Saturday, October 13, 2018

Amanda Goes To College
Transylvania University (1817)

Transylvania University (2018)

The year was 1817. Amanda had just turned 16 and the family decided it was time for her to further her education. The school they chose was Transylvania University, a private school located in Lexington, Kentucky, 70 miles away. 

The University
Transylvania was founded in 1780 and was the first University in Kentucky.  It is the Alma mater of two U.S. vice presidents, two U.S. Supreme Court justices, 50 U.S. senators, 101 U.S. representatives, 36 U.S. governors, one Confederate President, and 34 U.S. ambassadors, making it a large producer of U.S. statesmen.  Actor Ned Beatty is also an alumni. 
An Offer to Help His Sister

Twenty three year-old William Pogue, Amanda’s oldest brother, was living in Lexington, Kentucky at the time.  On Nov. 7, 1817 he sent the following letter to his mother offering to help his sister as she prepared to start school. The letter reads:    

“If Amanda wishes to go to Lexington to school, I desire you, or some of the family to inform me when she is ready to come, that I might make arrangements with Mr. Blythe for her schooling and also know where she will board or where she would desire to board and find out when the next quarter will commence that she might know when to prepare, and when she is ready, I will go down for her when she is ready as I promised.”

 William, a bachelor at the time, had  graduated from Transylvania University with a law degree.  He was probably working in Lexington at the time.

What Did Amanda Study
I contacted Transylvania University to see what degrees or fields of study were offered around the year 1817.  They said that Medicine, Law and the Liberal Arts were the primary fields.  Because of the limited opportunities for women at the time in the fields of medicine and law, my thought is Amanda probably studied several liberal arts subjects as well as the classics. 

The Cost of Higher Education
The tuition cost for Amanda at Transylvania University was approximately $125 per year.  The cost included room and board, firewood, use of the library and fire in the recitation room (study hall).  The cost for students living off campus, was considerably lower ($30 per year).  That figure included tuition, laundry service and mendings.  Those students had to furnish their own bedding, firewood and candles.   
          To put things into perspective, in 1817, the average household income was $122.  The cost of Amanda’s education at Transylvania University was $125 a year.  In 2017 the average household income was $58,419. The cost of an education at Transylvania Univ. is $52,750.  

Tuition and fee         
Room and Board                  Books                                    Transportation       


After Graduation
Indications are that, while still in college,  Amanda met and fell in love with her future husband, Dr. James Ephram McDowell, often described by others as a “handsome, graceful man.”  Dr. McDowell was the son of the famed Dr. James McDowell;  a world renowned surgeon known as the “father of abdominal medicine.”    
On September 9, 1822, 21 year-old Amanda and 25 year-old McDowell married in Flemingsburg, Kentucky.   Dr. McDowell maintained his medical practice there.  Whether the couple had children is yet to be determined.   
Amanda's Professor - Dr. James Blythe
Dr. James Blythe
(1765 - 1842)
The “Mr. Blythe,” William referred to in his letter of Nov.7, 1817 was 42 year-old Dr. James Blythe, President and instructor at Transylvania University. Dr. Blythe taught Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Astronomy and Geography from 1798 until 1831 when retired as chair of the Chemistry dept.   
Ironic Coincidence
During the War of 1812, just five years earlier, Amanda’s father Lt. Col. Robert Pogue along with Col. Joshua Barbee and Col. William Jennings led regiments into northwest Ohio to protect the frontier against a possible British invasion and to build a chain of forts along the Auglaize River.   Barbee built Ft. St. Marys, Jennings built Fort Jennings and Pogue built Fort Amanda (named after his 11 year-old daughter Amanda).     
Dr. Blythe was adamantly opposed to the war and despite his objections, his 18 year-old son joined one of the Kentucky regiments called to service.   
Meanwhile at Fort Amanda, the term of enlistment for Pogue's men was about to expire and the men were ready to mutiny because they said they'd joined to "kill injuns and British and they hadn't even seen one yet." General Harrison told Pogue that if the men agreed to extend their enlistment time one month, he'd allow them to join other regiments on their way.  They agreed.
Kentucky regiments heading north usually passed by Fort Amanda on their way north because it was 12 miles or a days march from St. Marys.  When they arrived at the fort they camped in what was called "the Commons," an open area located on the north side of Deep Cut road and adjacent to the river.  

This of course means that its likely Dr. Blythe's son camped in the "commons" at fort Amanda on his way.  Sadly, he along with dozens of others were killed January 18, 1813 at the bloody massacre called the “Battle of the River Raisin” (Monroe, Michigan).     

Crossing Paths

`I find it interesting that five years earlier (1812), Dr. Blythe's son had camped at the fort built by the father of one of his students (Amanda Pogue).  Whether the Amanda and Dr. Blythe ever discussed the coincidence is unknown however it does make an interesting story. 

 Ending of the Story

 Amanda (Pogue) McDowell 
It’s thought that Amanda contacted either Cholera or Yellow Fever the latter part of December 1826.  There is speculation that by that time and the family thought it best that she be taken to her parents house in Mayslick where she could receive better care.  Sadly her condition worsened and she passed away on New Years day in 1827.  She was just 26 year sold.  Four months later Amanda’s sister, 24 year-old Jane Isabella Mackey, died of that Yellow Fever.  Dr. McDowell remained friends with Amanda’s family for the rest of his life.  He re-married, a woman named Caroline Feemster on April 9, 1829.

Dr. James Blythe
 In 1832 Blythe, Amanda teacher, was asked to become the president Hanover college in Indiana. However, a few years into his tenure his ability to lead the college was diminished by poor health.  He persevered until he could no longer continue, so he resigned in 1836.  His disease, dropsy, took its course resulting in his passing away on May 20, 1842. He is buried in Hanover Cemetery in Indiana. His wife, Margaret McElroy, predeceased him January 28, 1835. She had been on a ministry of mercy visiting a poor woman in town when she suddenly collapsed and died in the middle of the street on her way home. Margaret and James had a total of twelve children—five sons and seven daughters.
End of Blog

COMING SOON: Years ago I did a transcription of William Schillinger's journal.  It took me nearly 4 months.  I'm currently working on a book containing actual photographs of Schillinger's journal.  It will contain pictures of the actual pages and a transcription exactly as written.  Also included will be maps, clarification notes and short biographies of the men mentioned in the journal.   


My book "Fort Amanda -A Historical Redress is an 8" x 10" softcover book with 360 pages of information I've gathered about the fort over a 40 year period. In addition to historical data about the fort, its construction and expansion, it includes 60 pages of biographical / genealogical information of more than 100 men who served there.
.If you'd like a signed or personalized copy, send $20 for the book and $4 for shipping ($24 total) to me at:
David Johnson
1100 Little Bear Loop
Lewis Center, Ohio 43035

If you have any questions feel free to contact me at

Copies are also available at the following locations.


2. Hallmarks stores in Lima, Oh

3. Casa Chic in Wapakoneta, Oh

4. Allen County Museum, Lima, Oh