petitions were circulated for Camp charters at Cartwright, Eau Claire and Plainfield.
Dr. McDowell had visited Waupaca and conferred with the commandant regarding the department, erecting a cottage there, but did not receive approval.
He made official visits to the Fox River Valley Association’s meeting, Stevens Point’s Camp 83 meeting, Madison’s Campfire, Watertown’s Camp 22, Sheboygan’s Carl Witte Camp 37, and Milwaukee’s C.K. Pier Badger Camp 1 installation. He visited Madison to confer with members of the legislature, regarding organizing the services of companies in the state. He discovered the Adjutant General had no arms at his disposal that could be issued, and that the arms in the state could only be issued by the Secretary of War.
Dr. McDowell recommended that the per capita tax remain at 20 cents per quarter, that the state be districted so far as possible, by the incoming commander, and that the of members of his staff arrange to officially visit every Camp during the year, and that wherever possible, the organization of companies of the Sons of Veterans Reserves be pushed.
Upon stepping down as Dept. Commander, PDC Walter Patton presented the prescribed Silver Cross of a Past Commander on behalf of the Department.
Dr. McDowell and his wife moved to the village of Frederic in Polk County. Frederic was new, founded only a few years earlier as a logging town. His wife maintained a cottage and small farm there until 1917. Dr. McDowell practiced in the Frederic area for a few years and then established a practice in Superior.
He died in Superior on October 10, 1918 at the age of 64.Resources:
The Elmer R & Elizabeth Baker McDowell Story by Wm. D. Thompson
The Frederic Star
Press Forward the Good Work, the History of the Wisconsin Department SUVCW by PCinC Stephen A. Michaels
PC-in-C Steven A. Michaels
C.K. Pier Badger Camp 1
Maintained by: Dept. Signals Officer
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Department of Wisconsin