Agatha (McDowell) Birney (1798-1839)
Daughter of Judge William and Margaretta (Madison) McDowell of Kentucky.
by Marvin Kusmierz (March 2003)
Born: 1798 - Bowling Green, Warren Co., KY.
Died: 1838 - Mercer Co., KY
Spouse: James G. Birney, married 01 Feb 1816 in KY.
Unfortunately, there is not much that can be found on the background of Agatha -- she grew up during times when it was rare for historians to acknowledge the contributions of women. It was a time when women were delegated to supporting role for men -- thankfully, we know better today! Women have always been a force of progress. It would be hard to imagine we could have gotten without their quiet but gentle push in the right direction.
While I have attempted to put flesh to Agatha's life through research -- I have not been successful. Even, the one source (shown below) only makes mention of her, "Agatha is the fourth daughter of" then moves on to identify the men of relevancy during her life.
Even her burial place remains a mystery. She died in 1838 and that year accounts have her living with James in New York -- it may there or her birthplace of Danville, KY. What is known is that she had ten children during the thirty-three years of her marriage with James. She appears to have had: three sisters - Lucinda, Mary and Eliza; two brothers - Samuel and William. Another sibling is listed, but without a given name.
Agatha must have been very proud mother for many of her children went on to become outstanding public individuals. James, the first child, became a senator and lieutenant governor in Michigan. Two sons, William and David, were generals -- son Dion a major and a grandson, James G. a captain. All serve in the Union army during the Civil War.
Agatha, the fourth daughter of Judge McDonnell (William McDowell),
married James G. Birney, the abolition candidate for president in 1844.
Mr. Birney's father, James Birney, was a native of Ireland, who had
settled at an early day on a farm near Danville, and whose wife was one
of the daughters of John Reed, also an Irishman, who had emigrated to
Virginia about the middle of the eighteenth century, and was one of the
pioneers of Lincoln county, where he built his fort, in 1779.
Many men of distinguished talents trace their ancestory to this John Reed and
Lettice Wilcox, his wife. His youngest son, Thomas B. Reed, was the
eloquent United States senator from Mississippi. The late Wm. D. Reed,
Judge John Green, Rev. Dr. Lewis Warner Green, Willis G. Hughes, and
James Gillespie Birney, were among his grandsons. The wives of Major
James Barbour, of Dr. William Craig, of Dr. Ben Edwards, of Judge Cyrus
Edwards, of Judge Paul Booker, of Sidney Clay, were among his
granddaughters. Revs. Joshua F. and William L. Green, James and Rev.
Lewis G. Barbour, Rev. Dr Willis G. Craig, Dr. Willis G. Edwards, of St.
Louis, and General Humphrey Marshall, were among his great-grandsons.
The history of James Gillespie Birney is that of Kentucky, the South,
and of the country. His son, General William M. Birney, is engaged upon
work which will present the details of his life, and which it is
unnecessary to anticipate. His oldest son by Agatha McDowell, James G.
Birney, an intellectual and cultivated man, an able and learned lawyer,
won distinction and wealth at the bar in Michigan, was lieutenant-
governor of that state, and was the accomplished Minister of the United
States at The Hague. In the war he was a colonel, and did good service.
The second son, William M. Birney, an elegant scholar, was for some
years professor of English literature in the University of Paris,
France; returning to this country, engaged in a successful practice of
the law in Cincinnati and Philadelphia; was all through the war as a
colonel and brigadier in the Federal army; and now, in the afternoon of
his life, enjoys a lucrative practice at the bar of Washington City; one
of his daughters has been successful in literature. The third son of
James G. and Agatha Birney was the handsome and chivalric David Bell
Birney, talented as a lawyer, and succesful in business in Philadelphia;
as colonel of a Pennsylvania regiment, he was one of the most daring
fighters under the gallant Phil. Kearney, was promoted to the rank of
general for distinguished gallantry in the field, and died from
exposure, in 1864.
Source (reprint): HISTORY OF KENTUCKY, by Lewis Collins, and J.A. & U.P. James, published 1847.
Birney Family Menu
Agatha McDowell Birney Photo donated by Cynthia Jones
Barbour, James (Major)
Barbour, Lewis (Rev.)
Booker, Paul (Judge)
Birney, James G.(Lt.)
Birney, James G.(g-son)
Birney, William M.(Gen.)
Craig, William (Dr.)
Craig, Willis G. (Rev./Dr.)
Edwards, Ben (Dr.)
Edwards, Cyrus (Judge)
Edwards, Willis G.(Dr.)
Green, Joshus F. (Rev.)
Green, Lewis W.(Dr.)
Green, William L. (Rev.)
Hughes, Willis G.
Marshall, Humphrey (Gen.)
McDowell, William (Judge)
Reed, Thomas B.(Senator)
Reed, William D.
Lincoln Co., KY
Mercer Co., KY
Univ. of Paris
To add content to this page or provide an article on another individual, please contact Bay-Journal.