Wednesday, December 2, 2015

McDowell Reid Venable (1836-1907)

Portrait courtesy of

   Virginia native McDowell Reid Venable relocated to California after serving in the Confederate Army and in the years following his removal established a reputation as one of San Luis Obispo County's prominent citizens. A one-term member of the state assembly from California's 73rd district, Venable had earlier served terms as San Luis Obispo County judge.
  Born in September 1836 in Charlotte County, Virginia, McDowell Reid Venable was the son of Richard and Magdalena Venable. He would attend the common schools of that county and later studied at the Hampden-Sidney College. Venable would also begin law studies at the University of Virginia, but no notice has been found as to his possible date of graduation. At the dawn of the Civil War Venable enlisted in the Confederate Army at Yorktown, Virginia. He was later mustered into the Virginia Branch Light Artillery and on September 17, 1862, was wounded in the hip at the Battle of Antietam. Following recovery, he served as a First Lieutenant in the Confederate Engineer's Corps, stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana.
  Following the completion of his military service, Venable resided in Texas for a short time before removing back to Virginia. He would begin the practice of law here and after two years decided to pull up stakes once again, this time relocating to California. Arriving in 1868, Venable first settled in San Jose, but after a year moved to San Luis Obispo, where he would reside for the remainder of his life. 
  Within a few years of his removal to California McDowell R. Venable had become a prominent member of the San Luis Obispo community. In addition to operating a law practice in that city, he was elected as County Judge in 1872, continuing in that role until that office was abolished in 1880. 1872 proved to be a highly important year in Venable's life, as he married to Alice Watkins (1845-1885). The couple were married for thirteen years and had five daughters: Catherine, Alice, Edna, Magdaline, and Reida. In the same year as his marriage, Venable was named as part of the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention being held at Baltimore, Maryland. 
   In 1886 Venable returned to public life when he received the nomination for the California State Assembly and won the election that November. Taking his seat at the start of the 1887-89 session, he chaired the committee on the whole during his tenure and also held seats on the committees on Constitutional Amendments, Corporations, Judiciary, and Ways and Means.
   Outside of his legislative service, McDowell Reid Venable cultivated a reputation as one of San Luis Obispo's leading civic leaders, serving at various times as president of the school board and president of the San Luis Obispo Board of Trade. In 1888 he helped in the establishment of the Commercial Bank of San Luis Obispo and subsequently was named to the posts of both director and president. He would serve in the latter capacity until he died in San Luis Obispo on April 12, 1907, after "several weeks illness." Widowed in 1885, both Venable and his wife Alice were interred at the San Luis Cemetery in San Luis Obispo.

                                                                 From the Los Angeles Herald, April 13, 1907.

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